Vehicles pile up at toll nakas as booth operators struggle to get change

Updated: Dec 05, 2016, 10:01 IST | Faisal Tandel

With toll collection resuming on Friday midnight, after being scrapped temporarily post demonetisation to ease the cash crunch, toll plazas in the city reported chaotic snarl-ups

Chock-a-block traffic on Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Pic/Rane Ashish
Chock-a-block traffic on Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Pic/Rane Ashish

Shabaz Ali Sayed’s Saturday night plans hinged on getting off early from work. But, the 27-year-old marketing professional, travelling from Navi Mumbai to Bandra, knew that was wishful thinking when he saw the rush at the Vashi toll naka: the queues stretched on for more than 5 km.

A toll booth operator gives the new Rs 2,000 note a tight scrutiny as another motorist fishes out a defunct Rs 500 note at the Mulund naka. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
A toll booth operator gives the new Rs 2,000 note a tight scrutiny as another motorist fishes out a defunct Rs 500 note at the Mulund naka. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

With toll collection resuming on Friday midnight, after being scrapped temporarily post demonetisation to ease the cash crunch, toll plazas in the city reported chaotic snarl-ups. A large number of motorists either flashed the new Rs 2,000 notes or insisted on paying with the defunct Rs 500 ones. Toll booth operators had a harrowing time trying to convince them to part with change or to opt for pre-paid smart cards.

“A number of them want to pay with Rs 2,000 notes for a toll that’s less than Rs 100. How can we return so much change?” rued Ajit Waykar, manager of the Vashi toll Naka. Defunct Rs 500 notes are being accepted at toll booths till December 15, provided the charge is over Rs 200.

Queues at the Vashi toll naka stretched on for 5 km, beginning 8 am
Queues at the Vashi toll naka stretched on for 5 km, beginning 8 am

Wishy Vashi
Traffic at the 18-lane Vashi toll plaza began to crawl after 8 am, when office-goers turned up. Soon, it stretched on for 5 km. Sayed took two-and-a-half hours — a commute that usually takes 75 minutes — to complete a 45-km stretch. “I wanted to leave office early. But, how can I do that when I reached late?” he wondered. The chaos affected even regular traffic. Ramesh Shinde, an autorickshaw driver from Chembur, was stuck for an hour near Vashi. “I came to drop a customer. The fare wasn’t worth the long wait.” Waykar felt that operations would be smoother today. He said toll booths would accept payments through Paytm, an e-commerce platform, by Saturday evening.

Smart Mulund
At the Mulund toll plaza, a number of motorists with withdrawn Rs 500 notes were talked into opting for smart cards. “We asked them to recharge a smart card for Rs 490. Smart cards can be used at 14 toll nakas in the city, including Vashi, Mulund, Dahisar and Airoli. Most of the motorists preferred to recharge the cards online,” said a senior official at the Mulund plaza. Vehicles took anywhere between half-an-hour to one hour to get through.

At sea on sea link
Within Mumbai city, the situation at Bandra-Worli Sea Link was no different. Cars waited, bumper to bumper, an hour to get through.

Kharghar’s got change
The eight-lane Kharghar toll gate, though, saw smooth operations. “Most motorists had Rs 100 notes on them,” said Ajay Kumar, manager of the toll naka. “We had adequate change in Rs 100 notes. Besides, motorists were prepared for this resumption of toll collection.”

The lucky get a pass
A senior Vashi traffic police officer said when motorists piled up at the Vashi toll naka, small vehicles on four lanes on each side were allowed to pass without paying toll for half-an-hour to one hour to ease the traffic. Ajit Waykar, manager of the Vashi toll Naka, said, “We had to free up the lanes. So, we had no choice but to let some vehicles go without toll payment. Traffic police personnel were deployed at all toll nakas. No untoward incident was reported.”

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