Steep road targets to FASTag e-toll & wifi: 5 recent steps by Nitin Gadkari to improve quality of highways

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New Delhi | Published: April 25, 2016 11:48 AM

From FASTag pan-India e-toll to better monitoring of road projects, we take a look at five recent initiatives by Gadkari's ministry that will improve the quality of India's national highways and make your journey easier:

Nitin Gadkari, national highway, Nitin Gadkari news, Modi government, FASTag, e-toll, National Highways Authority of India, Raghav ChandraWhile some measures are already in the process of being implemented, it remains to be seen if the steep targets set for building national highways will be met. (Expressway photo from NHAI)

NEW DELHI: Nitin Gadkari-led Road and Transport Ministry has announced several measures and ambitious targets to increase the rate of building national highways and enhance commuter experience through e-toll facilities and availability of basic amenities.

At a time when the country’s infrastructure sector needs a major push to propel economic growth, constructing highways and roadways seems to have become a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

While some measures are already in the process of being implemented, it remains to be seen if the steep targets set for building national highways will be met.

From FASTag pan-India e-toll to better monitoring of road projects, we take a look at five recent initiatives by Modi government that will improve the quality of India’s national highways and make your journey easier:

1) Cleaner toilets, free Wi-Fi on highways: Keen on improving travelling experience on the highways, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is considering to offer a clutch of user-friendly amenities including cleaner toilets, speed monitoring and free Wi-Fi.

Plans are also afoot to put in place a well-equipped patrolling system and providing ambulances with all basic needs to take care of victims of road accidents.

NHAI chairman Raghav Chandra told FE that the authority is already in talks with PSU oil marketing companies for setting up modern look-alike toilets with all facilities such as safety tank and clean wash basins and separate stands for men and women in around 12,000 fuel outlets across highways at an estimated cost of Rs 10 lakh each.

Chandra said in six months time video cameras and speed monitors will be installed in some of the major highways on a pilot basis. Wi-Fi facility would also be provided. The NHAI has already consulted various foreign firms for their suggestions.

2) Steep road highway building targets: Under pressure to steer road construction into the fast lane and meet the much-touted 30 km a day target, Gadkari has set a goal of building 15,000 km of highways this fiscal. To meet the challenging target, the rate of road construction should be a robust 41 km a day.

Gadkari has set a target of 25,000 km of National Highways to be awarded in 2016-17 as against the 10,000 km awarded in 2015-16. Of the total length of National Highways targeted for award, 15,000 km would fall under the target of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and 10,000 km under the target of the Ministry and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL). NHAI’s target for construction has been fixed at 8,000 km while for the Ministry and NHIDCL, the target is 7,000 km.

3) FASTag: To ensure non-stop vehicle movement at toll plazas, NHAI has rolled out cashless payment mechanism, FASTag, at over 275 tolls on highways across the country. (ALSO READ: FASTag infra boost: 10 facts about the facility)

FASTag offers near non-stop movement of vehicles through toll plazas and convenience of cashless payments of toll fee with nationwide inter-operable electronic toll collection services. FASTag offers near non-stop movement of vehicles through toll plazas and convenience of cashless payments of toll fee with nationwide inter-operable electronic toll collection services.

FASTag has a one-time fee of Rs 200 and is affixed on the wind screen of the vehicle. It employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from the pre-paid account linked to it. A vehicle using FASTag will use dedicated FASTag lane to have cashless travel.

In Phase II, it is expected that some other banks and mobile wallet operators will also join this endeavour. More toll points and points-of-sales will be added soon, NHAI has said adding that National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is building a national clearing house for efficient handling of inter-operability between banks, toll plaza operators and other entities.

4) Reducing road mishap fatalities: Gadkari has said that serious efforts are underway to bring down by 50% the number of fatalities in road accidents in country.

Government wants to improve the road conditions, including repairs, and enhance visibility to minimise road curves to save lives.

“Our dream is to make India a accident-free country,” Gadkari has said, adding that only one accident was reported in Sweden last year. “India is one of the countries having a large number of accidents and fatalities. To overcome this, the ministry has identified over 2500 accident spot on the national highways,” says Gadkari.

Gadkari said national highways constituted only two per cent of total road network but are catering to almost 80 per cent of traffic. “The high density of traffic is causing safety hazards,” he said.

“Our Ministry has plans to increase the national highways network to least 1.5 lakh kms from 80,000 kms when the NDA government took over.

5) Monitoring highway projects: Earlier this year it was announced that the government will take the help of ISRO and North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR) to monitor the progress of National Highways across the country through advanced technology.

The use of satellite data and geospatial technology will be useful in providing inputs in highway and infrastructure projects for preparation of detailed project report, prefeasibility status in new alignment, widening of road, monitoring of road segments under construction and Road Asset Management System.

NECTAR, Department of Science and Technology uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for acquiring aerial images for infrastructure planning.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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