Carrick-on-Suir Town Council was warned this week that someone will be killed at the railway bridge on the town’s Pill Road if action isn’t taken to improve the signage warning lorry drivers of the bridge’s height.
Fianna Fail Cllr Kieran Bourke called on the Council at its monthly meeting on Monday night to put in place better safety warning signs on both approaches to the rail bridge in light of recent accidents involving lorries passing underneath the structure
The councillor, who lives next to the bridge, denounced the current warning signs informing truck drivers of the bridge’s height as “absolutely deplorable” and “mickey mouse” in size.
The signs were located too close to the bridge and were not visible enough to truck drivers, he complained.
Cllr Bourke warned that the situation at this bridge was a “fatality waiting to happen”.. He showed to the meeting a report published in The Nationalist about an accident at the bridge on December 14 in which a young female motorist from Clonmel had a very lucky escape when a teleporter came off the back of a lorry and struck her car as she drove by.
It was believed that the accident happened after part of the lorry’s load struck the safety beam across the eye of the bridge. The woman’s car was destroyed in the accident but fortunately she walked out of the vehicle.
Cllr Bourke told councillors it was very luckly that nobody was killed in this accident. He said there was at least one accident a fortnight at the rail bridge and the latest occurred last Friday when the top of a refrigerated articulated truck was torn off as it travelled under the bridge.
He said that even with no leaves on the trees at the moment, the warnings signs on the Town Park side of the bridge were impossible to see unless you were very close to them. On the other side of the bridge, there was signage on the left hand side of the road where there were trees. \snd with the huge activity around the schools in that area, drivers hadn’t a hope of seeing these signs, he said.
Cllr Bourke said he didn’t know, who was responsible for the signs, the Co. Council, the Town Council or the NRA but something had to be done as soon as possible.
Independent Cllr Richie O’Neill echoed Cllr Bourke’s call for improved signage and his concern that someone will be killed at the accident blackspot.
He said the barriers protecting pedestrians walking under the bridge needed to be repaired and called on the Town Engineer to put in place a policy that the owners of trucks that damaging them be pursued to pay for their repair.
Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan complained that the signs were far too near the bridge. She pointed out that by the time truck drivers saw the warning signs they were in the middle of traffic and couldn’t turn their lorries. “The signs should be in a place where the truck has an option to take an alternative route.
The Fianna Fail councillor said there had to be a meeting arranged between Iarnrod Eireann and the Town Council to explore avenues to solve the problems at the bridge.
But Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald pointed out that truck drivers and haulage companies had a responsibility to ensure they were aware of the height of the bridge and took an alternative route if there was a danger their load or vehicle could get struck under it.
Cllr O’Neill retorted that the Mayor wasn’t living in the real world.
Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin said the problem was that the bridge was not high enough or the road was not low enough. If these were resolved, the problem with the signage would be irrelevent. “We either dig down or raise the bridge,” he said and called for the issue to be taken up with Iarnrod Eireann and the National Roads Authority.
But Cllr Bourke responded that the road was lowered when he was in secondary school and it can’t be lowered any further and it was unlikely the bridge would be increased in height as the Council couldn’t even get CIE to attend a meeting to get an automatic level crossing at Cregg Road.
There were bridges around the country lower than this one but they weren’t accident blackspots because there was proper warning signage in place, he argued.
Town Engineer Eoin Powell said he agreed the signage wasn’t very visible and gave a commitment to look at relocating the bridge warning signs and also to erect additional signs.
He informed the Council that CIE was also preparing a draft plan for signage for that road and it will be sent to the Council for its views before being finalised. He promised to show councillors the plan before it was sent back to CIE.
Mr Powell pointed out that the bridge was just two and a half inches lower that the country’s main tunnel bridges in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, so there wasn’t a problem with its height and he agreed with Cllr Bourke that lowering the road further wasn’t possible.
He also said one couldn’t get away from the fact that truck drivers have also to take responsibility to be fully aware of the bridge’s height.