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 The M50 Toll - WTF

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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:34 pm

I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with the fact that you have a private company providing the service on behalf of the Government. There is an argument for An Post to do it but then again would they really want to, they don't have as wide a coverage as payzone and then people would give out about the Government spending money on the investment. There is probably an argument that the deal the Government made was wrong, that doesn't mean doing a deal is wrong per se though.

Also, it would make alot of sense if you could pay this over the phone too, just like you can with the Congestion Charge in London and also as you can with pay and display in Dublin City Centre.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:37 pm

johnfás wrote:
I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with the fact that you have a private company providing the service on behalf of the Government. There is an argument for An Post to do it but then again would they really want to, they don't have as wide a coverage as payzone and then people would give out about the Government spending money on the investment. There is probably an argument that the deal the Government made was wrong, that doesn't mean doing a deal is wrong per se though.

Also, it would make alot of sense if you could pay this over the phone too, just like you can with the Congestion Charge in London and also as you can with pay and display in Dublin City Centre.

Why not put the charge onto petrol as an increase in the duty ? Zero inconvenience and zero collection cost. Everyone in the country benefits from the M50 as its used for freight.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:41 pm

The arguments about whether the toll should be collected at all and whether the toll should be treated entirely separately from the manner in which the toll is collected.

Everyone benefits from the airport too but not everyone pays money towards it, you only pay if you use it. Same goes for hundreds of pieces of important infrastructure.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:42 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:


Whatever name you want to put on it, it is exactly the sort of deal that was made with Halliburton in Iraq after the invasion - a contract to provide services after a tender process. This is the way that privatisation of most services takes place.

What are you talking about? This isn't privatisation, it's nationalisation. The toll bridge was a privately-owned concern but was purchased for €600 million by the Exchequer for State ownership. This process is towards State ownership rather than private ownership.

The toll collection, which is what the thread about, has been contracted out. The whole thing is a total waste of time and money and a rip off. The M50 is an essential piece of national infrastructure. Having bought the toll station, Government should have put the cost onto petrol. The idea of people driving around looking for shops to pay for a road toll is simply incredible.

But that has nothing to do with neoliberal economics, it is actually the antithesis of neoliberal economics and is a perfect example of how inefficient government ownership is. What ever about the historical reasons for the bridge being built when it was owned operated by NTR even as a monopoly it was cheaper than it's going to be when fully owned by the NRA and operated by e-toll and the several subcontractors who are alowed issue passes to use it. The government contracted out the toll collection and the government made a bloody mess of it.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:10 am

The government made a bloody mess ever making it a private project in the first place.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:12 am

cactus flower wrote:
The government made a bloody mess ever making it a private project in the first place.

They didn't make it a private project. It was a private project and the government bought it. It's now state owned. Giving out a contract to operate it is not privatisation.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:43 am

Quote :
Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of business from the public sector (government) to the private sector (business). In a broader sense, privatization refers to transfer of any government function to the private sector including governmental functions like revenue collection and law enforcement. [1]

This is the Wikipedia definition; I am sure there are others. I don't think we are disputing the facts. In time past, public services were run by the state, and not contracted out.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:00 am

I thought the bridge was originally a PPP type thing, with the Govt. having a 10% stake or something, some banks/other investors and NTR having the majority share ? No?
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:29 am

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I thought the bridge was originally a PPP type thing, with the Govt. having a 10% stake or something, some banks/other investors and NTR having the majority share ? No?

Before my time, but that's what I think too. The contract seems to have been very poorly drawn up and to have grossly underestimated the amount of traffic that would use the road.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:32 am

I don't think the original planners of the road can be blamed too much for their misreading of the trends in car ownership. The huge growth in the economy was not anticipated when it was drawn up, nor could it have been.

What I do not understand, however, is the way they constructed the more recent bits of the M50 - Tallaght to Loughlinstown. Even before they began construction of that sector they had decided that they would be upgrading the road to 3 lanes, at least as far as Sandyford. Consequently, why didn't they build that bit as 3 lanes at the time? Surely it would have been cheaper than what they are doing now which is dig that section up only a few years after it was completed, in the knowledge that they were going to do that.

I have heard an argument that they couldn't do this because of the bottleneck that it would have created. I see no reason why they couldn't have built it like that and corden off the lane until now. It would have saved us hundreds of millions.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:42 am

It wasn't the road planners, it was the people who drew the contract/PPP up that I'm talking about. The based the agreement on an assumption of low growth and didn't include any clause to provide for higher growth.

If they really had no alternative to the arrangement they could have capped the profits and required that after that level had been reached the road would rever to public ownership.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:57 am

johnfás wrote:
I don't think the original planners of the road can be blamed too much for their misreading of the trends in car ownership. The huge growth in the economy was not anticipated when it was drawn up, nor could it have been.

What I do not understand, however, is the way they constructed the more recent bits of the M50 - Tallaght to Loughlinstown. Even before they began construction of that sector they had decided that they would be upgrading the road to 3 lanes, at least as far as Sandyford. Consequently, why didn't they build that bit as 3 lanes at the time? Surely it would have been cheaper than what they are doing now which is dig that section up only a few years after it was completed, in the knowledge that they were going to do that.

I have heard an argument that they couldn't do this because of the bottleneck that it would have created. I see no reason why they couldn't have built it like that and corden off the lane until now. It would have saved us hundreds of millions.

I hadn't thought of that before - shows very poor vision for provision.

Will the story of the M50 become the keynote of all that is wrong with the management of Ireland in these Celtic Tiger times?
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:03 am

cactus flower wrote:
It wasn't the road planners, it was the people who drew the contract/PPP up that I'm talking about. The based the agreement on an assumption of low growth and didn't include any clause to provide for higher growth.

If they really had no alternative to the arrangement they could have capped the profits and required that after that level had been reached the road would rever to public ownership.

I seem to remember it was based on 3000 cars per day. By 2004 it was notching up 80000 cars per day. That bridge was paid for one hundred fold. It became a goose with golden eggs. I'm quite convince the only reason they built the second bridge was to get another 15-20 years on the licence. Bastards...
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:35 am

cactus flower wrote:
It wasn't the road planners, it was the people who drew the contract/PPP up that I'm talking about. The based the agreement on an assumption of low growth and didn't include any clause to provide for higher growth.

If they really had no alternative to the arrangement they could have capped the profits and required that after that level had been reached the road would rever to public ownership.

But the government didn't strike a proper business deal on the toll road back in the 80s with NTR. If they cannot successfully negotiate a deal of that importance to the Exchequer's and the taxpayer's advantage then they should not be trusted with managing the operation. They cannot act like business people since they are civil servants with little knack for striking deals and getting business done. Whatever about the rights and wrongs of the NTR deal, the simplicity of the previous operation is preferable to the fudge of the present.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:50 am

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
It wasn't the road planners, it was the people who drew the contract/PPP up that I'm talking about. The based the agreement on an assumption of low growth and didn't include any clause to provide for higher growth.

If they really had no alternative to the arrangement they could have capped the profits and required that after that level had been reached the road would rever to public ownership.

But the government didn't strike a proper business deal on the toll road back in the 80s with NTR. If they cannot successfully negotiate a deal of that importance to the Exchequer's and the taxpayer's advantage then they should not be trusted with managing the operation. They cannot act like business people since they are civil servants with little knack for striking deals and getting business done. Whatever about the rights and wrongs of the NTR deal, the simplicity of the previous operation is preferable to the fudge of the present.
What happens/should happen in these public/private infrastructure cases? Sometimes the government needs to hire expertise to advise on getting the best deal as they mightn't have the experts on hand. Or do they?

What the feck do we have county engineers and all that crap for? Surely those boys can come up with projections and costings and all that? Surely to God the civil engineers who work for the country could put a plan together by which our national purchasers could compare as to deals and contracts and tenders. Was the tendering process back then different than now or should we distrust how they do stuff now too - the Limerick tunnel; the Cork one; the Luas; the Port Tunnel; loads of bypasses and god knows what else...

Often it looks like incompetence but you'd wonder is it something worse.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:56 am

Auditor #9 wrote:

What happens/should happen in these public/private infrastructure cases? Sometimes the government needs to hire expertise to advise on getting the best deal as they mightn't have the experts on hand. Or do they?

The way I understand PPPs is that the government trades the part-ownership of government schemes in order to tap the skills, knowledge and innovative capacity of the private sector to come up with solutions in these schemes and do the job well. The likes of Ferrovial get a 45% stake in a road-building project in return for advice to the government on how to do projects and the like.

Quote :
What the feck do we have county engineers and all that crap for? Surely those boys can come up with projections and costings and all that?

Possibly. But people are rarely laid off in the public service. Especially if they're not needed. They are a useful patsy in some situations where the buck needs to be passed by either government or the private companies and they are a layer of well-paid, well-educated and well-connected professionals. I don't think our government would have the gumption to face down the likes of them. Look how long it takes them even to resolve something like consultants' contracts. Something like that would emerge and drag on for years if the government tried to do something about the superfluity of county engineers.

