Get ready to pay penalty for making cash payment at toll plazas

New Delhi: In a bid to encourage e-tolling, the government is planning to penalize those making cash payment at toll plazas in metros, which often leads to congestion. The government believes the additional surcharge will bring about a ‘behavioural shift’ in commuters and force them to opt for electronic tolling through FASTags.

Worth mentioning here is that the government currently provides discounts to those making payment through FASTags. But the proposed scheme, if implemented, would mean a reversal of the current incentive system.

According to a report in the Economic Times, the move is likely to find a mention in the new toll policy being prepared by the National Highways Authority of India.

FASTags, which were introduced in 2014, employ RFID technology to make payments directly via prepaid or savings accounts linked to the sticker fixed on a vehicle. It does not require vehicles to stop for paying toll.

“There should be a base rate for electronic tolling. A surcharge should be added to it — calculated basis the impact of congestion — for those paying toll through cash,” the ET report quoted as saying an unnamed official, who further added that the surcharge could be 10-20% of the base rate.

The official said there are multiple costs associated with toll payment through cash. “The environmental cost is very high — it (congestion) causes so much pollution. Next comes land acquisition cost, since we have to make bigger toll plazas due to congestion. There is also the time loss,” the official said.

Experts say while promoting electronic payments is a positive move, the government must also address the glitches in the e-tolling system and ensure the surcharge flows into NHAI’s kitty.

“Eventually, we should shift to electronic tolling. Cash tolling should be allowed only in bare minimum cases. This will also make the system more transparent and plug leakages,” the business daily quoted as saying Vishwas Udgirkar, partner, Deloitte.

“The problem is, most of the old contracts did not have electronic tolling as part of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) structure. So it’s a two-way task of encouraging both commuters and concessionaires,” Udgirkar added.

It may be noted that so far, about 30% toll is collected electronically across 400 toll plazas of NHAI. Around Delhi, for instance, more than 60% of the toll is collected through cash.

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