Sunday, 28 January 2007

Dublin Port Tunnel finally opens to cars

Tim O'Brien writes in The Irish Times that Dublin Port Tunnel will come a step nearer to being fully operational at 6am tomorrow when private cars are allowed to use the tunnel for the first time - but it will continue to close at night for the next few weeks at least.

Drivers however will face a further hurdle as "eazy pass" tags which work on the East and West Link bridges will not be accepted at the tunnel toll plaza.

Dublin City Council hopes the tunnel will be fully operation in about three weeks when the ban on HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) comes into effect in the city centre.

The council also hopes that the technology arrangements which have prevented the eazy pass system from being used in the tunnel, as well as on the M4 motorway in the midlands and the new Fermoy bypass in Co Cork, will be sorted out by then.

Currently each of the toll operators on the Republic's new toll motorways have separate electronic tags for motorists for expressways.

Despite a promise from Minister for Transport Martin Cullen that inter-operability issues would be sorted out within months of the M4 motorway opening, this has still not happened.

Jimmy Quinn for the Irish Road Haulage Association said hauliers were exasperated by the problem. "Everybody went ahead with their own tag even though we warned Séamus Brennan [ then minister for transport] five years ago, that this could happen."

However while the hauliers may have to carry a number of tags in the Republic they are not required to pay tolls at all on the Dublin Port Tunnel. Charges apply only to smaller vehicles including private cars.

Dublin City Council says nearly 6,000 heavy goods vehicles are already using Dublin Port Tunnel daily to travel between Dublin Port and the National Roads Network. The council's strategy on February 19th, banning HGVs within the cordon area, will also increase the number of goods vehicles using the Port Tunnel.

A spokesman said tunnel closures between 11pm-5am will continue for the next few weeks to allow for the completion of "final systems calibrations and testing".

Drivers using the Dublin Port Tunnel are advised to switch on dipped headlights.

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