Transport minister Paschal Donohoe has confirmed that the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork will not be tolled in the lifetime of the present Government.
The assurance came amid fears of charges being imposed by a private company due to shortly assume operational control at the tunnel.
Speculation was rife at this week’s Cork City Council meeting that the tunnel — which opened in 1999 — could be tolled when private operators Egis Road and Tunnel Operation Ireland take charge in February.
However, Cork South Central Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said yesterday he had personal confirmation from Mr Donohoe tolling was not an option.
“The minister informed me that there will be no toll on the Jack Lynch Tunnel,” said Mr Buttimer. “This continues the policy decision taken by the previous Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, [that] there would be no further tolling points during the term of this Government.
“When this Government came to office it made a serious commitment to the road network and transport infrastructure around Cork. At a time when there was limited funding available for road projects, the Government decided to go ahead with the Bandon Road and Sarsfield Road flyovers.
“Both those projects improved the road network around the city and were done without the need of additional tolls. There has been no policy change since then and no toll is planned for the Jack Lynch Tunnel.”
Mr Buttimer accused Fianna Fáil councillors, in particular, of “scaremongering” about tolling, claims which were “completely without foundation”, he said.
“The only basis for their claim was attention-seeking, the claim has no basis in fact,” said Mr Buttimer. “Government policy has been made clear by ministers and it has not changed.”
The NRA, originally responsible for overseeing the country’s tunnels, decided to farm out their maintenance to private companies.
Currently, ERTO is responsibility for operations and maintenance of the twin-bore Dublin Tunnel which is tolled. Charges also apply to the Limerick Tunnel, completed in 2010.
NRA spokesman Sean O’Neill said the authority would have to be advised by the government in advance of any planned tolling of the Jack Lynch Tunnel and it had received no information which would indicate charges would be applied.
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