The government has rescheduled the launch of the electronic toll collection (ETC) system on the Delhi-Mumbai route from 27 October to 31 October.
Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate the system which integrates the operation of 55 toll plazas with the central clearing house (CCH) on the Delhi-Mumbai route covering Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
A pilot project for interoperable ETC system of 10 toll plazas between Mumbai (Charoti) and Ahmadabad has already been tested and seamless ETC on this section is already in operation.
The central government has issued orders to incorporate ETC lanes as a mandatory clause in the contracts awarded for all the highways projects in future. Action will be taken to include ETC system by means of supplementary agreement in those projects which have not yet been started, an official release said.
The government has formed a new company, called `Indian Highways Management Company Limited', for implementing ETC across the country. The company, incorporated under the Company's Act 1956, has equity participation from NHAI (25 per cent), concessionaires (50 per cent) and financial institutions (25 per cent).
The proposed new company will collect toll through ETC and manage the project strategically, administratively, legally, technically and commercially providing services of central ETC system, which include toll transaction clearing house operations, help-desk support and setting up of call centres for incident management and intelligent transport systems among others. Necessary amendments have already been made in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 for fitment of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag on vehicles for ETC.
Apart from Rs2.48 crore released in 2012-13, the government had released Rs17.288 crore during the financial year 2013-14 for implementing ETC on 51 public funded projects operated by NHAI. Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) and ICICI Bank along with Axis Bank also signed a service provider agreement for CCH services for ETC.
The central government has embarked on an ambitious plan for building India's highway network through various phases of the national highways development project (NHDP) financed largely through fees collected from users of the improved highways. The existing national highways need regular maintenance and upgradation for which fund mobilisation is an important factor. This underlines the need for large scale tolling of the highways.
The common method of toll collection is by having a vehicle passed through a toll plaza where it pays the toll. The user fee (toll) for the national highways is levied as per the National Highway Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 and its amendments. For projects completed for which agreements/contracts signed before 5 December 2008, the earlier set of National Highways (Rate of Fee) Rules, 1997 apply. The user fee is collected at the toll plazas as per the notifications issued under Section 7 of the National Highways Act, 1956.
At present there are some problems in collecting tolls. These include not having a uniform rate throughout various sections of national highways in India. Second, BOT (toll), BOT (annuity) and public funded projects have different toll collecting agencies, which is an impediment for a uniform acceptable standard of service to the commuters. There are many complaints of overcharging and undercharging as also non-reporting/under-reporting of the toll fee collected by the agents who are entrusted with the collection. There is congestion and crowding of vehicles at toll booths leading to wastage of time and fuel etc.
In order to remove the bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and collection of toll as per the notified rates, government had constituted a committee on electronic toll collection technology for use on national highways under the chairmanship of Nandan Nilekani, chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India. This committee`s mandate was to examine all technologies available for ETC and recommend the most suitable technology for local conditions. Considering user convenience, rate of acceptance and ease of implementation, the government has adopted the passive radio frequency identification (RFID) based on EPC, Gen-2, ISO 18000-6C Standards for ETC.