126 stolen manhole covers cost NRA €100,000 to replace
MORE than 120 manhole covers had to be replaced on a single road at a cost of €100,000 after being targeted by thieves.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that there have been 126 manhole covers taken on the M18 since last summer.
It's believed that the wrought-iron covers were removed from drainage shores by thieves who sell them on to scrap metal dealers.
The NRA said while the problem appears to be confined to a section of the M18 that links counties Clare and Galway, they are now checking the entire motorway network for missing covers.
The scale of the problem was only realised after the NRA assumed responsibility for the motorway network and established a maintenance depot in Ennis adjacent to the route last September.
Since last summer, the cost of the thefts and damage caused during the removal of the wrought-iron covers has been estimated at around €100,000.
NRA spokesman Sean O'Neill said: "This is something we have been monitoring since a previous incident, and we wanted to see if that was a one-off. Since we took over the network and established a motorway maintenance base in Ennis, routine patrols and inspections by crews uncovered the extent of the problem.
"This problem appears to be confined to a specific section of the M18 but we are undertaking a survey of the entire network to ensure this is not happening anywhere else."
Clare councillor Johnny Flynn, an engineer and former chief fire officer for Co Limerick, said: "This is really serious and the consequences of a vehicle driving into an uncovered shore at motorway speeds could be catastrophic.
"This is not just anti-social behaviour; it's also criminally neglectful and I would remind scrap metal dealers the onus is on them to verify the ownership of any covers offered to them."