A toll story: Explainer on various toll charges that Mumbaikars pay

Mumbaikars access seven routes where they pay toll charges, but there is little clarity on how tolls are calculated and for how long.

When the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link or Atal Setu was nearing completion, the most discussed issue about the project was not about it being an engineering marvel, but what the toll charges were likely to be. Whether it is the Mumbai-Pune Expressway or the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, when a project that improves the road connectivity for people, invariably tolls are charged – sometimes to recover project costs and later for maintenance.

As more and more projects get unveiled, commuters feel frustrated about various toll charges they pay to use the roads that may ease and facilitate their travel, but escalate their travel costs. Questions are routinely asked as to why the governments cannot fund the infrastructure projects and maintain them later without charging tolls.

In this series, the following explainer looks at reasons for levying tolls, how tolls charges are fixed, the process to discontinue. In the second and last part, we speak to citizens, transport analysts and policy makers to weigh in if the state is justified in charging the toll fee and how Mumbaikars feel about paying toll charges regularly.

How many toll plazas does Mumbai have? 

Currently, there are seven toll points around Mumbai. These include five entry points for the city and the recently inaugurated Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Road (MTHL) officially known as the Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Sewri Nhava Sheva Atal Setu and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link officially known as Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link.  

How much do tolls in Mumbai cost? 

Mumbaikars travelling to Navi Mumbai via the Atal Setu have to shell out Rs 250 for the 21.8 km. For a much shorter 5.6 km route between Bandra-Worli Sea Link, they pay Rs 85. Going to Pune via the Mumbai-Pune Expressway costs Rs 320.

Entering or exiting Mumbai through the five entry points (Dahisar, Mulund (LBS Marg and Eastern Express Highway), Sion-Panvel Highway at Vashi and Airoli Creek bridge) costs Rs 45 for a four-wheeler. This Rs 45 toll fee was one of the earliest toll charges levied in Mumbai from 2002 towards repayment of the 55 flyovers built in Mumbai by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). Incidentally, though the construction amount for the flyovers has already been recovered, the toll fee continues. 

Who collects the tolls?

The MEP Infrastructure Developers Ltd handles the toll collection at the five entry points of Mumbai as well as the Sea Link under the Operate-Maintain Toll (OMT) financial model. Under the OMT model, the government builds the project and then hands it over to private agencies to collect toll and maintain them, upon payment of an upfront operational amount.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) that built the Atal Setu with funding from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), handles the toll collection on it. 

Which government department oversees the toll collection? 

The MSRDC mainly monitors the toll collection in Mumbai and for state government infrastructure projects. Some other toll stations are managed by the Public Works Department (PWD).  

The MSRDC has set up a Toll Monitoring Unit to handle the toll collection. The toll plazas are categorised in three ways – C category for collection less than Rs 1 crore per annum, B category for collection between Rs 1 and 3 crore and A Category for collections over Rs 3 crore per annum.

Toll collection on national highways is managed by the union ministry of road transports and highways while the MMRDA oversees toll collection on the MTHL. 

How much revenue has been generated through the tolls? 

As per the msrdc.in, the Mumbai entry points have collected  Rs 3172.43 crore, while the money spent is Rs 1259.89 crore. The Bandra Worli Sea Link has recovered Rs 1228.59 crore, while Rs 1975.27 crore has been the cost.

The nine toll points on the Mumbai Pune Expressway have collected Rs 9929.61 crore as against the invested Rs 2585 crore.

At the national level, Maharashtra has one of the highest toll collection figures. It collected Rs 3,205 crore up to December 2022. Income from tolls is expected to rise to Rs 1, 40, 000 crore by the end of 2024, according to union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari. 

Read more: Explainer: where does the money you pay for tolls go?

Why are tolls charged? 

Tolls are essentially meant for financing India’s transportation infrastructure growth, according to union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari. Tolls are likely to continue as the financing model for all transportation infrastructure projects considering that India is rapidly expanding its road network at the rate of over 40 km of roads per day. India has a road network of 65 lakh km of roads across the country including 1.45 lakh km of national highways.

The government is now looking for innovative models to fund India’s Infrastructure growth. 

In fact, the central government is also planning to adopt high traffic density highways from the state government for a period of 25 years, expand lanes on it by converting them into 4-6 highways and then levy toll charges on these highways, according to Nitin Gadkari. 

What is Maharashtra government’s policy on tolls? 

While the Maharashtra government is empowered under Section 20 of the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Tax Act, 1958 to collect tolls, the state has brought out its own policy on tolls through a government resolution (GR) in July 2014.

In that GR, the state outlined that projects costing less than Rs 200 crore would not have tolls. It also specified that total project cost (TPC) and overall project costs (OPC) will include factors like contingencies (3% of construction costs), financing charges (2% of debt), escalation during construction (up to 5% per year) over and above the construction costs.

All projects were to prepare a detailed traffic count survey report in accordance with the procedures of the Indian Road Congress (IRC) and guidelines. Such traffic survey counts had to consider factors like classified volume traffic count, origin-destination (OD) survey, number plate survey, turning movement survey and pedestrian / cattle pass survey.

Also, the distance between two toll plazas should not be less than 45 kms and there is no provision for toll before completion of the project. For national highways the distance between two toll plazas has to be a minimum of 60 km.

How are toll charges calculated? 

The toll fee payable is determined based on the actual length of the stretch of the road under that toll station, structures (bridge, tunnel, bypass) and width of the highways, applicable fee rules and provisions of the concessions agreement. Vehicles are categorised primarily based on the size and load they carry and damage done to the road and type of use (commercial/personal) of a vehicle.

toll rates displayed at MTHL or Atal Setu
Activists have often raised the issue of having more public transport buses on such roads and complained that these flyovers or roads only cater to private vehicle users. Pic: MMRDA

Toll charges levied on the national highways are governed by the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008.

The rate of fee for use of a section of National Highway of four or more lanes, is based on the length of section and base rates for a year. These user fee rates per km are revised each year with effect from the 1st day of April.

There are various systems of toll fee collection such as the Build Operate Transfer (BOT), the Operate Maintain and Transfer (OMT) /Toll Operate Transfer (TOT) Concessionaire fee plazas.

What is the toll revenue used for?

While initially the toll fee is meant to recover the construction cost, once it is recovered, the fee is to be reduced to 40% of the toll amount towards maintenance.

While toll is supposed to be charged only on completed projects, in exceptional cases, user fee collection is allowed on 75% completion to help people use the completed stretch and the toll fee is adjusted accordingly. 

Citizen Matters had earlier reported that despite toll collection, maintenance of the roads was poor in Mumbai. RTI activist, Anil Galgali, had found that the toll collection firm, which was required to maintain the flyovers in Mumbai and other allied infrastructure, had spent only about Rs 119 crore for the maintenance, when it had recovered about Rs 85 crores per annum as toll (In 10 years they would have collected almost Rs 850 crore) This was during the during the 10 years that MSRDC managed the flyovers from 1999 to 2010.

Can toll plazas be shut down? 

Yes. There have been instances where the state government reimbursed the invested amount and shut down toll collection points.

In 2015, following strong public sentiments against toll fee, the state government intervened to shut down 12 poll stations across the state and introduced a waiver for light vehicles at 53 toll points by paying Rs 798.44 crore.

Last year, after similar strong anti-toll protests, the government did reconsider its policy but chose not to shut down toll plazas, for now, to avoid the financial burden of maintaining roads. 

Do you pay toll regularly to commute from your residence to work or for any other travel? What are your thoughts about the toll charges? Please share with us at mumbai@citizenmatters.in.

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