Motorists face new charges as number of toll roads to double
THE number of tolled roads across the country will be doubled under plans that recommend new charges on eight routes.
Motorists pay some €184m a year to use existing tolled roads, but now they face the prospect of paying a raft of new charges.
A major study from the National Roads Authority (NRA) says the Exchequer could take in another €62m a year under its plans.
It suggests doubling the number of tolled roads, with new charges recommended on eight routes across the State.
They are the Dundalk bypass, the N20 at Croom in Co Limerick, the N20 at Mallow in Co Cork, the N18 Ennis bypass, the N9 Carlow bypass and the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork. Other roads that could be tolled in future include the N17/18 Tuam bypass and N11 Arklow bypass.
The NRA also says motorists should be charged based on the amount of motorway they use. It says so-called multi-point tolling should be introduced on motorways including the M50, where the road would be divided into sections, and a charge applied to each portion used during a journey.
The Government's Smarter Travel policy wants an extra 500,000 people to use public transport, walk or cycle to work by 2020, to help reduce car commuting. It also calls for the number of car trips per year not to increase beyond current levels up to 2020.
"Capacity of the national road network remains under significant pressure in the fringes of major urban areas, where local trips comprise a significant proportion of the volume of traffic carried," the National Roads Traffic Management Study says.
"Additional road capacity on strategically important roads remains under threat, despite the economic slowdown. Growth must now be managed using control and fiscal techniques that to date have focused on urban roads."
The introduction of multi-point tolling on the M50 would reduce congestion and accidents. Cheaper tolls could also be considered at approach roads into key built-up areas in the capital. A toll at the Jack Lynch tunnel would also be appropriate.
"You can only build so many roads, and once you reach capacity you have to manage them," NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said.
"This is a study, and not a policy decision, which is for government to decide. To get the best out of this massive investment, it has to be managed.
"You're looking at stimulating usage of other modes of transport, or things like zipper lanes where three of more people can drive the road for free at major commuting hours. We're not reinventing the wheel. This study identifies the best way to do this."
The NRA study warns that providing roads leads to increased traffic volumes, with increases of 20pc recorded on Dublin's M50 between 2008 and 2010.
Further upgrades, particularly on parts of the network close to major towns and cities, would be "extremely costly and disruptive".
The NRA says that even if all the measures contained in the Government's Smarter Travel strategy are implemented, traffic volumes will still increase by 12pc by 2025. If none of the measures are effected, volumes will increase by 37pc.
The study says that most congestion in the future will be confined to Dublin, Cork and Galway cities with some local congestion.