toll road

‘Highway Robbery’... TDs slam planned motorway toll rises

Meath's commuters could be hit with increased tolls in the new year.

Tolls at the two M3 plazas in Meath are expected to increase by 10c for cars, while the toll on the M4 will rise by 20c and on the M1 by 10c.

The proposed increases have been met with an angry reaction locally and have been described as “highway robbery”, but Minister Hildegard Naughton said at the weekend that a serious conversation was needed with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and called the move "bad timing".

The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications has also requested an urgent meeting with TII.

TII has plans to increase tolls on the M50 and East Link bridges and has given the go ahead to the Public Private Partnership operators of the State's other tolls to increase the tolls by the highest price rises allowed.

On the M50, tolls will rise from €2.10 to €2.30 for those using tags, €2.70 to €2.90 for those captured on video, and €3.20 to €3.50 for unregistered vehicles.

Deputy Darren O’Rourke warned the price hikes will hit Meath commuters hard and called on the Minister for Transport to intervene.

“This news comes as another blow to motorists, and at a time of record fuel prices and a cost-of-living crisis.

“Workers and families are struggling to get by, and these toll increases are going to really hurt commuters.

“Tolls disproportionately impact those living in rural areas who are forced to use a private car as the public transport options simply aren’t there. Commuters in Meath will be particularly affected, with two tolls on the M3.

“These lucrative PPP contracts for toll roads have been a loser for the State year-on-year.

“During the pandemic, the taxpayer had to step in and pay toll operators millions because there weren’t enough cars on the road.

“It’s not lost on people that their wages don’t go up in line with inflation, but the Government has ensured the profits of toll operators do.

“Last month the M3 toll operator alone announced a profit of €11m. These firms aren’t struggling to get by, these toll increases are all about protecting private profit.

“In addition to heaping more financial misery on motorists, these toll increases will divert traffic off main roads and onto smaller roads, which is more dangerous and less efficient. We know that well in Meath, with traffic avoiding M1, M2 and M3 tolls clogging up our minor roads every day.

“The Minister for Transport must intervene. These increases should not go ahead.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín condemned the increases described them as "highway robbery".

“It is shocking that the government is itself increasing the cost of motorway tolls while families are being hit with the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory. Toll hikes will be linked to the current rate of inflation, 8.6 per cent, but the Government owns the M50 and the East link Bridges. Increasing the cost of these when commuters are already hammered with increased car prices, increased fuel prices, increased repair and servicing costs is highway robbery. These families are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes.

Laytown-Bettystown Municipal Council is calling on TII to reconsider their decision. At a meeting last Thursday, Cllr Sharon Tolan said “This comes at a worrying time for workers and families, who are already suffering from increases in costs of living, and particularly record fuel prices. We cannot sit back and allow this to happen. There is a real danger that many will try to avoid the toll altogether and use Julianstown village to reroute around it. We already see huge numbers of cars, LGVs and HGVs who have no choice but to use the R132 through Julianstown to access the M1 at the Gormanston Interchange. This toll increase could result in a very significant increase in those vehicle numbers while hauliers, commuters and families try to save on daily travel costs.”

“The Government often say that they can’t reduce the cost of living. But by increasing the tolls on their own bridges and agreeing to increases on PPP tolls, the Government are actively adding fuel to the fire of the cost-of-living crisis. From Toll hikes to higher VAT receipts on fuel compared to before the cost-of-living crisis the Government is actively worsening the cost-of-living crisis”.

“The Government is not providing the necessary public transport alternatives either. Despite all of the Greenwashing talk of the Government, projects such as the Navan to Dublin Rail Line are no further on. Indeed bus services from Meath are increasingly erratic. Bus users cannot be confident that they will get to work on time. Buses are not showing up and if they do they are full and unable to pick people up. If the government meant business in really helping people they would scrap the M50 tolls or at the very least reduced the cost of transport” Tóibín concluded