THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A week after the toll fee collection move by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was stopped at the newly opened toll plaza at Thiruvallam on the Kazhakoottam-Karode NH66 bypass stretch following protest from political parties, NHAI approached the state government seeking police protection to collect toll fee on Tuesday.
NHAI authorities have written to chief secretary V P Joy stating that police protection is inevitable as toll fee collection has been disrupted for the past eight days due to protests. The NHAI had earlier raised concern that the local police were not giving protection as all political parties, including the ruling LDF, were involved in the protest.
Meanwhile, NHAI has also planned to approach the Centre seeking immediate intervention to start toll fee collection. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had also made it clear that user fee will be collected on Thiruvallam plaza for the completed stretch of 26 km.
A meeting with Additional District Magistrate by NHAI officials and political parties last Saturday had failed to reach consensus. Hence the NHAI could not start toll fee collection on Tuesday owing to continuing protests.
According to protesters, the move by the NHAI is unscientific as people will be forced to pay a toll for travelling just three kilometres to reach Kovalam or Vizhinjam from Thiruvallam. They had also said that the local people should get exemption from toll as they have been using the stretch for the past 35 years. At present, traffic is allowed till Kovalam.
The highway is blocked from Kovalam to Mukkola even after the completion of work due to the pending work on the 16.3-km stretch from Mukkola to Karode, near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.