Limerick Tunnel's state subsidy fell as traffic and toll income grew
A sharp drop in payments by State agency Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to the firm operating the €800m Limerick Tunnel contributed to a 26pc drop in its operating profits of €6.36m last year.
New accounts filed by Directroute (Limerick) Ltd show that payments from TII - formerly the National Roads Authority - made up of operating payments and traffic guarantee payments decreased by 27pc last year, from €8.1m to €5.9m.
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State funding fell as the tunnel enjoyed increased traffic, with toll income growing by 5pc, from €14.9m to €15.9m - or €43,651 per day in 2018.
The firm's total revenues, made up of toll income and TII payments, decreased by 5pc, from €23m to €21.83m.
Its traffic guarantee payments from TII declined from €4.1m to €3.9m, while there was a sharper drop-off in operational payments from the group, decreasing 50pc, from €4m to €1.99m.
The traffic guarantee payments are made when daily traffic volumes do not exceed 23,000, and they were put in place at the outset of the project in order to attract consortia to bid to build the scheme. Last year, the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee was told that the State had paid the toll operator €34m under the terms of a public-private partnership contract to compensate for the smaller numbers using it.
A TII official told the committee "conservative estimates" at the time projected further traffic payments of about €150m over the remainder of the contract.
The latest accounts show that the firm last year recorded pre-tax losses of €10.4m - up 36.7pc on the pre-tax losses of €7.6m during 2017.
However, the pre-tax loss was largely due to the large non-cash depreciation cost of €13.48m incurred last year, and finance payments of €16.8m.