Ray Massey reports on the This is Money website that nearly 19,000 foreign drivers failed to pay ANPR generated fines for none payment of the Dartford River Crossing toll in December 2014.
Toll booths were removed in November 2014 with payment required by internet, phone or account. Vehicles using the crossing are identified by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system and fines are issued if the £2.50 toll is not paid by midnight the following day.
The 19,000 foreign drivers are amongst 130,306 road users sent penalty charge notices in December 2013 of which 73,898 had been settled by the end February. As many as one in seven drivers using the Dartford River Crossing failed to pay in the schemes first month, which was double the expected non-payment rate of one in 14.
Comment from Newsblog Editor:
It is worth considering the financial model being employed on the crossing as it excellently demonstrates why ANPR enforcement has become so popular.
According to the article 130,306 drivers failed to pay the £2.50 charge resulting in a loss of £325,765. However, 73,898 penalties had been paid and assuming this was the £35 reduced charge for payment within 14 days, then income generated will be £2,586,430. The crossing charge also has to be paid as well as the fine which adds another £184,745. So the total revenue generated will be £2,771,175, or around 19 and half times the financial loss from the outstanding toll non-payment of £141,020. When the financial savings from not having to operate and man toll booths is included it can be seen that it is a complete no brainer to not use revenue generating ANPR in place of toll booths, even taking into account losses from toll non-payment.
ANPR enforcement is increasingly common for parking offences and of course speeding via speed cameras; however, it is not unusual for these systems to have significant fine non-payments rates, which can often be in the region of 30-40%. But in practice even with much higher non-payment rates such systems will still be extremely lucrative with income far exceeding losses.
In the article reference is made to calling in the European debt recovery agency although in reality this will not be anything but a token gesture. It makes no financial sense to purse non-payers on any large-scale, as the costs will run into hundreds of pounds per case offsetting the benefits of using ANPR and making it more cost-effective to use manned toll booths so the toll could not be evaded. The societal downside to not pursuing fine evaders is of course that a section of society is able to evade payment for services and stick two-fingers up at the law. However, this is probably something that does not cross the minds of policy makers when looking at the income generated by ANPR enforcement!