Roads authority has spent €20m on unopened motorway services
Committee also hears 2,000 motorists overcharged on M1 toll
M11 services: a bridge and services building have been built near Gorey, Co Wexford. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Transport Infrastructure Ireland has said that three unopened motorway service areas have so far cost it more than €20 million and are still costing it almost €20,000 a month.
The authority, which formed in 2015 from the merger of the National Roads Authority and Railway Procurement Agency, has spent €19 million on junctions on the M6 and M9 to provide access to planned services at Moate and Kilcullen. In addition, a motorway bridge and services building have been built on the M11 near Gorey, Co Wexford.
Work on all three service areas has been halted, however, and the State road builder has spent €600,000 on security and lighting in Gorey, where ongoing costs amount to €19,500 a month.
Michael Nolan, chief executive of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, said a legal dispute had delayed the provision of services at the three locations. The organisation had also incurred €575,000 in legal costs after it was challenged by an underbidder for the concession to operate the three services.
Briefing members of the Oireachtas transport committee on Wednesday, Mr Nolan said the legal challenge had been withdrawn and the preferred bidder now had “to remobilise a project team and review proposals”; he expected a contract to be awarded early in the second half of the year.
Road maintenance cuts
Mr Nolan also told TDs and Senators that Government funding for road maintenance would have to be almost halved from what it was 10 years ago, down from €58 million in 2008 to €31.6 million in 2018. As part of this the authority had been forced to reduce its salt-buying budget; although current salt levels were adequate, he said, the situation would be reviewed after the winter.
The committee also heard that some motorists had been overcharged on the tolled section of the M1 at Gormanston, Co Meath. Drivers who returned to the motorway less than three hours after leaving it were incorrectly charged a second time, he said; bylaws stipulate that motorists should not have to pay twice if they resumed their journey travelling in the same direction.
The overcharging appeared to have happened during an upgrade of the toll-collection system that has been under way since April 2017. Mr Nolan said 2,000 customers had been overcharged by a total of €6,000.
The committee’s chairman, Fergus O’Dowd, said nobody had been told about the overcharging until he raised the issue this month. He also said that, as Transport Infrastructure Ireland had failed to collect €10 million in tolls on the M50 from drivers who refused to pay, compliant motorists were being penalised while noncompliant motorists were getting away with dodging tolls. “It seems just a rip-off,” he said.