THE National Roads Authority has been criticised for taking almost three years to install emergency phones on a motorway in Co Clare while the authority still stands accused of failing to complete the route to the “highest safety standards.”
The 32-kilometre stretch of the M18, comprising the Newmarket on Fergus and Ennis bypasses, which opened in 2002 and 2007 respectively, was upgraded to motorway status in September 2009.
In January 2010, when concerns were first raised about the lack of the vital emergency equipment, the roads authority confirmed: “Phones will be installed on the M18 and all retro fitting will be completed by autumn of 2010.”
In January of this year however, when pressed again on the matter, the NRA said the phones would be installed and operating between the end of January and mid-February.
Preliminary ground work on the retro-fit programme began last September, however the works stalled for several months. Earlier this month, work on installing the phones began.
While the NRA has now confirmed that the emergency phones have been installed, a councillor has claimed the route remains unfinished and unsafe almost three years after it was upgraded to motorway status.
Clare councillor Johnny Flynn, a civil engineer and former chief fire officer for Co Limerick, believes that the original safety audit of the N18, which the NRA says was undertaken before the route was upgraded to motorway, was not adequate and that the motorway remains “unfinished”.
“I cannot believe that almost three years after the M18 was upgraded, installation of the phones has only been completed now. I have asked the NRA on several occasions to address serious issues with the M18 especially regarding the layout of the route and safety signage and they have failed to do so. As far as I am concerned, the M18, as a project, has not been completed to the highest safety standard.”
The Fine Gael councillor has also expressed serious concern about the lack of an interchange at the Quin Road in Ennis and says buses and lorries have still to drive through residential areas to get to business parks in the area.
“These are matters which still need to be addressed. Companies in the Quin Road area are losing between 30% and 40% of their business because of inadequate access. Aside from that, heavy vehicles have to drive through the town and residential areas to get there. There are very obvious safety risks here too.”
The distinctive new phones are located between 1.5km and 2km apart and the caller’s position on the motorway can immediately be determined by the operations centre. The NRA has said: “The phone’s location can be identified by the operator in Dublin Port Tunnel, which monitors the entire motorway network.
“The system can automatically match the location ID of the phone when the call is made, and the relevant local assistance can be sent.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved