FASTags seem to have been off to a rocky start, if the waiting time data from toll plazas on national highways across India are to be compared. The FASTag digital payments system for vehicles crossing toll plazas on national highways was expected to speed up the payments process, reduce waiting time for vehicles at toll collection plazas and also reduce the handling of cash. However, the numbers from the central toll plaza traffic monitoring system suggest that waiting times for vehicles have actually gone up.
The average waiting times for vehicles at toll plazas increased by 29%, even though FASTags accounted for more than 60% of the total toll collection, reports The Hindustan Times. The central toll plaza traffic monitoring system which collects live data from 488 toll plazas across India reports that the average waiting for vehicles was 7 minutes and 44 seconds, in the period between November 15, 2019 and December 14. The first deadline for the FASTags was December 15. The data suggests that the waiting time between December 15, 2019 and January 14, 2020 increased to 9 minutes and 57 seconds on an average.
A FASTag is a sticker that is attached to the windshield of your car, from the inside. This is Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) enabled via the barcode and is linked with the registration details of your vehicle. That information is stored in the barcode itself. As you drive though any toll plaza on any national highway in India, there will be dedicated lanes that have FASTag readers installed overhead—and as your vehicle passes beneath them, the RFID code is detected for your vehicle, processed and the necessary toll amount is deducted from the prepaid balance. All this without you having to stop, interact with a human being at a toll plaza and having to pay cash.
It was in October that the Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that FASTags will become mandatory for all vehicles from December 2019. However, there have been extensions of this deadline since. The December 1 deadline was shifted to December 15, and finally culminated on January 15, 2020. Almost 6 million vehicles cross toll booths across India every day, according to the Central Toll Plaza Traffic Monitoring System.
Earlier, to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, FASTag norms for 65 toll plazas with high cash transactions have been relaxed to allow them to convert up to 25 per cent of "FASTag lane of Fee Plaza" into hybrid lanes for 30 days, as reported by the PTI. "Depending on the traffic pile-up at these 65 fee plazas, not more than 25 per cent 'FASTag lane of Fee Plaza' may be temporarily converted to hybrid lanes. This is to be considered and decided on a case to case basis, not below the level of the RO concerned," the Road Transport and Highways Ministry said in a letter to NHAI Chairman SS Sandhu. It should be ensured that the least possible number of the declared 'FASTag lane of Fee Plaza' be converted into the hybrid lanes temporarily and further that at least 75 per cent lanes of these 65 fee plaza remain declared and operational as 'FASTaglane of Fee Plaza' in order to incentivise the vehicles carrying FASTag, the letter said.