Anytime I come from Dublin airport it presents itself. On that large round-about which accesses the M 50 the only really helpful sign is that denoting Malahide. This tells me ‘don’t take that one’. Then usually, but not always, by a process of elimination, I have found myself on the M 50 sometimes going in the right direction! In any event last week I arrived close to where the old M50 toll bridge was and there was a plethora of signs. One would need to have a pull over area to stop and assess the situation but with an obviously regular user on my backside and in a hurry; I had to make my decisions on the hoof. (Naively I still thought there might be a physical toll allowing for ‘culchies’ like myself, not so). I whizzed through and knew that the N 4 turn-off was close at hand. However the first N4 Sligo/Galway sign seemed to be contradicted by another some fifty or so metres further on. I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure and by the time I had processed the situation I was past all N4 options and heading for Tallaght and the sea. I feared I might find myself on the Red Cow rollercoaster so I got off at the first opportunity, with the help of legerdemain gymnastics. One of these decisions meant advancing on a V of bollards and holding my flight path in such a way that it afforded a left or right option until the last moment. (Do not try to copy this procedure). Eventually I got off the M 50, and like a donkey after a day on the bog, I cruised back west of the Shannon as the blood pressure receded.
Part two of the little saga came when I investigated methods of payment, not trusting that I might get a first offender’s pardon. If you are a regular user you can ‘set up an account’. I feel that, at the moment, I have enough of those, so ‘tinternet’ was the next option. With the help of a consultant this was achieved and so the trip was assigned to history or folklore. But no! A few days later I received a letter to say I still owed three euro. Apparently I had not paid within the twenty four hours given. Why this was not relayed to me when paying the first moiety remains unclear. I pursued the issue over the phone and having played Sudoku on the numerals eventually got a human, if pretty unsympathetic, voice and the huge transaction for three Euros was finalised.
I am not an expert on the workings of the M 50 and I don’t intend trying a Panorama investigation but I got the feeling that the over time payment was one of the bonuses of the whole set up. Apparently you can pre-pay, pay at garages when you come off the toll road or pay locally. The nearest local agent has been Gerry Mullaney’s of Croghan who had the payzone system used by the M 50 toll operators in his premises for years. Only last week Carty’s garage of Boyle came on stream as a pay option. The other ones listed on the internet for County Roscommon are as follows: O’Connor’s of Ballinlough, Coyle Bros. Ballyleague, Super Valu, Ballaghaderreen, Ashview Service Station and Lyons ‘Mace’, Castlerea; Corrib Oil, Racecourse Road and Eason’s, The Square, Roscommon; Londis Tarmonbarry. Certainly the traffic flows much better now on that M 50 but if you are a little nervy it might be advisable to do a pre-journey recce, in the quiet of the night, to get the lie of the land. But it is still a different and challenging channel at high tide.