Developers failing to meet deadlines for converting 4-lane stretches into 6-lane in time may soon have to face a toll-hike squeeze. An inter-ministerial group (IMG) that met on Thursday has in-principle agreed to limit the toll hike in such cases. This means if a developer is able to convert a 4-lane stretch into 6-lane within the stipulated time, he will be allowed to the entire 100% hike as per the 2008 toll norm. If the deadline is not met, then the hike allowed would be less ? not more than 80% of the 2008 toll norm.
The move is seen as a relief for commuters who face trouble due to delayed construction. The proposed relief will have to be approved by the Cabinet.
It was in 1998 when toll rates were notified for 4-lane projects. These were revised in 2008 for 6-lane projects.
Usually a developer gets 3 years to convert a 4-lane stretch into 6 lane, but since developers were delaying construction due to various reasons, the government had taken cognizance of this fact and decided to penalise non-performers with a reduced freedom to hike tolls. The ministry of road transport and highways had recommended to the IMG that contractors should be put on a leash since they delay the construction and a commuter is still paying the toll for a smoother ride. “After the scheduled completion, tolling may be allowed at rates as per the National Highways Fee Rules of 2008 and if the completion is not done then only 80% of that hike can be done post construction by the developer,” the official said.
Road transport and highways minister C P Joshi had pushed for heavy penalties in the concession agreement for delays. The ministry believes this would deter contractors from going slow to collect toll, spur highway expansion and provide relief from traffic snarls because of road diversions.
While the finance ministry has agreed to the proposal, the Planning Commission expressed certain reservation.
? After much deliberation, the Planning Commission has also in-principle agreed for the capping of the toll hike. Now, the ministry will take the proposal for cabinets consideration so that it can be notified at the earliest,? the official said.
Private developers are currently allowed to charge higher toll from the day they are appointed to six-lane a stretch of highway. Toll is currently being collected on 17 under-construction highways across India, triggering grievances among state governments and the public.
The ministry argues that the arrangement fails to incentivise punctuality, it rather encourages concessionaires to delay projects and build grounds to make claims later.