<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For 23 days, there was relative calm and mostly smooth drives. But when toll collection resumed on December 2, frequent travellers on India’s national highways lost many precious hours in commuting. Toll roads by definition are intended to improve the highway experience, reducing travel time and ironing out hurdles that you might encounter otherwise. Of course, that doesn’t happen, say frequent highway users, highlighting the yawning gap between what should be and what actually is. So, in the 23-day period when the government suspended toll collection on national highways following the demonetization exercise, commuting time came down drastically, travellers told DNA. Commuting time from Delhi to Jaipur, for instance, went down to just three-and-a-half hours as against the usual five hours.National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) officials, who monitor toll collection, agreed. Commuting time between Varanasi and Allahabad, too, came down to two hours during the toll-free period as against the standard three hours, an official said.Similarly, the Kishangarh-Udaipur journey was reduced by one hour to three-and-a-half hours.Senior officials from the ministry of road, transport and highways said electronic modes of payment were being increasingly encouraged at toll plazas to reduce delay at toll booths and to save fuel. Toll plazas across the country have already been equipped with more than 3,800 PoS machines. The ministry is also advising vehicles manufacturers to provide radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in new vehicles in accordance with the practice in several developed countries.This is still in its infant steps though and might take some time to show results. NHAI sources say more than 90 percent of commuters prefer using cash for toll payments.More on tollsAn IIM Calcutta-Transport Corporation of India study on ‘Operational efficiency of freight transportation by road in India’ has calculated that India incurs $14.7 billion and $6.6 billion annually due to additional fuel consumption costs and transportation delays, respectively.The All India Motor Transport Congress had already requested the ministry of road, transport and highways to do away with toll collection at regular intervals on the highway since the delay leads to loss of both time and revenue, said general secretary Naveen Gupta. “We are not against paying toll. But instead of frequently stopping at toll booths to pay the amount, we have requested the government to either charge it as additional cess on fuel or collect an annual fee from us. We have also asked the government to make private vehicles free of toll cost as they contribute only 16 percent of vehicles on highways,” Gupta told DNA, citing earlier instances when increasing cess on fuel substantially brought up revenue collection.The concept of charging toll fees started in 1998 as part of the PPP model with blanket agreements stretching up to 35 years. Toll rates are revised (usually increased) annually based on the wholesale price index (WPI).Citing examples of the toll plazas linking Delhi to Noida and Gurgaon, Gupta said both often manipulate numbers. They show fewer vehicles passing through and give away duplicate slips to vehicles, encouraging corruption.