National Toll Roads, which owns the lease on the East Link Toll Bridge, has said it has neither met with nor received proposals from Dublin City Council in relation to allowing freight trucks use the bridge free when the Dublin Port Tunnel opens.

Yesterday, at a meeting with the Irish Road Haulage Association, Dublin City Council told hauliers that its policy under the Heavy Goods Vehicle Strategy would be that tolls on the Eastlink would be waived.

This would be to encourage trucks coming from the southside to use the tunnel.

The Irish Road Haulage Association had claimed hauliers operating out of the port area on the south bank would have been penalised when travelling in and out of the port, once trucks are banned from the city streets from January 2007.

Their only means of access to the port, and consequently the port tunnel at that stage, will be via the bridge. Currently it is estimated at least 750 containers cross the bridge each day, at a cost of €4.30 per journey.

Dublin City Council Director of Traffic, Michael Phillips, said the cost of opening the toll bridge free of charge to trucks would not be borne by the taxpayer.

He said that while the matter still had to be discussed with Dublin Port Company and National Toll Roads, who along with Dublin City Council share the revenue generated by the bridge, he said he anticipated that an agreement could be reached so that the cost to the city council was neutral.

When asked if this meant revenue from the bridge, normally used by the council for other purposes, would have to be foregone, Mr Phillips said the amount received from the bridge was very small in relation to the overall council budget.

However, the Labour spokesperson on transport, Róisín Shorthall, called on the council to ensure that the taxpayer does not lose out as a result of the decision.