CHENNAI: Motorists passing through 26 toll gates in the State set up by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will have to shell out more from Monday after the NHAI has decided to effect the annual hike in user fee.The fee will be increased by 5 to 15, a rise of 3 to 5 per cent, depending on the category of vehicle for a single passage. It may be noted that the NHAI had stopped collecting user fee from March 23 in view of the lockdown.
The NHAI has authorised the concessionaires to charge the hiked rates after the Union government gave nod on Friday.“The nominal hike is an automatic process carried out based on wholesale price index in accordance with the provisions of National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008. Since the toll gates were closed on April 1, the revised fee will be collected from Monday,” a senior official from NHAI told Express.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu State Lorry Owners Association (TNSLOA) has questioned the rationale behind collecting user fee when lockdown is in force. Association president Kumaraswamy said, “Given that only less than 10 per cent of trucks are operational, the Centre’s decision is shocking.” “Only trucks carrying essentials are operated amidst lot of challenges. What is the necessity for resuming toll collection? The move will increase transportation cost by 1000 to 1,500 per truck,” added Kumaraswamy.
Echoing similar views, Tamil Nadu State Lorry Owners Federation Vice President C Sathiah said the move would result in escalation of prices of essential commodities. “The Centre should suspend collecting toll for a year.”The State has 48 toll gates set up by the NHAI of which user fee is revised in 26 gates on April 1 every year while the fee in remaining is revised on September 1.
Exempt vehicles carrying essentials, say politicians
Political parties in the State have urged the NHAI to give exemption to vehicles transporting essential goods. PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss said, “Local markets in many districts are closed. Hence, vegetables from north, west and Cauvery delta are being brought to Koyambedu market. Already, farmers are spending a good amount on vehicle rents. They will face losses and the cost of vegetables will rise drastically if toll is collected from vegetable vehicles.”Similar demands have been raised by TMC(M) president GK Vasan, AMMK general secretary TTV Dhinakaran and AISMK president R Sarathkumar.
Revoke hike until lockdown is lifted: Madurai MP
Member of Parliament of Madurai S Venkatesan flayed the NHAI. He further urged the NHAI and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to revoke the order at least until lockdown is lifted.