4 toll plazas coming up on ORR; Motorists to be charged from 1 April

Outer Ring Road, officially called SH-234.

Chennai’s one and only toll-free highway, Outer Ring Road (ORR), which is also the city’s most sophisticated stretch, all this while, is soon going to get not one but four toll plazas.

Residents have expressed their disappointment citing the poor conditions of existing city highways with toll collection. They added that no longer they can travel free on that ultra-fast stretch, which is officially called SH-234, that helps cross Chennai in a matter of just half-an-hour.

ORR’s foundation stone was laid on 29 August 2010 by the then Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin while project was proposed in 1998. The 60.5-km stretch, whose work will get completed by March this year, connects Vandalur on NH-45 with Minjur on Thiruvottiyur Ponneri Pancheti (TPP) Road through Nazaratpet (NH-4), Nemilichery (NH-205) and Padiyanallur (NH-5). The six-lane road with two service lanes is humongous 400 feet wide.

Now, with the final touches yet to get over, State government has granted permission to Tamilnadu Road Development Company (TNRDC) to setup four toll plazas on the stretch each at Varatharajapuram (6 Km) near Mudichur, Kolappancheri (21.8 Km) near Nemilichery, Palavedu (30.85 Km) near Red Hills and Chinnamullaivoyal (56.70 Km) about 4 Km from Minjur.

The interval between toll collection is just around 15 Km. The State government has granted permission in accordance with National Highways Fees (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008. With project being executed at the cost of Rs 2,156 crore, the contractor will be permitted to adjust the project cost for 20 years starting from 1 April. With these four plazas, the total number of toll gates in Chennai and suburbs will touch 16.

Speaking to News Today, Traffic and Transportation Forum co-director V Rama Rao, said, “It’s disheartening to note that ORR is also going to get toll plazas. A barrier-free movement has been the demand of the public. For a reference, in India, for building roads ranging 83,677 km in five years, the fund required was just around Rs 70 lakh. But the toll charges per year as of now is around Rs 11,000 crore which is too high. Still, the problems faced by commuters are so many. The delay at every toll plaza is irksome. A report by us estimates a loss of around Rs 90 crore every year for people just wasting time and fuel in toll plazas across the country. It is high time government abolishes them.”

A Tambaram-based travel broker Selvam, said, “The 20-year agreement period for the ORR, which the State government has put up now, is just an eye wash. Post 20 years, toll collection will still happen but at 40 per cent of the project cost for maintaining it. How on Earth can we believe that it will incur 40 per of its project cost just to maintain a 60 Km stretch? Not only that, the toll plazas in OMR easily collect around Rs 5 lakh every day. We can build a luxury villa in with the money these toll plazas earn every month let alone maintaining not just OMR but the entire roads of Tamilnadu.”

TN, costliest place to commute
 As of the toll revision rolled out on 1 September 2018, in Tamilnadu alone, the toll rates have been increased by up to 21 per cent in the last two years making the State one of the costliest ones to commute. On an average, a car user pays Rs 1.09 per km for using the highways in Tamilnadu. With the increasing growth of vehicles, the toll collections continue to be on the upswing trend throughout the year. Despite the complaints of delay in widening the roads and poor maintenance, both State government and NHAI continue to allow toll plazas to increase toll rates.

 

Difficulties felt
Unable to join the motorists in facing the difficulties of waiting in long queues at toll plazas, Madras High Court Judges Huluvadi G Ramesh and M V Muralidharan, late last year, sent an order to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to create exclusive lanes for VIPs, including sitting judges, at all toll plazas on highways or face contempt of court. But NHAI challenged the order stating that such arrangements will make the queues even longer while the exclusive lanes getting under-utilised. The case is currently pending at the court.

 

S Ben Raja