New variable speed limits on M50 will be advisory at first

Bad weather, roadworks and collisions may trigger safety responses from traffic system

Controllers based in Dublin’s docklands will have the power to warn via overhead gantries and messaging signs of temporary speed limits, lane closures and traffic diversions to make way for emergency services on the M50. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Controllers based in Dublin’s docklands will have the power to warn via overhead gantries and messaging signs of temporary speed limits, lane closures and traffic diversions to make way for emergency services on the M50. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Legislation is being prepared to bring enforcement powers to the M50’s impending variable speed limit system.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said he hopes to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas before Christmas that would mandate drivers to follow temporarily reduced speed limits in the event of a collision or motorway incident.

The new system will be advisory when it takes effect in the coming weeks, but Mr Ryan stressed the importance of adhering to the recommendations “for everyone’s safety”. It is “appropriate”, he added, that the approach be tested before it becomes legally enforceable in the coming months.

Bad weather, roadworks and congestion and collisions, could each trigger a safety response from the traffic management system. Controllers based in Dublin’s docklands will have the power to warn via overhead gantries and messaging signs of temporary speed limits, lane closures and traffic diversions to make way for emergency services.

The extent of speed reductions will depend on the “severity of an incident”, said Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s (TII’s) Sean O’Neill. New cameras will be installed for the purpose of monitoring traffic flow in real time 24 hours per day.

There are some 400,000 daily trips on the M50 each day. In 2019 approximately 1,200 incidents occurred on the M50, of which 525 were vehicle collisions, TII figures show. Traffic numbers on the motorway increased by 40 per cent between 2011 and 2019, and usage has now returned to about 95 per cent of September 2019 levels.

Chief executive of TII, Peter Walsh, said the new “enhancing Motorway Operation Services” (eMOS) programme, which was three years in the making, will be of “significant benefit” to road users and emergency responders.

“Anyone who uses the M50 will be aware of just how hazardous it can be,” he said. The system aims to reduce the “stop/ start” traffic reaction to incidents, which leads to delayed journeys and increased carbon emissions.

The approach will be used first between Junction 4 Ballymun and Junction 6 Castleknock this autumn before it is gradually rolled across the rest of the Dublin motorway by the winter of 2022/2023.

‘Critical’ route

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, said over €79 million will be invested across the scheme. Similar initiatives have been successfully deployed across the UK, parts of continental Europe, North America and Australia, she said.

Ms Naughton highlighted the importance of efficiency across the M50 to facilitate the transportation of goods worth in the region of €30-€35 billion to the Irish economy. It is a “critical” route for Dublin Port and Dublin Airport, she added.

The primary benefit of the eMOS scheme is safety, but it will also bring environmental benefits, added Mr Ryan.

“There will be fewer emissions if traffic is not all clogged,” he said. This is part of a range of measures that play a role in reducing transport’s contribution to the climate crisis.

“Transport is about to change significantly It is beyond compare the scale of change that is coming, and part of it is managing our road network,” said Mr Ryan.