NHAI collects toll, shirks responsibility

An analysis of the bid document for the upgradation of the 22-km stretch shows that the NHAI wants to have the best of both worlds.

The NHAI has all along maintained that private contractor Navayuga Engineering is collecting toll as per the concessionaire agreement it has signed on a Design, Build, Finance, Operate, and Transfer (DBFOT) basis. While collecting toll before project completion is not uncommon, many DBFOT projects such as the Hosur Road elevated expressway, started collecting toll after the completion of the project.

When asked about this, an NHAI official said:“We have converted the stretch of NH-7 near Devanahalli from a two-lane road to a four-lane one. For the past three years, the NHAI has been foregoing its revenue. So now, we have decided to collect toll”. A perusal of the bid document raises a cloud of confusion on whether the toll should be collected before the project has been completed. Volume III of the bid document says, “The fee levied and collected here under shall be due and payable...After Completion of Upgradation”. At another place (Volume II of the bid document), the NHAI states, “On and from the COD (Commercial Operations Date) till the Transfer date, the Concessionaire shall have the sole and exclusive right to demand, collect, and appropriate fee”.

But when a bidder sought clarification on these provisions, the NHAI replied thus: “Before completion of upgradation of project highway as per concession agreement, the fee will be determined on the total length of highway i.e. 22.120 km. During this period there shall not be any additional fee for structure costing more than Rs 50 crore”.

The NHAI is eager to levy toll and collect revenue, but is shying away when it comes to providing adequate infrastructure. According to the bid document, one of the components of the project is to provide access roads near Trumpet flyover. When questioned on why there were no access roads, the authorities pointed at lack of funds as a reason.

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