Photo of M50 motorway at night showing trail of car lights in both directions.; Photo of M50 motorway at night showing trail of car lights in both directions.;

Disability Toll Exemption Scheme, Ireland

Designing Ireland’s first disability toll exemption scheme

Inclusive, accessible transport is central to creating a fairer society and healthy economy. For Ireland’s roads and light rail agency, TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland), making journeys throughout the country hassle-free for all road users is a priority.

Designed to improve journeys for people with disabilities, Ireland’s new Disability Toll Exemption Scheme (DTES) centralises the application of disability toll exemptions across the national toll road network. Drivers eligible for disability modified vehicles can now apply for a single disc to travel toll-free, a “one-stop” solution recognised across the country.

Working with TII, the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland and the national network of toll companies, Arup was appointed as consultant and project manager on the design and implementation of the scheme.

Prior to the introduction of the scheme, disabled drivers would have had to apply directly to a range of individual toll chargers, all with differing processes and criteria. While some toll companies issued physical cards for exempted vehicles, others maintained a list of licence plates using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

The overriding challenge was to deliver a consistent service to disabled toll users by creating a centralised way for all toll companies to process exemptions. Over a period of 18 months, Arup’s experts consulted toll road companies and bodies representing disabled drivers to design and implement a system which standardises how toll exemptions are processed at all plazas on Irish toll roads. A DTES operator was procured and now operates the scheme on behalf of TII.

Project Summary

1 centralised, national toll exemption scheme

10,000 customers

A centralised approach to toll exemptions

From February 2020, owners of modified disability vehicles were invited to register on the scheme website. They are then issued with discs to display in their windscreens which verify that these vehicles are exempt from toll charges.

Ensuring that both barrier and free-flow toll systems could process the exemption was vital to the success of the scheme. After consulting with multiple stakeholders, it was determined that the functionality of TII’s interoperability platform – originally established to allow customers with electronic tags to use any toll road, regardless of the toll operator – could be further developed to handle disability toll exemptions. Our experience developing the framework and overseeing the use of this interoperability system meant Arup could produce a cohesive procedure for handling such toll exemptions.

To facilitate the DTES system, the interoperability platform was expanded to create ‘virtual tags’ for eligible DTES vehicles. All vehicles with ‘virtual tags’ are added to a white list that is then distributed to toll plazas nationally. This allows for the validation of eligible vehicles at the toll plazas, mitigating against potential misuse of the scheme.

Ensuring that both barrier and free-flow toll systems could process the exemption was vital to the success of the scheme.

The tolling process

In manned toll plazas, booth operators check that the disc is displayed on the windscreen and verify that the vehicle is eligible for the scheme by checking the licence plate against this list. On the M50 free-flow toll road, eligible vehicles have been added to a toll exemptions list.

The system has been designed to facilitate the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) on barrier toll systems in the future, allowing automatic processing, where enabled.

Using the interoperability platform was an innovative way to ensure that the exemption can be processed in the same way at all toll plazas, eliminating the need for toll exempted drivers to register with separate toll chargers. ” David O'Keeffe David O'Keeffe Europe Intelligent Mobility Leader

Technology-enabled inclusive tolling

Advanced technical solutions can often introduce complexity and risks which need to be managed. Arup carried out a data protection impact assessment and worked with TII’s legal advisors and Data Protection Officer to ensure that data collected as part of this scheme complies with Data Protection Commission Requirements.

Arup is involved in the ongoing governance and maintenance of the scheme. Together with TII and the DTES operator, Arup developed a collaborative governance, risk and compliance (GRC) management framework to manage risks, reduce uncertainty and ensure that all operations comply with the relevant regulations. 

As this scheme involves changing the way that disabled drivers and passengers apply for toll exemptions, managing a public information campaign was a vital part of our involvement. All toll chargers sent letters to disabled drivers and passengers who had previously registered with them for exemptions, informing them of the new scheme and the ways to register. Our team also helped to develop the scheme website and continue to be involved in reviewing and updating content.

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