Toll collection on Durgapur Expressway resumed after five months on Sunday but the hope of order being restored was dashed by an SUV with Trinamul flag that was allowed to drive past the Dankuni plaza without paying.
Collection of road levy at the Dankuni and Palsit plazas had been suspended last October following agitation by the Inttuc, the Trinamul trade union wing, to demand that all its supporters who worked there be retained by the new contractor in charge of toll collection.
The 12 terminals at the Dankuni plaza, on National Highway 2 connecting Calcutta and Delhi, were back in action at 8am on Sunday, after the contractor agreed to retain all the 156 Trinamul supporters. The plaza at Palsit in Burdwan, about 65km from the city, is expected to open soon.
The new contractor, Konark Infrastructure, will initially collect toll for a year, said an officer of the National Highways Authority of India. The company, which collects toll at Vidyasagar Setu, has been selected by floating a tender.
The commencement of toll collection caused long queues of vehicles on both flanks of the expressway. The queue on the Calcutta-bound flank stretched to Maity Para, almost 2km from the plaza, around 2pm.
But very few motorists waiting to pay the road levy were complaining.
“In any civilised country, motorists pay toll when they use an expressway. The resumption of toll collection on NH2 is welcome. I hope toll collection will be speeded up,” said Subrata Saha, who was driving to the city after spending the weekend at Prantik near Bolpur, Birbhum.
As the Sahas, residents of APC Road, waited their turn to pay toll, a Mahindra Scorpio with an Inttuc flag on its left whizzed past their i20.
“Are members and supporters of the ruling party exempted from paying the toll? Only the common citizens are supposed to queue up and pay?” wondered Saha.
On being asked why the vehicle was allowed to pass, Subir Mukherjee, president of the Dankuni toll plaza union, said: “Many people do not know that toll collection has resumed today. From tomorrow, everybody will have to pay toll.”
The toll has gone up for all categories of vehicles (see box). Car owners will have to shell out Rs 40 for a one-way journey and Rs 60 for a return journey — an increase of Rs 15.
The daily collection at the toll plazas was Rs 12.5-13 lakh. “We expect the figure to touch Rs 20 lakh,” said an official.