50% FASTag use across India on 1st day of rollout
Nearly half of the commuters crossing national highway toll plazas on December 15, the day mandating usage of FASTags for payment at tolls across national highway booths, paid through their FASTags even as data suggested an increase in the average waiting time of vehicles.
Data of December 15 monitored by the ministry of road transport and highways and reviewed by Hindustan Times shows that 19.5 lakh transactions were done, garnering a total of Rs 39.5 crore collected through electronic toll payment of FASTags at toll booths out of a total amount of Rs 78.87 crore toll collection.
As per the data monitored by central toll plaza traffic monitoring system, which is currently live at 488 plazas mapping traffic conditions, the average waiting time of vehicles at the toll plazas increased from 10 minutes and four seconds the date previous year to 12 minutes. The average waiting time of vehicles on December 14, a day before its implementation, stood at 10 minutes and 57 seconds. Live monitoring of the traffic is done by an online monitoring website tolltimezero.com, a Noida-based startup launched by two IIT-Kanpur alumni. On an average nearly 6 million vehicles cross toll booths daily.
The average waiting time is calculated by the time travelled by each vehicle to cross the toll plazas and is calculated within 1 km distance of the plazas. The average wait time at toll plazas in 2018 stood at 8 minutes 16 seconds as compared to 9 minutes and 12 seconds till November this year.
According to the monitoring system, there is an approximate yearly loss of more than Rs 12,000 crore due to fuel wastage at toll plazas.
On Saturday, the Union government relaxed its rules for the rollout of the mandatory FASTag mechanism of paying at national highways, allowing more collection centres to accept cash payments instead of the previous directive that limited it to 1 – amid fears of traffic chaos once the new rule came into force from December 15. Centre had also said a shortage of tags was being caused due to a supply deficit of the tags.
As per the Centre’s order, those entering FASTag lanes without the tags would be penalized with double toll payment. According to a senior government official, the NHAI has now directed all major banks to set up point of sale kiosks at the toll booths.
“There has been a lot of confusion among users on where to get the tags from. We have sold about 9.5 million tags thus far. To meet the demand, we are requesting the banks to sell the tags at toll plazas,” the official said.
In order to incentivise cashless payments and reduce wait time at toll booths, the Union road transport and highways ministry (MoRTH) had ordered that all but one booth at National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) facilities must soon be converted to accept only FASTag, a contactless payment device typically pasted on the windscreen of a vehicle.
“Each toll plaza is being supervised by a nodal officer of NHAI on ground and monitored at regional- & headquarter- level Control and Command centres. NHAI is working round-the-clock to implement the FAStag mandate successfully...Regional officers have been authorised to take on the spot decision for conversion to hybrid lanes up to 25% on case-to-case basis to avoid traffic pile up at high traffic volume fee plazas,” NHAI said in a statement Sunday.
In a letter sent on December 12, the NHAI had cited a lack of availability of FASTag for new users to seek a 45-day extension to the December 15 deadline, which itself had been pushed from December 1 after authorities noticed a huge rush for new tags – suggesting many had still not bought one.
In a move aimed to reduce bottlenecks at national highways, the Centre mandated that all lanes of national highways toll plazas be declared as “FASTag lanes” by December 15.