M1 toll firm studies ways to refund

 

CELTIC ROADS Group, which last week was found by the Commercial Court to be overcharging for tolls on the M1 motorway, is examining ways to give refunds to drivers who have been incorrectly charged an estimated €26,000 per week since January 1st.

Operations manager Declan Cahill said: “On the back of the High Court ruling, Celtic Roads Group have reduced tolls from midnight last Friday and are looking at mechanisms to return fees to motorists.”

Mr Cahill told The Irish Timesa further announcement could be expected “within days”.

According to the National Roads Authority (NRA), it should be relatively easy to return at least half of the estimated €260,000 incorrectly charged to motorists on the M1 immediately.

The roads authority said some 30,000 vehicles a day currently use the M1 toll. While only about 41 per cent of that number carry toll tags, these users tend to be the larger vehicles such as trucks which pay more. The authority calculates that tag holders contribute 50 per cent of the toll revenue.

Repayments to users of toll tags should be relatively simple as there is a record of when the tolls were paid and how much the motorists were charged. It may even be possible for the company to adjust tag holders’ bills or to make a credit without the tag holder having to make any contact with the company.

For those who paid cash and have a receipt, measures to make a repayment should also be relatively simple. However, a significant portion of those who pay by cash tend not to request a receipt.

Mr Cahill has said the company is not indisposed to making a donation to charity in relation to the latter category but is obviously keen that, having done so, it is not then pursued by motorists claiming refunds. The board of Celtic Roads Group is expected to agree an approach later this week.

Mr Cahill said tolls on the N25 Suir bridge in Co Waterford, which were not part of the High Court judgement but which had also been increased in January, were also reduced from midnight on Friday last. Similar consideration was being given to a refund of money to users of the Waterford bridge.

The move is likely to put increased pressure on the operators of a further two tolls, at the M8 in Fermoy, Co Cork, and the N4 at Enfield in Co Meath, which had similar toll agreements to the M1 operation.

The NRA has written to the operators of these tolls asking them to reduce their fees following the court decision in relation to the M1.

The NRA said it “could well understand” motorists seeking a refund of tolls on the M1 following the court judgement. Spokesman Michael Egan said the authority was glad to have secured motorists a significant saving on the route which would amount to about €1.3 million in a full year.

Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland encouraged Celtic Roads Group to actively engage in efforts to find a mechanism to refund motorists. He said motorists were a “beleaguered group” paying a range of taxes on fuel and roads, with tolls being added to the mix in recent years.

A third Celtic Roads Group toll on the M7/M8 at Portlaoise, and tolls on Dublin’s M50, the Dublin Port Tunnel, the Shannon Tunnel, Dublin’s East Link and the M3 motorway are unaffected by the recent court decision. This is because of either the type of toll agreement in place or the length of time the roads have been open. Toll rates on these roads are not expected to change.