Broads Authority members today made the bold move to trial a paperless tolls system for the coming season.
The idea to not issue tolls plaques but instead keep all compliance data electronically has been under consideration since the DVLA’s successful move to paperless vehicle tax.
And now the recent issues with ink seepage from this year’s plaques have given the Authority the impetus to carry the initiative out in the 2016/17 tolls season. An evaluation of staff and public impact, toll uptake, cost-effectiveness and efficiency will be undertaken in the autumn before deciding whether to take the new system forward for future seasons.
John Packman, Chief Executive, said: “The recent issues have meant that we are in an unprecedented situation which is not one of our making but one where we need to think more imaginatively. We wanted to treat this as an opportunity to solve the current difficulty and trial a bold but potentially very successful move. It will mean a different way of working and a cultural change to how we do things to make this work but I hope that it will be received very positively.”
An internal discussion and consultation with members of the Navigation Committee, the Broads Hire Boat Federation and the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association took place before members of the Broads Authority were recommended to undertake the trial. Members supported the proposal with only one abstention and no one voting against it.
To ensure toll evasion is kept to a minimum a system is now being developed for rangers to have easy access via a laptop or smartphone to a database of boats that have paid their toll which will be updated on a daily basis and an online system is being looked at for members of the public to access basic information.
Dr Packman said: “Overall this move will save a considerable amount of time for our tolls team and enable them to streamline their processes. We have also sought legal advice and confirmed that this is consistent with the Vessel Registration Byelaws. While there may be some teething issues, we will keep a close eye on how things go and will fully evaluate the new system.”
For those already issued with their 2016/17 tolls plaque the advice is to not fix them to boats. Anyone who has already put one of this season’s plaques on their vessel is advised to remove it.
The tolls team have been working with the print supplier to establish exactly what the cause of the ink seepage is and also what can be done to rectify it but despite numerous tests by the both the printers and the Authority the precise reason is still unknown and therefore a reprint is looking increasingly unworkable. Officers considered supplying plastic covers but there is no certainty that these can be affixed to vessels without causing damage.