Motorists fume as ‘incomplete’ Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway takes a toll on their pockets

They complained of a high toll being levied despite several stretches being incomplete and the NHAI not providing wayside amenities.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Mar 16, 2023 | 3:17 PMUpdatedMar 16, 2023 | 3:22 PM

Bangalore Mysore expressway

The staff at the toll plaza on the Bengaluru-Mysuru 10-lane Express Highway conducted a special puja and cracked coconuts before collecting money from motorists at 8 am on Monday, 13 March.

However, the puja did not help them escape the fury of motorists, who were forced to part with a hefty sum to use the ₹9,000-crore highway that Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated in Mandya a day ago.

The road was highlighted as the government’s “double-engine” development model — with BJP governments both in the state and and the Centre.

The major complaint was that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) started levying a toll even before completing all the construction works and providing wayside amenities.

Cars are being charged ₹135 for one-way travel, and ₹205 if they return within 24 hours. Those without FASTag have to shell out double the amount — ₹270 — for a single trip.

‘Daylight robbery’

“What was the urgency in constructing the toll plaza and collecting money when the project is still incomplete? It is nothing but daylight robbery,” fumed Chikkaswamy, a cab driver from Nagarbhavi.

The toll charge list put up at Kaniminike toll plaza at near Sheshagirihalli on the Bengaluru-Mysuru Express-Highway

The toll charge list at Kaniminike toll plaza near Sheshagirihalli on the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. (Supplied)

“I have already paid road tax for my taxicab, and am paying ₹10 as road cess for each litre of fuel I fill in my car. Why are we burdened again with toll charges beyond all these taxes,” asked the driver, who ferried a family in his Toyota Etios cab to Mysuru and Chamarajanagar from Bengaluru.

Though no toll was collected on Sunday, Chikkaswamy was shocked to learn that a toll of ₹135 per car was being collected at the Kaniminike Toll Plaza near Sheshagiri Halli since 8 am on Monday.

The first day of toll collection witnessed several protests. Congress workers, along with members of a few pro-Kannada outfits such as the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV), protested against the high toll rates.

Agitating against the ruling BJP and the NHAI, they complained that the highway project was still incomplete and wayside amenities and other facilities had not been provided.

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Tense moments at toll plaza

The toll collection also witnessed tense moments when motorists argued with those manning the plaza.

Bengaluru-Mysore Express Highway Toll Charge list notification

Bengaluru-Mysore Express Highway Toll charge list notification

A visibly angry driver, who was heading to Ramanagara from Bengaluru, questioned the toll staff about the ₹135 he had to pay for a distance of 55 km when the service roads were not in a proper condition. “This is injustice,” he shouted.

A few motorists who travelled the 118-km highway said around 20 percent of the work was still pending. Two-three stretches were yet to be laid, they said.

They also claimed that multiple stretches of service roads were still under construction; several long stretches of service roads were yet to be laid, and, in some cases, service roads had not even been constructed.

“There are issues with tolls levied for using several roads in the state. As there are no proper service roads for the Bengaluru-Mysore Express Highway, the NHAI’s vendor should facilitate and provide passes for vehicles ferrying workers, rural non-standard floor vehicles, those carrying farm produce, vehicles of educational centres, and rural non-registered vehicles,” K Radhakrishna Holla, president of the Karnataka State Travel Operators’ Association, told South First.

‘Toll plaza too close to city’

“One should learn from past mistakes. The NHAI knew well what happened with the toll plaza on the Bengaluru International Airport Road. Then why on earth would it want to have a toll plaza on the outskirts of Bengaluru city at Sheshagirihalli?” Holla wondered.

He said the toll would put an additional monthly burden of at least ₹2,500 on each commuter, who travelled to Bengaluru for work and education.

Holla demanded that the government waive the toll charges for people living on the outskirts of Bengaluru — near the toll plaza.

“The companies concerned will bear the charges of luxury and corporate vehicles. The regular commuters, who use mass transport vehicles, should be spared. There should be a free gate for such vehicles ferrying workers living in the proximity of Ramanagara, Bidadi, and Channapatna,” he said.

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KSRTC hikes bus fare

Holla also pointed out that the BMTC and KSRTC have notified revised bus fares.

KSRTC's press release on hike in bus fares

KSRTC’s press release on hike in bus fares

“The KSRTC is forced to levy a user fee of ₹15 per passenger travelling on Karnataka Sarige buses, ₹18 for Rajahamsa buses, and ₹20 for multi-axle buses. This user fee is applicable only for passengers travelling in buses operating on the Express Highway,” the KSRTC said in a statement.

Earlier, motorists could stop for refreshments or to use washrooms.

“Now, we have to travel the 118-km stretch without stopping anywhere, and if we want to stop, we have to get off the ramp and come back up to resume the journey,” Holla told South First.

“Though we welcome development, it should not cause inconvenience, nuisance, or issues to road users,” he added.

Watch: Farmers block Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway near Mandya

‘Unjustified’ toll collection?

Karnataka State Goods Transport Federation president Naveen Reddy said the toll collection now could not be justified.

“They should have provided all the amenities and facilities such as ambulance services, access roads to fuel stations, and layby areas to park vehicles in case of breakdowns,” he opined.

Bengaluru-Mysore Express Highway

Bengaluru-Mysore Express Highway

“Now, if a vehicle breaks down, people will be stranded in the middle of the highway. If they would have started levying the toll after all addressing these issues, it could have been justified,” Reddy told South First.

“The volume of traffic is huge between Bengaluru and Mysuru, especially on weekends, and the project cost could be recovered in six-seven years, after which the road should be free of toll,” he said.

“However, in this project’s toll contract, I doubt if they have stipulated any period for collecting toll,” Reddy wondered.

He also pointed out that on the first day of toll collection at the Kaniminike toll plaza near Sheshagirihalli, a few vehicles were damaged as boom barriers fell on them.

“Vehicles moving at speeds between 80 kmph and 120 kmph on the highway are prone to accidents. There should be access roads for ambulances to reach the spot. The Mysore-Bengaluru Express Highway is unsafe as of now,” he pointed out.

What the NHAI says

However, according to NHAI sources, the Bengaluru-Mysore Express-Highway corridor is a 118-kilometre access-controlled highway that has six lanes up and down with four lanes of service roads on either side making it a 10-lane corridor.

The corridor has 69 bus bays, 49 underpasses, and 13 overpasses with guardrails and medians (dividers) to ensure unrestricted movement of traffic, at least according to the NHAI.

After all the pending works — including that of laying of service roads — are completed, the highway will ensure a smooth and swift flow of traffic between Bengaluru and Mysuru, said the sources.

Cab driver Chikkaswamy, who frequents the Bengaluru-Mysuru route, said when the stretch was a single road, the distance was 145 km.

When it became a double road, the distance came down to 135 kms, and now the highway has further brought it down to 118 km, which can be covered in under one and a half hours at a safe speed.

“The roads are very good, and the toll is the only headache. Other cab drivers say that after the completion of the project, they would increase the toll,” Chikkaswamy told South First.