To ask the Minister for Transport the tolling arrangements being devised for the West Link bridge on the M50 following the possible buyout of the tolling concession held by the existing operators and the stated aim to extend the toll to 2035 to pay for the second phase of the upgrade of the M50; the expected level of toll that will be introduced; the private sector involvement planned; and the technology that will apply for collecting the toll.
- John Gormley. (Nominated by: Eamon Ryan).
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 6th December, 2006.
Ref No: 41711/06 Lottery: 19 Proof: 21
Answered by the Minister for Transport
(Martin Cullen T.D.)
At the outset, I should explain that overall responsibility for the planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the M50 Upgrade, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned. I have no function in relation to the day-to-day operation of these projects.
In addition, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads, including the M50, is vested in the National Roads Authority (NRA) under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000).
As the Deputy is aware, last January, for commercial and strategic reasons, the National Roads Authority (NRA) decided to end the arrangement with National Toll Roads plc (NTR) that has been in place under an agreement entered into in 1987 for the collection of tolls at West-Link up to 2020. Instead, the NRA is separately procuring a single point barrier free toll system which will become operational in quarter 3 of 2008. This will coincide with the completion of Phase 1 of the upgrade of the M50 the section between the N4 and the Ballymount interchanges.
It is intended that the M50 Free Flow contract will be awarded in February 2007 and will involve an eight year contract to provide for the design, implementation and operation of the free flow tolling arrangements. At the end of this period, the NRA will have the option to extend the contract for a further three years or to re-advertise for a new operator.
I understand that the toll revenue from the barrier-free single point toll will be used to fund Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the M50 upgrade and the cost of introducing barrier free tolling as well as the costs of terminating NTR's West-Link contract.
With regard to the level of tolls that will be introduced when the new system becomes operational in 2008, the NRA advise that the toll levels will be comparable to current levels (indexed linked) and there will not be more than one tolling location. The NRA intend to submit proposals for the barrier free toll arrangement for Government consideration in due course.
I understand from the NRA that barrier-free tolling will be achieved by an electronic toll collection system, which allows for tolling without vehicles having to stop or even slow down. Under the new system, the identification of vehicles will be facilitated by Automated Vehicle Identification technology and an automatic number plate recognition system (i.e., video enforcement) with users availing of either pre or post payment means. Automated toll collection in a barrier free environment can deliver an improved level of service by increasing the throughput capability of a toll plaza and reducing queues.
I recently sought and obtained Government approval for the drafting of the necessary legislation to support the enforcement of tolls under the planned free-flow tolling arrangements. I hope to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas early next year.