ISLAMABAD    -   The National Highway Authority (NHA) will handover toll collection of its entire motorways’ network to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for the next ten years.

An accord signing ceremony in this regard is scheduled to be held today (Monday) for which the NHA executive board has already given its approval.

The tolling operation is being handed over to the FWO under clause 42/F of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules 2002 — the direct contracting with state owned entities, which was introduced by the previous government to rapid procurement in the public sector in case of emergency.

Under the agreement, the manual toll collection will be replaced with the real time M-Tag based tolling on motorways.

It is pertinent to mention here that at present, the tolling operation on motorways are in the hands of different contractors, who pay a lump sum amount to NHA annually after getting contracts through a competitive process.

The toll collection of Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway (M-1), Lahore-Abdul Hakeem Motorway (M-3), Faisalabad-Multan Motorway (M-4), Multan-Sukkur Motorway (M-5), Hakla-D I Khan Motorway (M-14) and Hazara Motorway (E-35) are in the hands of different contractors including FWO on annual net guaranteed revenue bases while Lahore-Sialkot Motorway (M-11), Karachi-Hyderabad (M-9) and Islamabad-Lahore Motorway (M-2) are exclusively under the control of the FWO under long-term concession agreements as the same were constructed on Public Private Partnership Model.

FWO is the only company, which is currently using M-tag based tolling on motorways under its control but now it intends to replicate the model on all other aforementioned motorways by converting manual toll collection with the real time M-Tag based tolling.

According to the approval given by the NHA executive board, the tolling operation would be given to FWO under section 42(F) of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Rules 2004 without open bidding and competitive process in the best interest of the public.

The total contract period would be ten years but initially it will be awarded for seven year further extendible for three years based on satisfactory performance.

FWO will do transformation from manual to electronic toll collection, provide hardware and software required for M-Tag, provide installation and recharge facility of M-Tag to the commuters.

On the other side, NHA would get written guarantee from the FWO Engineer In-Chief before giving the operations to FWO that all data of motorways will be shared with NHA on real time basis round the clock and server will be set up at the headquarters of NHA, all M-Tag revenue shall be parked into NHA Road Maintenance Account and NHA will pay share on agreed percentage of invoices.

Auditable systems having Automatic Vehicle Classification (AVC) should be installed by FWO to allow verification and authentication of revenue.

Meanwhile, NHA will also engage separate/independent services to review and verify the data on shift and daily basis. This will help in getting maximum visibility of revenue and to resolve conflicts that may arise while processing a huge quantum of transactions arising through electronic toll collection.

Earlier, NHA board in its 79th meeting last year deliberated upon the matter in detail and approved, in principle, conversion of manual toll collection to real time M-Tag based tolling on motorways

The board had constituted a committee of Inspector General of Motorway Police, Chief of the National Transport Research Centre and Member (Finance) NHA to oversee the proposal and proceed in the matter.

Senior officers of NHA at that time while talking to The Nation had appreciated the move as according to them it would help commuters to save their time while travelling on motorways but at the same time they had suggested that NHA should go for an international tender.

“There are several such international service providers such as Salik of Dubai that can be attracted with foreign investment in the country to control the tolling operation,” a former member of the road authority said.