The coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown has led to a huge reduction in vehicles plying on the national and state highways. This has undoubtedly impacted the revenues collected at toll plazas. The FASTag payments collected at National Highways have seen a decline of 40 percent from the February levels of Rs 1,840 crore to hit a bottom of Rs 248 crore in April 2020.
However, with lockdown restrictions slowly being eased and traffic movement improving on National Highways, the FASTag revenues have grown to Rs 1,140 crore in May 2020.
What is FASTag?
From December 1, FASTags have been installed in vehicles and made mandatory for toll payment on National Highways. The FASTag enables automatic toll collection without human intervention when the vehicle crosses the boom barrier of the toll plaza.
New vehicles purchased in the recent past come with pre-installed FASTags. FASTag was made mandatory for vehicles crossing the NH toll gates from January 15, 2020. This system enables contactless payment of a toll, which is now a need combatting the Covid-19 times.
Some 560-odd toll plazas under the control of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) collect toll from people automatically without human intervention, and vehicles need not have to stop to pay the toll. This system is designed and implemented to capture all toll electronically while removing bottlenecks to execution.
Under a new "One Nation One FASTag" scheme, the NHAI is trying to get all states on board in this scheme, such that one tag can be used seamlessly across all highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns and manages it. As part of the pilot project, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Haryana have entered into an MoU with the Centre to accept FASTags as a mode of payment on state highways as well.
How does FASTag work?
The pre-installed FASTag device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for directly debiting payments from the prepaid or savings account of the vehicle owner, linked to it. The device is affixed on the windscreen, such that the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
RFID technology implemented is similar to the ones used in transport access-control systems, like the Metro smartcard. A FASTag is valid for five years, and it can be recharged as and when required. A FASTag can be purchased from NHAI with a one-time fee of Rs 100, and a refundable security deposit of Rs 150.
Not sure if a separate lane for cash payment will still be allowed in the new Covid-19 normal, so better purchase and install a FASTag now. All you need is a copy of the vehicle registration certificate and a photo of the vehicle to get a FASTag from NHAI. If you intend to purchase FASTag from banks then they may seek certain additional documents. Vehicles entering FASTag lanes at toll plazas without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.
With India soon gearing up for the new Covid-19 normal, post lifting of lockdown restrictions, the NHAI is preparing for the oncoming monsoon season and getting ready for the increase in traffic of commercial and private vehicles plying on roads in the coming days. In such times, NHAI recommends FASTags to be the preferred and safest mode of toll payment collection on highways.
If you do not have a FASTag yet, approach the counters of NHAI, Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.