We’re paying €28m a year to private toll road operators thanks to ‘minimum traffic’ clauses that were agreed to in a time of increasing traffic flows and as an incentive to the operators to invest the building of the roads in the first place.
The department is now examining whether removing tolls would increase traffic and reduce the amount that must be paid under the clauses. The Limerick Tunnel has been particularly disappointing in terms of traffic, with an analysis by the National Roads Authority (NRA) showing a large number of heavy goods vehicles were avoiding the toll.
When the toll was lifted for HGVs for a month last November as part of pilot study, traffic through the tunnel increased by 70pc.
However, HGV levels returned to normal the following month when the toll was reinstated.
Around 37,000 trucks went through the Limerick Tunnel during the month when the tolls were waived compared to just 22,000 trucks in the same month the previous year.
So we now have a bit of a conundrum, on one hand we wish to increase traffic to reduce the subvention, but on the other, nobody wants to pay the toll.
Maybe some stick is required:
As a result of the findings, the NRA was directed to explore options to reduce HGV volumes in Limerick city and encourage use of the tunnel.
Perhaps following in the steps of Dublin City and banning 5+ axle vehicles would be a start, and could improve the city for residents at the same time.