Hard pressed commuters are being forced to provide profits twice over to private companies when simply travelling to work writes Alan Myler.
While mortgage concerns continue to dominate the household budgets of many families, hard pressed workers in the commuter belts are equally concerned with the rising costs of transport. Many workers, who moved to Meath’s recently developed housing estates to avail of lower cost housing than was available in Dublin, have found that the costs of commuting by car to jobs in the city can hit upwards of €6,000 per annum, taking into consideration the total cost of car ownership in addition to pertrip costs.
Public transport would offer a more cost attractive alternative, but such services simply don’t exist to link far-flung commuter estates with those parts of the city where the jobs are located. For many time strapped commuters faced with 40 mile morning and evening trips, a car is their only practical option.
The burden was relieved for many Meath commuters by the opening of the M3 motorway in June 2010. This substantial transport infrastructure project was funded via one of the notorious Public Private Partnership arrangements, part of which involved tolling the M3. The daily tolls, for a commuter based in Kells and travelling via the M3 and M50 to south Dublin adds up to €6.60, a considerable sum on top of fuel costs.
But workers must also pay for the use of these roads through their taxes which are used to guarantee the profits of the
private toll operators. In June it was revealed that the M3 motorway operators received a subsidy of €547,000 from the government during the final four months of 2010. This subsidy was negotiated by the private toll operators as part of their contract in order to guarantee profits regardess of the volume of traffic using the M3.
Can we expect renegotiation of them public subsidy for private profit in these times of austerity and tightened public purse strings? Hardly, given the historical deference shown to the M50 toll operators in the face of intolerable traffic jams and delays over many years.
We will be told that legal contracts are binding and that renegotiation is not possible. Of course those same legal restrictions don’t apply to the relationship between the state and the citizenry, government feels no reluctance and has no legal barriers when raising taxes and levies or cutting social welfare payments. Yet another clear illustration that different rules apply, and that the nature of government policy is to channel wealth out of the pockets of workers and into the bank vaults of business.
Article published in LookLeft Vol.2 No.7