Sunday 12 December 2010

Filipino push for interoperable electronic free flow tolling

Tito F. Hermoso in Business World Online argues that the Filipino government should put a little impetus into encouraging private concessionaires across the Philippines to established a transactions clearing house.   Why?  Because he believes the building blocks are already in place to establish a fully interoperable electronic free flow based tolling system across Filipino toll roads.

The Philippines has built an expressway network between major cities using private concessionaires with tolls, including using the European 5.8GHz standard for DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) technology.  However, whilst that means the tags that motorists acquire for different toll roads can be read at all of the roads, the key is to have the systems behind the different toll roads operators communicating behind the scenes so that payment is seamless.   What is far more important is contractual interoperability, which is good for users, but not necessarily always seen as so by concessionaires.

In short, what Mr Hermoso is rightly calling for is for motorists to have one account with one concessionaire that enables the motorist to use toll roads from other concessionaires and for the account to be deducted for those roads as well.   This is the holy grail of interoperability, an objective of many national or state/regional transport authorities in different countries, but often not achieved either for technical or contractual reasons.  

Of course there should be adequate incentives for concessionaires to do this.  It is cheaper to have such accounts, and they would encourage usage of the toll roads.   However, it does depend on the number of transactions from account holders from different concessionaires making it worthwhile to handle the accounts.  A central clearing house makes all the difference, but the precedents in the tolling world are not as common as one might think. 

What he also suggests is that barriers be removed and for electronic tolling to be free flow, which of course requires high quality ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems, but more importantly clear number plates and an accurate motor vehicle licence plate registry.   I can't say that I am sure the Philippines is ready for that yet, but the aspiration is certainly laudable as one of the big negatives of tolling is the use of manual toll booths which can contribute to congested. 

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