Seanad Éireann - Volume 137 - 30 June, 1993

Adjournment Matters. - Road Improvement Scheme.

Mr. R. Kiely: I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. Major roadworks, including the Rathkeale and Newbridge by-passes, are undertaken and completed to everybody's satisfaction. I think it is important, now that we are a member of the European Community, to have easy access for transport to cater for the needs of industry.

However, I have raised this matter because last week I travelled from Dublin to Cork to attend a funeral. My time was limited but I observed the rules of the road — I do not break speed limits. Approaching Mitchelstown there were [547] roadworks which caused a small delay. Between Mitchelstown and Fermoy there were three sets of roadworks on ten miles of road. I cannot understand why one job could not be completed before the next was begun. There was only one set of roadworks in the other 150 miles.

There should be better organisation and planning. Many road users are not locals but come from overseas and it projects a bad image to have three delays in ten miles. The resulting built-up of traffic in Fermoy caused a delay of between 20 and 30 minutes and subsequently on the road to Watergrasshill and Rathcormack and on into Cork. All these delays added an hour to the journey from Dublin to Cork. I am sure similar situations arise in other parts of the country. County councils should organise their roadworks to cause least inconvenience to road users, especially tourists.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Browne, Wexford): I thank Senator Rory Kiely for raising this issue and I appreciate the problem.

The aim of road improvement schemes is to enhance safety and/or improve the capacity of the road when completed but during the course of the construction work some disruption is inevitable on existing roads. However, I am anxious that any disruption caused should be minimised. In this regard my Department has included in its memorandum on road grants which was issued earlier this year to all road authorities, certain advice and guidelines relating to measures they should take during the course of such works.

The memorandum draws the authorities' attention to the fact that roadworks, whether executed by a local authority or by a statutory undertaker, should be carried out as quickly as possible so as to minimise the period during which road users are inconvenienced. In the execution of the works, due regard should be had to the safety of road users generally, including pedestrians.

I am aware that there is concern that [548] road openings — which may not always be related to road improvement works — cause undue disruption to traffic, particularly in urban areas. Local authorities have, therefore, been advised to pay special attention to minimising the frequency and duration of road openings and to seek the co-operation of statutory undertakers to ensure this. Authorities are expected to make every effort to coordinate road openings so as to minimise traffic disruptions and hazard to road users. Road openings should be permanently reinstated as quickly as possible after the completion of the work.

In addition to concern about disruption I am also aware of the safety aspect of roadworks and the need for proper signage. Local authorities have been advised by a circular letter of a system of traffic signs to be used exclusively when roadworks are being carried out. These signs are based on designs proposed in a booklet called Guidelines for Signposting Roads in Urban Areas, prepared by Dublin Corporation and Guidelines for Traffic Control at Rural Roadworks prepared jointly by An Foras Forbartha and the County and City Engineers' Association. I am satisfied that the use of the signage codes set out in these guidelines would ensure a high level of safety for such works if they were adhered to.

I appreciate the points raised by Senator Rory Kiely. There are some aspects of major road construction about which I would not be happy. As the Senator said there seems to be a tendency to have a number of roadworks going on at the same time. I will bring the Senator's views to the attention of the local authorities concerned. If Senators have any complaints in this area they should pass them on to my Department or the local authority concerned and we will make arrangements to have them resolved as quickly as possible. I am not happy that the safety standards are being adhered to by some road contractors at present.

Mr. R. Kiely: I thank the Minister of State and ask him to instruct the county [549] councils to concentrate roadworks in one area at a time.