Private companies to bankroll motorway rest stops
PRIVATE companies rather than taxpayers are to bankroll and operate the stalled motorway service areas.
The first four service areas were built by the National Roads Authority (NRA) on the M1 (Dublin to Belfast) and M4 (Dublin to Galway/Sligo) motorways.
But plans for eight others were shelved last year after the Government ran out of cash.
These had been planned for the M7 (Dublin to Limerick), M8 (Dublin to Cork), M9 (Dublin to Waterford), M3 (Dublin to Cavan) and along the N11 (Dublin to Wexford).
The roads authority is also evaluating the option of attracting private sector funding for construction and operation of three more service areas, it was learnt yesterday. These are at Athlone on the M6 (Dublin to Galway) route, Kilcullen on the M9 and Gorey along the N11.
Private companies are also planning to open their own services on other motorway stretches.
The rest areas for drivers are deemed vital for road safety.
There has been constant demands for the service areas from truck drivers unable to pull in and rest on long journeys. Car drivers complain that they risk falling asleep behind the wheel because there is nowhere to stop on any of the other newly built motorways.
The Automobile Association has pointed out that Ireland seriously lags behind other EU countries in providing motorway facilities for drivers.
The Road Safety Authority says that as many as 20pc of all roads deaths are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
The NRA had been ordered by the Government to build the rest areas after truck drivers, who are legally obliged to take regular breaks, had been complaining they were unable to do so on the new network of motorways and dual-carriageways.
The construction of motorways linking Dublin with other cities has cost €8bn, with €5.3bn coming from taxpayers.
The last Government ordered the NRA to seek private funding to build the remaining eight rest and service areas.
Motorway service areas include parking, fuel pumps, restaurants, playgrounds, baby changing facilities and public toilets.
Topaz and McDonald's are planning to open a service station on the M8; and Supermacs is to construct a new service area on the M7, creating up to 130 jobs.