TNN | Jun 21, 2012, 01.09AM IST
KOLKATA: Fuel prices haven't alone pushed up transportation costs. A steep rise in toll by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is also responsible. However, transporters complained that the hike is not uniform across toll plazas and thus creates confusion. Such a steep rise, transporters said, would result in a further price rise of all commodities.
According to NHAI memo 13013/630/CO/1112 /GC, dated March 31, 2012, toll taxes have been modified upwards. However, for transporters, the toll fees have not been uniformly modified. For instance, on National Highway II, a truck had to cough up Rs 165 to cross each toll plaza. Now, it needs to pay Rs 265 at Dhulagarh toll plaza and Rs 245 while crossing Debra toll plaza.
In case of mini buses, too, the toll has risen from Rs 85 to Rs 120. For small cars, it has gone up from Rs 30 to Rs 75. "Naturally, the end-users like you and me are the ultimate victims of such upward revision of toll tax. Earlier, from Kolkata to Mumbai, we had to pay Rs 2,500 as toll tax per trip per carriage. Now, we are paying a little more than Rs 4,000," said Satyajit Majumdar, general secretary of Federation of West Bengal Truck Owners' Association.
"The problem is, NHAI does not maintain any transparency as far as its toll revisions are concerned. We have been demanding for uniform toll across the country. This would leave little room for confusion. But that has not been done," said Shyamal Dasgupta, general secretary of Truck Owners' Association.
The problem is even worse for short-trip makers like buses. "By paying Rs 85, we used to have multiple passages through a toll plaza in a span of 12 hours. But now, we have to cough up Rs Rs 120 for one up and one down trip. Even if we have time to cross the toll plaza once more, we have to pay Rs 120 again. This has made our situation very difficult with bus fares remaining constant over the years," said Mini Bus operator Shiladitya Sarkar.
According to NHAI sources, the upward revision of the toll is due to escalation of cost for maintenance and road construction. NHAI has outsourced the collection of toll across the country.
The highways ministry expects approximately Rs 840 crore rise in toll revenue from roads and bridges on national highways (NH), as more stretches come under the toll network. Toll revenue may touch Rs 3,627 crore in 2012-13 from Rs 3,554 crore during the last financial year, because of this upward revision.
Almost 95% of this revenue will come from roads owned by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Sources in the authority said the increase in toll revenue also includes the premium that NHAI has got from awarding projects in 2011 and 2012. The authority has earned at least Rs 2,300 crore as premium from awarding projects during the current financial year.
The premium is the amount that private developers pay annually to the NHAI. Moreover, the annual premium amount increases by 5% for the entire concession period. "We also expect more stretches, which we will be awarding to private players for maintenance and collecting toll to private developers will fetch premium. We will have enough funds to take care of our financial needs for the next fiscal year. We have also raised Rs 10,000 crore from the markets with us for investment," said a senior NHAI official. He added that the impact of premium would be visible in the next 2-3 years. NHAI also expects revenues from fuel cess for highways sector to be around Rs 8,400 crore in 2012-13.