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FASTag glitches threaten to dampen Pongal cheer
Come Jan 15, NHAI will stop accepting toll in cash, other than for one lane each on either side of NH
On January 15, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will reduce the number of lanes at toll plazas where the fee can be paid in cash. However, recalling the harrowing time they had to go through because the equipment at toll plazas were not functioning properly, many in Tamil Nadu fear this could be recipe for disaster during Pongal festival when thousands head to their native places.
According to a senior NHAI official, from January 15, only 96 of the 482 toll lanes in 48 toll plazas in Tamil Nadu will function as hybrid lane to accept cash-based payment. “Others will be exclusive for vehicles with FASTag. As on date, we are keeping multiple hybrid lanes, depending on the traffic at the toll plazas, to ensure a free flow of traffic,” said the official.
Many motorists, like Arvind Kumar from Chennai, expressed concern that this would only make it difficult for the motorists like him, especially as it is coming during Pongal, one of the biggest festivals in Tamil Nadu.
When Arvind took his family for a temple visit to Tiruvannamalai last week, they were forced to spend nearly 30 minutes at a toll plaza after the city because the reader was unable to scan the FASTag on the vehicles. The experience was similar when they returned, and they were then redirected to the already crowded cash lane.
Many users have also complained about facing other glitches. S Sugumar, a techie working in the city, said on the New Year day, he had visited a friend at Guduvanchery via Chennai bypass from his residence in Ambattur. “I paid through FASTag when I crossed the Vanagaram toll plaza near Porur to Guduvanchery. But while returning, the staff at the toll plaza said my FASTag was blacklisted and I should pay cash. Even after showing the PAYTM wallet balance, he insisted on cash and collected the full single trip user fee rather than the round trip charge. Once I reached home, I found a message in my inbox saying Rs 40 has been deducted from my FASTag account,” he said.
Another motorist who did not wish to be named, said with FASTag, there is no way of immediately knowing about the exact amount being deducted. “One receives a text message or an email about the deduction much later. By then the person would have already travelled several kilometres. In case the area has a poor network, then the messages do not go through at all. Commuters have been asking the NHAI officials to take corrective steps,” he said.
NHAI officials agreed there were issues over the reading of the FASTag at the toll plaza end. “If the FASTag is not affixed at the appropriate place on the windshield, there is trouble in automatically reading the tag. Then an attempt will be made to read the tag with the help of a handheld tag reader. There is also a chance of the tag reader recognising the vehicle at some point while passing through the lane and deducting the charge once again,” said the official. He said aggrieved customers have been asked to approach the bank with whom they have signed up for refund.
However, despite the glitches, NHAI officials said there was a steady rise in the number of vehicles that have switched over to FASTag payment. “In November, the proportion of the vehicles that used the FASTag-based payment at the toll lanes in the State was 28 per cent. Now it has touched 46 per cent. In case of collection, the FASTag-based transactions, that accounted for 38 per cent in November last year, has touched 55 per cent in January this year,” said an official.
Of the 4.03 lakh vehicles that passed through toll plazas in the State on November 20, 1.15 lakh vehicles used the FASTag-based payment. Compared to this, of the 4.78 lakh vehicles that used the toll plazas on January 5, 2.2 lakh had the FASTag.
The official said with the availability of the FASTag improving, more vehicles are expected in the coming months to switch over to the electronic-based toll payment. Since December 15, the toll plazas have declared a minimum of two toll lanes as ‘hybrid’ to accept cash payments after the Centre relaxed its rules for the rollout of the mandatory FASTag mechanism by a month. Initially, in a move aimed at reducing bottlenecks at national highways, the Centre had mandated that all lanes of national highways toll plazas be declared as FASTag lanes by December 15. But it was postponed and only partially implemented to provide more time to motorists to fix the tag to their vehicles.
What is FASTag?
FASTag is an e-tool that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from the prepaid account linked to it
How does it help?
Once affixed on the windscreen of your vehicle, FASTag enables you to drive through toll plazas without stopping for any cash payment
What is its validity?
FASTag has unlimited validity. The same FASTag can be used till the tag is read by the reader and not tampered with. In case of wear and tear, one can get it replaced free
How can it be recharged?
You can recharge your FASTag account by making payment through cheque or online through Credit Card/ Debit Card/ NEFT/ RTGS or through Net Banking
- Ease of toll payment at toll plazas
- No need to carry cash/change for toll
- Saves on your precious time
- Near non-stop movement at toll
- You can save on your fuel cost too
- Complaints galore on non-performance
- Many had to make double payment
- FASTag fails to read at crucial times