Written Answers. - Road Tolls.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

163 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the Government's policy in regard to the tolling of roads and motorways; the other funding methods considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2636/03]

The National Development Plan 2000-06 envisages significant private sector investment in national road development. It is proposed that €1 billion investment in national road improvements under the NDP will be contributed by public private partnership financing based on user tolls.

User tolls are now in widespread use throughout the developed and developing world and are particularly 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.
Toll financed road PPPs will attract private sector funding and aim to ensure earlier delivery of badly needed national roads infrastructure. Through PPPs, private sector innovation will be harnessed in the areas of scheme design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance.
As regards the system of tolling to be used, I have already publicly stated that my strong preference is for a method that utilises the most up to date electronic technology to ensure that there is rapid movement of traffic through the toll booths and traffic tailbacks are eliminated.
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.
The provision of over €1.2 billion for national roads in 2003 will maintain investment in the national roads programme at a high level. Investment in the programme has grown rapidly in recent years. The 2003 provision is approximately three times the level of investment in 1997 and twice the 1999 level.
This level of funding will maintain good progress in the implementation of the national roads programme set out in the NDP, which provides for investment of €6.75 billion in national roads over its period.
Additional options for funding the national roads programme, including through the National Development Finance Agency, are also being considered by a group of senior officials chaired by my Department. I expect that their report will be submitted to the Cabinet committee on infrastructure, housing and PPPs shortly.
Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 165 answered with Question No. 155.
Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 106.