Irish Motorways

So this is what they call a spatial strategy?

Look at this map of the motorway network and see what  strikes you.


First of all, it isn’t a network.  It’s more of a half bicycle wheel, since everything seems to radiate from Dublin, except for the section between Limerick and Galway, and you’ll notice there’s nothing between Cork and Limerick or Galway and Sligo.

Second, there seems to be an awful lot of duplication.  The M6 and the M7 run virtually parallel to each other, not more than 60 miles apart at the furthest point, and converging rapidly as they go eastward. With rational advance planning, would it not have been possible to build a single motorway somewhere between the two, and use the money saved to build another motorway somewhere else, perhaps connecting Cork with Limerick, and Galway with Sligo?

Likewise, the M8 and M9 run pretty much parallel to each other, with about the same separation as the previous two.  Could they not have been replaced by a single motorway somewhere in the middle, freeing up money to build, say, a motorway between Waterford and Cork, or heaven forbid, between Sligo and Letterkenny?

Could the M1 and the M3 have been a single road, thereby permitting, for example, Tralee to become part of the network?

Motorways are fiendishly expensive things to construct, especially in Ireland where everybody is into the rip-off, so why this apparent lack of efficiency in their layout?

Let’s not get too paranoid about it and start looking for conspiracies everywhere.  I think it’s due to a simple lack of imagination.

I think the NRA decided to slavishly follow the existing road network for no good reason, and then made the disastrous decision to place the detailed design in the hands of regional design offices all over the country, building sections of Irish motorways ad-hoc as funding became available.

And the second disastrous component is political.  Instead of taking a good look at proper planning for the country as a whole, it was decided to build the roads like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, all radiating from Dublin, not for any rational reason, but because that’s the way we always did things, with Dublin at the centre of our little universe, and to hell with the rest of the country.

The third reason might have to do with land bought in advance by the relatives of certain politicians along the route of projected motorways, with inside information provided by those politicians, but we won’t get into that.  It’s for another day.

Don’t take my word for it.   Look at the map.  It speaks for itself.

41 thoughts on “Irish Motorways

  1. Ireland is Dublin, Dublin is Ireland. It is inconceivable that we “down the country” wouldn’t want to go to Dublin.. It is after all the most important city in the world. It won’t be long before it over takes London, NY, Frankfurt and Tokyo as the financial hub of the world. It will out strip Paris and Rome as cities of culture and romance and Silicon Valley is on its knees as technology and R&D in Dublin leaves it in its wake. SKY are begging to show the Leinster Schools Cup and want exclusive rights to St.Pats, Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers. Meanwhile Arnotts has replaced Macys as a shopping meca on the strenght of the Dublin GAA football team. What a city. More roads please.

  2. It’s a simple case of
    l’état c’est moi
    omnes viae ducunt Romam (ehm, Dubliniam)

    It’s simply the last twitch of wishful grandeur – since Dublin has been degraded 210 years ago as the most important city in the British Empire apart from London.

    But the grandeur of the French absolute monarchy is as much history as the Roman Empire (as is the British Empire).

    So there’s hope…

  3. Bock, No 8, Carrig,

    enough of the Dublin hating, we didn’t build the motorways and are as much victims of bad planning as anyone.

    As for your reasons Bock, I’d tend to go with no 3 big time.My concerns are that there are specific reasons why the M1 and M3 are seperate motorways. I have always wondered who owns the land around the Blundellstown interchange at Tara. These lands were rezoned as development land if I remember correctly, thus increasing their value. I may be wrong but these rezonings were done years before the M3 was a reality, more like a time concurrent with other matters being investigated by the planning tribunal. So that is a major concern.

    The idea for the Blundellstown interchange is that it would be the first one in a series of interchanges for an outer orbital motorway – say the M 75 or something, opening up land for development much the same way that lands along the M 50 became developed at Liffey Valley etc. As for the west and Northwest of the country, they can obviously go and fuck themsleves as far as the developers/FF/planners are concerned!

    To me the obvious solution would have been to build one motorway down the east coast from Belfast to Wexford one “spine” say from Cork to Derry via Athlone with spurs off to Limerick , Galway and Castlebar and Sligo and a West coast corridor from Kerry to Sligo.

