Clamping of vehicles in Dublin to start in May

 

Dublin motorists who park on double yellow lines or stay too long at parking meters will have their wheels clamped from May, under a tough new parking regime being introduced by the corporation's director of traffic, Mr Owen Keegan.

Wheel-clamping companies have already submitted tenders for a contract to run the service, which has proved to be a serious deterrent against illegal parking in central London, where £120 is charged to remove each clamp.

Mr Keegan said last night that the fee to have a clamp removed in Dublin is likely to be at least £65, with a graduated scale of charges based on the severity of offences. As in London, wheel-clamping in Dublin will be run on a franchise, with the operating company sharing the revenue it generates with the corporation.

The tow-away service currently operated by the Garda - costing motorists £100 to retrieve a car from the Garda pound - is also expected to be privatised.

Mr Keegan said illegally parked cars blocking traffic lanes would be towed away rather than clamped "because we're sensitive to the charge that wheel-clamping would obstruct traffic and we've also learned from the experience in the UK".

Mr Conor Faughnan of the Automobile Association said he was concerned that wheel-clamping would be applied in a draconian fashion, as in London, but after talks with Mr Keegan he was satisfied that sensitivity would be shown.

Traffic wardens, however, are to become more mobile in pursuing offenders, with "fast-response units" flooding areas on bicycles.

The corporation is also moving to eliminate all remaining free on-street car-parking spaces in and around the central business district as part of its drive to persuade motoring commuters to switch to public transport or even walk or cycle to work.

Individual parking meters on city streets, widely abused by commuters, are to be replaced by multi-bay meters and "pay-and-display" disc parking. Charges go up on March 1st from 80p to £1 an hour in the city centre, and from 60p to 80p in other areas.

Control of the warden service is to be transferred from the Garda Commissioner to Dublin Corporation. This will give the director of traffic a more hands-on role in enforcing the new regime, with the Garda focusing on moving-vehicle offences.

Mr Keegan, who often cycles to the Civic Offices on Wood Quay from his home in Stillorgan, appeared on RTE television's Prime Time last night to underline his determination to improve the rapidly deteriorating traffic situation.

He denied the measures were draconian. "I realise it's a very difficult adjustment, but we just have to face up to it," he said. "At the end of the day, commuting by car is a sunset industry and the growth areas are bicycles and public transport."