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No toilet stop provided on 101km ‘Atlantic motorway’

Services planned for site south of Ennis will not be open until 2020 ‘at the earliest’

Last month’s opening of the 53km Gort to Tuam motorway in Co Galway brought to 101km the length of road between the bypasses of Tuam and Shannon without motorway services

There are no motorway services where drivers and their passengers can stop to eat, drink or use toilets along the the new 100km “Atlantic motorway” between Tuam, Co Galway, and Shannon, Co Clare.

This is despite the fact that the State is required to build motorway services under an EU regulation “which dictates a need for member states to provide areas where road users can park, rest and access facilities”.

The recent opening of the 57km Gort to Tuam motorway in Co Galway brought to 101km the length of road between the bypasses of Tuam and Shannon, Co Clare, without motorway services.

The latest addition to the “Atlantic motorway” route cost €550 million, and included the Republic’s first “bat bridge” for wildlife. However, there are no service areas to cater for families with children or commercial traffic.

Roads authority Transport Infrastructure Ireland confirmed “there is currently no online service area on the M17/M18”, as the route is called.

There are also no charging points for electric vehicles on the route, a problem for Ireland’s growing electric car fleet.

The southern section of the Atlantic motorway, the M18, starts at Culleen at junction nine of the Shannon town bypass, and travels north incorporating bypasses of Newmarket-on-Fergus and Ennis in Co Clare. From there it passes Gort, Co Galway, and continues to a point near Athenry, where it crosses the M6 Dublin to Galway motorway.

From this point the road is classed as the M17. The route was developed in stages and opened as far as Gort in 2010, a distance of 44km. Last week’s opening added 57km of road including the Tuam bypass.

Motorway services are planned to open in 2020 at the “earliest construction completion” on a site south of Ennis, about 1.5km northwest of Newmarket on Fergus in Co Clare.

Site selection

However, the website for this development indicates it is still at “site selection stage”, although a site was recommended by consultants CH2M Barry in January 2016. When open the new services would reduce the 101km distance between services by less than 10km.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland is also developing motorway services near the junction of the Dublin to Galway route, the M6 and the Atlantic motorway.

However, these are not being provided at the junction of the motorways but are rather over 3km west of that junction, on the M6 approach towards Galway city. Motorists travelling north-south will have to leave their route and travel east towards Galway to access the services, a round trip of about 7km. The timeline for the M6 services envisages completion by 2019 at “the earliest”.

A Transport Infrastructure Ireland spokesman said the issue of electric charging points for vehicles would be addressed in the provision of motorway services. He said it was now a requirement in all further motorway service areas that charging for electric vehicles be provided.