A two-wheeler crosses the Adityapur toll bridge on Thursday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
If the cash-strapped guardian of Adityapur Toll Bridge has its way, vehicles using this shortest link between Jamshedpur and the industrial town in Seraikela-Kharsawan will have to pay at least 50 per cent more to compensate the chief minister’s Puja present to two-wheelers.
Already grappling with “financial distress”, which was “further aggravated” last week by the toll exemption offered to bikers, the Adityapur Toll Bridge Company Limited (ATBCL) has decided to push the state industry department to seriously consider its toll hike proposal mooted earlier this year.
Managing director of the company Sudhansu Kumar will meet industry secretary A.P. Singh in Ranchi next week to take forward the matter.
Kumar said they were already incurring losses of over Rs 55 lakh quarterly. “Two-wheelers were our main source of revenue until a week ago, with a daily average toll collection of Rs 35,000, but now that lifeline has snapped too,” he pointed out.
Currently, auto-rickshaws pay Rs 10, cars, jeeps and vans Rs 15, light commercial vehicles Rs 20, minibuses Rs 30, double-axle trucks Rs 40 and multi-axle trucks and trailers Rs 50 to cross the toll bridge. Earlier, the charge for two-wheelers was Rs 5.
In its revised rate proposal, ATBCL is seeking a cent per cent hike in toll for double-axle and multi-axle trucks, 75 per cent hike for light commercial vehicles and 50 per cent hike for cars.
Kumar said they had sent their first petition to the industry department in May, when it was calculated that the volume of revenue generated from the toll bridge did not meet expectations.
“The industry department asked us to clarify certain points like contributions made by share-holders and the reason behind seeking separate percentages of hike for separate vehicle categories. We submitted a reply in July and sent a reminder in September. But, instead of hiking the toll, the government exempted two-wheelers,” Kumar said.
He added that if the department did not accept their plea, ATBCL would no longer be able to carry out maintenance of the bridge. “It is well over a year since the toll bridge became operational and it needs periodical maintenance.”
Kumar further pointed out that 70 per cent of the Rs 74 crore spent on the bridge project was raised through bank loan. “Apart from establishment costs, the company is paying loan interest and now, time has come to return the principal amount too. I will meet the industry secretary next week and urge him to effect a toll hike. Else, the company will become a defaulter.”
He maintained that if the department did not take an immediate decision in the matter, no other company would show interest in coming to Jharkhand for PPP projects like ATBCL did.
When contacted, industry secretary Singh said the petition of ATBCL was under consideration and a notification to the effect was in the pipeline. “A festive atmosphere is on. We will take a decision on toll hike soon (after the festivities are over),” he said.