Sunday 17 May 2009

Safety fears as pitstops shelved

Long-awaited plans to build fully-equipped service stations on the country's motorways have fallen victim to government cuts, despite one in seven drivers saying they have fallen asleep at the wheel due to driver fatigue.

A spokesman for the National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that nine of the 12 'truck stops' which it had hoped to build are now being reviewed due to the current economic climate.

The revelation has prompted the AA to raise concerns about the potential impact on road safety due to driver fatigue, with motorists unable to make a 'pitstop' when this proves necessary.

The nine projects which are being reviewed are the M6 east of Athlone; the M6/M17 at Rathmorrissey, Co Galway; the M7 at Mountrath; the N7 east of the N8 at Cashel; the N8 at Kilworth; the N9 at Kilcullen; the N9 north of Kilkenny; and the N11 north of Gorey. The NRA spokesman said the projects are now in a "holding pattern" and are "to be rescheduled for completion". However, he could not say when this will happen.

"We are committed to the projects. We absolutely see them as vital," he told the Sunday Tribune. "As soon as the funding is there, we will go forward with this. Our expectations are that we are going forward with this, we just don't know when."

The spokesman confirmed that three other projects, at the M1 South near Lusk, Co Dublin, the M1 North near Domiskin/Castlebellingham and the M4 west of Enfield will be proceeding. It is hoped that these will be completed by next year.

Conor Faughnan, public affairs manager with AA Roadwatch, said it was "deeply disappointed" with the news.

"These should have been provided years ago. They are an important part of the safety infrastructure and are not just a luxury," he said. "We have to have safe areas where people can rest. Currently you could very easily find yourself running dry of petrol or stranded between Portlaoise and Cork, for example.

"You don't have funding issues preventing safety features on aircraft, or fire escapes on buildings. The NRA's line on this is totally unsatisfactory."

However, locals in some of the proposed locations are likely to greet the revelation with some relief, having in the past expressed concerns about the potential impact on their communities.

The NRA originally argued that there was no need for service stations on motorways, but later changed its view.

It remains unclear what will happen to a number of sites which it has purchased should the plans not go ahead.

Just last month, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched a year-long campaign aimed at tackling driver fatigue, which it describes as a "silent killer" which may have been responsible for over 350 road deaths during the past five years.

An RSA survey of 800 motorists found that 14% of people said they had nodded off when driving, with men between 35 and 54 years most likely to fall asleep.

Half of all incidents occurred between 9pm and 6am, with one in five cars drifting out of its lane of traffic.

Sunday Tribune

No comments: