M50 (Republic of Ireland)
|Location Map ( geo)
|Dublin Port (O187347)
|41.4 km (25.7 miles)
|N1, M1, N2, N3, N4, N7, M11, M32
|Route outline (key)
| style="background:#99CCFF; border:1px solid #AFA3BF; color: white;" align=center| M50
The M50, forming three-quarters of a ring road around Dublin, is one of the most important and significant motorways in the Republic of Ireland. The road is particularly notable for the Dublin Port Tunnel, allowing access to the port, reducing freight traffic travelling through the Dublin suburbs.
The M50 starts at Dublin Port, not far from the city centre, it immediately has toll booths for the Dublin Port Tunnel, which takes us to near the edge of the urban area. Having emerged from under the ground, and merged with the N1, it TOTSOs with the M1 near Dublin Airport and joins the C road - so called because of its shape. We skirt around the edge of Dublin's urban area, crossing the Liffey on a tolled bridge. For many years, the bridge had toll gates, which themselves caused congestion, however, in the mid-2010s free flow "video" tolling was introduced on the route, requiring drivers to either create a free account and top up from card, or to pay afterwards via internet, telephone, or in local shops. The removal of barriers has reduced congestion considerably travelling around Dublin.
Continuing south, we pass more of Dublin's radial routes before eventually reaching M11 near Bray. Unlike at the M1 to the north, here the M50 flows freely onto the M11 to head south further into County Wicklow, with the northbound M11 traffic itself TOTSOing on approach to Dublin.
The Southern Cross Route was first envisaged as a scenic motorway, offering both views over Dublin and of the mountains. The central median was supposed to be landscaped to make it pleasant.
What is now the M50 was first proposed in 1971 as the western section of a 'motorway box' around Dublin, itself based on earlier drawings that showed it as the central of three north-south roads.
It was to be considered in several sections: the Northern Cross Route, Western Parkway and Southern Cross Route. In addition, the modern route incorporates part of the Airport Motorway and the South East Motorway.
With limited funding available, the scope of the proposed motorways was reduced. The Southern Cross Route had been expected to meet the M7 at Saggart. This was removed and the M50 instead takes a sharp turn at Scholarstown. In 1992 the Eastern Bypass was formally cancelled, making the M50 the only major bypass in the area. Serious consideration was given to building the Northern Cross Route as a single carriageway (with space for dualling), and to building the Southern Cross Route as either a suburban dual carriageway (the "green route") or a temporary single carriageway. Roche, who successfully proposed building the Western Cross Route as a toll road, also made an offer to toll the Northern Cross Route.
While little evidence of the original M50 junction layouts is known, the oil crisis of the 1970s and the economic crisis of the 1980s caused the Irish government to seriously pull back on its funding, and the anticipated need for the scheme. This likely resulted in any planned high capacity junctions being replaced by roundabouts. In 1984 it was agreed that the motorway could begin as a toll road, to get the ball rolling and reduce its burden on state finances.
In the time it took to deliver the M50, the area it passed through became much more densely populated. Within a few years of it opening, several major shopping centres and retail parks had opened.
The Northern Cross Route (between J3 and J6) opened on 6 December 1996. The Southern Cross Route was completed later, following issues with the route and a failed proposal to open it as an at-grade, suburban dual carriageway, known as the "Green Route". This still survives in the form of 'Green Road' in Ballinteer. The main line of the motorway, similar to what was built, was known as the "Yellow Route".
2006-10 - The M50 Upgrade: Motorway Widening
The M50 was designed with space to allow it to be easily widened at a later date.
A massive widening project was undertaken between March 2006 and September 2010 - during which all the junctions with primary routes were changed from roundabout interchanges to complex, free-flowing (except the N3 Junction) interchanges at a cost of around €1bn.
This took place in the form of three contracts:
Contract 1: Junction 7 to 10
Contract 2: Junction 3 to 6 and Junction 10 to 14
Contract 3: Junction 6 to 7
This contract was to upgrade capacity to D4M and remove the toll plaza, which was replaced with free-flow tolling.
Since then the bulk of the road, other than the port tunnel section, has been operated by M50concession.
In October 2018, it was announced that Transport Infrastructure Ireland were looking at the introduction of legislation to apply variable speed limits onto the M50. The first speed limits were introduced (as advisories) in 2021.
The M11 Eastern Bypass, referred to above, was formally cancelled in 1992. It was then proposed again in 2000 in the form of a tunnel along Sandymount Strand, with an intended opening in 2009.
This project was classed as a "medium to long term objective" in 2007. It continued to survive as a low priority, until it was finally cancelled in late 2021. Much of the land along the route, including through Dublin Port and around Mount Merrion, had been left sterile in anticipation of the road being built.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland
PPP operators of M50 M50Concession
- RTE: Medieval Fort on Motorway Route (Discovery of Carrickmines Castle) (2002)
- Irish Examiner: Motorists to deal with changing speed limits on M50 to increase traffic flow (16.10.2018)