After being stuck for well over five years,the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) looks set to take off with a longstanding debate over its classification now resolved.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has prevailed over Road Transport and Highways Minister C P Joshi and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to designate the 135-km peripheral road around Delhi as an expressway,which would involve toll rates identical to those for any national highway,rather than as a bypass,for which the toll would have been 1½ times as high. The highways ministry has been directed to charge highway toll rates.
The Eastern PE will connect Kundli to Palwal in Haryana through Ghaziabad,forming a ring with the Western PE between the same two points but through Manesar. The twin expressways will allow traffic to skirt Delhi unless bound for the capital. The WPE project is being undertaken by the Haryana government,which has awarded the contract to DS Construction.
The resolution of the debate gives the two expressways equivalent status. Had the EPE been a bypass,its higher toll would have forced traffic onto the WPE.
The resolution came last week at a meeting of a group of ministers formed in February at the Prime Ministers behest. It has been decided that the road is an expressway. If the implementing agency wants to charge a higher rate,then it will mean revising the toll rates for expressways, said an official close to the development.
It is up to the ministry to award the project. It was impressed upon them in the meeting,sources said,that it must be expedited as per directions of the Prime Minister.
The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure and the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee,which approved the project,had called for national highway-equivalent toll rates and the highways ministry had initially agreed,but later went by the Planning Commission position that it was a bypass and should have a higher toll rate.
Gajendra Haldea,adviser to Ahluwalia,had argued that the EPE will be built at about Rs 30 crore per kilometre as against Rs 6 to Rs 10 crore per km for a national highway.