The Centre seems set to extend the toll system to more roads, including eventually in Kerala. While the new models of infrastructure development inevitably involve such steps, how will such a move hit the common road-user?Users will gain
For economic development of any country, state-of-the-art infrastructure, especially well-maintained roads, are a must. India is a large country, but its roads are inadequate and poorly maintained.
The reasons for this are unscrupulous contractors and unethical practices. Adverse weather conditions do not help. Also, authorities are reluctant to disburse cash on time, even for work done according to standard specifications. This forces genuine contractors to indulge in dubious activities. Non-availability of government funds and lack of political worsen matters.
Under the circumstances, entrusting road development work to the private sector is desirable. Of course, in this case the toll system may come into effect to compensate the builder for his huge investment. But the road user will gain in the long run as the quality of roads will be superior and the vehicles will require less maintenance.
At least the highways should be constructed on a BOT basis, with the toll system being introduced for a definite period to enable recovery of investment.
Fast track roads are a must to meet the ever-increasing movement of men and materials. The government’s initiatives in this respect at both the Central and State levels are visible. Those who advocate the need for this important infrastructure support have to face critics who cry foul about levying toll for the use of such roads.
It has to be understood that development of fast track roads calls for colossal investments and the government alone cannot fund them. Herein comes the role of private participation. Whoever invests in a long gestation period project will have to wait for longer periods to recover the principal and cost incurred in servicing it. In this context, levy of toll for use of roads is universally accepted.
Mostly these types of roads are used by the well to do or by trade and industry. By paying an extra charge by way of toll, they stand to gain substantially by reduced time spent on the road and less wear and tear of the vehicle.
Along with the fast track highways, there should be service roads for short-distance users.
T.N. Ramachandran Nair
ThrissurNeed for restrictions
There is nothing wrong in collecting a small fee from users when roads and bridges are constructed for public purposes. The BOT system is a welcome step, as far as it does not affect the common man. But what happens usually is that the contractor collects more than 10 times the toll. Such practices should be stopped and the period of collecting should be a maximum of five years. Two and three-wheelers should be exempted from toll. It be fixed at Rs.5 or 10 from a vehicle for a day. The practice now is to collect money for both to and fro trips.
The government should budget a substantial sum for construction of bridges and roads and only for the remaining amount should toll be collected from the public.
The government collects crores from the public by way of tax and other means. Even for using public roads, taxes have be paid by the people.
It is also a fact that the government spends crores on building and maintaining roads and bridges. For this, money is required. But why does the government not propose a good budget for constructing roads and bridges than collecting fee from the public? Collecting money from the public for using roads is a bad move.
The people of the State are convinced that they are entitled to receive facilities, including motorable roads and bridges, for free. In this era of globalisation, such considerations are outdated. All kinds of services are charged accordingly.
The introduction of a toll system for roads and bridges is a result of this. The BOT concept will be made applicable to all new constructions in future. The statement made by the State’s Finance Minister regarding new railway overbridges is a reminder.
The common man will have to get used to the new trends and should be prepared to pay for the services he receives. The poor people will be adversely affected and the governments should find out ways and means to uplift them.
Capt. O.B. Nair
The proposed toll system is welcome but it should accompany road maintenance. It will be better if development and maintenance of national and state highways and other important roads are handed over to the private sector.
The toll system may be introduced for the builder to recover the cost of these projects. To the common vehicle-owner, the toll may seem an additional levy, but in the long run, he will stand to benefit by way of less travel time and lower running cost of vehicles owing to lower fuel consumption, less wear and tear of tyres, less repairs to the vehicles and so on, all a result of well-maintained roads.
In the new scheme of things, the government should only award the jobs to road developers, make available the land required, fix an equitable toll structure and determine the developers’ role and responsibilities. The funds currently spent by it in respect of roads can then be used for other development activities. Since the toll will be a levy on the common man, the road tax collected by the Motor Vehicles Department should be discontinued.
Kerala is one of the few States in the country that still lags behind in having an highway of international standards! The investment on land acquisition for highways in Kerala is very high, in addition to the huge construction cost.
