Two months after the toll plaza located along NH 966A in Kochi’s Ponnarimangalam began collecting user fee, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has hiked the toll rates once again.
The NHAI has increased the one-way toll for light motor vehicles including cars, vans, jeeps and two-wheelers to Rs 50. Earlier in February, the price was Rs 45 for a one-way trip. Similarly, two-way toll for light motor vehicles has been pegged at Rs 75 as opposed to the earlier fee of Rs 70.
The rates of monthly passes for non-commercial vehicles has now been increased to Rs 265 against the earlier rate of Rs 255. This also means that residents in the area are forced to buy the passes as they have to cross the toll plaza on a daily basis. For commercial six or seven-axle vehicles the monthly pass rates have been set at Rs 10,345. The rate was earlier Rs 10,185.
Located at the International Container Transhipment Terminal Road (National Highway 966A), the toll plaza has been the subject of controversy since 2015, when NHAI first attempted to collect user fees.
On February 4, the Container Monitoring Committee, consisting mainly of the container lorry drivers and owners along with the Mulavukad panchayat officials and residents of the area had held a protest outside the toll plaza. The protestors now say that they are shocked to hear about the increase in toll rates, especially since they expected the state government to the collection of user fee collection altogether.
Protests against fee hike likely
Charles George, convener of Container Monitoring Committee told TNM that the fee hike is like a slap in the face of the stakeholders who were awaiting a decrease in the user fee.
“Already the container lorry drivers are facing many issues regarding parking fees. In addition, the NHAI started collecting user fee. Now, that has been increased as well. It has become so difficult us to make ends meet,” said Charles.
The Container Monitoring Committee will convene a meeting to decide on the need to take up the issue by Tuesday. “We have no inhibition to protest against the issue again. Will decide this among once a meeting is held with the stakeholders soon,” added Charles.
The Ponnarimanagalam toll plaza is situated along the National Highway 966A stretch in Kochi and the road is primarily meant to connect the International Container Terminal at Vallarpadam and Kochi.
Various stake holders of the toll plaza including the container lorry drivers and residents of Mulavukkad panchayat, where the toll plaza is located, have carried out multiple protests since 2015.
The recent protest was held in February when NHAI decided to start the toll collection. The protesters had even stopped the movement of containers to the Container Terminal. The issue was finally resolved after the state government promised to intervene and urge NHAI to stop toll collection.
Residents in the area too affected
The residents of Mulavukad panchayat, where the toll plaza is situated, say they will be affected by the increase in user fee. “During the protest held in last February, the District Collector had promised that NHAI will issue this pass. But till this day no pass has been issued for us. Since staff at the toll plaza knew some of us who led the protest, we won’t be asked pass. It is still difficult for other residents to travel through the road since they don’t have pass. It often makes way for quarrels,” said Anirudhan, resident of Mulavukad panchayat.