Ireland Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

According to wholevehicles, Ireland had a very limited motorway network until the late 1990s, which experienced rapid growth in the 2000s. In 2015, the highway network consisted of 913 kilometers. Traffic congestion occurs mainly in Dublin. There is also a bypass around Dublin, including a toll bridge. Between Dublin Port and the M1 on the north side is a tunnel that has a high toll for passenger cars, but is toll-free for trucks. A number of other highways are also toll roads.

N-roads in Ireland
N1 • N2 • N3 • N4 • N5 • N6 • N7 • N8 • N9 • N10 • N11 • N12 • N13 • N14 • N15 • N16 • N17 • N18 • N19 • N20 • N21 • N22 • N23 • N24 • N25 • N26 • N27 •N28 • N29 • N30 • N31 • N33 • N40 • N50N51 • N52 • N53 • N54 • N55 • N56 • N58 • N59 • N60 • N61 • N62 • N63 • N65 • N66 • N67 • N68 • N69 • N70 • N71 • N72 • N73 • N74 • N75 • N76 • N77 • N78 • N80• N81 • N83 • N84 • N85 • N86 • N87

European roads

Ireland has four European roads. Unlike in the United Kingdom, they are signposted in Ireland.

European roads in Ireland
E1 • E20 • E30 • E201


Irish cities are remarkably prone to congestion. In the TomTom Congestion Index in 2018, Dublin was in 6th place of most congestion-sensitive European cities. Cork was in 32nd place and Limerick in 60th. Given the relatively small size of these cities, a high ranking is striking. However, the contrast is great with the rest of the country, where traffic is relatively low.

A weakness of Dublin is that all traffic is concentrated on the west ring and there are relatively few river crossings. A second ring of Dublin has been considered in the past. Also, Dublin’s approach roads are substandard. Cork also has the problem of a limited number of river crossings and the lack of good city roads. Also, Cork does not have a full ring road. Limerick has many of the same problems that Dublin and Cork have, which is striking for a small city like Limerick.


The 80’s

Plans for the first motorway date back to 1973 when the Dublin bypass was proposed. This was not immediately implemented, however, and in 1983 Ireland’s first motorway, the Naas bypass on the M7, and the first section of the M1 north of Dublin, now part of the M50, opened in 1983. In 1985 this section was extended to Dublin Airport.

The 90’s

In the 1990s an expansion of the Irish motorway network began, initially mainly as a dual carriageway. In 1990 the western section of the M50 opened around Dublin, connecting the N3, N4 and N7. In 1991 the first section of the M11 opened just south of Dublin. In 1993 the M7 was extended to Newbridge, including a branch from the M9 to Kilcullen. Two sections opened in 1994, a short bypass of the M1 around Dunleer, and the M4 between Leixlip and Kilcock. In 1996 the northern section of the M50 around Dublin opened. In 1997 the M7 opened around Portlaoise and in 1998 the opening of the M1 at Balbriggan.

Although the 1990s were an acceleration compared to the motorway construction in the 1980s, it was only a starting point, as motorways were mainly built around Dublin. The countryside and the other major cities of Ireland could only be reached by long single-lane routes, leaving parts of the country relatively isolated.


Construction from 2000 – 2009 started slowly, and in 2001 only part of the M1 opened up to Dundalk. No highways were opened in 2002, but in 2003 a large-scale construction of highways was initiated. The different sections of the M1 were connected, creating a through highway from Dublin to Dundalk. In that year, the missing links in the M7 at Kildare were connected.

In 2005 the speed increased further and the M4 was extended to Kinnegad; the road was the first to be Ireland ‘s first toll road. In the same year the Dundalk bypass opened to traffic. Almost simultaneously, the M50 was extended to the M11, creating a full bypass for Dublin. In 2006, the southern section of the M8 north of Cork was completed as a toll road for traffic. In that year a start was made on the M6 ​​between Kinnegad and Tullamore.

In 2008, much of the M8 opened, making this motorway the longest in Ireland. In the same year, the M9 opened around Carlow and the M6 ​​as far as Athlone, starting the Irish motorway network in serious shape.

On 28 August 2009 a significant number of existing dual carriageways were administratively upgraded to motorways. The M6 ​​was completed from Galway to Athlone and the first sections of the Atlantic Corridor M17, M18 and M20 began to take shape.

2010 and beyond

In 2010, a large number of long projects started in the late 2000s, totaling 250 kilometers of new motorway, including 61 kilometers of the M3 from Dublin to Kells, 74 kilometers of the M7 between Portlaoise and Limerick, 64 kilometers of the M9 between Carlow and Waterford and missing sections of the M8 to Cork.

