I am truly pleased to be here to mark the completion of the final phase of the M50 upgrade. Today sees the successful conclusion of the Government’s overall M50 improvement strategy and the coming to fruition of four years’ continuous hard work and a major scheme involving investment totalling one billion euro.
As the busiest motorway in the country, carrying the highest volumes of traffic, the M50 is one of the most crucial elements of our national roads infrastructure. Approximately 100,000 vehicles travel on it on a daily basis. As the city’s main artery, it is vital to facilitating traffic flow and circulation around the capital. It also links into all national radial routes approaching Dublin and is a key element in the Government’s Major Interurban Network.
The M50 upgrade scheme represents the Government’s and the NRA’s solution to tackling motorway congestion on Ireland’s busiest motorway and the realisation of this project has helped to eliminate the heavy congestion that clogged the route in recent years. The M50 improvement strategy has provided for the widening of the existing M50 from two lanes to three lanes in each direction, the upgrade of the junctions along its length to free flow or partial free flow status and the transition to barrier free tolling.
Since the M50 Upgrade works began in Summer 2006 it has been easy to track the huge improvements being brought about. As early as 2008, M50 users began to see significant benefits as the first phases of the motorway upgrade were completed and barrier-free tolling was introduced.
A crucial element of the upgrade was the removal of the M50 toll plaza and its replacement by a fully automated barrier-free system which allowed motorists to travel fully unencumbered along the motorway at the legal speed limit.
It is a significant achievement and a tribute to all concerned that the upgrade works were carried out under “live” traffic conditions. While at times this caused unavoidable disruption to traffic, the great improvements being delivered as a result of the upgrade works became quickly evident to motorists.
By this stage the improvements brought about by the M50 upgrade can be clearly seen by all. The notorious bottlenecks at the former Westlink Toll Plaza are gone and major junctions such as the Red Cow, N4 and M1 have been transformed.
There has been a huge reduction in congestion and delays coupled with significant timesavings for motorists and improved accessibility.
Commuters, businesses and citizens in general are reaping the benefits. This is having a very positive impact for the capital, the Greater Dublin Area and beyond.
With the removal of congestion on the mainline carriageway, at junctions and queuing at the former toll plaza comes significantly reduced travelling times. Indeed the anecdotal evidence suggests that there are savings of 15 minutes at off peak times and 45 minutes at peak times. The daily “car park scenes” previously witnessed on the M50 are thankfully now a thing of the past and with this comes environmental benefits.
Traffic to and around Dublin is now served with a high quality reliable road transport corridor which in turn paves the way for increased economic growth and prosperity.
The upgrade has proved immensely beneficial not alone to the Dublin area but to drivers from all over Ireland who travel to or around Dublin.
The completion of the scheme is a massive forward step for the infrastructural development of the country.
It will link into all the other Major Interurban Corridors resulting in faster and more reliable journey times. Improvement of internal road transport infrastructure between Dublin and the regions will contribute towards the competitiveness of the country and foster more balanced regional development.
National Roads Investment
Over the past decade the motorway network in Ireland has taken shape under the National Roads Programme.
This year alone the Government is investing €1.115 billion in the National Roads Programme in line with its continued commitment to upgrade the State’s national road infrastructure.
The overall allocation represents an average investment of €93 million per month in Ireland’s national roads. With the completion of the interurban motorways shortly Dublin will be connected to Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and the Border by continuous motorway. For the first time we will have a motorway network suited to a modern economy and one that matches the best European standards.
National roads projects are typically delivering economic returns of over twice the investment cost. The direct economic benefits of the motorway network are estimated at €24 billion, based on net present value.
The new motorways and high quality dual carriageways on the national roads network are also considerably safer than the roads they replace. This is a big help to us in our battle to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads each year.
In fighting this battle we need to bear in mind that our behaviour as drivers is a hugely significant factor with regard to safety on our roads. I would urge all those who use this motorway and motorists right around the country to drive with due care and caution and with respect for the safety and well-being of all those on our roads.
In conclusion, I would like say a few words of thanks to everyone who had a role in bringing this vital project to a successful conclusion- in particular the NRA, the local authorities, the contractors and consulting engineers.
Thank you for all your hard work and efforts in securing the delivery of the M50 upgrade on time and within overall budget. It is an achievement that will bring so many benefits to so many people now and in the years to come and one that all concerned can be justifiably proud of.