I admit it. I can’t think about the Westlink bridge without becoming incensed. It annoys me so much I try not to think about it at all. But it just can’t be ignored.
The facts are roughly as follows. National Toll Roads have spent some €60 building the two Westlink bridges. Over the 30 years that they can toll the bridges they will take more than €1 billion in profit.
By any standards this is a rip-off of gigantic proportions. I think most of us are agreed on that. The question is: what can we do about it?
Those in charge, the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the Government believe that there is nothing that can be done about it. This belief is based on the fact that the state agreed to hand over the concession for thirty years and that NTR can now consider that the concession is their private property.
So it was a mistake. The authorities try to explain away this mistake by saying that nobody could have foreseen how valuable the concession was going to be.
Basically, this means that because of the protection of private property in the constitution the people of Dublin will have to pay a private company €1,000 million for a €60 million bridge.
I’m not a constitutional lawyer but I can tell you that the constitution was never written to protect rip-offs like the Westlink.
Article 43 indeed protects private property while saying that it should be regulated by the principle of social justice. And then Article 43.2.2 says: “The State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good”.
Would you mind telling me how the ‘common good’ is reconciled by 100,000 Dubliners being delayed and charged every day because of the ‘rights’ of one company?
Surely SIMI, or the AA, or even the Government (if they were worth a damn) should test this in the Supreme Court. Somebody. Anybody.
The Westlink situation is immoral, unjust, indefensible, an economic disaster and just plain wrong. I think it’s unconstitutional as well.
What about a queueing charge?
The Westlink concession covers to the motorway between the Blanchardstown and Palmerstown roundabouts.
But motorists are forced to queue on road space not included in this concession. For example, southbound motorists not even intending to cross the Westlink are often delayed getting to the Blanchardstown exit by cars queueing for the toll plaza. What about their rights?
Similarly, cars heading northbound are queueing on road space built by taxpayers..
NTR faces no penalty for this even though it is their inefficiency that is causing these queues. They should be charged for the queueing space. In fact, I can see no reason why they are not forced to open the barriers when queues extend on to taxpayer’s property.