Snowbound commuter hell shows urgent need for emergency Dublin traffic plan – Donohoe

3rd February, 2009

This was probably the worst recent congestion seen in the greater Dublin area. Thousands of motorists were stranded both inside and outside the city. The fact that it was caused by a light dusting of snow shows just how ill-prepared the city is for adverse weather conditions. In spite of repeated weather warnings, the city authorities were clearly unable to cope.

Fine Gael has called repeatedly for a rapid reaction traffic management plan to deal with emergencies, whether it’s weather, serious accidents, or the closure of key routes like the port tunnel. The Garda Traffic Corps must only be assigned to regular traffic duties, including a brief to keep traffic moving and junctions clear during emergencies.

The Dublin Transport Authority must be fast-tracked and must immediately set to work on an emergency plan for the entire greater Dublin area. The Authority must liaise with the Traffic Corps and all emergency services to draft contingency plans, provide adequate public information and ensure a high-profile Garda presence throughout the city.

The Authorities must also set up a helpline to ensure that motorists can get accurate and up-to date information, including route planning. Many commuters stranded in the snowstorm complained that they had no idea of the scale of the congestion.

Other measures must be taken to improve traffic flow all year round, and not just during emergencies. These must include a proper necklace of park and ride facilities around the M50. Much of the congestion during the snowstorm was inside the M50 ring. This can be avoided in the future if motorists are able to park close to the M50 and take public transport to their workplace.

Meanwhile, I am also calling for an immediate review of the gritting policies of all local authorities affected by the storm. It appears that that there was too little gritting done, and that it was done much too late. This must not happen again.

In the last few years there have been several occasions when large areas of the city have become gridlocked due to a single incident. Notoriously, in 2007 repairs to a single water main brought the entire M50 to a halt. Regular traffic chaos will remain a fact of life until an effective emergency strategy is drafted.