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20 Dec 2017

State clears highway toll plan

Pranesh Sarkar, TT, 19 December 2017, Calcutta: The Bengal cabinet has approved a proposal to levy toll on state highways for the first time.

"The state cabinet has approved a proposal for levying toll tax and user charges on state highways...," minister Partha Chatterjee said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The nod to a user charge - so long anathema to the Mamata Banerjee government - reflects an eagerness to draw private investments into infrastructure development.

It also underscores three challenges. One, the paucity of land to widen the highways to 10 metres to be eligible for collecting toll. The majority of the highways are 5 to 5.5 metres wide.

Two, the shrivelling volume of industrial traffic. Investors will have to depend mostly on goods and passenger vehicles to earn revenue as the state government usually exempts buses and two-wheelers.

Three, the low user fee. The government plans to levy 65 paise a kilometre on a two-lane highway and Re 1 on a four-lane one. The national highways charge Rs 1.20 for each kilometre.

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