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The AA has described the proposal to apply toll charges to the non-motorway N-Road network as absurd and has called on the government to rule it out immediately.

The proposal is included in the measures put forward by the Local Government Efficiency Review Group report published by the Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government today. Those measures include a number of straightforward tax increases for motorists, such as a 60% increase in the cost of a driving licence, but by far the biggest concern is the notion of new toll booths on the country’s roads.

“This makes absolutely no sense at all.” Says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan. “The only purpose here is to raise extra money from motorists. Even if we accept that motorists will pay more taxes, using tolls to collect them is extremely inefficient and very costly.

“If the government chose to add just one cent per litre to the excise duty on petrol and diesel, it would raise more money for the State (about €25 million) than these proposed tolls.”

In order to collect tolls on N-roads, the state would have to invest in the capital cost of installing toll booths, barriers and the toll collection system. This is extremely expensive and would be even more so on the N-road network than it is on Motorways that do not have side-roads. Unless major engineering works are carried out, motorists would have multiple options to turn off the road to avoid the toll booths. Diversion is already a serious problem caused by motorway tolls and this would be far worse on the N-road network.

Tolls are costly to run. The M50 barrier free system raises almost €80 million per year in revenue, but it costs €20 million per year to run the system and it continues to be plagued by errors.

“The use of tolls on the N-road network is unfair to motorists and would be strongly opposed by the people who are affected up and down the country.” Says Faughnan. “Even if government chose not to care about that, the sheer impracticality of the idea is breathtaking. That it could be seriously considered at all is worrying. Any analysis of the practical implications of introducing such a system will show that it is clumsy, inefficient and will not even raise significant revenue. With the relatively low volumes on these roads, it would be far more trouble than it will ever be worth, and the AA calls on the government to reject the idea immediately.”

The AA is also uncomfortable with the proposed increases in motor tax (for those who do not pay online) and in the cost of a driving licence.

“These have nothing to do with the efficiency of local government.” Says Faughnan. “They are just tax increases.”