The government on Wednesday temporarily suspended toll collection on national highways to ease emergency services in view of the coronavirus outbreak. "In view of COVID-19, it has been ordered to temporarily suspend the collection of toll at all toll plazas across India," Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced. This will not only reduce inconvenience to emergency services but also save critical time, he said. The minister said maintenance of roads and availability of emergency resources at toll plazas will continue as usual.
Earlier, the road transport and highways ministry had advised the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to follow the home ministry's guidelines about toll plaza operations following the lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The prevailing condition may be treated as "Force Majeure" of concession or contract agreement in terms of the finance ministry, the road transport and highways said. The NHAI had rolled out the electronic toll collection programme across India in December on its over 500 toll plazas while doubling toll charges from the vehicles entering FASTag lanes without the tag.
In order to give prime importance to existing FASTag users, dissuade defaulters and further encourage adoption of FASTags by national highway commuters, vehicles without FASTags entering the FASTag lane were being charged double the toll fee and last month over Rs 20 crore were collected from 20 lakh vehicles encroaching FASTag lanes across India.
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About two crore FASTags have been issued through multiple Point of Sale (PoS) locations. FASTag transaction by the NHAI last month had crossed four million per day. In order to further increase digital collection of user fee via FASTag at national highways fee plazas, NHAI had also waived off the FASTag cost of Rs 100 for NHAI FASTag.