PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced 21-day nationwide total lockdown. During this lockdown period, aside from some essential services such as banking, ATMs etc, other services will remain inoperative.
New Delhi: Amid the 21-day lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has suspended tolling across NH network till April 14 It may be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced 21-day nationwide total lockdown. During this lockdown period, aside from some essential services such as banking, ATMs, ration shops etc, other services will remain inoperative.
Tolling across entire National Highway network will stop with immediate effect till April 14 midnight in order to avoid the spread of Coronavirus. However, all the toll operators will have to ensure the maintenance of ambulance and crane services till the end of lockdown.
Earlier this week on Wednesday, NHAI sent a letter to Road Transport and Highways Ministry seeking direction on whether tolling operation should be continued or suspended till further orders. The Authority had received several representations from toll operating agencies expressing their inability in continuing toll operation due to the fear of the pandemic.
Also, financial viability due to drastic fall in revenue was another reason for new agencies being unable to sign the contract agreement and start tolling.
The ministry in response to the letter cited the home ministry order of March 23 (Tuesday), which specified that all commercial and private establishments shall be closed down for 21 days for containment of COVID-19. The circular further said, “prevailing condition may be treated as Force Majeure of the Concession/ Contract Agreement” as per the Finance Ministry’s rule of February 19, 2020.
Serious repercussion on NHAI’s financial liability
According to sources cited in a ToI report, stopping of toll collection will have some serious repercussion on NHAI’s financial liability as the toll operators would seek compensation for the loss during this period. A senior toll plaza executive said, “There will be some impact. But now the focus is to check the spread of disease. Our toll gate attendants are taking cash from people and that’s simply dangerous. Secondly, toll collection has reduced to nearly 20%.”
Decline in toll collection:
Toll collection across National highways in the country has dipped around 50% in last one week because of the restricted movement of fleet due to Covid-19 outbreak that has put most of the country in lockdown. Latest data from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) shows that toll collected through FASTags, which now account for almost 70% of the transactions across the country, fell 50% on Sunday compared to last week.