In these circumstances, the government has no option but to allow private industry to build, operate and transfer (BOT) the highways by collecting toll for every 10 km or so as envisaged by the Centre. Since it is difficult and inconvenient to collect toll every 10 km, there needs to be some other mechanism to meet the huge investment.
A cess on fuel as well as on vehicles plying on the road can be introduced to be paid to the companies who undertake the work on a BOT basis. A company such as CIAL can be considered while awarding the work as it has already proved its efficiency in building the Kochi airport and running it successfully with State participation.
The city roads also have to be widened, with space for pedestrians to walk. It is high time we plan our roads to meet the demand for the next 25 years.
Karunakaran T.P By e-mailImpose conditions
The toll system is a direct way of getting investment back to an agency that constructed the roads. It is now common in our country and even found in some parts of our State. But for someone who pays toll daily, it means an additional burden to his transportation charges.
In big cities such as Kochi, the queue in front of toll collection booths leads to loss of time, particularly in case of emergencies. Buses and other types of public transportation systems have to pay a higher toll. This indirectly affects the common man. The toll system is good, but it should be accompanied by some conditions such as exempting public transportation carriers and two-wheelers from its purview.
ThiruvananthapuramEvolve fair policy
While it is unfair to charge toll for using city roads, the situation is different in respect of highways, bypass and bridges that connect various corners of the country. The reluctance to pay toll has harmed the financial viability of many projects such as the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the Delhi-Noida Tollway.
In the State, Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Ltd. is struggling for survival owing to its inability to generate internal resources, with people resisting attempts to levy user fee for roads and bridges built by it.
There is need to evolve a scientific and fair toll policy. Daily/multiple road users should be charged less. If the traffic is more than the projections, there is a case for reduction of tariff.
Tolling should not be a perpetual affair. It should be stopped, once the private investor recovers his investments with a reasonable profit. Selective annuity-based roads can help the public use these without paying toll. A closed tolling method whereby the user pays only for the distance travelled and not for the entire road is another novel concept worth trying.
Use of GPS/smart cards can reduce bottlenecks at toll booths.
A toll-averse environment will discourage private investors. If the government is to build all the roads, then it will have to raise money by imposing more taxes on the people.
ThiruvananthapuramDesire for comfort
The proposal to extend the toll system to more roads, including those in Kerala, per se does not appear unfriendly. But the people want the funds to be utilised solely to make the roads more conducive and comfortable to road users. Roads play a prominent role in the development of the country.
Accidents are a daily affair on our roads. Even the basic safety requirements are woefully lacking. The toll system will help remove the bottlenecks to a large extent. Collection of toll should be in a scientific manner. Large queues should be prevented.
The toll system on roads is inconvenient and inappropriate. Besides the petrol loss owing to long queues at the tolls booths and traffic blocks, it poses a hurdle to movement in emergency situations. The government is already collecting a road cess of Rs.2 on every litre of petrol. It also collects vehicle tax. It should, therefore, consider withdrawing the system. Even if it is necessary in terms of build-operate-transfer schemes, some other method such as permit tax should be found.
A. Jacob Sahayam
ThiruvananthapuramCharge for comfort
Toll is usage fee for a service or facility and is a universal practice. We are used to such charges and, therefore, need not be worried about it becoming more widespread. What will upset road-users, however, is mismanagement of money so collected, resulting in poor maintenance and the decline of roads.
While most highways in India facilitate comfortable travel in return for the tolls charged, Kerala’s tolls tend to take a toll on passengers’ health and patience by keeping things in poor repair.
The latest terms of development like Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) etc. help to an extent is ensuring good value for money, but suitable regulation, rational rates and monitoring of revenue have to be in place for the practice to be equitable and beneficial to all.
AlappuzhaSharing the burden
With the industrial scenario changing rapidly, there is an impelling need to augment infrastructure. No government can be expected to shoulder the burden all by itself. The only realistic approach in the circumstances is to make available the assistance of those willing to fund these projects. ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune,’ and certainly it would entail toll system.
In this country, implementation of a project invariably suffers due to corruption. This is an unhealthy situation. In this context, may be private players are best suited to handle such affairs.