The Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited’s (KRDCL) plan to generate revenue by collecting user fees in select state highways has hit a roadblock. Almost three years after the idea was first proposed, the scheme is yet to take off.
According to documents available, a total of 19 state highways, running a length of 1,530 km, were first proposed for collection of ‘user fees’ at toll booths, in March 2017. Of the 19 SHs, 16 (1,386 km) were developed by the Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project (KSHIP) and three (144 km) by KRDCL.
Almost three years later, roads constructed under public-private partnership model has had little success in terms of generating revenue as companies operating the toll booths have failed to remit the agreed weekly remittance, claiming low revenue generation.
KRDCL data shows that, none of the state highways has succeeded in meeting the expected revenue targets of the Public Works Department. To make matters worse, authorities have received no response for the tender floated even after five calls for three roads, viz Yediyur-Kowdley-Mandya Road, Gubbi-CS Pura-Beeragonahalli Road and Bellary-Moka (AP border) Road.
In a few others, tender evaluation was under progress, while authorities were still waiting for tolling to commence.
According to sources, the initiative was launched despite opposition by locals against the user fee. “Yet, the government went ahead with the project,” the source said. The government had to drop two roads from the project because they were principally approved for upgrading as National Highway subsequently.
One of the primary reasons for the setback in the scheme was that authorities overestimated the revenue generated per day at the toll booths. “As a result, contractors who
were once keen on the project started dragging their feet.” While government had expected to collect Rs 2 lakh or more as user fee in each of these toll booth, the actual revenue collected was less than half the government estimates, sources added.
When contacted, KRDCL MD B S Shivakumar said that the government has been forced to drop the project as toll-operators were not coming forward to take up these projects. “We have floated 2-3 tenders again and are awaiting a better response from contractors,” he said.