Flooding leads to calls for freeze on toll motorway fees

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

A toll bridge off the Cork-Dublin motorway should be suspended in times of crises.

Motorway charges come into effect for drivers entering or exiting Fermoy, on a tolled section of the M8.

The call was made after huge flood barriers had been erected in the town centre in recent weeks after the River Blackwater burst its banks.

People were forced to pay a return charge of €3.80 to access the north and south sides of the town. In a town with over 6,500 within its environs, hundreds of motorists were inconvenienced by the toll charges.

And many businesses and delivery companies, traversing either side of the town, had to fork out considerably more due to multiple trips and commercial vehicle charges.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has been asked to look at introducing legislation to force toll operators to suspend toll payments when towns close to the tolls are flooded.

The request was made by Cork East TD Tom Barry (FG) who lives in Killavullen, between Mallow and Fermoy.

He said he knows full well the inconvenience suffered by motorists, especially in Fermoy.

He said when the massive barriers are erected in Fermoy town centre, motorists have several options.

They either have to pay the toll charge, or face driving to either Ballyhooly or Ballyduff, Co Waterford,to cross the River Blackwater. The would present them with a 12-mile to 16-mile detour respectively on rural roads which are also subject to winter flooding.

“When any new contract is being drawn up regarding tolling on our motorways, where a situation exists such as Fermoy, it must be stipulated that when emergency flood measures are erected, the motorway tolls should be suspended adjacent to the town to allow people to travel from one side of the river to the other,” Mr Barry said.

He said that when the flood barriers were erected in Fermoy in recent weeks, it became apparent there was no stipulation in the PPP (Public Private Partnership) contract relating to any likely suspension of charges for locals.

“This will have to be rectified,” Mr Barry said.

He said, thankfully, the flood defences erected by the Office of Public Works in both Fermoy and Mallow worked extremely well during the recent record rainfall emergencies and saved both towns from serious flooding.

“They also allowed businesses to continue trading and providing vital services to the community.”

“North Cork in general has benefited very well from flood relief infrastructure,” he said. “However, as other flood relief measures are being constructed, consideration is going to have to be given to allowing toll-free access to motorways where the situation is relevant.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barry said he would be urging colleagues, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and the OPW’s Minister Simon Harris to address an insurance anomaly which exists where successful flood relief schemes, costing millions of euro, have been put in place.

Despite the success of flood defences, he said many companies within the insurance industry are still not willing to provide premiums for businesses which are now fully protected from flooding. In cases, where cover is offered, businesses in particular face huge insurance excess charges.

“I previously spoke with both Minister Noonan and Minister Harris on this subject and also the addressed the matter at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance.

“Both Ministers undertook to examine this issue with a view to finding a working solution,” Mr Barry said.

“Finally, I have spoken to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney and asked him to suspend inspections on farms which are affected by the floods and also to prioritise (TAMS) funding for infrastructural development on farms which are affected by flood waters or rising springs.”


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