MUMBAI: It’s official. Maharashtra will not be completely toll-free. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led government on Thursday finally declared it. This is a U-turn as the party had come to power with the promise that the state will be made toll-free.
“Toll taxes are necessary to construct new roads and create infrastructure,” state public works department Chandrakant Patil said in the state legislative council. The Opposition had asked the minister whether Maharashtra can be made completely toll free.
He said that the government had already made 53 roads toll- free for small vehicles across the state. “We are committed to exempting small vehicles, school buses and public transport buses from paying toll. However, heavy vehicles cannot be exempted. We are studying all the earlier government contracts with various firms. In most contracts, including the Pune-Mumbai expressway, there are no provisions for buyback and revenue-sharing,” the minister said.
The state government is preparing a new policy on road development and toll, he said. “If the project cost is less than Rs 200 crore, there will be no toll at all. If it is more than Rs 200 crore, toll charges will be there. However, we will exempt small vehicles.
“In the new policy, there will be revenue-sharing with private firms. The formula will be 90:10. We are also developing a software that will be installed at all toll plazas to digitally monitor vehicles. Currently, we do not have a transparent toll-collecting system,” Patil added.
Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt said that in the run-up to the Assembly and Parliament elections, Union minister Nitin Gadkari also promised a toll-free Maharashtra. “Now, Mr Gadkari is a Union minister and handling national highways and the Mumbai-Pune expressway. So the state government can ask him to exempt vehicles from paying toll taxes,” Dutt said.
He said that they are already in talks with the Union government. “The central government is making a policy which will incorporate all our suggestions. New projects will be undertaken after that. We cannot exempt all vehicles,” Patil said.