Commuters to move consumer forum against NHAI citing deficient service
With the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under fire for shoddy upkeep of the 16-km-long Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass and repeated complaints from different quarters remaining unaddressed, regular commuters are planning to approach consumer forum to hold the agency, which collects hefty toll, accountable by citing poor service.
The condition of almost all bridges on the bypass is deplorable, with motorists having to endure a bouncy ride at their entry and exit points and over the shoddily-maintained expansion joints of bridges. The Kumbalam Bridge is among the worst maintained, with undulations galore even away from expansion joints. Moreover, potholes dot the road beyond the bridge on the Aroor side and at many other points on the bypass.
The NHAI is also reluctant to repair potholed portions in the vicinity of the flyovers that are nearing completion at Vyttila and Kundannur. The agency’s common refrain is that the two sites were handed over to the PWD (NH Wing) three years ago for constructing flyovers, and that the onus is on the PWD to repair them. After negotiating through the two ill-maintained junctions and getting caught in traffic snarls here, enraged motorists often pick quarrel with NHAI personnel who man the Kumbalam toll plaza when they have to pay hefty toll (₹40 for a single trip for cars and much higher for bigger vehicles). They encounter snarls at the toll plaza too, as there are not enough toll booths to cater for burgeoning number of vehicles. There is also confusion among motorists over which lane to enter, since those entering the FASTag lane by mistake are forced to cough up double the toll rate.
The NHAI has also not installed street lights and adequate number of reflectors on the busy stretch, despite it catering for intra-district, inter-district and inter-State traffic. This often causes accidents, mainly involving pedestrians and two-wheeler riders. Interestingly, few people use foot overbridges at five points on the bypass, citing their steep gradient and lack of lights at night. Adding to their misery, pedestrian lines beneath them have been erased. There are no proper sign boards either, warning of pedestrian-dense zones and impending U-turns.
“The NHAI imposing hefty toll on motorists [and further increasing the rate each year] is nothing but ‘highway robbery’,” said D.B. Binu, lawyer and consumer rights activist, who is a regular commuter in the NH corridor. He had filed a case challenging the toll collection, on the basis of data gathered through an RTI query. “From the condition of the NH Bypass and junctions on the stretch, it appears that the NHAI is exercising power [to collect toll] without responsibility. Litigants had approached courts across the country, citing that the agency/firms deputed by the agency collected toll which was many times the investment on NH corridors. The NHAI must at least take steps to avoid the agonising wait at the Kumbalam toll plaza,” he said.
A senior NHAI official said efforts made to add more toll booths at the plaza did not materialise due to high cost of land acquisition. “As for potholes and waterlogging on service roads, an expert has been engaged to submit a report on the need for drains in areas without them and covering existing drains with slabs,” he added.
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