Electronic collection pulls out the stops at toll plazas

Written by Neha Pal | Neha Pal | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 22 2012, 06:22am hrs
Toll plazas can be a nightmare, characterised by long queues, traffic jams, and rising tempers, as most commuters in metros would confirm. Now, imagine a scenario when all this can be avoided for a smooth sail without the need to stop at any toll collection point. This is exactly what has been achieved at the countrys first electronic toll collection (ETC) system, which was inaugurated at Chandimandir in Haryana this Thursday.

Under the radio frequency identification (RFID) scheme, the road, transport and highways ministry has introduced the ETC system on the newly-opened Zirakpur-Parwanoo section of NH-5 to begin with.

Union road transport and highways minister CP Joshi told FE that while this is a pilot project, plans are afoot to replicate it across the country in another two years.

All commuters have to do is get a smart tag, which can be obtained at the toll plaza itself after registering basic details like name, address, vehicle type, vehicle registration number, etc. The tag can be recharged online later. After pasting the tag on the vehicle, the driver need not stop at the toll plaza, and just has to drive through the lane meant for tag users. Sensors in these lanes will read the tags and communicate the information to a centralised database system and the toll amount would be deducted electronically.

To begin with, one-two lanes in each direction would be dedicated for electronic toll collection at each toll point. The number of such lanes might be increased depending on the number of tag users.

Joshi added, The ministry is holding meetings with various public and private banks and we have already roped in ICICI Bank. This would surely be one of the greatest achievements for the ministry in the next two to three years.

The electronic toll plaza on NH-5 in Panchkula district has been constructed by Himalayan Expressway, a subsidiary of the Jaypee Group. Devendra Yadav, VP, special electronics/operations, Jaypee Infratech, told FE, RFID system has been implemented in all 14 lanes of the Chandimandir toll plaza which means that tag users can move in any lane. We plan to incorporate this system for our Yamuna Expressway project as well.

For updating toll data, a two-tier database structure would be deployed, including one at the plaza level and another at the national level (central clearing house). Information would be stored in the central database, along with the unique identification code of the tag.

Sanjay Bandopadyay, joint secretary, road, transport and highways ministry said, It is essential to network all toll plazas for seamless data communication between plazas and the central clearing house. The entire transaction details of all tag accounts would be stored in the central database.

The CCH would run an end-of-the-day settlement and send files to every toll plaza operators for receivables for that particular day. Such files would then be sent to the bank for conducting financial settlements to the particular bank accounts of all toll collecting agencies.

Each ETC lane would also be equipped with automatic vehicle classification (AVC) system for cross-verification of vehicle categories to avoid misuse of tags. The ETC management software will compare the class of vehicle as per the tag account and the AVC class. In case of discrepancy, the system triggers the camera fitted in the lane and stores the image of the vehicle along with the number plate.

The RFID scheme was mooted by a committee set up by the road ministry under Nandan Nilekani to come up with suggestions on technologies for electronic toll collection.

Commenting on the RIFD scheme, Nandan Nilekani said, We are laying the foundation of a powerful framework which would be helpful in providing data about traffic analysis, planning of routing and roads, based on which the government can make important strategic decisions for future of the road network.