Annoyed over the increasing chaos on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway and the failure of the concessionaire to provide relief to motorists,the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday stayed the collection of toll tax on the expressway for 15 days.
The direction comes into force from Tuesday midnight. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been directed to convene a meeting within 15 days with the Haryana police and the concessionaire to find a solution to the chaos on the expressway.
On August 16,the court had asked the company to place additional collection booths and deploy more personnel with hand-held collection machines to streamline traffic movement.
When this was not complied with,the court had warned it would suspend collection of taxes. It had directed the Gurgaon traffic police to file a status report on the steps taken by the company in this regard.
The directions were passed by a division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh during the resumed hearing of a petition filed by Delhi Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL).
In its petition,DGSCL had sought directions to the government to restrain the police from opening boom barriers illegally and forcibly,allowing vehicles to pass without paying toll.
In a report submitted to the court,the counsel for Haryana police said the concessionaire alone was responsible for the chaos on the expressway. The counsel said the concessionaire does not have the required staff to deal with the traffic volume,which was leading to snarls.
Meanwhile,the counsel for the concessionaire told the court that the addition of more kiosks had significantly reduced the chaos on the stretch. On Monday,DGSCL had filed an affidavit claiming that adequate steps have been taken to ensure smooth flow of traffic.
The affidavit stated: …the concessionaire intends reducing the number of trips valid for 30 days from the present 60 to 40 so as to enable more local commuters to become eligible for discount. This will also increase the number of commuters using e-tags and touch cards,thus reducing the number of vehicles which pay in cash and will result in faster clearance at the toll plazas.
The court had earlier observed that the toll barrier was designed to save both fuel and time. But neither fuel nor time was being saved and the long queues of vehicles on either side of the road had become a common sight.
Reacting to the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court staying collection of toll for 15 days,a DGSCL spokesperson said that it respects the decision and would hold discussions with the NHAI and the administration to come up with a long-term solution.
However,it must be noted that since 2008 we have proposed to the NHAI various options to ease congestion at the toll plaza,including the vital aspect of toll plaza expansion. We have submitted several plans to the NHAI for the expansion of the toll plaza but,till date,these have not been approved, the spokesperson said.
He said the company was discussing with the NHAI several other measures and initiatives that would improve the situation.
These include review of entry/exit modifications on the expressway,installation of real-time traffic monitoring system,challan for cash users in tag lanes,blocking of the U-turn near Ambience Mall and discounting policies to attract more tag users,etc. We hope to work in cooperation with the NHAI and the administration so that the congestion can be eased for commuters. This is a top priority for all of us, the spokesperson said.
Currently,around 1,90,000 vehicles cross the Sirhaul toll plaza every day,while another 60,000 pass through the toll plaza at Kherki Dhaula. DGSCL sources said the concessionaire stands to lose Rs 55-60 lakh a day if toll collection is stopped.