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DRIVERS FACE M50 TOLL HIKE; Business users face Vat double-whammy.

Byline: By LISA O'CONNOR

MOTORISTS face a 10 per cent toll hike just weeks after the M50 barriers are removed.

Drivers will pay between EUR2 and EUR3 depending on the method of payment.

But NRA chiefs are set to authorise a further increase to be introduced in the New Year.

Regular users can obtain an electronic tag which automatically debits their account every time they cross the bridge, but the system will use number plate recognition on non-tagged cars.

Although the hated toll barriers on the M50 will be removed at the end of the month, the NRA claims that there will still be "substantial queuing" on the motorway and has admitted that the new system may make mistakes - including reading number plates incorrectly.

An NRA insider said that inflation-related increases formed part of the agreement with the toll collectors - meaning an increase of between 10c and 15c for cars - and 30c increase for lorries.

He said: "The increase is in the pipeline, it's pegged to inflation so it's inevitable."

Labour's Tommy Broughan blasted the decision and called on the Department of Transport to block the increase.

Work on removing the barriers and the toll plaza will begin on August 30 and will take between eight and nine weeks.

Business users on the M50 will also face a separate hike. Under the existing arrangements, businesses were able to claim 21 percent VAT back on their toll fees. But because the toll bridge is being nationalised, there will be no VAT on the fee - but the toll will remain the same.

The Small Firms Association claimed that this change could cost firms EUR4million-a-year.

The NRA last night admitted though that barrier-free tolling will not lead to any significant improvement in traffic flows.

A spokesman last night said: "While some of the improvement that will be delivered by barrier-free tolling will become visible after the existing toll plaza is removed, the full benefits of barrier-free tolling will only come with the full completion of the M50 upgrade in 2010."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 24, 2008
Words:337
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