Driving through Bandra-Worli Sea Link to save time and avoid traffic will now cost more from Sunday as Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has pushed up the toll fee for every category of vehicle as part of 18 per cent triennial hike.
Following the mandate of toll rate revision in every three years, it was March 2015 when the one-way toll for cars on the sea link was hiked from Rs 55 to Rs 60 and the return ticket was priced at Rs 90 against earlier Rs 82.50. This time, the motorists have to pay out Rs 70 and Rs 105 for one-way and return journey, respectively. While Rs 175 would be the increased cost of daily pass for cars, the monthly pass will cost Rs 3,500 instead of the earlier Rs 3,000.
BJP spokesperson Atul Shah said, that it is important to understand preface of increasing rate. “Congress and NCP ruled the state for 15 years. Sea link project estimation cost raised in their rule due to negligence. With BJP in power, most of the toll in Maharashtra has been reduced or been withdrawn. We will genuinely try to reduce traffic congestion and having better infrastructure facilities,” he added.
However, Mumbaikars wonder what succeeded to make MNS chief Raj Thackeray tight-lipped, who was the founding father of anti-toll agitation in 2014. At that time, MNS demanded to close toll booths where construction cost is below Rs 2 crore, asked people to stop paying toll without the government explaining where the money is being spent and soon after, Mumbai witnessed MNS workers vandalising several toll booths in and around the city.
Congress spokesperson Neela Limaye expressed, “With increasing traffic on roads, we lack proper infrastructure and now this toll hike is going to also add on to the rates of vegetables and FMCG products transport. People should come together and reject to give tolls.”
“BJP’s corruption allegations against Congress and NCP are baseless. All political parties should come together and solve this issue beyond any agendas as it is unfair to add load on common people,” she added.
Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link (RGSL), widely known as the Bandra-Worli sea link, is a 5.6 km long eight-lane cable-stayed bridge that connects Bandra in the Western Suburbs of Mumbai with Worli in South Mumbai. A large number of commuters use the bridge everyday for travelling to and fro. The next hike as notified by the Maharashtra Public Works Department will hit on April 1, 2021 and the toll collection will continue in every three years till 2052 when the one-way charge for a car will reach to Rs 300.
Initially the toll collection period was till 2039; but after the upward revision of sea link construction cost to Rs 1,975 crore from Rs 1,306 crore, government announced the new period till 2052 in 2017.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and its commander Thackeray claim to be dedicated for the welfare of ‘Marathi Manoos’ — be it issues like hawkers, shop signboard in Marathi language or jobs for only Maharashtrians in the state. So, why are they not bothered with the latest PWD report? Has Raj Thackeray lost hope of his party’s revival by using all these issues? Are fading esteem among Mumbaikars and declining strength in Maharashtra politics the reason for this ‘insensitive’ approach or there are more into it? Is he playing a smart card to secure a safe ground for MNS in 2019 polls?
MNS leader Shalini Thackeray stated, “BJP promised before 2014 to eliminate tolls but they have failed to keep it. MNS is always the first to raise this issue and with Raj Thackeray’s efforts, government has shut down nearly 70 tolls so far. But there are many others and we demand to close them as soon as possible.”
With the recent increase from Sunday, the commuters backlashed the government for doing least to maintain the sea link uncongested as it gets clogged everyday during peak hours. While the entrance at Bandra has four lanes, the one at Worli has two lanes making a bottleneck during fast flow of traffic.
Like many others, Kiran Amin, a daily commuter, also questioned the recent toll hike. He has asked the government to clarify on which basis the toll hike has been done. He further added, “There is no good infrastructure facilities and traffic congestion is an every day issue at both the ends of Bandra-Worli sea link. The contrast between the collected toll amount and the amount used for development is questionable. We appreciated when Raj Thackeray raised these questions but we don’t see his consistency on the same issue.”
Despite several promises by state politicians to close toll booths, after political parties being indulged in violent protests against toll charges, the burden on commuters remains the same.
Keeping the same step, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has revised its toll rates by 5 per cent to 7 per cent in sync with Wholesale Price Index (WPI). “Good roads save on fuel and time and give life a security. If you want good services, you will have to pay for it. Toll collection is common across the world, but I agree that it has to be stopped. But at this juncture, I cannot promise exemption from toll collection,” said Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari after dismissing any toll tax waivers at national highways early this year.