Wasting Money on Roads

An interesting little scrap has broken out between An Taisce and the NRA. As reported in the Irish Times yesterday, An Taisce has accused the NRA of using false data, while the Irish Independent reports that the NRA dismisses the criticism.

The criticism by An Taisce refers to traffic projections which are now seven years old, and the fact that traffic volumes have been falling. The NRA counters that roads are build with a longer time horizon in mind. While I agree with the NRA that roads are build with a longer time horizon in mind, it is nevertheless true that the projections are seriously out of date and that the starting position has changed significantly. Furthermore, there are at least some schemes, which are grossly over designed. An Taisce points to  a refusal for planning permission for a dual carriageway between Bohola and Ballina, because the NRA apparently failed to support the project on traffic grounds.

Unfortunately gold-plating of projects is not unusual. In the ESRI Mid-Term Evaluation of NDP 2000-2006 we pointed out that “roads with capacity of 55,500 AADT, or anywhere near it, appear to be a significant overdesign for the numerous lightly-trafficked sections of the N8 and N9”. Such schemes cannot pass a reasonable cost-benefit analysis when compared to more appropriately sized schemes. Unfortunately, the lesson does not seem to have been learned and the tax payer is expected to pay for overdesign again (the fact that some of the schemes are PPPs is irrelevant here as these also have to be paid for by tax payers).

Take the example of the N2, for which there are two proposed schemes in the system. I have already referred to the idiotic scheme to by-pass Slane where the key issue could be simply dealt with via a HGV ban.

The second scheme is in North Monaghan, where a by-pass of Monaghan and Emyvale to dual carriageway standard is being pursued. Interestingly Monaghan has already been by-passed and anyone who knows the road also knows that there is no danger of congestion except through Emyvale (for which a by-pass is likely to be supported by some analysis). Traffic counts bear this out – average total volumes (north and southbound) for 2010 amount to 5,413 AADT. Why then are we building for 35,000 AADT – almost seven times the current volume? Further south, the section between Castleblaney and Clontibret has been upgraded to 2+1, and further south still between the M1 and Castleblaney a wide 2 lane road is perfectly sufficient to achieve the target level of service (80km/h) – both of these sections of road carry a higher level of traffic than that, which is supposed to be upgraded to dual-carriageway standard. 

The construction costs of a dual carriageway are 82% higher (according to the NRA Road Needs Study) than for a wide 2 lane road – can we really afford such goldplated schemes?

By Edgar Morgenroth

Professor of Economics at Dublin City University Business School

100 replies on “Wasting Money on Roads”

“The second scheme is in North Monaghan, where a by-pass of Monaghan and Emyvale to dual carriageway standard is being pursued.”

Perhaps it’s something about Cavan-Monaghan (3 FF, 1 FG, 1 SF)? At the other end of the county the government is intent on proceeding with an insane scheme to connect Clones to Lough Erne, ostensibly as a partial restoration of the Ulster Canal, although neither partial nor full restoration has ever been shown to be economically justifiable.

Have there been any evaluations of the NDP since 2005? That’s the date of the latest study available from http://www.ndp.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/publications/evaluation/default.htm


@BJG – I am not so sure that this scheme is necessarily going to win all that many votes in Cavan-Monaghan, seeing that the local traffic problems that are being dealt with are minor (the by-pass of Emyvale seems justified), and the majority of the population is not going to use this road that much. Of course it might score better with the voters of Donegal.

“Have there been any evaluations of the NDP since 2005?” – we (ESRI + DKM + Colm McCarthy) did an investement priorities study that was published in 2006 and referred to but largely ignored in the NDP. Of course the DoF did their own reprioritisation rather than the previously normal Mid-Term Evaluation. Indeed the NDP and how it is being rolled out is becoming less transparent. The previous one was accompanied by so called programme complements which set out the aims, KPIs and selection criteria for all programems and measures. While we argued in 2003 and 2006 that these should be improved they now seem to have disappeared altogether.

Incidentally, the UK treasury has guidelines about how to deal with optimism bias that is common to most project proposals. I have not come across anything similar here and indeed the CBA guidelines are out of date (as admitted in the DoF Investment Priorities).

The title of the thread is loaded. Money spent on proper roads is not wasted. Neither Edgar Morgenroth nor An Taisce make any reference to the impact of modern motorways on road safety. There is a vast difference in terms of road safety between a motorway/dual carriageway and a wide single carriageway. I’d give the precise figures, except I’m on holidays in southern USA and can’t access them readily. But, I’m sure ESRI’s research department could find them. In 1997, just prior to the commencement of the building of a national motorway network, there were 472 road deaths in Ireland. Allowing for the 30pc increase in population since then, that would correspond to around 620 road deaths today. Based on the figures for the first 8 months of 2010, it looks as though the figure for 2010 will actually be about 200. So, over 400 fewer deaths on the roads each and every year adds up to a pretty large total of lives saved, not that an organisation like An Taisce would care much about that. In 1997, Ireland had one of the highest road death rates in the EU15. In 2010, it is one of the lowest. I do believe Ireland’s road deaths rate may now for the first time ever be a lot lower than even in Edgar’s native Germany, which has historically had a good road safety record. It is certainly now well below the EU15 average and even more so below the EU27 average. Of course, not all the improvement is due to better roads, but most of it is. A statute should be erected in honour of Bertie Ahern who defied the anti-motorway nutters (An Taisce chief among them) and has in the process saved thousands of Irish lives.

Regarding the two roads that Edgar Morgenroth mentions (Emyvale and Slane), these are both on the route from Derry to Dublin. Once the motorways to Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford are completed (which is imminent), Derry will be the only major city in Ireland not connected to Dublin by a full-blown motorway. It is very badly needed for the development of the whole North-West economy on both sides of the artificial border, not that an organisation like An Taisce would care much about that. On the northern side, a motorway from Derry to Aughnacloy is now being built and should be complete towards the end of this decade. The whole raison d’etre for it is that there should then be a road of similar motorway standard from Aughnacloy to Dublin. Unlike south of the border, there is very little opposition to its construction. Even Sinn Fein are enthusiastically in favour. Once that is complete, is it seriously suggested that the north Monaghan and Slane stretches should be left as they are? The current road from Aughnacloy to Monagaghan is totally inadequate for the route linking Ireland’s largest and fourth largest cities. As for Slane, I suggest that Edgar make the journey from Omagh to Dublin on some recent All-Ireland Final days and he’ll see what a bottleneck it is.

Regarding long-term population (both people and traffic) projections, I’m afraid that Ireland has a very sorry record in this department. As I’ve mentioned a few times here, a major report published by Davy Kelleher McCarthy in 1990 predicted that the population would fall from its then 3.5million to 3.3million in 2011. Its actually 4.5 million today. As a result of the gross under-estimation of future population (both people and traffic) growth by the economists then, Ireland had a hopelessly inadequate infrastructure in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Do we really want to repeat the same mistake at the behest of an organisation of upper-class toffs and remnants of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy like An Taisce?

I am posting this from South Carolina, where there are motorways and dual carriageways everywhere. Here, no one would pay the slightest attention to an absurd organisation like An Taisce. As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing that An Taisce has ever done was to threaten to have Fintan O’Toole put away for a long stretch for building an extension to his house in Clare. An Taisce’s delaying of the building of the motorway network in the early 2000s has undoubtedly cost hundreds of lives. They should be ignored entirely.

@JohnTheOptimist – The title is not loaded at all. I am referring to instances where the planned specification vastly exceeds the specification that will ensure that the required level of service is met in the long-run. In such instances tax payers money is being wasted.

There is lots of international evidence that investment in roads can have a high return. That evidence has led me to recommend increased spending on roads in the past. However, there is also lots of evidence that if you build to many motorways (e.g. Belgium) the overall impact is to reduce growth, because it diverts funds from good projects to unneeded roads projects.

I have responded to you on road safety before, but I will do so one last time. CBA exlicitly takes this into account. You seem to claim that the improvements in road fatalities are entirely due to road improvements. This is not correct – there are many factors including road improvements, the points system, road safety campaings, safer cars etc.

The remaining bottleneck on the N2 is Emyvale – I have no problem with a by-pass with a wide 2 lane road, a standard of road that is is perectly adequate for Carrickmacross, where the traffic level is higher. That is the standard of road that should be built between the Monaghan by-pass and Aughnacloy and not a dual-carriageway that will be empty and cost the Irish tax payer 82% more.

The Slane stretch of the N2 is totally irrelevant for access from Donegal to Dublin as you only have to use the excellent and uncongested N33 to get onto the excellent and uncongested M1 to get to Dublin (that is what the N33 was built for). Facilitating toll dodgers by building a prallel dual carriageway to the M1 is about the most stupid thing that the government could do – worse still if those toll dodgers are free riding on the improved roads in the first place.

I live in Dooradoyle in Limerick. Several times a week I cross the bridge over the new approach road to the Limerick Tunnel: The M18 motorway. I have never seen more than a dozen cars on it. (From the crest of the bridge it is possible to see 1 or 2 kms in either direction.)

This entire project cost €605 million according to the Irish Times. It begs the question: was this the best way to spend that sort of money. NO!

I thought the Limerick Metro ideas was nuts, but that would have made far more sense.

We now have about 4 times the length of motorways than Scotland, a country with similar population and more economically stable than Ireland. We started with a good idea LUAS and we are now going to build a metro to Dublin airport costing 9 billion. Why not spend the 9 billion, assuming we can still get it! on some sustainable jobs. Stop building motorways to nowhere like north Korea giving bloated landowners cash we need to keep our hospitals running. Get real

Money spend on transport infrastructure is money well spent, as long as the solution is proportionate to the problem.

Getting rid of the gridlock in Dublin City centre would help our economic prospects massively: A metro system (including the DART system) is proportionate to the size of Dublin’s traffic problems. Cities of similar size to Dublin can achieve daily ridership of nearly one million.

The DART interconnector should procede as planned. However , for the metro network, routes that require less capital (i.e. through the Phoenix Park ) should probably be the first to proceed.

