Plans to replace road tolls with a new tax on motorists are ‘anti-rural,’ according to Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland is considering a range of options for funding toad maintenance into the future as part of a new transport project.
The project aims to de-carbonise the transport system and ensure the road network remains “financially resilient and well-maintained”.
There are reportedly four options on the table:
- Removing tolls from all roads subject to public private partnerships.
- Maintaining the toll system as it is.
- Charging for use of all motorways and connected dual carriageways.
- Charging for the use of the entire national road network.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said he was “totally opposed” to the plan – insisting motorists are already “haunted, persecuted and pursued at every avenue”.
“You must remember this would be an anti-rural measure, because people living in rural areas don’t have the same type of access to public transport and I think this is wrong,” he said.
He labelled the proposal “fundamentally wrong” and insisted “people going to work today surely can’t agree with it”.
“I am very disappointed with TFI to even be suggesting this because, once they start suggesting it and mooting it and putting it out there, of course there will be people, like environmental gurus, who will say yes this is a great way to stop people from driving,” he said.
“I know for a fact, the people that are going to work today won’t appreciate this because they will simply feel, we’re paying enough, things are expensive enough and this is not a practical or sensible time to be talking about introducing more additional charges.”
Also on the show, environmental expert John Gibbons said Ireland’s road toll system is “completely out of step” with the rest of Europe – noting that, in France, it would cost about €20 to travel the distance of Dublin to Cork.
He said charging drivers for the entire road network would ensure the people who benefit from the motorway network were paying for it.
“The point of this is not to haunt and persecute the motorist,” he said.
“It is to make a contribution from the person who is benefitting from this incredibly expensive infrastructure – so they make a contribution towards the maintenance of the infrastructure.”
He said half of Ireland’s population does not drive – but they are still being asked to pay for the roads.
“It is important to say that, in Ireland, fewer than one in two people own a car of any description,” he said.
“That means that person on the bus, out of their tax, they are paying for a national motorway network that only benefits the motorist.”
Most importantly, he said the system would stop drivers getting “fleeced” by private road toll companies.
“To give you an example, the West Link Bridge,” he said. “A private company owns that and is extracting huge amounts of revenue from it.
“We, the taxpayer, built the M50, we, the taxpayer, maintain the M50 at enormous cost but the only people making money from the M50 is a private operator.
“That is absolutely ridiculous.”
You can listen back to the full debate here: