Truckers, bus owners to intensify stir for toll gate-free India
With expressways doing little to reduce travel time, truckers and private bus owners are now demanding removal of toll plazas from highways. After staging a two-day token protest earlier this month, they are gearing up for an indefinite strike in support of their demand.
“Expressways do not make sense as vehicles end up waiting at toll gates endlessly. With the slogan — Tollgate-free India — we are demanding elimination of toll collection at the so-called toll plazas,” said G R Shanmugappa, general secretary of South India Motor Transport Association (SIMTA). He said SIMTA will announce the strike date on November 6.
“It is a different issue that we have been burdened with exorbitant road tax and toll fee. All we want is the government to help us cut down travel time and cost,” said Sunil Sharma, vice president of Bus Operators Confederation of India, proprietor of Sharma Travels.
India has 371 toll plazas and truckers/bus operators want them closed. They say if the Centre could shut down 1,647 commercial tax check posts after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out on July 1, closing toll gates shouldn’t be a big challenge. Karnataka has 47 tolling points with multiple collection booths.
The toll points have been set up to collect road-user charge by developers of the respective highway stretches. Also, a majority of them have been developed under the build-operate-and-maintain (BOM) model with private partnership, while concessioners are allowed to collect user charges.
Truckers are suggesting a system wherein the government collects toll fee annually in advance. The total toll collection for 2016-17 has been pegged Rs 16, 500 crore. The truckers association has suggested that the government collect Rs 50,000 per truck in advance and distribute it among toll operators depending on road usage.
“The government should not have a problem accepting our proposal as it’d only mean earning revenue in advance,” said Shanmugappa.
The Centre, however, is in favour of digital payment of toll fee. The ministry of road, transport and highways (MORTH) has asked automobile manufacturers to provide radio frequency identification device (RFID) tags in vehicles to enable electronic payment at toll plazas.
The RFID facility helps in seamless movement of vehicles at these plazas sans waiting time. However, its implementation has been slow and only 5 lakh vehicles have been fitted with this tag.