herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: Time for 'disaster' Dempsey to go before he does even more damage with his crazy road tolls scheme

In a recent opinion poll, voters were asked which Fianna Fail minister they would like to see replace Brian Cowen as Taoiseach.

For some bizarre reason, the company carrying out the survey decided to put Noel Dempsey's name on the list.

Sadly, poor old Noel trailed in last with precisely 0pc support -- a result which, given how much he seems to enjoy annoying people, he will probably wear as a badge of pride.

Dempsey's proposal for a string of new tolls across the State's motorways is just his latest insult to the long-suffering motoring community who are sick of being treated as this Government's biggest cash cow.

It involves dividing the M50 into several separate tolling sections, turning routine car journeys into a seriously expensive day out. It suggests that not only is the Minister for Transport completely out of touch with public opinion, he has also learned nothing from his mistakes -- and that's why his departure from office really can't come soon enough. As motoring lobby groups such as the AA have pointed out time and time again, tolls are a ludicrously inefficient way of raising money.

It costs over €20m a year to run a system that generates revenue of well under €100m, with huge sums wasted on cameras, computers and chasing people all over the world for fines they will never pay.

If the Government really wanted to squeeze more cash out of drivers, then a small increase in the carbon tax would net them more than every toll in the country combined. The one thing tolls are really good at creating is road rage.

Motorists must be wondering how many times we will be asked to pay for the M50, which has been sucking money out of our pockets ever since the Government bought it from the NTR (National Toll Roads). Research suggests that up to 17pc of hauliers will now avoid being stung by diverting into villages and housing estates, which will be a nice surprise for residents who thought they had been bypassed for good.

Obsession

As crazy as it is, the minister's obsession with tolls is just the latest in a long catalogue of Dempsey blunders.

By a happy coincidence, he's unveiled his new money-grabbing scheme in the same week we learned that the 7,000 electronic voting machines he blew €50m on all those years ago will finally have to be scrapped. The taxpayer must stump up another €200,000 or so to turn these useless chunks of metal in to something more useful such as traffic cones or fleeces -- which is at least better than the €3m it's cost so far to store them in an air hangar in Dempsey's native Meath.

Noel Dempsey will never be Taoiseach. In fact, the chances are that he is in the dying months of his long and spectacularly undistinguished ministerial career. So why does he seem intent on doing as much damage as he can before he leaves the building?

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