In reply to an RTI application submitted by a bus owner, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) said that more toll booths are allowed within a distance of 60 km of national highways, under certain circumstances.
As per the fee rules 2008, the distance between two adjacent toll plazas should be 60 km. However, for various reasons, a toll plaza can also be established within a distance of 60 km, the NHAI states in its reply to an RTI application filed by the former president of the Dakshina Kannada District Bus Owners Association, Dilraj Alva.
NHAI’s reply states, “The development work of the national highway is done as per requirements. Therefore, two adjoining sections constructed at different times in separate contracts, having a length of fewer than 60 km, may have the fee plazas within 60 km.”
Alva told that the distance between Talapady in Dakshina Kannada and Hejmady in Udupi on NH-66, is just 45 km, but there are three toll booths at Talapady, Surathkal and Hejmady. “In addition, vehicles on the Bengaluru to Udupi route have to pay toll at Brahmarakotlu and Surathkal, though the distance is just 39 km,” Alva said.
Mohammed Asif aka Asif Apathbandhava, a social activist, who has been protesting against the Surathkal toll gate since February 7, said he will continue his protest until the NHAI stops toll collection. “I have received support from various organizations, including bus owners, truck operators, taxi associations, and religious forums. I will continue the protest for a public cause,” said Asif, who has been holding a protest in a novel way each day.
The toll gate at Surathkal has opened six years ago, on a temporary basis, with the assurance that it would be merged with the new toll plaza, which opened 9 km away at Hejmady. In 2018, a decision was taken to merge the Surathkal toll gate with the Hejmady plaza. However, the contract to collect tolls at Surathkal was renewed again in January. Members of the Action Committee Against Surathkal Toll Gate said that they will relaunch their protest.