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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# toll charges
Eamon Ryan ‘reluctant’ to tackle toll increases if it takes funding from road maintenance
Toll prices on nine roads are to rise in line with inflation.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 21st 2022, 3:45 PM

TRANSPORT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has said he would be reluctant to reduce toll charges if it means taking away funding for public transport or road maintenance. 

On Thursday, toll road operator Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) announced that it would be hiking toll prices on nine roads in line with inflation, with the M50 toll set to rise by 20 or 30 cent.

The issue was discussed between the three coalition leaders this evening, where Ryan committed to asking his department for options on how to tackle the cost of rising toll charges.

Speaking to reporters at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this weekend, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said that the decision to increase the toll charge was made by the TII and that the Government believed it to be poor timing.

Echoing her points, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday the toll increases should be deferred or reduced, telling RTÉ’s This Week that the Government was not aware of the planned increase ahead of the announcement.

Varadkar did confirm that Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan had been informed of the price increases.

Ryan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today that he was aware the increases were coming either in November or December. 

He said the toll operators are independent and are not owned or directed by the Government, adding that they had a right index link increases.

If the Government stepped in to offset the increase, it would have to compensate the private companies, said the minister.

“I would be very reluctant to take money from what we are spending on which is increasing public transport, increasing road maintenance,” said Ryan who added that he would discuss the issue with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste this week to “look at what other mechanisms there might be”.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, the Taoiseach said that the party leaders would be discussing the toll charges at a meeting this evening, adding that the Government would see what it can do to ease the pressure.

“Suffice to say that we are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and the whole emphasis to date has been trying to reduce costs of public services,” Micheál Martin said.

“There are issues obviously that Eamon has highlighted, in terms of the independent nature of TII, but we will see what we can do to try and ease pressure on people.”

Varadkar has said he is not happy with the increases and that they weren’t coming at a good time.

He said the planned hikes were going to the maximum level that the TII could charge but they are not obliged to charge those rates.

TII has 15 public private partnership (PPP) contracts with Government, which consist of eight road toll schemes. 

A public-private partnership is an arrangement between a public authority /Government and a private partner designed to deliver a public infrastructure project, such as a road or toll, and to service it under a long-term contract.

Typically a contract can run from between 25-35 years, after which the asset is meant to go into State ownership. 

In many cases, such as with the East Link Bridge near Dublin Port, the toll remains even after the lifespan of the contract.

Pressure to reduce tolls this year

Ahead of the budget and due to the rising cost-of-living, pressure had been mounting on Government to reduce toll charges, with a number of Government backbenchers and opposition TDs raising the issue. 

At the time, Ryan said that reducing toll charges was not an option being considered.

In June, Government sources said they would be open to reducing toll charges to help motorists who are facing skyrocketing fuel costs but most agreed that Ryan would not go for the idea as it would encourage more driving in cars rather than encouraging people to take public transport. 

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Meath East TD Darren O’Rourke said the minister “clearly has no interest in bringing toll operators to heel, and is abdicating his responsibilities”. 

“Eamon Ryan needs to take his head out of the clouds, and he must bring all possible pressure to bear on toll road operators and TII to scrap price hikes,” he added. 

“These private companies are already making millions of euro in profit, so how can they, or Transport Infrastructure Ireland, justify increasing toll prices to their maximum permitted level?

“Just last month, for example, the M3 toll operator reported €11m in profit for the previous year,” said O’Rourke. 

He said many commuters are reliant on their private car as Government has failed to put sustainable alternative transport options in place. Any increase in costs for hauliers will also push food prices even higher, he added. 

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