Commuters Feel the Pinch as Toll Charges Increase on Pune-Mumbai Expressway

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Talegaon, 5th April 2023: Starting April 1, 2023, tolls for the Pune-Mumbai Expressway have increased by 18 percent. The toll for a one-way trip to Mumbai for a light vehicle (car) has gone up from Rs 270 to Rs 320.

The expressway is supposed to have measures in place to prevent accidents, 24 X 7 patrolling, cleanliness, and fencing to prevent animals and villagers from entering the busy thoroughfare. However, there are no smooth, pothole-free surfaces, no emergency health facilities, and no safe traffic management.

The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has increased the toll charges despite a surge in revenue. MSRDC’s data shows that toll collections on the expressway have increased by almost 70 percent in the last three years. In September 2019, the expressway generated toll revenue of Rs 60 crore, and in January 2023, it generated Rs 102 crore. The corporation has decided to increase tolls despite this increase in revenue.

According to a government resolution, toll tax was previously increased by 6 percent annually. However, it will now be increased by 18 percent every three years. The toll for various vehicles is now as follows: cars are charged Rs 320 (up from Rs 270), tempos Rs 495 (up from Rs 420), trucks Rs 685 (up from Rs 580), buses Rs 940 (up from Rs 797), XXXL vehicles Rs 1,630 (up from Rs 1,380), and multi-XL vehicles Rs 2,165 (up from Rs 1,835).

The Pune-Mumbai Expressway was fully operational in 2002 and tolls are collected at five plazas. Around 1.5 lakh vehicles use the expressway every day, with the main toll gates located at Khalapur and Talegaon.

There have been complaints of travelers entering dedicated FASTag lanes without proper tags or without sufficient balance in their accounts since November 1, 2020. On the expressway, there are four exclusive FASTag lanes, with two on each side, designated only for motorists who have adequate funds loaded on their tags. Those without tags or those with insufficient funds can take other lanes. However, collectors at the remaining 12 lanes (booths) have tag-reading guns, allowing money-loaded tag-bearers to use those lanes. There are 16 lanes in total, eight for each direction of traffic.

A taxi service operator from Pune complained that his drivers have been forced to pay double the toll amount at times, even when their cars have sufficient balance for the FASTag payment. According to his allegations, there are instances when the toll plaza server on the expressway is non-functional, and during such events, motorists are instructed to pay a penalty. When they argue that they have sufficient balance in their FASTag, the staff refuse to listen.

The MSRDC has appointed Ideal Road Builders (IRB) as the agency responsible for operations and maintenance of the expressway. They had a contract between 2004 and 2019, which the MSRDC extended until 2026. Chapter 4 (page 145) of the 864-page contract agreement clearly places crucial responsibilities of expressway management on IRB, including the upkeep of the road and traffic management. However, IRB has failed to implement accident prevention measures, and the MSRDC has not taken action against them. The MSRDC’s “monitoring unit,” Stupp Consultants, to which it pays Rs 10 lakh per month, is supposed to ensure that IRB meets its commitments under the agreement, but they have not done.

VIPs in Maharashtra are exempted from paying tolls by the MSRDC. There are currently 25 categories of VIPs who are exempted, including the president, prime minister, vice-president, governors, the chief justice of India, cabinet ministers, chief ministers, Supreme Court and high court judges, MPs, and secretary-rank officers, along with their entourage. However, a recent proposal was made during a central cabinet meeting to amend the existing toll rules to only allow eight categories of VIPs and their entourage to enjoy toll exemption. According to an unofficial source, an estimated 10,000 VIP vehicles use the expressway annually.

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