Congestion at toll plazas on national highways continues to impact commuters despite 97 per cent of tolling happening through FASTags. In light of this, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry is now moving ahead with a plan to replace toll plazas with cameras that could read number plates, also known as Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) cameras.
The plan is to remove toll plazas on national highways and instead rely on ANPR cameras, which will read vehicle number plates and automatically deduct toll from the linked bank accounts of vehicle owners.
The model is simple: Entry and exit of toll roads will have cameras capable of reading number plates, and toll will be deducted based on these cameras.
Can all number plates be read by the cameras?
Not all number plates in India can be read, and only those that have come after 2019 will be registered by the cameras.
The government, in 2019, had come up with a rule mandating passenger vehicles to have company-fitted number plates, and only these number plates can be read by cameras. The government plans to come up with a scheme to replace older number plates.
A pilot of this scheme is underway and legal amendments to facilitate this transition are also being moved to penalise vehicle owners who skip toll plazas and do not pay.
Currently, about 97 per cent of the total toll collection of nearly Rs 40,000 crore happens though FASTags — the remaining 3 per cent pay higher than normal toll rates for not using FASTags.
With FASTags, it takes about 47 seconds per vehicle to cross a toll plaza, and there’s a marked throughput enhancement – more than 260 vehicles can be processed per hour via electronic toll collection lane as compared to 112 vehicles per hour via manual toll collection lane, according to government data.
While FASTags have eased traffic at toll plazas across the country, congestion is still reported as there are toll gates that need to be crossed after authentication. Apart from ANPR helping to ease congestion, the government is also looking at GPS technology as one of the options for toll collection.
The success of ANPR cameras will depend on creating an ecosystem that is in sync with the requirements of the camera.
The biggest problem being faced during the trials is when things are written on number plates, beyond the nine digit registration number, such as ‘govt of India/Delhi’ and names of Gods etc.
Another problem that ANPR cameras face is in reading number plates on trucks, as most of the time they are hidden or soiled etc.
A pilot on a key expressway has found that about 10 per cent of vehicles with such number plates are being missed by the ANPR cameras.