independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Varadkar: No new road tolls on my watch

Minister rules out taxes to force motorists on to an already struggling system

Leo Varadkar,TD,the Minister for Transport,Tourism and Sport  at the announcement of the  Government's 150 million Euro investment in Infrastructure and Jobs  at a press brefing held in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday.Pic Tom Burke 5/6/13
Leo Varadkar, TD, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Photo: Tom Burke

THERE is not enough capacity in the public transport system to cater for large volumes of new passengers, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted.

Despite falling numbers and enormous investment in new trains and buses over recent years, Mr Varadkar said there was a need to provide more public transport as the existing system could not cope.

TOLLING

And he ruled out imposing new taxes and tolls on motorists during his term of office, but said additional tolling points could be introduced on the country's busiest road over the coming years.

A report prepared for the Department of Transport says that measures including taxation, tolls and congestion charges are needed to make the transport sector less polluting and reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

But Mr Varadkar said these measures would not be introduced "any time soon" and that the report set out how to move from an oil and diesel-based transport system to a low-carbon one over the next 20 or 30 years.

Mr Varadkar, who has been linked to a move to the Department of Health during an expected cabinet reshuffle next year, said no new tolling points would be introduced during his term of office, but admitted that multi-point tolling could be in place on Dublin's M50, where a series of tolls are installed to discourage its use for short trips.

A congestion charge could also be considered, he added.

"I certainly do not envisage any new tolling points during my term of office and I don't foresee any major increases in taxes on motorists," he said.

"Maybe down the line. In places like Oslo or Singapore or London that have congestion charges they have phenomenal public transport and you have to have that first. It is kind of in the long-term plans to have multi-point tolling on the M50. I don't favour it personally because I think it will solve a problem on the M50 only by creating one on the axis roads onto the M50."

But despite the CIE group of companies -- Dublin Bus, Iarnrod Eireann and Bus Eireann -- losing more than 5.5 million passengers between 2011 and this year, he said the group would not be able to cope with an influx of motorists choosing to leave the car at home.

"If more motorists were to move to public transport there isn't the capacity for them so we have to get the alternatives in place," he said.

VISION

"We need to put the alternatives in place first and it really is part of a multi-decade vision.

"If taxing people out of their cars were a solution it would have worked by now because the price of petrol has gone up phenomenally in the last couple of years. You need to have the alternatives in place first. You can't preach to people unless those alternatives are in place."

Mr Varadkar is quoted in the 'Climate Change Mitigation' paper as saying that developing a roadmap for the transport sector would be challenging, and that "many policies and measures such as land use planning and taxation" were needed to affect change.

The paper also says that encouraging people out of their cars and onto public transport could also be achieved through the introduction of 'user pays' charges which include tolls.

Irish Independent

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