has hit many sectors but the number of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags sold at national highways soared by 86,000 in the first three weeks of December, an addition of 77 per cent.
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) introduced RFID technology at toll plazas in February 2014. Indian Highways Management Company (IHMC) was given the responsibility of implementing ETC (electronic toll collection) projects.
After the government's decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes on November 8, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways announced suspension of toll collection at all national highways. Tolling was resumed from December 2.
In the 23-day period, when collection was suspended at the plazas, electronic toll booths were upgraded and experiental runs conducted on fast tag lanes.
"The technology deployed was not an inter-operable solution and issuance was also very slow. IHMC approached us for creating an inter-operable solution, which went live with the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) pilot on November 28," said AP Hota, managing director of National Payments Corporation of India, the body sent by banks and the Reserve Bank to enable e-payments by all citizens. Inter-operability allows the tag to be used across all four issuing bank platforms.
Before the NETC launch, there were 1,12,000 fast tags in the market. Since December 1, another 86,000 have been issued. There are currently four issuers -- State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and IDFC Bank, said Hota.
However, while there has been a sharp rise in the number of tags being sold at the plazas, only a fifth of these have been purchased by truckers.
"Transporters are not educated enough to opt for this method of toll payment, illiteracy is a challenge and it will take time for truckers to adopt this mode of payment," a transporter told Business Standard.
Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari
had at the time of launching the FasTag
programme (the government's e-payment system at tolls) said all 350 toll plazas on national highways would come under the mechanism by year-end. And, that tolling would be scrapped at 45 small stretches (mostly structures such as bridges) in the coming years.
Though far from reality at present, movement has been made in the direction, said an informed source. Vehicles fitted with the inter-operable tags don't need to wait in queues at plazas. The technology was first launched in April 2012 on the 10-km Himalayan Expressway and Gadkari inaugurated ETC on the Delhi-Mumbai stretch of NH-8 in November 2014.