Tolls increase will be ‘massive blow’ to commuters, says Sinn Féin TD

Tolls are expected to rise from January 1 across the roads network.
Tolls increase will be ‘massive blow’ to commuters, says Sinn Féin TD

By Michelle Devane, PA

Toll road increases will be a “massive blow” to commuters and will disproportionately affect those living in rural areas, the Dail has heard.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty called on the Government to intervene to prevent the price hikes being implemented.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government is trying to find a way to mitigate or defer toll increases.

Operators are set to increase toll prices in line with inflation from January 1st

All tolls on the national road network are regulated through inflation (CPI) and cannot go above inflation. Due to the inflationary impact during 2022, toll rates across the national road network will be affected on January 1st, 2023.

“This is a massive blow to workers and families coming at a time of record fuel prices,” Mr Doherty told the Dail during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday.

“These toll road prices increases are going to really hurt, and they’re really going to hurt commuters. These charges will disproportionately impact on those living in rural areas who are forced to use a private car because they don’t have the options of public transport.”

The Donegal TD accused the Government of failing to address the matter urgently.

He said: “It is not lost on people that their wages don’t go up in line with inflation, but the government has ensured through these contracts that the profit of toll operators do.

“These firms aren’t struggling to get by and these increases are all about protecting private profit. So the Government needs to intervene.

“They need to bring all the pressure that they can to bear on the operators and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in particular. These increase should not go ahead.”

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar (Damien Storan/PA)

He also said Junior Minister Hildegarde Naughton told an Oireachtas committee earlier this week that the department was aware of the issue as early as September.

Mr Varadkar said any increase is “extremely unwelcome” given the cost-of-living crisis facing families.

But he said the rules around tolls work differently depending on whether the toll or bridge is under the control of the Government or not.

“There hasn’t been an increase in tolls for nine years because inflation was very low, but now that inflation is very high that increase kicks in,” he said.

“It’s proposed to impose it on motorists from 1st of January.

Pearse Doherty
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty (Damien Storan/PA)

“But just because the maximum toll is set at a certain level doesn’t mean it has to be applied.”

He added: “What we’re trying to do over the course of the next few weeks, is to see if we can find a way to mitigate the impact of that for motorists.

“There would be a cost involved, it’s around €25 to 30 billion. So, not a small amount of money.

“But we are working with TII, working with the Department of Transport, to see if we can do something to mitigate or defer that increase.”

But he said he “cannot” give a cast-iron commitment because contracts are involved.

In response, the Sinn Féin finance spokesman said it was only because of “public outrage” that the Government was examining the matter.

Mr Varadkar added: “We have a bit of time, we are working on it.”

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