FASTags are now mandatory on all four-wheelers. The highways were facing long traffic jam issues because of them and now Madras High Court has also said that FASTags are causing long congestion on toll plazas instead of reducing the waiting time.
The first bench of chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said “The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should have created some amount of infrastructural setup prior to introducing FASTag”
Observations regarding long waiting times were made while hearing a plea to restrain NHAI from collecting user fee at Chengalpet’s Paranur toll plaza that falls between Tambaram and Tindivanam highway. According to the Petitioner, the contract awarded to the concessionaire has expired.
The plea was then moved by, Joseph Sagayaraj came up for hearing. The bench then said that the present system that was being used was inaccessible to many road users. Assistant solicitor-general of India, G Karthikeyan opposed the plea and said that NHAI, which is maintaining the highway, is entitled to collect 40% of user fee as per Rule 6 (6)(b) of the National Highway Fee (determination of rates and collection) Rules, 2008. After this, the bench told NHAI to submit additional information on the present user fee levied on each of the vehicles in the stretch.
The petitioner repeated that the contract awarded to the concessionaire has expired. Due to this, NHAI is entitled to collect only forty percent. He added “the toll is being collected with aid of provisional completion certificate awarded in favour of the concessionaire, despite the said provisional completion certificate indicating very many deficiencies.”
NHAI said that cogent reading of Rule 1(4) and Rule 6(6)(b) of the Rules would make it clear that the build-operate-transfer (BOT) (Annuity) projects are public-funded projects and NHAI is authorised to collect user fee from roadusers till the entire capital cost of the project is fully recovered as per the applicable financial practices.
Why long queues at toll plaza?
One of the main issues that the FASTag system is facing is that the sensors placed at the toll plazas are not able to read the FASTags. Due to this, the executives at toll plazas have to manually scan each and every vehicle which takes a long time. Because of this the queue increases and people have to stand for long durations.
National Highways Authority of India has proposed a plan for this issue. They want to draw a distinct line on every toll lane of the plaza and when the queue of cars touch that line, the toll operator would need to open the toll gate for all the vehicles that were standing till that line. The cars would not need to pay any amount and will be allowed to travel free of cost.
This plan is currently being prepared. The road transport ministry has started real-time monitoring the toll plazas that are located on the highways. The coloured line will be distinct for every toll plaza. The placement of the line will vary from the plaza to plaza and also on a number of other factors such as the number of lanes, traffic flow etc. When this rule is implemented, the issue of long queues on the toll plazas should be solved.