M6 and the cities — end of the road

Right folks, get a good sleep on ya, pack a bag of food, get some small change, make sure there’s something good on the radio ‘cos a lot of you are going to have the ride of your lives this weekend.

From tomorrow, Galway moves a lot closer to Dublin and the east. The project that had proved the material of lusty dreams for county councillors for decades is to come to fruition, because at 11am tomorrow, the new M6 motorway linking Galway all the way to Dubbballyn Sitty will be officially opened.

Wait for the ching ching of coins as the cash tills will roll at the new toll stations at Cappataggle where you will have to fork out €1.90 to speed past Ballinasloe and boost the coffers of the company from which the Government is effectively renting this stretch of road for the next three decades.

This €1.90 will get you as far as the next toll station around Maynooth where, depending on the type of vehicle you use, you will fork out another two or three euros. If you are heading to the airport, the entire journey won’t leave you with enough change from €15 to get a cup of tea.

The 194 kilometre stretch will be officially opened tomorrow at 11am by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey. It is expected that the first motorists to travel on the road will be able to do so from 2pm. Already some people have used parts of it when it was opened to alleviate blockages caused by the floodings of Ballinasloe and Craughwell lately.

Cromwell would have loved it. Hundreds of years after he decided not to bother his backside coming wesht of the Shannon, the rest of the country can get here and back much quicker.

So what does it mean for towns which are now bypassed totally? Loughrea, which has a bypass which will also be bypassed, has dealt with the problem well by developing its town centre to such a degree that people will come off the motorway to sample the wares on offer and the same challenge now faces Craughwell and Ballinasloe. The problems caused by the incessant traffic will not now be an issue so using these towns/villages for meal breaks will become a more attractive option.

The new journey to Dublin will be a much smoother one, but one that will also be more boring because there is no great fun in driving a straight road for more than two hours — and that is why the delays in providing service stations and stops along the way could prove fatal for over-tired drivers. Plans are in the pipeline for just a handful service stations but they are not midjourney and will be either too near Dublin or Galway to be of any use.

Now, the word is that the Government was put off having a plethora of service stations along the way because such locations would be dens of iniquity, prostitution and drug-dealing — reasons some motorists would think they should be built and not refused. However, the real reason is that there just is not the traffic volume to justify them opening 24/7 like on the UK network.

Anyway, ignoring the fact that Doughiska, where the road west ends, may become a massive carpark when it opens from tomorrow, it’s good news. However, spare a thought for all those construction workers who will be laid off today as the job comes to an end. Wouldn’t it make more sense if they were all maintained in some degree doing prep work on the other roads such as the M17 and the Oranmore to Gort motorway. But sure, that might be the logical thing. Enjoy the ride.

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