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MoRTH divided over higher toll rate for Eastern Peripheral Expressway

There is fresh objection to charging higher toll on the proposed Eastern Peripheral Expressway,and it comes from within the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways

There is fresh objection to charging higher toll on the proposed Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE),and it comes from within the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH). The EPE proposes to connect Kundli to Palwal in Haryana through Ghaziabad.

Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor Vijay Chibber has written to the Finance Ministry that terming the EPE as a bypass road from its national highway status would lead to higher toll and would also require subsidy from the government. “…we are not only levying a higher tariff on the people but also increasing the risks to be adopted by the prospective concessionaire and hence the need for providing viability gap funding as against a positive revenue stream,” Chibber wrote last week.

Last November,the Finance Ministry rejected MoRTH Minister CP Joshi’s push to levy a higher toll on the EPE than that on the Western Peripheral Expressway as it would divert traffic to WPE and impact EPE’s viability. The WPE,awarded to DS Construction in 2008,will connect Kundli to Palwal in Haryana through Manesar. Moreover,it said the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC) had reconfirmed five times that the EPE was not a bypass road but an NH and therefore,bypass toll of 1.5 times the highway rate was not applicable.

EPE and WPE,together,are conceived to form a ring road outside Delhi for channeling non-Delhi bound traffic without entering the national capital.

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But Joshi and the Planning Commission are adamant on reversing the PPPAC decision which was based on the backing by the NHAI and MoRTH. Chibber’s contention is based on NHAI estimates which show that even at normal NH rates,the EPE toll would be higher than WPE toll by 60 to 75 per cent and would divert 22 per cent of the traffic to WPE.

If the EPE was considered as a bypass,its toll rates would be 96 per cent to 111 percent higher than the WPE toll.

“Taken together with the uncertainty regarding the extent of traffic diversion,the increase in risk and uncertainty is likely to lead to extremely erratic and inconsistent bids,which is not desirable,” he argues,adding that there was likelihood that NHAI would have to come back later to the government for VGF or for terming EPE as an NH.

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Miffed by the inordinate delay and internal dissensions over the EPE,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week intervened to set up a GoM comprising Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,Joshi and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman MS Ahluwalia to “resolve the matter”.

The letter from the PMO cautions: “The PM has observed that this matter has been considerably delayed. He has desired that the matter should be brought to the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure if the ministers take a considered decision to overrule the decision of the PPPAC”.

The Plan panel too is divided on the issue with Member BK Chaturvedi putting on record that “if the PPPAC decisions are to be overturned and matters which are delegated to it are to go to Cabinet afresh,we might as well abolish the PPPAC”.

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Member Secretary Sudha Pillai has supported the view and reiterated that imposition of a higher toll would be “contrary to the government policy” and would “not be in public interest”.

However,Ahluwalia has supported the higher bypass rate: “MoRTH has decided to treat EPE as a bypass and therefore,Planning Commission does not have any objection in this regard.”

First published on: 01-03-2012 at 01:14:21 am
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