Traffic volumes fall this week after rising over last three months

Data tracking vehicles on State’s main roads ‘like a heart monitor’ matching lockdowns

Traffic volumes on the State’s main roads have fallen significantly this week after rising over the last three months and particularly since the partial reopening of schools at the start of March.

The number of vehicles on the roads are however still significantly below pre-Covid levels, with seven-day averages for the first three months of 2021 of about 450,000 vehicles, compared to a weekly average of about 700,000 vehicles in the first three months of 2019.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland said although car traffic volumes have rebounded significantly in recent weeks, there was a significant decrease in traffic volumes this week, compared with last week. The authority said this was likely to be in part due to the schools’ Easter holidays and in part due to people taking leave associated with Easter.

Traffic volumes on the radial routes into Dublin were generally down this week as measured on Tuesday, March 30th, and compared with March 23rd.


Traffic volumes fell by six per cent on the M1 at M50 to Dublin Airport; by 10 per cent on the N7 at Citywest; 15 per cent on the M11 at Bray and 11per cent on the M4 at Celbridge-Maynooth.

In the case of the regional cities the changes in car traffic volumes compared with last week were as follows: N6 Bóthar na dTreabh Galway down 12 per cent; N40 Cork down 14 per cent; M9 Waterford down 6 per cent and M7 Limerick was down 14 per cent.

Car traffic just south of the Border on the N1 at Jonesboro shows a 2 per cent increase compared with March 23rd, and a 21 per cent decrease since the start of the October Level 3 restrictions.

The number of vehicles on Ireland’s main roads peaked at about 850,000 between late January and mid-March, 2020, after which the first lockdown was introduced.

TII which counts the traffic volumes using more than 300 counters buried in main roads across the Republic, said from March 2020 the traffic volumes were reading “like a heart monitor” of traffic activity as lockdowns were imposed, eased and reimposed. Initial restrictions were put in place on March 12th, last year. Countrywide Level 5 restrictions on travel were in place from October 22nd to December 1st and were reintroduced in stages from December 26th.

TII’s data covers the national road network, and includes counters on each section of the M1, N2/M2, N3/M3, M4, M6, M7, M8, M9, N11/M11 corridors. Dublin city centre is not covered as this is monitored by Dublin City Council.

Seán O’Neill of TII said the pre-Covid traffic numbers from 2019 showed generally consistent traffic volumes throughout the year apart from the normal drop-off in volumes over the summer holiday period.

The data also showed:

  • In January and February 2020 traffic volumes were higher than in the same months in 2019
  • The sharp reduction in traffic at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2019 is clearly evident
  • A progressive increase in traffic from mid-April 2020 and in subsequent months as restrictions were lifted
  • During the summer months of July and August 2020 traffic volumes plateaued at close to 2019 levels
  • Traffic volumes started to decrease from September 2020 as local and national restrictions were progressively implemented, most particularly from October
  • There was another progressive increase in the run-up to Christmas, before the sharp decrease with the reintroduction of Level 5 restrictions at the end of December
Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist