WHILE we obviously cannot change the location of the Limerick Tunnel, we can take action and remove the tolls.
That’s according to Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan, who believes this would go someway toward alleviating the traffic around the city and maximising the success of the Northern Distributor Road (NDR).
“The average daily traffic volumes on the Shannon Bridge travelling in the city centre direction is 15,000 cars. Of these vehicles,10,000 turn right and travel out the Dock Road. The Dock Road is notoriously traffic heavy at peak times and the question must be asked: How many of these motorists would use the Limerick Tunnel instead if it was not charged?”
“When the tunnel was planned, I pointed out that it wouldn’t reach its full potential because it was being tolled and stressed it would be far more effective at easing traffic congestion in South-East Clare and Limerick City, if the toll was removed. I pointed out that taxpayers could end up paying millions of euro in penalties during the lifetime of the contract because the tunnel wouldn’t be able to meet its baseline daily target of 17,000 vehicles,” he told the Limerick Post.
“Sinn Féin constantly warned that the tunnel would be a missed opportunity as it would not reach its full potential.
“The tunnel, albeit an excellent piece of infrastructure, was built far too close to the city centre and the toll is too high for many motorists to enable it to reach its maximum potential of removing traffic from the streets of Limerick City. The effects of this poor planning is still being felt today. As a Limerick man, I look at the success of the un-tolled Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork,” he said.
Commenting on the ongoing financial cost of the tunnel, Deputy Quinlivan claimed the Public Accounts Committee was previously told that the Limerick Tunnel alone would cost the State up to €200 million under the traffic guarantees agreed with the private companies when the tunnel was being planned.
“In light of the traffic reductions that followed the Covid-19 pandemic, Sinn Féin challenged the then Transport Minister Shane Ross, and he conceded that these private operators would also be compensated by the State for the decline in traffic volumes during the Covid-19 lockdown. This is an absolute disgrace. There are so many more important issues that need investment and prioritisation now, and toll road operators certainly aren’t one of them.”
However, he maintains that the damage done is not just fiscal.
“The tunnel was regarded as being necessary to reduce traffic volumes within Limerick City. It has failed. It was built too close to the city and it was tolled.
“This critical failure will negatively impact the success of the proposed Northern Distributor Road. It is suggested the original route and plan for the NDR would have allowed for a quicker route around the city, but this was changed so that the Limerick Tunnel can maintain current traffic levels and the revenue it is supposed to collect for private companies.
“Just under €7 million was paid this year for the N18 Tunnel, compared to €7.87 million for the previous two 12-month periods combined. This is an utter waste of taxpayers money,” he concluded.
In response, Limerick Tunnel operators Direct Route Limerick Ltd pointed out that since opening the project in 2010, they have had over 69 million vehicles using the tunnel.