    PS one interesting project might be to see exactly who’s constituencies the motorways run through.

  4. Mark, I don’t hate Dublin, far from it. But to listen to the Dublin based media it is Nirvana-by-Sea. There is nothing to touch it “down the country” A friend of mine, a Londoner, living in Cork can’t believe the Dublin bias on TV and radio. The motor ways are built as such because Ireland starts and ends in Dublin.

  5. C.S.O. stats. For 2006,
    Population of Dublin 1,187,176
    Population of Limerick 184,000
    Might go some way to explain your dilemma? Perhaps not.

  6. I think lack of imagination played a big role. The NRA is only a few years old. Before that it was just county councils deciding where the ‘big roads’ should be. So, the whole thing got off to a bad, amateurish start.

    It’s a staggeringly expensive and inefficient and indeed unfinished motorway network. The conspiracy question is worth asking. I think the then Minister of Defence (Michael Smith, Tipperary North) had a big part of play in the route of the M7 around Nenagh. Follow the money.

    And of course, the crucial thing is the lack of political vision. Politicians commute from their remote outposts to Dublin all the time, so it was very obvious to them that what was needed were loads of fast roads to Dublin. What was not obvious to them was that the other urban centres needed to grow (as outlined in the spatial strategy) and could only do so if they were strongly inter-connected with road and rail networks. But alas, they are not, because the most crucial element of the plan was the last thing they thought of. That’s what you get when you have teachers, solcitors and accountants running the country.

  7. Gary sorry to disappoint but I don’t have any dilemma, perhaps it’s you. The population of London is some 8m, not all British motorways radiate from it. A sign of their maturity as a capital city or an example of good planning and an effective efficient motorway system? The dilemma is yours.

  8. I am not in dilemma, nor am I on defence if we look at some simple facts we may be able to agree. According to the C.S.O. 2006 the population of the Republic of Ireland stood at approx. 4.5million of which
    Dublin 1,167,176
    Cork 481,295
    Limerick 131,586
    Sligo 60,894
    And so on. I think we can agree that highways cost a lot of money? If you were building a new one would you link large towns or city’s ?whether we like it or not roughly 25% of the population live and work in Dublin. I suppose it could be argued that “if you build it, they will come” a motorway from the butt end of nowhere to nowhere might encourage a population shift but we no longer have the money to experiment.
    The whole idea of motorways may be redundant given that we are running out of oil.

  9. Awa! For fucks Bock now who is being defensive? I did not suggest Limerick is the butt end of nowhere. As you must know by now I like Limerick a lot. My current state of health prevents me from visiting as often as I would like.

  10. Excellent. Now let’s return to our examination of the map. If the government had made a decision forever to ensure unbalanced development, this layout is one way to achieve it.

  11. Absolutely right, Bock. Gary, the current population is not a valid reason to plan a motorway network. If anything, it’s a symptom of the lack of planning. The ‘all roads lead to Dublin’ policy is as bad for Dublin as it is for the rest of Ireland, and the National Spatial Strategy recognises that. Most other developed countries have at least two major cities, geographically spread. It’s good for those countries. Ireland doesn’t. Why? Because we don’t understand the concept of future planning in this country, and/or we are prone to parochial political decisions.

  12. O.K. let us forget about Dublin and set up a new Capitol west of the Shannon. Where? Even with super motorways linking every village, town land, hamlet etc. will they come? Whether we like it or not a lot of the multinational companies prefer large Cities. Ireland inc. is now broke and shall remain so for generations to come. Where are we going to get the money? I think we should spend whatever we have on railways . What we are going to run them on in the future is another question.

  13. Gary you quote two sets of figures from the CSO 2006 records. Both show a in decline Dublin and Limerick populations, perhaps they were on the roads on the day of the count. No one denies that Dublin has the highest population in the country, capital cities tend to. What is is being qustioned is the wisdom of sucessive governments prioritising Dublin as a centre of investment. There has been liitle new industry in the West of Ireland in recent years, daily journies of Limerick to Galway are common, Dubs rarely have to do this. A number of years ago Dublin played Kerry at football in Thurles. The Dublin fans were on Joe Duffy for a week complaining about the traffic, RTE news carried it as a main story. Investment in this country is lop sided in favour of Dublin and the surrounding areas, this is reflected in the radial shape of motor way development. No motorway from Galway to Cork via Limerick. No motorway from Cork to Waterford. Yet all these cities have direct motorways to Dublin.

