Local residents and drivers – including one elderly couple whose car was nearly struck by an on-coming lorry – feel their lives and their peace of mind are being put in danger because lorries are using a small country road at Burnchurch as an “expressway” to the M9 motorway.
One of the flashpoints is a narrow bridge at Seven Houses, Burnchurch, where local man Rob McOwan describes a recent incident that occurred as he was driving along the road: “I followed the lorry as it raced down the hill towards the small, narrow bridge found at Seven Houses, Burnchurch. He made no attempt to slow down as he approached the bridge even though there was an elderly couple already midway across in a small car. He was approaching too fast to judge the width of the old bridge and then suddenly hit/ locked his breaks and skidded towards the car, luckily just missing them, although he did hit their wing mirror.”
And then, incredibly: “Once his lorry had stopped, he jumped out at speed, climbed under the lorry to get at the car and I thought he was going to check on the old couple, but no such kindness. He simply slammed their mirror closed, saying nothing, and jumped back into his lorry, speeding off again. I was going to race after him but once I pulled alongside the car the elderly couple were so shook up I stayed to make sure they were okay.”
Such an incident may not be wholly typical, but in general this type of near miss is now a “daily occurrence,” he said.
And nor is it the only “black spot” on this short section of road.
“It’s even worse on the ‘S’ bends next to the old Burnchurch and cattle ruins, where cars and lorries collide or hit the historical old walls most days,” he said. “Both the bridge and ‘S’ bend at Burnchurch need permanent safety procedures in place, let alone protection for the historical buildings.”
With lorries and cars “using this country lane as an express way as it’s now a direct route to the motorway,” he said the traffic from heavy lorries is worst between 5am and 7am. “I have counted over 25 articulated lorries between 5am and 6am, so this tells you how bad the problem is.”
Local councillors discussed the matter at a meeting of Kilkenny County Council’s Callan electoral area on Friday, and Cllr Billy Ireland (FG) suggested putting in temporary traffic lights on either side so that trucks would take another route instead of having to wait at the lights.
Cllr Tom Maher (FG) suggested putting in a high footpath at Burnchurch to prevent 60-foot trucks from using the road.
“What is happening at the moment is outrageous and highly irresponsible,” he said, adding that in general he found lorry drivers to be responsible on the road, but that in this case there is “no room for error.”
Mr McOwan suggested that putting a weight restriction on the bridge would be the most effective solution. “It’s an old stone bridge not designed for such heavy traffic and already one of it old stone walls has been knocked down by a lorry and sadly replace by a cheap block alternative,” he said.
And the problem is affecting not just drivers on the road, but also local residents.
“The heavy, dangerous traffic has totally changed all locals’ way of life as now no farmer can lead livestock on the road, no horse or rider dare get near it and no children now sadly walk or cycle to school,” Mr McOwan said, adding that a speed limit of “80km per hour is also madness for such a stretch of road.”
As Cllr Ireland said: “Something has to be done.”