The ambitious 35-km coastal freeway project needs a breezy, hi-tech toll collection system if it has to succeed, a technical committee surveying the project has recommended.
The Joint Technical Committee, which prepared a report on the proposed Nariman Point-Kandivli freeway project, has warned against the traditional system of collecting toll saying it would create traffic bottlenecks. "The coastal freeway system will be a predominantly urban freeway and the creation of toll plazas and elaborate arrangements as at toll plazas currently operational would defeat the purpose through the creation of stoppages," the committee report noted.
As an alternative, the committee headed by civic chief Subodh Kumar, has recommended that toll be collected electronically through radio frequency identification cards.
The Electronic Non-Stop Toll System requires an identification unit to be placed on board a car. The card is read by overhead gentries placed at entry points to the road, and money is debited electronically, without the vehicle having to stop or slow down on the freeway. Vehicles that do not have sufficient funds on their units for toll can be tracked and stopped at exit points.
Such systems are operational in many countries including Dubai, but commuters are unsure if Mumbai has the system to ensure compliance. The system was previously proposed for the Bandra-Worli sea link but never took off, with motorists reluctant to invest in the on-board unit.
Aware of the drawbacks of the system, the Joint Technical Committee has recommended a less complicated option. "The collection system can be simplified by charging flat rate for each entry into the coastal freeway system irrespective of the distance travelled," the Committee has said in its report.
Effectively, a person who travels one kilometre will pay the same as the one who travels 35 km. But, this model is likely to face stiff resistance. "Why should people who travel a small distance pay the same as those who use the entire stretch," asked Ameya Bhatkhalkar, who uses the sea link regularly.