Brexit border checks may cause Dublin traffic problems

Congestion from Dublin Port could disrupt traffic in tunnel, M50 and motorways

   Containers being unloaded at Dublin Port. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Containers being unloaded at Dublin Port. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Congestion caused by delays from Brexit border checks on trucks arriving into Dublin Port from the United Kingdom could result in major traffic disruption on motorways and roads across Dublin, the State’s roads agency has said.

The likelihood of potential delays at the country’s busiest port has increased with two ferry operators declining to stagger multiple ferry arrival times from Holyhead to avoid potential congestion issues in the port after checks begin when Brexit comes into effect on January 1st.

Dublin Port had asked Irish Ferries and Stena Line, which each have ferries arriving into the port at roughly the same time four times a day, to consider spacing out their arrivals at three-hour intervals to avoid delays after EU-UK border checks begin in the new year.


Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which manages the Dublin Port Tunnel and the State’s road network, said congestion spilling out of the port could quickly disrupt traffic into the tunnel, the adjoining M50 ring road, and motorways and the road network across the Dublin region.

Stena Line has raised concerns about the location of border checkpoints and the possibility of congestion delaying quick turnaround of ferries in and out of the port before Brexit checks start.

Mornings are the most congested time at the port with about 12km of lane space worth of vehicles arriving at the port on four ferries from Liverpool and Holyhead in just one hour.

About 6,000 heavy goods vehicles travel through Dublin Port every day with about 400 accessing the port southbound through the tunnel at the morning peak hour for traffic.

The timing of this peak traffic is determined by the sailing schedules of the ferry companies.

The close proximity of the southern exit of the Dublin Port Tunnel to the port allows limited scope to absorb congestion outside the port as traffic jams are not permitted in the tunnel.

TII said that, if this happened, it would have to stop traffic entering the tunnel from the north and traffic disruption could congest the nearby M50 and routes leading to this major road artery.

“We would be concerned because we can’t have standing traffic in the tunnel and we would have to stagger traffic entering and exiting which could have a residual impact across the roads network because that can back up to the M1 and the M50,” said a spokesman for the agency.


Asked about the knock-on effect of congestion in the port from ferry arrivals, the spokesman said that any traffic issues within the port would have a “domino effect” on to the roads network.

“The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing because we all have an impact on each other. This is why we have plans to deal with the potential for any issues,” he said.

Fingal County Council said that it notified TII on Wednesday that it had granted the State agency permission to turn part of the long-term blue car park at Dublin Airport into an emergency lorry park to accommodate trucks if there were Brexit delays at the port.

The council has given the agency permission to hold up to 250 lorries at the park and to build offices, canteen, bathrooms and showers to accommodate truck drivers delayed entering the port.

In response to possible Brexit-related traffic congestion at the port affecting adjacent roads, the Department of Transport has set up a traffic management group that includes TII, Dublin City Council, the Garda Síochána, Dublin Port Company and the Revenue Commissioners.

The department is updating an earlier contingency plan devised to manage knock-on effects on city traffic management in a no-deal Brexit scenario to take account of recent developments.

Despite an overall reduction in traffic volumes during the Covid-19 pandemic and public restrictions, heavy goods vehicles are still running at 97 per cent of normal volumes.

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