Saturday 24 February 2018

Varadkar not ‘fully convinced’ by report calling for €6.50 toll on M50

Lyndsey Telford

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar said he has serious objections to proposals for multi-point tolls on the country's busiest road.

The minister said he was not fully convinced by a study carried out for the National Roads Authority (NRA), which recommended that five tolling points should be introduced across Dublin's M50 to combat congestion.

Details of the study are revealed in the Irish Independent today.

"We certainly don't think that serious congestion will return on the M50 in 2015. We think it will be further back than that," Mr Varadkar said.

"Also I have serious objections to multi-point tolling on the M50 because I think it will just displace traffic into other areas."

The NRA proposals could see motorists hit with 6.50 euro in tolls, which is more than double what they currently pay on the M50.

AA Ireland spokesman Conor Faughnan said the report from the NRA "belongs in the bin".

He agreed with the transport minister, insisting that introducing more tolls would force motorists off the motorway and on to suburban roads, causing congestion there.

Dublin's M 50.
Pic Frank Mc Grath
Dublin's M 50. Pic Frank Mc Grath

"This is an appalling idea that would do much more damage than good," Mr Faughnan said.

"On the one hand, you could apply so much punishment to drivers who want to use the M50 with tolls that are so high you could empty it and play golf on it. But the immediate effect would be re-congesting the suburbs."

He said residents in the likes of Blanchardstown, Castleknock and Chapelizod would be horrified at the prospect of congested traffic returning to their roads.

"These suburbs are just beginning to breathe now that the M50 is finally doing the job it was built to do," Mr Faughnan said.

The AA spokesman said every toll that has been installed across the country has been regretted, because they only serve to divert traffic away from motorways.

He said the one example of a road toll that works is the one at the Dublin Port Tunnel, which he claimed was used to deliberately deter cars from using it to clear the road for HGVs.

"This latest attempt from the NRA is one we have heard many times before, despite the fact the citizens of Dublin emphatically don't want it," Mr Faughnan said.

"I hope this report is ignored and I am pleased Minister Varadkar appears to have listened to us and has dismissed it himself. I hope it gets the lack of attention it deserves because it belongs in the bin."

The NRA would need the Department of Transport to sign off on its plans, but the minister has repeated his opposition to the proposed changes.

The authority believes that introducing multi-point tolls would reduce demand from motorists taking short trips.

Compiling a report on traffic flow measures was a condition of 2005 planning permission for the upgrade of the route, which was completed in 2010.

The study warned that if traffic continues to grow on the M50, congestion will become commonplace in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) accused the road authority of "money grabbing".

Its president Eoin Gavin said Irish haulage drivers were already struggling to make ends meet with one of the highest vehicle tax rates in the world.

He said adding further tolls and increasing costs on the M50 was unfair for lorry drivers who, unlike other motorists, are legally obliged to use motorways.

"This report today is not welcome and I fail to see any value in it," Mr Gavin said.

He added that the IRHA is to meet Environment Minister Phil Hogan in the coming weeks to discuss road tax issues.

He claimed that something needs to be done to address the issue of lorry drivers from Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom driving through tolls without paying.

"The Government is losing out on millions of euro because these drivers can get away without paying the tolls because there is no way to follow up on them," Mr Gavin said.

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