Soon Chennai IT executives will be forced to pay and crawl on chennai’s IT corridor

First of the guest blog series. This post is contributed by Shrinidhi Hande. An interesting article indeed about IT corridors toll plaza. Appreciate your comments on this
 

Many of you have might have noticed the toll gates on highways which collect a fee from each vehicle that passes through it. Probably you’re irked because despite paying road tax you’ve to pay extra to these robbers, or maybe you’ve got used to it thinking, since the road is nice and we can cruise it is ok to pay.

The idea of collecting toll fee on highways was justified on the grounds that vehicles will be able to reach their destination faster, with better fuel economy and lesser maintenance expenditure. Many of us were annoyed earlier about paying this toll fee, now everyone has got accustomed to it.

So far the toll gates were only on highways, on the roads connecting big cities. (You get 4 toll gates between Chennai and Bangalore) What I don’t like is that the Tamil Nadu government is bringing these toll gates right inside the city, that too for a small stretch of 20 kms. 2 main toll gates are being erupted near Perungudi and Siruseru in Chennai on the IT corridor, the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and another 5 satellite toll gates on the connecting roads to ensure that no one escapes unpaid. Soon commuters will have to cough up extra money (Rs 6 for autos, Rs 17 for cars, Rs 44 for buses and so on- one way -totaling nearly Rs 1000 per month under normal usage for a car user, on top of it administrative charges of Rs 1000 per year for OBU, which will be irrespective of usage, =Rs 13000 per annum per car) if they wish to cross these points, but for no or little extra benefits as such (explained later on).

The project is being commissioned on BOT (Build, operate, Transfer) basis by ITEL (IT Expressway Limited), a subsidiary of TNRDC. The IT corridor project as such looked quite promising (read full description of the project here http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=476404 )and roads today are far better than what they were 2 years ago. No questioning that, but I have few concerns about the idea of paying at toll gates even for city driving. If I am wrong somewhere/misinformed correct me, else let me know your views.

Toll gates on highways would affect only those travelling to other cities and that usually will be once in a while expense. But toll gates within city means paying extra every day, an additional burden amounting to several thousands of rupees each year. Can’t the TN government fund a Rs 300 crore project? Is collecting toll fee the only option? A small cess on petrol and diesel will earn this amount in a few months. Also, I feel it not quite viable to have toll roads in the heart of the city and even if built and commissioned, motorists won’t be able to derive much benefits out of it.

1 It is learnt that government is making a list of local residents around this toll road (Kottivakkam, Perungudi, Sholingnallur and so on) and will be giving them free pass, so that they won’t have to pay every day. Though that is a small relief to local residents, what about those hailing from elsewhere but staying in these localities?

2 On highways usually vehicles will be travelling intercity, hence would use entire stretch of toll road. That may not be the case in cities. People are forced to pay, just to cross the toll gate, not necessarily to use the road. Consider this- One may not always use the entire 20 km stretch of the road. If my destination is just 100 meters on the other side of the toll gate, why should I pay full fee? I should have an option of paying proportional fee-do they have that provision? Or, someone having his office and residence both within the toll road will use the road all his life but will never pay a penny, because he is not required to pass through the toll gate. Already we need to pay at ECR toll gate just to go to Mayajaal/MGM or few other places that are few kms on the other side of toll gate.

3 On highways, number of vehicles will be less and if road is good cars can cruise at higher speed to save time and achieve fuel economy. In city limits, even if the roads are improved, there will not be any time or fuel advantage due to following reasons:
· Unlike the elevated expressway in Bangalore which facilitates non-stop movement from Madiwala to Electronic city, Chennai’s IT corridor project is on ground level and with offices locates across the road, vehicles will be changing lanes every now and then, either to make an exit or to take u turn, forcing other vehicles behind to slow down.
· Learnt that buses will ply on right most lane-if that is so, they will have to cut 2 lanes to move to left most lane and stop at bus stops
· No ban on bullock carts, manual carts and carts powered by 50 cc TVS engine. (because the road falls within city banning these vehicles is not viable as that will affect lively hood of many people) These vehicles will haunt the drivers all the way. It seems one lane will be reserved for these non motorized vehicles, but lane just means a white line-I don’t think those driving these vehicles have slightest idea what a lane is and more over we all know how lane disciplined Indians are.
· When carriage roads like this are commissioned, one will have to go several kms before finding a U turn. Many of us hate this and prefer to drive across the edge of wrong side of the road instead. So of the 3 lanes, 1 lane will be used up by those driving in wrong direction, other by slow moving vehicles and last one by buses… Cars can struggle in between.
· On intercity highways 2 and 3 wheelers will be almost negligible in number, as few people travel intercity on a bike. In city limits two & three wheeler count will be significant and with their zig zag driving, they are capable of causing nightmare to other road users.
· The IT corridor was supposed to be 3 lanes all the way-but at places it converges into 2 lanes, due to non availability of space. If the 3rd lane goes missing at multiple places it will create bottlenecks and slow down the traffic further
· Since the toll road falls in a dense civilian population, number of people walking across the road will be very very high. Few Foot Over bridges are being built, but many find it more convenient to jump over the barricade and cross the road-never mind the risk involved. Probability of cattle and stray dogs coming in the way of speeding vehicles is equally high.
· With corridors like this, one will have to travel 2-3 kms to take a U turn. Most of us don’t like this and prefer to drive in the wrong side instead. So out of 3 lanes I guess one lane will be occupied by those coming in opposite direction. Since it is city, this nuisance will be frequent and tough to bear.
· Work is incomplete at some places and service roads do not exist at all. When construction work is in progress it will add to the inconvenience and in the absence of service road, those supposed to be using service road will use the main carriage road
· During peak hours, given the number of vehicles involved and above factors, I doubt if anyone will ever be able to cruise on this road. Just pay and crawl.

