E-mail to the Irish Transport Authorities, Minister Gallagher, Minister Brennan, Chairman of NRA and An Taoiseach.
Wednesday, 03 December 2003
In the absence of any reply of significance from the majority of quarters in the last eighteen months, I am compelled to again enter correspondence on the subject of Signposting in this sadly misguided directionally devoid country of ours.
What spurs me to action this time is a weekend spent driving around Dublin and the North Eastern counties of Meath and Louth along with recent conversations with visiting Americans who are still bewildered with the lack of logic, let alone continuity or reason in Irish signposting, even on our main National routes.
Firstly, I noticed whilst in the capital over the weekend that those colour coded signposts which were supposedly subject to a review by the Minister Brennan are intent on creeping in, irrespective of whether the review came to such a conclusion. I can’t proclaim to have ever heard any publicity of the outcome of the review or any media focus on the relaunch and associated publicity with the implementation of the new signs yet they seem to be popping up subtly and gradually in a way that almost smacks of “well we have them made and paid for so sure we might as well put them up whether we’re allowed to or not”. Glancing at one of them “very” briefly however on Saturday on the South Circular road, it struck me as containing an incredible amount of information to absorb whilst passing at 30 or 40 MPH. Perhaps if it is meant as one of a guaranteed logical sequence, this system might work however, most significantly I hope such a system incorporates the simple basic logic of adequate advance warning of a junction or traffic signal, obvious and visible signposting on the junction and confirmation signage within 50 metres of the junction or signal.
Such system, I’m sorry to say, has not been applied, yet again (it doesn’t surprise me anymore is all I can say really!), to the signposting presumably erected in the last year or 18 months to direct people from the M50 to the National Aquatic Centre. The signposting is admittedly evident on both carriageways of the M50 approaching the N3 junction and is quite good as far as the Blanchardstown Centre but then it dries up leaving you a good four or so miles and three unsignposted major junctions from the NAC.
I have also to admit to being somewhat bewildered with the new traffic management and associated signposting on the Naas Road at the junction of Long Mile Road and on the approach to the Red Cow roundabout. I was hoping the confusing and inadequate signposting might be a temporary arrangement but I’m afraid it and its supposedly supporting road markings look disturbingly permanent to me.
The whole country is by now aware of the chaos the advent of the Luas is going to impact upon the Red Cow roundabout. One might forlornly hope that, at the very least, some chaotic signposting mightn’t serve to further contribute to the confusion and downright dangers brought on by the indecision of drivers who are unable to figure out exactly where they’re supposed to be going or how they can get to where they want to go.
Finally I escaped from Dublin on Sunday evening and made my way along the excellent new M1 motorway. I spent a night in Skerries, which thankfully was well signposted off the M1 and along the N1. I rejoined the M1 again on Monday with the intention of visiting Newgrange. Some twenty or so miles up the motorway I encountered a sign for Brú na Bóinne which, unfortunately, I disregarded as I was looking for Newgrange. I left the motorway at the next exit encountering signs, I think for Mellifont Abbey and The Boyne battlesite. After driving around for some considerable time I finally made my way, by signage off the N51, to Dowth from where I was able to see Newgrange on a distant hill. I finally made my way to Brú na Bóinne via Slane from where both Brú na Bóinne AND Newgrange were signposted.
Only when I reached the Brú na Bóinne Visitor centre did I actually realise that this is the new collective name for all the megalithic monuments in the Boyne valley area including among them Dowth, Knowth and Newgrange. In this context, I fully accept that a bit of advance research on my behalf would have greatly assisted me. But on the other hand, the reality of the situation is that it is the name Newgrange that is best known the world over and, when people go in search of the collective monuments, it is the main one that they seek them all by, as indeed can be evidenced and seems to be acknowledged by the dual signage from Slane. Ultimately, I expect the name Brú na Bóinne will become as well known as the Valley of the Kings is when one goes in search of Pyramids. But for the time being I think some dichotomy is still unfortunately called for whatever the ambitious intentions. And in that context I do feel that perhaps Newgrange should have been listed on the Brú Na Bóinne exit signs, but also that, in the event that one misses this turn off that they (Brú na Bóinne and Newgrange) be also included on the next exit signage annoted (via Slane).
