FIGURES from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TFI) show that taxpayers have paid €32 million to two private toll operators over the past three years, including €26 million for the Limerick Tunnel.
That’s according to Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan who said that because of lower-than-expected traffic volumes on the Limerick Tunnel and the M3 motorway, the taxpayer has been forced to compensate the private toll road companies.
“The Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts that permit these extremely generous traffic guarantee payments, are a legacy of bad economic policy choices and decisions made by successive Fianna Fáil-led administrations in the early 2000s,”Deputy Quinlivan claimed.
“The Limerick Tunnel represents a terrible deal for the taxpayer, with the State paying over €26million in the past three years. This bill could top €200million over the lifetime of the contract.
“These contracts ensure that the taxpayer pays if an agreed upon number of vehicles don’t use these roads. For the Limerick Tunnel, that base line is 17,000 vehicles a day.
“Rather than easing traffic restriction, these contracts create traffic congestion elsewhere as people avoid the tolls.
“The cost of using the Limerick Tunnel is now €2 per journey. Thousands of cars and trucks come through Limerick City everyday because they won’t or can’t afford to pay the toll, unlike Cork City where their tunnel remains toll free.
“When the Limerick Tunnel was built, the State was awash with money and the Fianna Fáil government committed to just give it away through these cowboy deals with road tunnel operators.
“Tolling the Limerick Tunnel or the M3 road never made sense and taxpayers are left to foot the bill when these roads are underused,” Deputy Quinlivan maintained.
“The Limerick Tunnel contract runs until 2041, while the M3 contract doesn’t expire for another 30 years, so we can expect these payments to increase significantly over the next few decades as people move to more sustainable modes of transport
“The taxpayer will be left with a bill of hundreds of millions of euro as a result. It’s hard to understand how any government would have signed up to such agreements.
“These toll road contracts represent poor planning, a total lack of foresight and dreadful value for money for the taxpayer,” he declared.