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Roads minister drops hint that tolls could be on way

By Jonny Bell

Published 23/11/2016

Chris Hazzard
Chris Hazzard

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has hinted that toll roads could be introduced in Northern Ireland.

The Sinn Fein MLA said he was willing to consider the measure to pay for new roads, as well as other alternatives to address projects his department hopes to deliver.

Roads projects across Europe have been funded through the introduction of tolls.

In the Republic, motorists can travel the length of the country on one continuous motorway, provided they pay the toll.

In Northern Ireland, tolls could help to fund the £130m York Street interchange project. It aims to replace the existing signal-operated junction at York Street with direct links between the Westlink/M1, M2 and M3 - the three busiest roads in Northern Ireland.

Last week, Mr Hazzard accepted a recommendation from a public inquiry that the scheme should progress in principle, but reiterated warnings that Brexit had placed a question mark over funding.

In response to a Belfast Telegraph article on the introduction of tolls, the minister said he would not rule out the possibility of bringing them in.

A Department for Infrastructure spokeswoman told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "The minister has made clear his willingness to consider alternative possibilities to enable him to address his capital priorities.

"He will be discussing how best to meet these with the Finance Minister and the Executive in the coming days in the context of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement."

Yesterday, Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir claimed the Interchange was a priority and said all funding avenues should be explored.

He said: "I am not the infrastructure minister, but we find common ground. We both believe this is a priority project and will transform the road infrastructure of Belfast."

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