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Thursday, 28th September 2023

Drogheda’s three TDs lobbying to have the M1 toll suspended during bridge closure

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The latest protest against the M1 Tolls which took place last weekend.

The deeply unpopular M1 toll is seen by many people locally as an unfair tax on doing business in Drogheda and a licence to print money for Celtic Roads Group (CRG) who operate it.

Such is the furore that all three of the town’s TDs have been lobbying to have the toll waived at least for the duration of the repair work on The Obelisk Bridge.

The Government and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the State agency that deals with road and public transport infrastructure, are seemingly impervious to the TDs concerns however, let alone members of the Drogheda public protesting over the traffic chaos and financial problems caused by the closure of the Obelisk Bridge.

On August 9th in response to a question from local TD, Ged Nash, the Head of Regulatory and Administration at TII Michael Kennedy, said the ramp tolling at Donore was “an essential component of the overall tolling strategy for the M1 motorway”. 

“The removal of the Donore ramp tolls would result in traffic diverting from the M1 mainline and give rise to significant additional traffic volumes on the local road network in the vicinity of Drogheda” he continued.

“Such a circumstance would only serve to compound any traffic issues arising from the closure of the Obelisk Bridge.”

On September 26, Mr Kennedy told Deputy Fergus O’Dowd that the Obelisk bridge refurbishment project is on a non-national road and is being undertaken by the Council; Transport Infrastructure Ireland has no role in the project.

“TII can confirm that there has been engagement with Louth County Council, who are acting as lead Local Authority, for the Obelisk Bridge refurbishment project” he said.

“TII outlined to the Council that the implementation of a temporary waiver of the toll at Donore Ramps for all traffic would have the effect of inducing traffic at Donore ramps attempting to bypass the mainline toll into Drogheda leading to significant congestion in the town, as well as resulting in substantial costs due to a combination of lost toll revenues at both the Donore road toll plazas, as well as the mainline toll plaza at Balgeen.

“In this scenario the costs would be very significant and TII is not in a position to fund any such compensation.”

Not quite sure what this official language actually means, Drogheda Life contacted Mr. Kennedy to seek clarification, in plain English, of what the situation is and why no consideration is being given to cancelling tolls on the M1, for the period of the repair works to the Obelisk Bridge and extending the contract with the toll operator by a corresponding length of timeas has been suggested by many people as a way to mitigate the financial burden on people who must now use the M1 bridge and enter Drogheda via the toll booth rather than the Obelisk Bridge.

A spokesperson for TII replied on his behalf as follows:

“The first reason there is no removal of tolls at the Donroe ramps is because there is an alternative route in place under Louth Council's traffic management plan to mitigate the closure of the Obelisk Bridge. It is the primary detour put in place by Louth County Council.  

“Additionally, the removal of tolls on the Donore ramps would result in CRG having to be compensated by the state for loss of income.” 

He went on to say that the M1 Motorway (Gormanston to Monasterboice) Toll Scheme was designed to minimise traffic diversion from the M1 mainline so as to minimise traffic impacts on local roads.

“The tolls on the slip ramps at Donore were, accordingly, installed to protect the residents of Drogheda from “rat-running” that would otherwise occur to avoid the M1 mainline toll plaza at Balgeen.

“Were the Donore ramp tolls to be removed, this would result in traffic diverting from the M1 motorway and traffic volumes on local routes, such as the R152 through Duleek and the R132 through Julianstown, would increase by several thousand vehicles per day with considerable adverse impacts at these locations.” 

This week, Drogheda’s Sinn Féin TD, Imelda Munster, also raised the issue in the Dáil, this time with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

“The Obelisk Bridge was closed without a proper traffic management plan and the result, as predicted, has been traffic chaos for Drogheda and the area around the bridge” she told him.

“It’s not acceptable to close the only crossing in the area for the guts of a year, forcing locals onto the tolled section of the M1, when they have to cross North to South of Drogheda or visa versa, to get children to school or to go to work, having to pay tolls during a cost-of-living crisis.

“Drogheda is already seriously congested to the point where you could be sitting in your car, or on a bus for up to an hour, it’s also affecting businesses in the town centre.

“The obvious solution is to give M1 toll passes to locals directly affected by the closure, through their Eircode, but state bodies are passing the buck.

The Taoiseach said he wasn’t aware of the details of the problem but he had heard it was causing a lot of inconvenience in Drogheda and committed to raise the matter with The Minster for Transport.

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