Speeding motorists have been the biggest issue facing those working on the upgrade of the M7 motorway in Co Kildare over the past 20 months, the chief executive of one of the construction firms behind the project has said.
SIAC and Colas were awarded the contract to upgrade the motorway. Work to widen a 13.5km stretch of the road between Naas and the M7/M9 interchange got under way in January 2018.
An end to the works appears to be in sight, and this week all three lanes are due to be in operation but with a reduced 80km/h speed limit. Outstanding verge works are scheduled to be completed by mid-September, and the speed limit will rise to 120km/h after that.
Motorists have expressed unhappiness about delays and speed cameras on the route, with two detection vans deployed at the end of last year to monitor compliance with the reduced 60km/h limit.
Figures from Transport Infrastructure Ireland show 14,500 speeding fines have been handed out along the road since the works began. The number of offences recorded led local District Court Judge Desmond Zaidan to question how to deal with the large increase in related court cases. The Courts Service said it was looking at a number of solutions to the problem.
Michael Maher, chief executive of SIAC Construction, said speeding along the route had caused major issues, with 241 incidents occurring since the works began, the majority of which he attributed to people driving too fast.
“Thankfully no one was hurt – it was mostly rear-ends and that type of thing,” he said. “The cameras certainly helped, and I would argue that while people might give out about the reduced speed limit, the delay is minimum.”
It was originally anticipated by the contractor that all three lanes of the M7 would be operational in both directions by April. Mr Maher says the timeline for the project was “ambitious”.
There has on average been 200-300 construction personnel working on the road every day while about 78,000 motorists use the route per day – some 22 million per year.
Niall Morrissey, director of services with Kildare County Council, said the local authority had identified a "total non-compliance" with the 60km/h speed limit and encouraged the contractor to "take some action" in the interest of employee safety.
“From our perspective, our responsibility is towards the employees on the site. 60km/h would be the industry norm when you’re working on a live site, and we could see the total non-compliance with that speed limit. It was grossly unfair to the employees trying to go about their daily work,” he said.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland said motorists should notice a difference to their journeys, particularly on the commute home, when the lanes open.
“To have three lanes operational by the time people are back to work and school, that will be a good thing,” a spokesman said.