Long lines at Kherki Daula on day 1 of FASTag rollout, jam stretches 2 km

Sakshi Dayal

A traffic jam at the Kherki Daula toll plaza. (Express Photo)

On the first day of the FASTag becoming mandatory at toll plazas across the country, snaking traffic lines were witnessed at Gurgaon’s Kherki Daula toll plaza, with officials saying that at one point in the day, the traffic backlog extended two kilometers. Officials from Skylark, the toll operator, said hybrid lanes were reduced to just one on each side from 11 am, leaving the other 23 lanes for FASTag users.

“However, within 30-40 minutes of us enforcing the rule, traffic congestion at the plaza became unmanageable, and we had to increase the number of lanes accepting cash on each side of the plaza to two lanes,” said Rajender Bhati, Project Head at Skylark, on Wednesday.

By evening, the number of lanes accepting cash had been increased to six — three on each side. Even in these lanes, officials said, massive delays were caused as they went about extracting penalties from violators. As per the FASTag rule, each plaza is supposed to demarcate only one lane as a hybrid, while the others are meant to be for FASTag users. Commuters without FASTags are charged double the toll tax as a penalty if they drive up in these lanes.

Officials said penalties were also extracted from those who did not have enough balance on their FASTags. “Some people do not recharge their cards and don’t maintain their balance, while others have not completed their KYC because of which there are issues in using the card. People are not familiar with the system,” said Bhati.

Talking about reducing hybrid lanes in the days ahead, Bhati said, “There is no clarity. We have written to NHAI about our observations, communicating to them that the volume of traffic cannot be managed in one lane. It all depends now on the directions they give.”

Commuters at the plaza, who found themselves stuck for “20-30 minutes”, expressed disappointment with the implementation. “The point of getting FASTag was that we would be able to quickly pass through the plaza. But have seen no benefit so far,” said Dhaan Singh, a taxi driver traveling to Manesar.

The FASTag scheme was first supposed to be implemented from December 15. However, the deadline was extended to December 31 last month and later to January 15. He added that unreadable cards also caused delays, with toll operators using handheld devices to scan and allow the vehicles to pass. This, officials said, emerged as one of the major problems with the new system.