Fermoy Town Council to press the case for M8 to be included in toll 'holiday'
The exclusion of the M8 from the Department of Transport's proposed toll 'holiday' from the month of November continues to be a live issue in Fermoy.
Cllr Seamus Coleman raised it at the monthly meeting of Fermoy Town Council on Monday evening, saying when his Sinn Fein colleague, TD Sandra McLellan raised it recently in the Dail she received 'an unsatisfactory answer'. He proposed they write to the Minister asking him to reconsider. Cllr John Murphy seconded the proposal and suggested they also contact the four area TDs and request that they press the case for them.
Fine Gael councillor Pa O'Driscoll came to the defence of Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, however, saying the Minister was 'at least trying'. If it works on the four motorways that have been designated to be toll-free for November, and the benefits of it seen, they could see about getting it extended to Fermoy.
Meanwhile the Revive Fermoy group has continued to lobby the Minister on the issue. The Minister told the group recently that the tolls issue is the responsibility of the NRA. While he is concerned at the large numbers of HGVs continuing to use regional and local roads in order to avoid tolls, driving through towns, villages and rural areas with large populations, and is conscious of the safety implications for other road users, residents and pedestrians, he said the costs involved in the toll free month had to be assessed. As such it wasn't possible to include all toll routes.
He felt the exercise on the four motorways to be toll-free will be a worthwile opportunity to study traffic levels in detail and assess the implications. He said he would give fleet operators an opportunity to evaluate the time and efficiency benefits of using motorways more and the findings would feed into general tolling policy.
In a further letter to the Minister, the Revive Fermoy group queried whether the NRA had told him the selection criteria used to chose the motorways for the scheme. Pointing out that three of the four routes selected are loss making and as such the State is liable, under contract, to pay the shortfall, Cian O'Meara, spokesperson for the group, said: "I can see a preference to favour reduction in toll avoidance from an economic point of view for the State on these routes." He asked if the Minister had any evidence of vehicle numbers on them. "Should that not form the basis for route selection if social and safety concerns were paramount?" he asked.
Saying there's a massive social, economic and safety cost in having HGV traffic 'driving relentlessly through the heart of towns around the country when purpose-built roads have been built to cater for them', the spokesman told the Minister that 'Fermoy is choking', and said they have the facts and figures relating to traffic volumes and fuel usage and were ready to analyse them again after the toll-free month.
"We were ready to thereafter hold public meetings with all interested parties to resolve the hammering Fermoy is getting. If you give us this chance we can make this goal a reality," he urged the Minister.
Friday 25th October 9:45am