TALKS involving the National Roads Authority (NRA) in Limerick today are likely to give the green light for the opening later this week of the €660 million road tunnel under the river Shannon.
It is hoped to open the new motorway on Friday, bringing a huge cut in journey times for motorists and commercial vehicles travelling between most counties in Munster to Shannon and the West of Ireland.
It has also emerged the toll motorway tunnel will provide up to 100 jobs. The route runs for more than 900 metres of which 675 metres are directly under the river. Tom King, general manager of Direct Route — the company which takes ownership of the tunnel motorway for the next 31 years under a public private partnership arrangement — said yesterday: “We are pushing to have it opened by Friday. A lot of legislative matters have to be dealt with first and we cannot say when the opening will take place until after talks we are having with the NRA.”
A toll of €1.80 per car will be charged and €5.70 for heavy lorries. Mr King said it is envisaged up to 18,000 vehicles will use the tunnel motorway daily and it has a capacity to cater for up to 40,000 vehicles a day.
He said the toll charge represents very good value.
“Travelling at 80km/h, a car will be able to get through the tunnel in 30 seconds and we have carried out surveys which show it will take more than 20 minutes of travelling time for vehicles which at present have to travel through the city centre bridges,” said Mr King.
“So, in effect with fuel savings, the net cost of taking the tunnel will be about 50c for a family saloon car,” he said. The tunnel motorway employed more than 700 people in the last four years in construction. Up to 100 will be employed full time by the toll concession company, Intolligent and Lagan Projects Ltd, which will maintain the roadway.
Under new legislation from 2006, the tunnel motorway had to pass a huge safety which involved a simulated exercise involving 160 personnel including gardaí, fire and ambulance personnel and civil defence.
Mr King said at the end of the 31 years ownership of the tunnel road, it will be handed back to the NRA with a guarantee there will be at least another 10 years lifespan in the roadway.
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