TRAFFIC CONGESTION has reached "crisis proportions" in the State with commuter times increasing by almost 75 per cent in the past five years, a new survey has found.
Workers are now spending an average of 80 minutes per day travelling to and from the office and commuters are losing the equivalent of almost nine working weeks to gridlock every year.
The Dublin workforce faces the longest commute each day, with the average journey to work in the capital taking 49 minutes, while commuters in the northwest face the shortest trips to work, at 24 minutes.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has warned the problems will more than likely worsen over the coming weeks as schools re-open and the summer holidays come to an end.
The association, which conducted the survey of 486 companies, believes traffic congestion in cities and towns across the country has reached crisis point and is increasing the costs incurred by small business.
"Traffic congestion is continuing to have a negative impact on business, confirmed by two thirds of small firms," ISME chief executive, Mark Fielding said.
Mr Fielding said despite extra investment in road infrastructure the delays are getting worse, which is having a negative impact on business, with the survey finding the delays are costing businesses some €2.5 billion each year, which is almost 1.5 per cent of GDP.
Last year, the Government pledged to shorten travel time for commuters and reduce traffic congestion on the roads under its Next Steps Forward: Developing Transport scheme.
However, Mr Fielding believes a significant reduction in the duration of commuter journeys cannot come about until a National Transport Management Agency is established.
Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said the figures were "not surprising" and show there are significant issues that need to be addressed in order to reverse the increases.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said the Government is working to alleviate the problems by investing over €34 billion in improving transport infrastructure with a view to doubling public transport use by 2016.
The Irish Times