We now have about 4 times the length of motorways than Scotland, a country with similar population and more economically stable than Ireland.

To be fair, the population may be similar but the distribution of that population is considerably different between the two countries. The Republic outside Greater Dublin is not largely depopulated.

The behaviour of the NRA (and the government in funding and pressing them to do what they do) would make anyone think we’ve a population density more like the English midlands when in fact we have one of the lowest population densities in western europe.

@Ciaran Daly

Precisely. Take Dublin out of the equation, and the low density is even more pronounced.

All that was needed in most cases was existing roads widened and straightened, with bypasses where needed.

@Edgar Morgenroth

You (JTO) seem to claim that the improvements in road fatalities are entirely due to road improvements.

JTO again:

Au contraire. This is what I actually wrote: “Of course, not all the improvement is due to better roads, but most of it is.” Nothing could be clearer than that.

With your undoubted expertise, perhaps you could post here the exact contribution each of the factors you mention (road improvements, the points system, road safety campaigns, safer cars) has made to the massive reduction in road deaths in Ireland since 1997. From that, we could then calculate pretty accurately how many lives the An Taisce campaigns against each and every motorway project in that period has cost. The line is being spun that it is only now, when Ireland has a decent number of motorways, that An Taisce is opposing the building of more, claiming we are over-motorwayed. In fact, An Taisce has opposed each and every motorway project in the history of the State, indeed almost every road project in the history of the State. They opposed motorways being built in Ireland equally vehemently even when Ireland had no motorways at all and the roads from Dublin to the provincial cities were little more than a series of death-traps. Had it not been for An Taisce and similar organisations, the motorway network we have today would have been in existence a decade ago, and hundreds, even thousands, of lives would have been saved on the roads.

That most of the improvement in road deaths in Ireland is due to better roads is clearly evident from Ireland’s improvement relative to other countries. All countries have benefitted from various points systems, road safety campaigns and safer cars. But, the improvement in road deaths in Ireland since 1997 has been far greater than in other countries and it is reasonable to assume that this is largely due to Ireland having come from a situation of having virtually no motorways at all to a situation of having a relatvely decent national motorway network. For example, it seems to irk some of the posters that Ireland now has a better motorway network than Scotland. But, in 1997, when the opposite was the case, the road deaths rate in Ireland was over 3 times that in Scotland. In 2010, it looks as though it may go below Scotland’s rate for the first time. If Ireland had followed Kevin O’Brien’s absurd advice and, instead of building a modern motorway network, had simply widened the roads existing in 1997, with maybe a few bypasses thrown in, there would still be 500 to 600 road deaths a year, instead of 200.

Regarding the route from Dublin to the North-West, there is clearly a massive imbalance between the number of miles of motorway in the northern half of the country (by which I mean the 32-county country) and the southern half. There are hundreds of miles of motorway south of a line from Dublin to Galway, but, apart from the route to Belfast, hardly any north of a line from Dublin to Galway. Yet, there are far more people living north of the line from Dublin to Galway than south of it, something which may surprise Dublin 4 economists. The lack of modern motorways/dual carriageways in the northern half of the country is also reflected in the much higher road deaths rate in the border counties than in the rest of the country.

“If Ireland had followed Kevin O’Brien’s absurd advice and, instead of building a modern motorway network, had simply widened the roads existing in 1997, with maybe a few bypasses thrown in, there would still be 500 to 600 road deaths a year, instead of 200.”

That isn’t what I am saying. ( although I could have made it clearer)

My first remark on this thread was the need for proportionality.

I dont dispute the need for motorways – as long as it is proportionate.
A motorway network around Dublin to neighbouring counties is proportionate based on the likely volume of traffic. A motorway to Cork will probably be justified by the number of vehicles.

But Waterford? A town of 40,000 ? Would the volume of traffic justify the additional cost of a motorway? All the way to Sligo? Not a chance.

We have all the motorways we need, and then some.

Explain exactly the how road deaths are correlated with motorways. How many of these fatal accidents take place on our national primary roads?

It is my understanding ( as a former RTA investigation handler ) that most fatal accidents are on national secondary roads and local roads. The crucial road design problem is inadequate lines of sight.

I look forward to a detailed and thorough explanation.

@ jules

The Metro North will not cost 9 billion. It will more than likely cost about 3 billion in gross terms. Once the VAT, PAYE, PRSI etc. receipts generated by the building work on Metro are considered, the net cost of Metro should be less than 2 billion. Furthermore Metro is much more than a rail link to the airport – it is a new public transport corridor for the whole northside of Dublin City. It is also an essential element of a public transport scheme for the Greater Dublin Area which brings standards up to the 21st century. It must and will go ahead.

@Kevin O’Brien. Yes, the Phoenix Park Tunnel should be used more often with an underground stop built in the Park and a new station in Cabra. However, it does not address half of the public transport deficits Metro does. Metro brings Swords within 30 mins of the city centre, it provides a rail link to the airport, it gives Ballymun a rail connection, it gives DCU and the Whitehall area a much-needed station, connects with Luas Green Line and DART at Stephen’s Green and Drumcondra.

DART Underground and Metro North are vital projects which have been delayed long enough. Both have been mooted for as long back as 1975. They would have been useful then and are essential now. By 2020 we will be reaping the benefits of today’s planners’ rightfully designing and pushing ahead with these projects.

Just to confirm: there are two suggested Park metro routes. They appear only in discussion boards, but I think they are quite good.

One is from Inchicore northwards to the Phoenix park stations , up to Cappagh , through Dardistown, and east to Coolock. Dardistown would be the depot, and is also a stop for Metro North.
Additionally the route may be extended from Inchicore southwards at a later date.

The other is the current Phoenix park tunnel, with the route heading west out to the suburbs rather than to Heuston. Essentially this mean another tunnel under the park, but it can be built using “cut and cover”.
The Islandbridge platforms would be the intended depot.

This is working on the assumption that most of the necessary underground elements can be build using “cut and cover” , which is presumably cheaper than boring.

I agree with what you say. I worry that the government will back out of providing the necessary funding for Metro North.

@Kevin O’Brien.

That sounds reasonable and, in another time and another Dublin would make sense. However, to change from the current plan to the one you propose would delay the start of digging by at least another 5 years. Dublin has waited long enough for infrastructure like this so we should go with the plan as it stands.

I too worried about the funding issue yet, under the revised capital programme, Metro North was preserved. Fine Gael also welcomed this preservation and Labour is generally committed to public transport. Therefore, even if this current Government does collapse (which isn’t unlikely) Metro North should survive into the next. This is a good sign as a piece of infrastructure as vital as the Metro cannot be waylaid by political turmoil.

@Edgar Morgenroth

Here are some figures, which I’m sure you are allready familiar with. They are from the website http://www.roadcode.ie/news.html , which gives figures for the number of road deaths per million population in selected counties in Ireland:

Dublin 32
Waterford 59
ROI average 66
Donegal 156
Westmeath 163
Monaghan 175
Cavan 181
Longford 186

Let’s ignore Dublin, which is a largely urban area. Let’s just compare the other 25 mainly rural counties. There is still a massive disparity in the road deaths rate between counties in the northern half (ie north of the Dublin-Galway line) of the Republic and counties in the southern half (ie south of the Dublin-Galway line).

So, bearing in mind the explanations you gave in your post above for the fall in the road deaths rate in Ireland (the points system, road safety campaigns, safer cars), my questions are:

(a) To what do you attribute this massive disparity?

(b) Is the points system different in the northern half to what it is in the southern half?

(c) Are tv and radio ads, that encourage safe driving and often very graphically highlight the dangers of bad driving, not broadcast in the northern half?

(d) Are cars purchased in the northern half less safe than those purchased in the southern half?

If the answers to (b), (c) and (d) are ‘no’, then we are left with the different-quality road networks as the explanation. So, a further question:

(e) If the road network in the northern half was improved to the same quality as in the southern half, and the road deaths rate in the northern half then fell to that in the southern half (as it most likely would), would you consider that a waste of money?

It is obvious to anyone living in the counties in the northern half that the reason the road deaths rate is far higher is that there are far fewer motorways and dual carriageways in these counties than in the counties in the southern half. Some of the counties in the northern half do not have a single mile of motorway or dual carriageway, in contrast to counties in the southern half, many of which have a hundred miles. Yet, as soon as there are some very modest proposals to build a few miles of dual carriageway in the northern half, the usual crowd of Dublin 4 economists and media commentators rise up against it. No prizes for guessing that the absurd Frank McDonald is leading yet another anti-roads campaign. How many people must be killed on the roads because of this man’s vanity?

Roads? For what? You do realise (or maybe you do not) that road transport – domestic and commercial – is 101% dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and we are starting to run a tad short in this department.

Railways, railways, railways. And we do need to ‘encourage’ a significant proportion of the population in the greater Dublin area to move to alternative locations. Manual labour down-on-the farm beckons.

B Peter.

1. With regard to Slane you neglected to mention the most important fact – 22 people have died in Slane. This is bypass is a safety issue not just an economic issue.

2. There is a huge amount of traffic from Navan/Drogheda that needs to get onto the N2. These trucks are certainly not ‘dodging tolls’ on the M1. At present they have to turn down the very steep and dangerous road to the 600 year old single lane bridge where most the deaths and accidents occur. The bypass will provide safe access to the N2 for these tucks.

3. A HGV ban is not so “simple”. Meath County Council have already looked at a possible ban and have said it is not feasible


“Eugene Cummins then explained that a series of interventions would be implemented to improve safety in the village. He emphasised that the permanent solution to Slane’s problems was the bypass. He advised that because the revised bypass route was shorter there would be less land needed and the delivery process could be speeded up. He further advised that banning HGV’s was not a viable option and that any diversions put in place would have serious impacts on residents along, and users of, the alternative routes thus transferring safety problems to other parts of the road network. He confirmed that legal advice obtained confirmed that Meath County Council and the NRA had a statutory requirement to consider the needs of all road users. ”

4. We don’t just have problems with HGVs. Just this past March there was a three car collision on the approach to the bridge. A HGV ban will not fix this problem.

