Toll charges set to go up at least another 10 cent
MOTORISTS will be forced to pay higher tolls from January, with increases of at least 10 cent added to journeys.
The cost of using most of the country's 11 tolled roads will increase because of a rise in the cost of living, the Irish Independent has learned.
But tolls are unlikely to increase in the Dublin Port Tunnel.
The move will put further pressure on motorists struggling with soaring fuel prices, hikes in motor tax and the imposition of a levy on motor insurance policies.
It comes after an increase of 20c in the cost of a litre of petrol since October last year, with further fuel price rises likely.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed the toll on Dublin's M50 is expected to rise by 10c from January 1.
The NRA board will sign off on the increase in the coming weeks. The increase will affect 103,000 motorists who use the road every day and yield an extra €3.5m a year.
Other toll operators also said price increases are likely, with average rises of 10c for cars, heavy goods vehicles and buses.
The increase is linked to the consumer price index, or inflation rate.
It rose by 2pc in the last year and the tolling contracts between the State and private operators allow for tolls to be increased when inflation rises.
When it falls, the prices are reduced. The last toll increases were in 2011. The NRA must approve rises.
An NRA spokesman said: "It is more than likely that tolls will increase by 10 cent on the M50. I cannot speak for other toll operators, but it's within their remit to increase tolls."
He added: "In the case of the M50, all the money will be used to maintain and operate the network."
But moves to increase tolls on the M3 and Limerick Tunnel come despite the State already paying the operators more than €6m a year because traffic volumes are lower than expected.
The annual "traffic guarantee payments" will be paid to the M3 contractor until 2025 and until 2041 in the case of the Limerick tunnel. Total payments could reach €142m.
The AA said the proposed increases would heap further misery on Irish motorists.
"2012 has seen a lot of things conspire against the motorist," AA spokesman Conor Faughnan said.
"We're being called upon at every turn to prop up the tax take. Fuel prices are really hurting, but we've had an extra surcharge on motor insurance to pay for losses in the Quinn Group, and now there's toll increases which is deeply frustrating.
"It's being strongly signalled that car tax will increase (in the Budget), which will seem like bad faith for people who bought new cars on a low tax promise. It's very frustrating. The fuel costs hurt hardest, but the toll costs are the most annoying."
Most toll operators contacted by this newspaper yesterday said they expected to hike prices.
The Celtic Roads Group, which operates the M1 (Dundalk), N25 (Waterford bypass) and M7/M8 (Portlaoise) said it expected increases of 10 cents.
"I would expect to follow the pattern in the other plazas," a spokesman said. "We submit our proposal to the NRA, they review it and at the end of November or early December they will say 'yes' or 'no'.
"The consumer price index has gone up, which would normally lead to an increase in the toll, but some rates might not change."
Direct Route, which operates the Limerick Tunnel and M8 (Fermoy), also said rates would increase.
"A couple of the rates are likely to go up," general manager Don O'Sullivan said. "The rate for cars will go from €1.80 to €1.90. HGV rates will also increase by 10 cents.
"There's no change for motorcycles, buses, coaches, or vehicles with a weight less than 3,500kg."
He added that if the VAT rate, currently at 23pc, changed in December's Budget, the toll rates would have to be adjusted.
Eurolink, which operates the M3 (Meath) and M4 (Kinnegad/ Kilcock), said change had not been confirmed, while the Egis, which operates the East Link bridge in Dublin, said its rates were based on a different formula, and had not been calculated.
N6 Concession, which operates the M6 motorway between Galway and Ballinasloe, said it had "not discussed" hiking charges.