In a joint press conference held on Friday morning, the Maharashtra government, represented by PWD Minister Dadaji D. Bhuse, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray, unveiled a series of significant reforms in toll collection at Mumbai Entry Points (MEPs). This announcement comes after a delegation of MNS leaders, led by Thackeray, held discussions with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday, emphasizing the need for transparency and reforms in toll collection practices.
Key highlights of the reforms include:
- Installation of CCTV Cameras: Within the next two weeks, closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) will be installed at all toll booths at the five MEPs. A dedicated control room will be established at Mantralaya to monitor these cameras. Digital displays will be set up at the toll booths to indicate the toll amounts collected by contractors based on the tender and the remaining balance. This move aims to enhance transparency in financial transactions at toll booths.
- Reduced Waiting Times: The government is committed to ensuring that no vehicle is required to stop for more than four minutes at toll booths. Additionally, vehicles positioned beyond the ‘yellow line’ (indicating traffic congestion) will be permitted to pass through without paying the road toll tax. These measures are intended to expedite traffic flow and reduce inconvenience for commuters.
- Public Facilities: MNS will oversee the construction and operation of public facilities near specific toll booths, enhancing the overall experience for travelers.
- Toll Exemptions: PWD Minister Bhuse clarified the government’s stance on toll exemptions for four-wheeled vehicles, stating that such exemptions have been granted at 53 toll booths in the state. The state government has already compensated the relevant companies accordingly.
- Evaluation of Toll Booth Closure: In response to MNS’s call for the closure of 29 old toll booths under the PWD Department and 15 under the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), Minister Bhuse indicated that the government will assess and make a decision on this matter in the near future.
Thackeray had previously issued a warning about ‘burning the toll booths’ if small/light vehicles were forced to pay road toll tax, leading to significant protests organized by MNS at various toll booths in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Nashik, and other locations. The government’s commitment to toll collection reforms seeks to address the concerns raised by MNS and promote transparency and efficiency in this critical aspect of infrastructure management.