(Editor's note: This story was first published on November 28, 2019, and has been updated to include the latest details.)
The National Electronic Toll Collection programme, or simply FASTag, will be implemented from February 16, 2020. All toll booths under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) across the country are now fitted with FASTag reading machines.
Earlier, one lane used to be treated as hybrid lane and the rest of the entry points were FASTag only. From Tuesday, the hybrid lane will also be done away with.
Car owners have to affix FASTag – a prepaid card just like a Sim card - on their vehicle's windscreens. While they pass through the toll booths, the toll amount will automatically be deducted from the FASTag. This will remove traffic snarls in toll collection centres.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had earlier announced that from December 1, 2019 toll payments on highways would be accepted through FASTags only. This was later extended to January 15, 2020. Several more extensions were given after that by the ministry.
Here is all you wanted to know about FASTag.
What is FASTag?
FASTag is a prepaid tag which enables automatic deduction of toll charges. A sticker affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle deducts the toll automatically from your FASTag account, using Radio Frequency Identification Technology or RFID. Much like a prepaid Sim card, FASTag can be charged online or via help desks at toll plazas. FASTag can be used in all toll booths across the country.
What are the reasons for making Fastag mandatory?
The electronic toll collection system will reduce traffic snarls at the toll booths. This will also help save fuel. "Up till March 2020, FASTag users will get a 2.5 per cent cashback," said A V Suraj, Chief Operating Officer of Guruvayoor Infrastructure Private Limited (GIPL), the company that manages the Paliyakkara Toll Plaza in Kerala's Thrissur district.
On an average, each vehicle spends around 15 to 20 seconds at a toll plaza. The FASTag system will reduce this to just three seconds. At present, up to 240 vehicles pass through a toll booth in an hour. The number will go up to 1,200 with the FASTag system becoming mandatory.
What will happen from February 16?
The government aims to make all lanes in the toll booth FASTag only.
What are the penalties for travelling without FASTag?
If a vehicle without tag enters the FASTag-only lanes, then the owner will be charged double the toll amount as a penalty. Those vehicles can resume journey only after paying the penalty. An operator will manually collect the fine and open the boom barriers.
Does this mean that manual toll collection will be stopped completely?
Not really. Vehicles without FASTag can pay toll charges either by cash or card. But will be penalised with a higher amount, even double the actual amount. It is not known how long this facility will continue.
What will happen to those who refuse to pay toll?
The officials at the toll plaza will note down the vehicle number and hand them over to the police. Due legal process will follow. All toll booths are equipped with CCTV cameras.
How many places you can use FASTag in Kerala?
FASTag can be used in four toll plazas in Kerala that come under the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). They are: 10-lane Pambampallam plaza in Walayar, Palakkad; 10-lane Ponnarimangalam plaza in Ernakulam; 12-lane Plaiyakara plaza in Thrissur and 8-lane Kumbalam plaza in Ernakulam.
How will the government benefit from FASTag?
The government is hoping to address the cash-flow issues plaguing the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The national road builder's debt has risen eight times between the fiscals 2014 and 2019 to Rs 1.8 lakh crore.
A recent market research report stated that strict implementation of FASTags, along with asset monetization and securitisation models, would ease cash flows for NHAI.
How to get FASTags?
FASTags can be bought from all toll plazas. The tags can also be bought from select branches of 22 banks, e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, and mobile wallets, such as Paytm.
New vehicles now come with RFID tags. Owners should obtain the tag credentials from the showroom - where they bought the vehicle – to recharge the tag.
Old vehicle owners have to purchase FASTags. They have to cough up an initial purchase fee. The cost of the tag vary slightly depending on which bank you are buying from and the type of the vehicle. Certain amount will be kept as security deposit in the FASTag account.
To purchase a new tag, one has to submit a copy of the registration certificate (RC), passport size photo of the vehicle owner, identity proof and address proof.
Tags are also available from Indian Highways Management Company, a subsidiary of National Highways Authority of India. Purchase fee is exempted for FASTag purchase from this company.
You can keep Rs 100 to Rs 1 lakh in your FASTag account.
How does FASTag work in different toll booths?
FASTag-fitted vehicles with sufficient balance can pass through any toll plaza and the amount will be automatically deducted from the tag account. Toll charges vary across India. In such cases, the FASTag software will automatically identify the vehicle and the amount applicable at the booth. You will receive an SMS with details of the amount deducted soon after passing the toll.
Many toll booths offer discounted rates for 24-hour to-and-fro travel. In such cases, the FASTag reader will deduct the amount accordingly.
Vehicles that are exempted from paying the toll charges also need a FASTag, but it will be registered under that category and will be allowed to go past the booths without any charges.
Where to complain about FASTag discrepancies?
If you notice that your account has been deducted more than the prescribed toll charge or you have been charged more than one, you can contact National Highway Authority of India's (NHAI) toll free number - 1033 – for assistance.
You can also contact the bank, either through the toll free number or through online portal, to register the complaint. You may also approach the help desk at the respective toll plaza.
Should people living near toll plazas need FASTags?
People living near toll plazas have not got a clear picture about this. For example, people living within 10km radius of Paliyekkara toll plaza in Thrissur are not paying toll now. Instead, they use smart card and the state government is paying the charges. Toll booths offer many such concessions for local people. But these are not integrated into the FASTag system yet.
A person living near Paliyekkara toll plaza – K S Sanoj Kumar from Nenmanikkara - has approached the Kerala High Court for getting clarity on this and to issue necessary directives to the government.
Chief Operating Officer of Guruvayoor Infrastructure Private Limited Suraj said local people can continue use the hybrid lane with the existing smart cards, but they will not be allowed to use it in FASTag-only lanes.
Are vehicle owners reacting positively to FASTag?
Reports indicate that demand for FASTag have increasing as the December 1 deadline is fast approaching. FASTag shortage has also been reported from several places outside Kerala. However, the tags are readily available in all toll plazas in Kerala.
“FASTag usage has grown by 15 per cent in October. It has been growing exponentially in the last few days and it is likely to increase further,” said Suraj on Wednesday (November 27, 2019).
But not many have opted for the FASTag way to pass through tolls yet. If the toll plaza officials keep only one lane open for vehicles without FASTag, it will lead to lengthy queues.
Should the FASTag be cancelled while selling your vehicle?
If a car fitted with FASTag is being sold to another person, the seller should first cancel the FASTag of the vehicle. The buyer, after getting the Registration Certificate changed to their name, can apply for a new FASTag with their Know Your Customer (KYC) documents. The first FASTag should be cancelled before applying for a new one. Also, the buyer will not be able to apply for a new one without cancelling the old one.
Do you still have queries related to FASTag? Leave them in our comments section.