Who runs Ireland’s road tolls and who gets the money?

International investment funds provide the money, and take the risk, for our motorway network

Tolled motorways are part of the daily grind for many people. But for those involved in the world of finance, they are regarded as “funding vehicles”, carrying investors’ hopes for returns.

Pension fund managers and other investors supply the money – and shoulder the risk – for the construction, operation and maintenance of new roads and tunnels.

In return the State promises they will be able to toll the users of the infrastructure for an agreed period, after which ownership switches to the State. These arrangements are called public-private partnerships (PPP).

On Thursday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government was “not happy” with the announcement that toll charges are set to rise from January 1st, with the charge on the M50 going up by about 9 per cent.


The deals between the State and the private-sector operators that build and maintain our tolled infrastructure can involve the State getting a proportion of the income stream if the level of traffic exceeds a certain threshold.

There are 10 toll roads in the national road network, eight of which operate under the PPP model. The M50 and Dublin Tunnel are operated by a private company on behalf of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), which is a State agency.

Toll roads map

The public-health measures introduced to combat the Covid pandemic hit the toll companies’ revenues, especially in 2020, because of the sharp fall-off in traffic. The operator of the Waterford bypass had to do a debt-for-equity deal with its lenders during 2021 because of its inability to meet its loan repayments. Traffic volumes are now recovering, however.

The following are the operators of the various tolled roads and tunnels in the national road network.


Celtic Roads Group (Dundalk) operates the M1 motorway between Gormanston, Co Meath, and Ballymascanlan, Co Louth. It reported a pretax profit of €8.14 million last year, with 12 million vehicles passing through the toll plaza at Julianstown, Co Meath. This was an increase of 15 per cent on 2020 as traffic volumes recovered from the effects of the pandemic.

The company paid out dividends totalling €9.25 million in 2021. Its ultimate shareholders are the Semperian group, a UK-based asset-management business that focuses on social infrastructure; DIF Capital Partners, an infrastructure equity fund manager based in the Netherlands; and a joint venture between Royal BAM Group, a Dutch construction group, and PGGM, which manages Dutch occupational pension funds.

M7/M8 Portlaoise bypass

Celtic Roads Group (Portlaoise) operates the M7/M8 Portlaoise bypass, which has a toll plaza at Mountrath, Co Laois. Its ultimate shareholders are Royal Bam, Iridium, a Spanish construction and services group, and Atlas Investments, of Sandyford, Dublin (formerly National Toll Roads). The company recorded a loss of €4.5 million in 2021, when 6.9 million vehicles passed through its plaza at Mountrath. That was a 21 per cent increase on the previous year, but traffic levels were still below earlier projections. When it filed its 2021 accounts earlier this year, the company was in negotiations about a potential long-term restructuring of its debts.

N25 Waterford bypass

Celtic Roads Group (Waterford) operates 23km of roadway on the N25 Waterford bypass. Total traffic throughput in 2021 was 3.16 million vehicles, an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year.

The company recorded a loss of €3 million in 2021 and, according to its accounts, had to negotiate a restructuring of its debts with its secured creditors in October of that year. “Unsustainable debt” was converted into shares in the company.

The equity-for-debt deal meant the original shareholders lost out on their investment. At the beginning of the year the shareholders were Atlas Investments (66.6 per cent) and BAM (33.3 per cent). After the restructuring the shareholders were Bank of United States; CVC Capital Partners, of Luxembourg; Searchlight Capital, of the UK; a Spanish public-sector bank called ICO; and Bam (5 per cent). Atlas is no longer a shareholder.


Directroute (Tuam) Holdings won the contract to build and operate the M17/M18 motorway between Gort and Tuam. Its revenue comes from the State agency Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) based on “road availability” and not traffic volumes. It recorded a pretax profit of €15.3 million in 2021. The company is ultimately controlled by Infrastructure Investments General Partner Ltd, of London, England.

M7 and the Limerick Tunnel

Directroute (Limerick) Ltd won the contract to create, operate and maintain the M7 in Limerick and the Limerick tunnel. The 2021 accounts state that the company expects to be able to pay its third-party debts but may not be able to repay in full the loans it received from its shareholders. It recorded a loss for the year of €3.8 million. According to its returns, it is ultimately owned by two entities based in Luxembourg called Meridiam Infrastructure Finance Sarl and Munster JV SCSP.

M6 Ballinasloe to Galway.

The contract for the M6 motorway between Ballinasloe and Galway was won by N6 (Concession) Ltd, which has two ultimate shareholders from Spain – Globalvia Infraestructuras SA and Sacyr SA – each with a 45 per cent shareholding, and one Irish ultimate shareholder – PJ Hegarty & Sons – which owns 10 per cent. N6 (Concession) Ltd recorded a loss of €6.6 million in 2021, a year during which it had toll income of €7.78 million.

M8 Fermoy bypass

Directroute (Fermoy) Ltd won the contract to build, operate and maintain the M8 Rathcormac/Fermoy bypass. It reported a pretax profit in 2021 of €6.2 million and said traffic volumes that fell off during 2020 had returned to 2019 levels by the second half of last year. The company is ultimately owned by the RHM (Rank Hovis McDougall) pension scheme in the UK, and Munster JV SCSp of Luxembourg.


Eurolink Motorway Operations Ltd has the PPP contract to operate and maintain the M4/M6 motorway. According to its latest accounts, it made a pretax profit of €5.1 million in 2021 when traffic volumes increased by 18.8 per cent. The company is ultimately owned by DIF Capital Partners, an infrastructure equity fund manager based in the Netherlands.


DIF Capital Partners of the Netherlands is also the owner of Eurolink Motorway Operations (M3) Ltd, which operates and maintains the M3 motorway. There was an increase of 13.5 per cent in traffic volumes in 2021, according to its accounts for that year, resulting in a pretax profit of €5.7 million.

M50/Dublin Tunnel

M50 Concession Ltd is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the M50. It receives what it calls “availability payments” for this service from TII. In 2021 M50 Concession recorded a profit of €2.4 million. The company is owned by DIF Capital Partners, of the Netherlands, and Globalvia Inversiones SA, of Spain.

The toll income from the M50 goes to TII. In its annual report for 2021, the State agency recorded total toll income of €157.7 million, with €140 million coming from the M50. A further €13.7 million came from the Dublin Tunnel, and €4 million from tolls collected at the M4 plaza at Kilcock/Kinnegad.

Tom Clarke (East Link) Bridge, Dublin

The Tom Clarke Bridge, formerly known as the East Link Bridge, is operated by Dublin City Council. As the bridge is now in full public ownership, the toll income goes to the council, which sets the rate.*

*This article was amended on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022 to make clear that the Tom Clarke Bridge is operated by Dublin City Council