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Written Answers. - Road Tolling.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 74. Mr. Gormley Information on John Gormley Zoom on John Gormley  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if his attention has been drawn to the NRA's current tolling programme; if he has sought meetings, reports, audits or evaluations of the NRA's tolling plans; and if he has issued directions for a change in NRA policy with regard to manual toll booths, which are included in some of the NRA's draft toll schemes. [23573/02]

 97. Mr. O'Shea Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed that new toll roads will operate a cash only queuing system that will lead to long delays at the booths; if he has discussed this issue with the National Roads Authority; the results of such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23456/02]

 107. Dr. Twomey Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  the NRA projects which will be under consideration for toll bridges; and the way in which he expects this to affect the implementation of the national development plan. [23343/02]

 121. Mr. O'Shea Information on Brian O'Shea Zoom on Brian O'Shea  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  the Government's policy in regard to the tolling of roads and motorways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23455/02]

 389. Mr. Boyle Information on Dan Boyle Zoom on Dan Boyle  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  his views on whether the NRA's estimate for raising ?700 million of private finance for the 11 toll projects identified by it for public private partnership road contracts is realistic and achievable; the amount of that estimated private finance which is secured by contract or written agreement; the total estimated capital cost in current prices of these 11 projects; the percentage of the current estimated capital cost of the entire NDP roads programme which is to be secured by private finance; and the original percentage of private finance in relation to total NDP roads investment, targeted in the NDP in 1999. [23566/02]

 393. Mr. Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if he has plans to direct the National Roads Authority to look at a number of issues (details supplied). [23607/02]

[162]Minister for Transport (Mr. Brennan): Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 97, 107, 121, 389 and 393 together.

As provided for in the national development plan, a number of major road improvement projects will be undertaken by the National Roads Authority as public private partnerships, based on user tolls. User tolls are now in widespread use throughout the developed and developing world and are especially favoured where rapid expansion in major road networks is required. They are a considerably more widely used instrument of roads financing than shadow tolls and more readily permit the transfer of economic risk, which is desirable in PPP projects. While the use of shadow tolls has not been ruled out, road user tolling is, on the basis of the above considerations, more likely to be relied upon in the earlier stages of national roads PPP development.

The NRA's current PPP programme comprises 11 high quality projects spread throughout the country. The position at present in relation to these projects is that one, the second Westlink bridge on the M50, is under construction and is expected to be completed next year; one is at final negotiation stage, (Kilcock-Kinnegad), and a preferred bidder has been selected; initial tendering has been completed and bidders shortlisted in respect of two of the projects, N25 Waterford bypass and Dundalk western bypass; one is at tender stage with tenders due to be submitted during December 2002, N8 Rathcormac-Fermoy bypass; one, M3 Clonee to Kells, is at oral hearing stage; the remaining five schemes are at an advanced design stage which includes the preparation of statutory documentation for publication.

It is estimated that these projects will involve a total private sector investment of approximately €1.27 billion, which is in line with the monetary target set in the NDP. The exact figure will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the individual projects. The total cost of the 11 projects is estimated at €3.2 billion.

This level of private sector finance is of critical importance for the funding of the national roads development programme. It will ensure the earlier provision of much needed higher quality roads than would otherwise be the case. Through PPPs, private sector innovation will be harnessed in the areas of scheme design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance.

The roads involved will remain in public ownership. The private sector will design, build, part-finance and operate the schemes for a 30 year concession period after which they will return for operation and maintenance to the public sector.

Each PPP project is subject, in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines, to rigorous assessment and evaluation by the NRA and engineering, financial and legal consultants which it has engaged to advise on the PPP programme. The NRA is also considering the scope for additional user-tolled PPP schemes.

[163]The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws, and to enter into toll agreements with private investors is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act, 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act, 2000. Toll charges are determined in accordance with procedures contained in the Roads Act, 1993, as amended, which provide for public display-consultation of proposals to apply tolls and the holding of public oral hearings in the event of objections being made on toll scheme proposals.

As regards the system of tolling to be used, I have already publicly stated that my policy is one of using a method that utilises the most up-to-date electronic technology to ensure that there is a rapid movement of traffic and traffic tailbacks are eliminated. I have discussed the need to incorporate the electronic tolling system on all proposed toll roads with the National Roads Authority and I intend to continue these discussions over the coming months.

I am confident that the modest level of the tolls to be charged, combined with the high quality of the new roads and the greatly improved transport service they will provide, will ensure that the routes are attractive to the vast bulk of inter-urban traffic.


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