Explainer: How will the new variable speed limits on the M50 work?

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan today announced the introduction of variable speed limits on the M50 going forward.

This means that according to where you are along the road, your speed limit may change depending on variables such as congestion or other factors.

It will mean the M50 will be Ireland’s first “managed motorway”.

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The M50 will be the first road network to have a variety of speed limits depending on where a motorist is driving, as part of the Enhancing Motorway Operation Services (eMOS) programme.

The first strip of the M50 will be subject to variable speed limits within weeks.

What does this mean for drivers?

Effectively, you may have to drive faster or slower on different parts of the M50, as opposed to one standard speed limit for the road network.

The monitoring system, which will be based on Dublin’s Docklands, will be able to divert traffic off the motorway, clear lanes for emergency services, quickly alter speed limits and also close lanes if the need arises.

It should mean the smoother flow of traffic through the M50 road network.

Why is this being introduced?

This is being introduced for a number of reasons, such as to aid the flow of traffic and tackle congestion or sudden adverse weather conditions.

It will be used to slow traffic on approach to collisions and roadworks, and to safeguard the safety of first responders on the way to the scenes of accidents along the route.

The move is part of plans in the The Road Traffic Bill and it will be adopted across many other motorways across the country in time.

How will I know the speed limit on the stretch of road I am travelling on?

The system will be controlled through the implementation of intelligent transport systems (ITS) technology.

Road users will then be advised of the speed limit, diversions, or accidents by a system of close to 100 overhead gantries and slip road signs, as well as hundreds of lane closure and various messaging signs.

When and where will this begin?

The eMOS programme is being rolled out in a phased manner, with the first digital signs being switched on between Junction 4 Ballymun and Junction 6 Castleknock in the coming weeks.

Spring 2022 will see the signs switched on between J6 Castleknock and J9 Red Cow.

Summer 2022 will see signs between J9 Red Cow and J12 Firhouse.

Autumn next year will see J12 Firhouse to J14 Sandyford join the scheme.

And Winter 2022/23 will see J14 Sandyford to J17 M11 and J3 M1 to J4 Ballymun completed.

The system is expected to be fully deployed on the M50 by early 2023, according to the Department of Transport.

Won’t all of this be confusing?

The Department of Transport have acknowledged that the system of variable speed limits “will require significant public education” to promote awareness of the new system and driver adaptation.

They have also advised that when the first digital signs are activated as part of the programme, they will initially just be in an advisory role to get road users used to adjusting their speeds, and sometimes their route, in relation to the messaging being transmitted from the Intelligent Transport System.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Road Safety Authority are rolling out a public awareness campaign to make drivers aware of the new digital signs on the M50, when they will be switched on, and the importance of following the signs to help keep the M50 safe.

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