Plans for tolls on key routes in Dublin and Cork, which have been put on hold by the Government, could have raised up to €140m per annum for the exchequer — more than twice the sum originally estimated.
In January, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar ruled out imposing a range of new tolls on the basis that the costs would outweigh any benefits, as well as causing fuel prices to rise.
However, a study by the National Roads Authority, submitted to the Government in Jun 2011, claims the introduction of multi-tolling on the M50, combined with tolls on five key radial routes into Dublin and the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork, could raise €95m to €140m a year.
In addition, the exchequer and local authorities would share up to €64m per annum in tax-related revenues from the new tolls.
The study, which was carried out at the request of the Department of Transport, estimates the capital cost of implementing new tolling schemes in Dublin and Cork would be €54m.
The NRA’s findings contradict Mr Varadkar’s decision to rule out new tolls on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. In an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland in January, Mr Varadkar said his opposition to new tolls was based on “a combination of cost and common sense”.
However, other details in the NRA report suggest the decision to postpone introducing tolls could be linked to the Government’s wish to avoid the unpopular issue in the run-up to the next general election, scheduled for 2016 at the latest.
The NRA report reveals it would take 36 months to implement the new tolls once a direction was formally issued by the minister for transport.
It also suggests 2015 would be an appropriate time to bring in the tolls, as the contract for the operation of the existing M50 toll, which raises €50m net revenue for the State per annum, expires in three years.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar insisted the possibility of the introduction of new tolls coinciding with an election year was “categorically never a consideration”.
Although he acknowledged that tolls would obviously raise additional revenue, he claimed the Mr Varadkar had taken other factors into consideration.
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