Toll fears have emerged again following confirmation last night that the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork is to be ‘privatised’ within months in a deal believed to be worth up to €12m.
The management of the tunnel, which has been maintained by the city council since it opened to traffic in 1999, will be outsourced to Egis Road and Tunnel Operation Ireland (ERTO), the company which manages Dublin’s tolled Port Tunnel.
It will become solely responsible for managing, maintaining and repairing the tunnel under the River Lee from February 20 next, it emerged last night.
FF Cllr Terry Shannon described it as the effective ‘privatisation’ of the tunnel, and he called for a clear statement from transport minister Paschal Donohoe that the Jack Lynch Tunnel will remain toll free.
The National Roads Authority’s plans to outsource the tunnel management first emerged in 2012 in a bid to achieve savings for the State by bundling the Cork tunnel contract into a single contract along with the operation and maintenance of Dublin’s Port Tunnel.
Following months of negotiations and a tender process, the NRA has now confirmed that it has awarded the estimated €2m annual Jack Lynch Tunnel operational and maintenance contract to ERTO for a minimum of 76 months — six years — from next February.
The contract may be extended by the NRA up to a total of 120 months.
The details are contained in a letter from NRA head of network operations, Pat Maher, written last week to Cork City Council’s head of roads and transportation, Gerry O’Beirne, and which was presented to city councillors last night.
“The authority would like to thank Cork City Council and in particular the Cork city employees located at the Jack Lynch Tunnel for their exemplary service over the years,” Mr Maher said.
“These staff members are exceptional and have managed to maintain the tunnel to a very high standard and protect the public’s interest at all times.
“In particular, Dan O’Neill, [tunnel manager] now retired, has our special thanks for his dedication and stewardship.”
But FG Cllr John Buttimer said councillors need to see the detail of the deal.
“We need to get a sense from the service level agreement that we won’t have a repeat of the debacle over the October bank holiday weekend,” he said.
“It is important the council is notified in advance of all tunnel closures and the council has a right of veto over certain closures.”
The NRA stressed in 2012 that tolling is a policy matter for Government.
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