An important project is the Atlantic Corridor in the west of the country, from Cork via Limerick and Galway to Sligo. This route will be converted to dual carriageway and motorway until approximately 2015, consisting of the M17, M18 and M20. Another ambitious project is a major Dublin ring road, some 30 kilometers outside the existing M50 ring road. This will run from the M1 at Drogheda to the M7 at Newbridge, but will not be extended to the M11. It is also expected that the N11 to Wexford will largely be converted to M11. The M4 may be extended from Mullingar to Longford.

The planned network will be 1,118 kilometers of highway, which is a lot for a country with 4.5 million inhabitants. Since 2013, kilometer markers have been installed along motorways & dual carriageways, every 500 meters.

Road management

Major roads in Ireland are managed by Transport Infrastructure Ireland. TII was created in August 2015, replacing its predecessor National Roads Authority (NRA) and the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA). The amalgamation and rebranding of the NRA was termed nonsensical as the RPA only dealt with light rail procurement in Dublin and not the general rail network in Ireland. The RPA was a small government agency that had virtually no interface with the NRA.

The actual road management is again divided into three classes. The highways are under concession, these are of two types, the Motorway Maintenance and Renewal Contracts (MMaRCs) and the PPP contracts. The national roads are managed by the local authorities.

Service areas

Ireland’s motorway network is characterized by a chronic lack of parking spaces and petrol stations. In recent years, several new service areas have been built. Service areas directly along the highway are called an Online service area. A service area at an exit is called an Offline service area.


Tolls are charged on most motorways in Ireland. The M50 around Dublin has electronic toll collection (ETC) tagged eFlow. The toll bills are also sent to foreigners by the company Euro Parking Collections.



The signage is basically the same as that of the United Kingdom, but with a metric system. The signs are blue on the highways and the numbers are in the Transport font, the English places are in capital letters, and the Irish in Transport Medium, which looks like italics. Road numbers are indicated in plain text, with prefix, so “M2”. The highway sign indicating the beginning of the highway has the road number and is presented with the highway symbol, and also in this way on the leading signage. Indirect numbers are shown in parentheses.

Distance signs display a number of targets, in English and Irish, followed by the distance in kilometers. Above the distance is written “km”. At the very top is the road number in plain text on a rider. Exit numbers are indicated in a black box with a white frame and white letters. There is no exit symbol. E numbers are indicated sporadically.

Forkboards are simple, and no longer consist of two arrows without an arrowhead. To the left of the arrow is the distance to the decision point and then again to the left of the turning targets. Above the straight ahead arrow are the straight ahead targets, with below, next to the arrow, the road number in plain text. Some fork carriages are quite high due to the number of targets.

Portal boards are quite massive, consisting of large blue boards on a gray background to which the board is attached. In some cases wind directions are indicated, such as “NORTHBOUND”. The arrows on portal signs point downwards, and are somewhat flat arrows, but quite wide. Since Irish names are often quite long and consist of several words, signs quickly become cluttered, which is exacerbated by the fact that road numbers are shown indirectly with parentheses and plain text, and directly in plain text only.

The choice of targets is generally quite clear, sometimes wind directions are also indicated. The big cities are used as target. On the M50, straight targets do not always indicate targets along other motorways, but only the wind direction plus some local targets such as Dublin harbor and airport. Because Ireland is quite small, long-distance targets are fairly limited, more than 200 kilometers you will not easily encounter.

Main roads

The signage on dual carriageways and national roads has green signs with white letters, otherwise similar in layout to that of the highways. The road numbers are shown in yellow and in plain text with prefix, so “N4”. Sometimes a lot of indirect targets are indicated, for example around Limerick. Indirect road numbers are in parentheses, indirect targets are not.

Regional and local roads

The signage on R and unnumbered roads consists of white signs with black letters. References to other road types (for example, N-roads and M-roads) are displayed in the color of that particular system. For example, when a target leads to the motorway, this is indicated in a blue box, without a frame.

Road safety

Year Road fatalities
2010 212
2011 186
2012 162
2013 188
2014 193
2015 162
2016 188
2017 157
2018 142
2019 141

In 2010, there were 47 deaths per 1 million inhabitants in Ireland, a decrease of 51 percent compared to 2001. This makes Ireland one of the safest countries in the European Union, which is partly due to the construction of many highways in recent years. In 2015, there were 36 deaths per 1 million inhabitants, making Ireland one of the safest EU countries. Since 2011, the number of road deaths has fluctuated in the same bandwidth, without a structural decrease.

Ireland Road Network