Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Monday, 1 September 2008 13:50 UK

Tolls, traffic jams and tags

By Shane Harrison
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

The M50 is one of Ireland's busiest roads

Motorists using the Westlink on the M50 near Dublin know all about traffic jams and delays.

Nearly 100,000 vehicles pay their tolls there every day causing big tail-backs.

But, the barriers have been lifted and work on dismantling the plaza has begun.

It should be finished by the end of October.

Tolls will remain though, from now in the form of electronic-tolls.

Hugh Creegan from the Republic's National Roads Authority (NRA), has this advice for Northern Ireland motorists about how to pay up.

He said: "They can purchase a tag in advance, if they wish, and there are a number of providers providing that service; they can set up a video account with the NRA's service-provider e-flow - they go online and set up a video account using their number plate; or thirdly, they can go into any of the shops or garages here in the Republic that display the Payzone symbol and pay for the journey by 8 o'clock on the day following."

Confused? Don't worry you're not alone!

It is a complex system and will take time getting used to.

So, how will it work?

Number plates

A gantry across the M50 has a line of cameras identifying number plates.

It also has another line of machines identifying those cars with pre-paid tags on their winsdscreen costing either 2 or 2.50 per journey depending on what payment option motorists choose.

And that may well depend on how often they use any of the Republic's tolled motorways.

Those who don't register will have to pay 3 per journey by 2000 BST the following night, by phone, online or at a payzone outlet.

Otherwise, they face escalating fines.

And the NRA has employed a European debt collection agency to chase the non-payers.

Conor Faughnan of the motoring organisation, the AA, describes the new system as a scandalous waste of public money and is calling for an end to all tolls.

He said: "The gross toll revenue here on the M50 is about 80m per annum in tolls - now that's a lot of money - but the gantries and the administrative system that supports them is going to cost the NRA 25m per year.

"So, every year 25m euro is going to go on the cost of maintaining this. That would buy 83 busses for Dublin Bus every year."

The National Roads Authority, which says it needs the tolls for other road building projects, is expecting teething problems with the new system.

With roadworks on the motorway on-going the NRA says it will need two years before motorists see the benefits of barrier-free tolling.

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