Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey says his calls more than two years ago for service and rest stations to be built on national primary routes “were blatantly ignored, with the result that we now have 300km of national routes re-designated as motorways with not a single rest or refuelling stop to be found anywhere.”

The Portlaw-based politician says: “You can now drive from Dundalk all the way to Cork by motorway without anywhere to pull over for a break, a snack, a tank of petrol or a comfort stop. This not only makes Ireland a laughing stock of the world, it is also a road safety hazard. Without regular service areas, drivers are tempted to keep going until they fall asleep at the wheel, often with dire consequences.”

He demanded action on this in the Seanad as far back as October 2007 as “a matter of national importance from a road safety perspective.” The National Roads Authority (NRA) had been slow to plan for the provision of rest stations on new highways. “Even now, no contract has been signed to build a single service area, and outline planning is just only starting to deal with dual-carriageway routes,” Senator Coffey notes.

Making his case two years ago Mr Coffey called for the provision of service areas on the N25 Cork – Rosslare route, which is heavily used by large articulated trucks. Under EU law, truck drivers must take rest periods at specified intervals, but there are very few places along the N25 where they can conveniently pull off the road.

“The result is they park heavy goods vehicles illegally on the hard shoulder, and this is a threat both to road safety and public hygiene. There is not much the Gardaí can do as they know proper facilities are simply not available,” he asserts.

“I can hardly believe that the Government has given us a ‘hey-presto’ motorway network without providing a single rest and refuelling area anywhere along those 300km of road. We are the last country in the world to build motorways. Surely the NRA and the Government could have learned from America, Germany and the UK that you must build service areas at convenient intervals along super-highways.”

Senator Coffey observes that “overseas firms running motorway service areas sit on a goldmine. These places are profitable, even in a recession. This Government is obsessed with gimmicks. Even if they don’t care about road safety, they should realise that building service areas is a good way of helping the construction industry.”

And branching off down a different road, he concluded: “Fianna Fáil’s willingness to re-designate national roads as motorways without putting in place basic motorway facilities, while at the same time refusing to re-designating WIT as a university when all the necessary facilities exist, is an example of poorly thought out policy and a point blank refusal to adequately plan for the future.”