October 11, 2011
NEW DELHI: Motorists can say goodbye to excruciating queues and road rage at toll gates, save precious fuel that burns in idling engines and avoid the risk of being given soiled or fake currency notes as smart cards will replace clumsy cash payments on highways in the next couple of years.
You will be able to buy a smart card for Rs 100 at a gas station or bank, top it up with cash, and use it like a debit card on highways without even stopping the car. The card will send a radio signal to pay the toll and automatically open any toll gate from Kashmir to Kanyakumari without the trouble of paying awkward amounts like Rs 27 or any human interaction.
Fuel savings for truckers will be phenomenal. A long-haul drive from Delhi to Mumbai is interrupted by some 20 toll gates and the average time at each gate can be as much as 10 minutes. This translates to over three hours of idle run, which is enough to run the truck for another 100 km. According to an estimate, fuel worth $2-3 billion is wasted on highways and check-posts annually, a significant part of which is due to toll stops.
The National Highways Authority of India is doing its bit to jazz up highway driving. It is planning to set up complexes equipped with amusement parks, ATMs, food courts and fuel stations every 50 km. It also has a buzzing Facebook page, although some of its posts are amusing — this summer it shared tips on driving in foggy weather.
“A committee has been constituted under YK Sharma of National Informatics Center constituting members from NHAI and ministry. The recommendations shall be submitted to the government shortly,” said an NHAI official.
The RFID scheme is expected to be launched on a few highways before it is gradually expanded.
Apart from saving fuel, the use of tag is expected to cut pollution, decongest toll gates, bring down operating costs for concessionaires and help increase toll collection. An executive at a leading infrastructure company said some toll-collection operations are run by powerful local politicians, who do not pass on all the toll to the infrastructure firm.
The NHAI official added that the move is likely to discourage circulation of fake notes which is usually a problem during cash collection in peak hours with dim lights.
The approximate cost for setting up the infrastructure for RFID on one lane is estimated to be about Rs 10 lakhs. Government is looking at petrol pumps, post offices, banks and other potential sites where tags can be sold.
“The cost of tag starts from Rs 100 and since tags work on a common protocol, same tag will work all over India,” said Ashish Bhutani, MD of Omnia Technologies, a leading manufacturers of tags.