Beginning next year, vehicles will no longer need to stop at toll plazas to make payments. Instead, toll collection will be based on global positioning technology, Minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said during the question hour in the Lok Sabha in mid-March. “Toll plaza free does not mean no toll fee. Toll charges will instead be collected through the global positioning technology. A camera will record the vehicle details at the point of entry to the toll section as well as exit from the toll section. The user will be charged only for the segment of the toll road used. We will implement this within the next one year,” Gadkari had said.
The move aims to ensure a fully seamless, toll barrier-free movement for vehicles, enhanced audit control, and centralised user accounts for the toll operator, and pilferage free and transparent toll transactions, along with adherence to green norms by curtailing the idling fuel wastage.
The announcement comes close on the heels of the government making toll collection mandatory through radio frequency identification (RFID) technology-based fastag from February 16, 2021. Till March, 93 per cent of the vehicles had adopted the fastag method of toll collection. The technology was rolled out in April 2016.
FASTag, however, has one major limitation. It is not 100 per cent seamless. For the RFID tag to be scanned and electronic payment to be made, vehicles still need to stop at toll gates, even though for seconds. But, there’s no doubt that it has reduced waiting time at toll gates and fuel wastage due to idling. According to data from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the waiting time at the toll plazas came down by 69 per cent in February 2021, compared to 2020. From 464 seconds in February last year, the waiting time is currently down to 150 seconds. This is set to lead to annual fuel savings of ₹20,000 crore per year, and reduce carbon emission by five lakh tonnes per month.
However, there’s still a long way to go, as far as fuel saving, carbon emission and seamless travel on the National Highway network of over 1,36,440 km is concerned. According to a joint study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta and logistics major Transport Corporation of India in 2014/15, India’s annual additional fuel consumption cost due to delays is around $14.7 billion. That is where the role of global positioning technology-based tolling comes in.
How the System Works
Under the global positioning technology-based electronic toll collection, virtual gantries (a virtual road charging point equivalent to a traditional road charging toll gantry) monitor the entry and exit of vehicles on the tolled section. There is no toll collection booth or physical gantries mounted with high-resolution cameras to scan the vehicles passing underneath them, registering their tags and registration numbers. Instead, vehicles will be equipped with an onboard global positioning device. Users’ bank account and vehicle details, including registration number and type of vehicle, will be seeded into the device.
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