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Govt receives report on Electronic Toll Collection

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Nandan Nilekani led Experts Committee on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) has submitted its report to Road Transport & Highways Minister Kamal Nath. The committee has recommended adopting RFID technology (based on EPC, Gen-2, and ISO 18000-6C Standards) for electronic toll collection on National Highways in India.

As per the expected timelines given by the committee for implementation of ETC, the nationwide operation of the technology is likely to begin by May, 2012. The report says the technology will enable seamless travel on national highways in the entire country by providing a uniform inter-operable ETC system for paying tolls. The five-member experts committee was constituted by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways on April 20th this year to propose a suitable technology, architecture, and methods for ETC in India.
The committee has studied different ETC technologies being used world over such as Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Global Navigational satellite System/ Cellular Network systems (GNSS/CN) and Vehicle Identification System using number plates.
It has recommended adopting RFID technology which is maintenance-free and does not require a battery, and has a long life. It is simple to install (an RFID tag can be simply stuck on the windscreen of a vehicle), and the reliability of identification is high. Most importantly, the cost of the passive RFID tag for the vehicle owner is a fraction of the cost of the other alternatives. It costs about Rs100 per Tag and about Rs2 Lac per Reader as compared to other technologies which cost Rs1000 to Rs2000 for On Board Unit (OBU) and Rs 2 to 5 lakhs for the reader. RFID is the only technology (besides DSRC Passive Microwave) which has multiple suppliers. It allows tamper resistant “stickers “which are small, light, very cheap and with almost unlimited life. The technology is being used successfully in USA, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Dubai.
The Committee also recommended a prepaid system for toll collection similar to the prepaid phone cards which is people friendly. With prepaid systems, a vehicle owner can “recharge” the account for the vehicle (the account number will be the RFID tag number), and when the vehicle passes through the ETC lane of any toll plaza across the country, appropriate toll will be debited from the account. All Toll plazas on the National Highways will be equipped with systems to read the tags. Road users can buy / top up Tags at wide network of designated locations. In order to manage the financial transactions relating to toll collection (recharging, toll debiting, payment to the toll concessionaires, etc.) a Central Toll Clearing House (CTCH) has been proposed. A suitable software client will run at all toll plazas, which will be connected to the Clearing House through a WAN. Tag holders will be able to query account details through web, email and mobile phones. The RFID Tag system has additional advantages as it can be used for other applications like vehicle tracking, parking, traffic enforcement etc.
As per the expected timelines for implementation of ETC on NHs in India, the nationwide operations of the technology will begin by May, 2012. After acceptance of the Report, MoRTH will engage a suitable agency (by August, 2010) for preparation of RFP document for engaging an international Consultant (October, 2010) for implementation of ETC in India. The selected international Consultant would:
(a) Prepare ETC Blueprint covering Standards/ Guidelines, Technical specifications etc.
(b) Prepare Bid documents for procurement of ETC systems and setting up of Central Clearing House.
(c) Supervise installation / commissioning of ETC systems at Toll Plazas, setting up of Central Clearing House etc
(d) Conduct System Acceptance Testing
(e) Monitor / technical assistance for a period of 12 months during operation period.
This will be followed by the various steps for bidding, preparation of ETC Blueprint / Bid documents for procurement of Hardware / Software and setting up of CCH, award of contract for procurement of hardware / software and setting up of CCH, supply, installation / commissioning of ETC systems at toll plazas and setting up of CCH and Networking of all Toll Plazas.
The Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), a technology that allows electronic payment of highway tolls, use vehicle-to-roadside communication technologies to perform an electronic monetary transaction between a vehicle passing through a toll plaza and the toll collection agency. ETC systems can replace a human toll collector who manually collects tolls at tollbooths. Such a system can work across toll plazas run by different operators and allow transactions to be performed while vehicles travel at near highway speed enabling seamless travel by the road users along National Highways.
It is expected that the ETC system will be beneficial to users, toll operators and NHAI. It will increase user convenience (from payment without stopping at toll plazas), lead to savings on fuel and reduction of emissions from idling and repeated stops for vehicles, reduce traffic congestion and time to commute. It would mean less operating cost for toll operators, better audit control through centralized user accounts, improve transparency of toll transactions and reduces revenue leakages.

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