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Varadkar rejects plans for five new M50 tolls

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has rejected proposals calling for motorists to pay up to €6.50 in tolls on the M50.

Mr Varadkar has insisted that such a measure will not happen during his tenure as Minister for Transport.

He rejected claims by the National Roads Authority (NRA) that five new tolling points should be rolled out to boost revenue.

The highly controversial proposal, contained in a draft report, could see motorists paying €6.50 extra to use the M50.

It was slammed as a "load of crap" by motorist lobby group AA Roadwatch, while Fianna Fail branded it a "stealth tax".

Mr Varadkar was today on a collision course with the National Roads Authority (NRA) over the plans.

His spokesman told the Herald that "no new tolls will be introduced" during the minister's tenure.

The minister added: "I do not think multi-point tolling is a good idea. It will only push traffic off the M50, on to other roads and through local communities.

"At present, congestion is not the problem that it was during the boom, but it will re-emerge as an issue as the economy recovers.

"At that point we will need a joined-up solution to deal with congestion across the city, and not just on the M50."

He continued: "Central to any such solution must be further improvements in public transport and new cycling facilities. Talking about road pricing or congestion charges is putting the cart before the horse, in my view."

Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said he is "absolutely against" an across-the-board hike in tolls.

"I don't want more tolls when we have an economic recession.

"Stealth taxes, which tolls are, they're measures to support infrastructure, but they should not be utilised as measures to raise additional taxes," Mr Dooley told the Herald.

"The problem (on the M50) is congestion at certain periods of time. The NRA could examine other measures to look at that," he added.

The NRA did not respond to a request for a comment at the time of going to press.

The AA's Conor Faughnan called the proposal "a complete load of crap".

"It would do very much more harm than good and it would re-congest parts of city that are just starting to breathe again. It would not provide a net benefit to the city if you keep the M50 free flowing by jamming up the suburbs surrounding it."