For some it's the high way, others prefer the low way

The Road less travelled Most commuters prefer the toll-free Hosur Road to the elevated express way. DH PHoto/B H Shiva kumar

They all like the dreamlike, fast and relatively safe drives but a majority feel the price for that is way too high.  

The Peripheral Road built by the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) has been controversial ever since it opened as a tollway. Public outrage forced a downward revision of the toll rates. But subsequent revisions have made commuting on the road, “an expensive way of travelling,” as Madhusudan, a frequent traveller put it.

For the Hosur road elevated tollway, there is a free alternative below. But there is no such alternate road for NICE road. Sanya Sood, who lives in Ramanagara, has no choice but to take the tolled NICE road to enter and exit the city on a daily basis. “It is expensive and you end up paying around Rs 120 both ways,” says she.

There are many who like the comfort and the time saved while travelling on NICE road. But they too feel the toll is on the higher side. Says a commuter, Shreenathan, who drives on this road regularly: “If the NICE road fares are reduced by 15 per cent to 20 per cent, it will be pretty good.” Another commuter, Naresh, feels the toll rate should be reduced at least by 50 per cent.

For the ones who can afford to pay, the tollways present a good way to save on time, although the congestion at the toll booths sometimes reduces that advantage. Raga S, a student of Christ University living in Electronics City, although the BMTC buses don’t use the elevated tollway, the road above is a good option while travelling alone. “It saves around 30 minutes to an hour during peak hours.” 

Motorcyclist Yogesh too prefers the tollway for speed. He says, “I take a daily pass as the expressway is very convenient. I cross it in five minutes on my bike.” But another commuter, Suryakanth hastens to correct. According to him, the stretch from Madiwala to Electronic City will take at least 10 minutes even if you drive at a speed of 80 kmph. Despite that, the tollway is a much faster option. “If you do not want to pay and opt for the road below the tollway, then it will take you around 45 minutes to one and a half hours to get through the same distance,” says Suryakanth.

For the majority of commuters, however, the long wait in traffic and lack of comfort are preferable to paying the hefty toll. SC Dharwal, for instance, has no problem choosing the road below. “The tollway option is way too expensive, and when compared to the time actually saved, it does not seem worth it,” he says.

Many feel that during peak hour traffic, the Hosur road tollway does not seem as efficient as it should be. Says a commuter on the road, Kannan: “I do not find the toll high, but my problem is that during peak hour traffic there is a jam at the toll booth.”  Madhusudhan too had seen how vehicles had to wait for at least five minutes at the toll booth, reducing the consumer satisfaction significantly.

Yet, there are some hardcore tollway buffs. One of them is Stephen, who feels “Travelling on the elevated tollway is very easy. Even during peak hour, the wait is for a mere five minutes at the toll booth, which is not much.”

Slowly but surely, the tollways are creating a new divide among the commuters. The imposing structures are emerging as symbols of that divide between the haves and have-nots. While some have the option not to take the tollways, many don’t.

Truck drivers take the NICE road frequently as it connects directly to the national highways. Vinod, a truck driver for Saravana Priya Transport, had to pay a sum of Rs 150 at the toll booth. While the money was not his, he finds the toll rate too high.

Another truck driver, Velu had to shell out a total of Rs 190 as toll across the different toll booths on NICE road. The company reimburses him, but he still feels the rates are sky-high. He had no option but to use the tollway as he had avoid the City’s maddening traffic from Tumkur Road and had deadlines to meet.

For taxi driver Nagaraj, the option of taking a tollway or not depends on his passengers. He asks the passengers if they are willing to pay the toll. If they agree he takes the tollway. He says he doesn’t really mind wading through the traffic on the “free” roads, because he has no deep pockets to dig into.

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