  14. Listen Lads as I have written in a short few years what is going to be using these motorways? Yes Bock Todd Andrews “hero of the Republic” fucked over the railways. F.F. incompetents has resulted in going for the vote without any thought for planning. This shall remain the case until such time as the west stops whining about the “hoors up in Dublin” and gets up off it’s arse and does something about it.

  15. Help us Gary. Lobby your TD to get the DAA to release SAA and CAA from its grasp and allow proper competition among airports. Lobby your TD to reduce the amount of City, County and Urban District councils and allow jopined up regional thinking in Ireland.

  16. Gary, right now it’s less an issue of investment, and more an issue of focus and planning. As you can see, with Bock’s piece above, the motorway network has cost this country a fortune and it is incredibly inefficient and won’t do much except facilitate the further stunted growth of Dublin. Nobody benefits.

    If the billions that were spent on the motorway network had been channeled in the right way, with an eye to a counter-balance to the Dublin metro region developing on the other side of the country, then Ireland, including Dublin, would be a lot better off. Now that the money is gone, the only thing we can do for the moment is get the plans right so that when the time comes when we do have money again, we’ll know what to do with it.

  17. Gary — There is no whining in this post and no mention of people who live in Dublin, so please try to be less emotional about it if you wouldn’t mind. This is an attempt to look rationally at the national transport decisions made by this government.

    I emphasise “national”.

  18. Bock we are yet again at cross purposes. I was referring in general to attitudes, not to this thread.
    No. 8 as Dublin Airport is within my T,D,s area what sort of reaction do you think I might expect?
    As I understand it the DAA took on all the debts . Open of course to correction.
    Memroz when we recover? I fear I and many generations of my descendants shall be pushing up daises
    Before that day comes. However having incurred the wrath of Bock yet again I shall away.

  19. Many people living in Dublin like to go “home” for the weekend.
    Can they have a decent road, by any chance?
    I wouldn’t begrudge Dublin their roads, but the rest of us would like a bit of value for our taxes (and licence fee) also, please.
    Thank you.

    As for that Todd Andrews – his descendents have done alright for themselves, haven’t they!

  20. Or use the Sopranos model – give contracts to the mob, build a bajillion roads. It worked in New Jersey. Best place I’ve ever lived for getting from A to B.

  21. I ate in Holsten’s recently, where Tony supposedly gets shot. Rottenest burger I ever had. I’d prefer to be shot than eat there again.

  22. when the staff in bord na mona went on strike in the sixties’ things got so bad they had a protest and stayed in the offices for a few weeks’ Tod Andrews an his mob turned off the electricity and the gas and the water ‘ he starved them out . what a cunt. his descendents are thick as fuck very thick

  23. “No. 8 as Dublin Airport is within my T,D,s area what sort of reaction do you think I might expect” That’s exactly my point. That is what is wrong with Irish politucs / planning.

  24. No.8 I think we shall have to accept that “Political future Planning” is an oxymoron. Politics think only as far as the next election. If a minister gets a report on his desk “Planning towards 2025” and at the same time is contacted by a voter looking for a medical card for their granny . The minister will spend time on the medical card. The next election is in 2012.Politics is the art of the now, not the future “events dear boy, events”. Like a feeding mother bird they respond to the one that shouts loudest. If you feel the need for motorways all over the west, you need to build them yourselves , or cause the NRA enough pain that they shall build them to shut you up. Although I believe that motorways will be redundant within my lifetime.

