State does a U-turn, wants toll-free service road on NH-7

State does a U-turn, wants toll-free service road on NH-7

State does a U-turn, wants toll-free service road on NH-7

The protest against the steep hike in the toll on the road to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) has not yet borne fruit but confusion has cropped up over the service road.

There seems to be no clear word on whether the road exists, it will be tolled or another road will be built. To clear the confusion, a team of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials from New Delhi will soon conduct site inspection.

The confusion has been created by the State government. In 2008-09, it had approved the concessional agreement which did not provide for construction of service road. In 2009, the Public Works Department wrote a letter to the NHAI chairman, stating that the two-lane road shall be constructed on both sides, without any break, up to the trumpet junction and, tolled. For tolling purposes, the new national highway toll policy, 2008, should be adopted.

Now, in May 2014, the PWD has written another letter to the NHAI, stating that it should examine continuing the service road as well as constructing a Road Over Bridge (ROB)—as the State government has suggested—besides considering a change in scope of the project agreement.

The department has also sought to know why the service road cannot be continuous, extended and toll-free like the NH-4 passing through Nelamangala. It has suggested implementing the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Amendment Rules, 2014, and paying suitable compensation to the concessionaire, Navayuga Devanahalli Tollway Pvt Ltd.

Alternative road

But the NHAI says there is no service road here like in other highways. It is like an alternative road connecting to the highway. Ideally if there is a service road, it will not be tolled. The road here is an alternative road and is tolled as per the 2008 toll policy and the concessional agreement, said SC Jindal, Chief General Manager (Technical), NHAI, New Delhi. If the State and the Centre wish, however, an alternative road could be constructed, but the cost would have to be paid to the concessionaire. To get a clear site picture on the matter, a team is likely to visit Bangalore, he added.

A K Mathur, chief general manager of the NHAI, said different policies existed for NH-4 and airport road (NH-7). A service road is meant for local vehicles, two-wheelers, tractors and animal-drawn vehicles, not for commercial vehicles.

No competition

Although concession and free access are being given here, the alternative road connects to the toll plaza. If the NHAI builds a separate service road, it will be tolled according to the concessional agreement. If the State government builds another road, it should ensure there is no competition to the existing road, Mathur said.

According to Erubothu Venkataiah, principal secretary of PWD, the present service road was in patches and there was scope for constructing another road below the elevated corridor. Alternatives for toll free road are being considered, he said.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Oscar Fernandes told Deccan Herald: “The four-lane road was converted into six lane and tolling began even before the project was completed. But people have to pay while returning from the airport, not when going Hyderabad-side. Service road can be constructed if land is available and compensation is decided.”