Mumbai: Tolls set to go up tomorrow, but services nowhere in sight
The news of a hike in toll rates across the five entry points to Mumbai has raised the hackles of motorists who pass through them every day. They complain that even the current toll rates blow a hole in their pockets and, given that the condition of the roads and flyovers maintained by the toll operator, Mumbai Entry Point Toll Road Private Limited (MEPL) is not up to spec, the hike is even more unjustified.
At Dahisar toll plaza, some electronic display boards were not functioning and there were no ambulances or drinking water. Pics/Atul Kamble
mid-day visited each of the five toll plazas to ascertain whether MEPL is doing enough to ensure that the roads and the plazas are properly maintained. This reporter discovered that several mandatory provisions were missing ambulances could not be spotted at any of the toll and the electronic display boards that are meant to indicate the total amount of toll collected were not functioning.
On September 24, mid-day had reported (‘Despite recovering its advance, toll operator set to hike rates’) that the existing toll rates across the five entry points will be raised by as much as 15-17% on October 1. MEPL had won the rights to collect toll at the entry points in November 2010. As part of the contract, it had to maintain 27 flyovers on the Western Express Highway (WEH), Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and Sion-Panvel Highway.
While the company had paid MSRDC Rs 2,100 crore for toll collection rights until October 2026, it has already recovered Rs 2,032.41 crore in four years. Commuters said that since MEPL is hiking the toll rates despite having recovered most of its advance payment already, they expect smooth rides and all the mandatory provisions at the toll plazas. This investigation, however, found that this is not the case.
During mid-day’s visit to the toll plaza at Dahisar, the electronic boards on the lanes going out of Mumbai were not working. Although there were plenty of signboards on both sides of the toll plaza indicating the different facilities provided, neither an ambulance nor drinking water could be found.
Commuters had complained that there were several potholes on some of the flyovers on this route during the monsoon but, prior to this reporter’s visit, MEPL had repaired them. However, motorists say that the potholes reappear every monsoon.
Anil Yadav a resident of Malvani, said, “No one will have a problem paying the toll if the roads are good. But, every monsoon the potholes reappear on the flyovers on WEH. This not only inconveniences people, but also leads to two-wheeler accidents.” “There is a lot of inflation already, and the increase in toll will impact my budget. I pay Rs 1,060 per month and will have to shell out more soon,” he added.
Motorists commuting between Mulund and Airoli use this toll plaza on a regular basis, and seem generally happy with the quality of the road, but complain that there aren’t enough electronic display boards. There was just one board and that was also placed in an inaccessible corner. The stretch of road leading up to the toll plaza also has several cracks running through it, raising questions over the quality of repair work.
Mulund, LBS Marg
At the Mulund LBS Marg toll plaza, the electronic boards were nowhere to be seen, and while a small water filter was present, the ambulance was missing. An official at the toll booth said that an ambulance is usually posted there, but it had left to respond to a medical call.
Mulund, Eastern Express Highway
Motorists and toll booth staff here complain that there is always a cloud of dust here, because of the ongoing construction of a bridge just before the toll plaza.
Toll plaza at Mulund on Eastern Express Highway
The pothole issue cropped up here as well. Speaking to mid-day, a traffic police official, requesting anonymity, said, “During monsoon, potholes appear on a majority of the flyovers on EEH, including those that are maintained by MEPL. The toll operator should re-lay the tar before monsoon begins, so that the people who pay toll don’t feel cheated.”
The Vashi toll plaza had adequate signboards, as well as electronic boards, and even the flyovers between Sion and Vashi are in good shape. Here, motorists’ complaints were mostly restricted to the toll hike burning a hole in their pockets. Dinesh Tiwari, a taxi driver, said, “An increase of Rs 5 is not worth it, looking at the condition of the roads.
Toll plaza at Vashi
The hike will directly affect the customers who use our services.” Surinder Ghai, a daily commuter, said, “I had heard that toll rates would come down, but the reality seems different. This is just a way to burden people with more payments. Every year there is some hike, and considering the condition of the roads, I don’t think the hike is fair.”
The other side
An MEPL spokesperson said, “Facilities such as toilets, drinking water and first-aid are available at all five Mumbai Entry toll plazas. Posting ambulances at toll plazas is not a part of the contract.”
Anish Patil travels from Mira Rd to Dadar
In my view, all toll collection should be scrapped, because the condition of flyovers and roads is pathetic.
Rahul Gaikwad travels from Kalyan to Dadar
I have been reading in newspapers that the toll operator has almost earned the amount that it had paid to MSRDC to get the contract. If this is true, then the government should immediately scrap toll collection. I don’t know why the toll operator is hiking the toll when it is already set to make a profit.