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Limerick Tunnel Penalties amount to more than €10,000 a day

13 June, 2011

Limerick Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan has again criticised the use of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to build the Limerick Tunnel after it was revealed today that €1.24 million in penalties was paid by the NRA to the Tunnel operator to cover a four month period late last year.

At more than €10,000 a day Councillor Quinlivan described the situation as shambolic and said it shows that a bad deal was achieved for Limerick motorists and for taxpayers.

City Councillor Maurice Quinlivan said: “Sinn Féin constantly warned that the tunnel would be a missed opportunity as it would unfortunately not reach its full potential because it is being tolled and built so close to the City Centre. Now we see that the NRA had paid the private operator €1.24 million in penalties to cover a 4 month period late last year. This is more than €10,000 a day. And worryingly there is no sign in the immediate future that the Tunnel will achieve the 17,000 vehicles a day needed to pass through the Shannon tunnel to avoid these penalties. My Understanding is that less than 13,000 vehicles a day are using the tunnel. The taxpayer therefore stands to lose millions over the duration of the contract.

“When the Government and the NRA signed the PPP contract to build the Shannon tunnel they agreed a penalty fee to be paid by the taxpayer if a certain number of vehicles failed to use the Shannon Tunnel on a daily basis. To avoid penalty payments 17,000 vehicles need to pass through the Shannon tunnel every day. Under the agreement the signed by the Government taxpayers maybe liable for bills of tens of millions of Euros in penalties during the lifetime of the contract. This is crazy. The tunnel, albeit an excellent piece of infrastructure, was built far too close to the City Centre and the toll too high for many motorists for it to reach its maximum potential of removing traffic from the streets of Limerick City. An opportunity to really liberate the streets of Limerick via a dramatic reduction in city traffic has been missed we are now suffering massive financial penalties.

“This road project was approved by the Government at a time when the country’s coffers were awash with monies. There was no need for the Government to have a PPP to build this project. There certainly was no need to agree a penalty clause at such a potentially huge cost to the taxpayers.

“The policy of tolling motorists has been a disaster in Dublin on the M50 and the government should not have repeated this mistake at the expense of Limerick and Clare motorists. Will we be in a similar situation in a number of years where a future government will have to buy out the Shannon Tunnel as was done with the M50 toll charges at huge expense?

“The fact that Limerick people are paying for a tunnel is in stark contrast to the situation with the toll-free Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork. However the fact that taxpayers, many of whom will never use the tunnel, will pay more than €10,000 a day in the penalties is outrageous.” CRÍOCH

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