In major setback, FASTag increases wait time by 29%
Even as digital toll payments through FASTags across national highways increased to at least 60% of total toll collections from December 2019 to January 2020, the average waiting time of vehicles at toll plazas went up by 29%.
To be sure, much of this is because not everyone has moved to FASTags yet, and the data mainly highlights teething troubles in the digital payment method across national highways.
Electronic toll collection at highway plazas has gone up by at least 60%, the transport ministry said. This is only to be expected since the rules mandate electronic payments. Data on whether there was an increase in overall toll revenue isn’t available yet — this will show whether FASTags have met one of their objectives, preventing leakages in the system.
According to data from the central toll plaza traffic monitoring system, which is currently live at 488 plazas, the average waiting for a vehicle between November 15, 2019 and December 14, 2019 was 7 minutes and 44 seconds. This went up to 9 minutes and 57 seconds between December 15, 2019 and January 14, 2020.
The average waiting time is calculated by the time travelled by each vehicle to cross the toll plazas and is calculated within 1km distance of the plazas. The average wait time at toll plazas in 2018 was 8 minutes 16 seconds as compared to 9 minutes and 12 seconds last year (till November 2019).
On December 17, Hindustan Times reported that on the day FASTags started being used, December 15, the average waiting time of vehicles at plazas increased from 10 minutes and four seconds on December 15, 2018 to 12 minutes. The average waiting time of vehicles on December 14, a day before the implementation, stood at 10 minutes and 57 seconds.
On average, nearly 6 million vehicles cross toll booths across India everyday, according to data from the Central Toll Plaza Traffic Monitoring System.
According to the monitoring system, there is an approximate yearly loss of over ₹12,000 crore due to fuel wastage at toll plazas.
Live monitoring of the traffic is done by an online monitoring website tolltimezero.com, a Noida-based startup launched by two IIT-Kanpur alumni.
As per the monthly analysis done by the monitoring system, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Rajasthan are the states with the most congested toll plazas leading to an increase in the average waiting time while Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are among the states that have shown the most improvement in this aspect.
FASTag is a radio frequency identification sticker typically fixed to a vehicle’s windscreen that allows for 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 on national highways be declared FASTag lanes by December 15 to reduce bottlenecks along the national highways. It also relaxed its rules to allow at least a fourth of the lanes at toll plazas to allow both cash and FASTags payments for a period of 30 days. That ended on January 15.
Based on a request from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the transport ministry on Tuesday exempted 65 toll plazas with “high cash transactions” and said one lane to accept cash also for another 30 days (till February 15). “This temporary measure is to be adopted for 30 days only for such 65 fee plazas to facilitate smooth flow of traffic so that no inconvenience is caused to the citizens. NHAI shall take necessary measures within this time to ensure smooth flow of traffic through the fee plazas and ensure declaring ‘FASTag lane of Fee Plaza’ for all the lanes within this period,” the ministry said Wednesday.
Some experts said they expected the “teething issues” to be sorted out over time.
“These are predominantly teething issues of a very huge programme in its initial phase. A lot of people are using the tags for the first time and even those working at the tolls are getting used to the concepts of reading machines. I think things will definitely improve over time,” said Kushal Singh, partner, Deloitte India.