EPE may get nod today amid differing views on toll rates

The road transport ministry wants lower toll, but the Plan panel has proposed to keep it higher to make the project viable

New Delhi | Published: February 28, 2014 4:16 am

The government is expected to clear the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) — the road to bypass Delhi for the traffic travelling along the National Capital Region — on Friday.
The project is estimated to cost Rs 4,500 crore, of which the Central government has committed to provide a support of up to Rs 1,800 crore. But tolling rates for the road which will run through Ghaziabad, linking the two halves of Haryana, is proving to be problem. The road transport ministry wants the toll to be at a lower rate than what the Planning Commission thinks would make the project viable.
The project is one half of the circular roads that will almost run along the borders of NCR. The second half (Western Peripheral Expressway) that travels through Manesar, has been cleared for a toll rate of 1.25 times the normal highway rates. To ensure that there is no arbitrage for traffic through the two halves, the road ministry wants the rate to be the same for the Ghaziabad segment too. The two projects connect two Haryana towns by running past Delhi in opposite directions. While the 135-km EPE will connect Palwal, Ghaziabad and Kundli, the 135.6-km WPE will connect Kundli, Manesar and Palwal.
While the Planning Commission is certain that a lower toll rate will discourage investors, the road ministry differs. “Five big companies — three of them with foreign partners — have shown interest in the project and the award of project should not be a problem now,” said a road transport ministry official.
The Plan panel, in its observations, has said that the EPE project should charge toll rates 1.5 times higher than normal rates since the project is a bypass. “Moreover, the extant toll rates are actually quite low by international standards and as a result the financial burden of the project has already become unsustainable. Any further reduction in potential revenues will seriously jeopardise the roads programme,” the Planning Commission has said in a note that it wants to be added in the Cabinet note sent by the road transport ministry.
A senior road transport ministry official said, “Our proposal to the Cabinet fixes the toll rate at 1.25 times higher than the normal toll rates, since this rate has the approval of the Public-Private Partnership Appraisal committee (PPPAC). The EPE is an expressway and the toll charges will be as per that and not as per bypass rates.”
A higher toll rate at the EPE would mean that the traffic would prefer using the Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE), which is being developed by DSC Limited and will be charging 1.25 times the normal toll rates — same as the ministry’s proposal for EPE. The estimated construction cost of the EPE increased by 68 per cent to Rs 4,500 crore from Rs 2,600 in September 2010 and was cleared by the PPPAC on January 17, 2014. The project was conceived in 2007 and earlier attempts to award the project could not be completed due to a single bidder being interested.

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