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Sunday , 29 May 2022

Emerging Tolling Technology and implementation Challenges

Supplementary agreement for Hybrid ETC

Muraleemohan M: Hybrid ETC has two components. The first concept of converting all the lanes to ETC lanes was the first part which many concessionaires have done. FASTag transactions are now allowed on any lane in the toll plaza. It does not really serve the purpose because once we have a cash vehicle also in front, it really affects the transaction speeds.

The second part of the hybrid ETC supplementary agreement calls for a comprehensive overhaul of all equipment at a toll plaza — that is only the toll equipment–it does not look at the HTMS component of it.

Now the intent of NHAI is highly laudable because they want to take the Toll Plazas to next generation and give high performance indicators and key performance parameters assigned to every aspect of the toll plaza. The best thing is NHAI wants to pay for it also, they don’t want additional financial liability to the concessionaires. In newer projects, it has become a standard as part of the concession agreement but in older projects it comes through a change of scope mechanism. The first challenge happens there because in most of these equipment, the specifications are on the higher side requiring some struggle with vendors as to who will supply those equipment in the market and where is the platform to integrate all of them to the TMS for a smooth functioning. The price discovery has its challenges, there is a central committee under RO Jaipur which has finalized the price for most of the items but some of the items are plaza specific like your TMS vendor, or your AVC system which is linked to the TMS.

It is doubtful if a platform is available for real-time monitoring of all equipment. The list of equipment that are to be changed starts from a boom barrier to an overhead light. Now these are not equipment which throw out a digital signal which can be picked up remotely to see whether the equipment are functioning or not. The penalty is also steep. We have certainly gone ahead and signed the supplementary agreement but are still waiting for the mobilisation advance to start doing the work. We do see implementation and supervision challenges because we don’t see the technology currently available for NHAI to remotely monitor around 36 to 40 pieces of equipment at all Toll Plazas in the country. Yet it is a good initiative.

Sandeep Pawar: About the SLA guidelines, NHAI needs to give the specifications. When we are talking about three million tags being issued and quite a number of tags being on the blacklist, the overhead that it is putting on the system every night is huge. The three million is also going to increase to 10 million but along with that the blacklist file is also going to increase. So, the system needs to be designed properly.

There has to be some freehand given to system integrators. The prices which have come out of this price discovery are not justifying. It all depends upon the implementation, the toll plaza, the site, what type of system you are going to use. So, we have systems which are running 6-lanes 8-lanes ETC, and 20-lane ETC. NHAI can reconsider this price discovery model.

What is the enforcement philosophy of the government in future?

Denny Thomas: Predominantly if we look at our society, discipline is the single most factor which everyone is trying to address. It is a wonderful concept to have all lanes as FASTag plus cash but it should only get implemented once we reach around 50% penetration. Because today at 20-25% penetration, one is not guaranteed to get a free pass. The government is giving a cashback scheme which is 5% in this FY, next year it will come down to 2.5%. Then this cash back is not going to be the motivator; it has to be a free pass through the toll plaza which will drive FASTag adoption

The biggest challenge that we face today is non- FASTag customers getting into dedicated FASTag lanes. NHAI has issued certain circulars in between but not getting enforced properly because of operational issues. The circular says that if a non- FASTag customer enters a FASTag lane, he shall pay double the toll fare as fine. But the challenge is for the toll plaza operators and the concessionaires to enforce that; the moment you start enforcing a double fine, there will definitely be problems at the toll plaza.

The entire focus should be on how to increase the NETC penetration, say from the current 25% level to 30% or 40% immediately because then more number of FASTag vehicles would be there in a FASTag lane. A guard sitting in front of a dedicated ETC lane with a barrier and removing it whenever a FASTag comes is not in the right way of implementing a dedicated lane. We have to look at ways of increasing the number of users who can have FASTags so that automatically the discipline comes in.

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