Port Tunnel: summer slowdown

THE National Roads Authority (NRA) is "very seriously" considering a request to slash the €12 Port Tunnel toll during the summer in a bid to reduce traffic congestion in Dublin, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

It is understood the matter is to be raised at a forthcoming board meeting of the NRA after a formal request from Fingal County Council to ease access.

A letter was sent to the authority after the issue was raised at council level.

Responding, a spokesman said: "The NRA board continually reviews the Dublin Port Tunnel operations in relation to tolling. For example, last July it was reduced to €3 for weekends at all times.

"The NRA has a history of taking these reviews very seriously and the current request will be taken very seriously."

A Dublin city traffic study is underway to measure the nature and effect of commercial traffic and the Port Tunnel is believed to form a part of that study.

According to the most recent data, some 16,000 vehicles, including 8,500 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), currently use the tunnel every day. That number drops to about 9,000, including 2,250 HGVs, on weekends.

While the NRA is open to the idea of reducing the current charge for non-HGV traffic, it is understood that a central concern would be the inevitable return to the €12 fee at the end of the summer.

If the proposal was to be given the green light, it is likely a considerable advertising campaign would have to be undertaken to inform motorists of the temporary nature of the move.

Other considerations would likely include the effect an increase in regular traffic in the tunnel would have on HGVs.

"One of the challengers here is that the tunnel is utilised primarily for commercial HGVs, and they don't go on holiday. So we would have to look at that impact," the spokesman said.

While the discussions are at an early stage, Darragh Butler, a councillor in the Swords area of north Dublin, said that residents would welcome easier access through the summer and that a temporary arrangement would be understood.

"I think residents would be happy to see an effective traffic management scheme and I think they understand that they have to manage the traffic going through the tunnel," he said.

"So I think that [a temporary arrangement] would be understood and welcomed by the public."

Cllr Butler said that the summertime, when traffic is quieter due to the closure of schools, would be an ideal opportunity to maximise tunnel use and reduce congestion on the roads.