Friday, 19 January 2007

NRA denies that hearing into plan totoll M3 is a 'farce'

Elaine Keogh in the Irish Times tells us:

The National Roads Authority (NRA) yesterday told the hearing into objections to its proposal to toll the M3 motorway that it expected to sign a contract for the public-private partnership (PPP) in the coming weeks.
The NRA denied this made the hearing a "farce" or a "camouflage".
It also said the charges proposed for the two toll plazas along the 47km motorway "have not been set at levels that would maximise revenue".
The road will cost €680 million and link Clonee on the Dublin/Meath border to Kells.
A car will pay a toll of €1.30, which is the "lowest planned car toll on the national roads network," said Gerry Murphy, the head of public-private partnerships and tolling with the NRA.
Meath County Council objected to the tolling, and Cllr John Farrelly said he believed 70 per cent of the 16,000 people who commuted daily to Dublin from Kells would face an annual bill of up to €2,112 if they used the motorway. They would, therefore, continue to use the N3.
He asked the inspector chairing the hearing, Dom Hegarty, if the holding of the hearing was a "camouflage" as he believed the decision had been made to sign the contract for the PPP in the next three weeks.
Mr Murphy said it would be signed within the next two months, possibly one month.
He said it was a flexible contract which gave the NRA the option of deciding not to toll the scheme or to remove the tolls later.
A number of protesters, including members of Tara Watch, an umbrella group for organisations concerned about the possible impact of the M3 on the Hill of Tara, were in the audience and made statements.
Tara Watch said the hearing was a "farce" and should give people the right to reject it. However it appeared the contract was going to be signed anyway.
During the hearing one woman heckled the inspector and the NRA team, alleging they had not done their job properly.

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