National highway toll plazas to go electronic by December

The FASTag technology being planned is going to be implemented in a big way. This will change the way toll is collected on Indian highways.

National highway toll plazas to go electronic by December

The Highway Ministry has asked the National Highway Authority of India to convert all toll lanes across the National Highway network into FASTag lanes. Once this conversion is completed, travel through toll plazas will become free-flowing and this should help in decongestion as well. RFID based FASTags are affixed on the windscreens of all vehicles and these can be linked to prepaid or savings account of the user. Once done, vehicles will drive through the plazas without coming to a halt for payments, as the toll fee will be deducted from the tags automatically.

The National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 says that a FASTag lane is a lane in the toll plaza that is reserved exclusively for FASTag users. Further, anyone else using this lane needs to pay twice the amount of toll. There also exists a hybrid lane, which is meant for dimensional and over-sized vehicles and where FASTag, as well as other modes of payment, are accepted. The Ministry said that this lane, too, will be converted into a FASTag lane in a time-bound manner. In the letter, the Ministry has also suggested that the NHAI should assess the overall requirement of FASTags in the country and make arrangements for their availability. 

Keeping this switch in mind, The Indian Highways Management Company has invited bids for setting up of Point of Sale locations for the sale and registration of FASTags in toll plazas across the country.

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What are RFID and FASTag?

FASTag is a rechargeable tag affixed on vehicles that enable automatic deduction of toll charges and let the vehicle pass through the toll plaza without halting for a cash payment of toll. This tag is linked to a prepaid account and helps the driver in avoiding the slow traffic at toll gates, thus saving both time and fuel. One can recharge the tag online and can also choose to receive alerts and notifications on its use. It uses RFID technology.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It is a technology wherein the digital data stored in the RFID tag is captured by a reading device through radio waves. The tag is generally a strip of layered plastic with an integrated circuit and antenna embedded within.

How much toll is collected by the NHAI and how much of it is collected electronically?

As of this April, 30% of toll charges collected at NHAI toll plazas was through electronic mode, compared to 25% in late last year. The NHAI has observed that almost 10 lakhs electronic toll payment transactions take place every day. The total revenue collected by the NHAI daily is around Rs. 60-65 crores.

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How big is the toll plaza network and who collects the toll in them?

The NHAI toll information system lists a network of 503 toll plazas across India. Some of these tolls are public-funded, or special purpose vehicle or annuity projects and the government engage contractors, who are selected on the basis of competitive bidding, for the toll collection. Then there are private investment or Operate-Maintain-Transfer projects where the toll collection is carried out by the Concessionaire in charge of the operations and maintenance of the plaza. 
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