Leo does a huge toll U-turn after Herald campaign
MOTORISTS were breathing a sigh of relief today after Leo Varadkar ruled out multi-point tolling on the M50.
The plan to impose several pay points along the capital's ring-road had been under consideration for some time -- but the Transport Minister now seems to have seen the light.
Following a six-month Herald campaign aimed at kicking the ridiculous idea into touch, the minister said his decision was based on "a combination of cost and common sense".
Mr Varadkar said he had given consideration to new tolls on the M50, Jack Lynch Tunnel, the N11, the N2, and the N17 at Ennis.
However, a review revealed that the benefits would be "much less than the costs", so the plans had been ditched.
Multi-point tolling would have lumped up to €120 in extra charges on motorists' monthly bills.
He added: "On a common- sense front, motorists are being hit very had with increased taxes. Motor tax is going up this year... and the price of petrol and diesel is very high. Some of that is due to the VAT increase and the carbon tax... In the longer term, the reality is fuel prices are going to rise, so I don't particularly want to hit people with extra tolls as well."
Mr Varadkar said the cost of erecting expensive new gantries made the plan uneconomical.
But he could not guarantee that existing tolls would not go up during the lifetime of the Government.
"What they will do is go up in line with inflation, and down with deflation, if we do have deflation," he said.
He admitted that, "if you were to start from scratch" along the M50, you would have a much fairer system "where you would have several tolling points" and "everybody would pay something".
At the moment only motorists who pass the West-Link toll plaza pay the charge.
However, a multi-point system would not have led to a price reduction at the West-Link.
"What you would have at the end of the day is, rather than a reduced toll at the West Link, you would probably end up with three or four €2 tolls along the M50," Mr Varadkar said.
After coming under sustained pressure from the Herald's No To Tolls campaign, the Dublin West TD admitted: "There will be no new tolling points."
The Herald revealed in August that plans under consideration by the National Transport Authority had caused deep unrest among the Coalition parties.
More than 20 TDs, including a junior minister, confirmed to the Herald that they would not stand by the charges.
The proposed regime would have introduced tolling on virtually every section of the M50 -- regardless of the length of the journey.
Mr Varadkar said that after considering the potential impact of the measures, he realised that motorists have taken enough pain and that the installation of multi-point tolling would prove "quite expensive".
The news was described as a "triumph for common sense" by the AA's Conor Faughnan.