Wednesday 23 April 2008

Move to make tunnels passable urged

THE TUNNELS carved through rock on the mountain passes of Cork and Kerry are proving impossible for tourist buses to pass through and a radical solution to the issue was proposed at yesterday's meeting of Kerry County Council.

Already Cork County Council has heard how the 3.65m (12ft) high tunnel on the N71 connecting Glengarriff and Kenmare over a spectacular mountain route is proving impassable for some modern tour coaches and is affecting the tourism industry locally.

Kerry council owns 70m of the 180m long tunnel and today it will hear a call from the county's mayor, Michael Healy-Rae, to lower the road going through both parts of the tunnel.

Cllr Healy-Rae said there had been suggestions that the tunnel should be raised, but he believed the structure of this and another tunnel on the main Ring of Kerry road between Killarney and Kenmare should not be destroyed.

Locals were very concerned that the picturesque tunnels, built during Famine times in the mid- 19th century, would be ruined were their roofs to be raised.

"It would be a far better solution and much easier and more cost-effective to lower the road," he said.

His motion calls for the road to be reduced "to gain more height for the tunnel" and also seeks to include strip lighting in the interests of safety and appearance.

The mayor said he had consulted CIÉ Tours and other bus operators and had discovered the problem was not so much bigger buses as air conditioning units now incorporated in most of the newer buses, which meant they had to have a height clearance of 4.6m.

Buses and lorries have to take large detours and there are regular occurrences of vehicles getting stuck in the tunnels, particularly in the Killarney to Kenmare tunnel.

The Irish Times

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