According to official Census, around two percent of India’s roads, which are national highways, facilitate more than 40 percent of inland trade via metropolitan cities. This strain, coupled with aging infrastructure, obsolete technology, and inadequate facilities, has posed several challenges to the growing economy and its motorists.
In order to combat these challenges, the Government of India initiated a cluster project for modernising the highways sector of the nation and revamping its road infrastructure, and handed over the project to its highway wing, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The cluster initiative is a mix of several subprojects, some of which include Wayside Amenities (WSA), Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), GPS tolling, and mobile application for highway commuters.
The WSA subproject is aimed at providing hygienic amenities along national highways and its toll plazas a safe halting point to commuters. The subproject further consists of three different models – Highway Nest, Highway Nest (Mini), and Highway Village. The Nest and Nest (Mini) have already been constructed at several toll complexes. The Village, which is the largest of the three models, once constructed, will house high-end facilities including helipads.
ETC, the second in the cluster, is an automated tolling system that uses RFID sensors to detect vehicles passing through the toll lane and deduct the fee. The NHAI has constructed nearly 400 dedicated ETC lanes on existing national highway Toll plazas. In order for the system to generate the invoice and collect the payment, the vehicle must have a FASTag sticker, which is an RFID-encoded sticker, affixed to its windscreen. The FASTag sticker code will have information such as vehicle number and bank account details of the owner/driver. The sensors read the code and debit the amount.
GPS tolling is another important project the government road agency is undertaking. The project, which is currently in the pilot phase, will use satellites and a centralised database to deduct toll fee. The system, if proven to be viable, will eliminate the need for infrastructure such as toll gates. The pilot project is being tested in the Delhi-Mumbai corridor.
The NHAI also rolled out a highway-utilities application called Sukhad Yatra. The application connects to the GPS and gives users all highway-related information, including the name of the highway they are on and amenities available on that strip of road. It also has a built-in portal for registering complaints against toll operations and infrastructure.
The cluster project will rebuild Indian roads to global standards. Besides these projects, the NHAI also is spearheading several other Central government projects, including Bharatmala Pariyojna, which is the 88,000-km enterprise that will connect all of India’s trade corridors and rural regions through continuous strips of advanced roads, and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway project to connect India, ASEAN member-nations, and South Asia.