I am sure you are familiar with the phrase: Having your cake and eat it. It is used when any person in a situation of choosing would like to have both options simultaneously, even though only one of them is available. Well, as Ned Kelly put it so nicely a long time ago: Such is life. You cannot have it all and must make your choice or decision.
Except if you are the private company that runs the tolling system on the M 50 motorway around Dublin. Then you seem to have 'the right' to collect money from anyone using that road, without setting up collection stations any longer.
Yes, fellow victims of corporate extortion and legalised highway robbery, as hard as it is to believe, since yesterday midnight the toll plaza (pictured left) one had to feed with coins every time one passed it, stands now empty and has apparently no longer any purpose in the toll-road system.
Motorists are now controlled - or some might say spied on - with a system of video cameras and high-tech electronic. Even though the barriers have disappeared, the company expects to make even more money with 'barrier-free tolling', also known by the snappy name eFlow.
In order to be properly milked by the toll-road company that still wants to take our money, even though the government has bought out the contract, one is expected to register on the website of eFlow, which means of course giving a lot of very sensitive personal data to some faceless and in a way even nameless private company whose security level, qualifications and ethical standards we do not know.
Neither do we have any control or influence over it. Motorists are given the choice of carrying a permanent 'tag', which means that someone somewhere - without a name or face - can know any position of any participating car at any given time. Big Brother says Hello!
Alternatively one can 'open an account' (the 'Terms & Conditions' of which run to 28 paragraphs, all with many sub-paragraphs, which of course each motorist will read and understand to the very last t...) with them online and pay each time one's number plate is registered on the M 50 by their spy cameras. In order to comply with their rules one can pay in advance - in case one does know beforehand that one is traveling in the area and using the toll road - or afterwards. In the latter case one has one day to pay, as one "must pay by 8 pm on the following day". Must... well, one does wonder what the actual legal situation is.
What about tourists, as well as cars, buses and lorries from foreign countries? If they decide not to pay, how will eFlow get money from them? And how would foreigners know about this very odd system, not used anywhere else, in the first place? I have the strong feeling that we have been - once again - led up a very long garden path by people who grow rich and fat on the money earned by everyone else. And now they are not even prepared to make the slightest effort to get it from us any longer. Now Irish turkeys are supposed to vote happily for Christmas.
In case someone does not pay his € 3 (for once passing a 'toll point') within that set period, there will be a 'penalty' of € 3 extra. "If you fail to pay the toll and this € 3 penalty within the next 14 days, a further penalty of € 40 will be levied." So says the eFlow website. But it gets better. "Failure to pay the full amount due within a further 56 days will result in an additional € 100 penalty. Then, if you still have not paid the total amount due, legal proceedings will be initiated."
Which means that at some stage someone might end up in prison, simply because the toll-road company is too mean to pay any longer the wages of the people who operated the toll plaza in the past. What kind of Mickey-Mouse-State and Banana Republic do we actually live in? And why do we have toll roads in the first place? Don't we pay enough taxes?
It is interesting to notice that the toll road - then with money collecting plaza - was actually built at a time when money was available aplenty in Ireland, including in the government coffers. Why did we not just build the roads (and motorways) needed, like they do it in other countries? Well, I am sure some old pals of FF or PD were in need of extra perks. And good old Bertie - as we well know by now - could of course never say no. Not when someone gave him money, and not when those people then came for their compensation.
I wonder what kind of bureaucratic 'brain giant' came up with the eFlow idea in the first place. And I am waiting to read and hear of cases where false number plates are used on the M 50 and then unsuspecting people receive huge toll bills they have not run up themselves...
How would one proof this? And what would be one's rights in relation to a private company that feels entitled to our money and would certainly not shy away from making threats and using a heavy-handed approach?
Personally I have a very simple solution for the problem. I will never use the M 50, so therefore I will never be asked to pay those lazy and invisible fat cats of the toll-road 'industry' any of my hard earned money. There is also another and perfectly legal alternative to paying tolls: Just use a motorcycle on the M 50, since - for reasons unknown and not explained - they are toll-free. Well, maybe the bosses of eFlow are a bunch of wild bikers...
The Emerald Islander
For further information how eFlow works - or rather not works - have a look at my entry from September 12th and at the blogs of Eoin Brazil and John Browne. You find the links to their blogs in my entry from September 12th.