MORE than €130,000 a week is being paid by the State to toll operators because two motorways are not busy enough.
The huge payouts to the toll operation companies this year will be bigger than last year because fewer cars and lorries are using the M3 motorway and the Limerick Tunnel.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed almost €7m will be paid in 2012 by the National Roads Authority because of State guarantees.
Eurolink Motorway Operation Ltd was guaranteed State payments if cash taken at M3 toll booths did not reach certain targets. The guarantees were offered to entice private companies to share the construction cost of the motorways.
The number of vehicles travelling on the €1bn, 50km-long motorway between Clonee and Kells have failed to meet projections. Traffic levels in the Limerick tunnel, operated by Direct Route (Limerick) Ltd, were even more disappointing.
Although the M3 company made €11.3m pre-tax profit on revenues of €25m in its first seven months of operation, Mr Varadkar admitted the State payouts to the private company for both routes would continue for the foreseeable future.
In 2010, some €120,000 a week was being paid to the companies operating the two routes. The payments methods were agreed to get better value when the schemes were being built
Due to economic circumstances, traffic levels are below expectations.