FASTags became mandatory since January 15. (File photo)
(Written by Ajinkya Kawale)
In a bid to make travel through toll plazas hassle-free, digital and faster, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has encouraged commuters to use FASTags to pay toll fee. While installations of FASTags became mandatory for vehicle owners since January 15 and a majority of road users have bought them, the teething problems at toll plazas mean that a technology introduced to make toll payment quick and easy has added to their woes by making the queues longer.
Commuters are complaining about technical glitches in the system. They say they end up paying the toll fee twice, have to spend more time in the queues and wonder if their bank accounts linked with FASTags will be safe.
What are FASTags?
The FASTag is an electronic toll collection system that employs Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The sensors at the toll plaza read a unique FASTag strip that is attached to the windshield of a vehicle followed by the generation of an automatic deduction of a definite amount from a prepaid wallet or a linked savings bank account, without requiring the vehicle to stop. It aims to save time and fuel, reduce traffic and pollution at toll junctions and promotes digital transactions.
Does the FASTag work seemlessly, as advertised?
The toll plazas are not able to scan FASTags pasted on the windshield of a vehicle in motion. For successful tagging, the vehicles are required to slow down and align the tags with the scanner at the toll plaza. An attendant examines if the tag has been scanned successfully and then allows the vehicle to progress ahead. In case the system malfunctions, the attendant resorts to a handheld scanner and manually scans the tag resulting in slower traffic and long queues at toll plazas.
It takes quite a bit of time and hence, instead of reducing the queues, it’s making them longer.
Complaints are popping out every day raising questions on the efficiency of the electronic toll system. Pintu Artule, a private driver ferrying passengers from Pune, said, “The scanner was able to scan the tags of some vehicles while others had to be scanned manually with a handheld scanner. This creates confusion among commuters and leads to long queues.”
Why are handheld scanners being used?
When the primary scanner installed on the top is not able to scan the FASTags, something that happens often, toll plaza employees use handheld scanners.
Requesting anonymity, an employee at the Moshi toll plaza said motorists should be patient when using the technology. “When the primary system doesn’t function, we scan using a handheld scanner. There are times when drivers have tampered or misplaced tags. The scanner is unable to scan these tags and it leads to a delay,” he said. When enquired about the issue, project manager at the Moshi toll plaza, Dhananjay Panshikar denied to discuss the matter.
On system’s functionality, Suhas Chitnis, project director at the NHAI project implementation unit (PIU) Pune, said some blacklisted motorists have to stop as they don’t have sufficient balance in their accounts. “There can be some issues with the network that results in a delay. There is no problem in the system,” he added.
He said, “Some truck drivers have 4 to 5 FASTag strips affixed on their windshields, which can confuse the FASTag scanner. It is unable to scan in a case where some cars have fixed the tags that are designated for trucks and vice-versa.” When asked about the delay due to a handheld scanner at Moshi toll plaza, Chitnis said it does not fall under his jurisdiction.
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