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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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heavy toll

Transport Minister has had no engagement with toll companies despite Cabinet colleague claims

Minister Heather Humphreys said Transport Minister Eamon Ryan was engaging with toll operators.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 7th 2023, 3:40 PM

TRANSPORT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has had no engagement with toll companies since the announcement of planned price hikes coming in July, it is understood.

Earlier, today Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys told The Journal that Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Minister of State Jack Chambers were “engaging” with the toll companies on the issues. 

She said “any increase in tolls always comes as a disappointment to the motorists and particularly the hauliers as well”.

“I know that Minister [Eamon] Ryan and Minister [Jack] Chambers are looking at this and I know that they’re engaging with the toll companies,” Humphreys said today. 

When asked if there could be another deferral of the price hikes, she said “it is a matter for Minister Ryan and Minister Chambers. So as I said, I know that they’re engaging with the toll companies”. 

No engagement 

However, senior sources have now confirmed that there has been no engagement with toll companies by TII or ministers Ryan or Chambers on this matter, stating the decision to defer the increase in tolls is in line with inflation and was agreed last December.

It is understood there has been no change to the agreement due to clear contractual considerations with regard to commitments made by previous governments.

Tolls were set to rise from 1 January to their maximum rate due to an increase in inflation.

However, the move provoked anger from politicians due to the cost-of-living crisis, and the Government agreed to delay the rise until 1 July, at a cost to the exchequer of €12.5 million.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) confirmed this week that tolls on the country’s national road network will increase from 1 July.

Tolls on M50 will increase by 30c for cars without tag or video accounts, bringing the charge to €3.50.

Drivers with a tag or video account will each see a 20c increase to €2.30 and €2.90, respectively.

There will be no increase in tolls for the Port Tunnel.

The Tom Clarke Bridge in Dublin does not come under today’s announcement from TII as it’s run by Dublin City Council. Last December, councillors agreed to defer planned toll increases for the bridge – formerly known as the East Link – to 2024.

Tolls for cars travelling on the M1, M7, M8, N6, N25 at Waterford and N18 Limerick Tunnel will increase from €2 to €2.10. 

Further pressure heaped on commuters

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy is just one of the opposition politicians to hit out at the planned increases, stating that the moe will heap further pressure on motorists and lead to more price rises for consumers.

“The timing of these increases, which have been confirmed by TII, could not be worse and will come just weeks after the Government’s phased reintroduction of excise duty on petrol and diesel.

“The M50 in Dublin, as well as eight routes on the national road network operated under a Public Private Partnership (PPI) arrangement, will see toll charges rise from July 1 when a six-month deferment of the increases ends,” she said. 

Murphy said that despite the M50 being one of the “most notorious bottlenecks in the country”, toll charges for cars on road will rise by between 20c and 30c per journey, with regular users facing an annual increase of up to €100.

“There is simply no justification for the scale of these increases on a publicly owned motorway,” she said. 

“The eight PPP routes are now set to bring in the maximum tolls allowed under their agreements.

“In terms of the PPP model, there needs to be more transparency from the Government on the risk profile for the State. We know from questioning TII in 2022 at the Public Accounts Committee that compensation was paid to two toll operators under a Traffic Guarantee Payments mechanism.

“This system is at odds with our climate action targets and is basically a bailout for the operators. TII said at the time that they expect the figure to be in the region of €104 million when the accounts are finalised,” said Murphy.

“In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, these toll increases will play very badly with the public,” she concluded.

Sinn Féin’s Martin Kenny has also hit out against the announcement this week stating that it will be a “massive blow to hard-pressed workers and families, coming in the middle of a cost of living crisis”.

“Motorists are struggling to get by, and these toll increases are going to really hurt commuters. Tolls disproportionately impact those living in rural areas, who are forced to use a private car as the public transport options simply don’t exist,” he said. 

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said many people are commuting “up to three hours a day and they are paying thousands of euro in tolls to do so”.

“There are 4 Tolls in County Meath. Someone living in Kells or Cavan and working in south Dublin can be hit for €3,600 a year just on tolls,” he said, adding that Aontú research has shown that commuters have paid €1.2 billion in tolls on the M50 toll in the last nine years.

With reporting by Eoghan Dalton

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