Dublin Ireland gets cashless All Electronic Tolling on M50 beltway, concession ended

August 31, 2008

The Irish Times reports that the toll collectors celebrated with a bottle of Bailey's after their shift ended at midnight Friday night. They were moving on to new work - outside of the toll booth. The last cash tolls had been taken at the toll plaza just south of the West Link bridge on the M50 motorway on the western outskirts of Dublin. At the same time the toll concession with NTR plc (formerly National Toll Roads plc) was terminated.

Work is now under way to demolish the 1990 toll plaza and traffic is moving at highway speed under a pair of open road toll gantries deployed in each direction by the National Roads Authority.

For the moment "highway speed" is not always fast, according to local reports. That's because of chronic congestion at several obsolete interchanges, and roadworks. The motorway is gradually being widened from 2+2 lanes to 3+3.

This segment of the M50 handles about 100k veh/day, way too many for the early 1990s design of the road.

But queueing to toll and post-toll payment merges are no longer an issue.

Three lanes each direction of traffic are flowing freely under the toll equipment which has provision to toll 4+4 lanes of open road.

The term "barrier-free tolling" is being used for all-electronic tolling because manual and transponder toll collection alike in Ireland regularly use gates, or 'barriers' as the Irish term them.

The all-electronic toll system is designed, built and operated by BetEire Flow Ltd, a joint venture of French tollroad operator Sanef (80%) and French toll systems integrator CS (20%). It uses 5.8GHz passive CEN-278 European standard transponders and readers. The contract for providing the state of the art toll system, including eight years of operation was E113m ($166m).

They are working under contract to the state National Roads Authority which is now operating the toll business at the Liffey River crossing.

3 modes of toll collection

There are three payment modes:

- with a prepaid transponder account E2 ($3) for cars and vans (to 8 people)

- pre-registered license plate number, make of car and payment E2.50 ($3.70)

- unregistered car E3 ($4.40)

Five more classes of vehicles have higher toll rates. With a transponder account these are:

- buses E2.80 ($4.10)

- goods vehicles under 2t E2.80 ($4.10)

- trucks 2t to 10t (22k pds) E4.10 ($6)

- trucks >10t, tractors E5.10 ($7.50)

The same E50c and E1.00 premiums apply for tolls with pre-registered license plate number and unregistered vehicles for all classes.

Vehicle classification is by volumetric scanner, equipment which also serves to separate and track vehicles as they move through the toll zone underneath.

Unregistered motorists must take the initiative to pay the toll by 20:00 (8pm) of the day following the journey, or they incur a E3 ($4.50) surcharge.

If the toll is not paid within 14 days a penalty of E40 ($60) is added to the bill.

At 56 days E100 ($150) is added.

Then if the tolls and penalty is still not paid NRA will start civil legal proceedings to collect an unpaid bill.

see see http://eflow.ie/

HISTORY: The toll operation at the Westlink Bridge began in 1990 when National Toll Roads plc opened the first span of the bridge which it had financed and built under a 30 year toll concession from the County of Dublin. Administration of the concession passed to the new National Roads Authority in 1993.

The bridge is 385m (1265ft) long and 41m (135ft) above the Liffey River.

The initial bridge accommodating just 2+2 lanes became a major bottleneck by 2000. The toll plaza had an abrupt post-toll payment merge northbound onto the bridge.

Concessionaire NTR opened a second span of the bridge Sept 2003. This accommodated 3+3 lanes and a slightly less abrupt northbound merge.

But with strong growth of traffic generated by the booming Irish economy this was soon inadequate too. Northbound there were also backups down the ramps onto the mainline from the next interchange up.

Concessionaire NTR attempted to quietly negotiate an amendment to the concession to allow for a phased transition to all-electronic tolling, including new toll points on the motorway to fund reconstruction to of busy segments north and south to 3+3 lanes.

But they had moved too late. They had gained too much bad press and general ill-will from the backups at their stop-to-pay toll plaza. (NOTE TO MACQUARIE & CINTRA: You risk a rerun of this scenario at the old toll plazas on the Dulles Greenway, Virginia, Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road.)

The government's NRA seized the initiative loudly proposing the "barrier-free" cashless fix as their own idea. NRA then moved decisively to terminate the NTR concession in 2006, about halfway through its 30 year term.

An agreement was reached in which the concessionaire company was paid the present value of prospective profits on the remaining 12 years, and from midnight last Friday the Westlink toll business was taken over by the Irish government owned National Roads Authority (NRA).

NRA is normally the concessioning body and this is its first directly owned toll business.

The operation is now very political. Motorist lobbies and populist politicians are demanding the tolls be taken off since they are no longer part of any contract or related to financing of the bridge. The Irish government is resisting that for now and emphasizing the value of tolls there as a tool of "traffic management" - suggesting that propose to introduce some kind of variable toll rates or congestion pricing once the gantry-borne equipment and the payment mechanisms have settled in and proved themselves.

As for the ex-concessionaire, NTR, it operates two other toll facilities under concession - East Link a small toll bridge in central Dublin and M1 North Link, part of the partially tolled motorway up the east coast toward Belfast UK. NTR also until recently operated an interoperable electronic toll collection system under the brandname EAZY PASS. EAZY PASS the original electronic toll brand in Ireland has now been sold to eTrip owned by France-based Groupe Egis. (UPDATE 2008-09-01)

Other transponder brands issued by other toll concessionaires are MiniTag, Eirtag, PassDirect, Tolltag, and now eFlow. All are the European standard 5.8GHz CEN-278 and are interoperable.

M50 Improvements

The M50 is being 3rd laned for 32km (20 miles and some ten interchanges are being upgraded. Direct connector ramps are generally replacing a clunky third distributor level of a large roundabout with signals. Part of the work is being financed in conjunction with a toll concession for a radial motorway and general tax revenues. But revenues from the AET toll point near the Liffey bridge will help fund some of the cost of the upgrades.

So far there are no plans for additional toll points on the M50 however.

BACKGROUND: There are about a dozen toll projects in Ireland most with toll concessions. However the City of Dublin owns the toll business of the Dublin Port Tunnel that provides free truck travel from the M50 to the port but tolls cars.

System providers for the M50 all-electronic tolling are Sanef and CS.

Sanef has 1743km of tollway in northern France and collects about $1,800m (E1225m). CS a major systems company in Europe, and operates under the name Intrans in the US.

Also in Europe...

All-electronic tolling (AET) is used in several urban zonal or cordon pricing schemes in Europe, notably in Oslo and another smaller Norwegian city, Stockholm Sweden and central London.

Tolling of heavy trucks over the whole of the autobahn or motorway systems of Germany and Austria is also all-electronic.

However the extensive tollroads of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, M6 Toll in Britain, and the toll bridges of the UK, Norway and other countries still all collect cash and usually deploy gates for transponder tolling. Same for Japan.

Even the modern A86 West toll tunnelway under construction in the west of Paris is being built with stop-to-pay lane segregated toll plazas.

To our knowledge the Dublin M50 is Europe's first AET installation on a toll road or bridge.

AET is most developed in Singapore on a city cordon and now on several tollroads, 407ETR Toronto Canada, 4 tollroads in Santiago Chile, Trans Israel Highway, and a bunch of different installations in Australia and the US.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-08-31

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