Sources said project lender Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), concessionaire DGSCL and the highways authority had a discussion late on Friday in which the latter two agreed to hand over the toll plaza to the government. Both IDFC and DGSCL have written to the ministry of road transport and highways and the NHAI that they are ready to terminate the contract and give away the claims of termination, which according to them, are to the tune of over R900 crore, sources said.
DGSCL and IDFC will now submit a similar declaration in the Delhi High Court on Monday, sources added.
However, whether it will be a smooth ride for commuters at the Gurgaon border will remain to be seen. Once the court accepts the self-declaration of both the lenders and developers, road transport minister Oscar Fernandes will have to give his final consent to decide the fate of the project.
As per plans, NHAI will remove the toll plaza at the Delhi-Gurgaon border and will have only one toll gate at Kherki Dhaula for commuters on NH-8. With DGSCL agreeing to exit the e-way project, lenders led by IDFC will now set up a new company to operate the 28-km expressway, which sees nearly two lakh vehicles crossing the congested toll plaza every day. During peak hours, cars constitute 72% of the traffic and even the wait time is invariably over five minutes.
As per estimates, senior officials feel once toll collection from Kherki Dhaula starts, it would be enough to service the loan of R1,600 crore that lenders have extended to DGSCL. Once the main toll plaza is removed, traffic passing through the Kherki Dhaula plaza will have to pay the user charge for the entire stretch. But a detailed plan to keep in consideration the rights of the lenders, public convenience and the government's rights will be chalked out later, the source said.
Experts say once the termination takes place, a lot of litigation matters will be withdrawn and only then a solution is likely. A DGSCL spokesperson refused to comment.
The dispute between NHAI, highway operator, and the lenders has been going on for almost two years.
DGSCL had earlier placed claims of R988 crore related to the project work, which the government has not yet agreed to.
The understanding between DGSCL and IDFC comes at a time when both NHAI and the highways ministry have refused to entertain any charges being raised by the developer and lenders. Alleging that the consortium of nine banks led by IDFC had refinanced the project without getting mandatory approval from NHAI, the authorities have termed this as financial fraud and have also refused to recognise them as lenders. If the court upholds this stand, lenders may end up taking a hit of around R1,400 crore.
FE was the first to report the IDFC-led consortium may land in jeopardy.