I refer the Deputy to my response which issued to Oral PQ 48179:
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. However, under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and operation of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the Local Authorities concerned.
I would also like to stress that I fully recognise the demand pressures on the M50.
Demand management measures.
TII, along with other relevant stakeholders, has completed a number of measures on the M50 to manage demand and optimise operational efficiency, including:
- enhanced vehicle recovery services;
- establishment of an Inter-agency Incident Coordination Group;
- changes to merging and diverging layouts at junctions;
- establishment of signed Emergency Diversion Routes; and
- improved access for incident support and emergency services.
[Enhancing Motorway Operation Services (EMOS)]
TII has also commenced a project entitled ‘Enhancing Motorway Operation Services (EMOS) to which the Deputy refers. This project will include Variable Speed Limits, referred to as VSLs and Lane Control Signalling.
[Variable Speed Limits (VSLs)]
The VSL regime on the M50 is intended to improve the operational efficiency of the motorway by
- smoothing traffic flow,
- improving journey time reliability, and
- reducing the number of traffic collisions.
As I mentioned, lane control signalling will also be installed as part of the project which will allow the rapid closing off of lanes.
Status of the project.
With regard to the status of the EMOS project, my Department is progressing the legislative arrangements to provide TII with the powers to operate VSLs. The legislative proposals will be contained in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. A General Scheme of the Bill has been approved by Government for formal drafting, subject to two items being examined further.
These two items - for graduated speeding penalties and the carrying of driving licences - have now been examined in detail at Cabinet Committee and I shall be referring them back to Government shortly. In the meantime, work on drafting the other provisions of the Bill is under way in the Office for the Attorney General. I hope to publish the Bill before the end of the year.
I am also 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 introduction of VSLs. Phase 1, which includes the new Control Room, is expected to be handed over before the end of this month (November 2019). Tender competitions to procure the management systems and hardware for the operation and roll-out of VSLs for the M50 are progressing. Tenders for the software were returned at the end of last month (October 2019) and the tenders for the hardware are due back this week.
All the preparatory technical and logistical frameworks will need to be put in place by TII before VSLs can be introduced and become operational. As I have just explained, this work is ongoing and I expect that the first phase will be completed in mid-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.
Funding allocated and amount drawn down to date.
In 2019, TII provided an allocation of €16.75m to progress this project.
Approximately €12m has been drawn down to-date in 2019.
I very much support this project and look forward to its introduction.