Centre plans to use FASTag data for toll revision on NHs
The Centre plans to utilize data based on electronic toll collection following the implementation of FASTags for the revision of tolls along national highways, officials aware of the matter said.
The Union road transport ministry has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to conduct a study in this regard based on electronic toll data with 100% implementation of the FASTag programme, they added.
HT in June 2019 reported about the Centre’s plans for introducing a national policy for revising toll rates for national highways and reclassifying vehicle types and the possibility of the charges for private cars going up.
“When the toll policy was drafted, we had done our hypothesis based on the electronic collection of only about 20-22%. Now that it has increased to nearly 60-65% after FASTags were mandated. We have asked the NHAI to weigh in the factors of 100% FASTag implementation and conduct a study on the new data to see if tinkering is required,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The official added in most toll projects based on Build-Operate-Transfer modes, project cost recoveries are prescribed in the contracts. “...with factors like average waiting time reducing with FASTags, reduction in labour and operation costs, contractors may recover their money prior to the time period prescribed. We need to assess the economic costs of the projects and the consultants chosen to study this will assess all this.”
The ministry also aims to attract more investors with the data collected through FASTags. “The monetary value of toll plazas can be assessed easily now since the system of digital payment will ensure transparency,” a second official said.
The NHAI had hired consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group to prepare a draft policy to revamp the toll system, which was last revised in 2008.
Electronic toll collection at highway plazas has gone up by at least 60%, according to transport ministry data. As of February 5, Rs 18,106.51 crore had been collected through FASTags with the highest being in Rajasthan--Rs 2788.59 crore.
FASTag is a radio frequency identification sticker typically fixed to a vehicle’s windscreen that allows the deduction of toll wirelessly and automatically without requiring a vehicle to stop at plazas. The tags were introduced to encourage digital payments and to end congestion and reduce waiting time at toll plazas.
The Centre mandated that all lanes of toll plazas along national highways be declared FASTag lanes by December 15 to reduce bottlenecks along the national highways. It also relaxed rules to allow at least a fourth of the lanes at toll plazas to allow both cash and FASTags payments for 30 days. That ended on January 15.
Additionally, based on a request from the NHAI, the transport ministry exempted 65 toll plazas with “high cash transactions” and said one lane each can be used by paying cash also till February 15.
“With all data collection now being automated and on real time basis, proper analytics can be used to determine optimum tariff levels for different categories of vehicles based on respective volumes so that target financial returns are achieved. It would also enable other interventions around time of day based pricing to streamline traffic; origin destination analysis; assessing highway utilisation levels etc,” said Arindam Guha, Lead, Government and Public Services, Deloitte India.