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Tolls on the M3 - Bailouts for the Toll Firms

category national | miscellaneous | feature author Tuesday August 18, 2009 21:25author by Muireann Ni Bhrolchain -

The Irish Government will pay compensation if traffic levels do not reach minimum

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We Don't Need to be Tolled Twice

The Irish Government will pay compensation for tolls of the M3 if the traffic falls below the established minimum.
A report from Ferrovial dated 2008, on their website, states:

“The concession agreement establishes guaranteed minimum traffic levels and the Irish government has to pay the Concession Company compensation if traffic falls below the established minimums”.

This is how this story came to light. The Government have made a sweetheart deal with the tolling company of the M3 that if the minimum traffic levels are not reached then the rest of us will have to foot the bill and the shortfall.

But this deal seems to be unique to the M3; the same report states the opposite in regard to the M4/M6: “Revenue sharing with the Government if certain traffic thresholds are exceeded”.

The story was brought to media attention by a letter to the papers by campaigners in the middle of July. Although most of them didn’t publish the letter, the Irish Independent followed with a story entitled “Taxpayer will have to foot bill for M3 toll shortfall” on Monday 10th August 09 and the Meath Chronicle followed with a story called “Furure (sic) over motorway 'tolls bailout' for Eurolink” on Wednesday, 12th August 09. Newstalk covered the story and did an interview with the Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey. This is an extract from what occurred (courtesy of

Eamon Keane asked Minister Dempsey why nobody seemed to know the minimum target in revenue for fees on the new M3 toll bridge. The operators have been assured if a minimum target isn't met, taxpayers will compensate them: "Yeah, that will be all clearly laid out in that confidential contract I presume, between the NRA and the operator."

Eamon Keane asked Minister Dempsey if the public ever will, or should know the minimum target: "I'm not sure, but I think if it's commercially sensitive I don't think so. What we will know is if the target is not reached, which the NRA assured me is absolutely and totally unlikely, that if it isn't reached, then it will become public then because it will become quite clear that the NRA has had to pay money over and that will be available in their accounts. But, eh, I'm assured by the NRA that the reason why they put this clause in was to try and ensure maximum participation by competitor in trying to get the best possible price and the sharpest timescale in providing the M3, and they believe that the figure will be easily exceeded and that they have taken into account fully the fact that we will have a Navan Rail line by 2015 as well."

On foot of this, Tara campaigners have now called for the resignation of the Minister in a press release sent out on Monday 17th August 09. It reads as follows:

Save Tara campaigners are calling for the resignation of the Minister for Transport, Mr. Noel Dempsey, over the issue of the tolling of the M3 motorway. Campaigners have being drawing attention to the fact that the road was to be tolled twice for years now but the message has fallen on deaf ears until recently when a letter (Meath Chronicle, 18th. July) from the campaign again drew attention to the fact that Ferrovial made a sweetheart deal with the Government under which the Toll company would be compensated by the Taxpayer if traffic levels did not reach the specific/expected targets. (Campaigners have also drawn attention to the fact that the tolling period is 45 years and not 30 as reported widely in the press.)

The traffic figures on the existing N3 are dropping yearly since its peak in May 06 when it reached 19,042, the latest figures available are for March 09 and they have fallen by nearly 3,000 to 16,279. These figures will continue to fall as Meath now records the highest job losses in the country. Unemployment has risen by 116% in a year and the total unemployed in the county now stands at 11,498.

In the coming years there will be less people moving to Meath for housing as the prices in Dublin continue to fall – the rise in the population of Meath was mainly due to Dubliners who could not afford to live in their own county due to high house prices. Given a choice, commuters will chose to live in neighbouring Kildare where there are no tolls and there is a decent alternative public transport system from the commuter towns of Maynooth and Leixlip in particular.

As far as an alternative public transport system for county Meath is concerned, this deal with Ferrovial means that the Government now has a conflict of interest vis a vis the rail option and the M3 motorway. Any proposal for any public transport alternative for Meath commuters will be handicapped by the necessity for the Government to consider the damage such proposals might inflict on traffic volumes on the M3. As an example - the site of the Pace railway station (after the Toll Plaza on the M3) demonstrates this point graphically - you can have the rail alternative but not until you first pay the toll on the M3.

Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin said: ‘The indignation expressed by the Meath TDs is laughable. They knew perfectly well that this road was to be tolled twice from the very beginning – nearly 10 years ago. Noel Dempsey must resign, not just for presiding over this present debacle but also for his continued involvement in this crazy project that has destroyed, for financial gain, the most precious of Ireland’s landscapes.’

The Meath Chronicle reported on October 2000 that there would be two tolls on the then, proposed M3. TDs commented in the meantime. This “sweetheart” deal with the tolling company is just another symptom of how the present Government is prepared to sell the people out as they intend to do with NAMA.

The original letter that sparked off this controversy read as follows:

Dear editor,

Are the Irish public aware of the fact that if the projected traffic numbers do not reach the expected targets on the benighted M3 that the Government (that’s us the taxpayer by the way) must pay the shortfall?

Ferrovial’s website states clearly:
“The concession agreement establishes guaranteed minimum traffic levels and the Irish government has to pay the Concession Company compensation if traffic falls below the established minimums”.

That is specifically in regard to the double-tolled M3. On the other hand, the same web page says of the M4/M6:

“Revenue sharing with the Government if certain traffic thresholds are exceeded”.

It appears that Ferrovial are expecting the traffic levels on the M3 to fall below the expected targets and that the M4/M6 will reach and surpass those targets.

The rest of the Irish population should know that we will be paying for the shortfall in tolls if the people of Meath chose not to pay to go to work, if they have work to go to in these straightened times. That means that we will have paid for the M3 twice.

For those of us opposed to this project that destroyed Tara’s landscape, this is an appalling vista.

We have been lectured to by the Government, IBEC, Meath County Council and many other bodies of how important this road was and now the traffic will not even reach the minimum required? If the importance of Tara and the Gabhra Valley and the destruction of our heritage does not anger people let us hope that this immoral deal will.

Related Link:

Who is on the Toll payroll?
Who is on the Toll payroll?

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