Nearly two months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for speedy clearance of the long pending Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE),a group of ministers (GoM) is expected to meet in early April to resolve the issue of toll rates for the proposed project.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to chair the meeting of the GoM,which includes Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and highways minister CP Joshi. The meeting was originally scheduled for late February but it was not held as the finance minister was busy with Budget preparations. It is now likely to be held in the early part of next month, an official close to the development said.
The project may have to be taken to the Cabinet for a third time depending on the outcome of the meeting. If the toll is fixed at 1.5 times the normal rate,we will have to seek approval from the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, the official said.
The 135-kilometre long EPE proposes to connect Kundli in Haryana to Palwal in the same state via Baghpat,Ghaziabad and Noida in Uttar Pradesh. A complementary Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE) also connects Kundli to Palwal via Manesar in Haryana. The two expressways were planned in 2006 following a Supreme Court order to form a ring road outside Delhi for channelling non-Delhi bound traffic bypassing the national capital.
But while the WPE is being implemented by the Haryana government,the EPE remains stuck due to major differences amongst Central ministries over its proposed toll rates despite being cleared by the Public Private Partnership Committee five times.
Joshi is backed by Ahluwalia in his demand for a 150 per cent higher toll rate than a normal highway for the EPE on the grounds that it is a bypass road.
The purpose of this project is mainly to regulate traffic going via Delhi and not traffic that is originating or terminating in Delhi. By any standards,it will perform the role of a bypass, the Planning Commission has said.