Only One Toll Plaza For 60 KM On National Highways, Says Gadkari; Here's Everything You Wanted To Know About Toll Collection
Explaining toll collection on national highways.
Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari announced 22 March in Lok Sabha that there will only be one toll plaza for a distance of 60 kilometres (km) on national highways.
"...and if there's a second toll plaza, then it will be shut in the next three months," the Minister said in a reply to a discussion in Lok Sabha on the demands for grants pertaining to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).
Toll Tax Policy On National Highways
The policy on collection of user fee is based on the provisions of National Highways Act, 1956, and National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008, as amended.
As per the rules, the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, levy fees for the use of any section of the national highway, permanent bridge, bypass, or tunnel forming parts of the national highways.
In India, tolling is generally carried out under the open system, whereby the fee payable is a fixed amount based on the length of the stretch under one project, which is normally 60 km. If a stretch is of a shorter length, the user fee of actual length only is collected.
As per the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008, the spacing between two adjacent toll plazas should be 60 km. However, distance between two adjacent toll plazas can be less than 60 km due to the unavailability of land, traffic congestion, or improper location.
User Fee Collection
The user fee on a particular toll plaza is based on the stretch length under that plaza, structures (bridge, tunnel, bypass) and width of the highways, applicable fee rules, and provisions of the concessions agreement.
Vehicles are also categorised for the welfare of road users. This categorisation is primarily based on the size and load carried by them and damage done to the road and type of use (commercial/personnel) of a vehicle. The applicable toll rates for various categories of vehicles are also displayed at the respective toll plaza.
The user fee is levied and collected as per applicable fee rules and provisions of the concession agreement. In some cases, user fee collection is allowed when the project is 75 per cent complete. This helps people to use the completed part of the road and the traveller pays only for the 75 per cent length opened for traffic.
As per the rule, a concessionaire has the right to collect user fee till the completion of concession period allowed under the agreement. Once a highway is built, a fee is to be collected to recover the cost. Once the cost is recovered, the fee is collected at a reduced rate of 40 per cent as the road is to be maintained in a good condition for the travellers.
The fee rates are to be revised every year with effect from 1 April. In the case of public funded/annuity/special purpose vehicle (SPV) projects, the government collects the user fee (toll) by engaging the contractors through competitive e-bidding. In the case of private investment/operate, maintain, and transfer (OMT) projects, the concessionaire collects the user fee (toll).
Toll Information System
The Ministry of Road Transport has developed a web portal, namely Toll Information System (TIS), to put in place a mechanism whereby road users can ascertain through public domain the exact toll rates for a particular plaza or a particular journey between two stations through a selected route.
The portal also helps disseminate information about the concessions/discounts to local and frequent users, provision of various facilities on toll roads, important telephone numbers, etc. As per the information available in TIS, currently 727 toll plazas are operational on national highways across the country.
Electronic Toll Collection Programme
The National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) programme has been implemented on a pan-India basis to remove bottlenecks on toll plazas and ensure seamless movement of traffic and collection of user fees as per the notified rates.
The ETC system uses passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and is popularly known as FASTag. FASTag is a device that employs RFID technology for making toll payments directly from the prepaid account linked to it. It is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables drivers to drive through toll plazas without stopping for cash transactions.
The National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) is the central clearing house for the ETC system. There are 36 banks (including public and private sector banks) engaged as issuer banks for FASTag issuance to road users and 14 acquirer banks to process the transactions at fee plazas.
In order to further promote fee payment through the digital mode, reduce waiting time and fuel consumption, and provide for seamless passage through toll plazas, the government has declared all lanes of the fee plazas on national highways to be “FASTag lane of the fee plaza” with effect from the midnight of 15-16 February 2021.
As on 31 January 2022, banks have collectively issued over 4.59 crore FASTags. The average daily collection has reached Rs 118.5 crore (till December 2021) with average daily ETC transactions of Rs 76.62 lakh.
After declaration of all lanes as FASTag lanes, the overall FASTag penetration across the country has reached approximately 97 per cent and many toll plazas are having 99 per cent penetration.
The constant growth and adoption of FASTag by highway users is encouraging and has helped increase efficiency in toll operations. According to a government release, FASTag will save around Rs 20,000 crore per year on fuel, thus saving on foreign exchange and help the environment as well.
GPS-based Toll Collection
The government is also working on a new policy to replace toll plazas in the country with a GPS-based tracking toll system.
Working on a combination of mobile telecommunications technology (GSM) and the satellite-based global positioning system, the proposed tolling system will be able to deduct money from a vehicle account, credit the money to the concessionaire, and open the toll gate. In case of a failed transaction, it would be able to alert the toll operator to collect payment manually and then open the gate.
The technology for a GPS-based tolling system is not available in the country, and the Ministry is in talks with some Korean and Russian players who have the technology.
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