Seanad debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018

10:30 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Griffin. The Senator has four minutes to outline his case.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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Unfortunately, this is a long-standing issue. The junctions in question are on a section of the N4 between Carrick-on-Shannon and Boyle, namely, a right turn to Cootehall and a left turn to Croghan. It is a road that I travel every day, so I am familiar with the issues.

There is plenty of cumulative and anecdotal evidence to suggest that these are very dangerous junctions that have led to numerous collisions. Drivers turning right to Cootehall or left to Croghan face considerable danger, not from the cars travelling directly behind, but from other vehicles travelling even farther back that may be driving at speed in what is a 100 km/h zone. Their drivers would not be aware of a car in the middle of the road preparing to make a turn, which is leading to accidents.

This section of the N4 is extremely busy, with large volumes of traffic travelling on it every day. Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, has stated that only a few accidents have been recorded on it, but when one speaks to local people, they give a different story. They say that the number of accidents taking place is in the double figures and campaigners are now advising them to document fully the number of crashes at the two turns.

The level of concern among local people is high. More than 750 people from the area have signed a petition and a recent public meeting on the matter saw over 150 people in attendance. Many recounted their experiences of the accidents that have taken place at the junctions. One woman who had lived in a house opposite the Cootehall junction for more than 25 years told the meeting that she had left the area a number of years ago because of all the crashes.

Local people are fearful that someone will be seriously injured or there will be a loss of life if the matter is not addressed. Roscommon County Council made road signage and lining improvements to the section approximately a year and a half ago, but it is clear that more needs to be done. I urge the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, the Minister of State and the TII to ensure that all possible improvement options are considered before lives are lost. I have raised this matter with the Minister and TII. The latter is due to meet Oireachtas Members next Tuesday in Leinster House to discuss it, which is welcome.

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry, Fine Gael)
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I am taking this debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Ross. I thank Senator Feighan for raising this important matter. The Minister has responsibility for overall policy and funding in respect of the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the TII under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for the TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act.

Ireland has just under 100,000 km of road in its network and the maintenance and improvement of national, regional and local roads places a substantial financial burden on local authorities and the Exchequer. Due to the national financial position, there were large reductions in Exchequer funding available for roads expenditure after the financial crisis. The Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021 and capital plan review allocations mark a significant step forward in restoring funding to the levels needed to maintain the road network in a steady state condition and allow for investment in road improvement schemes.

Each year, TII carries out a collision analysis of the entire national road network in compliance with the EU road infrastructure safety management directive to identify locations that have high concentrations of collisions. The 1 km section of the N4 in the vicinity of the Cootehall and Croghan junctions was identified in the 2016 analysis and TII provided funding to Roscommon County Council, which is the road authority for the area, to enable improvement works to be implemented at the location. These works, which included improved signage and road markings, were undertaken by the council in late 2016 and early 2017.

The location that the Senator referenced was not identified in collision analyses of the network undertaken since the implementation of those works. However, the absence of sites from the locations identified in the analyses does not preclude a road authority from submitting a feasibility report to TIl for safety improvement works at other locations on the national road network. For example, additional information on unreported collisions may be available to the road authority from local people of which TII is unaware.

In order for TII to consider such proposals relating to national roads, the road authority is required to carry out an analysis of the collision history at the location, design an appropriate scheme to deal with the safety issues identified, carry out an economic appraisal of the proposal, fully cost the scheme and prioritise it in the context of other works being proposed by the road authority.The Minister understands arrangements are being made by Roscommon County Council to monitor traffic flows and driver behaviour on the relevant section of the N4 and additional safety improvement measures that may be proposed by the council arising from this exercise will be considered for funding by Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

I thank the Senator for raising the matter. We all know that safety is paramount on any road, including local, regional and national routes. I will speak to the team in Transport Infrastructure Ireland about this matter. I am certainly willing to work with the Senator into the future on any proposal Roscommon County Council may bring forward concerning this stretch of road. If it is of that much concern to the Senator, I am certainly very open to working with him to see if we can address the issue. We all know that while we might improve a dangerous section of road, one never knows the number of lives that might be saved, although it is fair to believe lives would be saved. If it is something we can do, I am certainly willing to work with the Senator on the issue.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State for his positive response. In some ways, there has not been reporting of accidents on the road, which I am at a loss to understand. Perhaps Garda reports, etc. have not made their way to Transport Infrastructure Ireland. I compliment and thank members of the community who are now collating the information. There have been many accidents on the road and I have no doubt that the information will provide a very strong argument to obtain funding for it. I am delighted that Roscommon County Council is monitoring traffic flows and driver behaviour on the road and look forward to seeing the report. We need to obtain the information and meet representatives from Transport Infrastructure Ireland. If it gives the go-ahead to the project, I have no doubt that the Government will provide the necessary funding.