Government examining ways to 'deter or mitigate' new motorway toll charges

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said the planned increases were 'most unwelcome' for motorists and were 'coming at the worst possible time'
Government examining ways to 'deter or mitigate' new motorway toll charges

The only tolled road in the country that will not see price rises is the Dublin PortTunnel. Picture: RollingNews.ie

The Government is examining ways to “deter or mitigate” planned increases in road tolls due on January 1, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said the planned increases were “most unwelcome” for motorists and were “coming at the worst possible time.” 

He said such toll increases could add up to €100 a year to their costs.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland confirmed last week that motorway toll charges across the country will rise to their maximum permitted price in the coming weeks. The increases are being introduced due to inflation.

The only tolled road in the country that will not see price rises is the Dublin Port Tunnel.

“We will work with the Department of Transport and try to see if we can come up with solutions between now and the first of January,” he told Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who raised the issue.

Mr Varadkar said he could not give Mr Doherty a solid cast-iron commitment about deferring the toll increases because there are contracts involved.

“And the companies that you refer to will want their contracts to be honoured and they will go to court if they're not, by the way, and probably succeed,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said there would be a cost involved, saying it was about €25m or €30m a year.

“So not a small amount of money. But we are working with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, working with the Department of Transport to see if we can do something to mitigate or defer that increase, which doesn't kick in until the first of January,” he said.

Leo Varadkar said such toll increases could add up to €100 a year to motorists' costs.
Leo Varadkar said such toll increases could add up to €100 a year to motorists' costs.

Mr Varadkar said the situation around the application of tolls is different depending on the type of contract in place, saying the M50 is different to Dublin Port and the roads built by way of public-private partnership.

Mr Doherty said the toll increases "is a massive blow to workers and families coming at a time of record fuel prices". 

"These toll road prices increases are going to really hurt. These charges will hurt commuters which disproportionately will impact on those living in rural areas who are forced to use a private car because they don't have the options of public transport they rarely exist,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said there has not been an increase in tolls for nine years, because inflation was very low. But now that inflation is very high, that increase kicks in and it is proposed to impose that increase on motorists and motorists from the first of January. 

“But just because the maximum toll is set at a certain level, doesn't mean it has to be applied,” the Tánaiste said.

Mr Varadkar accepted some ministers, including Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Super Junior Minister Hildegarde Naughton, were aware of the proposed toll increases back in September but he insisted he did not know and the Taoiseach did not know.

“In terms of information, I wasn't informed, the Taoiseach wasn't informed and the Cabinet wasn't informed. But I do accept the doctrine of collective responsibility kind of ministers were aware, but then therefore, the Government was collectively aware,” he said.

What are the toll increases?

On the M1, M7, M8, N6, N25 at Waterford and N18 Limerick Tunnel, tolls for cars will increase from €2 to €2.10.

For buses and large goods vehicles (LGVs), the price will increase from €3.50 to €3.80. Hauliers face hikes from €4.90 to €5.40 and €6.30 to €6.80 per journey, depending on the number of axles on their vehicle.

On the M3, car tolls will rise 10c to €1.60, while prices for buses and LGVs will rise from €2.30 to €2.40. Chargers for larger trucks will rise from €3 to €3.20 and from €3.70 to €4.

On the M4, car tolls will increase to €3.20 — up 20c. For buses and LGVs, tolls will go from €4.50 to €4.90. Larger trucks will see face increases from €6 to €6.50 and from €7.30 to €7.90, depending on vehicle size.

The State-owned M50 will see its car tolls increase for tag users by 20c to €2.30.

Drivers captured on video travelling through the barrier-free tolls will see fares rise from €2.70 to €2.90.

Unregistered cars will be charged €3.50 — up from €3.20.

Tagged goods vehicles weighing less than 2,000kg, and buses will be charged €3.20, up from €3. Vehicles of this size caught on video will see fares increase by 30c to €3.80. Unregistered vehicles in this category will also be upped by 30c, from €4.10 to €4.40.

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