THE National Roads Authority yesterday brought the company which operates the tolls on the M1 motorway to court, claiming it is overcharging motorists.
The NRA says tolls on the M1 motorway ought to have been reduced on January 1 this year from €1.90 for a car to €1.80 but it says the company has not done this.
Under by-laws, if the consumer price index falls for 12 months, toll operators are required to reduce charges.
While not all tolled routes are subject to this agreement, the NRA had directed five toll operators to reduce their charges for 2011. To date, only one toll company has done so.
Yesterday the NRA told the High Court motorists using the Dublin-Dundalk M1 motorway toll have been overcharged by €26,000 a week since January 1.
That figure will rise to €1.39m this year unless the tolls are reduced, the NRA says.
Some 11 million vehicles used the toll road last year and the toll should have been reduced from €1.90 to €1.80, the Commercial Court heard yesterday.
The NRA argued that the toll firms who did not cut their charges were applying a different interpretation of the law and that was why it took the matter to the courts.
The five tolled routes on which the NRA directed cost cuts are the M1 between Julianstown, Co Meath and Drogheda; the M4 between Kilcock, Co Kildare and Kinnegad, Co Westmeath; the M6 from Galway to Ballinasloe, Co Galway; the M8 between Fermoy and Watergrasshill in Co Cork; and the N25 Waterford bypass.
Only the company operating the M6 Galway to Ballinasloe motorway has dropped its tolls.
But lawyers for the toll operator, Celtic Roads Group (Dundalk) Ltd (CRGD), claimed the NRA was not consistent in its arguments because it was effectively the operator of the M50 in Dublin and appeared not to have reduced tolls there.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly noted, if the NRA was correct, it was accepted there was no means whereby overcharged motorists would be compensated.
In those circumstances, the action should be heard urgently. He fixed it for hearing on February 22.