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Tolls on the M3 - Bailouts for the Toll Firms
national | miscellaneous | feature Tuesday August 18, 2009 21:25 by Muireann Ni Bhrolchain - SaveTara.com
The Irish Government will pay compensation if traffic levels do not reach minimum
The Irish Government will pay compensation for tolls of the M3 if the traffic falls below the established minimum.
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.
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:
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.