NH-4 being made a toll expressway
The old Mumbai-Pune highway (NH-4) is getting a makeover and will be turned into a toll expressway by 2006. The Maharashtra State Road Corporation recently awarded a tender of Rs 918 crore to Mumbai-based Ideal Road Builders Private Limited (IRB) to overhaul NH-4. This is bad news because the present Mumbai-Pune expressway, constructed at a cost of Rs 1,600 crore and being maintained by IRB, is already in a bad condition. Apart from the possibility that the execution of the plan for NH-4 will be marred by the same flaws that the expressway faces, the very move raises the issue of leaving commuters with no choice but to pay the toll. NH-4's four-laning alone will cost Rs 400 crore and this will be recovered from commuters through an "appropriate" toll, says a senior IRB official. The step also amounts to creating monopoly control over traffic between two premier Indian cities.
Although it was claimed that the Mumbai-Pune expressway would be of global standards, it has developed potholes within a year. Last year, the New Delhi-based Central Road Research Institute had also detected design errors in it: improper curvatures, inadequate shoulder width, absence of crash barriers and flaws in the space between two traffic ways. While the government failed to recover its cost from the commuters since not many people used it (see Down To Earth, 'Dead End', February 29, 2004), more money has to be spent to repair the ditches.
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