Kolkata, May 10: In a move to ensure uninterrupted movement of tankers and containers carrying liquid medical oxygen (LMO) over the National Highways across the country, the centre has announced an exemption of ‘user fee’ (toll), treating such vehicles as ‘ambulance’ for the next two months or until it issue further order in this regard.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (Toll Division) authorities has instructed the chairman of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) which is responsible for construction and management of NH to implement the decision with immediate effect. As per the NH fee rules, the ambulance is categorised as a ‘toll free’ vehicle.
Sources said that the decision has been taken following directives in this regard communicated by the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 26.
The country at present is going in the midst of a raging second wage of Covid attack with around 3 lakh new positive patients recorded every day. Average number of deaths is about 3000 across the country. The trouble of the patients have been multiplied due to scarcity of liquid medical oxygen, an indispensable life saving item, generally available in cylinders. To normalise the availability centre and state governments have taken a number of initiatives. Centre’s decision to exempt user fee is fresh one in this endeavour
Following the issue of the directives, the NH authorities issued instructions to its project directors and others concerned to ensure “uninterrupted passage” to the tankers containers carrying the life saving gas in compliance with the order.
NH’s Krishnagar Project Director Soutam Pal said, “We have received the order and the directive has been implemented as the need of the hour is uninterrupted supply of liquid medical oxygen”
At present the country has about 1.51 lakh KM stretch of National Highway network, out of which only 30000 km is tolled road. Till March 2020 the country has about 600 toll plazas on this 30000 tolled stretch of NH network.
In normal situations tankers and containers which are commercial vehicles need to pay ‘user fee’ while accessing these tolled stretches of roads as per the tariff decided by the NH authorities.
The tankers and containers are generally charged according to the vehicle type. A container with 3 axles charged around Rs.330 for a single trip. Vehicles with 7 or more axles are charged Rs. 575 for single journey. Apart from 30 types of official vehicles, only ambulance and funeral vans are exempted to pay ‘user fee’ at the NH plazas.
Transporters and suppliers of the liquid medical oxygen have welcomed the gesture of the centre. “This will help to expedite the movement of the vehicles, which often lose time at the toll plazas”, said a tanker driver while refilling LMO at a private oxygen plant in Kalyani.
In its order the Ministry of RT&H stated that “in the current medical crisis the timely delivery of Liquid Medical Oxygen to hospitals and health centres is of paramount importance to save the lives of patients critically affected by Covid 19”.
The order further stated that to ensure unhindered movement, the tankers and vehicles carrying such oxygen should be treated as ‘ambulance’ and be ‘exempted’ from paying the ‘user fees’ at the fee plazas on the NH as per the NH Fee Rules 2008.