Coveney breaks ranks as more road tolls are discussed
A SENIOR government minister broke ranks yesterday over plans to have a new road toll in his constituency.
The Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork, which opened in 1999 and takes more than 40,000 vehicles each day under the River Lee, is one of eight roads targeted in a possible expansion of tolls across the country. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, a vocal opponent of any plans to toll the tunnel, confirmed yesterday he would continue to oppose any such plan from within the cabinet.
"I think it will drive traffic into the city centre. Cork has done a lot to put a positive ring road in place. This is something that won't be my decision alone but it is an argument I will be making," the Cork TD said.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has insisted that a final decision had yet to be made on the new tolls.
But he warned: "Given Ireland's overall financial situation and the restrictions on funding, the introduction of further tolls as a means of generating revenue for road investment and public transport needs into the future cannot be ruled out."
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly said yesterday that tolling the tunnel was under consideration but no decisions had yet been made.
"It's a discussion that we are having at the moment and I'd just like to point out that if any tolls are brought in it will be a number of years before they are able to be put in place.
"We have to look at every option because we simply don't have money for the roads and we are going to have to look for ways of gaining income so that we can complete some roads and maintain them. We've got to look at various different options and tolling is one of them," he said.
Hauliers claimed yesterday that the imposition of more tolls would seriously erode Ireland's competitiveness.
Irish Road Haulage Association president Eoin Gavin said extra tolls would have major implications, not only for the road haulage industry, but for Ireland's overall competitiveness, which he said would be inevitably eroded. The National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that it is hiring consultants to help it advise on the new tolling arrangements.
NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said the discussion of proposed new tolls was entirely speculative, adding that "experts will advise on where any new tolls should fall, but ultimately it will be a policy matter for the Minister for Transport to decide on".