• Expressway lenders to meet on plan to restart toll

    Lenders of the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway project are scheduled to meet on January 4 to discuss legal options for a proposal being prepared to restart toll collection at the cities’ border even as the NHAI maintains there is no such plan.
    Millennium City Expressways Pvt Ltd (MCEPL), the company that operates and maintains the speedway, had told TOI on Wednesday it was preparing the proposal. Though sources said MCEPL had been asked to do so by the highways authority, there is no official communication from NHAI to MCEPL. Neither is there any official record of a meeting in the NHAI headquarters where the issue was discussed two weeks ago.
    Sources said everything is happening in an “informal” manner. They admitted any plan to resume toll collection draw huge public anger and NHAI will find it difficult to come out in support of any such move.
    The 32-lane Sirhaul toll plaza, on the expressway at the border of Gurgaon and Delhi, was scrapped in February 2014 on the orders of the Delhi high court after the NHAI and lenders agreed to it.
    On the latest proposal, an official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Under no circumstances can the NHAI approach the court. So, the present operator and lenders are taking the lead to explore options to approach the court. NHAI cannot cite no revenue from the project as a reason to reopen the case, but MCEPL and lenders can move an application as they are losing out on their investment.”
    Sources said the talk of restarting toll collection gained momentum due to increasing demand from local commuters and industries operating from Manesar to remove the other toll plaza on the expressway, at Kherki Dhaula. The Haryana government is in favour of this and had even proposed buying out the project. The state was keen to scrap the toll plaza before it the golden jubilee celebrations of Haryana began on November 1. But it did not materialise.
    Next Wednesday, experts will discuss legal aspects if they are to approach the court for permission to restart toll collection, sources said. Moreover, rebuilding the toll plaza is expected to cost around Rs 1.5 crore. The plan under preparation envisages completing toll plaza construction in six months if the proposal goes through.
    “Around 18 legal partners from the banks will meet on Wednesday to discuss how the matter should be presented in court. The first clearance has to come from the banks and legal partners because we do not want to waste time and money,” said a senior MCEPL official.
    One of the reasons that may be cited before the court to resume toll operations is NHAI’s loss of Rs 1 crore a month, its revenue from the Sirhaul toll plaza. Another logic would be that the commuters crossing Kherki Dhaula toll plaza are being made unfairly made to pay more to compensate.
    The toll fee charges from cars in February 2014 was Rs 26 per trip at Sirhaul toll plaza. After it was removed, this fee was hiked at Kherki Daula toll plaza. As a result, commuters who were initially paying Rs 33 at Kherki Daula are now paying Rs 60. Brad Daugherty Authentic Jersey

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