SALEM: Travelling to Yercaud would turn a tad dearer as State Highways and Minor Ports department has revised the toll charges by Rs. 5-10. The hike came into effect on Tuesday.
Yercaud, a popular tourist destination in Salem district, has two entry points -- Salem-Yercaud Road and Kuppanur-Ayothiyapattinam-Yercaud Road. Thousands of vehicles enter Yercaud every day and a toll is collected from them at two tollgates -- one located on Salem-Yercaud Road and another in Kuppanur. While the Kuppanur tollgate is mostly used by commercial vehicles, most tourists take the Salem-Yercaud Road.
On the Salem-Yercaud Road, the tollgate is situated at the very starting point of Yercaud foothills. Due to its location in the foothills itself, hundreds of people who take the route for morning and evening walks are affected. Earlier, people used to park their two-wheelers in the wheelers and go walking. After the tollgate was set up, the have started parking their two-wheelers on the foothills before the tollgate. The toll fee collected at the foothills itself has also affected those who only travel for a small distance for relaxation before turning back.
Usually, the Yercaud Panchayat Union calls for tenders for toll fee collection. However, the tenders were not called this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From April 1 this year, the panchayat officials have been collecting the toll fees.
As per a Government Order, the toll fee has been revised from Rs. 90 to Rs. 100 for buses, lorries and trucks, from Rs. 70 to Rs. 80 for mini lorries, maxi cab and tempo, from Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 for light motor vehicles, cars, jeeps and tourist taxis, from Rs. 20 to Rs. 25 for three-wheelers and from Rs. 15 to Rs. 20 for two-wheelers.
Speaking to TNIE, on condition of anonymity, a Highways department official said, "As per rule, this toll gate should operate only from the entrance of Yercuad (end of 20th hair bend). However, it is located in the foothills itself. as revenue of Rs. 50-70 lakh is generated through this tollgate in a year, they are operating it from the foothills itself. On behalf of the Highways department, we have expressed our objection to the location of the toll gate several times. We have urged to relocate it to the entry point of Yercaud as collecting toll fees from people who do not enter Yercaud is not correct."
However, the district administration, with political support, had managed to get no objection certificate (NOC) from various departments to run the tollgate at its present location, the official alleged.
Yercaud Block Development Officer (BDO) Senthil Murugan said, "Due to Covid issues, the tender was not called and Government Order was delayed. Now, we have called for tenders and the bids will be finalised on December 29. The revised toll fee is being collected from today (Tuesday)." When contacted, District Collector S Karmegam assured to look into the matter.