Completion of tunnel sees 30 jobs come to end

THE completion of the 900 metre Limerick tunnel has resulted in the loss of construction jobs.

A leading Limerick electrical firm who laid off 30 engineers, said yesterday half that number had been working on the tunnel.

Kirby Electrical, which employs more than 200 at its headquarters in Raheen Business Park, had a major contract in the fitting out of the tunnel.

However, the company has also secured contracts at Dublin Airport and a project in Co Meath.

Associate director with the company, Michael Hennessy said: “We are a contract company and projects come to an end. There are always ebbs and flows regarding employment of this nature.”

Figures given yesterday showed up to 17,000 vehicles a day have been using the new Limerick Tunnel highway since it opened a week ago.

During its first full day of operation last Thursday, more than 20,000 vehicles travelled through the tunnel road under the Shannon estuary.

Tom King, general manager of Direct Route which will manage the tunnel roadway for the next 31 years under a public private partnership arrangement, said projected targets had been achieved on traffic volumes.

“Peak time is at around 5pm when we have about 1,500 vehicles an hour,” he said.

He said lorries and other heavy goods vehicles make up about 12% of the total traffic.

Mr King said the exceptionally heavy traffic on Thursday last could have been attributed to a curiosity factor.

The €660 million tunnel motorway has taken huge amounts of vehicles off city centre streets, opening up a new western corridor linking the west and south.

The tunnel is a key element of Limerick’s new Southern Ring Road, a 9.7km four-lane highway. The tunnel is 900m long, of which a 675m stretch runs under the Shannon.

The tunnel connects the southern side of the Shannon near the cement factory in Mungret to the northern riverside near the Radisson Hotel on the Ennis Road.

The construction of the tunnel was one of the biggest engineering projects of its kind ever undertaken in Ireland. The road network on either side of the tunnel includes 11 access bridges, six underpasses and four interchanges.

The tunnel consists of five precast concrete tubes which were made by Austrian specialists Strabag. They were floated out on to the river and lowered onto foundations which were set on the river bed.

To lay the tunnel foundations 800,000 tonnes of silt had to be dredged from the river and six million tons of rock placed along the line of the tunnel to stabilise the soft river bed.

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