Broads Authority agrees to trial paperless tolls system after printed plaques ink smudging problem

Boats moored at Ranworth Staithe on the Norfolk Broads.Picture: James Bass

Boats moored at Ranworth Staithe on the Norfolk Broads.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Boats on the Broads may no longer need to display a toll plaque, after an authority agreed to trial a new paperless system.

The Broads Authority yesterday decided to temporarily switch from the traditional plaques to the new arrangement, following the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's decision to ditch tax discs.

The move comes after a problem with recently-issued plaques, which saw ink run down the hulls of some boats.

But the authority's chief executive John Packman said it presented a chance to 'fundamentally review' the service.

The authority says the paperless system would save about £4,400 a year spent on printing the plaques.

Now, boat owners will renew their licence either online, by post or in person and receive a receipt as proof of payment and rangers will then use smartphones or laptops to check with a database whether a craft has a valid toll.

But without a visible licence, there are concerns checking may be time-consuming and difficult, while it may be easier for owners to avoid payment.

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A report says the main risk is 'with the £1.97m predicted as income from private boats', but that it is hoped 'peer pressure' will encourage boat owners to pay, while the new technology will prove efficient.

Mr Packman said: 'I think the risk is relatively small but we need to have our eyes open to it. Our toll payers need to know we will be out there checking.'

There are plans to introduce a facility allowing boat owners to report crafts that have not paid.

The scheme is in place for the coming season, with plans to review it later in the year. The Broads Authority has advised boat owners with a printed toll plaque not to attach it and are investigating the problem.

All vessels kept or used within the Broads Authority's navigation area require a toll.

What do you think of the changes? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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