Crash at strategic point on M50 exposes vulnerability of city ringroad

Long delays inevitable as emergency services examine serious incidents

Gardaí beside the badly damaged Volvo after the crash near the N4 on the southbound M50. Photograph:  Colin Keegan/ Collins

Gardaí beside the badly damaged Volvo after the crash near the N4 on the southbound M50. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins


The vehicle crash that shut one side of Dublin’s M50 motorway for about seven hours yesterday had motorists fuming at a perceived delay in clearing the road to allow normal traffic flows resume.

The crash exposed the vulnerability of the ringroad, a point emphasised by Conor Faughnan, spokesman for the AA.

The crash was “hugely disruptive because it hit arguably the most strategic point of the national infrastructure”, he said, adding that it “demonstrated to us was how vulnerable Dublin is”.

But could matters have been handled with greater speed by the authorities? Initial information suggests that the emergency services acted appropriately and with urgency.

The crash took place just after 5am on the southbound carriageway of the M50. It happened at a point on the Lucan interchange where the slip roads from the N4 and the Chapelizod bypass merge, and then merge further into the southbound M50 itself.

An Offaly-registered Volvo car and two trucks were involved. The car was badly damaged, with both ends seriously crushed, suggesting it was sandwiched between two other objects.

Cutting equipment

Dublin Fire Brigade

A fire service ambulance with two paramedics was also sent, as was a team from the National Ambulance Service.Standard procedure for the fire service is that the scene of a serious crash is sealed front and rear, thereby closing the road. This is to create a space within which emergency personnel can work safely. Fire personnel used specialist equipment to free the seriously injured woman from the Volvo.

Fire and paramedic personnel were at the scene for at least an hour after which control of the area was handed over to gardaí, who were also at the site within minutes of the crash.

Once gardaí have control of the scene, forensic crash investigators set about their task. In the case of crashes involving serious injury, this means treating the scene with the same attention to investigative detail as if it were the site of a suspicious death.

Debris field

Equipment on all vehicles, such as brakes and lights, will also be examined. Since fire and ambulance service personnel and gardaí must be able to carry out such work in safety, it explains why the M50 carriageway remained closed until around noon.

The knock-on effect is severe congestion as motorists seek alternative routes which themselves become clogged. Traffic on parallel carriageways also tends to become clogged when there are crashes, mainly through motorists there slowing down to “rubberneck” events on the other side.

Many motorists who contacted the AA yesterday complained about the seven-hour delay, as they saw it, in reopening the southbound carriageway. But are such complaints fair?

“We shouldn’t rush to judgment,” said Mr Faughnan. “The reason for analysis of crashes is to find out what can be learned.”

For now, the inevitable consequence of such a serious crash is delays with, as Mr Faughnan put it, “thousands of people sitting in their cars deeply frustrated”.

“Long term there can be no other solution but the provision of [better] public transport.”