Hand Gurgaon expressway to us, NHAI tells Centre

September 26, 2013


 NEW DELHI : Fed up with protracted legal proceedings and Haryana government’s indifference, the National Highways Authority of India wants the Centre to allow it to take over the poorly run Gurgaon expressway. It has also supported doing away with tolling in public interest.
In a letter to the ministry of roads, transport and highways, NHAI chairperson R P Singh has asked the Centre to select the best option to end the daily nightmare of jammed toll booths that lakhs of stressed commuters have to put up with.Importantly, Singh has supported the growing public demand to end tolling. “Tolling in municipal areas causes inconvenience to public and there is a strong case in public interest to remove toll plazas from municipal limits,” he said.NHAI said the concession agreement has a provision for taking over the project from the concessionaire. “The right course of action in such a situation, therefore, should be to acquire back this concession than going on wasting time in litigation,” the letter said.

Urging the Centre to act, NHAI said that if the ministry did not consider the NHAI option, it should ensure the project is handed over to the Haryana government. In any event, the Centre should not spend more time on litigation that is dragging on.

In a sharp indictment of the Haryana government, NHAI told road secretary Vijay Chhibber that while Haryana government exploits the expressway link to generate revenues, it has done little to reduce the load on the highway.

“It is the responsibility of the state government to provide connectivity across the national highway without interfering with the highway traffic,” the NHAI said. But instead of improving infrastructure, Haryana has pursued sought added NHAI investment.

Officials told TOI that Haryana government has been glacial when it has come to implementing its promises. Neither the state government or the legal process was anywhere near providing a solution.

NHAI chief in his letter said the chaos on Gurgaon expressway is due to the linear development in the millennium city where large scale land use has been changed to maximize revenue. He has said that Gurgaon’s Master Plan should have provided for lateral arterial roads instead of using NH-8 as the main artery.

The letter echoes what Delhi-Gurgaon commuters and travelers within Gurgaon experience – the highway is one of the main conduits of intra-city commuting as underpasses, over bridges and linking roads have not been developed. Plans for an alternate Delhi-Gurgaon road are also gathering dust.

NHAI said it has written that Haryana government looks towards NHAI for even construction of foot over bridges (FOBs) and maintaining drains. “This is not the concept under which the highways are supposed to be developed and maintained,” the letter says.

Singh has said that Haryana has been pushing for creating additional facilities such as flyover at Hero Honda Chowk, FOBs, crossing facilities between Rajiv Chowk and Kherki Dhaula, which are not highway facilities but conveniences for town residents.

The NHAI chairman has also pointed to “reckless” lending by IDFC and four other public sector banks, who without regard to the termination payment, gave a Rs 1,600 crore loan on account of refinancing.

Singh mentioned that NHAI and the Centre had signed an agreement on September 18, 2012, with the concessionaire only with the view to protect interests of public sector banks. He claimed that despite NHAI walking an extra mile the lenders “do not seem to be bothered at all and are still behaving in an irresponsible manner.”

Singh points out that the developer and lenders are raising extraneous issues and diverting attention from the main issue of violation of the latest MoU that was negotiated under court supervision. By not implementing its terms, the concessionaire can be in contempt of the Delhi High Court. The case, he said, has made no progress in the last six months.

NHAI said that if Haryana does not want to take over the project, the Centre can consider giving about Rs 1.8 crore revenue per month – the amount that the authority gets as its revenue share from toll.

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