Wednesday, May 28, 2003
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By Our Staff Correspondent
In a press release here on Tuesday, the Executive Engineer of NHAI, Mangalore Division, B.S. Balakrishna, said the move to defer collection of toll for a short period was to "educate" people and take them into confidence. Steps would be taken to ensure that all vehicles used the new bridge. The date from which toll was to be reintroduced would be notified, he said.
Toll collection began on May 22 following its inauguration by the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, B.C. Khanduri. According to the rules of the ministry, toll should be collected perpetually on any bridge completed after 1997 and costing more than Rs. 100 lakh.
As per the policy, whenever such bridges were constructed and opened for traffic, all vehicles would have to make use of them and pay toll. Vehicles could use the approach road of the old bridge up to the bridge point, but could not cross it, the release said. The Government could auction the old bridge, if necessary.
The release noted that the development of infrastructure was of paramount importance for the welfare of the country. The funds generated from levy of toll would be used for the development of roads and bridges.
Mr. Balakrishna told The Hindu that it was not a must for the Government to issue a notification to levy toll from the motorists on bridges meeting the abovementioned criterion. However, the NHAI had sent a proposal to the Union Law Ministry, through the parent ministry, he said. A notification in this regard was expected shortly.
Asked if the move to suspend toll would not cause financial difficulties to the contractor, who had to pay the authority Rs. 2.20 lakh every week, Mr. Balakrishna replied in the affirmative. He said the conditions of the contract were such, and the authority could work out ways to ease this condition as a one-time gesture. Making people use the new bridge was the other step.
He pointed out that those using the bridge frequently for a longer duration could avail a monthly pass. If the toll for a vehicle was Rs. 5, the value of the monthly pass was Rs. 150.
He clarified that those vehicles not crossing the bridge, but crossing the tollbooth and going and coming up to the bridge would not be charged. However, all vehicles crossing the bridge would be charged as per the tariff. He pointed out that only government vehicles were exempt from the payment of toll.
To a query on why motorists using the Kumaradhara Bridge on the National Highway No. 48 across the Netravati at Uppinangady were exempted from toll, Mr. Balakrishna clarified that the rule specified that there had to be only one toll point between 80 km. stretch of the national highway.
He said it made better economic sense to collect toll at Panemangalore than at Uppinangady.
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