NICE road commuters fume over lack of FASTag

NICE road commuters in long queue fume over lack of FASTag

More than 10 lakh commuters take NICE Road every day

About eight years after the introduction of FASTag, the electronic toll collection is yet to come to NICE Road, forcing thousands of commuters to wait in a long queue at the toll booths and engage in cash transactions during the pandemic.

More than 10 lakh commuters take NICE Road every day. The peak hours see long lines of vehicles waiting at the toll plaza where a collection of the toll by cash is leading to delays. Many commuters have repeatedly urged the authorities to introduce FASTag to put an end to unnecessary delays.

However, the legal dispute between the state government and the authorities of the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) Limited is said to have delayed the implementation of the radio-frequency based toll payment system.

Sources said that NICE has spent about Rs 38 crore for installing the physical infrastructure and procured the equipment as well as the software required to introduce FASTag on the 51-km long road. 

"All the systems are in place. They were installed more than a year ago. However, since it is a private road, NICE requires an endorsement from the state government to begin collecting toll through FASTag," the source said.

A spokesperson for NICE confirmed the issue and said, "We have requested for endorsement from the PWD which, unfortunately, is pending with the department.”

The Indian Highway Management Company Limited (IHCML), which implements and monitors FASTag, will provide a link to the electronic gateway of NICE after getting a letter from the Public Works Department (PWD), the government’s nodal agency in the matter, stating that the NICE road is a state project.

Sources said the PWD was reluctant to provide an endorsement as it fears that such a letter would in effect also endorse the toll collection. Over the last few years, the state governments under different regimes have tried to regulate the toll fee unsuccessfully. As the matter is pending in the court, officials do not want to "score a self goal" by endorsing the road and its toll.

Meanwhile, the NICE has written to the government to provide a limited endorsement where the PWD can stress in the letter that it was not supporting the toll fee or any other matter pending in the court. 

An official told DH that the trust gap could be fixed in an amicable way but the decision has to be taken at the level of chief secretary. "The PWD is only a facilitating nodal agency. All decisions are taken by the chief secretary,” he said.