herald

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Ice and new Luas line could cause city centre gridlock, say experts

Snow in Glencullen, Co Wicklow Pic: Justin Farrelly.
Snow in Glencullen, Co Wicklow Pic: Justin Farrelly.

Motorists should brace themselves for possible gridlock in the capital today as icy conditions and the new Cross City Luas line lead to potential delays, AA Roadwatch warned last night.

Met Eireann last night said ice-covered roads should be expected in all areas this morning.

Motorists and pedestrians are being urged to exercise extreme caution on roads and footpaths, as bitterly cold temperatures overnight were expected to leave much of the country covered in ice this morning.

A "status orange" low-temperature warning for the whole of Ireland was issued yesterday, running from 8pm last night until 10am today.

Severe

The alert warned of extremely low temperatures, with severe frost, ice and lying snow, as temperatures were expected to plummet to between -2C and even -8C in some areas.

The worst-affected regions are counties in the eastern half of Connacht as well as Leinster and Ulster

"All places are at risk of severe ice," forecaster Liz Gavin told The Herald. "There's nowhere that won't get some."

The morning rush hour was expected to be challenging, especially in Leinster and east Ulster.

"Temperatures will be below freezing in the early morning. We are advising people to take their time and exercise caution," she added.

Meanwhile, AA Roadwatch spokesman Barry Aldworth said this morning's rush hour would be the first real test of how motorists react to the new Cross City Luas line that opened on Saturday.

The extension of the Green Line will see trams travel from the southside and across the Liffey to Broombridge in north Dublin.

But because the line opened on a Saturday, when the city was devoid of drivers taking to the wheel for work, its impact on motorists would not be known until this morning, he explained.

"Today will be an interesting day. You will see more traffic and it will be the first real test," he added.

A trial run of the new tram line on Thursday found two so-called "pinch points" that caused traffic to halt for just under a minute as the tram passed by.

One bottleneck was on College Green and the other along the quays as the tram travelled across O'Connell Bridge.

However, a spokeswoman for Transdev, which operates the Luas, said it was not anticipating any major delays when the new line operates for the first weekday today.

"We are hugely happy," she said. "Operationally it went very smoothly and we're not anticipating any bottlenecks."

Asked about the impact of icy conditions on the road and tram tracks that could further impede the flow of traffic, she said: "We have a severe weather alert plan in place."

Gritting

That plan involves gritting platforms and car parks, although the gritting of roads is a matter for the local authorities.

Mr Aldworth said the forecast for widespread ice today would inevitably mean all motorists would be forced to slow down, which could have a knock-on effect on city centre traffic.

"And when you combine ice and a new Luas layout, it's probably going to be a bit more difficult today," he said.

Snow and ice - especially in the West and Midlands - led to some delays on Bus Eireann routes yesterday.

But a spokesman said the majority of services were unaffected by the weather.

A number of flights in the UK and in continental Europe were also cancelled due to wintry conditions.

Operations at Dublin and Cork airports were not affected by the weather, but there was a knock-on effect, said a spokesman for the Dublin Airport Authority.

Met Eireann said Dublin would be cold today, with frost and ice likely to linger in sheltered places.

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