How M-Flow was designed to ease congestion
Explainer: New system promises to speed up trips
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has a plan for the Department of Highways (DOH) and the Expressway Authority of Thailand (Exat) to improve its services using digital platforms. In November 2020, the ministry announced the implementation of a digitised toll-gate payment, known as M-Flow.
The aim is to solve traffic congestion around the toll gates and to remove all toll-gate barriers by 2024.
To make sure the project is successful, the ministry launched a one-month pilot test of a new payment system, from Oct 29-Nov 28 last year. The system had 20,609 members who joined the trial phase. The DOH did not charge for the service and it reported smooth operations. On Feb 15, the DOH officially launched the M-Flow service.
What is M-Flow?
According to the DOH, M-Flow is an automatic free-flow system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) technologies including video-toll cameras. The department claims that the system can match vehicle licence plates with their owners with 99% accuracy, allowing drivers to drive their vehicles past the toll gates without slowing down and at a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour.
The M-Flow system can handle 2,000-2,500 vehicles per hour per lane. The DOH expects traffic flow around toll gates will be five times better than under the present cash payment system.
What are the differences between M-Flow and Exat's Easy Pass or the DOH's M-Pass?
M-Flow is a post-paid system while the other two are pre-paid. M-Flow can support the use of all types of vehicles while the others support only four-wheeled vehicles. Members of Easy Pass and M-Pass must attach an Easy Pass or M-Pass tag on the top of their vehicle windscreen whereas M-Flow does not require any tag.
M-Flow supports various types of payment methods including credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts which users can set up if they want to pay on every 1st or 16th day of the month. They can also choose to pay each time they use it. The new system, however, does not support new vehicles with red or faded licence plates.
Where can motorists use the M-Flow service?
The M-Flow payment is available on Motorway 9 (Bang Pa-In-Bang Phli) at the gates of Thap Chang 1, 2 and Thanyaburi 1 and 2. Exat will also integrate M-Flow into its payment method. In the future, M-Flow will be implemented at the toll gates of expressways and other motorways.
How many members does the system have so far?
As of yesterday, 100,707 people/companies had registered for the service. The total number of vehicles registered is 110,341.
How many vehicles use M-Flow per day?
Since the system was introduced on Feb 15, an average of 60,000 vehicles used M-Flow per day.
What happens to vehicles that use M-Flow channels but are not members?
Motorists must watch out for the M-Flow signboard and painted surface of the M-Flow lane, which will be designated with blue and red colours. The M-Flow lane is also on the right side. Those who do not register for the service can use the M-Flow lane but they need to pay the service fee within two days of passing the tollgates -- otherwise they will be fined 10 times the original fee.
The fine will increase further if they don't pay it within 12 days. The fines include the original toll fee, a fine equivalent to 10x the toll fee, another 200-baht fine by the DoH, and potentially another fine of up to 5,000 baht for violating the traffic law.
So far about 20,000 vehicle owners have already paid the fine, according to the DOH. But the hefty fines have led to widespread complaints. The Transport Ministry announced yesterday it will waive the 10x fine until the end of March and return the money to motorists who have already paid it. To get the money back, users can fill out the e-form at https://mflowthai.com/mflow/dispute.
How to apply for the service?
Visit www.mflowthai.com which supports Thai and English. Alternatively, download the MFlowThai app via the Apple Store or Google Play Store or apply via the Line official account @mflowthai. For more details, contact the HOD's call centre at 1586.