e-tags to debut on highway from Ahmedabad to Mumbai MAMUNI DAS

April 12, 2013


Drivers on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai National Highway will soon be able to use a common electronic tag on their vehicles to pay tolls while crossing the six toll plazas. The plazas are operated by two different road developers — Larsen and Toubro, and IRB Infrastructure. Each toll plaza will have two lanes with electronic-readers to capture data from tagged vehicles.

This is the first time the Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL), a firm set up to implement the inter-operable electronic tolling system across the national highway network, will be undertaking the job. IHMCL is jointly owned by highway developers, financial institutions and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

Trial runs on the stretch are already on, for which ICICI Bank is providing the back-end clearing-house mechanism and has tied up with US-based firm TollPlus for technical knowhow.

Having an inter-operable system requires a clearing-house mechanism, so the toll amount debited from users can go to the different firms that operate the particular stretch.

India’s 80,000 km national highway network is dotted with over 200 toll plazas, about half of which are now handled by different highway developers, and the rest by NHAI.

A common electronic highway toll payment mechanism has been Government’s long-time goal, and NHAI had started work on such a project close to eight years ago. But the project was first marred by a war among vendors with competing technology standards. This ended with recommendations by a committee headed by Nandan Nilekani in 2010. Subsequently, attempts to start the project did not make much headway due to lack of an institutional mechanism, an issue expected to be resolved with the formation of IHMCL.

IHMCL was formed in late 2012 with 25 per cent equity from NHAI, 50 per cent from highway developers and 25 per cent from financial institutions.

As of now, the 22 highway developers, also slated to be equity-holders, include L&T IDPL, IRB Infrastructure, Oriental Structural Engineers, Shapoorji Pallonji Infrastructure, SREI Infrastructure Finance, GMR Highways, Reliance Infrastructure, Ashoka Buildcon, HCC, Sadbhav Engineering, TRIL Roads, Gammon India and Uniquest Infra Ventures.

Financial institutions expected to take a stake in the project are ICICI Bank, IDFC Projects, Macquarie, Union Bank of India and IDBI Infrafin.

“It is a good collaborative effort. Somebody had to take a step towards creating a clearing-house and connecting all the toll plazas,” said Athar Shahab, CEO, Uniquest Infra, a joint venture between Malaysian Government’s investment arm Khazanah and IDFC.

Calling this a good beginning, K.K. Mohanty, Managing Director, Gammon Infrastructure, said his concern is about increasing public awareness so that people see the value in adopting electronic toll payment.

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Source- http://www.thehindubusinessline.com

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