India’s first inter-operable, Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology was launched about a year ago on certain toll plazas on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway. How has the move impacted the transportation and traffic industry in the country? What are the challenges the country faces for a large scale implementation of the system? TrafficInfraTech spoke to a wide cross section of the industry on the subject.
Pramod Radhakrishnan CEO IRD South Asia
We would like to offer our sincere appreciation and congratulations to the policy makers and implementation agencies for the successful deployment of the RFID based ETC programme in the country. However, we are of the view that it is too early to comment on the efficiency or the management of a large format programme such as ETC in such a short span of time. There is a fairly significant learning curve that needs to be covered before any such programme can be termed as a success or as well managed. There have definitely been significant improvements in the system given that inputs and learning have been made in the pilot projects. However, further improvements can surely be made in the system on the policy, technology, deployment, maintenance and ongoing development areas. One key area that needs further improvement is the communication and popularization of technology and related services amongst the road users. Of course, this will need to be coupled with the practical utility of the technology for the end user considering that the technology mandate was to fundamentally alter the issue of long queues and traffic congestion at toll plazas. Hence, any activity aimed at promoting and popularizing the technology and the usage of RFID for ETC needs to address the bottlenecks for the same as well, whether they are at the policy, programme or implementation levels.
The questions that need to be asked are: Are we having lesser queues at toll gates where ETC is implemented? Is an ETC user better equipped to approach and pass through and exit a toll gate seamlessly? Are there enough policy and enforcement programmes available for concessionaires to implement and enforce an ETC programme effectively and efficiently? Does the ETC programme successfully address the practical issues involved.
To ensure effective operation of RFID tolling, measures should be taken to ensure that an RFID user can easily access toll lanes (dedicated lanes) without having to navigate through snaking lines of non-RFID enabled vehicles ahead of them. Adequate enforcement and penalisation options should be provided to toll operators to ensure better compliance and adherence of users to policies. There should be better education and awareness building campaigns for road usage and ETC compliance while respecting the rights and privileges of both RFID and non-RFID tagged road users’ vehicles, lane discipline, etc. These should be coupled with sufficient incentives for road users to convert to ETC programmes. Besides this, there are measures at the technology level that can further improve the success of such a programme.