Headline : FASTags explained: What, why, how
- From December 1, lanes on national highway toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag without human intervention.
- All new vehicles bought over the last few years, in fact, already come with FASTag pre-installed.
- However, one hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.
- Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.
How did the idea come about?
- The idea was a brainchild of Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, the idea picked up after the Prime Minister’s call for a Digital India.
- The government has been trying to make FASTag popular for years, but it was not really picking up.
- Hence, it has now decided that the only way to bring vehicle owners on board was by making FASTag mandatory for toll payment.
How does FASTag work?
- The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it. RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
- A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required. It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
- If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
- If it is linked to a savings account, then money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
- Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that sense, it acts like a prepaid e-wallet.
Where are FASTags sold?
- They are available at 27,000 points of sale set up by 22 banks and the NHAI.
- Places where NHAI counters are set up include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
- Further, e-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM also sell these tags issued by various banks.
Is it working smoothly?
- The technology is showing what officials call teething troubles. Users have complained that the tag-reader is often not able to read the tag; also, the SMS alert is often coming late.
- However, the Ministry is actively identifying and working to resolve them.
Status of State highways
- Under a new One Nation One FASTag scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
- Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.
- Further, the Centre has told state governments to turn all their cash toll points on state highways into electronic toll collection points. The Centre will help the State governments in the said conversion, free of charge.
Benefits of FASTags:
- The initiative will remove bottlenecks and ensure seamless movement of traffic and efficient collection of user fee.
- It is likely to reduce the nation’s GDP loss by bringing down loss of fuel while waiting at toll plazas along with controlling pollution
- India could save up to Rs 12,000 crore every year in terms of fuel and man-hours with the switch to 100% FASTag-based toll collection on national highways (NH).
- A startup launched by two IIT-Kanpur alumni estimates 35% of the Rs 12,000-crore loss is on account of wasted fuel, while 54-55% is on account of wasted man-hours. Carbon emissions make up the rest of the lost value.