Fastag has been a saviour but then the serpentine queues at toll booths has anything but reduced. The wait time might have gone down by a few seconds but uncertainty, as well as confusion, still prevails. The very existence of toll booths sometimes is questioned. If you think the government turned a blind eye to all this, then this isn’t the case. Nitin Gadkari, the union minister of road transport and highways and MSMEs, said that India is set to be toll-booth free in the next two years. He says that the government is working towards GPS-based toll collection. Based on the movement of vehicles, the GPS-based system will deduct the amount. New commercial vehicles that are being rolled out, already have this tech in place though it is yet to be activated. The government has to see how to implement this on older cars.
Nitin Gadkari expressed hope that the toll collections may reach Rs 34,000cr in March 2021. He also was hopeful that using GPS technology for toll collection, will increase the revenue by Rs 1,34,000cr in the next five years. It is likely that when new vehicles with a GPS tracker are rolled out from the factory, it could lead to better security of the occupants wherein owners back home can keep an eye on where their chauffeurs are and so on.
It is likely that the same formula as the Fastag may be applied here. If this formula is implemented, toll booths will be removed and this will facilitate transport movement in a better fashion. As has been established before, toll booths usually lead to jams and restrict vehicle movement. However, it is still a long time before the implementation begins. There are certain things that need to be ensured.
First up, as we are aware, the locals around a toll booth within a 5km radius are usually exempt. Based on the GPS system, how this will be implemented remains to be seen. Moreover, with Fastag a new account is created and one has to deposit money in it. If there is no money in that account, then the person has to pay cash at the toll booth. With the absence of a manned booth, if the GPS-related account doesn’t have money in it, how will the toll tax be collected? At the same time, if there is no separate account and instead the existing savings account of an individual is taken into the picture, it could lead to a possible cybercrime issue. It is apparent that the government, before implementing all this, will have taken all these aspects in mind. Few toll booths, at present, even though Fastag-enabled don’t have proper barcode scanners leading to a loss of revenue.
Currently, places like the Mumbai-Pune highway have a traffic offence-related ecosystem with the toll booths. If a vehicle is overspeeding, then the time taken between the toll booths is calculated and an e-challan issued. With toll booths out of the way, the government might incorporate this with the GPS location. Or install more speed-gun cameras. Likely loss of jobs might also result with the removal of toll booths. Toll booths again serve as a stopping point wherein one can get medical facilities. Once these are removed, the government needs to make sure that there are alternatives available. How the GPS understands that a car (ambulance, army…) is exempted from toll also needs to be figured out.
As we have observed with Fastag, the overall implementation may be a bit delayed. In general, the adoption of new technology takes time and to permeate the grassroots level, it is a painstaking effort. This though if implemented could lead to lower time spent on the road. Lots of questions and uncertainty. We hope to get a better picture once this idea is closer to reality.
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