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Noida/Lucknow, Aug 9 (IANS) The much-awaited Yamuna Expressway opened its toll gates to the public Thursday, cutting the travel time between New Delhi and Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, by nearly half to two-and-a-half hours.
Built by infrastructure major Jaypee Group, a return drive the same day on the 165-km, six-lane highway will attract a toll of Rs.510, with the state government approving a maximum levy of Rs.2.10 per km for a passenger car, one-way. The toll will come into effect August 15.
On the national highway, where traffic snarls are commonplace, it takes upward of four hours between Delhi and Agra. But with an upper speed limit of 100 km an hour, the new expressway has cut that time taken by almost half.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav inaugurated the $2.32 billion freeway from the state capital Lucknow by way of a videoconference link to the actual event held at its starting point at Greater Noida.
"The Yamuna Expressway is conceived with the idea to not only reduce travel time between New Delhi and Agra but also open up avenues for industrial and urban development of the region and provide the base for tourism and other industries," the Jaypee Group said.
Originally conceived as the Taj Expressway project during then Mayawati government in the state in 2001, it could not take off for another two years due to a change in the regime. It was revived by her administration after regaining power in 2007.
Officials said the six-lane highway is built under the public-private partnership model and is the biggest such project in the country. Jaypee Infratech, the compay that has build the project, has a 36-year concession (rights) over the it.
The promoters will also develop integrated townships over 500 hectares each at Noida, Jaganpur, Mirzapur, Tappal and Kuber. They have also build three toll plazas, 41 minor bridges, 70 vehicular underpasses, 76 pedestrian underpasses and 183 culverts.
Jaypee Group deputy chairman Manoj Gaur said during the inauguration function in Lucknow that his company will also build a 100-bed hospital spread near the expressway over five acres under the Yamuna Expressway Social Upliftment Trust.
Chief Minister Yadav asked the developers to upgrade the service lanes along side the expressway and fulfil the commitments made to farmers. He also ruled also acquisition of farmland land by force and said infrastructure was a priority for his government.