National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had collected around ₹822 crore till August 2020 by way of toll on Virudhunagar -Kanniyakumari section since May 2011 but it has not re-laid the road for nine long years.
The stretch of this road is part of the four-way highway on Kanniyakumari-Chennai / Bengaluru section.
After Madurai Bench of Madras High Court intervened and imposed a cut on toll collection at Kappalur toll gate following complaint of poor quality of road, the NHAI had relaid the highway for 50 km between Madurai and Virudhunagar in 2018.
Still, NHAI has not given a clear reply as to when the 180 km stretch of highway between Virudhunagar and Kanniyakumari would be re-laid.
In a reply to a Right to Information Act application sought by social activist, R. Pandiaraja of Tenkasi, on various details about the Madurai-Kanniyakumari highway, the NHAI has said that the maintenance of the highway was being done by M/s. CDR and Co.
“Overlaying of the road has been included under the scope of toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model is all the NHAI reply says to a question on plan to re-lay the road,” said Mr. Pandiaraja.
Similarly, the NHAI official has not disclosed the details of how frequently these four lane roads need to re-laid. Toll fee on all the four plazas located at Kappalur (Madurai), Etturvattam (Sattur), Salaipudur (Kayathar) and Nanguneri (Tirunelveli) has been revised every year on April 1 from the date of commencement of the toll collection.
“Though the NHAI Project Director, V. Saravanan, has said that there was no immediate plan to stop collection of the toll fee on these stretches of the road, he has not revealed the plan to re-lay the road that is in poor condition,” Mr. Pandiaraja said.
The end date for toll collection has not been decided as it depended on capital cost, expenditure incurred during operation and maintenance and others, the RTI reply has said.
However, as part of maintenance, no road relaying has been taken up till date which has led to lot of wear and tear in the last nine years.
“The road has lot of potholes leading to frequent accidents,” Mr. Pandiaraja said.
Stating that though vehicle users were paying toll over and above the road tax paid while buying the vehicles, the NHAI was neglecting maintenance of this important road that connects Chennai and Bengaluru with southern districts, he said.