I thank Deputy Munster for this question, which is on the same lines as questions the Deputy has been following up over a period of time.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in regard to the national roads programme. The planning, design and operation of individual roads is a matter for TII under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Furthermore, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into agreements relating to tolls on national roads is vested in TII. The planning and construction of the M1, associated slip roads and contractual arrangements relating to tolls are, therefore, matters for TII.
I undertook, in response to the Deputy's question on 19 July 2016, to raise the issue at a meeting with TII. This took place in early August 2016. TII subsequently briefed my Department on the 2002 toll scheme and the findings of a 2012 study of the implications of the removal of the tolls at the north-facing slip roads at M1 Junction 9. Details of TII's briefing were forwarded to the Deputy in October 2016. I understand that TII has also outlined the conclusions of the 2012 study to the Deputy in response to recent questions.
In the 2012 study, two scenarios were considered. The first scenario involved removing ramp tolls only while the second scenario involved removing ramp tolls and increasing the mainline toll. The study concluded that significant levels of additional traffic would divert to local routes such as the R152 through Duleek and the R132 through Julianstown with thousands more vehicles per day affecting the safety, quality of life and commercial viability of these communities.
In addition, both scenarios would have substantial financial implications because TII would be contractually required to compensate the PPP company for losses arising out of any change. Under the first scenario, it was estimated that between €6 million and €7 million would have to be paid to the PPP company in the first year, increasing each year to 2034. Under the second scenario, given the higher rates of diversion off the M1, it was estimated that mainline tolls would have to be increased by between 40% and 60%.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
It is important to point out that the aim of the Donore ramp toll plazas was to mitigate possible "rat-running" with adverse impacts on local communities. In response to concerns expressed about the possible impact on business in Drogheda, the approved toll scheme allows vehicles to exit the motorway, having paid a toll, and re-enter within three hours, with no further charge. At the same time, I note that removing congestion and heavy traffic often has a beneficial effect on investment, local economies and tourism in towns.