First day of transition to FASTags: More hybrid lanes opened amid heavy rush
Owing to heavy weekend rush at the Chandimandir toll plaza on the Himalayan Expressway, the authorities had to increase the number of lanes for motorists making cash payments on Sunday, the first day of transition to FASTag on national highways.
Chaos was witnessed at the Zirakpur toll plaza on the Chandigarh-Patiala highway and Dappar toll plaza on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway as well, necessitating opening of more hybrid lanes to accept cash payments and clear congestion.
The Centre on Saturday relaxed the deadline for mandatory use of FASTags by a month, asking the National Highway Authority of India to accept cash payments on some lanes (not more than 25%) at toll plazas. Following this, local NHAI project director KL Sachdeva had told HT that only one hybrid lane on each side will be opened at toll plazas around Chandigarh, though more could be opened in case of rush.
Senior NHAI officials, including the project director, were present at the toll plazas for supervising a smooth transition to the new system on the first day.
“Originally, we had 10 dedicated lanes for FASTag payment on each side, and four for hybrid. But due to heavy rush of vehicles, particularly cars, we had to open additional four hybrid lanes,” said an official at the Chandimandir toll plaza.
The additional four hybrid lanes were opened around 3.30pm and continued to be operational till evening. “The additional hybrid lanes were closed around 6pm after the heavy rush subsided,” he said.
Motorists plying on hybrid lanes had to spend much longer time than the ones using FASTags. “For vehicles with FASTags, the average time to cross was around 5 to 10 minutes depending on the time of the day. But for the cash-paying vehicles, it stretched to 20 to 30 minutes,” said the official.
Till 7:30pm, around 10,000 vehicles had paid toll using FASTag while as many as 23,000 made cash payments, he said.
The reason for lack of FASTags ranged from ignorance about the new rule to unplanned travel. “We read that it was snowing in Shimla and decided to travel there. But when we reached the toll plaza, we realised about the new rule and got stuck,” said Amit Goyal, a Panchkula-based businessman.
Sarabjit Singh, a commuter who was crossing the Zirakpur toll plaza, said: “If the government has make FASTags mandatory, it should do it in one go. Why should people who comply suffer due to others.”
Many also got stuck at the toll plazas because they had low balance (less than ₹150) in the FASTag wallet.
“Special counters were set up on both sides of the toll plaza for commuters to purchase FASTags. These included digital payment companies. Banks and NHAI counters will also be there on Monday,” said an official at the Chandimandir plaza.
For the coming days, the official said most of the lanes will be fast lanes. “But, if traffic volume increases, the number of hybrid lanes will increase too,” he said.