Pay up ‘penalty’ at toll plazas

Decongest toll plazas, where cash payments lead to long queues, the government is planning to penalise cash tolling in metros.

NEW DELHI: Pay toll by cash? Get ready to shell out 10-20% extra. In a move to decongest toll plazas, where cash payments lead to long queues, the government is planning to penalise cash tolling in metros. The extra payment, the government reckons, will bring about a ‘behavioural shift’ in commuters and make them opt for electronic tolling through FASTags.

Paying by cash? Pay up ‘penalty’ at toll plazas

If implemented, this would mean a reversal of the current incentive system in which e-tolling attracts a discount. “Cash tolling leads to congestion at toll plazas. So far, we have a discount for electronic tolling. Now, we are planning to reverse this,” a government official told ET, seeking anonymity.

The move is likely to find a mention in the new toll policy being prepared by the National Highways Authority of India. Introduced in 2014, FASTags employ RFID technology to make payments directly via prepaid or savings accounts linked to the sticker fixed on a vehicle. It does not require vehicles to stop for paying toll.

NHAI allows a discount on the base rate if a commuter pays toll digitally. The proposal is to invert this. “There should be a base rate for electronic tolling. A surcharge should be added to it — calculated basis the impact of congestion — for those paying toll through cash,” the official said, adding the surcharge could be 10-20% of the base rate.

‘Multiple costs involved’
“There are multiple costs involved. The environmental cost is very high — it (congestion) causes so much pollution. Next comes land acquisition cost, since we have to make bigger toll plazas due to congestion. There is also the time loss,” the official said.

Experts said that while promoting electronic payments is a positive move, the government must also iron out glitches in the e-tolling system and ensure the surcharge flows into NHAI’s kitty. “Eventually, we should shift to electronic tolling. Cash tolling should be allowed only in bare minimum cases. This will also make the system more transparent and plug leakages,” said Vishwas Udgirkar, partner, Deloitte.

“The problem is, most of the old contracts did not have electronic tolling as part of the build-operatetransfer (BOT) structure. So it’s a two-way task of encouraging both commuters and concessionaires,” Udgirkar added.

So far, about 30% toll is collected electronically across 400 toll plazas of NHAI. Around Delhi, for instance, more than 60% of the toll is collected through cash. The government official said this figure should ideally be less than 10%.


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