Quote :
Often it looks like incompetence but you'd wonder is it something worse.

Sometimes you would.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:05 am

Well, on the county engineers - I didn't mean that we get rid of them or anything, rather the fact that we have them at all - what the feck do they do?

Now, wouldn't it be worth cultivating a few of our best brains fresh out from civil engineering exams to simply shadow and pre-empt what the private contractor would do and to let them study the plans and all that so as to get home-grown professional advisers and a body of knowledge built up? In engineering it is often quite textbook stuff so I don't see why we get ripped off like that. Do we pretend we're thick?

Here's a fella on a rant and it comes with a little history of the Toll Bridge RipOff for anyone not so familiar with the whole fiasco.

http://www.soldiersofdestiny.org/tollbridgeripoff.htm
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:49 am

Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The National Consumer Agency objected to the Draft Toll Scheme and seem to have been completely ignored. I think their objection was limited, given the problems for users without easy computer access and without credit cards, and the issue of tourists and people using the airport wasn't mentioned.

http://www.nca.ie/eng/Media_Zone/Press%20Releases/NCA_objects_to_M50_toll_proposal.html

Quote :
In our view, the current requirements of tag service providers are excessive and transfer cash flow from the consumer to the provider. In essence, the effect of current tag service provider charges is to increase considerably the real cost to consumers of electronic tolling. They are, in effect, hidden toll charges.

This is a good example to the daylight robbery which is neoliberal economics at work.

You realise that the foundation behind the idea of neoliberal economics is that government control over aspects on the economy is undesirable. And that the etoll is operated by the NRA, a government body, and indeed the M50 toll bridge was bought from a private company, NTR, by the government last year?

And then immediately franchised out to Payzone for 8 years - so we will have paid for it three times over.

Who did, the government?

Yes.

Which would be exactly why it isn't neoliberal economics at all.

Exactly. It's nothing like neoliberal economics at all. There's even a monopoly in this toll, hardly a hallmark of neoliberalism.

If this was really neoliberalism, the government wouldn't have bothered linking the Northside M50 with the Southside and left the market to decide if it was worth it to connect them. We'd then see an array of private companies buying up land and building competing toll bridges each looking to offer the cheapest possible service. That would be neo-liberal tollonimics with nary a government in sight.

But it could be argued that it resembles the end-result of neo-liberal economics. One of the great myths of neo-liberal enonomics is that it increases competition. It does no such thing. It kills competition eventually. Look at how Willie Walsh was spinning frenetically yesterday about the de facto operational merger of British Airways and American Airlines. This "single" operater will now control 2/3 of the trans-Atlantic traffic out of Heathrow. It's designed to clobber the competition. Only the US competition authority is preventing an attempt to merge the two companies.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:20 am

johnfás wrote:
I was commissioned by the parents to look into the best option for my family. The joys of being the youngest and currently not working!!

Essentially there are three options, as I understand it:

1) You get a tag in your car. These tags already exist and many people already have them. There are about 10 different providers of them and they range in price and whether or not there is a monthly administration fee. In essence though, you are looking at 30 euro for the tag and then 1 euro per month for an administration fee. That means you will pay roughly 42 euro in your first year even if you don't cross the bridge and 12 euro per year thereafter. The cost of crossing the bridge with a tag will be €2.00.

2) You can register your car registration plate online with the NRA. Their cameras will read your registration plate and then you will be automatically billed each time you cross. It is a bit like a mobile phone, you can either opt to be billed monthly for whatever is outstanding or you can prepay and put credit on periodically. The cost of using this service per crossing is €2.50.

3) You can do nothing. Everytime you cross, it will read your registration plate and you then have I think it is 48 hours to pay your dues either at various outlets, online or over the telephone. If you don't do it you get a fine. The cost of using this method each time you cross is €3.00.


We decided to go for option two. We don't cross the bridge enough for a tag to be economical. You would have to cross it 24 times a year in order to make back the administration fee and 60 times to make back the cost of the tag.

Many thanks JF. I think I will go for option 2 on the basis that they will hardly collect them all.

In the meantime, I will be driving my car through mud to cover the number plate, going through the booths at speed, wearing shades, trying to go past the cameras at funny angles and on one side of the lane, moving house regularly, registering my car in the ownership of a Jersey trust and may even consider not using the M50 at all!
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PostSubject: Software and public services   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:28 am

In number 2) would it be any way intelligent to join two departments and have people pay their fees with their tax? Or is it better to have a seperate billing system?

