Losses take toll on NHAI, kia commuters to pay price

Deccan Chronicle.

Nation, Current Affairs

Prepare yourself for a long journey,NHAI has decided to collect a toll from vehicles entering the airport as well as those returning from it

No. of vehicles on stretch per day 1,00,000, Toll lanes towards KIA from city 4, Toll lanes towards city from KIA 3

Heading to the airport? Prepare yourself for a long journey, for the NHAI has decided to collect a toll from vehicles entering the airport as well as those returning from it. This means a higher tariff, more traffic congestion and longer waits in the toll plaza queues.  However, while paying more doesn’t bother commuters, they do dread the inconvenience this will mean to the journey. NHAI’s losses are no reason to inconvenience the people, writes Nikhil Gangadhar

As if cab fares to the Kempegowda International Airport(KIA) are not steep enough, people heading to it may now have to pay a toll of Rs 80  for a one- way trip and Rs 120 for a return.  The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which has been collecting a toll from those returning from the airport,  has decided to collect a toll at the Sadahalli toll plaza on Devanahalli Road from vehicles heading to it as well by Friday.

Motorists have a choice to either pay for a one- way trip or a two- way on the onward journey. If you happen to be a passenger taking a flight from the airport you obviously opt for the first. But if you happen to be there to drop off a passenger then it is clearly more economic to opt for the latter. The NHAI, meanwhile, gets to mop up additional revenue from the Rs 80 toll collected from passengers boarding flights.

Its decision is reportedly based on some revenue loss it has  suffered following the partial opening of the alternative road to the airport from the east side of the city via Bagalur and Myanahalli,  which has no tollgate at present.  While work is still underway on the Myanahalli to KIA stretch motorists are beginning to use it and this is apparently worrying the NHAI.

Says Mr Y V Prasad, general manager of NHAI, “We found we were losing around 20 per cent of the toll revenue after the (partial) opening of the new route to the airport. So in future vehicles going towards KIA will have to pay a toll . Currently they need to pay only while returning from the airport. But come Friday we will open the toll booths for the onward journey as well.”

Justifying the new toll,  a NHAI officer points out that the road is afterall maintained by the authority. “And we wouldn’t like to suffer a loss  as the money collected from the toll goes towards repairs , why which is it is off high quality,” he explains.

Ask Mr Prasad about the likely congestion on the onward journey to the airport on account of the toll collection, which could hold up passengers trying to catch a flight, and he says there will be four lanes for the vehicles heading to KIA to prevent such an eventuality. “We are aware of this and we do not want passengers to miss their flights by getting stuck in traffic,” he maintains.

 But whether the NHAI will succeed in this remains to be seen as  a senior traffic police officer notes that on an average over a lakh vehicles head towards the airport every day. “There are even more vehicles in peak hour traffic and now the new toll will add to the congestion. People still need to get familiar with the new route and this will take time. There is already congestion at the Hebbal flyover, Kempapura junction and now the toll will lead to more  traffic pile- ups. The NHAI needs to take adequate measures to ensure that people are not held up in traffic merely on account of the toll,” he stresses. The traffic police, for its part,  will, if required, discuss the matter with  senior officers and take a few measures of its own to prevent  congestion at the toll gate, he assures.

‘Why have a toll at all? Add it to airport user fee’
The soon to be imposed toll on the onward journey to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) has people worried as they are afraid it could lead to traffic  hold-ups and missed flights.

V. Ravichander, an urban expert, has no doubt that collecting a toll from passengers on their way to board flights is a bad idea. “They will have to spend an extra 15 minutes  in the queue to pay the toll and this may cost them their flight. Instead the NHAI could co-ordinate with the airport or the airlines and collect a toll in the form of a user fee, which  would save time and prevent traffic hassles,”  he suggests, also lamenting the lack of clarity on the NHAI's decision to introduce the new toll. “Most feel that it is adding more toll booths only to take advantage of  the increasing traffic to the airport,” he says.

Meenakshi Iyer, a city architect, stresses that people cannot be inconvenienced just because the NHAI is suffering a revenue loss. “The traffic is already high on this stretch and now there will be further delay as every vehicle will have to pay a toll to get past. Opening of the toll booth on the way to KIA doesn’t make sense as people are bound to get delayed while waiting in the queue to pay the toll.   It is a busy stretch and the toll booths will only worsen things. The government must step in and abolish the toll altogether on the entire stretch,” she demands.

Mr Shankar G Rao, the owner of a logistics company, says his employees visit the airport every day  on work and now the opening of a new toll booth will delay them. “ It is illogical to have a toll booth near the airport. The  road sees constant VVIP and VIP movement, which holds up traffic even now as they are given a clear way . The new toll booth will hold up traffic even more. Unfortunately, the government will do nothing. So the passengers will have no choice but to leave even earlier than usual to catch their flights,” he sums up gloomily.

Guest Column: Roads leading to KIA should not have toll booths
Sanjeev Dyamanvar: Traffic Expert

 The imposition of a toll for traffic heading to the Kempegowda International Airport ( KIA) could cause congestion in the area.  In any case, why should people going to the KIA pay a toll at all? Roads leading to the airport should not have toll booths as it only delays passengers on their way to catch flights.

Instead, the state government should in cooperation with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) move the toll gate beyond the airport or make other arrangements.  For instance, the NHAI could collect the toll from  people going towards Hyderabad and further and exempt passengers to the airport. The government should make sure that those heading to KIA are given a free way.

Another solution could be for people to get together and file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and have the toll booth removed or moved  elsewhere. In Gurgaon, the toll gate on the way to airport was removed on the basis of a public PIL.

 In fact, after the alternate road to the airport is opened for traffic from the East side of the city it’s possible that people  from the West and North heading to it could also begin to use it to avoid paying the onwards toll and this could lead to congestion on this stretch as well. The government needs to take measures  to avoid this and provide free flow of traffic to the airport on the alternate road. 

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