20% increase in traffic on tolled roads is Government policy failure not success - Greenhouse Gas levels, air pollution and congestion all rising.

The report today that traffic on tolled roads has increased by 20% was presented as a good news story by a government spokesperson:

‘The Government says new figures on the use of motorway tolls show a real and tangible indication of growth in the economy’

Congestion is back to 2008 boom time levels. This increases transport greenhouse gas emissions which have risen by 2.1 % in 2013 over the previous year’s levels. Congestion affects economic productivity, slows down public transport and service vehicle movement, undermines cycling and causes local air pollution in particle emissions, particularly from diesel vehicles.

The Department of Transport’s policy, Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future – A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020 sets out a series of overriding policy objectives in Chapter 3, summarised as follows:

  1. Future population employment growths will predominantly take place in sustainable compact forms which reduces the need to travel for employment and services;
  2. 00,000 more people will take alternative means to commute to work to the extent that the total share of car commuting will drop from 65% to 45%;
  3. Alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport will be supported and provided to the extent that these will rise to 55% of total commuter journeys to work;
  4. The total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current levels;
  5. A reduction will be achieved on the 2005 figure for Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

The range of actions required to meet these targets are not in place.

The Dublin M50 Problem

Condition 7 of the 2005 An Bord Pleanála Consent for the additional lanes to the M50 required that within three years of completion of the scheme (which occurred in 2011) demand management measures be published. A steering group was set up by the NRA with the relevant local authorities, which published its report on 29 April 2014 [2]. This revealed the issue of mounting congestion on the M50 as stated in the Executive Summary:

“by November 2011 12 % the route was exceeding “safe operating capacity“… “in the busiest lanes at peak times“


“the congestion which has occurred within the last two years reflects this and has in turn resulted in more frequent incidents and collisions“

A number of “demand management “measures including extended tolling and Smarter Travel were proposed. But no action was taken.

Instead the situation has been made worse, by the 2014 An Bord Pleanála consent for a National Roads Authority supported Kildare County Council application to add two lanes to 13 km section of the M7 between the Newbridge and Naas interchanges. This will encourage extra traffic from the Greater Dublin Area and beyond to funnel into the Red Cow junction and M50 and undermine the national modal share targets set out in Smarter Travel.

Irish Urban Areas

Congestion is rising around all the Irish urban centres. The particular targets for the €9m funded ‘Limerick Smarter Travel Demonstration City’ are not being met. Emergency Measures are now needed

  1. Provision of ‘Park & Ride’ facilities targeted at enhancing non-car based travel to major employment clusters;
  2. Promotion of workplace travel plans including car sharing where public transport or cycling are less viable options;
  3. Promotion of school travel plans to significantly reduce car based travel;
  4. Promotion of increased and safe cycling use including extension of 30kph zones. On this point, we strongly commend your recent circular issued to Local Authorities requiring examination of speed limits in residential areas and housing estates [3].

These measures need to be achieved through a task force involving more efficient co operation between the Department of Transport, National Transport Authority, National Roads Authority, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders.

ENDS For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0216/680491-nra-roads-tolls-economy/
  2. http://www.nra.ie/policy-publications/strategic-reports/m50-demand-management-rep/M50-DM-Executive-Summary-April2014.pdf
  3. http://www.dttas.ie/press-releases/2014/minister-donohoe-issues-local-authority-circular-requiring-examination-speed))