Garda Covid-19 operation sees traffic volumes fall by up to 29 per cent

Donegal bucks trend and saw increase in traffic despite Operation Fanacht

The volume of traffic in the Republic’s roads notably decreased just days into the Garda’s Operation Fanacht.

The operation has seen thousands of checkpoints and long delays arising in some places.

However, parts of Donegal have bucked the national trend with traffic flow in some parts of the county having increased two days into the operation on Thursday. Donegal is one of the worst-hit areas in the country, and the Derry-Strabane region, which it borders, is a UK Covid-19 black spot.

An analysis of Transport Infrastructure Ireland data by The Irish Times comparing traffic volume on the roads on Thursday with the same day last week shows a modest drop in traffic from 6am to 9am in most parts of the Republic.


However, that decline in traffic volume was more pronounced late in the day with reductions of almost one-third recorded in some places. It appears motorists continued to make trips in morning-rush hour, but journeys that normally took place later in the day were down.

The Garda has begun a new phase of Operation Fanacht to coincide with all counties in the Republic being placed on Level 3 of the Government’s Living with Covid-19 plan from midnight on Tuesday.

That has involved the erection of 132 static checkpoints on motorways and other arterial routes and thousands of other small and mobile checkpoints being moved around on smaller roads.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris warned before the operation began that it would lead to traffic delays as traffic on motorways and other major roads was funneled into one lane. On Wednesday and Thursday queues of up to 8km were report at some if the static checkpoints.

However, Garda officers have been unapologetic, saying Level 3 meant people should only leave their county for essential reasons, adding the delays experience by those persisting with non-essential journeys would provide the “shock” required for them to desist.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland said it would take a number of days before the impact of Operation Fanacht on traffic volume became clear.

However, an analysis of data available on Thursday in the three-hour period from 6am to 9am showed a decline in traffic volume in 15 of the 18 locations reviewed by The Irish Times.

Traffic rose in only three locations – by up to 2 per cent – in Donegal. These included the N13 between Bridgend and Burnfoot, with only a very marginal increase noted, as well as the N14 between Lifford and Letterkenny and on the N15 Lifford to Castlefinn road, with an increase of 2 per cent on both of those roads.

Elsewhere, the decrease in traffic volume between 6am and 9am on Thursday was between 2 per cent and 10 per cent; the biggest decrease was on the M4 between junction 6 Celbridge and junction 7 Maynooth. On the N7 between junction 1 M50 and junction1a Newlands Cross there was a 7 per cent decline in traffic volume.

In Co Clare on the M18 between junction15 Crusheen and junction16 Gort the fall in traffic volume on Thursday morning was 9 per cent.

On the N2, between the Border with Northern Ireland and Mullinderg, Co Monaghan, traffic volume was down by 5 per cent on Thursday morning.

There were much more modest decreases, of only a fraction of 1 per cent, on the N22 between Killarney, Co Kerry, and Macroom, Ballyvourney, Co Cork, as well as on the N25 between New Ross, Co Wexford, and Waterford City.

On Thursday in the later period of the day between 9am and noon the decline in traffic volumes were more significant; down by between 5 per cent 29 per cent.

Garda sources said because Donegal and Dublin were already in Level 3 between the other 24 counties were moved to that level from midnight in Tuesday, some of the decline in traffic volume had already occurred before the relaunch of Operation Fanacht on Wednesday morning.

However, the same sources said if it became clear over time traffic had fallen further in Dublin since Wednesday morning but not in Donegal, as suggested by the analysis of early trends, that would be cause for concern.

On Thursday between 9am and 12 noon traffic volume was down by 20 per cent on the M4 between junction 6 Celbridge and junction 7 Maynooth. It was down by 11 per cent on the M1 Castlebellingham, Co Louth.

The biggest decrease, of just over 29 per cent, was on the N22 between Killarney and Macroom, Ballyvourney, Co Cork.

On the N7 at Citywest, Co Dublin, traffic volume was down by 15 per cent and had fallen by 14 per cent on the N11 near Coynes Cross, Timore, Co Wicklow.

On the N4 and the Longford bypass traffic was down by 13 per cent between 9am and 12noon on Thursday when compared with the same period last week and was down by 14 per cent on the N25 between New Ross, Co Wexford, and Waterford City. Between Border and Emyvale, Mullinderg, Co Monaghan, traffic was down by 9 per cent from 9am to noon on Thursday.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times