Benefits of ETC
Understanding Electronic Toll Collection
Conceptually, ETC works by determining whether the vehicles passing through toll collection points are enrolled in the program, alerts enforcers for those that are not, and electronically debits the accounts of registered vehicles without requiring them to stop.
When the vehicle enrolls with an ETC program an On-Board Unit, which contains information about that particular vehicle, is mounted on the vehicle. The Road-Side Units at toll collection points communicate with On-Board Units to extract vehicle information, which is then further used to process toll transactions.
In India, tolling on National Highways started in a big way with the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) launched by the Government in the year 2000. As on date, nearly 220 Toll Plazas are operational on National Highways and more sections are being added at regular intervals. Apart from National Highways, many State Highways and other road projects are developed and operated as toll roads.
Currently, the toll operations in India are mainly manual whereby the receipt and collection of money is done manually and the toll receipts are issued with the help of computers.
Tolling has come to be associated with delays at collection points and congestion at toll plazas mostly due to efficiency constraints associated with manual method of toll collection in practice. The delays negatively impact the operational efficiency of the improved road network and thus neutralize the benefits of the improvement of highway infrastructure.
To overcome these challenges, Government of India has therefore decided to introduce Electronic Toll Collection in India, and thus IHMCL was incorporated to execute this ambitious project.
In a country like India where road stretches are operated and tolled by multiple agencies and authorities, imagine a scenario where different toll collection agencies adopt independent standards and technologies for ETC, and is not linked to ETC programs run by other toll collection agencies. Then a vehicle enrolling with ETC program of one toll operator would not be able to access ETC services offered by other toll operators through same ETC account, that is to say ETC lacks interoperability.In absence of interoperable ETC, the road user will have to register with multiple ETC programs and also have to spend for multiple On-Board Units.
Interoperable ETC offers the convenience of electronically paying toll at any toll collection point through a single ETC account and a single On-Board Unit. Thus interoperable ETC calls for (a) adopting similar technologies and standards for ETC so that same On-Board Unit is acceptable at all toll collection points, and (b) a mechanism for debiting appropriate toll fee from the account of registered vehicle and crediting the same to respective toll collection agency.
The governments and toll collection agencies world over are strugglingto achieve interoperable ETC. Fortunately, in India there are no legacy systems unlike other developed countries and presently ETC is operational at very few toll plazas in stand-alone mode. This provides a distinct advantage in selecting a simple and robust ETC technology which is scalable, reliable, inexpensive to the road users and inter-operable across the country.
IHMCL Electronic Toll Collection Program
ETC Program further aims to serve as open platform for development of services like congestion or cordon pricing, collection of parking fees, automated collection of fines/challans by police authorities, payment of road tax and other duties and plethora of other services.
Nation-wide interoperable ETC program entails setting up of Central Clearing House (CCH) for clearing and settlement of toll transactions, and installation of ETC systems at the toll plazas.
For convenience of road users, Point of Saleswould be established at convenient locations like toll plazas, fuel stations, vehicle service stations etc. throughout the country. The road user can approach a Point of Salesterminal and register for the ETC Program. On the successful completion of a registration process a RFID tag, that uniquely identifies the vehicle, will be issued and affixed on the windshield the vehicles. The vehicle then would be able to electronically pay toll fess at all the dedicated ETC lanes without stopping at toll plazas.
The ETC services will be available to road users as prepaid service, and the ETC accounts can be recharged using various payment options available at Point of Sales or through online portal.
The project owners enrolling with IHMCL’s nation-wide ETC program will have to set up dedicated ETC lanes at their toll plaza, which would be integrated with the CCH.
When a vehicle approaches ETC lane, the plaza ETC systems will check whether the vehicle is mounted with valid RFID tag registered with ETC program and has positive account balance. ETC transaction files are generated for vehicles with valid tag and positive account balance and the vehicle would be allowed to pass. Other vehicles entering ETC lanes would be guided out via ejection lane mechanism to adjacent manual cash lanes, where they would be allowed to pass after paying toll fee and a penalty.
The ETC transaction files generated at toll plazas are sent to CCH for debiting appropriate toll fee from the account of registered vehicle and crediting the same to respective toll collection agency. The road users will also get SMS alert for each ETC transaction.