ANOTHER 40km of motorway were officially opened yesterday but, despite costing almost half a billion to build, motorists who need to spend a penny will have to hold on for some time more.
The €467 million Carlow-Knocktopher stretch of road, which was unveiled by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, represents the last section of the country’s fourth inter-urban motorway, from Dublin to Waterford.
However, like the other completed motorways between Dublin and Cork, Galway and the north, there are no service areas or rest stops for drivers to visit the toilet or buy something to eat or drink.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) admitted yesterday there’s no public money available to build new rest stops – a common feature of roadways in Britain and continental Europe.
A spokesperson said they were implementing a “national signage programme” to show motorists where they can find service stations less than 2km from the motorways – so-called “off-line services”.
Service areas already under construction on the Dublin-Belfast motorway are due to open in Lusk, Co Dublin, and Castlebellingham, Co Louth, next week, as well as on the Dublin-Galway motorway at Enfield in Co Kildare.
However, the motorways between Dublin and Cork, Waterford and Limerick – the latter is due to open before the end of the year – will be left without rest stops for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve identified locations where we want to put them on the networks, but due to funding constraints we can’t do it,” an NRA spokesperson said last night. “There’s no money.”
Speaking after he officially opened the last 40km stretch of the M9 between Dublin and Waterford, Mr Dempsey said that there are “facilities off all of these particular roads”.
He has asked the NRA to “have a look” at ways in which service areas can be provided at no cost to the taxpayer. “I think that they can be done on a commercial basis. The NRA will, I’m sure, come back to me with a report on that.”
The new section of the M9 crosses most of Co Kilkenny and runs from Carlow to Knocktopher, saving an estimated 30 minutes at peak times.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved