Multi-point tolling needed on the M50 to 'protect' it for freight traffic, say NTA
The National Transport Authority's stance in favour of multi-point tolling on the M50 is at odds with the position adopted by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe, it has emerged.
In an exclusive interview with the Herald this week the Minister ruled out introducing multi-point tolling on the congested route, for fear it would shift a staggering 40,000 car journeys every day into adjacent communities.
However, CEO of the National Transport Authority (NTA) Anne Graham said that she believes multi-point tolling should be introduced on the M50.
"There is a debate around when is the right time to introduce multi-point tolling, and what level of public transport needs to be in place before you would introduce it, but I think that is the kind of debate we need to have at this stage," she said.
The NTA has raised the issue of multi-tolling in its Draft Transport Strategy 2016-2035 for the Greater Dublin Area.
"We don't necessarily think it needs to be introduced now," Ms Graham said.
"But what we said certainly in the 20-year strategy that we have put in place, it will be required over that lifetime, but we would believe it would be needed in the early part of the lifetime of the strategy, not in the later part of the strategy.
"It's just really to retain the M50 as a strategic road for business traffic in particular, for freight traffic to ensure that traffic is protected in terms of usage of the M50, rather than being used for short commuter trips," she added.
Tolling and demand-management measures on the M50 are part of that strategy.
Also in relation to gridlock on the M50, the plan is to try and provide more public transport services, which it is hoped to do this year.
"The Minister has put in place additional subsidies for public transport services, so that's meant that we have been able to look at increasing the frequency on some of the core routes into the city centre on the radial routes, but also we are looking to see can we do additional services on the orbital routes as well, better frequency services," she added.
The huge backlog that often occurs on the country's busiest motorway has repeatedly led to calls for a series of radical new traffic-calming measures, such as multi-point tolling.
However, Mr Donohoe told the Herald he was not prepared to bring in such measures in the short term, amid concerns it would have a detrimental affect on communities located off the M50.
"I won't be bringing in multi-point tolling or congestion charging until we have step-changed the public transport capacity of the city," Mr Donohoe said.
Last month, however, he confirmed that variable speed limits will be introduced on the M50.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland are proceeding with the scheme. "We will have to tender for the technology. It won't be implemented for about another two to three years," said TTI spokesman Sean O'Neill. "There are 370,000 unique journeys every day on the M50," he said.
There is only one toll on the M50 at one point. That is between junction three and four.
Meanwhile, Verona Murphy, President of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said that more tolls were not a solution to the problem.
"More tolls and variable speed limits don't work," she said.
"This is a model used in the UK and as many Irish hauliers use the M25 around London we can categorically say it doesn't work."