Toll road users may soon be charged per kilometre
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New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is working on a policy that would allow commuters to be charged only for the distance travelled on a toll road.
Currently, commuters pay a fixed fee usually for the entire toll road, irrespective of whether they use all or a part of it. Under a so-called “open toll policy”, the fee payable is a fixed amount based on the length of stretch under one project, which is normally 60km.
In a potential game-changer, the new “closed toll policy” being worked upon by the road transport and highways ministry will allow commuters to be charged on a per kilometre basis for the distance they travel. The proposed policy will be applicable to all access-controlled highways (preventing free access from all sides) and expressways in the country.
The move comes at a time when toll rates on the country’s national highways have been rising substantially, making road journeys more expensive. Toll fee on a highway stretch is revised every year and the new fee calculated is rounded off to the nearest Rs5.
The plan will be operationalized first on the new 135km Eastern Peripheral Expressway which would cover Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, bypassing Delhi. The Rs7,000-crore expressway is aimed at reducing traffic in Delhi by providing an alternative route to vehicular traffic not headed into in the national capital.
“The first expressway/highway where the closed toll policy will be implemented is the Eastern Peripheral Express which will be inaugurated this year,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
During the India Integrated Transport and Logistics Summit last week, minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari had hinted that his ministry was working on a “pay per km” project.
The move, which may help popularize use of toll roads, assumes significance given the government’s plan to develop 40 economic corridors spanning 21,000km of roads, entailing an investment of Rs3 trillion. The total road length to be developed as expressways under the government’s Bharat Mala project is around 51,000km.
India had 362 toll plazas under National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) overseeing 18,807km of roads until 2015-16. They generated a revenue of Rs17,250 crore. The government plans to increase the length of National Highways to 200,000km from 96,000km by 2019.
“The government already has a policy on how much to be charged per km on a toll road. The same rate card will be applicable on closed toll policy too. The only difference would be the km travelled will be measured and charged from commuter based on from where he entered on the toll road and where he exited. The cue has been taken from overseas,” added the official mentioned above.
Experts said implementing the plan can be challenging.
“It’s a step in right direction but there are going to be several challenges in its implementation like national highways have several entry and exit points and how will the toll collector/company will keep a tab on distance travelled by a vehicle?” said Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, infrastructure and government services, at consulting firm KPMG.
Bhattacharya said these challenges can be overcome only through smart IT solutions.
Manish Agarwal, partner and leader-infrastructure at PwC India, agreed. “To implement this, e-tolling would be a pre-requisite,” he said, adding that if the government is able to do that, commuters could be charged accurately based on the average distance they travel.
Queries emailed to spokespersons of the ministry of road transport on Monday evening remained unanswered at the time of going to press.
Such expressways are aimed at reducing delays as they are access-controlled. India loses $6.6 billion every year in transportation delays for freight, says a comparison study of survey data for calendar years 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2014-15 by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. These delays cost $14 billion per year on account of the fuel consumption,according to the study .