My experience with Fastag - Electronic toll collection system

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Long back I had wrote a post about the toll booth nuisance in Indian highways. I recently got Fastag attached to my car though my drive on highways have reduced a lot. There were few reasons to do this.

It was not a simple task to get the Fastag. That itself demands a separate post. To cut the story short, I called up a number advertised in one of the toll plazas and got Fastag. The entire process took one and a half months. It should be much easier now.

After getting Fastag, I did few trips on highways passing through toll booths. Though I did not expect to zoom past the toll booths like in western countries, the experience was much below my expectations. In this post, I shall narrate few experiences.

Let me start with best case scenario, though it is no way near to the utopian dream. There will be a separate lane for Fastag and one person will be guarding the entry. He sees the Fastag on the car and allows you to enter the lane. You go slowly and near the booth a person asks you to stop and checks whether the scan happens or not. You may have to move your vehicle front or back. Finally, the gate opens and proceed. This is no way near to the “zoom and drive” but this is the best you can hope for.

A variation of above case is that the person physically comes with a scanning machine and scans the tag. If there are big vehicles like lorry, the person will have tough time.

Sometimes the person guarding the Fastag gate would have gone to drink tea/coffee or sleeping somewhere in shade. A round of honking and he will come back!! It is not fair to blame him as it is difficult for anyone to stand under scorching sun. Since the people do not have common sense to honor Fastag lane, someone needs to guard the lane.  

In few toll plazas, all vehicles are allowed to pass through Fastag lane. No priority here. It is even possible that queue at Fastag lane could be longer.

In one toll booth, I saw the Fastag lane filled with 10 vehicles whereas the lane next to it was practically empty. Just because I have Fastag does not mean that I need to suffer waiting for my turn. So, I took the empty lane. With cash in hand, I told the person at the booth that I had “Fastag”. Immediately he called the person scanning on the Fastag lane and asked to scan my tag!! I am sure that the vehicle owners on the Fastag lane would have been frustrated. 

The recently constructed toll plazas between Chitradurga and Haveri did not had special lane for Fastag. When told that I had the tag, a person came with the scanner and scanned.

The Fastag lane is also used by few low level Government officials who think they are very important and show their ids to the person in the toll booth. This usually takes a long time as the rules do not entertain free entry for these people. Finally, one of them have to relent and this eats up some time.

Once, the scanning did not work at all in Fastag lane and I was diverted to the adjacent lane. Wido, who was sitting next to me told me that he will be witnessing some “Indian jugged”!! He was not disappointed!! The person in the booth gave me the scanner to scan my vehicle as there was no one else to help him nearby!! It took some time for me to understand how to scan. Wish I had a photo of it!!

In general, all toll booths accepted Fastag and I did not pay cash in any toll plaza. In that way, my second objective was achieved. I do not think I saved significant time as I timed my travel to avoid busy times in toll plaza. But it was definitely faster than cash option. 

At couple of places, I realized that the money was not deducted at all. I am not sure whether I need to happy for that extra money or be worried about the state of affairs in this system.

But what I am really worried is about the technology or the way it is incorporated in toll plaza. Almost in all toll booths, it was not smooth and it took some time for the machine to scan the Fastag. In some cases, I had to move my vehicle to ensure that the machine worked. In few cases, it did not work at all and a person had to come with scanner. This is not a scalable solution. Considering the Fastag was introduced few years back, this is not promising. I hope it is not implemented for the sake of introduction. I do not know whether my expectations are too high in a country like India!!The good part is it is easy to recharge and you get SMS and email for all transactions.

You might be thinking whether you want to have Fastag on your car or not. I would strongly recommend you to do so for two reasons. One is that the hassle of paying cash can be avoided and the second is that it indeed saves some time. Time is money!! For new four wheelers, it is made mandatory while registering the car.

Let me know your experience.

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