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Motoring tolls pull in €41.6m profit for controversial M3

IT WAS one of the most controversial road schemes ever built in Ireland – and now the M3 motorway is making tens of millions of euro in profits for its private operator.

New figures show that the M3 – which runs from north of Dublin through Meath – is the most lucrative privately tolled motorway scheme, making over €800,000 each week in operating profits for its operator, Eurolink Motorway Operation (M3) Ltd.

The Spanish-Irish joint venture firm recorded an operating profit of €41.6m in 2011 – a 114pc increase on the €19.4m operating profit in 2010.

In total, the firm recorded €50.87m or €139,375 per day in revenues from tolls in 2011 – doubling the €25.1m taken in during 2010. The new road only opened to traffic on June 4 of that year.

The 50km M3, running from Clonee to the north of Kells in Co Meath was built at a cost of almost €1bn.

The scheme was the largest infrastructure scheme delivered through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) at the time.

The motorway generated protests because it runs near the Hill of Tara. It bypasses Dunshaughlin, Navan and Kells and has two tolls in place.

The company is jointly owned by Siac Construction and a subsidiary of Spanish company, Ferrovial.

The joint venture company last year approved the first dividend of €5.6m from the route to shareholders.

Volumes

It almost tripled its pre-tax profit from €11.3m to €28.3m. The increased profits were recorded after the route's daily traffic volumes increased by 8pc from 21,004 to 22,684.

The firm recorded the pre-tax profits after paying net interest of €13.3m on its €235m bank loans. The profit also takes account of non-cash depreciation of €4.99m.

The revenues include operational payments from the National Roads Authority (NRA).

The accounts do not specify these amount. However, the NRA has confirmed that it paid the motorway operator €1.86m in 'traffic guarantee' payments in 2011 and this followed €547,000 between October and December in 2010.

The monies were paid as the NRA guaranteed a certain number of vehicles would use the privately funded road. The guarantee was put in place due to the high cost of the route.

The toll plazas are at Pace, between Dunshaughlin and Clonee, and at Grange, between Navan and Kells. The current toll for cars is €1.40 and goods vehicles with four axles or more are charged €3.40.

The numbers employed by the operator last year increased from 20 to 26, with staff costs increasing to €1.4m.

The directors state that "after considering the business plan and the availability of committed financing facilities, the directors have a reasonable expectation that the company has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future".

Irish Independent