Agency to study toll issue

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM OCT. 13. The Government on Monday decided to reduce the toll being collected at the Mattancherry Bridge on a temporary basis and to work out a permanent solution to the issue of high toll rates within a month.

The decision came at the end of the talks with the people's representatives, traders, bus owners and officials of the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) here by the Cabinet sub-committee constituted to tackle the issue.

Kochi had been witnessing protests over collection of high toll rates at the bridge that was built on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis by Gammon India.

The Transport Minister, R. Balakrishna Pillai, told presspersons after the meeting that an independent agency would be asked to study the issue. The Additional Chief Secretary was to submit a report on the basis of the study within a month. He could seek the help of Secretary (Local Self-Government) and other officials for this. The report would be discussed with the people's representatives and others.

The proposal that emerged from these would be put forward for decision by the Cabinet.

The Minister said that for the interim period of one month, the toll would be reduced to Rs. 10 for light vehicles.

The rate, which was Rs. 10.50 per vehicle in 2001, had been increased to Rs. 11.50 this year.

In the case of stage carriages operating multiple services through the bridge, the toll would be fixed as Rs. 100 a day. Now, they had to pay Rs. 47.50 per trip and total in some cases whet up to Rs. 475 a day.

Mr. Pillai said that Gammon India had agreed to the study by an independent agency and revision of the terms of the agreement with the Government, including reduction of toll rates. The allegation that Gammon India had handed over collection of toll to another agency was only a rumour.

He said that the BOT was a system that had been adopted all over India.

It could not be abandoned as more projects needed to be taken up under the system. All those who participated in the talks agreed with continuation of the system.

The Janakeeya Prathirodha Samithy, which walked out of the meeting objecting to BOT, was not an invitee to the meeting, he added.

The Cabinet subcommittee members — T. M. Jacob, K. V. Thomas, M. K. Muneer and Cherkalam Abdullah, were present during the talks.

The Prathirodha Samithi secretariat member, T. K. Sudheer Kumar, said that the toll was not fixed in a transparent manner. Meanwhile, legal convener of the Janakeeya Prathikarana Samithy, Joseph John Chanayil, demanded that the multiple pass system be implemented for all vehicles as provided in the agreement.

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