New toll rates on highways to be effective only after Lok Sabha election

Election Commission gives clearance to NHAI for calculating the fresh toll rates from the new financial year, which is expected to be in the range of 5%

April 02, 2024 04:30 am | Updated 04:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

Image used for representational purpose.

Image used for representational purpose. | Photo Credit: R. Ashok

The Election Commission (EC) has asked State-owned NHAI to go ahead with the calculation of new toll rates on highways, which kicks in annually from April 1 across most of the tolled highway stretches in the country, but said the new user fees should be applicable only after the Lok Sabha elections.

Responding to a communication from the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry in this regard, the poll body has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to defer the toll fee hike.

Annual exercise

The annual revision of toll hikes, which was expected to be in the range of average 5%, was to come into effect on April 1 for most of the tolled highways and expressways across the country.

"The process required for the decision on the power tariff may be continued by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. However, tariff award shall be made only on the completion of poll in the relevant state, i.e after the poll date/dates in the state. In respect of the clarification sought, it is stated that user fee may be seen in context of the power tariff as mentioned in the Commission's instruction cited above," the EC said in a communication to the Ministry on Monday.

According to a senior NHAI official, the change in toll fee is part of an annual exercise to revise the rates that are linked to the changes in the Wholesale Price Index-based inflation.

The elections for the next Lok Sabha will begin on April 19 followed by subsequent phases on April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1. The counting of votes is on June 4.

There are 855 user fee plazas on national highway networks on which user fee is levied as per National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008. Out of these, around 675 are public-funded fee plazas and 180 are concessionaire-operated toll plazas.

Eleventh hour decision

Meanwhile, National Highways Builders Federation (NHBF), an umbrella body of highway developers organisation, had on Sunday written to NHAI, saying it was communicated by the project directors on March 29 to the concessionaires to not publish the revised toll rates effective from April 1, 2024 in local newspapers, which is in contradiction to the provisions of the National Highway Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules 2008 and the concession agreements.

"We would like to bring to your kind attention that such verbal instructions of NHAI to concessionaires to not to publish the revised toll/fee rates effective from April 01, 2024 (00:00 hours) in the local newspapers and importantly not to implement toll/ fee rate revision w.e.f. April 01, 2024 (00:00 hours) are unilateral and non-contractual. Such verbal instructions from NHAI at the last moment has led to confusion amongst the concessionaires," NHBF stated.

The organisation also requested that NHAI should adhere to the provisions of the concession agreement, fee rules and facilitate the concessionaires in implementing the toll rate revision with effect from April 1.

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