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IN LIGHT of a rising number of accidents on the M18, the installation of opening gates on sections of the centre median of the motorway have been requested.

Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) proposed that a formal appeal be issued to Transport Infrastructure Ireland to examine the possibility of installing opening gates “to facilitate a contraflow traffic system for when there is an accident or blockage on this road”.

Crossover points exist at limited locations along the M18 to facilitate a contraflow traffic system, senior engineer John Leahy responded. “We will request that the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) representatives and MmARC operators of the N18/M18 review the current arrangements in relation to the operation of contraflow systems on the N18/M18,” he confirmed.

Three accidents in recent times, two of which had fatalities were referenced by Cllr Ryan. Due to the diverted traffic, “Quin, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Sixmilebridge and Cratloe was chaos on these occasions,” he stressed. Lorries that would normally be travelling on the motorway ended up pulling down wires and cables in these parts of the county, he stated.

As recently as Monday evening, large tailbacks were visible in Newmarket-on-Fergus as an accident between the Dromoland and Carrigoran junction led to diverted traffic passing through the village.

Among the constituents to raise the matter with Cllr Ryan included a teacher that was travelling from Tubber to Limerick but ended up on the motorway for three hours while trying to collect her child from the babysitter. He added, “Something needs to be done. There are gates every five miles in the UK, it is not a big ask to put this in. There are not enough gates. Casualties couldn’t get to hospital on those occasions and villages were blocked up”.

Limited road-space in the towns and villages mentioned are unable to accommodate the trucks, lorries, HGVs and artics, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) felt. “They couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) said of the accidents that occurred on Friday evenings, he noted that it took motorists “a full hour to go from Westbury to Limerick and you would walk it in five minutes”.

“There was serious issues,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) said of the congestion, “what would the implications have been if a woman in labour was stuck in the traffic”. Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) questioned how Shannon Airport would be accessed if there was an emergency at these times.

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) described the matter as “a major emergency planning and health issue. Therse roads are vital arteries to work and hospitals, there needs to be an operational plan put in place between local authorities, An Garda Síochána and the maintenance contractors”. Similar problems exist on the Crusheen to Gort portion of the M18, he highlighted. “This is an operational issue that the TII need to get serious about”.

Speaking at the November meeting of the Council, Leahy advised that they will engage both the TII and the Gardaí regarding a review. He cautioned that contra flows brought certain risks, “it takes five hours to put in place,” he commented to which Cllr Ryan repliied, “five hours seems a long time to put a traffic management system in”.

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