Lucknow: The Yamuna Expressway, UP’s most prestigious and longest road project in several decades, is ready and is now awaiting approval of toll rates by the state government. The 165-kilometre access-controlled, high-speed road, which connects Greater Noida with Agra, is expected to reduce travel time from three-and-a-half hours now to one-and-a-half.
The Jaypee Group, which developed the expressway on public-private partnership model, was given the right to collect toll at five places for a period of 36 years from the date of opening of the expressway. It has built toll plazas at Greater Noida, Mathura and Agra and has submitted the toll rates for the approval of the government. The other two toll plazas will be built whenever the proposed Jewar International airport is built.
The concession agreement also gave the developer the right to collect toll on the 24-km Noida-Greater NOIDA Expressway in return for is maintenance once the Yamuna Expressway starts functioning. This expressway has been operational for the last six years, but free of charge.
Government sources said a decision on the toll rates for the Yamuna Expressway is expected shortly. But before its opening, the government would also undertake a security check of the entire expressway.
However, the issue of toll for the NOIDA-Greater NOIDA Expressway is a different matter. Said a senior government officer, “There are lots of objections from commuters and other road users against charging toll on this expressway. Therefore, the decision to give toll rights to the Jaypee Group in return for its maintenance has to be reviewed.’’
Sources said the Jaypee Group seems willing to leave the matter of collection of toll on the NOIDA-Greater NOIDA Expressway “for the time being’’, but the government wants to settle it before the Yamuna Expressway is thrown open for use.
The project was conceived in 2003 during the Mayawati regime and named Taj Expressway. However, soon after the formation of Samajwadi Party government in 2003, it was put on the back burner and an inquiry was launched into the award of contract to the Jaypee Group. Although the inquiry committee gave a clean chit to the tender process, the project was not taken up.
It was revived after the formation of the BSP government again in 2007 and re-named as Yamuna Expressway, with a deadline of 2013. The government later advanced it to 2010 in view of the Commonwealth Games, but farmers’ agitation in Tappal and other places against allotment of land to the developer as sweetener for development of townships delayed the project. In spite of its best efforts, the Mayawati government could not complete it before the assembly elections.