Additional tolls on Dublin’s M50 and on other routes around the country would cause extensive traffic congestion on alternative routes, according to the AA.
An AA survey of over 13,000 Irish motorists shows that 60.9% of drivers would change their route to avoid a new toll if one were applied. The results show that proposals for new tolls on the M50 would do much more harm than good because they would cause additional traffic to avoid the motorway and re-congest suburbs like Sandyford, Dundrum and Blanchardstown instead.
“To apply a toll on the entire length of the M50 would be an act of traffic planning madness.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. “Tolls cause traffic to divert. This is a simple fact of life that neither the government nor the NRA can ignore. To apply a toll to the M50, which was built as a by-pass in order to relieve the congested suburbs, would have the effect of immediately channelling traffic back onto those unsuitable suburban roads.”
The AA has never been in favour of tolls on Irish roads because of the diversion effect. This has been borne out by the experience of places like Fermoy, Drogheda and Kinnegad where large volumes of traffic still drive through the towns despite the existence of multi-million euro by-passes. This congestion is a significant cost to local businesses and communities.
The NRA is currently engaged in a study to assess the feasibility of charging tolls on the entire length of the M50 rather than just the Westlink Bridge. The AA is calling on Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to call a halt to this immediately.
“It goes against all common sense to put a toll on a by-pass.” Says Faughnan. “You don’t find it anywhere else in the world. For Dublin, new M50 tolls would mean a return to the bad old days of major congestion in the suburbs. Residents and businesses, who well remember what it was like before the M50 was completed, are contacting the AA expressing their dismay at the idea.”
Despite its apparent attractiveness as a revenue-raising measure, tolls are not in fact as lucrative as they seem. The M50 toll raises €80 million per year but it also costs over €20 million to run the enormously complicated collection system – money that the AA sees as pure waste.
"Compared to the €2.5 billion that we pay in fuel taxes it is relatively small money.” Says Faughnan. “In fact just a couple of cents of excise duty on petrol and diesel raises more money than every toll in the country combined. Considering the collateral damage that they cause, tolls just aren’t worth it.”
Notes to the editor:
During our latest AA Motoring Poll (issued 05/08/11) we asked motorists how they would react if a new toll was introduced on their daily commute. The figure below examines to what extent motorists would take measures to avoid paying additional tolls.
Fig. 1 How often respondents said they would change their route to avoid a toll should one be introduced on their daily commute (Based on 13,702 responses):
(A) ALL OF THE TIME
(B) MOST OF THE TIME
(C) SOME OF THE TIME