Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and development stages of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
I fully recognise the demand pressures on the M50.
Enhancing Motorway Operation Services
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), along with other stakeholders, is continuing to implement a number of measures on the M50 to manage demand and optimise operational efficiency, including:
- enhanced vehicle recovery services;
- establishment of an Interagency Incident Coordination Group;
- changes to merging and diverging layouts at junctions;
- the establishment of signed Emergency Diversion Routes; and
- improved access for incident support and emergency services.
TII has also commenced a project titled ‘enhancing Motorway Operation Services’ which will include, inter alia, Variable Speed Limits and Lane Control Signalling.
Variable Speed Limits
The variable speed limit regime on the M50 will improve the operational efficiency of the motorway by smoothing traffic flow, improving journey time reliability and reducing the number of traffic collisions. Lane control signalling will also be installed as part of the project which will allow the closing off of lanes.
I can advise that my Department is progressing the legislative arrangements that will provide TII with the necessary powers to regulate and operate VSL on motorways. The legislative proposals will be contained in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. A General Scheme of the Bill, including the proposal for variable speed limits, was approved by Government for formal drafting last December, subject to two proposals within the Scheme being examined further in Cabinet Committee. These two proposals - for graduated speeding penalties and the carrying of driving licences - have now been examined in detail at official level and will be considered by Cabinet Committee shortly. Once this process is completed, I hope to see work on drafting the Bill for publication completed, and to publish the Bill before the end of the year.
In the meantime I am advised that, in order to progress this important measure, TII is extending the motorway traffic control centre at Dublin Tunnel to cater for the additional workload from the introduction of VSL and is currently procuring the management systems and hardware for the operation and roll-out of VSL for the M50. All the preparatory technical and logistical frameworks will need to be in place, by TII, before VSL can be introduced and become operational and as I have outlined, this work is on-going. It is expected that the enabling works which TII is undertaking will be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.
Public Transport Role
In addition, Project Ireland 2040 identifies a number of key public transport priorities including the BusConnects programme, MetroLink and the DART expansion programme. These will be delivered by the National Transport Authority (NTA) progressively and steadily over the short, medium and long term, to deliver a comprehensive public transport network that will match transport demand, alleviate congestion, provide an alternative to private car use and deliver a range of benefits over the next decade, all of which will have a positive effect on the M50.