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I want €50m per year from M50 motorists, says Varadkar

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted that he wants to collect €50m a year in extra M50 tolls.

Mr Varadkar said he is serious about the proposal, describing as "very unfair" the current situation in which drivers are only charged at one point along the ringroad.

The Dublin West TD's comments are a far cry from his stance as an opposition deputy in 2008 when he described an increase in M50 fees as "yet another stealth tax from the Government and its agencies".

Mr Varadkar said today: "At the moment, the tolls are very unfair. You pay quite a high toll just to cross over the Liffey, the section between Blanchardstown and Lucan. The idea is to have multi-point tolling, a lower toll but spread out over a number of points on the M50."

The "estimate is that it could bring in an extra €50m", the Minister added.

"If it's done in a fair way people would be accepting of it. I think if the money went into, for example, fixing the problems at Newland's Cross people would be more accepting of it than otherwise.

"The key thing for me is that if we do that, the money should be reinvested in transport," he told RTE's Morning Ireland.

The Fine Gael TD also hinted strongly that the planned Luas BXD line, linking the two tracks with each other and travelling out to Broombridge, will be the only one of three major transport projects to survive.

He said Metro North and Dart Underground would both need private as well as public funds and "it's not abundantly clear whether either are available".

"The Luas BXD ... could be funded from exchequer funds and I think that would be a really great project. Not just because it links you up in town but it allows you do things you can do in other cities.

"It means you can get on the train in Maynooth, let's say, and get off in the Dundrum shopping centre. You could get on in Sandyford and get out at the O2. It would give you a proper linked up rail system in Dublin, like every other city has but we don't have. But even that is not certain by any means," Mr Varadkar said.

Metro West, from Tallaght to Dardistown, has already been put on the back burner.

He said: "All the projects are very good. I'd love to build them all but I have to be realistic about where we are financially and both Metro North and Dart Underground are very expensive and they both require private finance as well as Government money and it's not abundantly clear whether either are available."

Mr Varadkar is to look into the possibility of installing other tolling points around Dublin as well as the Jack Lynch tunnel in Cork.