OVER 20,000 vehicles used the new Limerick tunnel, under the Shannon, in the first 24 hours after its official opening.
The volume surpassed a traffic target which was initially set for the six months to year end.
Tom King, general manager of Direct Route the consortium which will own and run the tunnel for the next 31 years, said: “It has gone unbelievably well. The level of traffic over the first 24 hours has gone beyond our biggest expectations. It went so well — it was like adding water to instant coffee.”
Mr King said vehicle numbers were in excess of 20,000.
The company had anticipated initial vehicle numbers of about 18,000 a day.
But the first 24 hours hit a figure they had not expected to reach until after six months of operations.
To help the smooth opening day, Mr King said there had been a doubling up of staff at the toll plazas.
“This helped with motorists who might have got into the wrong lane when paying. Our people have undergone training but this was their fist live action,” he said.
Up to 100 people are employed in the running and maintenance of the Limerick Tunnel.
Motorists, he said, have already dubbed it the Tunnel of Quickness, such is the easy passage along the 675m stretch under the Shannon.
Huge numbers of people travelling to Galway for the races from Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Waterford have used the tunnel.
The tunnel cuts journey times by 20 minutes for those travelling via Limerick to the west or the south.
The tunnel under the Shannon is designed to cope with up to 40,000 vehicles a day and the company anticipate the daily traffic flow will ramp up to around 27,000 vehicles over the next year.
About 20,000 of these vehicles will divert from the city centre.
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