It is an issue that has held back the economy of Drogheda for years and cost the citizens of the town millions but Sunday’s protest at the M1 Toll booth on the Donore Road drew a very small number of people.
Judging by the number of people beeping their horns as they drove by however, there is significant support for the removal of M1 tolls, which one protester described as “Cash machines for the operators.”
“It’s a pity some of them wouldn’t park up and join us in our protest” said one of the organisers, Frank Godfrey.
The campaign to have the tolls dropped, at least for the period that the Obelisk Bridge is closed for repairs, has received great support on social media but getting people out to protest is difficult these days.
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“People prefer to go shopping or watch the soaps on TV” Frank said.
To illustrate the effect of the tolls on local drivers, one of the protestors, Lorraine Cunningham from Duleek, told Drogheda Life that she travels to Monaghan every day to work.
“If I had have been using the toll bridge for the last 16 years and if I had have been using the toll booths I would have paid out over sixteen thousand Euros by now” she said.
“I don’t intend to give anything to Celtic Road Tolls, I will drive through the town and put up with the extra half an hour it adds to my journey because this toll is totally unfair. Why should I have to pay to cross my own town?
“Our local representatives are anonymous on this issue, we have a few here with us today – Wayne Harding, Paddy Meade and Frank Godfrey - but the sooner Eamon Ryan comes to Drogheda to see the chaos in the town for himself, the better.
“It’s like being back in Cromwell’s time, we are under siege.”
Frank Godfrey said: “Drogheda people have paid enough tolls over the years and are fed up paying out money to this Government and to the toll company.
“The toll is an embarrassment to Drogheda and we are calling on the operators, the Minister for transport Eamon Ryan the Taoiseach to come to Drogheda to do something about it.
“They need to intervene like they did for the hauliers back in 2006. I don’t understand why they can’t at least suspend the toll for a year while the bridge is being repaired and then have the year added to their contract, It’s simple but there is no gesture of goodwill either by the Irish Government or the toll operators.”
Slane based Councillor Wayne Harding said that he knows only too well how difficult, and costly, it has become to get around Drogheda since the Obellisk Bridge closed.
“The toll should never have been there in the first place but the Obelisk closure has really highlighted the problem” he said.
He pointed out that the Obelisk Bridge was a very well-used route and its closure had raised all sorts of issues for people. He himself is effected because his children go to St. Oliver’s and used to cross the bridge several times a day. Now he must either pay the toll or get caught up in the traffic chaos in Drogheda
Councillor Paddy Meade said the toll is having a huge effect, not just on the town of Drogheda, but in the surrounding areas out as far as Slane and Julianstown and that M1 avoidance was impacting massively on the economy of Drogheda and surrounding areas.
“While it would cost money for the government to buy out the toll with nine years left to run in the contract, if you added up the amount of money that is being lost in businesses in the Meath and Louth Area they would realise it makes sense and it should be done as urgently as possible.”