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Toll Road Systems in India, Can Electronic Toll collection with #giveitup fix it

  • Toll Road Systems in India, Can Electronic Toll collection with #giveitup fix it
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Tales of daily or long weekend travel and wait time on the  expensive(Rs. 50-300 ) Tolls of Indian roads are well known and are from first hand experience. At the onset before readers think its a "Toll Hatao" rhetoric, we acknowledge the need  to fund our infrastructure and keep building high quality roads. Roads also need some kind of access control and way to quantify and plan around the traffic.

 Our taxation systems are stretched to limit, population is huge so are the vehicles on the roads.  Tolls are going to be the part of  reality across the length and breadth of this country, the real problem is can we manage them properly so best of the society's interests and sustainability goals can be achieved.

Tolled roads are relatively maintained  better than a un-tolled Indian road (Apart from Lutyens Delhi or similar areas - The researcher covered in Indian roads maintenance and sustainability). But below are the issues in current Tolling system.

1. No transparency- How much was spent to build and operate it, and how much Citizens using the facility actually owe and the accounting behind that.  Many of the toll operator consortium are public listed companies and a quick look at their balance sheet tells there is a huge profit already made . This opens huge  rent seeking opportunity.

2. Rent Seeking Opportunities like above opens up incentives for cartelization and corruption. It might provide incentive for consortium of operators to block new road construction by various means which may compete with the gravy boat of tolls. 

3.  Tolls in India are a huge source of vehicular idling. Thousand of vehicles waiting hours to get pass is a common site due to inefficient toll collection mechanism. Vehicular idling is a monster source of fuel wastage and related pollution as per numerous researches.  E.g. one research in Indore concluded 1000L petrol, 660L Diesel, 480 Kg CNG wasted and 2020,000 kg of CO2 added to City's atmosphere due to idle vehicles. In a hotter country like India, waiting on toll with this pollution it makes sense to run AC.

4. Any New law or variable toll or tax collection at the toll plazas is not feasible due to various reasons like safety of booth operator, confusion, more time needed to process etc. E.g. NGT and supreme court ruling to levy Green Tax at Delhi border. It would be interesting to see the actual implementation on the ground with conflicting interests of private contractor, civic bodies, Truck drivers at night, law and order agencies etc. You know the situation of tolls at night, law implementation is the weakest link in our country.

Now what can be done about this and how the #GiveItUp campaign can help. Here are the broad strokes. 

1. Empower NHAI and NRC to publish standard Toll road build and operate standards along with cost sheet updated yearly.

2. Keep manned toll plazas at minimal and replace them with overhead electronic toll collection system  (like express lanes in developed world), and put it in standards.
ales of daily or long weekend travel and wait time on the  expensive(Rs. 50-300 ) Tolls of Indian r

2. Fit vehicles off factory with the toll sensors, retrofit existing vehicles similar to "Pollution Under Control" setup in India.  Funding can be part CSR funds,  part UN funds  under Sustainability goals,(we are going to @COP22 soon), campaigns like #giveitup and innovative incentives and nudges (we will discuss these specific to areas).  Also some part borne by public, since we are giving them full transparency.

3. As soon as the existing tolls of today are in profit, Government should raise voluntary #GiveItUp campaign for the operator consortium to lower the toll rates only related to maintenance.
preference to be provided for such toll operators in other nation building projects to make economic sense and keep building than rent seeking.

4. The Nodal agency (NHAI, NRC) should have the accounting and standards ready for public review and should work as a gatekeeper and regulators between citizens and operators.

5. Try using Government/Local Bodies/Infra Bonds to fund these projects, so the profit coming out of these ventures goes back to public. Regulatory agency can use open auctions (not on price but who can comply with standards most efficiently)

This will not only help the traffic moving fast, people reaching vacation destination, home, offices, using the idle time for productive work, cut pollution,  reduce fuel wastage drastically, along with enabling automated enforcement of variable rates. 

People will argue about leakages or if someone goes without paying tolls etc, well lets give people transparency, good roads, clean air and a strong regulatory body to bring back trust. We will respond in kind. The same way we responded to #GiveItUp.

As part of this Action Group we aim to evaluate the tolls across India for their accounting, pollution and carbon footprint they are adding to, and then make a case to build an electronic tolling system like above and reduce the toll rates gradually to make them free eventually so everyone has incentives. The overhead infra would still be needed to capture traffic data to manage the flow and capacity building for future.

What you can do?

Do you pass through a toll and are troubled by the management around it?
Do you want to make a difference and are ready to research around a toll? 

Are my efforts funded and supported?

Yes, but we would need to know a bit more about you and the approach. Get in touch with one of our coordinators at to bring sanity to the toll systems in India.

BallotBoxIndia Team

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