In the last few days, information about free passage at a toll plaza if the waiting period is more than 3 minutes has been widely shared on social media. Hence, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had given the clarification on the issue.
NHAI clarified that there is no three-minute waiting rule for waiver of toll at toll plazas on National Highways. It said that there is no such provision as of now. The NHAI has clarified this through a letter on 20th July.
Since last 3 days, social media has been abuzz with the following news and it refers to RTI reply from the NHAI which says if a vehicle is delayed for more than 3 minutes at a toll plaza, then one needn’t pay the toll tax. This reply was given to Mr. Hariom Jindal, an advocate from Ludhiana. The reply was given by the Project Director of NHAI in their unit office in Jalandhar.
Toll Plaza Concerns Back In 2015 and 2016:
Earlier in 2015 and 2016, the Member of NHAI had written to all regional officers of NHAI expressing concern at jamming at various toll plazas. He wrote two specific provisions that are part of various concession agreements signed with the toll plaza operators. These talk about the maximum waiting time or number of vehicles in the queue in peak hours at toll plazas.
- Not more than 6 vehicles per lane in queue in the peak hours (or)
- The number of toll lanes/booths shall be such as to ensure the service time of not more than 10 seconds per vehicle at peak hour flow. The number of toll lanes shall be increased if the maximum waiting time of the users exceeds 3 minutes.
Are These Provisions Found In Any Concession Agreement?
The provisions mentioned in the letter of NHAI official are found in various concession agreements. For e.g., in the concession agreement signed with Navayuga Devanahalli Tollway Pvt. Ltd in 2010, for the Hyderabad-Bangalore highway, the second provision was included.
Since the RTI reply was from Ludhiana, we also checked the concession agreement of Panipat-Jalandhar section of NH-1 that passes through Ludhiana. This also had a similar provision.
What If These Provisions Are Violated?
While there is no clear answer in the concession agreements about what happens when these provisions are violated, the letter of NHAI official and various other documents of the NHAI give us the answer.
Rather, these documents talk about expansion and other means of addressing the problem. The measures include deploying additional toll collectors with handheld devices, expansion of toll plazas to meet the demand and staggered arrangement of toll collection.
What’s RTI Take?
While we are still trying to find out the reason behind such a reply from the NHAI Jalandhar office, other things make it clear that no such rule exists.
All the above make it amply clear that no such rule for free passage exists and the 3-minute timeline is an indicator to increase the capacity of the toll plaza. The incidents of free passage have been random and were enforced by district authorities whenever there was a long delay.