M50 toll problems overstated, says NRA

Thu, Oct 2, 2008, 01:00

THE NATIONAL Roads Authority (NRA) has said that the number of problems it is encountering with barrier-free tolling on Dublin's M50 has been overstated.

Publishing a review of the first month of operation of the new system yesterday, the authority said its scanning system was accurate in 99.8 per cent of cases, leaving errors in just 200 cases a day.

While it acknowledged that a further 1,000 tags a day were not being picked up by the scanners in the first weeks of barrier-free tolling, a spokesman said this was largely attributable to error on the part of motorists. The combined figure of 1,200 vehicles a day, which amounts to 8,400 vehicles a week, is significantly less than the ongoing figure of 10,000 vehicles a day put forward by Department of Transport sources on Tuesday.

But at the launch of a review of the system's first month of operation yesterday, the authority acknowledged additional problems which it refused to quantify in relation to a significant number of "back office" functions.

These included:

• an unquantified number of failures in recognising payments made by Laser;

• an unquantified number of failures in relation to recognising electronic payment methods in shops;

• sending an unquantified number of demands for €40 fines before the deadline for the fine to rise to that level;

• delays in the interoperability of tags between the M50 and other tolls, particularly the M1 and M4, which caused an unquantified number of tags to fail at the latter locations;

• 200-300 calls a day being abandoned by the helpline call centre, in the first weeks of the system "to prevent callers having to hang on too long".

Also unquantified was the number of vehicles whose owners had claimed not to have been on the M50 at the time of the toll.

However Hugh Cregan, the authority's head of strategic planning, said investigations in "about 1,000" cases had shown the vehicles to have been on the road. Significantly, the authority said about one-third of all daily pay-as- you-go customers had not paid by 8pm on the day following travel, as required. Some 3,000 of these related to out-of-state registered vehicles.

Of the remaining 10,000 vehicles a day, 5,000 a day had not opted to pay within the 14-day period. Mr Cregan said levels of service were improving and the authority expected to see "resolution of initial start-up issues".

The number of problems has been criticised by the AA whose spokesman Conor Faughnan said: "Frankly, it's a mess. We were told to expect teething problems, but this is unacceptable and will have to be resolved soon. Motorists do not deserve this. The mess is not of their making and they should not be expected to be the ones to resolve it."

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter also criticised the tolling arrangements, saying: "Action needs to be taken to fix this problem which is causing confusion, annoyance and inconvenience to substantial numbers of commuters."