Just 3 of 60 accident blackspots upgraded

Only three of the country’s worst accident blackspots have been upgraded — a year after plans to fix the 60 deadliest road bends were trumpeted.

While work has begun on another 28 hazardous corners, a huge question mark now hangs over the remaining 29 projects.

In Jan 2012, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar announced he was handing over €100m to overhaul half of the 60 identified blackspots.

But he admitted at the time the other half would only get the go-ahead if the funds were available.

It is understood that the National Roads Authority (NRA), which has the responsibility for carrying out the upgrades, has been told there is no money for more works. Another €100m is needed to carry out the next phase of the safety overhaul.

Plans to fix some of the country’s most dangerous road bends — in counties Cavan, Donegal, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, and Wicklow — have now been effectively shelved.

Seán O’Neill, spokesman for the NRA, said: “As of right now, no additional funding for the remaining schemes is in place.”

It is understood the need to buy land from local landowners would have delayed construction on some of the earmarked upgrades.

Conor Faughnan, of the AA, said there were obvious financial difficulties facing Mr Varadkar, but he said motorists hit by extra taxes in the budget were promised they would see road improvements in return.

“Let’s have that €100m,” he said.

“Make no mistake about it, motorists did actually supply that extra money. We had a tax increase on fuel lumped upon us at the start of 2012 and we paid that all year long, so there is more than enough taken off us there to supply the €100m.

“I’m given to understand that these locations have been identified as dangerous. So surely that must give them sort of priority.”

He said the completion of just three projects since last year was a “pretty disappointing outcome”.

However, Mr O’Neill said it was a 24-month plan and good progress was being made. “It isn’t instant coffee — you don’t just add water and stir,” he said.

“This involves land purchases, engineering, design, and works to straighten out roads. We will be halfway complete by the end of 2013 — that’s good progress.”

Works at the 28 blackspots where construction began during 2012 are expected to be completed this year.

The authority said the projects will cost exactly the €100m set aside for the first half of the upgrade scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said: “As the minister stated at the time, the remaining 29 projects will go to construction when funding permits. They are being progressed through the planning process by the NRA and will be shovel- ready as funding becomes available.”

The completed projects were road realignments on the N55 between Corduff and Ballytrust in Co Cavan, on the N67 at Grag, in Co Clare, and on the N24 at Kilshane in Co Tipperary.

Earlier this week, a Road Safety Authority report showed Cavan was the only county in Ireland to record an increase in the level of fatalities from 2007 to 2012.

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