  25. how does the motorway layout link up with other government policies? say for example the closure or removal of services from local/regional hospitals. the north west seems very under resourced with regards to motorway access, yet i’m sure i heard about services being removed form hospitals in that region.
    a lot of these motorways were in fact dual carriageways, you’d have gotten a few points on your license for doing 120kph on the same road up to a few years ago. when the government tells you they created x amount of motorways, just remember their fiddling the books. so no change there then.
    and heaven forbid you need to make make a piss, change a nappy, refuel or feel hungry once your on these things. not a service station in sight for miles. build a motorway first and let local councillors squabble about who gets the permission to build one? keep the brown paper bag moving seems to be the planning here.
    at the moment the map is incomplete, there are a lot of good roads being build in kerry which are not shown. roads that are much more satisfactory to drive on than the ones around limerick. why is the surface on the new motorway from adare to dublin so rough? why is the M7 shown as going all the way to limerick when in fact, we all know it stops in a bog about 7 miles outside the city?
    the new motorway from limerick to cork will now by pass buttervant, nothing wrong with that, except for the lack of a slip road into and out of it! miss the turn off in charleville, and you’ll have to drive all the way to mallow. there is no joined up motorway network and no joined up thought process in the planning of them.

  26. There was a National Spatial Strategy, remember that? To address the situaiton in Ireland whereby 1/3 of the people are packed in to an area which cant cope with them, and spend all their time in traffic, and the rest of the place is empty. Of course it didnt address it properly, every constituency had to get a pressie instead, but the motorway network doesnt pay any attention to the NSS at all. In fact I cant think of anything involving money that does.

  27. Bock:
    It’s hardly surprising that the motorway network is centered on Dublin since it’s the only major city in the whole country and this radial model is common throughout the world. You start with motorways coming to and from the major city(s) and fill in less important ones later. Within 5 or 6 years there will be one from Tuam to Cork aswell.

    Fiddling about with trying to collapse 2 or more motorways up into 1 to save money would result in all the traffic getting funnelled into a small number of routes. That’s what they did in Britain and it’s been a disaster. Since all the traffic is concentrated onto a small number of routes they are perpetually congested and in constant need of widening. Nightmare. I know it’s hard to believe but this is a situation where we did it right and they did it wrong.

    As regards regional development, the current network is great but there are two more things I’d do – build a motorway to the northwest, and do a lot of work on secondary roads particularly in counties Kerry, Limerick, Mayo, Donegal and Tipp. These counties have shocking roads and poor connections to the network. The rest of the country is fine.

    Next, scrap and completely redesign the NSS which ensured that unbalanced regional development would remain the norm.

    Finally, ban one-off houses in the countryside. This is the number one biggest thing stopping regional development in this country.

  28. I just felt that I must comment something, having been living on the continent since the beginning of the 90’s, I have watched the “Motorway” construction in Ireland with disbelief.

    I have also spoken with Irish truck drivers with the expectation that their experience from driving on the continent would lead them to agree with me, but not.

    For some reason they prefer the British design for motorways (the same as the Irish design, with all those damn round-abouts when you exit and enter).

    I prefer what the Dutch call the Clover Leaf (like 4 circles together), but many say it is a waste of space. Then I’d go for the German design. But never round-abouts, especially like in the UK where they often collect all roads together and then it’s 6 lanes of traffic and I always seem to end up in the wrong lane with a big truck either side of me (although it’s better these days with GPS & lane assistant).

    But why on earth would anybody choose for a design that is like that when there are better designs. Basically every Irish mororway junction needs to be torn down and redesigned, those roundabouts are only good for drifting around burning rubber with your Nissan GTR at 2am in the morning.

    Naturally I hate roads with Trolls, so I won’t mention them.
    I had better not start with Belgium, their boring Motorways were planned by somebody just drawing some straight lines on a map and then putting expensive lighting the full length of every motorway (explains why they have a lack of money to maintain a decent surface on them, but it’s actually possible to drive in the dark with your lights switched off, very safe in heavy rain & fog). As a result you have some Belgian motorways that always seem empty and then others that are usually packed, this happens when you build before they are really needed. The packed ones are difficult to upgrade because they let companies build too close to them.
    Then you have the Dutch with probably the best motorways, well the best maintained, the most advanced construction machinery, but they should to be good with their insane car taxes (a 2,000kg Diesel is EUR 2,304/yr). But you can see that the Dutch also kept enough space to put in another few lanes if needed in future.
    Then Germany, now they have the best and safest Autobahn network in the Eastern part because it was all totally re-built and expanded after reunification. With their experience in West Germany, they knew what they should get right the next time round and then they were given the opportunity in East Germany. Besides what most people in Ireland think, lots of German motorways have speed limits and it’s mainly due to congestion or poor road surfaces (or sometimes the Green party want to reduce pollution near built up areas), but when you have a nice stretch with no speed restrictions, then you would think that you’re not moving at 100mph (unless you take the exit without slowing down enough!). So no surprise that you have people cruzing along at well over 100mph. If you don’t mind creating a vortex in the fuel tank, then you can just keep the pedal to the metal or the heel to the steel. Naturally the truck drivers don’t much like being passed by cars doing 150mph while they can only do 100kmh (60mph). Try doing those speeds in Holland & some Dutch guy doing 75mph+ will just pull out into the fast lane in front while you’re doing twice that speed.

    Then why in this big EU family the Irish did not take a look around first to see what the neighnours have already done and where they went wrong with their motorways and then take it from there, but no, they just followed the British. Nothing wrong with following the British or anybody else when they have the best idea. I know it’s a bit too much to expect that the Irish would join the other 90% of the World and start driving on the “Right” side of the road (although the Swedish switched over in 1967). Then Dublin at the center, it’s like the British with London, the French with Paris, etc, only Germany has really spread out things, Banking in Frankfurt, Government in Berlin, Trade & transport in Habgurg, Beer drinking in Munich (just joking!).
    OK, I wen’t off topic, sorry, I’ll stop now!

  29. speaking with the utmost (and final) authority as I was born in the liberties & educated in Synge St cbs, I am obliged to correct all your culchie misconceptions….ALL THE MOTORWAYS DON’T LEAD TO DUBLIN, YOU LOO LAS , THEY LEAD AWAY FROM IT ! …So all the country folk can travel home quickly & safely to their mammies every weekend.

  30. Sorry Norman, is your reply to my posting? I do not think so, it is just a general reply to all comments. A reference to Edmund John Millington Synge?
    Anyway, I happened to bring up this Irish Motorway topic with my Dublin friend (who in the past moved out to buy houses in Drogheda, etc. and then commuted back in to work in Dublin, but he since sold all & bought a big apartment in Dublin), he disagreed with most of my comments and complained that he has the same pointless discussions with his brother who is living in Berlin. Their dad worked for the Irish government & was posted in Germany, so they both actually grew up in Germany, but he done his studies in Trinity and he has a deaf ear to criticism of the Irish government or Dublin, his younger brother is pro-Dublin, but has nothing much good to say about the running of Ireland, but he’s a Left Wing Socialist which is maybe the most annoying thing, left–right politics. Meaning that he would be totally against the Republican Party’s conservatism involving supporting free market capitalism, limited government, strong national defense, opposing regulation and labor unions. His father is also a socialist, but there is no other choice in Ireland, a democratic system where you can vote for socialism or socialism. But that suits just fine as a member of the EUSSR, struggling for independence and then joining the EUSSR to throw it all away again. There’s no Swiss independence mentality in Ireland, no politicians like Nigel Farage (so I was influenced when I lived in Abington for my studies!).
    OH, now I’ve really gone so far off topic that I forgot what I wanted to add about Irish Motorways! Was something about the first ones not having any dividing barriers down the center & people telling me that barriers would be dangerous, etc. Well as the Russians say, “Better to have an argument with a clever person and loose, than to argue with a stupid person”.

  31. @ Robert.
    Robert, I did’nt/could’nt finish your post, so no, it was’nt a reply . I was merely taking the piss, but my, you are a long long writer …..

  32. There was a letter writer in Limerick Leader (I think) about a month ago who suggested that Cork-Limerick debacle might be best sorted by motorway from Limerick to hook up with M8. Whether that would follow roughly the n24, joining around Cahir or go towards Mitchelstown, I’m not sure. However looking at your map above, maybe it is a viable second option, now that Cork – Limerick direct seems to be shelved.

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