Forget the beautification of our roundabouts, fix our potholes!

Forget the beautification of our roundabouts, fix our potholes!
Forget the beautification of our roundabouts, fix our potholes!

DEEP, DEEP TROUBLE: Motorists are now familiar with the sickening thud associated with hitting a pothole, says Michael Pattwell

ANYBODY who drives a car will have experienced that sickening thud when the front wheel goes into a pothole and the shock-absorbers and suspension emit a right, panic-inducing ‘BANG’.

We then wait to see if there is a pronounced list in the vehicle to one corner or we gingerly take our hands off the steering wheel to check whether we are being pulled to one side of the road or the other by either a puncture, a burst tyre, or even worse, when an expensive part has given up the ghost and breaks.

When the car continues on a straight path and even keel we let out a sigh of relief and wonder for how long will we be that lucky to escape the consequences of the appalling condition of our roads, particularly R classified ones or the roads farther down the classification scale.

I don’t clock up a large mileage now and though I haven’t kept a record, I can say with some certainty that I have experienced potential damage to my car over the last several months about five or six times every week. No matter how well one keeps a look-out, we will come around a bend and ‘BANG’, one of the front wheels hits a pothole.

The National Roads Authority, which then became Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), was set up in the 1990s to assume responsibility for the national road network. County councils remain responsible for local and regional roads, as well as various tasks like setting speed limits. The TII, meanwhile, are responsible for the planning, maintenance and construction of National Primary Routes and National Secondary Routes as well as establishing safety measures. Ireland’s national road network consists of 2,739km (1,702 miles) of National Primary Routes and 2,676km (1,663 miles) of National Secondary Routes.

Whether it is the TII or the county council that is responsible for the roundabouts and signage is unclear to me, but I assume that on National Primary roads and National Secondary roads they fall under the responsibility of the TII and their construction, refurbishment and maintenance are paid for out of the TII budget. Whoever actually writes the cheques doesn’t really matter because, ultimately, it all comes out of the taxes paid by the people. The same, of course, goes for the upkeep of any of the public roads in the country.

It is abundantly clear to me that whatever authority is in charge, it is more interested in the ‘appearance’ of the roads than in keeping citizens and their vehicles safe. While many thousands are being spent on ‘beautifying’ roundabouts around the county, it seems there is little effort being made to repair the roads that were so severly damaged during the bad winter and spring we have just experienced. By all means, I say, do up the roundabouts IF WE CAN AFFORD IT, but if we are doing it whilst neglecting the bad state of some roads then we are focused on the wrong priority.

On one country road I was on in the last few days, there was some effort made to fill some potholes but it appeared the ‘repair’ was nothing more than a few shovels of Tarmacadam thrown into the hole and tapped down with the back of a shovel. With the silage harvesting season starting, as well as creamery tankers and other heavy traffic, I wonder how long will that remain in situ.

Some county councils have invested in special motorised machines to repair roads quickly and efficiently but I wonder if Cork County Council has. If so, I don’t recall seeing them. What I have seen many times is a small truck meandering along a country road followed by a gang of road workers, who would put shovel-fulls of Tarmac into whatever potholes they might meet. Sometimes they wouldn’t be potholes at all but shallow depressions, with nothing to keep the material in place once the traffic passes over it. I have even seen them put Tarmac into wet potholes.

I don’t know how much the refurbishment of roundabouts is costing but it has to be many thousands of euro. Cork County Council is upgrading them across the county and the roundabout at Halfway, on the Cork to Bandon road, is the first to get a revamp.

I know from passing it frequently that that must be costing a large amount and it has been going on for several weeks. The works consist of landscaping the centre area in jagged peaks, created from an alternating pattern of gravel and grass. This was described on one website as “a direct reference to the rugged coastline of cliffs and crags of the west coast, all set within a designed grid. The accompanying planting palette is composed of flowering crab apple trees with a loose form. The understorey planting is created from wild perennials and ornamental grasses. The colour composition of the perennial species will have predominately red flowers, a subtle reference to the colours of Cork.”

The airport roundabout is another that is receiving attention and is set for a massive upgrade. From the look of it, it too is costing multiple thousands of euro. Five brightly-coloured bespoke steel sculptures, each about the size of a small car and representing stages in the construction of a paper aeroplane, will be installed in intervals on a circular rising mound, which will reach a height of up to two metres. What was wrong with the topiary of the hedge aeroplane there?

These beautified roundabouts are all very well and indeed are very welcome AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT BEING DONE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE BASIC AND URGENT NEED TO KEEP OUR ROADS IN A USABLE CONDITION. The money spent on them could, I believe, buy a number of pothole repairing machines, and before we move on to fancy features, maybe we should concentrate on the basics. Are we running before we can walk?

That is only one example of how the people of this country are not being protected by our government and other statutory bodies. I get the impression that Ministers, TDs and councillors are very busy looking around for projects they can take on that will attract the attention of the electorate. In the meantime, the basic protection that the people want and need is neglected. The awful consequences arising from the neglect of our health services — and the issue of women and their cancer scans — are testimony to this.

It appears that the European Commission are currently carrying out an investigation into motor insurance in Ireland and looking at allegations that Insurance Ireland (a body representing 95% of the domestic insurance market) has created obstacles for new insurance firms to enter the Irish market.

This follows document seizures last year by European Commission investigators at Insurance Ireland in the IFSC in Dublin.

Note, however, that it is the European Commission who are carrying out the investigation. When the dogs in the street know, all from painful and personal experience, that vehicle owners are being blackguarded up to their eyes by the motor insurance industry, why haven’t those we elected to look after our needs been to the forefront in protecting us?

The very issue of climbing premia alone should be enough to ring alarm bells. It is suggested that premia have fallen slightly recently but that is not seen with any people I have asked about it.

Last year I moved house from near Cork city to a quiet location in West Cork. My car insurance had only been renewed two weeks but when I notified the insurance company of my change of address they asked me for and extra premium of €163. I was both startled and annoyed, but being preoccupied with moving house and all that goes with it, I paid it.

A few weeks ago my renewal documents came and to my horror the same company were asking for more than €1,700. That was an increase of almost 100%. I contacted the company and they told me it was because of my new address. It couldn’t have been, however, because they had already increased my premium last year when there were still 50 weeks out of the 52 to run. I got no other satisfaction.

In any event, I contacted a broker I had used before, especially for my house insurance, and I got a quote that is almost €1,000 LESS than my original company and nearly €200 LESS than the total I paid last year.

That is my story and I tell it only because I can stand over it, can produce the documentation to prove it and it isn’t a “dúirt bean liom...” story.

In the meantime, the relevant minister continues to attempt to pass laws to make things even more difficult for the motorist but ignores the real issues that need to be fixed.

Contact Michael at pattwellsverdict@eircom.net

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