National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has defended its overnight nearly four-fold increase in toll rates on National Highway 7, leading to Kempegowda International Airport, which triggered protests by road users since last night.
A.K. Mathur, Chief General Manager, NHAI, said that the new toll rates were implemented according to the national toll policy. The increase in toll rates was warranted by the Rs. 220 crore spent on building the elevated expressway from Hebbal to Kogilu Cross beyond Yelahanka en route the international airport, which was commissioned recently.
According to Navayuga Devanahalli Tollway Private Limited, the company authorised by NHAI to collect toll, the revised two-way fares for cars, jeeps and vans will be Rs. 115 against the previous Rs. 30. Mini buses have to now shell out Rs. 175 against the earlier Rs. 50, while buses and lorries have to pay Rs. 355 instead of Rs. 105 earlier.
The company, in pamphlets distributed to road users, states that the new fares would be in force till March 31, 2015 and they would be again revised in the next financial year.
Meanwhile, tension prevailed at the toll collection plaza since Saturday midnight from when revised rates were collected amid police protection. The protests spilled over to Sunday with many taxi drivers refusing to pay the new fares.
Suresh Kumar G., a taxi driver, refused to pay the revised fare saying, “What we earn from a trip to the airport is marginal and with this steep increase in the toll, we will incur losses.” When several taxi drivers joined him in the protest, the toll collectors were left with no option but to allow them after accepting the old fares.
Most of the commuters were also caught unawares by the overnight increase in toll fares. “The road stretch from the toll plaza to airport is just 5.69 kilometres and a toll fare of Rs. 115 is unfair,” said Teertha Prasad, who had been to the airport to receive his daughter.
Meanwhile, heavy police protection was provided at the toll plaza, where pro-Kannada activists joined taxi drivers and other road users to protest against the steep increase in toll fares. The police said that one of the toll booths was damaged in stone-throwing during the protest.
Narayana Gowda, president of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, has threatened to pull down toll booths across the State if the hike was not rolled back.