Amid unrest in parts of Maharashtra over toll contracts, the government has plans to come up with more toll-based road development projects.
The government’s new toll policy stresses on developing more major roads under the toll-based build, operate and transfer (BOT) model.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced on Thursday the policy would be unveiled in a week’s time.
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According to sources, the policy has several new features to make toll contracts more transparent and citizen-friendly. Senior government officials also said the Sena-BJP alliance’s January 14 announcement of giving a toll-free Maharashtra to people was a “lame poll plank”.
“The government just does not have the budgetary resources to develop all roads without agreeing to the BOT arrangement for the ones where the traffic flow is good,” said an official. He added that the cancellation of existing toll contracts would only result in litigations.
Under the new policy, the user fee for citizens on toll roads would take into account the length of the road under development, a senior government functionary said. At present, the project cost, regardless of the road length, determines the user fee. To monitor movement of traffic along a toll road, the government has proposed installation of digital meters that will record traffic flow round the clock, said the sources. The government has plans to deploy its own staff to record these findings.
The existing norms, which will be retained, allow the government to alter the concession period if the traffic flow overshoots its initial estimates. Even the initial estimates would be based on an improved estimation model, said the sources.
E-tendering for toll contracts will be mandatory. Toll contractors will have to compulsorily display relevant details regarding toll contracts at collection booths. The government has proposed police chowkies at all toll nakas. Besides, several citizen amenities including rest rooms and parking bays would be made mandatory under the new policy to make toll roads more citizen-friendly, said the sources.
As many as 166 roads are currently under toll contracts. Senior officials said they accounted for barely 3% of the total road length of about 2.45 lakh km.
Officials said the new policy would attempt to bring another 2% road length under toll contracts. “The idea is to develop and improve self-sustaining major roads under BOT contracts. It will allow utilisation of government road grants for development of the inner roads,” said a senior official. Officials said there were plans to offer training to toll employees.
Dombivali Toll booth vandalised
Nearly 50 activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has been demanding transparency in toll collection and exemption for residents living in areas near toll plazas, allegedly vandalised a booth in Dombivali on Thursday morning. Police said the incident occurred around 10 am at the toll booth near Katai village on the Shil Phata road. A police team was already present at the booth.
As the slogan-shouting mob vandalised the toll booth, damaging its structure and some equipment, the police started rounding up the activists. While some of them managed to flee, others, including MLA Ramesh Patil, were taken into custody. “We have arrested 15 men, including Patil, and five women, while 20 to 25 others are still wanted in the case,” said ACP Rajan Ghule, Dombiavli division.