Motorists to face road toll increases

 

MOTORISTS ARE facing up to two new increases in charges on the Republic's tolled motorways over coming months.

The increases will fall due on December 1st next as a result of the Budget increases in VAT rates, and again on January 1st as a result of the annual hike based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), now at about 4.2 per cent.

There is some relief for users of Dublin's M50 and the city's Port Tunnel, as these are State-owned and not subject to VAT. But motorists using these facilities will face increases from January.

On the State's other toll facilities, Dublin's East-Link, The M1 motorway to the Border, the M4 in the midlands and the M8 Fermoy bypass in Cork, many vehicles will face both increases.

Cars on the M50 with an electronic tag, for example face an increase in January of about 8.4 cent - bringing the toll to €2.08. Cars on the M4 face both increases which will see them facing a two-step rise from the current €2.70 to about €2.90.

The VAT increases of 0.5 per cent announced by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan will, where applied, amount to about 10 cent.

But they will not be applied in all cases because of the complex way tolls are rounded up and down each time an increase is announced. This means VAT increases will sometimes be absorbed by the toll-road operators, as is the case this time with VAT increases on motorbike charges at the M1, M4 and M8.

Toll calculations are also complex because of the increasing variety of the charge base. Options on the Republic's tolls now include charges based on time of day, direction of travel, method of payment and type of vehicle.

While some toll users are registered for VAT and can claim it back, Irish Road Haulage Association president Jimmy Quinn said the two increases smacked "of greed with a capital G".

A spokesman for the National Roads Authority (NRA) confirmed the effects of the Budget VAT increases on the tolls, and also confirmed that the 2009 increases would fall due in January.

Spokesman Seán O'Neill said it was always up to the private operators to forgo the annual toll increases, but acknowledged they "seldom, if ever have done so".

In relation to the prospect of the NRA forgoing its own entitlement to the CPI in January, he said no decision had been taken on the increase as yet.

"There has to be a board meeting at which the increase will be discussed," he said.

Earlier this year, motorists and motoring organisations expressed disappointment when it emerged that the authority could not charge VAT on the M50, but was nevertheless not going to lower the tolls, but keep the difference.

The authority is planning to publish a full list of revised tolls at each toll-affected facility in advance of the changes.