Stage has been set for yet another round of showdown between political outfits and authorities with toll collection on the newly built rail overbridge at Ponnurunni set to resume shortly.
The Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Limited (RBDCK) has said that it had no other way but to introduce toll since it has to repay the bank loan taken for construction. The agency has promised to issue passes to local people settled on the stretch between Thammanam junction and Ponnurunni temple and the National Highway and up to Reliance Fresh on the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road whereas two wheelers and three-wheelers already stand exempted.
The decision, however, has not gone down well with youth organisations whose strong protest forced suspension of toll collection introduced shortly after the bridge was commissioned in February.
K.V. Anilkumar, the district secretariat member of DYFI, said there was no way the organisation was going to allow collection of toll. “Neither the government nor the Kochi Corporation has sanctioned toll collection on the bridge,” he said.
AIYF, the youth wing of CPI, is set to hold a protest meeting to be inaugurated by its State president G. Krishnaprasad at Thammanam junction on Wednesday evening against the proposed move to resume toll collection. The construction of the bridge was launched with the Kochi Corporation promising Rs. 15 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the Southern Railway another Rs. 10 crore. However, this didn’t materialize and there has been serious lapse on the part of the civic body in making these funds available, he said.
Mr. Sanjith said RBDCK cannot arbitrarily take decision on issuing passes without discussing the matter with stakeholders. “Toll is already being collected on Pulleppady Bridge and people cannot be burdened with toll on two bridges within the city limits,” he said.
C. Satheeshan, the secretary of BJP Thrikkakara constituency, was sceptic about the practicality of pass system. The nature of protests against toll collection would be formulated at meetings of Yuva Morcha and BJP in the coming days, he said.
The ROB is considered a vital link facilitating easy passage from Vyttila to Thammanam, Palarivattom and Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. It has become an escape route for motorists to enter National Highway on one side and M.G. Road on the other without getting bogged down by traffic.