Traveling to Chandigarh could be a breeze starting December. You can buy a smart tag for your car right at the beginning of your trip - in Delhi, Chandigarh or anywhere in between - that will allow you to zip past without having to queue up at the three toll plazas on the 257 km stretch.The ministry of road, transport and highways is planning to roll out its ambitious smart tag based electronic toll collection (ETC) system on National Highway-1 in the next three months. And this is just the beginning.
"Initially, we will launch it on a pilot basis on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway (NH-1). Once we fine tune the system, we will start it across the country," said a ministry official.
The ministry is looking at a 2013 deadline for converting toll plazas across the country to the new ETC system. "The idea is to let people enjoy a seamless travel on the highway without having to stop or wait in long queues to pay toll. Adequate legal provisions will be made to penalize the violators. The system will also help plug leakages in toll collection," said the official.
India has 170 toll plazas of which 70 are run by private concessionaires.
According to ministry officials, NH-1 was selected to launch the one smart tag based ETC so as to test the inter operability of the facility. "NH-1 has three toll plazas manned by three different concessionaires. We will be able to sort out any teething problem that comes up before launching it elsewhere," said a ministry official.
The road ministry, however, has a lot on its hand, before ETC can be launched nationally. To start with, it plans to set up a special purpose vehicle to roll out the facility. It will also have to select an agency to run the central clearing house to manage all toll transactions. All the 170 toll plazas would be linked to the central clearing house. A distribution network will also have to be set up for selling the smart tags.
If the ministry is successful in starting the one smart tag based ETC in all the toll plazas, India would become the only country to have an interoperable ETC facility across its length and breadth. Countries like US use different ETC system in different states.