Given the above conditions, I am pretty sure it is near impossible to have any time or fuel advantage by using this IT Expressway.

4 Imagine the number of vehicles that would accumulate near toll gates during peak hours. Even if each vehicle needs to spend 20-30 seconds max (to slow down, stop, pay/swipe, and move on) that will result in accumulation of 100s of vehicles near toll gate. What convenience this will add? I understand that the idea of OBUs (On Board Units) is being pushed through-installing which amount will be automatically debited and vehicles can zip through. Will these OBUs be given complementary? Or vehicle owners are expected to pay for that? What number of vehicles will opt for this is something yet to be seen. Anticipating the rush as much as 10 gates are being built, still it might be tough during peak hours.

5 Government is trying to pose as if they are willing to go soft on private vehicles (by issuing smart cards etc) and will primarily target commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicle owners won’t do any charity-they will pass on the entire fee (maybe even more) to the commuters who hire those vehicles, eventually burdening the common man.

6. Rs 17 one way for cars is just too much. Probably one of the highest per km. Between Chennai and Hosur a car driver pays Rs 140 for about 320 kms=45 paisa per km ( I don’t mean to say that’s cheap-its expensive than general class train ticket), Even at that rate it shouldn’t be more than 8 Rs for the 20 km road. Moreover, only few vehicles will use whole 20 km stretch. Others will be using only a part of it. It’s quite unfair to rob vehicle owners like this. Further, I don’t think those manning the toll gates care to keep change. If the car driver doesn’t carry exact change he will be forced to pay Rs 20 on the excuse of “change illai”

7. Original idea was to complete the project-with service roads and landscaping and then start collecting money. Current statement is “we’ll build service roads and other things as money starts flowing in”. Why should I pay in advance? What if they don’t complete the work on time with promised quality? Will the money be refunded? Governments change and priorities may change-leading to compromise on the project execution, but this daylight robbery of money collection will continue sine die. When the money is collected from vehicle owners by promising certain services, vehicle owners should be in a position to question ITEL in consumer forum and demand compensation if what is promised is not delivered.

8 When driving on this road if I see someone crossing the road or if someone coming in wrong direction or if I see someone crossing the road, am I permitted by law to knock them down? (it’s their fault-only serious measures like this will bring in some discipline)

9 For the 20 km stretch there’re nearly 15 FOBs being constructed (Only 3 complete and 12 more under construction)-That’s 1 FOB every 1.4 kms. If a pedestrian is in the middle of two FOBs (.7 km from nearest FOB) he will have to travel 1.5 km to reach his destination which is on the other side of the road (.7 km+0.1 km +0.7km) Will common man have patience to walk 1.5 kms just to cross the road? They would rather do all possible circus, climb over the barricades if any and reach the other side.

10. Why is the cost of OBUs and administrative charges passed on to road users? Its government that wants to collect money-let them bear the cost. None of the existing smart card mechanisms (like Petro card of BPCL, iMint card etc) charge any maintenance charge to its consumers, except a onetime fee. Administrative charges of Rs 1000 per OBU will be charged annually irrespective of usage-Even if the owner goes abroad or for other reasons doesn’t use the toll gate for say 6 months, he will be forced to pay admin charges. Unfair.

11 This may look like a problem to those living in Chennai only-that too to those regularly using this particular stretch of road. But this can happen anywhere. Soon other states and cities will catch up with this idea of bringing more and more roads under “pay and use” scheme and in a few years we might be required to shell out money just to hit the main road in front of our homes.

9 Comments

  1. Sridhar

    Well said..As a tax payer, I should be able to reach a location without paying any additional money. Government can collect a fee by providing ADDITIONAL roads that offer advantages to some people in terms of comfort and time.

