An early-morning diesel tanker fire on the N25 Cork to Waterford road triggered hours of traffic gridlock and prompted renewed calls for a major review of road access to Great Island and Cobh.
The rear wheels of the tanker caught fire as it travelled westbound on the N25 between Cobh Cross and Little Island at around 5.30am yesterday. Four units of the Cork County Fire Service from Cobh and Midleton responded.
Gardaí initially closed both carriageways of the N25 and put local diversions via Glounthane in place as firefighters fought the blaze. No injuries were reported.
Fire crews remained on scene until 11am when the clean-up operation was completed, but it was 2pm before the N25 westbound reopened to traffic.
There were reports for most of the day of extremely heavy traffic westbound from Carrigtwohill and of massive tailbacks on the R624 - the only road route off Great Island. Traffic on the diversion route through Glounthaune was very slow and Bus Éireann reported delays too.
Gardaí advised city-bound motorists using the N25 to divert as far back as Midleton, and to travel through Lisgoold, Leamlara and Watergrasshill.
The cause of this morning's gridlock on the N25 and around #Cobh #Glounthane. Firefighters spent almost 6 hours dealing with this incident which started in a set of the diesel tanker's rear wheels https://t.co/Aa9Uqd9LEo— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) August 4, 2020
A minor traffic accident at the Jack Lynch tunnel saw a lane closure and threatened to add to the early morning traffic woes but it was quickly resolved.
Cobh-based Fine Gael Cllr Sinead Sheppard, who was among the thousands of motorists caught in the tailbacks, said she understands the level of local frustration over the road access.
"We are exhausting every avenue to get officials to sit up and take notice,” she said.
“I left home in Cobh at 8.45am to drop my dad to work in Ballyvolane. We got there at 12.30pm. It took me almost two hours to get from Cobh to Belvelly Castle. It was crazy.
She said public representatives have been raising concerns about the area's road access issues for years, and she said their frustrations are growing.
An application to list the R624 as a national route has been made to allow the council to apply for specific national roads funding for upgrades but she said it could take years and millions of euro before upgrades are delivered.
“The council is granting planning permission for hundreds more houses in Cobh. It’s investing in Cobh’s tourism product, in marketing supports to promote its history and heritage. We have a commuter rail link and the Cobh Connect service.
“The town has so much going for it, but it will only ever go so far unless we upgrade the roads on and off the island," she said.