If your readers want to understand the problem from a different perspective to Edgar I would encourage them to visit the following site.


In particular I would encourage readers to view the photographs of the countless accidents over the years at the end of this report.

I just had a look at Edgars bio here


It is interesting to note that the word “safety” does not appear anywhere. Instead we have stuff like this:

“Dr Morgenroth has analysed the impact of …transport infrastructure on the volume of trade”

It would be nice if Edgar was able to use his obviously very analytical brain to dwell on the impact of infrastructure (or lack of it) on people.

“It is obvious to anyone living in the counties in the northern half that the reason the road deaths rate is far higher is that there are far fewer motorways and dual carriageways in these counties than in the counties in the southern half.”

Perhaps the good folk of the border counties have not read the reports on the Road Safety Authority’s website http://www.rsa.ie. Driver-related matters make up 90% of the factors associated with accidents, road-related matters only 3%. Where would it be better to spend money (assuming you didn’t have friends in the construction trade, I mean)?

From another report on the site, it seems that some of the border counties are distinguished by high rates of speeding (including racing), driving while under the influence of alcohol and ddriving while distracted.

What the border counties need is fewer roads, fewer cars, a ban on driving by anyone aged under 30 and the restoration of the narrow-gauge railway network.

Oh, and a visit from Father Mathew.


Edgar has hit the nail squarely on the head. This scheme has more to do with politics than economics. The link from Derry to Dublin should never have been routed through obscure corners such as Aughnacloy and Emyvale. Many years ago senior figures in NRA assured me that the N2 would never be upgraded to dual carriageway as ‘it too close to the M1 and M3’. That position still hold today.

@JohnTheOptimist – Building roads to a standard that vastly exceeds the requirement, costs more than building them to the appropriate standard. We should certainly improve our road network to improve accessibility, travel speeds, safety and relieve towns and villages of high volumes of through traffic.

There is no consideration in your argument that these new roads cost money, money we do not have and we now have to borrow at 5.5%. The extra money spent on overspecifying roads could be put to many uses. I reiterate – I am not against spending money on roads, the contrary is the case, but I would prefer to spend it better than we are doing now.

The implication of your road safety argument is that we should only have dual-carriageways and motorways as this would bring road deaths down to zero (or at least close to that). My house is along a small rural boreen (well north of the line between Dublin and Galway), which is only wide enough for one car – should we build a dual carriageway so that I won’t run into my neighbour? This is clearly nonsense. We should build dual carriageways where the level of traffic (current and future) justifies them.

There is also an implicit assumption in your argument that accident hot-spots can only be dealt with via new (empty) dual-carriageways or motorways. Clearly this is incorrect. Indeed I would argue that the 2+1 on the N2 between Castleblaney and Clontibret is more dangerous than the wide 2 lane road to South of it (time will tell).

@BJG “Driver-related matters make up 90% of the factors associated with accidents, road-related matters only 3%.” – spot on.

Firstly, I’m afraid I cannot agree with all this advocacy of railways. The island is too small and our dispersed population too scattered to make railways an effective solution. Where they will work, I’m all in favour (Limerick/Belfast etc.); but unless you’re going to have a stop at every crossroads and parish hall, then you’re going to need a road network as well.

I like our scattered population and although some people advocate a wholesale abandonment of rural living (using phrases such as bungalow blight and road to nowhere), so that we can all have the wonderfully cosmopolitan society they enjoy in Glasgow (having been frogmarched off the land and into slums), I think we should be willing to commit at least some resources to making the countryside livable for those actually in it. All this pristine countryside won’t be worth a light without a population.

Secondly, the specific project that an Taisce refer to (Bohola to Ballina) is familiar to me. This was a strange decision by an Bord Pleanala. Their rejection was based on 2 factors -lack of traffic (which is simply untrue), and a nest of swans that would have to be disrupted (completely ignoring the disruption to those people to be CPO’d along the route).

One would be forgiven for thinking that John Gormley’s appointments to an Bord Pleanala are anti-road. Certainly, it’s hard to think that a single nest of swans (a pretty common species) cannot be disturbed to provide access to the 140,000 people of Mayo. I’m a strong advocate of protecting biodiversity, but I cannot see any reason for this decision other than as an excuse for something else.

Thridly, I think the Metro is a poorly conceived waste of money. I agree we need an underground link along a similar route, but this tunnel is being built with inadequate capacity to carry the population of the area and it is not compatible with existing transport links (DART/LUAS).

I support major infrastructural developments in the city, but not any old thing. And I certainly can’t support an uncosted behemoth which will not have any carrying capacity between the city centre and dublin airport. There were more practical options (including a high-capacity, above ground DART branching through the Phoenix park, up through Finglas, Blanchardstown, around to Ballymun and on to the airport) which were ignored to support this project. Certainly, it is unjustifiable to build this tunnel without any capacity to carry northsiders as well as tourists.

It would more sensibly have been abandoned over the last 2 years if Labour wasn’t ahead in the polls.

One of the remaining chronic road bottlenecks is in and around Galway. Various spurious environmental issues are being used to obstruct the building of the Outer Bypass, which is surely more urgent than the Monaghan by-pass to which Edgar refers.

I’m surprised to find myself closer to JtO on this one than would normally be the case – but not entirely for the reasons he advances. What, I think, we both share is the requirement for an act of faith in Ireland’s future. If we start from the position – which may be contested by some – that Ireland is a small, very open, regional economy within the EU that is exposed to potentially volatile inflows and outflows of labour and capital, the best way to secure some stability and the basis for growth and prosperity is to provide world-class, efficient infrastructure and utility services. That encompasses information and communication, road, rail, energy, water, waste water and waste management.

Investment and provision of service in these varies from good but excessively expensive and inefficient to very poor and still excessively expensive and inefficient. And it doesn’t seem to matter to what extent the private sector, the state or semi-states are involved.

The Asset Review Group may have an opportunity to tackle some of these sectors, but its brief is restrictive.

I remain convinced that signifciant restructuring and privatisation is required to release the funds that may be deployed to boost efficient investment in, and provision of, the badly-needed infrastructure services.

This is the kind of restructuring and stimulus boosting economic growth and performance that should warm the hard hearts of the bond vigilantes.

@Paul Hunt – I have no problem with a leap of faith. If Ireland has any sort of future (and I think it does) then traffic volumes will increase, but are they going to increase by more than 600% over any sort of reasonable time horizon? World class infrastructure is infrastructure that serves its purpose – in the case of roads that means that ensures reasonable mobility and safety – I am all for it.

@Slane Man. Firstly, it is great to see you debating the issues here. I did not deal with the Slane by-pass in detail as I did so some time ago. You are absolutely right that there is a serious road safety issue in Slane that must be dealt with.

My contention, and the stats back this up, is that Slane is used particularly by HGVs to avoid the toll. They could use the M1 and N33 to get onto the N2. If HGVs were taken out of the equation in Slane the road safety issues would improve significantly. Yes, that still leaves cars, but there is no such thing as 100% safety – as BJG points out you can’t eliminate driver errors entirely.

Traffic from Navan to Dublin now has a brand new and uncongested motorway to use – again if they drive across to Slane to get to Dublin then they are doing so to avoid the toll – should we facilitate that at great expense to the tax payer?

That leaves traffic betweenb Navan and Drogheda – if this is an issue and I am not so sure, I would be surprised if a relatively cheap relief route could not be provided – after all that would not involve a bridge.

A ban of HGVs is costless to the tax payer and indeed would increase revenue via the M1 toll. I do not accept that a HGV ban is more difficult than to build a new road/bridge. It has been done in Dublin and of course whenever there is a concert on in Slane all through traffic is banned, so it can be done in Slane too.

“I do not accept that a HGV ban is more difficult than to build a new road/bridge.”

There is a model at the entrance to most car-parks. A strongly buttressed steel structure, set too low for anything but cars and small vans, would soon ensure compliance with the ban.

If that doesn’t work, there is always the Iraqi model.


1. MCC have already said the HGV ban through Slane is not workable ! I assure that when a concert is on and all traffic is banned, it is massively disrupting for locals and anybody else to needs to pass through Slane. Just because a HGV ban can be implemented in Dublin does not mean that you also do it in Slane.

2. I never said that Navan to Dublin traffic was coming through Slane to avoid the M3 tolls. Anyway they can use the old N3.

3 For sure there are toll dodgers but it is a myth to assert the vast majority of traffic is dodging tolls. Why don’t you come to Slane and stand at the crossroads to witness the 1000s of cars and trucks pilling into Slane from all directions slowly destroying the fabric of our heritage village?

4.With regard to E/W Navan/Drogheda traffic you say we can build a cheap relief road. This is bizarre. The topography of land around Slane is very hilly and I cannot think of any location where you could build a cheap E/W bypass (anyway, the correct long term, solution for E/W traffic is the Leinster Orbital.).

A N/S bypass over the Boyne solves the N/S traffic problem AND in addition, it provides a solution for E/W traffic.

Edgar, Can I ask you a question? Have you actually visited Slane and witnessed first hand the problems we have here? Based on your comments it appears that you analysis has been performed from behind a desk and that really don’t understand the problems have.
Your article (referenced in today’s IT) does untold damage to a local community that has been campaigning for 30 years for a life saving bypass.

At a minimum, you should come and visit us before drawing judgment. Frank McDonald from the IT has declined repeated invitations visit Slane. Perhaps you can do better?

OK What about spending more money on our national secondary roads and local roads. The standard of many of these roads is still quite poor , yet they account for about 90% of traffic journeys, and will continue to do so for a long time more.

@Edgar Morgenroth

You are using what I think (although my Latin isn’t too hot these days, so I might be wrong) is called a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ form of argument. Its self-evidently nonsense. In relation to Emyvale, we are not talking about some minor boreen. We are talking about the main route from Ireland’s largest city to Ireland’s fourth largest city. It looks like you have become infected with the partitionist Dublin 4 viewpoint that Ireland ends at the artificial border and that the road from Dublin, through Slane and Castleblayney, is actually the road to Emyvale. No, it isn’t. Its the road to Derry (or, as Dublin 4 economists no doubt call it, Londonderry), capital of the north-west region, population over 100,000 and rising rapidly. Fortunately, the importance of this route is recognised north of the artificial border by all political persuasions, both nationalist and unionist, and there is universal enthusiasm for building a motorway from Derry to Aughnacloy. Construction has allready started and, since the northern six counties are blessed in not having An Taisce, Frank McDonald and Dublin 4 economists, it will proceed to completion with a minimum of fuss, unlike south of the border, where every new motorway is subject to endless delays by orchestrated campaigns to prevent them.

Regarding the explanation of driver behaviour for the much higher road deaths rate in counties like Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath etc, this fits in with the prevailing Dublin 4 viewpoint that civilisation in Ireland does not extend beyond The Pale. But, cast your mind back a few years, say to 1997. Back then, the whole of Ireland had a high road deaths rate, one of the highest in the EU. Dublin had one of the highest road deaths rates of any EU capital. It was blamed on driving behaviour, the ‘mad Irish’, ‘drunken Irish’ and so on. Numerous articles along these lines can be found in the Irish Times archive. Then, they built modern motorways in the southern half of the country and, hey presto, the road deaths rate collapsed, not just to the EU average, but to well below the EU average. The northern half has yet to benefit from such investment, so the road deaths rate in those counties has remained 2 to 3 times the national average. And now we’re getting the same crackpot explanations – ie its nothing to do with the lack of modern 2-carriageway roads that are in abundance in the southern half, but due to them wild northerners driving so recklessly.

“Then, they built modern motorways in the southern half of the country and, hey presto, the road deaths rate collapsed, not just to the EU average, but to well below the EU average. ”

Where do those figures come from?

@Slane Man – I have been through and in Slane lots of times and in fact I know the roads around Slane fairly well. I totally agree with you that the traffic levels are utterly inappropriate for Slane – I am simply pointing out that one can reduce these by means other than an expensive by-pass.

You are right that the topography is not easy but that also applies to the by-pass that you are looking for. I can think of a few possibilities that one could consider. The case for an outer orbital needs to be assesed properly. How does the N/S by-pass solve the E/W traffic unless there is also some investment in E/W connecting roads e.g. a relief road?

I repeat that I do not see any reason why one can’t implement a HGV ban.

Sorry if it looked like I implied that you asserted N3 traffic is coming to Slane, that was not my intention, I simply wanted to draw attention to the possibility that there is such a diversion effect.

@JTO – ‘reductio ad absurdum’ indeed. You talked argued that the density of motorways was the issue – you could fix that by improving a boreen.

You continue to accuse people on this site of being biased, by showing your own anti D4 bias. I have no idea what Dublin 4 has to do with this. I have never lived there (only lived in Dublin for 3 or 4 month of my life) and in general I dare say I can look well beyond the parish pump.

Accident statistics have greatly varied across countries for as long as I live in this country (several decades), and as far as I can remember it is consistently higher in certain counties (must get the stats if I get some time)

Would it possible to have HGVs allowed through the toll booths for free?

They are fulfilling a necessary role for the economy after all.

“How does the N/S by-pass solve the E/W traffic unless there is also some investment in E/W connecting roads e.g. a relief road”

As I said above, at present E/W traffic that needs to get onto the N2 has to go down the very dangerous hill to cross over a single lane 600 year old bridge. When the N/S bypass is built E/W traffic will be able to get onto the N2 using new roundabout to the W of Slane.


This is not a perfect solution for E/W traffic but we are solving two problems – not just one. How would a HGV ban on N/S traffic solve the E/W problem?

“You are right that the topography is not easy but that also applies to the by-pass that you are looking for”

The route selected for the N/S bypass is not too bad. The land is that area is not too hilly. For sure, it has to cross the Boyne but no matter what N/S route is selected you have to cross the Boyne somewhere.

“I repeat that I do not see any reason why one can’t implement a HGV ban.”

Did you not read what MCC have said ? Where do you propose to send the trucks? Perhaps they can be sent through Duleek or Kentstown? The 600 year old bridge was closed for a night recently to assess its structural integrity after years of collisions with trucks and cars. The traffic was diverted through Kentown. The same thing happens when concerts are on. A HGV ‘ban’ will simply push the problem elsewhere.

If you are going to use the power of your pen to damage our community then you need to give specific answers. Simply asserting that the ban is possible is not good enough.

@Slane Man “where do you propose to send the trucks” – onto the M1 where they belong. Before you get back that there has to be an alternative route – the case of Dublin shows that that is not true. In any case the policy of having to provide an alternative route is questionable. What MCC said in relation to the ban is very weak indeed.

@Kevin O’Brien “Would it possible to have HGVs allowed through the toll booths for free?” – yes, but why not levy a hefty toll on the existing N2 at Slane?

As it happens on Monday it was reported that Minister Dempsey is against tolling all national roads as suggested by the report of the Local Government Efficiency Review Group, and instead would like to consider rolling all motoring taxes into the taxes on fuel. The problem with the otherwise sensible suggestion to roll all taxes into fuel is that fuel would get very expensive resulting in massive cross-border shopping for fuel. This is an important issue that needs some serious analysis and debate (which I hope to return to in a future post).

I dont disagree. I just think that freeing HGVs from tolls might be the easiest way of addressing the issue, and an easier proposition to sell politically.

You want to divert trucks onto the M1…Hmmm. how will this work? Do we ban all trucks on the N2 between the M50 and Ardee ? How will this be policed? How about the non toll dodging traffic that needs to get to towns in Meath along the N2? How about the local HGV traffic ? ? How will this ban address the E/W problems in Slane?

Your answers seem to indicate you do not understand the problem we are trying to solve yet you sit there behind a desk pronouncing on the fate of a community that has campaigned for a bypass for 30 years.

Why cant people like you and Frank McDonald come out to Slane and talk with the local people? At least then, you will have a proper understanding of the problems we are trying to solve.

@SlaneMan – “How will this work”? – in the same way it works in Dublin, where traffic that needs to get to locations inside the M50 is facilitated with permits. The level of local access required in Slane (north of Ahbourne and South of Ardee) will be considerably smaller than that in Dublin. This works in Dublin why should it not work in Slane? I have referred to a solution to the E/W traffic.
You don’t seem to want to accept that I understand the problem you have and that I agree that it needs to be solved. Where we disagree is only on the means by which we solve it.

“The level of local access required in Slane… will be considerably smaller”
There will be an awful lot of permits needed Edgar. Your premise is that the majority of trucks are dodging tolls. This is not the case! Stand at the crossroads for 30 mins in Slane and witness it for yourself (be careful you don’t get run over). Some good examples are the local road stone quarry and the Grasslands fertiliser plant. These two businesses alone generate a large volume of trucks.

If you ban went ahead we would *still* have a large number of local and E/W trucks and the 1000s of cars would still be there. All this traffic would still have to negotiate their way up and down the very dangerous hill to cross a single lane bridge that was designed for horse drawn carriages. All this would be happening on the major route between Dublin and Derry.

This is not a proper solution.

Your proposed E/W solution (the cheap relief road) is an excellent illustration of your apparent ignorance of the issue. The big obstacle is the hill of Slane. Your relief road would probably have to start in Stackallen (half way to Navan) and loop all the way around the hill of Slane finishing around the Mattock river in Louth. It would be several times longer than the N/S bypass and probably cost a lot more because of its length.

Again, I ask why people like you and Frank McDonald, appear to be so reticent to come out her and experience these problems first hand?

@SlaneMan – E/W traffic i.e. traffic between Navan and Drogheda does not have to go down the hill in Slane, but obviously has to go through the cross roads in Slane (I still don’t see how a N/S by-pass deals with that traffic?). I have driven that road loads of times as well as the road on the southern side of the Boyne running parallel to the river (I also know the bridge at Stackallen) . The level of traffic is moderate – sure if it all turned down the hill in Slane (in the direction to Dublin) this might be an issue but why would that happen when there are better alternatives (albeit ones that are tolled) that go in the direction of Dublin? I doubt that it is really impossible to divert the E/W traffic – there has to be a way around the hill of Slane even if it requires a new road.

The cost of a reduced dual carriageway is 2.2 times that of a standard 2 lane with hardshoulder. Bridges add hugely to cost depending on span etc. In other words if the N/S traffic is significantly reduced so that the by-pass is not necessary then even if we have to build a relief road the total cost is going to be lower.

I suspect this discussion has gotten bogged down, but I think it has been very worthwhile (thanks especially to Slane Man – we will have to agree to differ on this one).

My worry is firstly that alternatives to building roads are rarely considered and if they are considered they are easily dismissed and secondly, that when road improvements are warranted these are over-specified (this also applies to other infrastructures where non-investment options are rarely considered).

What we need is good and cost effective solutions, sometimes that means thinking outside the box and trying something different. I can only give advice – others make the decisions, but let us be clear that there are implications. If the desired outcome could be achieved at lower costs then the extra funds used will have been drawn away from other projects, which might be equally deserving. This has always been the case but at a time when money has to be borrowed at excessive rates we should turn every cent over twice and perhaps take that bold step to go with the ‘out of the box’ solution.

Without getting more bogged down my daily experience tell me that you are underestimating the amount of E/W traffic that turns S to get on the N2. The proposed ban will not fix this problem – the N/S bypass will as it will provide safe access to the N2 at the new roundabout to the W of the village. See


I agree that this forum is not a great mechanism for having proper discussions. We all have our job to do but for people in Slane it feels advice is being given based on incomplete information. We would be delighted to have you visit and help you see our side of the issue. Maybe even you could get Frank McDonald to come also 😉

I have always felt that the concept of tolls is an 18th century idea that needs to be eliminated. It makes people use dangerous N roads when perfectly safe motorways are underutilized. The M3 is a good example.

The port tunnel is an even worse example. We build a high quality 4 layer highway into the city and then set a toll so high that nobody uses. Only in Ireland…

The M50 Westlink toll arrangement is a farce. Its costs a small fortune. Now there is a pile of money that could be used for some other cause Edgar! This will be a big bill to be paid *every* year. Would you not apply your analytical skills to that that mad project instead of giving our bypass a hard time?

We already have a very efficient mechanism for collecting tax. It’s called buying petrol and diesel. Why not add a few cents to every liter and dispense with all tolls? That way the more you drive the more you pay which is fair enough.

Now, even if Edgar can convince the powers that be to do this, the safety problems with our ancient bridge in Slane will still need to be addressed as people will always need to use the N2 😉

The reason why a HGV ban is “impossible” is that it is government policy to provide a toll free alternative to tolled routes. If you kick the HGVs out of Slane then where would they go for the toll-free option. Probably onto the R-roads passing through other towns and villages, suddenly the safety issue is somewhere else but hasn’t been eliminated. Government policy needs to change to force HGVs onto tolled roads and off urban and R- roads. Also if they can force the HGVs out of Slane then they can force the cars out too. Why not consider that?

The whole traffic situation in Meath is a disaster. We have four motorways and a potential fifth with the outer ring road. At the same time much of the massive commuter population explosion is not served by these roads. For example, Further East from Slane in Julianstown you still have 22,000+ vehicles a day passing through the village *despite* the M1 opening.

The NRA stats here actually show that trucks have diverted onto the tolled M1 but it is local commuter traffic from the massive sprawl in East Meath that is generating the volumes. Massive rezonings and planning permissions without a transport plan has given rise to an environmental disaster…which can only get worse as the zoned land gets built on.

It is hard to see what is going on with the NRA and its system of prioritisation. It is proposing dual carriageways and bypasses in rural Monaghan for 5000 AADT but isn’t targetting the areas where there is massive congestion and where there is massive future demand.

@ Ger

Metro North is not a poorly conceived waste of money. MN is a project which has gone through years of planning, consultation and submissions from engineers, residents’ associations, advisors, agencies and so on. It is also not a waste of money since it provides a rapid transport corridor which links up all forms of transport on the northside.

Metro will run on lines of the same gauge as Luas so you are incorrect in saying that it is incompatible with existing transport links. Indeed, the overall plan is to unify Luas and Metro into one unified light rail system for Dublin. Metro is incompatible with DART but that is an unavoidable legacy of our colonisation by the British. The Brits designed our rail to a different gauge to the standard European and this has caused issues since we have started to develop a light rail system. Nevertheless, Metro will link with DART at Stephen’s Green and at Drumcondra. That will provide an adequate level of connection.

Metro is also not an uncosted behemoth. Tenders for the project should be in for the end of the year and the overall cost should be around €2 billion. Once all the tax receipts generated by the project are considered, the overall cost should be €1-2 billion. It will also have carrying capacity between the airport and city centre. Trains will run at up to 30 times an hour along the line during peak demand.

Your proposal for a line through the Park up to Finglas and out to Blanchardstown and back to Ballymun to the airport is also flawed. You bemoan cost yet the meander you propose from Finglas to Blanch and back to Ballymun would add hundreds of millions to the final bill. It is also flawed because it solves only a fraction of the transport problems on the northside Metro does. Unlike your plan, Metro serves Swords, connects two DART lines, intersects the Luas Red Line and connects with the Luas Green Line. Your plan also forgets the wider context of public transport in Dublin. Blanchardstown is to be served by the Metro West line while Finglas will be served by an extension to the Luas BXD line which is to terminate at Broombridge.

Metro North will have the capacity to carry everybody who wishes to use it and will fundamentally improve

Earlier in this thread, I asked whether there was a link between the government’s insistence on bypassing the Monaghan bypass and its equally odd insistence on rebuilding the Ulster Canal to Clones. There certainly seems to be such a link:


Dáil Éireann 28 March 2007 Ceisteanna — Questions Official Engagements

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: […] At the outset, I wish to record my warm welcome for the agreement reached between the DUP and Sinn Féin on the full establishment of the Executive by 8 May. […] I ask the Taoiseach to outline the support measures the Government will undertake to advance all-Ireland development and strengthen the underpinning of the agreement. Does he agree such infrastructural and other developments will be essential if the new Executive is to thrive and grow? Will he confirm that among the infrastructural projects the Government is prepared to support will be an enhanced road service from Dublin to the north west serving Derry and Donegal? Will he ensure the commencement of the long promised flagship project dating back to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, namely, the Ulster Canal project and all that can arise therefrom?

And in both cases we’re paying for stuff both within this state and in HM realm. On 2 October 2007 Dermot Ahern said this in a written answer about the first meeting of the NSMC since the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland:

[In July ] I participated in the Plenary meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in Armagh. The Council took a number of important decisions. We agreed two major infrastructure projects: an investment of €580 million /£400 million to upgrade the road in the North serving Derry and Letterkenny; and the restoration of the Ulster Canal from Clones to Lough Erne. […] Upgrading the road to Derry and Letterkenny to dual-carriageway status will bring significant benefits for people living throughout the North West. Restoring the Ulster Canal will give a major boost to tourism and economic development in the border areas of Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh.

These two white elephants are part of the price of Peace in Our Time, although whether they are intended to mollify the unionists or the nationalists I don’t know. Or perhaps they are just an excuse to show off to the poor benighted northerners, groaning under the imperial yoke: they couldn’t afford their own canals and roads, poor dears, so we’d extend our charity to them.

And now we can’t back out because them ‘uns would realise we were all fur coat and no knickers.


@Edgar Morgenroth

Your answers on the question of different road death rates in different regions of the country are very unconvincing, given your status and your undoubted expertise in the matter. I made the point that the road deaths rate in the northern half (particularily in the north-western quarter) of the country was much higher than the national average. I linked this to the absence of modern motorways/dual carriageways in that region, compared to the other regions of the country. You simply brushed that off by saying that ‘they have greatly varied … for as long as I have lived in this country’. Not a good enough answer. Proper research should be done by ESRI (after all, that’s why people fund them with their taxes) to see why the road deaths rate in Donegal, Monagahn, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath is so much higher than in southern counties. I’m quite sure that they will find that the most important contributory factor was the absence of modern motorways/dual carriageways in those counties.

The bottom line is this:

In clockwise order, there are motorways from Dublin to Belfast, Wexford (more or less), Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway. The missing part of the compass is the north-western quarter. Its the same for railways. There are rail lines in operation from Dublin to Belfast, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Castlebar, Sligo. The missing part of the compass is the north-western quarter beyond Sligo. While the Sligo line is of benefit to some of the counties I mentioned, its of no use to Donegal, Monaghan, and the northern counties of Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. The whole north-western region is at a huge disadvantage in terms of road and rail links. Who is going to build a factory in Donegal, Monaghan, Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh, when there is no motorway or rail link with Dublin, while every other region in the country has? This, plus the road deaths issue, means that the million or so people who live in the north-western quadrant of the (32-county) country are being disciminated against.

In recognition of this, there was informal north-south agreement, at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, that this would be rectified and that there would be at least a modern motorway/dual carriageway from Derry to Dublin. Some wanted a rail link between Derry and Dublin as well (there used to be one, but the unionist government closed it down in the 1960s as part of its economic warfare against the nationalist regions of Northern Ireland), and there was again informal north-south agreement that this would be looked at. The Northern parties, both unionist and nationalist, are keeping their side of the bargain. They are building the motorway from Derry to the border. Its on the southern side, at the behest of An Taisce and the usual environmental nutters like Frank McDonald, that a campaign appears to be growing not to proceed with what was informally agreed and promised, and to fob the north-west region off with second-rate infrastructure yet again.

Dublin 4 is a state of mind.

I find the naivete about the A5 project through the North interesting.

One comment was that “Even Sinn Fein are enthusiastically in favour.

I would point out that the Roads Minister is a Sinn Fein minister. Sinn Fein are strongly in favour as it’s a cross border project and the Irish Government are putting up a lot of the money as a legacy of the Celtic tiger wealth so from a Northern point of view it’s “Free Money”..

Most of the opposition comes from the unionist community. There are strong complaints that it’s cutting right through Protestant farms and the fact that it’s cross border. Obviously the more Unionists object the more Sinn Fein will be in favour.

IF you more info see http://www.alternativea5alliance.com/

The project seems to be rather gold plated and it seems crazy that it’s not going to use the recently constructed Newtownstewart bypass but will instead go to the west of Newtownstewart.

As regards Emyvale I would make the point that the road between Monaghan and Emyvale is a very poor road with very sharp bends. It’s not up to National Primary Route standards by any strectch of the imagination. Although the project my be called Emyvale – Monaghen bypass it’s really to bypass the Emyvale – Monaghan section of the existing N2 rather than just Emyvale. However I do think that a road to the same standard as the good section north of Emyvale could be perfectly adequate for the traffic flows.

The NRA is the National Roads authority. Their interest is in the strategic road network, not in facilitating car commuting from half built estates in Meath. With lower property prices people who work in Dublin will probably live in Dublin. Since Ireland’s main population centres are all on the edge, there is relatively little traffic in the centre. So the motorway to Cork has little traffic around the Tipp-Cork border and the N2 has little traffic around Emyvale. But the 2+2 road proposed for the N2 is no more over spec than the motorways to Cork and the traffic volume on the motorway to Waterford is about the same as the N2.

In relation to the original article, the N33 is uncongested, but the M1 is congested as you approach Dublin. The area around the airport is the busiest in the island and directing more traffic that way is not necessarily wise.

“The road deaths rate in Donegal, Monagahn, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath is so much higher than in southern counties”

How do you know that it is “so much higher”?

Most accidents take place on local or secondary roads. Having a motorway in the region, as opposed to an existing primary road, will not alter the level of road safety on these roads.

The new motorway between Limerick and Dublin is going to have absolutely no impact on road safety in East Clare or West Offaly.

@Kevin O’Brien

“Then, they built modern motorways in the southern half of the country and, hey presto, the road deaths rate collapsed, not just to the EU average, but to well below the EU average. ”

Where do those figures come from?

JTO again:

The Garda website publishes a daily update of the number killed on Irish roads, as well as histotical figures.


The EU publishes annual figures for all EU countries.

@Kevin O’Brien

“The road deaths rate in Donegal, Monagahn, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath is so much higher than in southern counties”

How do you know that it is “so much higher”?

JTO again:

Simple. A number of websites publish the number of road deaths annually in each county. I gave a link to one such in an earlier post.

Since you obviously don’t know much about accessing road deaths figures, maybe you should refrain from discussing them, and stick to discussing the merits or lack of merits of tolls, about which you may know much more.

@Brian J Goggin

If you objected so much to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, you should have become one of the 5pc minority who voted against it. GDP in Ireland in 2010 is about 50pc higher than it was when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Therefore, if something was agreed then, there is no economic case for welching on it now.

Right, I must have skipped past that link, and yes the figures seem good.

That still doesnt change that fact that your argument is based on a spurious correlation.
Replacing the national primary roads with motorways in those regions would have absolutely no impact on those accident figures.

The Garda figures, you might notice, lack a regional breakdown and therefore dont support any of your arguments for one second.


In comparison to south of the border, there has been minimal opposition to the Derry-Aughnacloy motorway north of the border. Construction is allready under way and, unlike south of the border, there is no prospect whatever of it being delayed for years on end by anti-motorway campaigners. Protests have attracted only a handful of people. Businesses in the area are overwhelmingly in favour. What little opposition there is comes from two sources, both essentially different from the sort of people who protest against motorways, indeed against almost all road and infrastructure development, south of the border. They are:

(a) For political reasons and totally unrelated to the merits or lack of merits of motorways, a small and decreasing minority of unionist politicians are opposed to any infrastructure development in areas with a nationalist majority. As I said in my post above, the unionist government closed down the railway line from Portadown to Derry in the 1960s (which was part of the railway line from Derry to Dublin). This was part of their economic warfare at the time against the nationalist regions of Northern Ireland. In addition, the unionist government built a number of motorways (to their credit, 30 years before the southern government and with virtually no opposition to their doing so), but, again refused to extend these motorways west of the Bann because those counties had nationalist majorities. It was partly because of this deliberate neglect that the Civil Rights rebellion against the northern State erupted in October 1968 and lasted until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. However, times change and the vast majority of unionist politicians are much more enlightened now and are strongly in favour of projects such as the Derry-Aughnacloy motorway.

(b) A handful of extreme left-wing agitators. On the website you gave, the tiny opposition to the motorway is being led by Eamonn McCann, a Trotskite loon who has been agitating about every thing under the sun since the early 1960s.

Regarding who is paying for it, the Republic’s government is paying 40pc and the Northern Executive 60pc. It is perfectly reasonable that the Republic’s government pay a share as the Derry-Aughnacloy motorway will link Donegal with the rest of the Republic. It is not an act of charity. It will greatly enhance Donegal as a region for investment. I should point out, of course, for the benefit of Dublin 4 economists that Donegal is part of the Republic and not one of the Six Counties. Not many of them know that.

As for Sinn Fein supporting the motorway, it is unfair to suggest that they are in favour only because it is a cross-border project. I’d say their main interest is the economic development of the north-west region, which is more than can be said for the likes of An Taisce, Frank McDonald and many of thev posters on here.

Regarding the location of the motorway at Newtownstewart, this is a matter for road engineers, who are of very high calibre north of the border (as I am sure they are too south of the border). I have no expertise on this matter and I doubt if any posters on this site have either.

@Kevin O’Brien

I never said that the Garda figures gave a regional breakdown. You asked two separate questions about the source of the figures, and I answered them with two separate posts. In relation to the regional breakdown, I said that a number of websites published these and that I gave a link to one such website in one of my earlier posts on this thread. Its up there somewhere.

The fact that the number of road deaths per million miles travelled is far lower on motorways than on single-carriageway roads is well documented, not just for Ireland, but worldwide. I am sure that Edgar Morgenroth will confirm this. I’d like to give you some links to websites that contain research into this, but I’m not able to tonight as I’m on holidays in the USA.

You seem to be up very late, Kevin? Or are you, like me, in Tallahassee and finding there is little to do after 8pm?

@Reg McCabe

Edgar has hit the nail squarely on the head. This scheme has more to do with politics than economics. The link from Derry to Dublin should never have been routed through obscure corners such as Aughnacloy and Emyvale.

JTO again:

Daft argument. The road from Derry to Dublin has gone through those places for a few hundred years. A bit late to be changing the geography of Ireland now. I suggest that you draw a line on a map from Derry to Dublin. I think you’ll find that the line goes quite close to Aughnacloy and Emyvale. It also goes quite close to Omagh and Strabane, which are hardly obscure corners. Where would you like the Derry to Dublin road to pass through? Dundalk perhaps? Or Cork? Any road between two large cities will always pass through (or preferably pass by) much smaller places en route. I had a lovely coach trip today from Savanna to Tallahassee – 6-lane dual carriageway nearly all the way, but it didn’t half pass by some very obscure places.

@Vincent Salafia

In the late 1990s and early 2000s you were prominent in trying to prevent the construction of new motorways between Dublin and Wexford, between Dublin and Waterford, between Dublin and Cork, between Dublin and Limerick, and between Dublin and Galway. This was at a time when, uniquely in the developed world, Ireland had virtually no motorways. You failed to prevent them being built, but you succeeded in delaying them by several years. They were all supposed to be completed by 2005. But, largely as a result of your and your fellow-protesters’ activities, they are only now being completed in 2010. Since their construction, the number of road deaths in the counties they pass through has fallen dramatically. A similar pattern of dramatically falling road deaths has occurred in other countries when they built motorways. A reasonable assumption is that this fall would have occurred 5 years earlier, had it not been for the activities of you and your fellow protesters. Do you ever feel guilt over the number of unnecessary road deaths your ultimately futile campaign was responsible for?

Lots of heads sink in unison as rezoners, bad planners and publicans all reflect on the consequences of their actions

JtO doesn’t know as much about NI matters as he would have the rest of you allegedly “Dublin 4” lot believe. In fact construction of the Dublin-Derry dual carriageway north of the border (known as the A5 Western Transport Corridor in NI gov. circles) has not started and is not due to do so until 2012, with a route not yet even decided …


Several upgrades to the current route have been done lately, with one near Ballygawley opened just a few months ago, hence confusion. Whether this is value for money, given the (supposedly) imminent WTC, is another matter …

Jto thinks money grows on (southern taxpayer) trees. It doesn’t. We borrow it at higher and higher rates in the bond Market.

“I should point out, of course, for the benefit of Dublin 4 economists that Donegal is part of the Republic and not one of the Six Counties. Not many of them know that.”

Maybe the UK would like to buy Donegal? All in one piece, I mean, rather than holiday home by holiday home. Then we’d have an immediate improvement in Irish road accident statistics, Donegal and London/Derry would be reunited and Donegal factory owners wouldn’t need roads to Dublin.


your obsession with Derry strikes me as apt.

However it needs to be counterbalanced by the failure to bring the road access to Rosslare Harbour up to the standard you suggest for connecting the cities on this island. This harbour is a major point for international goods trade.

As one of the most heavily trade-dependent countries in the world, surely that should have some bearing on prioritising investment in roads. I remain to be convinced that such trade can be only done by aircraft (eg. people travelling as part of service industries, low-volume high-value goods) and/or telecommunications.

IMO, Bertie’s governments forgot that. They were driven by having all the appearances of wealth (eg. the Bertie Bowl) without having created a sustainable base for enhancing such wealth as had been created during the 1990s.

This is cargo-cult economics see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

We need to refocus.

Its good that Edgar Morgenroth has highlighted this issue.
Unfortunately plans are underway to construct an 8km dual carraigeway bypass to the east of Tralee connecting two single carraigeway roads serving Listowel and Killarney. The proposal was originally for a wide single carraigeway bypass but was ‘upgraded’ based on traffic projections for the year 2026. We are proposing to build a handy racetrack for local boyracers.

I fully support your comment on Edgar’s initiative.

For what it is worth, I offer (part of) a comment of mine on “planning” road construction.

“The absence of up-to-date and proper data allows government, at all levels, to make decisions in whimsical and arbitrary ways ie. as there is no “evidence”, public authorities can decide what it likes.

An example is the ceasing of the compilation of Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) on national roads in 2004.
I have never heard a reason for this bizarre decision. See here

I gather that the long running AADT series (based on methods refined over years) has now been replaced by traffic counts from 120 sites and a National Traffic Model built using “synthesized” data from the 2006 Census.

Engineers routinely state that “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it”. So for the last 5 years NRA has been planning and building with their eyes fixed firmly on a very limited view of the past. They have denied themselves and us one means in which we can have confidence in their assessments of need prior to resource allocation.”

If I may add, what is the difference between “synthesized” data now being used for planning/monitoring road building/usage and CDOs+all the other types of “financial engineering” that led to the credit crunch etc?

@P North – “A5 Western Transport Corridor has not started and is not due to do so until 2012” – absolutely right. This is another excessive scheme, for which the tax payer of the Republic of Ireland is expected to foot 2/3 of the bill.

@JohnTheOptimist – While the Good Friday Agreement does not mention roads or canals it has a provision for a border referendum which Sinn Fein could call at anytime – the fact that they have not and won’t tells the whole story. While lecturing on the all-island context they prefer to sponge off London (and Dublin) and avoid doing anything that might make a meaningful contribution towards unification.

@Donal O’Brolchain “Bertie’s governments forgot that. They were driven by having all the appearances of wealth (eg. the Bertie Bowl) without having created a sustainable base for enhancing such wealth as had been created during the 1990s.” – excellent comment – one should add that while they were busy creating monuments to themselves, they expected us and future generations to foot the bill.

Yes it is good that Edgar has raised this.

On Tuesday last, I made the following comment as part of a reponse to a thread on “The data and evidence deficit in Ireland” on the irelandafternama forum – here http://irelandafternama.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/the-data-and-evidence-deficit-in-ireland/

“The absence of up-to-date and proper data allows government, at all levels, to make decisions in whimsical and arbitrary ways ie. as there is no “evidence”, public authorities can decide what it likes.

An example is the ceasing of the compilation of Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) on national roads in 2004.
I have never heard a reason for this bizarre decision. See here

I gather that the long running AADT series (based on methods refined over years) has now been replaced by traffic counts from 120 sites and a National Traffic Model built using “synthesized” data from the 2006 Census.

Engineers routinely state that “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it”. So for the last 5 years NRA has been planning and building with their eyes fixed firmly on a very limited view of the past. They have denied themselves and us one means in which we can have confidence in their assessments of need prior to resource allocation.

In another forum, I took a wider view on the need for information and data.

Now I wonder what kind of thing “synthesized data” is – it is new for me. I wonder is it the NRA equivalent of CDOs and other forms of financial engineering that have contributed to the current crisis?

@JohnTheOptimist – let’s have a look at the road safety stats. Given I am talking about schemes relating to national roads let’s focus on those.

The Road Safety Authority produces loads of very intersting statistics – their site is well worth a visit. Their latest full report on road collisions refers to 2008. Table 51 gives details of fatal and injury collisions, which I presume everyone will agree are the most important to reduce, for each national road. Conveniently they provide a rate per 10 vehicle km i.e. they are scaled for volume and distance.

If you rank them and pick the 5 most dangerous roads you will find that they are the N29 (spur off N25 near Waterford), N74 (Tipperary to Cashel), N53 (Castleblaney to Dundalk), N54 (Clones to Belturbet), N51 (Navan – Delvin). The N2 comes 22nd worst of 68. I don’t know the N29 and have only scant recollection of the N74, but it seems to me what they all have in common is that they have moderate to low traffic volumes, but are quite twisty with some very dangerous bends. There are certainly sections where a 100km/h speed limit seems inappropriate.

Now you might say that all but one of these are National Secondary roads. If you do the same for the National Primary roads (N1-33 + M50). Do the same thing angain and you find that the most dangerous roads are the N29, N30 (Enniscorthy to New Ross), N14 (Letterkenny to Lifford), N5 (Longford to Westport) and N33 (Ardee to M1). Again one can argue whether these roads are of national road standard. I know the N33 well and it certainly is of a very good standard but here the problem is dangerous overtaking (I also saw a guy going around a roundabout in Ardee the wrong way round one morning). The N2 comes joint 8th out of 34.

What about the safest roads – taking all national road these are the N12 (Monaghan – Middletown(Armagh)), N82 (Saggart – Rathcoole, off N7), N77 (Durrow to Kilkenny), N73 (Mallow to Mitchelstown), M50. Only two primary roads of which one (N12) is more like a seconday.

What is the point to this. Firstly, it shows that there are dangerous roads in the southern half of the island. Secondly, there are many safe roads that are not dual carriageway/motorways. In other words youre generalisations are just that and the true picture is considerably more complex than simply the density of motorways or dual carriageways. On this first pass analysis it like motorway/dual-carriageway sdensity plays just a minor role (I will do some more serious analysis on this data in due course as this is a very interesting topic).

If I were to invest in national roads to improve road safety I would start with the most dangerous roads. None of these would need dual-carriageways but they need dangerous bends removed and possibly some towns/villages by-passed.

@Edgar Morgenroth you are somewhat misusing statistics there. The N12 is a very short national road as most of it is in NI. In 2008 it had no accidents, but in 2007 its accident rate was 4 times the national average. The low rate in 2008 is just a result of random variation.

Also the dangerous N53 is a possible alignment for the main route to Derry, a 2+2 road here would direct traffic on the M1 at Dundalk and also provide part of an East West route from Dundalk.

@Edgar Morgenroth

I travelled today from Tallahassee to New Orleans. Not sure exactly, but it must be about 300 miles. It was dual carriageway the whole way. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t through a very high-density or particularily rich part of the USA, mainly rural Alabama, Mississipi and Louisiana. So, obviously, this part of the US doesn’t agree with ESRI thinking on the matter of what roads are the safest to drive on. It is self-evident that a dual carriageway is safer than a single carriageway road, the main reason being that the danger of a head-on collision from overtaking is virtually eliminated. As dearg doom implies, looking at short stretches of road for accident statistics is often misleading as the sample is so small there is a lot of random variation.

The bottom line re road safety is as follows:

(a) There is a wealth of data worldwide showing that motorways/dual carriageways have far fewer accidents per million miles travelled than single carriageways.

(b) This is confirmed by Ireland’s recent experience. Since the construction of a large number of motorways, there has been a massive drop in the road deaths rate, with the improvement being far greater in the southern half of the country where the vast majority of the motorways are.

Road safety is only one aspect of the matter, of course. There are the economic imolications as well. Perhaps you will answer the points I made about the north-west region being at a relative disadavantage, if it is the only corner of the country not linked by a motorway (or a rail line) to Dublin.

@Brian J Goggin

Maybe the UK would like to buy Donegal? All in one piece, I mean, rather than holiday home by holiday home. Then we’d have an immediate improvement in Irish road accident statistics, Donegal and London/Derry would be reunited and Donegal factory owners wouldn’t need roads to Dublin.

JTO again:

If ever you make an at least semi-intelligent point, I will respond to it.

@P North

Work has indeed started on the Derry-Aughnacloy motorway project. I know because my cousin works as an engineer in the Northern Ireland roads department and he told me a fortnight ago that he’s working full-time on it now, as are others. Obviously, in any major project such as this, bulldozers are not put into active service on day one, but that doesn’t mean work has not commenced. The first phase in any major construction project such as this takes place in offices, with engineers resolving various planning, technical and engineering problems.

The main point I was making, however, was in relation to the amount of opposition to the project, and the contrast between north and south. There is a different mentaility in the north compared to the south. In the north, infrastructural development is generally welcomed. The unionist government in Stormont was building motorways as early as the 1960s, a time when the roads in the south were little more than dirt tracks. Almost everyone welcomed it. There were no protests against their construction. Indeed, the unionist population were at the time rather proud that the north was so far ahead of the south in this respect. The only protests came from the nationalist population, not because they objected to the motorways being built, but rather because they justifiably objected to the fact that the unionist government was only building them in unionist areas and putting the nationalist areas at an economic disadvantage as a result.

This difference will be further highlighted by the Derry-Dublin motorway. The Derry to Aughnacloy section will proceed smoothly, be completed on time, and with minimal fuss and minimal protest against it. If past experience is anything to go by, the section from the border south will be delayed for years on end, as the anti-roads anti-infrastructure-development anti-everything nutters, led no doubt by the likes of Vincent Salafia and Frank McDonald, mobilise to stop it.

@Brian Lucey

I have news for you. Prepare yourself for a shock. Donegal taxpayers are southern taxpayers. Donegal motorists are southern motorists. At the moment, they get a negligible return for their taxes in terms of road development, when compared to their southern compatriots in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Waterford etc. Prepare yourself for another shock. The only way you can drive from Donegal, or at least from most of it, to Dublin is through Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Ballygawley and Aughnacloy. That’s why the Dublin government is happily paying 40pc of the cost of it.

re. Donegal
As many Donegal people – if not most – see Derry, Belfast, Glasgow as the metropolises – as look to Dublin – whatever about politics. How good is the road access to these centres from all part of Donegal, in addition to Dublin?

I believe that we, through our Government, contributed to a refurbishment of the airport at Derry. I am not sure if Dublin-Derry flights benefit from a PSO, as do flights to Carrickfin.

“If ever you make an at least semi-intelligent point, I will respond to it.”

No, no: please don’t trouble yourself. It’s much more fun for me to continue reading your lengthy repetitions of single correlations and your dodging both counter-evidence and any discussion of cost.


on JtOs (a) point: False dichotomy. This implies that all “single carriage way roads” is the same. They arent.

The key road design factor for preventing accidents is visibility. Wide straight flat roads, with hard shoulders all the way, are very safe for a lawfully proceeding motorist to drive on.

In areas of low population density, it doesnt matter if these roads are motorways or “N” roads. One is as safe as the other, but motorways are necessarily more expensive to build.

@dearg doom – yes I have only looked at one years data, and yes some of the sections are short but others are not. There is absolutely no need for 2+2 on the N53. I drive this very regularly, what is need here is straight wide 2 lane. Between Castleblaney and the bridge over the Fane the road is OK, but that bridge is dangerous. There are a few good section onthe rest but also some dangerous bends and hidden dips. You are right though to raise the East-West connections. We have perpetuated the existing spatial structure via the roads programme. some ne routes e.g. Dubdalk-Sligo, Cavan-Cork would improve accessibility where it is currently poor (I don’t expect any of these to require and motorways/dual-carriageways, but instead some widening/realignment).

The basic point remains – there are national roads that are not motorways/dual carriageways that are safe and others that are not, and the generalisation that most or all of the fatality reductions are due to motorways/dual carriageways is simply not true, even if such roads are on average safer than other ones (JTO prefers to ignore the evidence presented).

@JohnTheOptimist – the fact that there are 100s and perhaps 1000’s of miles of motorways through sparsely populated areas in the US proves absolutely nothing. There is every chance they wasted a lot of money (and there is some empirical evidance on this) – why should we make the same mistakes?

You refuse to accept that these roads have a cost that someone has to pay. I suppose it is easy to ignore that little detail if you expect others to pay.

As for the economic impact on the disadvantaged North-West. The benefit for the North-West of an overspecified road compared to one that is specified appropriately is zero, but it has a negative impact at the national level as it draws resources unnecessarily away from other projects (that is the key point of my post).

By the way transport links are bi-directional and there is some international evidence that weaker regions can actually suffer from an improvement of accessibility as it makes it easier for more competitive firms from other regions to compete in these weaker regions.

Construction on the A5 is not due to start until 2012 – the work that is being done is planning.

JohnTheOptimist: Derry needs a fast road link to Dublin – true. Is the A5 upgrade the answer – No, because it’s contingent on upgrading the N2 which, as Edgar says, is completely pointless and a waste of money.

At least two alternatives are available to provide the Derry-Dublin link. One is to upgrade the A6 to M2, providing a link via Belfast (180 miles Vs 160 via N2). Second alternative would be to upgrade A5 to Omagh and create a new link from there to M1 at Dungannon and hence to Dublin. This new greenfield corridor could be tolled, providing a huge saving for the two exchequers.

Of course none of the alternatives were ever evaluated as the A5 upgraded is purely a political project.


“Construction has started” as most people would understand it, means “bulldozers in active service”, to use expressions near-enough to yours, and this is not due to happen until 2012, according to the ‘A5 WTC’ (a.k.a. the NI section of the Dublin-Derry dual carriageway) website as referenced below.

By the same source, decision-making as to the preferred route as currently ongoing and this will obviously employ a lot of people in surveying and deskwork.

The timetable for the above has existed for years and the fact that in that time several good upgrades to the current route have been started and finished (Ballygawley, Omagh, Newtownstewart) only to be ostensibly duplicated in a few years, tends to raise suspicions …

Ta to the RoI taxpayers for your apparently generous financial contribution to the scheme, but it may not be that far off pro-rata to the number of RoI-reg cars currently using the route. Clearly the region, on either side of the border, with most to gain is Letterkenny / North Donegal, with, as it stands, a much greater requirement for Dublin trips than the adjacent NI region.

Just don’t say the same principle in reverse should apply in relation to upgrade / maintenance of the M1, N2, N3 …


Okay, firstly I have to state that I’m not as au fait with planning regulations, building requirements, traffic planning, etc., as most of the rest of you seem to be.


It seems to me to be slightly disingenuous to state that a 3.5 km bypass of Slane is not required (I think it’s 3.5 km?), while quoting safety figures for the entire N2. The N2 from Dublin to Slane is a good straight stretch of road, with an excellent new road from Finglas to Ashbourne. However, it is not the entire N2 which is under discussion here; it’s Slane Bridge. If Mr Morgenroth wants to argue that the Slane bypass is not needed, then he should argue that alone, on its merits, rather than a general “other roads are more dangerous than the N2, in its entirety”. As Slaneman stated earlier, traffic through Slane is routed across a bridge which was designed for horse and carriage traffic. A large proportion of this traffic is HGV. The bridge itself is being damaged by this unsuitable traffic, and the heritage village is suffering. The road is inherently dangerous due to its topography, the steep hills leading down to it from both directions, the narrow bridge and the bends leading up to the bridge.

To state that a HGV ban is workable because traffic management is put in place for the annual concert is facetious. During the weekend of the concert, the school is closed to facilitate the large influx of Gardai from around the country required to police the traffic. Local residents are by and large confined to the village for that day. All roads to and from the village are policed. Is Mr. Morgenroth suggesting that something similar should be put in place to prevent HGVs entering the village on a daily basis, because if he isn’t, then the comparison is moot. Slane has a part-time Garda presence. Who is going to police the proposed HGV ban? (The comparison with Dublin is also a facile one; Dublin has a large number of Gardai, including traffic corps, who are available to police the ban). Dublin also the benefit of an alternative route instead of the quays – but as Slaneman asked, where does Mr. Morgenroth propose the HGVs who wish to travel through Slane divert to? The M1 is not an alternative in every case; it may run parallel to the N2, but it does not service the same towns. For HGVs to travel via the M1 to towns currently serviced by the N2, they would need to leave the M1 and travel smaller regional routes to access those towns. Hardly a solution.

@Edgar Morgenroth

Construction on the A5 is not due to start until 2012 – the work that is being done is planning.

JTO again:

This is nit-picking. Like saying Sir Alec Ferguson doesn’t begin work until 3pm Saturdays. The work to construct the motorway is under way and, unlike in the south, there is no more than a derisory campaign to stop it. I have no idea at what point the work shifts from engineers doing lots of calculations in an office to workmen shifting soil with bulldozers. Its still work on the project.

@Edgar Morgenroth

By the way transport links are bi-directional and there is some international evidence that weaker regions can actually suffer from an improvement of accessibility as it makes it easier for more competitive firms from other regions to compete in these weaker regions.

JTO again:

This is exactly what the unionist government at Stormont said in the 1960s regarding why they weren’t providing any proper roads or infrastructure for counties Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh.

AS for the suggestion by some (not Edgar) that the main highway from Donegal to Dublin should go through Belfast, give me a break. What next? That the main highway from Limerick to Dublin should go through Cork?

Edgar does not seem to understand the problems in Slane as multiple posters have pointed out problems with his arguments. It would seem obvious that even if all the trucks were magically removed the dangerous hill on the approach to the old single lane bridge would still be there.

I wonder wher Edgar got his information from ? Who did he ask for an opinion ?

Can I just clarify the origin of the costings in the original article which states that “The construction costs of a dual carriageway are 82% higher (according to the NRA Road Needs Study) than for a wide 2 lane road”. Are we speaking about the 1998 NRA Road Needs study? The 2+2 road likely to be proposed for the N2 did not exist then. 1998 was a different century. Looking at cost, other documents on the NRA website state that
2+2 costs approximately 10% more than a 2+1 (NRA New Divided Road Types) and that 2+1 road is the same cost as a wide single carriageway (NRA to pilot new road type). As far as I can see there is no proposal to build a road costing 82% more than the alternative but rather one costing something like 10% more. Wide single carriageways are no longer being built, 2+1 is the base and 2+2 is marginally more expensive than this.

I suspect this entire thread is based on an initial false premise derived from an out of date document.

@dearg doom – I referred to the relative costs rather than the absolute costs which could easily be adjusted using the appropriate price index. What would have changed the relative differences? Other more recent studies show similar differences in construction costs. For example Starkie (2002) finds that dual-carriageways cost 114% more and Glaister and Graham (2003) found that they cost 80% more. Sure, we can stop building cheaper types of road and avoid a comparison that way.

Even if the difference were a mere 10% one ought to be allowed to question whether this extra cost is warranted. After all this is tax payers’ money, or more precisely borrowed money that has to be paid back by tax payers with hefty interest. For some people the profligate ways of the naughties seem hard to shed.

JOhnTheOPtimist: “AS for the suggestion by some (not Edgar) that the main highway from Donegal to Dublin should go through Belfast, give me a break. What next? That the main highway from Limerick to Dublin should go through Cork?

This is a wicked distortion of my comment, the jist of which was that there are at least two alternative approaches to achieving the link between Derry to Dublin, both of which avoid the need to upgrade the N2. Why is A5-N2 upgrade the only game in town? Were any alternatives such as Derry-Omagh-Dungannon ever evaluated?

[…] We’ve had ghost estates and zombie hotels.  Now it seems we have phantom roads.  Well at least under-utilised roads.  This wouldn’t be too bad in the sense that a nice open road is more pleasant to drive on that one that’s chockerblock, but the problem is that these are PPP toll roads that require a certain level of usage otherwise payment penalties kick in.  Plan Better – a joint initiative of An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment and Feasta – have published data that shows that M3 traffic (21,500 per day)  is 22% below the penalty payments level (26,250) and the Limerick Tunnel (13,500 per day) is 26% below the penalty payments level (17,000) on the Limerick Tunnel.  If these traffic levels were to persist then over the lifetime of the PPP contracts the state (i.e. taxpayers) would owe the toll operators over €100m.  Plan Better make a case that the NRA has made a fundamental mistake in applying a growth only model of traffic demand on the Irish roads network and they’re calling for a review of the projections used to justify future road building including the proposed motorway between Oilgate and Rosslare (N11/N25), and upgrades to routes such as Blarney to Patrickswell (N20), Clontribret to Moybridge (N2), the Ballyvourney motorway (N22), Abbeyfeale to Clonshire (N21), Kilmeaden to Midleton (N25), Ashbourne to Ardee (N2), and Tuam to Letterkenny (N17).  Of course, we would expect traffic to fall off during a recession and to pick back up again as the economy recovers, but on the basis of Plan Better’s analysis it does seem like a recalibration of the models used to justify road building might be due given the drastic changes to Ireland’s economy in the past couple of years, especially given the pitfalls of PPP penalties and the pressure to reduce capital spend.  It might well be the case that we need upgraded roads, but we have little need for gold-plated phantom ones (see also this post on Irish Economy). […]

When I read that a dual carriageway having 7 times the capacity of current traffic levels implies a single carriageway should be built instead, I cringe. First of all these are maximum capacities. If a single carriage way is at 50% capacity and 1 driver (the one in front of you) is sauntering along at 40 mph, you are pretty much going to be going at 40 mph too. Modern road infrastructure needs to provide 2 major benefits 1. Provides the ability to travel from A to B and 2. Provide a high degree of certainty that travel from A to B is completed within a set time at a sustained speed. Before the 1990s we had 1. but not 2. The NRA uses the term Level of Service for 2. Much of the new roads we are building today are designed looking at a 30 year time horizon. Ireland over the next 30 years at current trends will produce a cumulative $20 trillion worth of GDP pending completion of outstanding road infrastructure projects. Without the current and ongoing investment in roads it is almost certain that the cumulative GDP figure would be significantly less, let’s say $15 trillion. Think about this, saving $5 billion in road investment now to lose $5,000 billion in GDP. Spend 1.8X the amount to build a dual carriageway now to get 4 to 5 times the capacity. That 40 mph car slowing down that truck that otherwise might travel at 60 mph means that truck could have been 1.5X more efficient making 3 trips per day on a dual carriage way instead of 2 trips on a single carriageway. On a single carriageway a truck often can only go as fast as the slowest vehicle in the “convoy” In a very competitive world if you are only 2% less competitive that could mean the difference between success and failure. Making it a dual carriageway now means the expense of designing and expanding it to a dual in the future at higher prices is eliminated. And not having to go through An Taisce twice, priceless.

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