Toll booth mania

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Last week while driving towards Coimbatore, I took route via
NH-7 and NH-47. This section has about seven tool booths located at NICE road,
Hosur, Krishnagiri, Toppur, Omalur, Sankagiri and Perundurai. It should take
about 4.5 hours to reach the last toll booth if driven in non-stop fashion. But
I had to spend nearly 1.5 hours waiting at these toll booths to pay money.
While returning I took detours avoiding 5 out of these 7 tolls and reached
faster!
This made me to write a post on the nuisances of toll booths
in India.
History of toll booths
The widespread collection of toll for highways in India
started with the construction of golden quadrilateral. During initial days,
people did not mind paying toll as it allowed driving on four lane highways.
That was 10 years ago. As years passed, more and more roads were turned into
four lane highways and number of vehicles increased dramatically. People also
started travelling a lot. This lead to vehicle pileup in front of toll booths
especially during long weekend and near major cities.
People are now getting frustrated that they need to wait for
long time to pay toll. The time saved driving on good roads is lost waiting at
toll plazas. The initial thrill of driving on four lane road is gone. The incidents
of travelers fighting with people manning toll booths are increasing. In Maharashtra,
there was widespread agitation against tolls which forced the Government to
close some of the toll booths. Politicians have found toll as lucrative area to
make money which has led to corruption in toll collection system. Government is
also not getting the money.
How it works in other countries?
In US, most highways do not have tolls and they are rightfully
called as “Freeways”. Europe is mixed with some countries having tolls while
others like Germany (Autobahns with sections having no speed limits) providing
free rides. But none of them have queue policy. Tolls are automated and
vehicles just zip away. Even in HongKong where there were “Manual” tolls, the
drivers need to pay a fixed amount and go. It is very fast.
And note that the toll road in developed countries is “Expressway”
with access controls. Our four lane roads are no way near comparable to western
standards.
Problem with toll booths in India
·       
There is no uniform policy on the frequency of
toll booths – Some tolls exist within few km. Ex: On Bengaluru-Hassan stretch,
two toll booths near Bellur cross are within the distance of 20km.
·       
Our toll roads are not access controlled. Why
should one pay for roads where people and animals can cross freely?
·       
Villagers on either side of the road are hard
hit. It is really painful and hard for them to cross highways. NHAI has not
built enough passenger ways across sections.
·       
NHAI is supposed to build service roads or alternate
roads. That is not adhered in many cases. But toll is always collected.
·       
Toll collection for under construction roads. In
Bellary road, contractors collected toll even when their flyovers were under construction.
When Hosur-Krishnagiri section was being widened to six lanes, toll was still collected
even though driving was not smooth.
·       
Roads are not well maintained even on toll road.
A perfect example is NICE road. Even though it claims to be an expressway the
road is bumpy at many stretches.
·       
Greedy collection booths. There is a toll booth
just before the deviation to International Airport in Bengaluru. This is to
ensure that contractors can make more money. Lot of protests but no use.
·       
Pricing policy. It is not linked to number of vehicles.
More vehicles should result in fewer tolls. But on contrary, toll prices
increase every year!
·       
Corruption. The less said is better!
·       
Manual toll booths. Majority of tolls booth are
still controlled manually resulting in slow movement of vehicles.
·       
Sometimes, even on a busy day, some of the
booths are closed resulting in vehicle pileups.
·       
No clear idea on how long can contractors can
collect toll.
·       
Fuel wastage. As per Government estimate fuel
wasted by stopping at toll plaza is whopping 85,000 crores!! Yes, eighty five
thousand crore rupees!!!!
·       
Health issue. When vehicles move at snail pace, exposed
people inhale gaseous air. Pity to see the toll booth workers breathing bad air
throughout the day.
FastTag system
Recently, Government came up with “Fasttag”, an electronic tag
reader system. This is installed on one of the lanes at toll booths. I had lot
of hopes on that but unfortunately the system does not seem to work as
expected. First of all, when vehicles pile up for kilometers, how can one get
access to the FastTag lane? And they are always located not on the side lanes
but somewhere in the middle lane. It is said that people have to pay double the
amount if they do not have tag but does not seem to be implemented strictly.
Possible solutions
·       
Close toll booths. Keep it only for access
controlled roads. Many countries collect toll indirectly by taxes. India is
also a heavy tax collecting country. We pay huge income tax, road tax and fuel
tax. Does it make sense to collect toll in spite of these taxes?
·       
Abolish manual booths and make them automatic.
When people can afford four wheeler, it is not difficult to get a card and
link it to their bank account. But system should be built in a way to handle
long weekend crowds.
·       
There are systems where one needs to pay exact
amount. The balance amount is not returned if extra money is paid. This makes
movement faster as people do not have to wait for change. This needs lot of discipline
among drivers and I doubt whether it will be successful in India.
·       
Collect toll only from “Yellow board” vehicles. It
is said that 80% of toll revenue comes from them. Apparently this idea was
under discussion but seems like contractors are not willing to let go of that
amount.

The present structure is not sustainable. There is a need to
fix this problem.

2 Responses

  1. The wild

    In maharashtra they closed down the toll booths since they were collecting toll well beyond their mandated deadline.Every toll generally operates on a build operate transfer mode .The vendor is allowed to collect toll only for a certain period of time ,most of them continue to collect well beyond the deadline due to the high level nexus -although we shun raj thackerey ,it was he was the initiater in closing this toll booths

    For the etag queues they should follow a similar priniciple like in airports of having seperate queues for online checkin and not allow anyone else in that lane ,thats the only way to encourage more ppl to take that route.

    As rightly pointed out the worse of all the toll booths is the bangalore airport one ,that is due to our gracious attitude ,anywhere else it would have been closed down by now

  2. Aravind GJ

    Arjun,

    Thanks for commenting. The toll booths generally run on Build, Operate and Transfer Mode. If no of vehicles increase, they should either reduce the toll or close down!!

    On etag, I find it easier to make it mandatory. Else, pay twice the amount. Our people will naturally move to etag without much effort.

    Bengaluru Airport toll is a daylight (and night!!) robbery.

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