The DND (Delhi-Noida-Direct) Flyway is an eight-lane and 9.2 kms long stretch that connects Delhi and Noida. Over a lakh commuters use the flyway everyday to move between the capital and the industrial-IT hub of Noida. No doubt DND Flyway makes commute between Delhi and Noida quite smooth and faster. It is a different story that you head straight into a clogged mess on Ashram ring-road.
DND Flyway -The History
DND Flyway was built to handle the growing traffic to and from the trans-yamuna area. Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd (NTBCL) was commissioned the project to build, operate and maintain the DND Flyway. This model is called Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT). NTBCL is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) promoted by ILFS Ltd and Noida Authority. In February 2001, the expressway was opened to public.
The NTBCL company is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep of the DND Flyaway as well. Notably, they have done a pretty good job of it. Environmental issues were the top concerns at the time of construction of the flyway. Therefore, a Citizens Committee was formed to look over the environmental issues during construction. In fact, the World Bank has cited it to be a first of its kind project in the world to involve citizens over environmental concerns.
NTBCL under this project has built a flyover at Ashram Chowk and 552.5 meter bridge over the Yamuna river. Later, an extension link to connect Mayur Vihar directly to DND flyway was built. The Mayur Vihar extension link opened to public in both directions by January 2008. This considerably eased off the traffic in the region.
DND Flyway – The Bone of Contention
The DND Flyway, on the Noida side, opens on the road to the business hub of sector 18 via Noida Film City. Driving down on DND towards Delhi will land you on Ring Road taking you to South Delhi and further to ISBT.
Until last year October the flyway was tolled. Rs 28 was collected for one way movement. This would usually make commuters end up in long queues on the DND flyway defeating the aim of hassle free drive. The toll has risen from Rs8 when the DND opened in 2001 gradually over time to Rs28. A PIL by the Federation of Noida Residents’ Welfare Association (FONRWA) was filed in 2012 that challenged the “levy and collection of toll in the name of user fee” by NTBCL.
The Court Ruling brought Cheers to Commuters
Allahabad High Court ruling in October 2016, that no toll will be collected henceforth from those using the DND Flyway, brought cheers to millions of commuters. There have been incessant appeals for this in the form of meetings, dharnas and bandhs. Last year, in an over 100-page judgment, the High Court held
“the user fee, which is being levied/realised, is not supported by the legal provisions relied upon by the Concessionaire (Noida Toll Bridge Company), Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (promoter and developer of the project) and Noida Authority.”
The high court observed the toll company has already recovered cost of construction of the project. It is actually in surplus of funds to the tune of Rs 578.80 crore after deduction of operation and maintenance expenses and corporate income tax. Therefore, the High Court concluded the concessionaire cannot now recover the user fees from the users /commuters of the Noida Toll Bridge the DND flyover.
Toll Company’s View
NTBCL entered into a contract with the NOIDA authorities in 1993. Under the contract with NOIDA authorities, the company need to stop toll collection either on touching 20 per cent internal rate of return or on the expiry of 30 years. The toll company argues that it has not even recovered their costs from the project. The toll company had run on “minus” income for several years after the flyway started operating in 2001.
NTBCL is a public limited company of 82,000 shareholders. It is owned over 70 per cent by IL&FS. LIC, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Orix hold stakes in it. Presently, 472 employees are manning the booth. Stopping toll collection would mean dismissing these employees and a revenue loss to its shareholders. It will also have to continue to carpet the road, level potholes and be liable for accidents for another 15 years of the contract period. The returns from this exercise will be zilch for the shareholders while it will be accountable for maintenance.
Apex Court’s Intervention
In October last year, the Supreme Court had refused to the plea of toll company seeking restoration of toll collections. The apex court disagreed with NTBCL that stopping of toll collection would cause irreparable loss to the company. The court maintained that the company will be compensated later if it succeeds in its appeal. While it will be impossible to repay to the lakhs of commuters from whom the toll fee would be collected in case of dismissal of the special leave petition (SLP).
Supreme Court ruled, in the meantime, no toll will be collected from commuters moving on the DND flyover that connects Delhi on the west bank of the Yamuna with Noida and East Delhi till further orders. The apex court said that it will get the profit account of DND toll company audited either by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) or by an independent auditor to find whether the profit recovered was adequate.
The Supreme Court in January 2017 extended the free ride on Delhi-Noida DND flyway for another eight weeks. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices N. V. Ramana and D. Y. Chandrachud also gave two more months time to CAG for verifying the total cost of the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) flyway project and the claim of Noida Toll Bridge Company Ltd that it has not recovered the expenses.
The Toll Company Looks for Alternatives
According Business Line, the toll company wants to renegotiate the contract with government for an extension. In order to find a way to have a shareholder return, without taking recourse to toll, it is also looking for alternate revenue sources. Revenue from ads and installing solar panels, which can be used to generate 10-15 MW are on the list for consideration.
Toll company says there has been only a marginal increase in the commuters after the tolls were done away with. There were 1,30,000 daily users earlier and now it has increased to average 1,40,000 commuters after the booths were made toll-free. The CAG report is awaited and the matter is sub-judice.
DND in Recent News
Lately, DND was in news for heavy traffic snarls in the wake of Jat reservation stir. Delhi Police had placed barricades restricting traffic flow at the border areas on March 20. NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar has issued notices to Delhi ad UP governments over indiscriminate burning of solid waste along the Yamuna river and either side of DND flyway despite a ban being in force. PTI had reported NGT order came on March 30 after a hearing on the plea of Vardhaman Kaushik. He has filed a petition with the tribunal on deteriorating air quality in Delhi and NCR.
Keep watching this space for updates on DND Flyover.
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