No automatic drop in tolls

 

THE SHARP fall in the cost of living this year will not lead to an automatic reduction in road tolls, according to the National Roads Authority (NRA).

Toll charges are reviewed each year with any increase calculated on the basis of changes in the consumer price index (CPI) for the previous year.

However, the contracts with operators of the five tolled routes in the State contain no provision for a cut in tolls when price index is falling.

“The contracts limit any increase to a CPI rise but when prices are falling, tolls remain unchanged,” said a NRA spokesman. “During a recession, traffic volumes go down so toll companies actually gain very little additional revenue when toll charges remain stagnant,” he said.

National traffic volumes are down 4 per cent this year according to the authority, while Central Statistics Office data showed prices across the economy have fallen 5.9 per cent in the 12 months to July.

Hugh Cregan, head of public private partnerships with the NRA, said toll charges were reviewed at the end of each year.While no mechanism for obligatory toll reductions exists, the option is open to road companies for “competitive reasons”.

The NRA said it has not received any applications from toll road operators seeking to reduce their charges in 2010.

Last year, the Exchequer received almost €100 million in toll revenues.