Of course this all returns to my points from previous correspondence, in any case, as to what criteria National Route signposting in Ireland should adopt. I have argued long and hard that major urban centres and major attractions should be the mainstay of National Route signage. Therefore signposting west from Dublin should concentrate predominantly and consistently on Galway Sligo and Westport/Castlebar whereby North South Signposting on the western N15, N17, N18 and N20 route should concentrate on Letterkenny/Derry, Sligo, Charlestown, Tuam, Galway, Ennis Limerick, Mallow and Cork depending on where one happens to be on such a journey.
Signposting southbound on the N11 should concentrate on Bray, Wicklow, Arklow, (Gorey, Enniscorthy) Wexford and Rosslare Harbour.
Signposting on the N7 route out of Dublin should focus on Naas and then respectively depending on ultimate destination Cork, after Portlaoise, Cashel Michelstown and Fermoy or Waterford via Carlow and Kilkenny or Kerry (Tralee and Killarney) via Portlaoise, Roscrea and Limerick.
Signposting on the M1/N1 north out of Dublin should concentrate on Drogheda, Dundalk, Newry and Belfast and for the N2 on Ardee, Monaghan, Omagh, Letterkenny and Derry and on the N3 Kells, Cavan, Enniskillen and Ballyshannon.
Now I’m by no means suggesting that all other destinations along all those routes be totally eliminated from signpostings, but rather that all the urban centres or National Route crossroads included in these lists be pre-eminent on major signposting.
As I’ve said previously, the concept of attempting to signpost or encompass every little village and hamlet let alone town along a National Primary route is both farcical and self defeatist, not to mention largely wasted, as locals usually know where they’re going in any case whereas strangers are trying to find their way to a smaller location via it’s nearest large neighbour or urban centre.
I was encouraged last spring to receive a communication from the offices of Minister Pat “The Cope” Gallagher regarding his plans for and funding of signposting in 5 counties namely Donegal, Galway, Kerry Sligo and Wexford.
So far I have to confess of very limited experience in driving in most of these counties bar Galway, but from what I’ve witnessed and from the testimony of others, I’m afraid the investments have yet to either take affect or the same mistakes and illogical methods are yet again being implemented in these newly installed signs.
Of course the main issue here as I se it is the relative independence and apparent isolation in decision and signpost planning of each local authority. In my correspondence from Minister Gallagher’s office it was detailed that “The selected local authorities can utilise the expertise in those (the NRA’s four sign design offices) offices if they so require.” I would have thought that the expertise and co-ordinating efforts of the sign design office should be a prerequisite rather than a choice of the county councils, so as to effect some sort of continuity and consistency in the signposting, especially with adjoining counties, rather than yet again continuing down the road of each county doing it’s own thing seemingly oblivious to what it’s neighbour might be doing.
I came across evidence of this again yesterday whilst seeking the monastic settlements of Mellifont and Monasterboice, both straddling the counties of Louth and Meath, so that naturally there was no consistency or continuity in the efforts of either county to lead the visitor to them. Indeed one authority (Louth County council) have, in their wisdom, seen fit to erect signage on the approach to Monasterboice prohibiting access by the logical route and redirecting traffic by signs which not surprisingly didn’t continue at the next junction (adjoining the M1). It was only by backtracking and defying the previous signs that I ultimately located the attraction along a “prohibited” route – or perhaps they’ve just forgotten to reclaim signage put there for some minor roadworks during the summer!
Every so often my travels around various parts of Ireland, or my conversations with others on signposting and the associated headaches and irritations that the pathetic present system cause, spur me into action to put pen to paper, give it some considerable thought and time to convey my thoughts to those whom I sincerely hope are in a position to make a difference and seize this bull by the horns to finally sort it out.
I have been writing these letter now for coming on seven years and in all that time I have seen very little difference, indeed far to often I’ve seen regression rather than progress. I’ve been paid off with petty platitudes or carefully crafted statements of intent or more often than not I’ve been ignored. I won’t go away. I’ll continue my crusade with these ministers or the next and with this government or the next and with the personnel in the NRA or those that eventually replace them and all the while I’ll hope that someone will eventually come along with vision and can see the light and see reason and hear the screams of frustration from travellers and tourists all over Ireland that daily curse the state of the signposting in our country.
Finally I should also again point out that my website irishsignposting.com receives quite a bit of attention from National and International media and I shall be posting this correspondence and your reply, if any is received, on the site.
Again I await your reply
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Last Updated 9 December 2003
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