FASTag: New toll system may help curtail Rs 60,000 crore loss to country’s economy

No more delays at Toll Plazas as new integrated tolling system begins for seamless movement, reports Tehelka Bureau

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A report by Transport Corporation of India TCI & IIM Kolkata says that “the slow truck speeds on highways and delays at toll plazas costs the country about 60,000 crore a year.” The figure is startling to say the least.

In fact, things had reached a stage, where the transport industry is understood to have told the union minister Nitin Gadkari that they are willing to pay 14,000 crore upfront every year to stop this toll system.

Now the Union Ministry for Road Transport and Highways has found a solution in ‘One Nation One Tag — FASTag’, to roll out the process for having a unified electronic system across the country. 

FASTag is a simple to use, reloadable tag which enables automatic deduction of toll charges and lets vehicles pass through the toll plaza without stopping for the cash transaction. It is linked to a prepaid account from which the applicable toll amount is deducted.

The tag employs Radio-frequency Identification technology and is affixed on the vehicle’s windscreen after the tag account is active. It is a perfect solution for a hassle free trip on national highways.

Under the National Electronic Toll Collection programme of the Ministry, toll collection at national highways toll plazas is done through RFID based FASTags. However, collection at state highways toll plazas is done either manually or through other tags. This leads to inconvenience for the road users.

The Ministry is, therefore, encouraging states to come onboard FASTag, so that seamless movement of transport can be assured across the nation. For this, Scheme Guidelines for Inclusion of Sate and City Toll Plaza under NETC programme (FASTag) were circulated to all states by Indian Highways Management Corporation Limited (IHMCL).

The Scheme offers participating state authorities and agencies shorter turnaround time by allowing them to be a part of the robust FASTag solution architecture which already supports approx. 6 million tags with approximately daily 10 lakh transactions.

Under the scheme IHMCL is providing financial assistance for 50% of the CAPEX cost of installation of ETC infrastructure at two lanes on each toll plaza subject to a maximum of 20 lakh and also bear part of the ETC programme management fee.

The IHMCL exchanged MoUs with several states and authorities for integrating with FASTag. The move assumes special significance due to the fact that from December 1 this year, toll collections on all National Highways will mandatorily be done through FASTag only.

Another MoU has been signed between IHMCL and GST Network (GSTN) for integrating E-Way Bill system with FASTag. This has been done with a view to overcoming the existing challenge in track and trace mechanism for GST E-Way Bill (EWB) System and enhance the efficiency in its monitoring.

This integration would become mandatory on an all India basis from April 2020. This will allow for more efficient track and trace system for the GST E-Way Bill System, and check the leakage of revenue at the toll plazas. With this integration revenue authorities will be able to track the goods vehicles to see whether they are actually travelling to the specified destination. The supplier/ transporter will also be able to track their vehicles through SMS alerts generated at each toll plaza.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Nitin Gadkari commented that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been giving a lot of emphasis on large scale transport reforms.

He said the  unified and nation-wide inter-operable RFID-based tag for vehicles is a major step in this direction.  Under this system the same FASTag affixed on the windscreen of a vehicle can be used to pay toll across all toll plazas in the country. This initiative will remove bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and efficient collection of user fee.

Gadkari said, this is likely to reduce the nation’s GDP loss by bringing down loss of fuel while waiting at toll plazas. This measure is both time saving, as also controls pollution substantially. The Minister announced that very soon, nobody will be required to wait at toll plazas anywhere in the country.

The Minister further said that efforts are being carried out to enable usage of FASTag for making various vehicle related payments apart from toll payments, such as fuel payment, parking charges, etc. He said that the FASTag is being positioned as the ‘Aadhaar’ for a vehicle.  Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Gen. (Retd.) V.K Singh underlined the benefits of ‘One Nation One Tag — FASTag’ scheme. He said, seamless travelling at toll plazas will lead to ease of travelling. He complimented all stake holders for introducing this revolutionary idea, which he said, is going to prove very important in the overall national highways development plan.

At present, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is functioning as the Central Clearing House and 23 Public and Private sector banks are issuing FASTag. A cashback of 2.5% is being offered for the FY 2019-20 in order to incentivize road users for usage of FASTag. FASTag is acceptable across over 490 National Highways toll plazas and selected 39+ State highways toll plazas. More than 6 Million FASTag were issued till last month, with overall cumulative ETC collection of over 12,850 Crore since inception. The total cumulative number of successful ETC transactions carried out is over 5540.67 lakhs as in September 2019.

The IHMCL and NHAI have developed the My FASTag mobile App to provide a single one-stop solution to FASTag customers. The App helps linking of bank neutral FASTag to bank account of customer’s choice. An NHAI Prepaid Wallet was also launched today, giving customers the choice of not linking their FASTag to their bank accounts. Other features of the App include UPI recharge of bank specific FASTag – More than 80% of FASTag issued can be recharged with this facility, single portal for customer login page for issuer banks, Search for nearby Point-of-Sale location by various banks and IHMCL, List of Operational Toll Plazas under NETC programme, and Customer Support Toll-Free numbers.

There are more than one crore trucks and buses registered in India and toll plazas only end up slowing down traffic, despite better roads. There are allegations that there is huge under reporting of vehicles that pay toll, with the result that concessionaire’s are getting a longer tenure to collect tolls and recover costs.

The facts speak volumes for that because there is a year on year growth of 10% in the number of vehicles registered in India but the number of vehicles paying toll on highways has actually reduced on some toll roads. The One Nation One Tag — FASTag would also bring in transparency while reducing waiting time at toll plazas.