Puthukkad: The central government and the National Highways Authority of India have jointly decided to introduce the FASTag technology at all the toll plazas on the national highways in the country, to avoid the long queues of vehicles. The FASTag program or the electronic toll collection will be expanded to all the toll plazas on the national highways as part of the Digital India initiative by collaborating with the leading banks in India.
The National Highways Authority of India intends to bring into effect a unified technology in toll collection around the country. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued a statement which makes it mandatory for all four wheelers including cars which are manufactured from 1st December onwards, to be equipped with the FASTag technology. The responsibility of installing the tag lies with the vehicle manufacturers. The registration procedures of a vehicle cannot be completed if it is not equipped with FASTag.
The benefits of FASTag
The main advantage of FASTag is that it would avoid the long queues of vehicles at the toll plazas. Time and fuel are saved as the vehicles could pass through the plazas without actually stopping to pay money. Since it is an online transaction, the exchange of currencies could be avoided and there is absolutely no need for the commuters to carry money just to pay at the plazas.
Every month, 7.5% of the total toll money paid will be deposited back into the accounts of the customers who make use of the toll roads, thereby giving them an additional financial benefit as well. The customers will receive SMS alerts in their registered mobile numbers whenever a transaction is made.
No long queues
The vehicles can pass through the toll plazas about five times quicker than the present situation once the plazas become FASTag enabled. As per the instructions of the NHAI, a vehicle should pass through the toll plaza within 15 seconds. But usually it takes longer than that owing to the non corporation of the customers. Once the plazas become FASTag enabled, the stipulated time for a vehicle to pass through the plaza will go down to 3 seconds. When a vehicle pass through the toll plaza, the FASTag chip installed in the vehicle would be recognized by the RFID reader using radio frequency and the amount would be paid from the bank accounts of the customers, which actually reduces the work load of both the parties.
Currently, 240 vehicles can pass through a toll plaza in an hour; and it would go up to 1200 vehicles per hour as there won't be long queues at the toll booths.
Where can you get FASTag?
FASTag or the radio frequency identity card can be bought form the toll plazas or some prominent banks in the country by paying a small amount. These cards can be used at all the toll plazas in the country. A FASTag account with a five year term will be generated for the customers, in which they can deposit as much money as they want ranging from Rs 100 – Rs 1 lakh. The customers can use online banking or debit/credit cards to deposit money into this account. The FASTag id cards could be availed from 7 major banks including ICICI and SBI. A mobile application called 'NHAI My FASTag' can be installed in your mobile phones to keep track of your account or deposit cash in it. NHAI app functions in collaboration with the National Payments Corporation of India. The banks too have launched their respective apps.
FASTag at Paliyekkara
Palliyekkara toll plaza which stands on Kerala's first BOT national highway has been FASTag equipped since June 2016, informed the officials of Guruvayur Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, the company which is contracted to run the toll plaza at Paliyekkara. The Lane 2 on both the sides have been reserved for the FASTag equipped vehicles and these lanes are marked in red paint. The customers can buy or recharge FASTag at the toll plaza office as per the instructions of NHAI. Boards which give information about FASTag are erected near the plaza.
Vehicles equipped with FASTag
Vehicles with national permit including trucks, private buses and taxis are already equipped with FASTag. Around 70 private buses which regularly pass through the toll plaza will soon be equipped with FASTag, so that they could avoid the long queues which often cost them time during trips. In the beginning, only an average of 25 vehicles passed through the FASTag equipped lanes at Paliyekkara; and now the number has shot up to a 1000 automobiles.
Hybrid within three months
The BOT company which is in charge of the Paliyekkara toll plaza informed that the currently run mixed line system would be replaced by the hybrid model within three months. In a mixed line operational system, the toll money is collected as cash or using debit/credit/smart cards. Once the FASTag is added, all the booths at Paliyekkara would be elevated to hybrid line operation tracks. The authority aims to reduce the number of booths where currency transaction takes place to just one.
No FASTag for free passes
The customers within 10 kilometers radius of the Paliyekkara toll plaza who have been availed with free passes are temporarily avoided from FASTag installation. As per a contract, their share of the toll money will be paid to the BOT company by the government later. AV Sooraj, chief operative officer of the Guruvayur Infrastructure Pvt Ltd said that since the FASTag could be used at all the toll plazas in the country and is linked to the banks, the free passes could only be allowed after the state government takes up the issue with NHAI and the respective banks.
What is FASTag?
FASTag technology is a pre paid mode which enable the vehicles to pass through the toll booths without paying cash. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is used in FASTag. The tag which contains the electronic chip should be placed on the windscreens of the vehicles. The RFID reader recognizes the chip in the tag and thus enables digital money transaction through the account.