Motorists would soon be able to travel across the length of a national highway without making a single toll stop with the government’s centralised and interoperable Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system — the largest project of its kind in the world — set to begin operations by March 2015.
“A centralised ETC system interoperable on such a large scale has not been put into commercial operation anywhere in the world so far. We expect at least a single-lane ETC system to be operational on national highways across the country (around 350 toll plazas in all) in the next 3-4 months,” said RP Singh, chairman, National Highways Authority of India.
Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, will inaugurate the ETC system installed on the Delhi-Mumbai stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral on Friday, for which the pilot was conducted on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route.
The system will be made operational next on the three remaining stretches of the quadrilateral.
The ETC system will work on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, with a tag called FASTag plastered on the vehicle which will contain the unique identification number associated with the vehicle. A separate lane, called FASTag lane, equipped with sensors is being designed on all toll plazas by the respective concessionaires.
Users of the tag, once enrolled in the system, will have an online account which they can charge in advance. When they pass the toll plaza, the tag will be read by the sensors without the vehicle needing to stop.
The sensors will then transmit the unique vehicle code to the central servers of the bank that issued the FASTag. The appropriate toll charge would be deducted from the user’s online account.
In order to prevent theft of the tag, it has been designed in a manner such that, once attached to the vehicle, it will suffer damage and be rendered unusable if removed.
The tags will be sold exclusively at outlets of ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, the two banks that succeeded in the bidding process to handle collection and disbursal of tolls for the next two years.
According to government officials, the FASTag has a manufacturing price of around Rs 100 but will be sold at around Rs 250, after factoring in overheads. The tags can be read by the sensors even at speeds as high as 150 kmph.
The maintenance of the ETC system will be done by Indian Highways Management Company Ltd, incorporated in December 2012. 22 private concessionaires hold 50 per cent stake in the company, NHAI 25 per cent and the rest by five banks.