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Road works in Arklow are branded ‘simply appalling’

 

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The Arklow Municipal District building.

The Arklow Municipal District building.

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Stock Image.

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The Arklow Municipal District building.

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A torrid day of traffic chaos in Arklow Town was the hot topic under discussion at this month’s Arklow Municipal District meeting.

Arklow commuters found themselves in complete pandemonium on Thursday September 8, as the removal of access to Main Street from the upper St Mary’s Road led to a perfect traffic storm.

There was no update on the works provided by contractors, leaving Wicklow County Council, local councillor’s and the general public completely in the dark about the on-the-fly amendment to the contractors’ traffic management plan.

Councillor’s were inundated with calls from Arklow residents whose routes through town were inconvenienced, causing huge delays and mass confusion. Councillors present at last week’s meeting took the opportunity to air their concerns on the subject.

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Cllr Peir Leonard began by declaring her disappointment with the events of October 8 and added that she had received phone calls from disgruntled and distraught Arklow residents until late that evening.

District Manager for Arklow Municipal District, Leonora Earls, responded by assuring the councillors that Wicklow County Council had taken action in this regard.

She confirmed that Wicklow County Council had not been informed of the access closure and that it was not provided in the latest traffic management update from Walsh Engineering and their contractors.

She explained that the council had spoken to both the contractors and engineers the following day, and that they had “held their hands up, accepted that their signage was inadequate and committed to addressing the issue”.

“They admitted they hadn’t talked to stakeholders and assured council management that their communication would be better going forward. They knew they were in the wrong.

“The reality is, we’re near the finish line and as we near it the space in which the works are taking place has also narrowed,” she continued. “But we hope one incident doesn’t undo all the good work they have done”.

After the engagement with contractors and engineers, District Manager Ms Earls said they had committed to allocating additional labour to get the work in the upper St Mary’s Road finished as soon as possible, so that full vehicular access can be restored.

Cllr Leonard then stated that there was “a duty of care to the businesses and the community who have been impacted by the works” and that she would like to see a “statement of the timeline of the project”.

“I’d like to know who oversees the contract?,” Cllr Leonard said. “I was also wondering if there is any possibility of financial penalties for the inconvenience caused? And, if so, could they be used to go towards the businesses that are affected?”

Cllr Leonard added that communication needed to come from the Arklow Municipal District team, or Wicklow County Council, “not me” and that there was a need for better overall communication of works to the public.

Ms Earls responded by explaining that the conditions of contracts are private and that commercially sensitive details could not be disclosed.

Fine Gael councillor, Sylvester Bourke weighed in, saying that he “had been caught up in it” on Thursday and that the traffic issues that day were “simply appalling”.

“I know that members of the council have been lobbying the contractors hard and that they’re doing their best doing best. But, I’m cautious about penalising contractors. We want the work done as soon as possible. We can’t risk a walk off strike.”

Cllr Miriam Murphy said that all of the local councillors represent this project and that she receives calls about it constantly, with a particularly high volume on October 8.

Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Tommy Annessley, began by sharing his disgust at the events of October 8, saying that the impromptu access closure was “a double whammy, with the schools just after reopening” having exacerbated the situation.

He called for more pre-warning and proper signage, adding that the St Mary’s access issue was causing so much stress and that the sentiment needed “to be pointed out strongly to the contractors”.

Ms Earls responded by saying that she and her colleagues shared the councillors frustrations and that she hoped for a more seamless and speedy end to the access issue and the broader protracted road works.

Cllr Pat Kennedy, Cathaoirleach of Arklow Municipal District, closed the item on the agenda by saying “It will be great, when it’s done”.


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