City officials are under fire after Jack Lynch tunnel repairs caused traffic chaos in Cork over the bank holiday weekend.
Tens of thousands of motorists were caught in 6.5km, 90-minute tailbacks on Saturday afternoon as the tunnel’s north-bound bore was closed for “urgent” repairs.
A contra-flow system was put in operation in the south-bound bore across the weekend.
The bore closure, which had been planned for weeks, had been advertised.
Traffic ground to a halt on the N40 tunnel approach roads from around lunchtime on Saturday.
Angry motorists took to Twitter to vent their fury and frustration over the lack of advance warning, and over the decision to close the tunnel on one of the busiest weekends in Cork’s social calendar, the Guinness jazz festival.
Today FM DJ Colm O’Sullivan was among those stuck in the jams.
“Unless the Cork tunnel is leaking — no other reason to close most of lanes on a busy bank holiday,” he tweeted.
Unless the Cork tunnel is leaking - no other reason to close most of lanes on a busy bank holiday #justsaying— Colm O'Sullivan (@ColmJOS) October 25, 2014
Dozens of frustrated motorists complained about the lack of advance warning signs, a lack of gardaí, and of queue jumpers using the hard shoulder. The delays did not ease until tea-time.
One motorist said it took him almost 90 minutes to drive just 20km from the Watergrasshill toll to the tunnel.
From around 12pm on Sunday, the tailbacks began to form again, particularly with match-goers heading to the Junior A and Intermediate hurling finals at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Tunnel engineers apologised for the disruption but said the work, which involved repairs to concrete frames around three manhole covers in the north-bound bore, had been unavoidable.
A spokesman for the project said the manholes could be at risk of collapse if the repairs were not carried out soon and the repairs were vital for safety reasons.
Preparatory work for the repairs started in and around the tunnel at 8pm on Friday.
A team of 11 men began pouring specialist concrete in the bore just before 3pm on Saturday.
The work could not be done at night because the concrete could not be driven on the following day.
The spokesman said it will not have reached the required strength to withstand up to 70,000 vehicles a day until 4am tomorrow.
The tunnel is due to reopen to traffic at 6am tomorrow.
The spokesman said traffic disruption would have been worse had the repairs taken place during a normal working week and that the timing of the ‘preventative maintenance’ over the bank holiday weekend would actually impact fewer motorists than weekday closures.
“There is never a good time to close the tunnel. This was the lesser of two evils,” he said.
He said an average of 70,000 vehicles use the tunnel on weekdays, with an average of 55,000 vehicles passing through on Saturdays and around 48,000 using the tunnel on Sundays.
It is estimated that up to 260m vehicles have used the tunnel since it opened in 1999.
City councillors are expected to raise the issue with senior city management at tomorrow’s city council meeting.
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