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The government is taking initiatives up to reduce congestion and time spent at toll lanes across India. Some of these measures are drastic and will require a lot of work to be implemented. On the whole though, it is obvious that the government wants to make electronic toll collection or FASTag compulsory.
In order to make this happen, the government will be converting all existing toll plazas into FASTag lanes. The government will also mandate the implementation of FASTag on all vehicles using toll roads.
There are also plans to apply surcharge on cash payments at toll gates to encourage people to make the shift to electronic tolling. Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Road Transport and Highways stated that the practice of paying tolls for usage of highways will never end in India.
When members of the opposition raised concerns about tolls being collected on national highways, Nitin Gadkari said, Collect user charge from those who can pay. We don't collect toll charge from the poor and those who use the rural roads where we are spending to build roads as well."
Currently, two-wheelers, three wheelers and tractors are exempted from paying tolls. However, the minister also said the government was considering exempting school buses and state transport buses too from tolls.
He was also careful to mention that tolls will continue to be collected for usage of national highways and this would never be stopped. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) is also looking forward to implement FASTag at all toll lanes across India.
FASTag was first implemented in 2014 to enable quicker movement through toll plazas. The system uses a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sticker on the windscreen of a car to collect toll payments without needing the car to stop, hence saving time.
The RFID sticker is linked to a prepaid account or a savings account. An RFID reader at the toll plaza then deducts the amount from the account linked to the RFID sticker on the car. Hence, there is no requirement for the vehicle to even stop at a toll plaza.
FASTag can therefore reduce travel times by a large margin, especially on some sectors where toll plazas are usually crowded. Nearly 450 toll plazas across the country currently have a FASTag lane.
Nitin Gadkari had said that all toll lanes in India would be converted to FASTag back in September 2019. However, it is yet to happen. Nitin Gadkari reiterated the same statement in the recent parliament session as well.
The minister revealed that the government would soon convert all toll plazas to FASTag lanes and toll collection would be made easier and quicker. Adding to this, he also said that every vehicle passing through a toll lane will have to be equipped with FASTag.
The government will make it compulsory for every vehicle to be fitted with a FASTag sticker and this would have to be done within the next four months. In the parliamentary session, a question was raised regarding the measures against those who enter the FASTag lane without having a FASTag sticker.
In response, Nitin Gadkari said, "Within four months every person (with a vehicle) will have to purchase the FASTags sticker and this will be made mandatory. It is already present on new cars and those who do not have the sticker will not be able to get past the toll plaza."
If implemented, this will be landmark rule in Indian motoring history. It will reduce travel times, congestion and even pollution at toll junctions. However, implementing this rule will be a herculean task.
First and foremost is the fact that a large percentage of motorists are not even aware about FASTag. There are also thousands of people who have seen the FASTag lane, but are hesitant to use FASTag because they think it is a complicated system, and paying cash is the easier way out of this.
Contrary to such perceptions however, FASTag remains the easier and quicker way to get out of toll plazas. To help our readers, we have even put together a detailed article about FASTag, its availability, usage, ease of checking the balance in the prepaid account, etc.
However, before the hard and fast rule requiring the compulsory use of FASTag is implemented, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will implement a new rule that will discourage motorists from using making cash payments at toll plazas.
Media reports earlier this month claimed that the NHAI will impose a surcharge on cash payments made for tolls. The surcharge can range between 10 to 20 percent of the regular toll fees, depending on the congestion in the area.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) believes that this measure will make people switch to FASTag. Currently, only 30 percent of toll payers do so using FASTag. The ministry is hoping to get this number up to 90 percent by enforcing surcharges on cash transactions.
Thoughts On FASTag Toll Payments Made Compulsory From November 2019
The government is doing its best to modernise the collection of tolls in India. FASTag is without doubt a revolutionary technology and kudos to the government for introducing it. The challenge though, lies in getting people to use FASTag.
It is easier, faster and more convenient. The government also recently made FAStag available on Amazon so that people would not have to undertake the hassle of personally going to one of the select toll plazas or banks.
However, people are yet to warm up to the idea of linking their bank account to FASTag and to the idea of paying toll without even stopping. If all goes to plan, we would be seeing free-flowing traffic at toll plazas, while the toll authorities are still minting money from the thousands of passing vehicles.