Road toll to stay for Tall Ships festival

TOLL charges will not be suspended during Waterford’s hosting of the Tall Ships Races in three weeks’ time.

City Council officers are reportedly disappointed they failed to reach an agreement on the issue with the operators of the N25 Waterford bypass.

Waterford city manager Michael Walsh said the operators of the bypass had decided to maintain tolls on the second river crossing during the event.

Waterford, one of the host ports for the Tall Ships Races 2011, expects upwards of 600,000 people in the city over four days for the event and its festival.

Bryan Ferry, The Waterboys and Sharon Shannon will be headlining free gigs in the city over the festival.

Mr Walsh said the local authority was disappointed Celtic Roads Group (CRG) was “unable to facilitate a toll-free option due to the company’s changed commercial circumstances”.

However, a spokesperson said CRG was also disappointed but said “the Suir Bridge will operate as normal during the Tall ships event with additional staff to cater for any increased traffic that may arise”.

“We are continuing our close contacts with Waterford City Council in supporting the event,” said the spokesman.

Mr Walsh, however, said that given the “phenomenal” support from the business community in Waterford and beyond for the event, it was “particularly disappointing that CRG are not in a position to match this goodwill”.

This was “despite their previously expressed intention to do so”, he said.

With Rice Bridge closed to traffic from Thursday, June 30 to Saturday, July 2, it was “understood” that tolling would be suspended on the bypass to facilitate traffic diverting from the city centre where a cordon will operate.

However, it has not been possible to finalise an agreement as “Waterford City Council was unwilling to pay very substantial compensation requested” by CRG to waive tolls across the three days, he said.

“The decision to continue tolling is disappointing and unexpected,” he said.

A CRG spokesman yesterday said that the firm had been working on “proposals which took into account the council’s requirements and budgetary constraints”. These proposals ranged from a scenario where the public would receive free travel for all vehicles through to discounted travel for cars only,” said the spokesman.

“While their decision is disappointing, we believe the city council has done a fantastic job in the overall organisation of the Tall Ships Festival and we are confident that the event will be an enormous success.”

The spokesman said CRG wished to “clearly state” it was open to further discussions with Waterford City Council.

More in this section