Drivers still confused about new barrier-free toll system

26 Aug 2008

While the physical West-Link toll plaza is being replaced by an electronic barrier-free system as of the stroke of midnight this Friday/Saturday 30 August, there still remains confusion as some drivers do not know what it entails.

Business has been good for the month of August, eTrip general manager Ciara O’Brian says that the phones are also hopping with questions from new and potential customers.

“August will be our busiest month ever since the launch. People are registering with us and our sister company – it will be a record month for them also.

“We spend a lot of our time answering questions about what the free-flow system is going to involve, so based on that it could be the case that people are still not quite sure about it but this is an inherent part of any new system: people will have questions.

The different services with similar sounding names can also leave people slightly confused says O’Brien, but the site helps somewhat comparing different prices and payment plans.

Whilst many people are under the impression that all of this must be carried out online, O’Brien says this is not the case: a paper application can also be made.

“You can use a paper application if you wish or by ringing us at eTrip and expressing interest we can take your details over the phone, send out the tag in the post and — on receiving it — you ring us back to register.

“Tags are also sold in Tesco. After purchasing you can ring us back and give us your vehicle registration and payment details. This is just one option.

There is a lot of confusion out there surrounding the use of this system, explains O’Brien: “People think that they have to buy a tag. You don’t. Buying a tag for €30 is an option if you do not want to fill out an application form or go online.”

“eTrip is the only company that offers the option of actually buying the tag outright. If you buy a tag from us, you will only pay 50c a month thereafter whereas if you decide not to buy it you will pay €1 per month whether you use it or not.

Basically you are deciding whether you want to pay €12 or €6 per year on administration fees so when you are told that tags are free this is not true she explains. They are in fact rented for €1.

“An awful lot of people have no access to the internet, so we decide that it would be easier to give the option of buying it outright from say Tesco,” says O’Brien.

Another misconception is that the tags have to be loaded with a large amount of credit, says O’Brien: “People are afraid that they are being forced to ‘top up’ by a huge amount. We give guidelines recommending that you would put in something that would equate to an average monthly usage. So if you are not a frequent user, do not over pay.

Many people have complained that companies including eTrip are “making a fortune” from this new system when in fact they are collecting it and paying it electronically on behalf of the Government, says O’Brien.

The €1 fee in administration may be seen as a penalty, but it does give a monthly statement, 24-hour access to your account and the banking aspect is managed: “You could compare it to bank charges. The admin fee also covers lost or stolen tags, so it acts as insurance,” adds O’Brien.

By Marie Boran