Decision taken "primarily on safety grounds" says Minister
Martin Cullen T.D., Minister for Transport today (Thursday, 21st October 2004) announced that, following extensive consultation and detailed examination of three reports, the operational height of the Dublin Port Tunnel will not change.
The Minister said the decision was based "primarily on safety grounds" but that cost and time delays to the opening of the project were also factors. Minister Cullen made the announcement when he was speaking at the 20th anniversary of the East-Link Toll Bridge in the Berkeley Court hotel, Dublin.
The Minister said that the options for increasing the height of the tunnel had been fully considered by the National Roads Authority, NMI Consortium and by independent consultants, Atkins. Dublin City Council also gave their considerations. The matter was also discussed at Cabinet. In addition, the contractor had priced the work involved in increasing the height of the tunnel. The Minister said that it was clear from this work that raising the height of the tunnel would not be justified having regard to the following factors:
- safety considerations relating to:
reducing lane widths which would, in the context of a tunnel carrying a very high percentage of heavy goods vehicles, including fuel tankers and other hazardous cargoes, constitute a reduction in overall tunnel safety - it is intuitively apparent that wider traffic lanes offer greater vehicle separation than narrower lanes;
increasing the kerb height - it is apparent, on both an engineering and intuitive basis, that a 150mm kerb must represent a safer provision than a 200 mm kerb height. It is the NRA's position that the lower kerb height is preferable from a safety perspective;
- overheight HGVs on the existing national road network the implications of facilitating higher vehicles through the tunnel than the national motorway and road network can safely accommodate. Bridges and other structures on the motorways and national roads are not designed to cater for vehicles higher than the current tunnel height and safety concerns would arise over the discharge of any such vehicles from a revised tunnel onto the national road network.
- additional cost and delay factors (potential additional cost of at least €33m and up to €65m and 7 months delay or more to completion of the tunnel).
Minister Cullen stated "completion as quickly as possible of a safe tunnel facility in line with best international practice is the key priority."
The Minister noted that Dublin City Council were in the process of preparing a HGV management plan. This HGV management plan currently being prepared, which will also address non-port related HGV traffic movements could, inter alia, address the routing of overheight vehicles through the city. Dublin City Council have indicated that this plan will have three objectives; to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the Port Tunnel, to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions (e.g. through permit systems). Dublin City Council have published a report on HGV management as a basis for a widespread public consultation exercise. The public consultation period is now concluded and the responses received have now been evaluated within Dublin City Council.
It is understood that the HGV Management Plan, revised to take account of the submissions received, will be published next month.
The Minister also pointed out that the Department would shortly be publishing, for consultation and public comment, proposals in relation to the imposition of maximum height for vehicles in Ireland.
Dan Pender (01) 6041089 / 087 2313415
Veronica Scanlan (01) 6041087 / 087 6430622
Note for News Editor
The following attachments are available on the Department's website www.transport.ie or at the link at the end of this page if you are reading it in electronic format.
Background note on Dublin Port Tunnel Height
National Roads Authority report on options for increasing height June 2003
Atkins report (Technical Review of the Appropriateness, Feasiblity, Safety Implications and Cost of Raising Height of Dublin Port Tunnel) December 2003
NMI quotation 28th May 2004
National Roads Authority letter 1st June 2004
Minister's letter of 28th June to National Roads Authority
National Roads Authority's response of 30th June to Minister.