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Varadkar under pressure to scrap plan for more M50 tolls

PRESSURE mounted on Transport Minister Leo Varadkar today to scrap plans to raise €50m at the expense of motorists.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) both slammed Mr Varadkar's proposals.

The minister revealed yesterday he is in favour of new tolls on the M50, raising an extra €50m a year from motorists.

Mr Varadkar said: "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."

But the influential lobby groups insisted the plans are "inefficient" and would only lead to more congestion in other routes as drivers seek to avoid paying tolls.

"We're saying the cost of administrating this, the cost of setting up the toll points, whether it be the overhead barriers or toll stations, would outweigh the benefit," IRHA president Eoin Gavin said.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding echoed the remarks, pointing out a quarter of the revenue the Government collects in tolls goes towards collecting the revenue.

"There are more efficient ways," Mr Fielding said.

He added that many of the tolls are "driving traffic off the safest way and putting them on to secondary roads".

However, 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 M50.

It has not been decided how many tolling points would be imposed but 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 and not just go into the black hole," he said.

The AA also criticised the plans, saying the move would be inefficient and likely to cause congestion. Some 10pc of M50 traffic is commercial and businesses say new tolls will cost jobs, the AA added.