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Do not dare: Why drive from Noida to south or central Delhi is taking a toll

NEW DELHI: No matter what the time of day, if you are travelling from Noida to south or central Delhi, you are likely to get stuck in traffic jams on the DND Flyway and Chilla border.

No, there isn’t a sudden increase in the volume of traffic there. It’s only the makeshift arrangements of toll collection agents that have been slowing down the vehicles.

On DND, the toll agents have created a separate lane for commercial vehicles and taxis using red plastic barriers a few metres ahead of the old toll plaza. This squeezes the other vehicles into two carriageways. At Chilla border also, the toll collectors have put up an umbrella in the middle of the road with over a dozen men standing there to collect tax.
The toll agents said the absence of toll collecting infrastructure had forced them to make these temporary arrangements. Toll on DND was earlier being collected at the old tax plaza, but many commercial vehicles avoid the left lanes meant for those who had to pay the toll. As to why they had shifted operations to the new location and occupied road space, they claimed Noida Authority had asked them to move to the Delhi side of the toll gates.

DL Verma, Noida Authority senior manager (work circle 1), confirmed this when he said, “The toll booth operators were asked to move to the Delhi side of the border. When the toll tax on DND has been scrapped, there is no justification for their standing on the UP side and collecting toll.”
Rishabh Suresh, an entrepreneur who resides in Noida and regularly travels to south and central Delhi for work, was incensed. “What is the point of having a four-lane road when only two lanes are usable?” he asked. “With the toll booth in the centre of the road and with toll agents even chasing vehicles that are trying to evade the toll, it’s a mess.”

At Chilla border, the toll collectors stand at two points, near the traffic lights and further down near the Mayur Vihar flyover. Himanshu, in-charge of the toll booth, said problems arose because commercial vehicles try to avoid paying tax. “If we don’t stop the handful of eluders, the others will not too. We were earlier restricted to the leftmost carriageway, but we found the vehicles taking the extreme right lane to drive on without paying the toll.”

This slowing of movement at Chilla is worsened by cars stopping to buy from the fruit sellers on the roadside.

An MCD official claimed that creation of a tax booth or a lane for collecting toll tax depended on the space provided by the road-owning agency. “On DND, with no toll infrastructure, the agents are forced to stand on the road for the job,” the official said. “Sometimes they have to chase commercial vehicles that are evading the toll. Then there are people who are impatient and crowd around the toll collectors, resulting in chaos on the road.”

The official said that the Chilla toll point is usually clear because the number of commercial vehicles entering the city here is not very high. “But for the past two months, traffic problems have been reported due to construction work being carried out by various agencies. But we expect things to be streamlined after another 15 days.”

To minimise the congestion at these points, MCD has pursued the apex court to waive the toll exemption given to essential goods carriers. “Good carriers have to be physically inspected before they can be given full or partial tax exemption and this is one of the big reasons why toll points get congested. We have written to the court on a uniform tax rate on all commercial vehicles. Even NHAI charges toll on all vehicles, irrespective of their category,” said the official.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi started collecting the environment compensation charges (ECC) from all commercial vehicles in addition to toll tax from 2015 on the Supreme Court’s directive. To ensure payment of toll without the vehicles needing to halt, in August 2016, the erstwhile South Delhi Municipal Corporation installed a radio-frequency ID system at 13 toll plazas handling 80% of the traffic driving into Delhi, among them the DND border point.