It is time to scrap all tolls on the M50 to help ease the ‘crippling’ cost of living crisis, according to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.
It comes after new figures showed the State took in €140m in M50 tolls last year – up €16m on the year before.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Deputy Tóibín said the State has taken in over €1.2bn in tolls in the last nine years alone.
He said the Government bought out the toll system more than 20 years ago – meaning it could end the tolls without needing to pay anyone off.
“At this stage, the people of Ireland have paid for all of the construction costs in relation to this,” he said.
“At this stage, the collection of tolls there is not to cover the cost of the road. The collection of tolls is basically just for profit now.”
Deputy Tóibín said ending the toll is a ‘low-hanging fruit’ option the Government could take to the ‘crippling cost of living crisis’ facing people all over the country.
“We own this road,” he said. “We’ve paid for it a number of times at this stage and the cost of it is punitive on people.
“People deserve a break. They deserve some level of the easing of the cost of living. People are at a stage at the moment where they can only afford to drive to work or drive to get groceries at the moment. They’re not driving to see relations anymore or family.
“There is a real crisis in the cost of living. I think everybody agrees on that and what we in Aontú are simply saying is OK, let’s go through people’s expenditure and where there’s an ability for the Government, without any cost to the Government, to ease that on people, let’s start that process.”
He said people living in commuter counties around Dublin are being hit particularly hard by road tolls.
He said there are four tolled in County Meath alone, with some commuters paying thousands in tolls every year.
“Because of the really bad special planning, much of the east coast now is a commuter belt for Dublin,” he said.
“People are forced to live 40, 50 or 60 miles outside of Dublin because they can’t afford the prices of houses in Dublin and every day, they’re spending two or three hours in return commute journey – so that is a very harsh aspect of people’s lives.
“On top of that, they’re dealing with maybe childcare costs and these toll costs.
“When we ask the Government to reduce VAT on fuel, they say they can’t because the EU has their hands tied. So, we’re looking for areas where the Government does have the ability to make a decision that would ease the pressure on families in terms of the cost of living and here is one.
“It’s no skin off the government’s nose. They are not paying down a debt directly related to this particular road, they are not covering the cost of anything and this is a change they could easily introduce that would actually reduce the cost of commuting and working for tens of thousands of people.”
You can listen back here: