Dáil Éireann - Volume 598 - 02 March, 2005

Adjournment Debate. - Road Network.

  Mr. Naughten: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue this evening. I believe that the NRA is in breach of the regulations in the upgrading of the N5 between Scramoge and Ballaghaderreen in County Roscommon. This section of the road carries 4,500 vehicles per day, 20% of which are heavy goods vehicles, HGVs. The NRA guidelines state that the single carriageway width of such a road should be 7.3 m. There should then be a 2.5 m hard shoulder on the edge of the road. There are other specifications regarding junctions and so on. I want to focus on the issue of the hard [1482] shoulder as there is no hard shoulder on this section of road. It has been upgraded but it does not comply with the NRA’s guidelines and regulations. There are no verges on the section of road in question.

The worst section of road is between Strokestown and Tulsk and it is not much better between Tulsk and Ballaghaderreen. The works carried out on the road have caused an increase in speed of traffic and have moved traffic nearer to the entrances of properties and the entrances into adjoining lands. Due to the type of upgrading works that are taking place, there is no room for pedestrians and that is making the road even more dangerous than it was prior to this. As the NRA is not implementing its own road specifications, vehicles are now being moved nearer to homes and other entrances.

There are stone walls along the boundary of the road. If an animal knocks a stone off the wall at the moment, it will fall on to the middle of the road. That was not the situation prior to the upgrading works taking place as there was a grass margin on the side of the road. Who is liable should a stone end up in the middle of the road? We have not got the type of specification that should be in place.

At the location of Rath Cruachan national school, the speed limit has been increased from 60 mph to 62 mph thanks to the Department of Transport. The wall outside the school is the only boundary between that and the passing heavy goods vehicles. The door of the school is within a couple of yards of that wall. We need a higher specification for this section of the N5 between Scramoge and Ballaghaderreen. I ask the Minister to ensure that an independent safety audit is carried out. A safety assessment has been carried out, but I want a full safety audit done because the road does not comply with the NRA’s specification that it would identify the potential hazards that affect every type of road user, including pedestrians and residents along the road.

The NRA specification must outline the measures that would either eliminate or mitigate against those hazards, one of which is the introduction of a hard shoulder along the section of road. I want that assessment done independently of the NRA. It is critically important that it is put in place. The Minister for Transport, under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1993, can ensure that it happens.

In the longer term, I want to see the N5 properly upgraded. We have been told time and again that the road will not be upgraded because of the current and projected traffic volumes. The fact remains that under the NDP, the capital expenditure on infrastructure to date has been €5 billion. The forecast projected by the Government should be €6.25, which means we have underspent considerably in the BMW region. The Government should use this opportunity to upgrade this key element of infrastructure to the west of Ireland. The specifications currently being [1483] implemented by the NRA are increasing the probability of accidents, especially in County Roscommon. I want to see this decision overturned and a proper specification implemented on that section of road.

  Mr. Gallagher: I apologise to the House for the inability of the Minister for Transport to attend this Adjournment debate. The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authority concerned, in this case Roscommon County Council. The NRA published the specification for road works in 2000 and the NRA design manual for roads and bridges in 2001. The NRA design manual is monitored on an ongoing basis and updated regularly, as required. The specification and design manual are applicable for all new works carried out on the national primary and secondary routes by local authorities.

9 o’clock

The works on the N5 in County Roscommon between Scramoge and Ballaghaderreen consisted basically of a pavement rehabilitation project and these works are not subject to the strict design manual for roads and bridges requirements which are reserved for new road schemes on greenfield sites. The works are subject to a safety audit. Over the past four years, extensive works on the N5 between Scramoge and Ballaghaderreen have been carried out. The pavement was in very poor condition and a five-year pavement rehabilitation programme was developed and agreed between the NRA and Roscommon County Council. The works had to be carried out between the fence lines due to the archaeological sensitivity of the area especially in the vicinity of Rathcroghan. The NRA has provided funding for 2005 of the order of €200,000 to advance the N5 strategic corridor study on the Ballaghaderreen to Strokestown route. It is anticipated that the study will be completed by the end of the year. In addition to the works outlined, the 8 km N5 Strokestown to Bumlin Bridge project opened to traffic in 2004 to replace a single carriageway which had a poor alignment and substandard visibility.