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No congestion charge in city says Varadkar

DUBLIN'S public transport system is not good enough to justify a congestion charge on motorists, according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

He was responding to proposals by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to levy a fee on drivers for bringing cars into the city.

The minister insisted an alternative to commuting by private car must be available before the charge is introduced.

The proposal for Dublin city and the greater Dublin area had been envisaged in a new NTA strategy. Previous ministers had appeared to favour the move.

In addition, the option for the charge was included in the NTA's Greater Dublin Area draft transport strategy 2011-2030.

The authority also said it wanted to bring in a distance-based road user charge to discourage car use and encourage travel by buses, trains and the Luas.

Following public consultation, the NTA prepared a final draft strategy for Mr Varadkar and submitted it in June.

The strategy document warned of ever-increasing traffic volumes in coming years.



PROSPECT

However, the minister has now shot down any short-term prospect of the charge.

He pointed out cities like London where a congestion levy exists already have a public transport system of sufficient quality to provide an alternative for commuters.

Irish cities are not capable of providing such an "extensive public transport alternative", Mr Varadkar said in an interview with a newspaper. While the Government was committed to encouraging greater use of public transport, "congestion charging was not currently being promoted," he said.

Former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey announced in 2009 that the so-called demand management levy was being considered.

At the time, the Government was committed to investing €16bn under Transport 21 to improve public transport, which included delivering a new Metro and Luas extensions.

However, many of these projects are now in doubt, making the introduction of the new tax much more difficult. Business groups have long been opposed to any such charge.

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce said last month it endorsed indications from Mr Varadkar that the proposal would not be implemented.

comurphy@herald.ie


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