Demand to exclude NH stretch from toll gets louder

The demand to exclude the 30-km-long Edappally-Angamaly NH stretch from the amount of toll being collected by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) at Paliyekkara in Thrissur is getting louder, with critics saying that NHAI has not invested anything substantial to develop the stretch, except for constructing an ‘unscientific’ flyover at Aluva.

The demand comes even as the NHAI is receiving flak from different quarters after videos of a pair of flyovers in Thrissur getting inundated up to the level of their crash barrier in last week’s rain, went viral. The agency had to depute workers to drill holes on the structures to drain away the water since its drains got clogged, reportedly due to slack pre-monsoon maintenance.

Among social activists who have been pursuing the issue is Khalid Mundapilly, who is also active on the human rights front.

“The NHAI has permitted a firm to collect toll for the entire Edappally-Thrissur stretch, although only the Angamaly-Thrissur NH stretch was widened from two lane to four lane and opened for traffic in 2012.

The 30-km-long Edappally-Angamaly NH was already four lane and no widening took place here. But toll is being calculated for the 70-km-long Edappally-Thrissur stretch, including for the Edappally-Angamaly stretch where a ₹25-crore flyover was unnecessarily built. This will result in the private firm getting approximately ₹2,500 crore at the end of the 18-year toll period, which is many times the amount spent for four-laning the Angamaly-Thrissur NH,” he said.

“After receiving no satisfactory reply or action, despite petitioning the then Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the vigilance wing of NHAI, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, CBI and the State government, I petitioned the LokPal of India in February 2020. Subsequently, I filed an RTI query with the Lokpal in May 2020, for which I received a reply in June saying that the anti-corruption ombudsmam has not received any such complaint,” Mr Mundapilly said.

In his complaint, he alleged that the contract amount was increased to ₹630 crore in 2011 and the Edappally-Angamaly stretch added, in order to enable collection of toll for the 70-km stretch, instead of the freshly-widened 40 km.

Critical omissions: expert

The Director of Indian Institute of Road Safety, Upendra Narayanan, who was associated with road-safety management in the Edappally-Thrissur NH for a year, said that the NHAI is turning a blind eye to critical omissions that have a direct bearing on safety of motorists and pedestrians who use the stretch.

“By now, it is clear that failure to clean drains as part of pre-monsoon preparedness led to the flyovers getting inundated in last week’s rain. This incident is hitherto unheard of in Kerala. The DMRC widened the 12-km Edappally-Aluva NH stretch from four lane to six lane in most areas and resurfaced it as per international standards. The NHAI is not at all justified in collecting toll for the said stretch and beyond up to Angamaly. The agency is also not enforcing mandatory norms like deploying multiple patrol teams on the Edappally-Thrissur stretch, to ensure safety of road users,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 1:55:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/demand-to-exclude-nh-stretch-from-toll-gets-louder/article32262768.ece

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