Mumbai: Maharashtra prepares to enter a partially toll-free regime from Sunday midnight with the closure of 12 toll plazas, PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil said on Friday.
The decision follows an announcement made by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis during the recent budget session of the state legislature.
Twelve toll plazas -- one run by the Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC) and 11 by the Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) -- will be permanently shut down from May 31 midnight.
Similarly, 53 toll plazas will give full toll exemption to LMVs (light motor vehicles) and ST (state transport) buses. Of the 53, a total of 26 belong to MSRDC while 27 belong to PWD.
However, this decision will not apply to Mumbai's five entry and exit points, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway -- top money-spinners in the state -- and the toll plazas in Kolhapur.
With the concessions, the state government would incur an additional burden of around Rs.5 billion per annum which it would reimburse to the MSRDC and the PWD.
As far as the Mumbai entry and exit points and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway are concerned, around 90 percent users are small vehicles so it would entail different calculations.
A committee headed by PWD Minister Patil will go into the various aspects of the Mumbai entry and exit point toll plazas and a decision on this would be announced by July 31.
According to an official estimate, the Mumbai entry and exit points at Dahisar, Thane, Mulund, Airoli and Vashi alone account for a staggering revenue of over Rs.4,000 crore per annum.
About the Kolhapur toll plazas, a committee headed by another minister Eknath Shinde would study and submit its report and recommendations by May 31.
The state government also plans to implement a new toll tax policy from June 1.
The state government has described the measure as a "fulfilment" of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance's promise made during the 2014 assembly election.
Most political parties, including the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Swabhimani Sanghatana and social crusader Anna Hazare have protested against toll plazas in the past.
Even cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has voiced his strong opposition to toll taxes in the state, terming it as a "physical and mental toll on citizens" in a letter to Fadnavis on February 20.
Interestingly, the toll taxes were introduced in 1996 by the then Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government and after 20 years, it was compelled to offer partial relief.