The government of Ghana deploys human manned toll system as one of the means of funding the Ghana road fund. It is estimated that Ghana has about 35 toll booths nationwide and collects approximately 1 million Ghana Cedis daily. These toll booths are mandated to collect tolls from all vehicles including motorbikes with the exception of the security services, and other exempted vehicles. The toll system since its introduction has been seen as a good source of revenue but on the other hand, a major contributor to road traffic holdup. Residents who reside in Kasoa, Tema, Dodowa and other parts of the country where toll booths are installed would attest to this fact. How smooth and hold-up free would it be to drive from Accra to Kasoa without stopping to pay for a road toll but rather pay electronically at your convenience?
As a smart city enthusiast and a believer of using modern technology to solve teething problems, I suggest it is high time Ghana took the bold step in scrapping the physical and manually operated toll system and implement the electronic toll system. Ghana would not be the first country on the continent to implement Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system. Ghana would gracefully join South Africa and Rwanda as the only African countries to deploy ETC. On the global front, there are several countries who have deployed ETC. From Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australia, many countries have deployed ETC and benefiting from the fruits of technology. ETC is seen by many as part of a wider Intelligent Transport System (ITS) which includes the much talked about vehicle to everything (V2X).
This article is inspired by Persad et al.’s article titled “Toll Collection Technology and Best Practices” and my own personal experience driving through ETC in Europe and using the man-manned toll booths on the Accra-Kasoa N1 Highway. The main aim of every toll system is to maximize revenue collection for the repairs of roads and support other governmental projects. The current human manned toll system is the least efficient and a major contributor to road hold-ups. It also serves as a hot spot for theft. There are countless reports of armed robbers robbing the Tema Motorway toll booths of several thousands of Cedis, not to mention the fake receipts road users receive from toll operators.
Fig: Electronic vehicle recognition by transponder
Any ETC system would have an outdoor unit and an indoor system or central management unit. The outdoor units, depending on the purpose, would comprise of cameras, lasers, transmission medium, servers and sensors. The outdoor units are expected to capture number plates, On Board Units (OBU) and size or type of vehicles and transmit them to the central management unit or Toll Management Office. In the Toll Management Office, there is a database of all vehicles in the country and their addresses, both physical and post office. The outdoor does the identification and the indoor does the charging. An electronic or paper invoice is sent to the physical or Post office boxes every month for payment. Transit vehicles carting items from the harbors to neighboring countries can be provided with temporal OBU’s and they will be made to pay for their toll charges at the exit points of the country. Also, vehicles coming in from other countries such as Nigeria, Togo, etc, for short to long term visits can be enrolled into the Toll management database at the point of entry.
Fig: ETC System architecture
Fig: Touch & Go and ETC system
Elimination of printing of ticket and staffs manning toll booths
With the introduction of ETC systems, the printing of toll ticket would be eliminated. Staffs manning these toll booths would also not be needed anymore but rather can be redeployed to other sectors of the economy. The cost associated with printing ticket, the cost associated with payment of wages and salaries of the staffs, the cost associated with renovation of the toll booths would all be a thing of the past. The dangers of having a vehicle ramp into toll booths and endangering the lives of those who operate these manual toll booths would be eliminated.
Fig: Sample ETC outdoor unit in Norway.
In the upcoming editions of this article, I will be discussing the expected resistance to the introduction of ETC that would be met by the authorities and agencies assigned to operate and maintain the ETC system. Additionally, the introduction of ETC will be an avenue to strengthen Ghana’s addressing system and the national ID system. The next article will end with the payment avenues that can be used for ETC payment. These topics will be expanded briefly for the benefit of policy makers and readers. At the end of the entire series, the need for Electronic Toll Collection system for Ghana would be made very clear and the earlier we embrace it the better.
Author: Samuel Hanson Hagan
(Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana; Telecommunication Consultant).