| 15.8°C Dublin

Paying 30 years is more than enough for the East Link

DUBLIN City Council has made a bad decision.

Without any proper justification they have chosen to continue to impose a toll on the East Link Toll Bridge after it turns 30 years old.

Let me be clear: the city council are choosing to do this because they want the money. There is no other reason.

Despite the fact that the city's motorists were always entitled to expect that the toll would cease after its 30 year concession was up, a decision has been made to keep taking money off them.

To judge from what the AA has been hearing, the reaction is one of frustration and anger – but not of surprise. It must surely say something about Irish public life that many drivers who contacted us said they always expected that the authorities would 'pull a fast one'. What a pity they have been proved right.

The deal to build the East Link Bridge was agreed back in 1980. It was complete in 1984 and a 30-year concession was granted to charge a toll on it, justified at the time by the need to pay back the £6.1m (€7.3m) cost of construction.

To be fair that was a huge investment at the time. But it was envisaged from the start that it would only carry a toll for 30 years after which it would revert back to the ownership of the city council. So it is my bridge, and it is yours, and we have already bought it and paid for it.

Last year the bridge made a profit of €4.2m. The city council's share of that is just over 16pc with the rest going to Dublin Port and to the operating company that collects the money. The council has now set its sights on keeping 100pc of that lovely revenue stream.

There is barely even the pretence of a better motive. They are simply saying that they want the money because the city needs it.

"We shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth" was one comment. "We need all the money that we can get".

I take the view that the individual motorists who pay the toll every day also need the money, and they are the ones who earned it. Not so much a 'gift horse' as a stolen horse.

It costs €1.75 for a car to use that bridge. If you are commuting across it twice a day that comes to €70 a month in toll charges.

It may be that Dublin City Council needs money but that does not mean that they are entitled to take it off motorists. They could just as easily declare that they were going to re-introduce a charge to walk across the Halfpenny Bridge, or charge people €1 for walking down Grafton Street. It would be no less justified than what they are proposing.

The East Link has been a great asset to the city. It has become a crucial connection to the Port Tunnel and means that the city can impose a ban on large trucks in the city centre.

COMPENSATE

The trucks travel toll-free and the city has foregone some of its toll revenue to compensate the bridge operators for this.

This has been enormously positive for the city. It improves the street-scape for traders and citizens and has helped to make our capital one of the safest cities in the world for pedestrians and cyclists.

But the bridge is now fully paid for. Dubliners have spent 30 years paying tolls and there is no justification whatsoever for extending that any longer.

CONOR FAUGHNAN IS DIRECTOR OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS AT THE AA


Privacy