Mumbai: The government is committed to transparency and reforms in toll collection, which would be rolled out shortly, affirmed by PWD Minister Dadaji D. Bhuse, along with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray during a joint press conference held on Friday morning.
A delegation of MNS leaders, led by Thackeray, had previously met with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday. In continuation of the discussions from that meeting, PWD Minister Bhuse paid a visit to the residence of the MNS Chief. Following an extensive dialogue, both leaders convened a joint press conference.
Thackeray announced, "Within the next two weeks, closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) will be installed at all toll booths at the five Mumbai Entry Points (MEPs), and a control room will be established at Mantralaya to monitor them. Digital displays will indicate the toll amounts collected by the contractor as per the tender and the remaining balance, ensuring transparency for the public regarding the financials of the respective toll booths."
Furthermore, the government will guarantee that no vehicle is required to stop for more than four minutes at toll booths, and vehicles located beyond the 'yellow line' (indicating traffic congestion) will be permitted to pass without paying the road toll tax. MNS will also construct public facilities near certain toll booths and oversee their operations.
Bhuse clarified a video clip featuring DCM Devendra Fadnavis regarding toll exemptions, stating that four-wheeled vehicles have been exempted at 53 toll booths in the state, with the state government having already compensated the relevant companies.
The MNS had called for the closure of 29 old toll booths under the PWD Department and 15 under the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), to which Bhuse indicated that the government will evaluate and make a decision on this matter soon.
In response to Thackeray's warning of 'burning the toll booths' if small/light vehicles were compelled to pay road toll tax, the MNS had organized significant protests at various toll booths in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Nashik, and other locations, causing concern within the government.
The assurances provided by the government include:
Installation of cameras at toll plazas to count the number of vehicles passing through the toll gates for the next 15 days. The MNS will also set up similar cameras.
Ensuring that all contract-specified amenities, such as restrooms, first aid services, ambulances, and emergency lights, are available at all toll plazas.
Establishment of a system at Mantralaya for receiving complaints, with a dedicated mobile number for registering toll plaza grievances.
Conducting structural audits by IIT for all bridges and underpasses mentioned in the contracts.
Decision on reversing toll fee hikes in Thane within a month.
Restoration of the yellow line at all toll gates, allowing vehicles outside the yellow line to pass without toll charges.
No double charging in the case of an inoperative Fastag, with the option to file a complaint in case of a double charge notification on mobile.
Implementation of the rule to cease toll collection on defaced roads under the central government within 15 days, following consultations with central authorities.
Conducting a CAG audit for toll collection at Mumbai Entry Points (MEP), Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link.
Enforcing discipline among heavy vehicles within the next 15 days.