Move afoot to restructure the toll plaza fitted with the latest technology to provide relief to commuters

With collection of toll on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway boiling into a political issue and both the Haryana Government and the Centre battling to find a solution, a move is afoot to restructure the toll plaza fitted with the latest technology to provide relief to commuters.

The issue assumed political proportions with Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda offering to buy out the project from the concessionaire to solve the congestion problem fearing that it would affect electoral prospects of the Congress in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Though his suggestion further complicates the matter, particularly because it is sub judice , the Centre has little option but to defend its political turf in Haryana and back its Chief Minister who is desperately trying to placate the two lakh commuters that bear harassment daily, ahead of the elections.

Pushed to the wall, Union Minister of Road Transport &Highways C. P. Joshi, according to sources, has decided to discuss the issue with Mr. Hooda and find a political solution to the commercial issue. The Ministry has simultaneously directed the National Highways Authority of India to get the toll plaza restructured by the concessionaire and ensure use of technology for easy movement of vehicles and put an end to congestion.

The need to restructure the toll plaza has arisen with the refusal of the Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited to honour the terms of contracts that require it to increase the number of toll booths in proportion to the increase in vehicles traversing the expressway. The concessionaire repeatedly ignored the directives of the NHAI taking the plea that there was no space to do that and the Haryana Government was unwilling to spare additional land at the site of the toll plaza, officials maintained.

With the concessionaire allegedly not showing much willingness to spend on upkeep and adopt changes proposed beyond the terms of the contract including induction of technology, the NHAI officials said they had been forced to issue show cause notice to the concessionaire and terminate the contract against which the latter has obtained a stay from the Delhi High Court.

With the matter being sub judice , any kind of restructuring would now need to be approved by the courts for implementation, as much any move to buy the project out from the concessionaire as a last ditch effort to stem public resentment.

Despite the intervention of the Haryana High Court, the concessionaire has failed to resolve the problem of congestion at the toll plaza. Moreover, the concessionaire has restructured the loans thrice without the consent of the NHAI making the latter’s position all the more difficult in bailing the concessionaire out by acquiring the project.

The Union Ministry officials say it was imperative to protect the financial institutions as well stressing they just could not be allowed to suffer losses.

While buying the project out was one option the problem is the concessionaire would have to be paid the share for the period of the contract in any case.

This being the case, allowing free passage to vehicles was not considered economically viable, even if politically probable as proposed by the Haryana Government

Apart from the courts, any option involving finances will necessarily have to be referred to the Finance Ministry without whose approval no write offs was possible as the Centre gets a share of the toll.

The deployment of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) would depend on the reports of the pilot projects and officials were not sure if it could cope with such large number of vehicles and the expressway handles from both ends.

The other option to ensure seamless traffic and decongest the point is to issue smart cards but officials say the concessionaire has not evinced much interest in facilitating easy availability of the cards.

The Ministry is also considering the possibility of reading the registration number of vehicles through cameras while allowing them to pass through the toll plaza and collect the charges by sending challans on their registered addresses. This process might lead to unpalatable litigation, though.

  • Haryana Chief Minister Hooda offers to buy out the project from the concessionaire

  • The concessionaire has repeatedly ignored directives of NHAI to increase toll booths