Motorways, is what you gain worth what you lose?

Last week my partner in crime, and myself drove from Dublin to Cork and back. As has become normal these days we mostly travelled on Ireland’s new motor system. And there is no getting away from the fact that it is an amazing public amenity. The Dublin to Cork road journey could at one stage take anything up to four hours. You would, if you timed your journey badly, find yourself trapped in various towns which seemed to exist purely as bottlenecks. These days however you get on the M50, then hop from motorway to motorway, pay two tolls along the way, and boom you’re in Cork. Or reverse it, and boom you’re in Dublin. And all in, at most, two and a half hours, with a lower fuel cost from the efficiency of driving at a solid cruising speed.

So you gain a lot from motorway travel. Lower fuel costs, shorter journey times, and due to the quality of these new roads less wear-and-tear on your car. But what are you losing?

Less than a decade ago I can remember travelling from my home city of Cork to Dublin. It wasn’t an insignificant journey. It took easily four hours, cost , for the time, a lot in fuel. And even more in frustration from getting stuck in the numberous small towns the motorways now by-pass. But there was a pleasure to that journey.

You got to see many small Irish towns that were actually rather beautiful. You would drive past the Rock of Cashel, numberous monuments, ruined Norman castles in fields on the sides of the road. In short you got to see, of at a distance, a lot of the intrinsic, and historic beauty of Ireland. You also didn’t get bored.

Last weekend after the first 30 minutes on the motorway I was so bored that part of me was hoping for anything to happen. After 45 minutes I would have gladly welcomed seeing a meteor taking out the distant Abbeyleix. By the time I got to Cork finding my home city under a Biblical flood would have been wonderful, just for the break in the boredom. Motorway driving is quite simply sickeningly boring. It’s a long, long, long, almost totally straight road. Often many feet below embankments on both sides. With nothing much to see except other cars, and a hell of a lot of tarmacadam. What you do get to see of the country is at such a distance that it may as well be on the television.

Oh and we won’t even get into the hypocrisy of paying road tax, and fuel duty, which is intended for the maintenance and upgrading of the road network, only to be tolled twice on one motorway.

Now admittedly motorways can be great for girl (or guy if you’re that way inclined) watching, but only if you’re a passenger. Otherwise its hour after hour of mind, and ankle numbing repetitive driving. But after finishing the two-way journey, I found myself wondering, is the gain in time really worth the gains in boredom? Is the convenience of motorway travel worth the loss of the event that crossing the country used to be?

For myself I don’t really have an answer. Except to say that watching a driver turning into a zombie by the monotony of motorway driving is a terrifying thing to witness. And it was, and is madness to have such a boring road with no services along its entire length, refueling a wandering mind is just as important as refueling a car.

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2 Comments to “Motorways, is what you gain worth what you lose?”

  1. I find I use more fuel now on the Dublin to Limerick route (taking the hikes in fuel prices into account). The route is actually longer mile/km wise as it does these huge loops around Roscrea and other places. And due to the faster speed I’m travelling, I get less for my miles petrol/diesel wise. I think travelling at 50mph is the most fuel efficient speed, but on the motorway you are travelling 70-80mph, so I burn more fuel. We were lucky on the old Limerick route that you didn’t get stuck in traffic in most towns…well back in the day Kildare (nightmare traffic) , Monasterevin and more recently Mountrath were bad for traffic-same towns as the Cork road. But the other towns you just flew through as they were just houses either side and you just slowed down going through them, but never any traffic-e.g. Moneygall, Toomevara, Borris. We didn’t have to go through Abbeyleix, Fermoy or those busy towns and that would defo cost more in fuel sitting in that traffic. So I do use the motorway going up and down, but I find the journey so boring and I know I am more at risk of falling asleep especially if driving at night. I used to never find the journey so tiring before…maybe that was just my youth, but the old route was far more interesting!!! Timewise, I know I am guaranteed to be in Dublin in about 2-2hrs 15mins, but fuelwise defo using more as getting less mileage per litre. When I am not stretched for time, I must try taking the old route up sometime and see how it is!!! Especially now that I am driving the van, 3.20euro on the tolls is a lot! I guess it is just the convenience of it all, but I know it won’t be that much different time wise and I will save more in fuel and toll costs!!!!

    • I think you’re probably dead right on all those points Kitty. I was really speaking for the Cork-Dublin route where I have a lot of experience. And it’s essentially a stright shot, not at all like the Limerick-Dublin route which like you say is more lie Yossarion with an inner ear infection ;-).

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