Bengaluru-Mysuru Express Highway: NHAI hikes toll fees, and then reverts to old rates

Toll collection began on 14 March and the hiked the toll led to protests by motorists, Opposition and pro-Kannada groups.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Apr 01, 2023 | 1:04 PM Updated Apr 01, 2023 | 1:37 PM

Kaniminike-Sheshagiri Halli plaza on the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway.

It was no April Fool’s Day joke. Riding the Bengaluru-Mysuru Express Highway became costlier for a while on Saturday, 1 April. For one way, a car driver would pay ₹165 as a toll, a hike of 22 percent.

The toll was hiked as per the National Highway Users’ Fee (Determination of Rated and Collection) Rules, 2008, that came into effect on Saturday. The rules allow an annual revision of the toll fee.

But after collecting the new fee for a while, the Kaniminike-Sheshagiri Halli plaza saw collectors reverting to the earlier rates.

Sources told South First that the decision to revert to earlier rates was taken after internal confabulations.

NHAI notification

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) issued a notification on 27 March, revising the toll fees for the express highway, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 March.

The NHAI has been collecting tolls since 14 March. The authority said the toll fees would be revised every financial year based on the wholesale price index.

The collection of the hiked toll fees at the Kaniminike-Sheshagiri Halli plaza sparked protests. Besides motorists, the Opposition and pro-Karnataka outfits, too, protested the high toll.

Related: Ire over toll charged for ‘incomplete’ Bangalore-Mysore expressway

Expressway of discontent

Many motorists, however, expressed their ire at the 22 percent hike before the increase was rolled back. About four to five lakh vehicles ply the expressway daily.

“Toll rates have been hiked (22%) by @NHAI_Official within a month of #BengaluruMysuruExpressWay’s inauguration. Also this toll is only for the stretch between Bengaluru & Nidaghatta (correct me if I am wrong). Doesn’t it amount to looting the public, @mepratap & @nitin_gadkari ?” questioned a netizen handle Voice of Mysuru on Twitter, tagging NHAI officials, Pratap Simha, Mysuru and Kodagu MP, and Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.

K Radhakrishna Holla, president of the Karnataka State Travel Operators’ Association, too, thought it amounted to looting the public.

“According to the National Highway Users’ Fee Rules, 2008, notification, the toll collection should be operational for at least one quarter of the financial year before revising the fee,” he told South First.

“This Express Highway was inaugurated on 12 March and the toll collection commenced on 14 March. How could the toll fee be hiked in two weeks? This is looting the public in daylight,” Holla added.

Several netizens condemned the hike. One internet user termed the hike “ridiculous”.

The truckers, too, are fuming. The head of the Federation of Karnataka Lorry Drivers’ Association, Naveen Reddy, said truckers cannot profit from the business if the toll is high.

“Earlier, a lorry with a national permit had to shell out anywhere between ₹8 to ₹9 lakh as toll every year and we haven’t been calculating this at all, as we would get it adjusted in our profits,” he told South First.

Bangalore-Mysore ExpresswayHowever, now we are paying double the amount. The government cannot overburden us with taxes like this. Around 70 percent of the freight movement across the country is by road and if the government imposes such heavy toll charges without giving us proper roads, we cannot profit from the business,” he added.

The lorry association members said they want the transport ministry to address several issues, and the increase in toll charges has added to the existing woes.

“Usually, transport department officials flag down trucks near the toll gates for overloading. The rule says that if a truck is overloading, the extra load should be transferred to another,” Reddy said.

“Here, a penalty ranging between ₹5,000 and ₹25,000 is slapped on the erring truck based on the extra load. According to NHAI, the distance between one toll plaza and the next should be 65 km. There are several examples where toll plazas violate this rule. Moreover, the central government has also decided to do away with check posts, but nothing happened,” he rued.

Served raw and cold

Bangalore Mysore expressway

The Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Narendra ModiTwitter)

Reddy also complained that online transactions were not possible at several locations due to server issues.

“Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi says 51 km of roads are being laid daily in the country. But the server issues hampering seamless online transactions are not addressed,” Holla pointed out.

Citing NHAI rules, Reddy opined that the fee for using roads where the toll has been appropriated for 20 years should be reduced to 40 percent, and the fee should be collected only for maintaining the roads.

“This is not being followed anywhere. The contract period for collecting tolls at the Jazz Toll Plaza on the Nelamangala-Tumkur stretch expired more than three years ago. They are still collecting tolls, armed with a court order. There is no one to question them,” Reddy lamented.

Holla, meanwhile, raised another issue. “Road repair works are going on for years on the Hirisave-Channarayapatna-Hassan stretch. Motorists are forced to take a detour at several places, but the full amount is being collected at toll plazas. It does not make sense,” he said, adding that there are over 730 toll plazas across the country.

The election code of conduct in force in poll-bound Karnataka is prohibiting the general public from protesting the premature collection of tolls for using the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.

As protests mounted on social media, the Mysuru-Kodagu Member of Parliament Pratap Simha explained that the toll fees have been hiked across the country.

“However, I have requested the NHAI officials, including the chairman and project director, to consider not to increasing the toll fees for the time being since the road was opened only on 12 March. They (the NHAI officials) are yet to respond,” Simha said in a video post on Twitter.