The tussle over the end of the toll regime at the Mattancherry BOT bridge took a new turn on Saturday with Gamon India Ltd, the agency which executed the project, coming up with the argument that the Greater Cochin Development Authority has no authority to prevent it from collecting the user fee on the bridge.
In a statement, the company said that Cochin Bridge Infrastructure Company Ltd (CBICL), the agency entitled to collect tolls on its behalf, is entitled to continue to collect the toll as per the terms of the concession agreement as modified by the government of Kerala by its order on January 24, 2005.
While admitting that the original concession period was for a period of 13 years and 9 months, it said the order had extended the concession period by 6 years and a fixed annuity payment of Rs.1.54 crore. “It was not possible for CBICL to revert to the terms of the original concession agreement as the Government Order dated 24.01.2005 had become a fait accompli and CBICL had already acted in accordance with the said order for over three years’’, it said.
Asserting that an Arbitral Tribunal’s (AT) order enabling the agency to collect toll is still in force, the company clarified that it had not made any windfall profit as alleged by various parties. Besides, the High Court of Kerala, while hearing a petition against the GCDA’s move, orally directed the authority not to deviate from the orders passed by the AT. The court has posted the case for further hearing on April 29.
The GCDA, however, sought to deny these arguments and said the authority would go ahead with the bridge take-over plans. “We will lock the toll booths on Sunday evening and will take charge of its maintenance and upkeep henceforth’’, said N. Venugopal, Chairman, GCDA.
According to him, it would be illegal for the GCDA to permit the company to collect toll on the bridge with the expiry of the BOT agreement. “We have also stopped sealing the coupons which enables it to collect toll from the users of the Mattancherry bridge’’, Mr. Venugopal said.