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Driving prices up

Sinn Féin calls for more taxpayer funding for road safety quango after it seeks to hike NCT fees

The RSA has proposed a fee increase of 10% on NCT and driving test fees.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Jun

SINN FÉIN HAS called on the government to ensure the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is properly funded, after the agency was reported to be seeking to hike NCT and driving test fees to cover its costs.

The RSA, which has an annual budget of over €90 million, appealed directly to Taoiseach Simon Harris to allow it to increase the fees for services it operates, RTÉ reported this morning. 

The RSA wants extra direct funding from government if it can’t increase its charges, which it argues have not been increased for 12 years, it was reported.

It wants to increase fees by 10% – which would raise the cost of a driving test to €93.50.

An external independent review of the RSA, commissioned by the Department of Transport, is currently underway. This is understood to be examining its funding structure among other issues and should be presented to the Department in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said that pending the recommendations of the review, there are no proposals related to fees under consideration or discussion between the RSA and the Department.

It should also be noted that RSA reserves were higher than anticipated towards the end of 2023, which allowed the Department to agree €3.6 [million] in additional advertising and awareness campaigns in October without the need for fee increases.”

The spokesperson added that the appropriate funding model, including the role of government funding from the Exchequer, is part of the ongoing review.

“Any decisions on fees will be taken on foot of its recommendations,” they said.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport and Communications Martin Kenny called on the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, to detail his plans to ensure the RSA is properly funded.

Kenny criticised the government’s failure to to act when the RSA appealed for funding.

“Motorists have already been faced with increases in tolls, the hikes in petrol and diesel costs, and the rise in insurance premiums. This is on the back of the ongoing cost of living crisis,” he said.

The RSA told The Journal that it had met with the Taoiseach in April to discuss priorities, including an update of the Learning to Drive curriculum, and the multiple learner permit issue.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport confirmed that they are working on these issues.

Among its priorities is the reduction of NCT and driving test waiting times. Driving test wait lists are around 15 weeks long, although they have fallen from last year’s levels. The RSA is supposed to keep driving test waiting periods to 10 weeks.

Tipperary Independent TD Mattie McGrath claimed that with the RSA already spending millions of euro each year, the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan should blocked the proposed price increases.

“It’s important for taxpayers to understand how the RSA spends its €95 million budget and why it’s failing to meet strategic objectives,” McGrath said.

“The fact that the organization wants more direct taxpayer funding or the option to increase its charges is absurd.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, to block any increase in charges sought by the RSA and initiate an independent investigation into the organization,” he added.

McGrath also claimed that the RSA’s safety campaigns have “failed” to keep people safe on Irish roads. He said the agency needed to be “either disbanded, reconfigured, and made accountable to taxpayers”. 

Kenny, of Sinn Féin, said: “Clearly the RSA requires increased funding to combat the rise in road fatalities and serious collisions, and to continue providing vital education programmes.”

“That is where the Taoiseach and Minister Ryan need to step in and provide it.”

He indicated Sinn Féin favoured the RSA’s funding be increased through direct Exchequer funding rather than by the public “footing another bill”.

With additional reporting by Jane Matthews.

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