herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Plans to change M50 speed limits at peak times in bid to tackle increased traffic jams

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe is frustrated at the congestion that faces commuters on the M50
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe is frustrated at the congestion that faces commuters on the M50

Speed limits on the M50 are to be reduced at peak times as part of a plan to help ease congestion on the country’s busiest road.

Just five years after the €1bn upgrade to the motorway was completed, transport officials are now looking at ways of coping with fresh gridlock.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has admitted he is “frustrated” that commuters are once again stuck in their cars for longer than necessary.

“This is a scale of congestion difficulty that has developed so quickly,” he said.

The minister says part of the reason is there are more people back driving as the economy recovers, but he also blames a lack of investment in public transport during the boom years.

“We’re in a period of recovery is delivering very acute congestion,” he said.

Problem

His officials are now trying to draw up plans that will help prevent the problem from getting worse.

In an interview with the Herald, Mr Donohoe ruled out adding any more lanes to the M50 or carrying out any studies on the possibility of a new ring-road around the capital.

“The traditional answer to something would have been: what we are going to do to make more public transport available – and that’s still part of the answer.”

He said there are plans to change the speed limits on the M50 and he wants to bring in a system to make them adjustable depending on the quantity of traffic, similar to the M25 in the UK.

“People would get notice before they go into an area of what the speed limit will be.

“Then the quantity of traffic on the road is an element in deciding what the speed limit should be.

“The speed limits that we have at the moment are determined purely by what the national speed limits are, which are 50, 80 and 100kph.

“For a small number of roads, most notably the M50, we need to look at a different approach.”

The minister said he also wants to devise a better system for dealing with incidents, such as a crash that saw part of the road closed for several hours earlier this month.

“The change that has now happened with the M50 is that because of the quantity of traffic, if something happens it has an affect that is now nearly regional as opposed to just on the M50,” Mr Donohoe said.

He said information has to get out to other motorists faster and then there has to be an active plan for getting the road cleared as quickly as possible without interfering with any garda investigations.

Asked about increasing road capacity, the Dublin Central TD said the lesson of the M50 was that “we are in the early phases now of our economy beginning to recover we’re now seeing a large degree of congestion at particular times on the road that the existing road network is now struggling to deal with”.

Network

He said “long-term priority calls” made during the boom would definitely be looked at differently now.

For now, the minister has promised to improve the capacity of the rail network, put more new Dublin buses on the road and open the Phoenix Park tunnel by next summer.

After that the new Luas cross-city line will open.

“We’re going to be looking at new orbital bus routes. There are six of those already detailed by the National Transport Authority. They will form a big part of stopping people having to go into the city,” he added.

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