Northern Ireland motorists who dodge toll charges and parking fines in the Republic will be tracked across the border and forced to pay up as part of a new pilot project.
The cross-border information exchange agreement, which will run until November, will also apply to Southern registered drivers who park illegally in Northern Ireland.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Department for Transport Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea, which has overall responsibility for vehicle licensing in Northern Ireland, the Department of Transport in Dublin (DoT), DRD Roads Service and the Department of Transport and will allow details of drivers who ignore parking penalties or toll charges to be shared between the two jurisdictions.
Since 2006 the percentage of Southern registered drivers who avoid paying their penalties in Northern Ireland has remained constant at about 71% — equating to a loss of approximately £1.7m.
According to statistics from the Transport Department in Dublin, around 1,800 (3%) of the vehicles using the M50 barrier-free tolling on a daily basis are classed as “non-Irish”. The majority of those vehicles are believed to come from Northern Ireland and last year set the Irish Treasury back €1.3m.
Information on motor tax and abandoned vehicles is already shared between authorities on both sides of the border and it is hoped this new exchange scheme will make it easier to pursue offenders through the courts.
Roads Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed the new development: “It is important that all road users adhere to parking and traffic restrictions,” he said.
“Parking control is an essential part of traffic management and road safety wherever you live on this island and this new measure will strengthen enforcement.
“Illegal parking leads to congested roads, blocked accesses and frustrated drivers. I would urge drivers to park properly and have a thought for other motorists and pedestrians.”
In Dublin, Minster for the Department of Transport Noel Dempsey described the project as an “important step” towards improving road safety.
He said: “It is an indication of the close levels of co-operation on this project between our colleagues in the Department for Transport DVLA and authorities in the North.”