Almost half of Northern Ireland drivers using the M50 motorway which circles Dublin are still refusing to pay tolls, despite the signing of a new cross-border agreement.
These drivers have escaped 2.2 million toll payments since the barrier-free tolling section of the motorway was introduced in 2008 — at a cost of up to €5m (£4.3m) to the Irish state in lost revenue.
The Republic’s National Roads Authority (NRA) said it was now contacting all drivers in Northern Ireland who had unpaid tolls to warn them that they will face fines if they do not start paying up.
M50 drivers are given three new payment options — buying a tag, opening a video account which will lead to a charge, or using a pay-as-you-go system, where the motorist must pay the toll by 8pm the following day. Anyone who passes between Junction 6 and Junction 7 has to pay.
At the Dail Public Accounts Committee, NRA executive Hugh Creegan said its focus was on getting drivers from north of the border to set up accounts. “Chasing every last toll user is an inefficient use of resources,” he said.
Mr Creegan said he believed the compliance rate among drivers from Northern Ireland was improving, with 55% agreeing to set up accounts. But they will not have to pay for tolls incurred before the cross-border agreement was put in place.
Under the agreement, drivers from the Republic will also have to pay speeding and parking fines received in Northern Ireland — fines they were previously able to avoid.
The committee heard that the barrier-free tolling system on the M50 is able to identify 99.5% of all vehicles passing through. Around three-quarters of motorists have signed up for payment accounts, with the remainder using the pay-as-you-go system.
Fianna Fail TD Darragh O'Brien said the M50 had been transformed by its upgrade.