Congestion charging for Dublin and Cork by 2025 says Department report

— €10 flat rate or €5 off-peak are among the options looked at in early study.
— Report says Galway is not ready yet.

Congestion charging could be put in place in Dublin and Cork by 2025, a new Department of Transport report release today has suggested. But consultants for the Department have noted that such schemes “face significant public and political opposition”.

The congestion charging suggestion is contained in the Department of Transport’s Five Cities Demand Management Research Report. The report was written by consultants Systra LTD for the Department.

The Department said the report is “designed to help them to better understand what drives transport demand and how we can encourage a greater shift to more sustainable and healthier forms of travel in Ireland’s five largest urban centres—Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Galway”.

In the forward in the report, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “The development of the study is a result of the urgent requirement to reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and address rising concerns in relation to air quality. Transport accounts for approximately 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Road transport is responsible for 96% of those emissions and is also directly responsible for a range of air pollutants that negatively impact both human health and the environment,” he said.

Minister Ryan added: “The study reflects the need to manage the impacts of urban congestion and improve the quality of life for people living, visiting, working and studying in our cities. Taking decisive and rapid action to address these issues will be a major challenge, but the benefits for our cities’ residents and visitors and our climate policy are huge – cleaner air, sustainable use of the world’s scarce resources, more connected and healthier communities and liveable vibrant cities.”

On congestion charging, the report states: “Additional more detailed Feasibility Studies would be required by local stakeholders to determine in more detail the feasibility and detailed business case of implementing a congestion charge in Dublin or Cork, including the required mitigation measures.”

On Galway, the report said: “Opportunities may arise in Galway with the delivery of improved public transport and park and ride facilities as envisaged in the Galway Transport Strategy.”

There is no direct mention of the other two Irish cities in the section on congestion charging. But the report said: “Not all cities will have a suitable area which can find this ‘sweet spot’ between too small and too large a controlled area and a road network which avoids the through traffic creating significant orbital congestion.”

The report outlines how congestion charging has been implemented in various cities around the world including London in 2003 with a traffic reduction of 19% and an increase in bus use and cycling and reduction of emissions.

Cities of different sizes, the report outlines, have introduced schemes and seen traffic reductions –Stockholm in 2007 with a 20% reduction, Gothenburg in 2013 with a 12% reduction Milan in 2012 with a 38% reduction, Singapore in 1998 with a 24% reduction, and Trondheim in 1991 with a 10% reduction.

Congestion charging could be combined with low emission zones, the report suggests, where the congestion charge would be “varied depending on the vehicle emissions, with higher rates charged for the most-polluting vehicles”.

The consultants said that the impact of the congestion charging scheme depends on factors including the area, the level of charges, hours of operation, availability of alternative transport, relative, the attractiveness of alternative destinations, and availability of alternative routes particularly for through traffic.

The report notes: “Congestion charging schemes are expensive to implement and operate, as they
need extensive signing, vehicle recognition infrastructure (usually ANPR cameras &/or automated tolling technology) to detect when individual vehicles are being driven within the controlled area and a ‘back office’ to process the collection of the charges (unless fully automated tolling is used), issuing and collecting fines and processing appeals etc.”

But the consultations said that “whilst there will be significant up-front infrastructure and administration costs, the scheme is expected to generate a net surplus for the exchequer”

The report said that there should be exemptions or reduced charges for “particular user groups” which could include residents who live within the area.

The consultants said: “It is important to note that many of the implemented schemes faced, and still face, significant public and political opposition, though in some cities public opinion of the charges have improved since implementation. In 2005, a referendum on a congestion charge for Edinburgh was rejected by nearly three-quarters of voters. Proposals for congestion charges in Manchester and Copenhagen have also failed to be progressed to date. In the case of New York , whilst congestion charge proposals prepared in 2008 failed to progress, proposals were revisited and it is now planned to implement a congestion charge scheme in 2022.”

According to modelling undertaken by the consultants for the report, that city centre rather than city-wide zones would have a better impact. The data indicates that “a form of congestion charge would perform well against the objectives, particularly in Dublin.”

In Cork the reports that there is a “risk that redistributed traffic would reduce the benefits and potentially result in a negative overall impact against the Study objectives, for example, a small increase in carbon emissions.” But the consultants note that modelling did not include “identifying mitigation measures or traffic management interventions to address the knock-on impacts outside the congestion zone” which they said should be examined if proposals are brought forward.

The full report can be viewed on the Department of Transport’s website.

Modelling for the report looked at the outcomes for two different rates as well as two different areas for both Dublin and Cork:

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