M50 charges will choke our city with traffic again
SOME ideas are so ridiculous that you can't even see any bad sense in them, let alone good. Charging a toll on the whole of the M50 falls into that category.
It is a basic mistake to put a toll on a bypass.
Any competent traffic planner will tell you that tolls cause traffic to divert onto other routes instead. In the case of the M50, a toll will automatically recongest suburbs like Sandyford, Dundrum, Rathfarnham and Blanchardstown.
People there remember the bad old days very well.
Before the M50 was finished, and subsequently widened, those suburbs had some of the worst traffic jams in the country.
Indeed, Dublin's traffic was so appalling that the city became famous for it around Europe.
Why would the NRA, at the behest of the government, even consider a measure that would set the city back so much?
In theory you can make money from tolls, but in fact it is not that straightforward.
The existing M50 toll raises €80m per year. But it costs €20m to run the system. It is also a toll on a bridge and that makes it more difficult for traffic to use an alternative route.
Lots of people do all the same -- choosing to go the long way through places like Ballyfermot and the Phoenix Park. If the whole road has a toll that diversion will be much greater.
The €60m 'profit' only counts if you are willing to ignore the costs that come from all of that diverted traffic. It is also a relatively small amount of money in the scheme of things. The government collects €2.5bn a year in tax on petrol and diesel.
If you only use the M50 occasionally, for example to go to the airport, you will probably pay the toll and think it is reasonably good value.
But if you have to commute along the route that means paying 10 times a week. That is €100 per month in tolls. People simply cannot pay that.
The AA has just carried out a poll amongst Irish motorists where we asked them what they would do if a toll was introduced along the road that they used for their regular commute.
A total of 61pc said that they would find an alternative route.
We gave people the chance to make comments -- 1,500 did so, and those comments show that they are absolutely livid.
They would be forced to choose between a significant rise in the cost of living or ignoring the motorway.
Unless you think that motorways should only be for the rich, there is no way that you could think this to be fair.
There are clear examples from up and down the country of the negative effect of tolls, no clearer than the M3 motorway.
That hugely expensive and controversial new road is essentially empty because it has two tolls. The dangerous old road it was to replace still carries large volumes of traffic.
Spending hundreds of millions on major new pieces of infrastructure and then forcing people not to use them is crazy.
Minister Varadkar did Dublin one big favour already this week by ruling out congestion charges.
Round off an excellent week's work, Minister, by putting a stop to the tolls madness as well.
Conor Faughnan is Director of Policy for AA Ireland