Mumbai: While activists have earlier claimed that toll operator IRB has collected the projected toll revenue on the 94-km-long Mumbai Pune Expressway, the official toll collection data of the Expressway maintained by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has indicated that the toll operator, IRB, allegedly collected over the last 10 years around Rs 900 crore more than the anticipated toll.
As per the contract between MSRDC and the IRB, the anticipated toll during 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 was supposed to be around Rs 1,800 crore, but the latter pocketed around Rs 2,700 crore by December 2016. When contacted, IRB claimed that the toll collection does not involve only the construction cost and one should understand the whole economic calculation behind it. Activists have alleged that the surplus toll collection is due to the faulty traffic study conducted by MSRDC that anticipated wrong escalation in traffic resulting into surplus toll revenue, turning into profit for the toll operator.
The MSRDC sold the rights to collect toll to IRB in 2004 for 15 years for upfront payment of Rs 918 crore. In an email response, IRB said, “It needs to be understood that the traffic study is done by project developer before bidding for the project by assuming the likely traffic growth for concession period. One needs to appreciate that the recovery of only project cost does not mean recovery of only construction costs. It needs to consider initial investments of upfront payment by concessionaire to the nodal agencies concerned, servicing debts.”
Vivek Velankar, toll activist, said, “As per the contract between MSRDC and the IRB there is no clause of sharing or shutting of toll collection in case of the targeted toll Rs 2,869 crore is met before the termination of contract in 2019. We have also highlighted that.” Mr Velankar, added, “MSRDC had anticipated that Rs 2,869 crore in terms of toll revenue would be collected by 2019 and after meeting the target the contract will be terminated. However, despite collecting revenue of Rs 2,923 crore till the end of November 2016, the toll operator has been allowed to charge toll on the expressway.”
On the other hand, IRB said, “The road developer takes a huge risk on the traffic assumptions over the fixed concession period during the bidding process.” Mr Velankar said, “MSRDC’s assumption while signing the contract was that the traffic growth would be five per cent on per annum basis but the traffic growth is not increasing at the rate of five per cent. Around 50,000 vehicles use the Expressway daily against the anticipation of 20-25,000 by MSRDC. Post 2007, every year the toll operator is collection more than anticipated”
MSRDC has claimed that there is no clause to stop tolling in the contract signed between MSRDC and IRB. “To stop tolling in case of early recovery and whatever surplus the toll operator collects should be considered as his/her profit considering the risks involved in such huge projects. Also, the matter is now going to be referred to the state advocate general for his legal opinion,” Kiran Kurundkar, joint managing director, MSRDC.