Monday 2 January 2017

Tolls on Indian Highways, my experiences

If one wants to drive on half decent roads in India, one has to drive on tolled roads. Toll payment has always been a hassle, but after demonetization, it has become much worse. Here are my thoughts based on a recent drive across the country over a period of 11 days covering over 5500 kilometers.

  1. Cash works best if you have change, but on a long drive you run out of change very quickly and then it becomes a huge problem.
  2. Toll plazas have been supplied with card swiping machines but many toll plazas are just on the boundary of cellular networks and machines don't work many times. Wherever these machines work, the time taken is much longer compared to cash.
  3. Initially, most toll plazas started accepting PayTM, but many have moved the PayTM signage now and are refusing to accept it. This method also takes a long time, because the confirmation of payment comes to a single mobile number that is with the supervisor and the toll counter has to confirm the receipt of payment over a two-way radio or mobile phone or just by shouting.
  4. FasTag which was introduced many years back as a means to expedite the payment of tolls has transformed into a payment method. In most places, the effort to pay through FasTag were slowest. At places, it took almost 10 minutes with just 3-4 cars. Of course, the reasons for this are multi-fold. At many locations the non-fastag vehicles occupy the fastag lanes so they cordon off the lanes and then you have to wait there, honk, shout and the somebody with come, look at you with disgust and slowly remove the barricades. In other places the overhead sensor just doesn't work and they use a handheld scanner. Most toll plazas have one handheld scanner being shared across 4-6 gates and that results into huge bottleneck. The scanner is always with supervisor and the individual manning the plaza has to shout for him to come and scan the tag.

I have to say of all the above technologies, the most suitable is electronic toll collection, or fastag as we know it. I think the system should be properly installed so that it really becomes a fast toll collection system. Wherever the fastag system was properly designed with two gates to control access of non-fastag vehicles into the lane, it worked properly, and I was out of the toll plaza in less than one minute.

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