India had 29,666 km highway length and 566 toll plazas, as on March 2020, where toll was collected. The toll rate is revised annually in April for majority of the stretches.
Toll revenue per kilometre of national highway saw a 7.17% decline in 2019-20 due to the economic slowdown and upward revision in axle load norms, among other reasons. The stoppage of vehicular movement due to lockdown in the last week of the year also contributed to the decline.
According to data compiled by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), total toll collection on national highways grew by 10% to Rs 26,851 crore while tolled highway length grew 19% to 29,666 km in 2019-20, translating into a fee collection of Rs 90.5 lakh from each km of tolled length. In the year 2018-19, a total of Rs 24,396 crore was collected as toll fee from 24,997 km tolled length or Rs 97.5 lakh per km in 2018-19.
“The continued adverse impact of revision in axle load norms in H1 FY’20, general slowdown in the economy and the constrained vehicular movement in the run up to the lockdown in March 2020 has resulted in traffic de-growth of 7-8% in FY’20. That’s why we notice that despite 19% growth in length tolled, the toll collections grew by just 10%,” said Rajeshwar Burla, vice president, corporate ratings, Icra.
The pace of growth in toll collection, year-on-year, was the highest in 2017-18 at 22.32% in the last three years which fell down to 11.15% in 2018-19 and then further even as the total highway length under tolling increased from 11.49% in 2017-18 to 11.7% in 2018-19 and further to 18.67% in 2019-20.
Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director and practice leader – transport, Crisil Infrastructure Advisory said, “Currently many of the toll plazas of NHAI are operated by contractors whose term is limited to 1-3 years, leading to a short term tactical approach to toll collection by the contractors. Also, many of the existing national highways have competing non-toll roads developed by state governments which leads to lesser revenue realisation.”
From 12,598 km tolled length, private operators collected Rs 16,293 crore, or Rs 1.29 crore per km, mainly due to higher mix of expressways, in 2019-20 compared with the authority’s tally of Rs 7,979 crore, or Rs 49 lakh per km, from 16,387 km length. Macquaire, which bagged the first bundle of public-funded highway projects under toll-operate-transfer model in 2018 for Rs 9,681.50 crore, collected Rs 745 crore in 2019-20 from 681 km tolled length or Rs 1.09 crore per km of tolled length.
“The private sector efficiency in toll collection can be tapped into by NHAI by offering more projects under the ToT/ OMT model,” Padmanabhan said.
India had 29,666 km highway length and 566 toll plazas, as on March 2020, where toll was collected. The toll rate is revised annually in April for majority of the stretches. Toll fee is different in different toll plazas essentially because it is based on the length of the stretch under that plaza, structures (bridge, tunnel, by-pass) and width of the highways.
Toll rates of two different categories of vehicles are also different as it is primarily based on the size and load they carry and damage done to the road and type of use (commercial/personnel) of a vehicle.
Toll collection for the current fiscal may fall due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. According to rating agency Crisil, only about a crore vehicles were on the roads in April compared with 11 crore in February. However, electronic toll collection in June rebounded to March level and touched 75% of the February levels. The pandemic-induced lockdown had virtually halted movement of people and goods in April and May.