Toll collection on new Narmada river bridge in Bharuch as per rule, no norm violated: NHAI

Bharuch: Amid protests from various quarters over collection of toll tax on the largest extra dosed cable stay bridge in the country on river Narmada as part of the all important Ahmedabad-Mumbai section of National Highway 8, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) today said that the toll collection was not in violation of any rule.

Regarding the claims of Rajyasabha MP and political secretary to congress president Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, a native of Bharuch, that the bridge sanctioned during earlier UPA regime was built under Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) system and there was no provision of toll collection for it, the NHAI said that it was not the correct.

Project Director of the NHAI S P Sharma said that it was not correct to say that toll could not be collected on roads/bridges built under EPC procedure.

”The National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 under National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988, provides for it. It is not a new rule. In fact the NHAI has a full fledged separate wing to deal with toll collection. The broader difference between EPC and Built, Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) system was that the fund for under EPC is made available by the NHAI. But in both the systems, the collection of toll was a common thing. In fact the above rule which has been amended 10 times so far between December 3,.2010 to March 14, 2017, has made things somewhat easier for commuters relaxing the norms,’ he said.

Sharma said that all over the country toll tax was being levied on around 100 roads/bridges constructed in recent years by NHAI under the EPC. ‘Many roads constructed as part of the golden quadrangle project are also included in them,’ he added.

He, however, said that the relaxation on toll collection on the extra dosed bridge in Bharuch on local vehicles was a decision of the toll contractor.

Notably the toll collection on the 1344 m four lane bridge constructed at a cost of Rs 379 cores and inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on March 7 this year, began yesterday. Over 30 Congress leaders and workers were detained by police for protesting against the start of toll collection.
The main opposition party is protesting the toll collection on the bridge meant to end the woes of commuters and transporters owing to recurring horrible jams on the all important road on which a large number of commercial vehicle ply daily. Earlier Ahmed Patel had written a letter to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari expressing his shock at construction of toll booth for the bridge. He had claimed that there was no such provision for the bridge which was sanctioned during erstwhile Manmohan Singh government. He had raised objection saying that the road was sanctioned under EPC and no tax was to be collected from people.

A local Congress leader said that there was no point in collecting toll for the bridge. ‘This will also defeat the very purpose for which it was constructed as owing to toll booths the smooth flow of traffic will also not be possible and jams will again become the order here,’ he said.

The 22.8 meter wide four lane cable stay bridge, the 3rd bridge over Narmada in Bharuch, built by Larsen & Tubro as part of Rs 379 crore six laning project of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) between km 192 to km 198 section of Vadodara-Surat segment of NH8 bears similarity to the famous Golden Ears bridge of Vancouver in Canada.
The work on it was started in the middle of year 2014 after its construction was handed over to L& T following the failure of the earlier venture of HCC company which had got the order before it at a higher cost on BOOT basis.

This is only fourth extra dosed bridge in the country. One of the example of such bridge is the new bridge in Kolkata across river Hooghly. Such bridges use cable stay to support the segments of bridges with very less number of pillars.Compared to a pure cable-stayed or cantilever-girder bridge of comparable span, an extradosed bridge uses much shorter stay-towers or pylons than the cable-stayed bridge, and a significantly shallower deck/girder structure than used on the girder bridge. The first extradosed bridge in the country (over 196 metres long) was built for the Delhi Metro between Pragati Maidan and Indraprastha over railway tracks. The Canada bridge over river Fraser to which the new Bharuch bridge bears esemblance has only five spans.

The bridge constructed parallel to Sardar Bridge, made in 80’s during the regime of the them Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi (the other one being British Era Golden Bridge) has been built with a main objective to reduce earlier frequent traffic jams on this stretch of NH-8, which is the busiest road in the country, connecting Mumbai to Delhi. As per an estimate an average of over 12000 trucks are reported to ply daily on the NH-8 in Gujarat. This bridge not only serve the traffic from the ports of Hazira and Dahej, but also cater to the heavy flow of industrial traffic on the Golden Corridor between Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Surat and Dahej SEZ. The NH 8 in Bharuch had seen many horrible jams owing to the routine maintenance work on the Sardar Bridge and in June last year it had led to an around 40-km-long traffic jam leaving over 20,000 vehicles trapped on the highway for over two days.