Rajmeet Singh in Chandigarh
Cash is still the king at toll plazas on sections of National Highways passing through Punjab. Even as the toll plaza operators are gearing up to meet the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) December 15 deadline to switch over to the electronic toll collection system, not many crossing the 19 toll plazas on the National Highways running through the state are using FastTags.
Apart from making arrangements to cope with the expected rush and confusion, all the lanes at the plazas are FASTag-compliant, says SL Sachdeva, DGM, NHAI, Mohali office.The NHAI has written to the civil and police administration for support to handle unexpected problems, which are likely to crop up after the project is operationalised. Apart from making all the lanes FASTag-compliant, one special lane on the extreme left on both sides at each of the toll plazas would be accepting toll at double the rate from December 15 if the vehicle is without FASTag.
As vehicle owners queue up at makeshift counters to buy FASTags or purchase it online, just around 26 per cent are using the digital facility at present. The number has gone up from 16 per cent over the last one week, says Sachdeva. On November 28 alone, around 3,000 FASTags were sold at counters at four toll plazas — Dappar (Lalru), Kurali (Behrampur) and two located between Zirakpur and Patiala.
Navdeep Asija, traffic adviser to the Punjab Government, however, sounds a note of caution. He says opening of all lanes to FASTag-users could lead to accidents. “The NHAI needs to take the aspect into consideration,” he feels.
State toll plazas to have facility too
With nearly one lakh vehicles passing through 24 toll plazas on state roads, which earn Rs 62 lakh daily on an average, the Punjab Government is set to extend NHAI’s FASTag collection at 18 of these toll plazas. The PWD would start the digital collection on these toll barriers.
Once the system is implemented, the company entrusted with electronic tax collection on National Highway will collaborate with the toll operators on the state-owned roads. All toll barriers on 12 state-owned roads are being run under two models — build-operate-transfer (BOT) and operate-maintain (O and M). As per the toll plaza policy, the minimum distance between two barriers should be 20 km.
House panel: Road users left in the lurch
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s Committee on Subordinate Legislation, in its report tabled during this year’s budget session, stated that there was no mechanism in place to address the grievances of road users related to the functioning of toll plazas and quality of material used for the construction of roads and bridges on toll roads. The committee observed that owing to disputes between the NHAI and Soma Isolux, the company executing work on the Panipat-Amritsar highway, the project that started in 2009 had been lying pending since 2012. Pointing out that the toll fee was being charged illegally on the section, the committee has asked for suspension of the toll collection. PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla said that after he took up the issue with Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, the work on the pending flyovers at Shambu barrier, Ludhiana bypass, Ladowal and Phagwara has been started by Soma.
He raised the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday to m...