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Barriers take toll on pockets
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
Frequent upward revision of toll and increasing number of its collection barriers along national and state highways notwithstanding, road travel remains as uneven and unsafe as before. “They are not only a pain in the neck, but are punching deep holes in our pockets,” is the common grievance.

Instead of promising a better
and smooth road travel, many of these toll barriers, especially those at inter-state border points, have not only become major traffic bottlenecks, but also barriers of harassment.

Since April 1 this year, toll rates have been revised upwards by 20 per cent or 40 per cent.

Now, the minimum toll for single entry is Rs 10 (Kurali), which goes up to Rs 70 (Pathankot) while the general rate is Rs 25.

If you travel from Chandigarh to Jammu in your car, you have to dole out a minimum of Rs 210 as toll tax at six toll barriers. For a car journey from Chandigarh to New Delhi, you have to pay Rs 80.

Intriguingly, if you travel from Chandigarh to Bathinda or from Chandigarh to Ferozepur, you do not come across even a single toll barrier. But, when you travel from Ferozepur to Jalalabad, for example, you have a toll barrier just short of Jalalabad.

The major toll barriers in the region are at Kurali, Behram, Kathgarh, Hoshiarpur, Dasuya, Pathankot, Phillaur, Shambhu, Dappar, Karnal and Panipat. Haryana does not have many toll barriers other than those in the national capital region (NCR).

Besides, there are toll barriers at all entry points to Himachal Pradesh as well as Jammu and Kashmir.

Though the concept of toll barriers is not new to the region, their rapidly multiplying numbers in the past three to five years has been a cause of resentment. True, the road network has to be expanded in consonance with increasing population. Users continue to resent not only barriers but also the formula by which rates of toll are fixed.

It all started with toll barriers at Karnal, Shambhu and Doraha (near Ludhiana). Toll barriers at Dera Bassi, Kurali and other places followed. The contractor of the Dera Bassi toll barrier continued his operations several days beyond the stipulated period.

A couple of years ago, former member of the Minorities Commission and president of the Lok Bhalai Party Balwant Singh Ramoowalia held a dharna at Doraha alleging that toll contractors were not spending the stipulated proportion of their income on maintenance of highways.

“At some of the barriers, they have started charging toll even before the roads are widened and made compatible to the new genre of motor vehicles,” rued Jaspal Bhatti of “Ulta Pulta” fame. His grievance was about three toll barriers on the Chandigarh-Jalandhar road.

Engineer RK Ghai of Sector 17 had to pay Rs 400 as toll for a single day return journey from Chandigarh to Pathankot. While the number of toll barriers is increasing along with their rates, quality of roads remain a far cry, he added.

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