Tolls could help deliver the Cork to Limerick motorway faster

Tolls could help deliver the Cork to Limerick motorway faster
The Toll Plaza at Watergrasshill. A similar toll on the route of the proposed Cork to motorway could speed up the delivery of the project. Picture Des Barry

TOLLING has emerged as a potential funding option to speed up the delivery of the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway project.

Cork East Labour TD Sean Sherlock has said that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who is based in Limerick, has indicated that the government would back, in principle, efforts to use tolling to secure a public-private partnership to get a loan for the motorway scheme, which is expected to cost between €800 million and €1 billion to deliver. 

Ireland is limited in how it can secure loans for major infrastructure projects by the Stability and Growth Pact agreed by European Union member states in recent years, but building in an income stream, like tolling, through a third party, could help to get around the restrictions. 

This could see the proposed Cork to Dublin motorway built in a similar fashion to the M8 Cork-Dublin motorway, which has tolls at Watergrasshill and Portlaoise. 

Mr Sherlock criticised the restrictive nature of the EU pact at the Oireachtas Finance Committee this week, saying:

“Increasingly, what we are seeing in respect of the Stability and Growth Pact is that there is a lot of focus on the stability but very little on the growth."

"If we are looking at growth in our own economy and capital spending, obviously there is going to be a turf war on the capital spend. The Minister and I both inhabit the great province of Munster. 

"We would be looking at regional economic development between Cork, Limerick and Galway and that Atlantic corridor. If we are to be realistic about proper investment in projects of this nature, there needs to be some degree of flexibility built into, or a revision of, the Stability and Growth Pact because I think it is actually impeding the potential for growth. There cannot be growth without proper regional infrastructure.” 

Mr Noonan said that investment was important and the government was looking at how it could tackle projects like the motorway. 

He said that building an income stream into the project could see it get approval faster.

"Transferring the risk means the transfer of the financial liability to the entity that is building the road, school and so on. We have just started this initiative but we have already discovered that we can expect the European Investment Bank to look favourably on projects that generate an income stream. For example, if we proposed to undertake a project in the public transport arena which resulted in the fares accruing from that being sufficient to service the loan, we could get it off-balance sheet," said Mr Noonan, referring to the M20 project.

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