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Conor Faughnan: More road tolls? Madness. They just punish us motorists and cause jams

IT was the 18th of April yesterday, not the 1st. I know because I had to check the calendar carefully following the latest absolutely mad proposal on new toll roads.

The proposal comes from the National Roads Authority although to be fair they were doing what the previous Government asked them to do.

They were told to come up with a list of roads where they could apply a new toll to raise more money.

They duly did and the list is ridiculous.

Value

There are eight locations countrywide. These include the bypasses of towns like Carlow, Arklow, Dundalk and Tuam.

Residents in those towns will be furious.

Tolls are a curse. They cause no end of disruption and hardship and in the end they don't actually raise much money.

One key problem is that they cause a diversion. The moment you put a toll on a road and especially on a bypass you will divert a large portion of the traffic back into the town.

We know this first-hand in places like Drogheda, Fermoy and Kinnegad which are still full of traffic despite the multi-million euro roads running alongside.

If you only use a road occasionally, say for a trip to the airport, you will probably pay the toll and think it good value.

If on the other hand you are trying to run a business with trucks on the road, or you want to commute along the route which would mean paying the toll 10 times a week, then it is a very different story.

There is no clearer example than the M3 motorway, built at enormous expense and with enormous controversy.

It has two tolls on it and it is essentially empty.

Drivers are ignoring it in droves and using the dangerous and congested old single-lane road instead.

An own-goal by our planners, and they now want to score eight more of them up and down the country.

The new schemes between them would only raise €62m.

In the context of how much money is raised from motorists that is a very small number.

Fuel taxes alone raise about €2.5bn per year.

To cause so much collateral damage for so little extra money is just not worth it.

Bridge

I hope that the new Government will reassure us all and spike this idea without delay, but I worry.

The part of the scheme most likely to get moved forward will not be a road like the Croom bypass in Cork (just plain silly) but the idea of applying more tolls on the M50 in Dublin.

The notion is that rather than just having a toll at the Westlink bridge (we must surely own that bridge by now, we have paid for it 10 times over) there would instead be a smaller toll along every single section of the motorway.

Believe me, they are serious. I have heard it said that this outlandish idea would be 'fairer' than just charging people who use the bridge.

That is a bit like saying that if one person's house has been burgled then everyone else on the road should be burgled too in order to be equitable.

Tolls on the M50 would automatically re-congest suburbs like Sandyford, Dundrum, Knocklyon, Firhouse, Tallaght and Blanchardstown.

No thanks.

And no thanks also to the other crazy idea put forward last week. Dublin City Council wants to raise the cost of residents' on-street parking permits by 25pc this year. Granted they haven't had an increase in four years, but it is still not on to hit people with such a large increase which is way above inflation.

I have some sympathy for the council's shortage of money, but we are all short of money this year and the solution is not to hit motorists' pockets again. Think it out again, lads.


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