If you drive a car, you definitely will have heard of the West-Link and the East-Link toll bridges, The West-Link is on the M50 near Lucan and the East-Link connects Ringsend with the Point Village/Dublin Port area and brings you now to the M1 tunnel.

Back in the 1980s when they were built, Ireland was a LOT poorer and corruption was even more prevalent than later and so the Irish Government got a private company to build the bridges and gave them the right to charge the people using the road a toll on an ongoing basis.

It was a very profitable business and in the end the National Roads Authority (now called Transport Infrastructure Ireland) bought the West-Link Bridge in 2008 and Dublin City bought the East Link bridge in 2015 from the private companies. So now the bridges are NOT in private ownership anymore, instead they are now owned by the state / Dublin City and since WE are the state or the City, and it would make sense to stop charging a toll, but not so fast!!! Neither the Irish government nor Dublin City wanted to stop charging that extra tax on us, so we are still paying for something that already has been paid.

National Toll Road who originally built the West Link made a profit of more than EUR 1bn from it!!!! Read it here!

Dublin City tried to claim that removing the toll plaza at the East Link would be too expensive, therefore they had to keep it and had to continue charging money. A very ….unique…..argumentation.

In 2010 Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and Dublin City were told that they will have to pay VAT to Revenue from the toll they charge. At the West-Link, back then the toll was not increased, but remained the same and TII paid the VAT from that amount. Dublin City on the other hand increased the toll by 21% (VAT was back then 21% and is now 23%).

TII went to court over the VAT and now the European Court of Justice has decided that VAT should NOT be paid to state-owned companies and immediately the PR spin started.

TII declared that they will leave the charges as they were because they absorbed the VAT when it was added to the toll price and didn’t increase the charges back then. There is some merit in that argument because on paper the toll stayed the same all the time, but commercial companies were able to claim the VAT back so they now have to pay more. In addition the question has to be asked how TII was able to absorb the VAT. If they didn’t need the 23% at that time and had no problem absorbing it then it looks like they just increased their profit margin by the 23%. In addition there is another little aspect that is normally overlooked: When the bridge was owned by the private company, they had to pay VAT, when then NRA took over in 2008, they didn’t have to pay VAT anymore before the 2010 ruling but they decided NOT to lower the toll, So strictly speaking the NRA NEVER absorbed the VAT ans therefore they are in essence INCREASING the toll now.

Dublin City on the other hand was even cheekier! They send out a press release claiming that they were lowering the toll charges! But they are not! Sure the charges are going down by the amount they had added a few years ago, but that was because they had to stop charging something that they were not allowed anymore to charge (i.e. VAT). So while the charges went down it was not at all oh-so-generous Dublin City that decided to lower the charges, they were TOLD to stop charging a VAT surcharge.

We don’t need to go to Washington DC to see how spin works! ;-)