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Fee collection using FASTag reaches 90% after being made mandatory in February 2021: Road Transport Ministry

Credit: Soumyarendra Barik

Collection of FASTag tolls in India has increased to as high as 90%, after the government declared them mandatory for all vehicles in India last month, the Road Transport ministry told Rajya Sabha on Monday. The ministry also said that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has conducted a pilot project to testing a GPS-based fee collection system.

The question was asked by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Sushil Kumar Modi, whether there has been an increase in toll collection through FASTag. Only last month, the ministry made the tags mandatory, announced that all lanes in the country had been declared FASTag lanes from February 16 and that any vehicle that doesn’t possess a valid FASTag would have to pay double the regular fee.

Collection through FASTag was only 70% in February 2020, increasing by 10% to 80% in mid-February 2021. However, the new diktat caused an almost immediate 10% spike in adoption.

“The fee collection through FASTag has increased significantly over a period of time. The average FASTag collection penetration was approximately 70% in February, 2020; 80% in mid February, 2021, and it increased to 90% after declaration of all lanes as FASTag lane of fee plaza.” — Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

Originally introduced in 2014, the prepaid RFID tags were supposed to give commuters an option to go cashless at toll plazas. However, the tags have gradually become mandatory. Earlier, vehicles sold before December 2017 were not required to have FASTags, a rule that was changed in November 2020. Similarly, come April 1, 2021 FASTag details are mandatory for owners seeking third-party insurance policies.

GPS-based toll collection

Modi asked whether the ministry was planning to build a GPS-based toll system, wherein fee is collected for “exact distance traversed and not through toll plaza”. The ministry replied: “National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has conducted a Pilot Project study to test the feasibility of the Global Positioning System (GPS)- based free flow fee collection on National Highways.”

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The ministry’s answer — though sparse in detail — is in line with what Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had said last week, when he inaugurated a live monitoring and ratings system for toll plazas. Gadkari had said that a GPS-based system is in the works, wherein commuters will be required to pay only for the distance travelled on the basis of entry and exit points. This system would take two years to implement, he added at the time.

Gadkari had also spoken at length about FASTag, claiming that the tags led to zero waiting time at 80% of toll plazas in the country. He also said that mandatory FASTags would help save Rs 20,000 crore per annum on fuel in the country.

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