Says wide protests likely against toll collection

The State government has conveyed to the Union government that it is not willing to develop five National Highways (NH) in the State that are included in the National Highway Development Project (NHDP) Phase IVA and imposing toll on them. The State’s response has come in reply to a letter from the Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, seeking the willingness of the government to develop NH 85 Bodimettu-Kundannoor, NH 744 Kollam-Kazhathuruthy, NH 766 Kozhikode-Muthanga, NH 966 Kozhikode-Palakkad, and NH 183 Kollam-Theni under the NHDP.

In a letter to Union Minister of Transport and Highways C.P. Joshi on Wednesday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy instead requested sufficient funds to develop these highways by the Public Works Department.

Mr. Chandy said that wide protests could be expected while imposing toll on these roads, as only minimal development had been proposed. “The people of Kerala are generally hostile to toll collection,” he said in the letter.

The Chief Minister said that many stretches of these NHs had two-lane carriageway and paved shoulders. What the State needed was the development of some of the stretches into four-lane ones where it was warranted and of the remaining stretches into two-lane ones with paved shoulders and proper sewerage facilities.

“But, the actual development work envisaged under the NHDP is development into two-lanes with paved shoulders only with minor geometrical improvement and road safety measures,” he said.

Mr. Chandy pointed out that the mode of execution for highway development under the NHDP Phase IVA was public-private partnership with toll. Later, the mode of execution was changed to Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contracts. As per the EPC contract, 90 per cent of the land required for the development of a road had to be made available to the contractor within 15 days of the agreement and toll collected from the road users.

The Union Secretary in his letter to the Chief Secretary on March 18 had said that the Ministry had no other option but to accord higher priority to alternative proposals from other States that were pressing for inclusion of new stretches for development. The Ministry had sought the willingness of the State for the development of the five NHs on build-operate-transfer basis, along with timeline for land acquisition and shifting of utilities before March 31.

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