Tuesday, 22 May 2007

City commuters spend 10 hours a week at the wheel

COMMUTERS into Dublin are forced to spend, on average, nearly 10 hours - the equivalent of almost a day-and-a-half's working time - behind the wheel every week.

And the journey was made even more stressful for many drivers yesterday after a truck overturned.

The gridlock on the N7 Naas Road spread quickly to the notorious M50, causing tailbacks stretching for miles.


The Automobile Association (AA) warned that such incidents were happening on an almost weekly basis and would continue unless public transport improved.

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce has outlined a new five-point traffic plan that includes more private buses, park-and-ride facilities and 24-hour work on the M50 upgrade project.

The organisation revealed that commuters were spending 10 hours a week stuck in Dublin's traffic.

"This situation is unsustainable for the hundreds and thousands of people working and living in Dublin, and it has got to the stage where urgent decisions are needed," said Gina Quinn, the chamber's chief executive.

Its plan, published yesterday, entails:

* Increasing the number of buses serving the Dublin region by 200 within a year. Private operators should be given unfettered access to the city immediately, particularly for new routes not covered by Dublin Bus.

* Work on the M50 extension for 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure completion ahead of schedule.

* Accelerated progress on all Transport 21 projects so they are ready for procurement by the end of 2008, if resources permit. This will require that the NRA, RPA and CIE be adequately resourced, perhaps by the deployment of public servants from other state agencies and bodies such as local authorities.

* Building 3,000 park-and-ride spaces for DART and bus users on land in public ownership.

* Requiring all secondary schools to provide a bus service for their pupils from September next year. This service should be tendered. As a Public Service Obligation may arise, some routes should be subsidised if the need is demonstrated.

These proposals were little solace for the thousands of motorists stuck in their cars for at least an extra hour yesterday after the truck overturned on the outbound lane of the N7 beside the Red Cow roundabout. Most delays are on the inbound routes.

The 40ft heavy goods vehicle brought traffic to a standstill across west Dublin from 6am, when it lost control at the notorious junction. The mayhem was further increased when another truck broke down only 100 yards away. Garda teams had to divert traffic around the overturned articulated lorry and traffic along the N7 was backed up past Rathcoole.

The truck driver had a lucky escape when a metal barrier prevented the cab from collapsing fully on to the road. Part of the barrier pierced the front of the 40ft container as the truck flipped over, and skewered some radiators that the lorry was transporting.

Airbags were then placed under the trailer in an effort to push it into an upright position. A large diesel spillage from the tractor unit was treated with absorbent material. As crews worked to prevent traffic chaos, a second truck travelling in the same direction broke down a hundred yards behind the overturned lorry, stretching the resources of the gardai and towing services. The tailbacks grew as rush-hour approached.

One driver who left Newbridge at 6.25am did not arrive in the city centre until 8.45am - a two-hour, 20-minute journey. "This was yet another traffic disaster," said AA corporate affairs manager Conor Faughnan. "They are coming thick and fast, on an almost weekly basis."

He predicted that completion of the M50 upgrade would make the area less vulnerable to the gridlock caused by crashes.

Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gael transport spokesperson, said there was an urgent need for a city-wide congestion strategy including year-round Operation Freeflow.

Treacy Hogan
Irish Independent

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