M50 traffic between 6am and 7am increases by 86% in five years

Commuters in Dublin and Cork suffer as congestion grows and rings roads near capacity

There has been a huge increase in early-morning commuting on the State’s major roads, according to an analysis of traffic data. They show an 86 per cent rise in the number of vehicles using a key section of the M50 motorway between 6am and 7am, comparing November this year with the same month in 2014. A similar increase was recorded in traffic over the same time period on the N40 – Cork’s South ring road.

Traffic trends have shown clear evidence in recent years of what is called "peak spreading" , with high volumes of traffic moving ahead of and after the traditional morning and evening peaks. This is combined with an overall rise in volumes and is a clear indicator of increased congestion.

Employers’ body Ibec has warned that congestion is now a major issue affecting competitiveness, with 50,000 extra people travelling to work and 120,000 to school compared to 2012.

Figures from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) traffic counters between junctions seven and nine on the M50 show week-day average movements of over 8,600 vehicles between 6am and 7am in November and early December this year, compared to just over 4,600 in the same period in 2014. In contrast, traffic in the later morning peak is in line with or slightly below five years earlier, indicating that the road has hit capacity.


However, there are also strong increases in traffic later in the day – notably the early afternoon, with traffic around 3pm up 18 per cent on 2014. Overall traffic on that section of the motorway averaged over 160,100 per day, up 14.5 per cent on five years ago, with much of the rise in the earlier years.

Similar trends are evident on the N40 with the section from the Jack Lynch tunnel to the Mahon roundabout up nearly 10 per cent over the five years , with a daily Monday to Friday average of over 75,500 in November and the first few days of December this year. Volumes from 6am to 7 am are up 84 per cent to an average 3,250 vehicles and there is also a big rise in early afternoon traffic.

The early start is also reflected on other commuter roads in Dublin, with the R108 leading from Ballymun up to the M50 showing an 82 per cent rise in volumes since 2014, again based on TII data. Daily movements on this road are now approaching 39,000 on average.

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor is an Irish Times writer and Managing Editor