Retailers may add surcharge to M50 toll payments


MOTORISTS WHO choose to pay their M50 tolls in their local newsagents are likely to face a further charge imposed by retailers to cover their administration costs.

Sources say many retailers who will be accepting pay-as-you-go toll payments via Payzone are likely to add a surcharge in the same manner as they do for phone top-ups.

The Convenience Stores and Newsagents' Association (CSNA), which represents 1,500 shops around the country, said there was "very little incentive" for members to handle the payments, as retailers were being paid three cent in administration fees for handling the €3 charge. A surcharge of 15 cent per payment was likely.

The stance puts retailers on a collision course with the National Roads Authority, which has said it will not "tolerate" any surcharge and will strip any shops imposing a charge of the right to provide the tolling payment system.

However, CSNA chief executive Vincent Jennings said the NRA had no right to interfere in prices set by retailers for a product. "They haven't a leg to stand on. A retailer is free under competition law to set the retail price of any product except cigarettes."

He pointed out that the NRA was charging up to €1 extra for tolls paid by the pay-as-you-go method. Motorists who register for an electronic tag pay €2 for the M50, while those who registered their number plate pay €2.50, compared to the €3 charge for motorists who choose not to register their details but pay later.

The NRA's stance on retailers also contrasts with the situation in relation to rented cars. Following the failure of the NRA and car rental firms to reach agreed procedures, some rental firms plan to impose a €2 administration fee on top of the toll, which they will pay and charge to customers. Other firms are advising customers to pay the toll themselves; in these cases, it is not clear what will happen if the customer, who may be a foreign tourist, fails to pay.

Up to 1,100 retail outlets offer Payzone facilities. However, it has emerged that the main retailer in Dublin airport offering this payment method is due to close shortly, leaving just two small kiosks in the airport where tourists and other motorists can make the payment before leaving the country. The NRA has said it will make no special allowances for motorists who use the M50 en route to the airport.

While the barriers were lifted for the last time on the M50 this morning, it will be several months before the barrier-free system will be operating at full capacity.

From today, motorists will be able to drive through the toll plaza without stopping. Lane separators, "rumble strip" and speed limits will be in place on the four lanes closest to the centre of the motorway. Workers will begin removing the toll canopy on the remaining three lanes.

When this is complete, the toll canopy will be removed on the other section. When complete, motorists will move back to the centre of the motorway, with four lanes in each direction.

Southbound traffic is expected to improve the most, as there are no construction works in this direction until south of Ballymount junction.

Northbound, however, upgrading works on the M50 start just 1km north of the toll plaza, so the NRA believes "substantial queuing" will continue for a time.