  2. Thanks for Publishing. After sending it to you I realized that the post is too lengthy. Good that you removed last part.

    Govt has money to give free TVs to everyone… now I think this money is collected so that they can give free DTH connection to all these TVs…

  3. Nala

    Lot of Valid Points. But I had some comments.

    1.I’m surprised you call it a city road. Then even on ECR, the city extends far beyond the toll plaza. So this argument does not hold good.

    2.Tolls are like direct tax,charged at the point of consumption. So if you consume, you pay. If you don’t consume you don’t pay. As simple as that. Very capitalistic but so is New Chennai(apparently what OMR is called) and so are most of the people commuting from Chennai to New Chennai everyday. I live in mumbai and people who travel from Navi Mumbai to Mumbai & Back pay toll every day. And so do people from NCR(Delhi) to Gurgaon or NCR to Noida. Why does the Chennai-New Chennai Corridor need special treatment? So Nothing wrong in this. Tolls are said to be the most effective way to charge based on consumption rather than ‘perceived benefit’.

    3. Related to your point on pay only for the distance you “consume”. To give an example, Aavin can have 250 ml,500 ml and 1000 ml. Even if you want 100 ml you need to pay for 250 ml. Too much customization will only increase the costs. Here the only way to customize is toll booths for every 5 KM stretch. So you pay for first stretch only if you dont go beyond the first 5 KM. Think of how much this will slowdown traffic and also it adds three more toll plazas(and the dear user has to pay for this too).

    4. Cess on Petrol/Diesel. Excuse me, why should a person not using the OMR pay some extra paisa for his fuel consumption. If you assume only 1% of the city’s population is benefitted by the IT expressway, why should the remaining 99% pay for it. Remember that our fuel bills are already subsidized but yet people complain of high fuel prices.

    5. Related to residents in these localities. They benefit by appreciation in property value and I guess this would payback whatever they have to pay by toll. If you use public transport, you dont pay toll and the bus fares would be raised marginally but this is subsidy the government can give(by not raising fares proportionally) as it is a “targetted “subsidy(so the poor are protected). If you use private cars, you can afford to pay and if you can’t ‘car pooling’ could be an answer. Tolls are beneficial here as they will become more ‘costly’ for cars with lesser passengers and appear more nominal when 4/5 folks share a car on this stretch.

    Anyways, my intention was not to criticize your comments but rather to give my viewpoint on this.

  4. praveen

    Hi,
    I stay in singapore and they have implemented the pay as you like in the Central Business districts and downtown areas.It is called Electronic Road pricing(ERP).The amount is deducted automatically through a cash card in a device which is fitted in all vehicles.So anybody entering the business district and downtown will be automatically deducted and if there is no money in the cash card then a pciture is taken and a fine has to be paid.The gripe now is that the number of ERP’s have increased a lot throughout the island in a move to curb people travelling by cars and use public transport more.

  5. akp

    Dear Nala ,
    In Noida commuter has an option to choose other roads which are toll free while coming from Delhi .

  6. simi

    it is true in future we may have to shell out money as soon as we hit the roads – bad

  7. Nala

    Dear AKP,

    Valid point on Noida. But Mumbai-Navi Mumbai has no alternate. In fact in mumbai, the three main Roads leading into Mumbai(Western Expressway, Eastern and Navi Mumbai-Mumbai Link) all have tolls when you enter/leave the city.

    Tolls is a way of life which we have to get used to in India. Unless our government becomes rich enough to build expressways on its own.

  8. Alagu

    Hi,

    Even developed countries like USA has toll roads. Having toll roads is not a problem here. The problem is about the traffic that flows-in and the placement of toll booth. They started collecting the toll from today and it took about 30 minutes for me to cross the toll. Without this, my travel time would have been about 15 minutes in total between Madhya kailash and thoraipakkam, not it is 45 minutes.

    It is almost like the mount road (anna salai) and not really an expressway. There are multiple signals on the way. For an 8 kilometre stretch, i would have to cross three signals and ofcourse this toll booth. The thiruvanmiyur signal is always a chaos. On peak hours you had to wait a minimum of 10 minutes to cross this signal. If not a complete elevated road, there should have been fly-overs here to make it really an expressway. There is a complete lack of planning in these areas.

    With all these limitations, if it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to cross an eight kilometre stretch on the express way, why would any body want to pay a toll. If there is an alternative road, I would now prefer to use that, as it might same some time as well as money. The government is not providing me an alternative to use, say if I don’t want to use the super-duper expressway. Overall, its a day-light robbery.

  9. Suresh

    More over, people who work in offices on both sides of OMR is not going for tour. They go every day to office for bread and butter. TN govt. is the worst govt. in the world who extract money from people who are going to work for living.

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