Amid protests in Bangalore over the steep hike of toll from Rs.20 to 75 (one way), with the impending Airport User Fees hike soon to four digits (Rs1700), Union minister for highways Oscar Fernandes says the increase is in accordance with NHAI formula as approved by Parliament, that was brought forth after the elections, lest they loose votes.
The steep hike of the toll to the Kempegowda International Airport Road, that has no service road for common commuters or villagers, was approved by Parliament, he told the Bangalore Mirror over the telephone.
Fernandes, one of five Union ministers from Karnataka, said said motorists should “stop cribbing” and instead work on numbers “on how much fuel they have saved” because of the road. “We have provided a world class highway and we are charging those who use it.”
For locals, he said the monthly pass remains more or less the same. “My officials have told me that the monthly pass issued to locals has been hiked only by Rs 10 from Rs 215 to Rs 225. So, I don’t think this will pinch locals in any way,” he defended in his interview to the Mirror.
“Since we have given concessions to locals, there is no point in building free service roads,” he defended.
The project, constructed at a cost of Rs 686 crore was given to toll contractors in a time-bound manner and hence, it is mandatory to hike the toll, said the minister. He also said that he had explained the formula to former minister S.M. Krishna and another state minister Byre Gowda.
Aviation expert Devesh Agarwal, however, differs. “I have travelled on almost all NHAI highways across country. The toll charged is approximately Rs 1 for Rs 1 km. But something is very wrong on the International Airport Road. If the airport is 30 km away from the city, the toll should be Rs 60 for a round trip.”
More than the hike, which is three times, the next shock for airport users will be the pending hike proposal for another steep increase in UDF or User Development Fee at the Kempegowda International airport.
Mohandas Pai, the former Infosys board member, said that the NHAI owe commuters an explanation and said someone should knock at the door of the courts. “The increase is completely unjustified,” Pai said. “A 20 per cent hike would have been reasonable, but a 400 per cent hike, which would be revised every year, is unacceptable. I intend to protest against the hike and support those who are protesting against it. We may need to explore all the opportunities to reduce the hike. Someone should knock on the doors of the court and seek a detailed inquiry on whether the hike is justified.”
Pai also said that the BPAC has already filed an objection to the proposed hike in UDF. Airport passengers now pay Rs 231.40 (domestic) and Rs 952.30 (international) as UDF but there is a proposal to hike it to Rs 783.09 (domestic) and Rs 1,700 (international) (single-till model) and Rs 1,729 (domestic) and Rs 1,700 (international) (dual till model).