“The government of India has embarked upon an ambitious plan for adopting Electronic Toll Collection systems across the National Highway network,” says Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India
Please tell us about the initiatives taken by the Ministry of Road Transportation and Highways to make transportation services citizen centric and friendly.
In order to improve the services, we have increased e-Governance inputs in the ministry. The portal has been improved to a large extent. All kinds of necessary information are being uploaded on the website on a timely basis. epecifically if you look at the toll collection mechanism in the country, we have taken the decision to implement electronic toll collection across all the national highways in the country. As there are large numbers of competing technologies for toll collection, the ministry had requested Shri Nandan Nilenkani to chair a committee that could find out the best possible technology for India. In year 2010, the committee gave a recommendation and the ministry accepted and implemented that recommendation that the toll collections will be RFID based. The protocols for the same are available on the website.
There is lot of congestion at some tolling stations. Will RFID based solutions help in solving this problem?
Unfortunately tolling is now associated with delays at collection points and congestion. The delays negatively impact the operational efficiency of the improved network and thus in many ways neutralise the benefits of the improvement of highway infrastructure. Therefore it has been decided to adopt Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system based on RFID across India’s National Highway network. RFID will enable toll to be collected electronically while the vehicle is in motion. One essential requirement for smooth functioning of ETC is that the integrated solution should be able to work seamlessly throughout the country. In advanced countries, the prevailing systems, and legacy systems reduce the design options. But India does not face the baggage of legacy systems. We can easily go ahead with the seamless implementation of RFID based solutions at our toll plazas.
When will RFID be implemented at Gurgaon or Noida toll plazas?
Those were earlier projects, but after 2010 the technology was immediately notified and the projects that were executed after that time were told to be on RFID technologies. The older projects have to gradually migrate to RFID based technologies. But as they are older projects, there are investment related concerns and there are also the legacy issues. So they will take some time to migrate to RFID based systems, but there is no doubt that finally all the toll systems in the country will have to be unified. So the older projects too will have to start using RFID eventually. We are currently in the process of implementing RFID toll systems in two pilot projects in Delhi to Parmanoo. This is on NH1 and NH5. Four concessionaires with their toll plazas are implementing the system. A central clearing house is also being created, based on systems developed by ICICI bank.
Will the central clearing house be covering all the toll stations in the country?
Presently these are pilot projects. So pilot projects will have pilot clearing houses. We have simultaneously entrusted the job to NHAI and they have called for an Expression of Interest for the pan India clearing house system. A pilot project, that is currently ongoing, is between Mumbai and Baroda; this will eventually be taken up to Ahmadabad. The concessionaires are IRB and L&T; Union Bank is providing the clearing house facility. The third pilot project will come up between Chennai and Bangalore. When all these pilot projects have started functioning smoothly, the collection will start going into a central clearing house.
Tell us about your plans to manage traffic in large urban centres through a centralised traffic management system?
Authorities around the world are implementing ICT solutions to manage their traffic, because it reduces accidents, leads to better traffic management. The efficiency of the normal traffic is improved and in emergency conditions ICT can lead to better ways of coping. We are mainly deploying ICT solutions in the urban areas where the traffic density is higher and the road density is also higher.