Unfortunately a lot of civil service software - I fear - may be of the legacy kind which takes manual sculpting of a few days work just to change a date output. It's issues like the above which have me thinking of software packages that can be customisable by the users almost.

*new idea
-In case anyone wants to continue this rivetting software discussion as a sub-thread then please quote me and you'll see the nested posts have the name of the sub-thread on top all the time.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:30 am

Slim Buddha wrote:
Ard-Taoiseach wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
cookiemonster wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
The National Consumer Agency objected to the Draft Toll Scheme and seem to have been completely ignored. I think their objection was limited, given the problems for users without easy computer access and without credit cards, and the issue of tourists and people using the airport wasn't mentioned.

http://www.nca.ie/eng/Media_Zone/Press%20Releases/NCA_objects_to_M50_toll_proposal.html

Quote :
In our view, the current requirements of tag service providers are excessive and transfer cash flow from the consumer to the provider. In essence, the effect of current tag service provider charges is to increase considerably the real cost to consumers of electronic tolling. They are, in effect, hidden toll charges.

This is a good example to the daylight robbery which is neoliberal economics at work.

You realise that the foundation behind the idea of neoliberal economics is that government control over aspects on the economy is undesirable. And that the etoll is operated by the NRA, a government body, and indeed the M50 toll bridge was bought from a private company, NTR, by the government last year?

And then immediately franchised out to Payzone for 8 years - so we will have paid for it three times over.

Who did, the government?

Yes.

Which would be exactly why it isn't neoliberal economics at all.

Exactly. It's nothing like neoliberal economics at all. There's even a monopoly in this toll, hardly a hallmark of neoliberalism.

If this was really neoliberalism, the government wouldn't have bothered linking the Northside M50 with the Southside and left the market to decide if it was worth it to connect them. We'd then see an array of private companies buying up land and building competing toll bridges each looking to offer the cheapest possible service. That would be neo-liberal tollonimics with nary a government in sight.

But it could be argued that it resembles the end-result of neo-liberal economics. One of the great myths of neo-liberal enonomics is that it increases competition. It does no such thing. It kills competition eventually. Look at how Willie Walsh was spinning frenetically yesterday about the de facto operational merger of British Airways and American Airlines. This "single" operater will now control 2/3 of the trans-Atlantic traffic out of Heathrow. It's designed to clobber the competition. Only the US competition authority is preventing an attempt to merge the two companies.

Agreed Slimbuddha - no matter what the neoliberals mantra is, the reality is they faciltate the development of monopoly capitalism, which is the natural tendency of the unfettered market - big fish eat the little fish.

I have a job to do north of the M50, so much as I would like to avoid it altogether, it will be Option 2 for me.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:32 am

I have just been looking at the Eazypass terms and conditions. As far as I can make out they charge you a monthly administration fee AND they make you keep your account topped up to at least €12.70 or such higher figure as they may decide. That minimum account balance looks dodgy to me. Is that money resting in a current account somewhere and being used as collateral for borrowings?
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:54 am

Zhou_Enlai wrote:
I have just been looking at the Eazypass terms and conditions. As far as I can make out they charge you a monthly administration fee AND they make you keep your account topped up to at least €12.70 or such higher figure as they may decide. That minimum account balance looks dodgy to me. Is that money resting in a current account somewhere and being used as collateral for borrowings?

Effectively you are paying €12 for the tag which they are advertising as free. It is dodgy.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:56 am

They probably also work on the presumption that if you cancel your subscription you won't bother coming after the 12 euro.

We decided to go for registering the car and paying 2.50 each time you cross.

We very rarely cross anyway though, we go through the city when we go to the airport, it is often quicker.
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PostSubject: Re: The M50 Toll - WTF   Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:08 pm

I don't use the M50 much but I like heading off around the country. The toll roads for Belfast, the Wesht and Cork have all come in handy in the last year. My most pernicious vice though is that I can't resist the port tunnel no matter what time of the day or night.

The Eazypass deal does not seem so bad if they are not charging you for the tag. I do find their one sided agreement whcih allows them to vary their charges with no reference to costs or CPI a bit offensive though. One would hope that their agreement with the NRA puts a little bit more smacht on them in this regard and the only reason for the "free hand" clauses in the contract is to stop multiple busybodies resisting payment/engaging in litigation. I note that eFlow have a minimum balance requirement of €12 as well so their deal does not seem to have any advantage save perhaps that you don't have to return the tag which may end up being a hidden cost under eazypass.
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