FASTag was introduced by the Indian government to reduce long wait times at toll booths. But even now adoption rate remains quite low, leading to the deadline getting extended again.
The Government of India has extended the deadline for mandatory FASTags on all vehicles to 15th of February 2021, from the erstwhile date of 31st December 2020. The decision has been taken as there is still a large number of commuters who are yet to switch to FASTags and still use cash as the main payment method. The government had previously declared that FASTag will be the only mode of payment for tolls starting from the start of 2021, but has to extend cash payment validity till mid-February. The number of non-FASTag users on tolls stands at around 25% currently. As cash is a legal tender, toll booths cannot refuse cash payments completely to users, stated an NHAI official.
The NHAI has made efforts to encourage people to get FASTags installed on their vehicles by turning all but one lane, on all toll booths, into FASTag lanes. People who still use cash to pay for tolls have to use a single cash lane. If one enters a FASTag lane without one, they’ll have to pay double the toll amount as a fine. Since India lags a bit behind in terms of digital payments, a lot of people have been reluctant to switch to the FASTag format. The digital toll payment method was introduced to reduce traffic congestion at all toll booths. Though it has proved to be successful, it is still not managed to hit the previously expected numbers.
Recently, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari revealed that the Indian government is working jointly with the Russian government to develop a GPS-based transaction system for the collection of tolls. This new system will automatically deduct the calculated amount from an individual’s linked bank account whenever the vehicle crosses a toll section. The new system has already been approved and is expected to be implemented within the next two years. Meanwhile, the fate of the FASTag system is still in limbo, as we are not sure if the two systems will co-exist, or FASTag will be later scrapped. It has to be noted that the majority of vehicles on Indian roads don’t come with a built-in GPS, which means implementing this new system will be a huge challenge and may take longer than expected.