ROADS Service has implied the traffic mayhem in Omagh before Christmas was the fault of local drivers for not paying attention to signs for the new lane layout in the town.
However, this suggestion has been disputed by local councillors, who pointed out that “half the town” had been caught out by the changes at the junction of the Dublin Road and Market Street, which came into effect at the beginning of December.
With confusion ensuing following the introduction of the changes, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council had written to the Department of Infrastructure, which has responsibility for roads, expressing concern that while the directional signs were printed on the traffic lanes themselves, motorists were noticing them too late.
The council asked the Roads Service to put up illuminated signs well ahead of the traffic lights to ensure motorists were well warned of what lane to use.
In his reply, which was shared with the council at its monthly meeting in Enniskillen on Tuesday night, divisional roads manager David McKinney said, “Unfortunately the changes to the traffic lane designations at Dublin Road have taken a period of time to settle into place, with many motorists failing to observe the amended signage and road markings highlighting the new junction layout.
“An electronic variable message sign was provided at the site on Friday, December 6 and two additional lane usage signs have also now been provided to help further highlight the change to lane designations.”
Mr McKinney added, “The PSNI are content that sufficient signage has been provided to forewarn drivers of the change that there is no excuse for motorists continuing to use the nearside lane for the straight ahead movement to Drumragh Avenue.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Cllr Errol Thompson said the lane changes had “greatly helped” with traffic at the junction, which had previously seen queues in the mornings and evenings.
“It has helped alleviate what could have been a disaster if there had been a road traffic collision,” he said. Cllr Chris Smyth was not as positive, however, and took issue with the how the Roads Service’s letter had been “constructed.”
In particular, he was annoyed at the fact the letter suggested motorists themselves had been at fault for failing to observe the signs that had been put up.
“It places the onus on the individual driver,” he said. “It was not individual drivers who were caught out, it was half the town, myself included.”
Cllr Smyth said it was “unreasonable” to blame individual drivers, and said the Roads Service “could have foreseen” the confusion and should have put up signs warning of the impending changes before they came into effect.
Cllr Stetphen Donnelly said it was important for the council to acknowledge it had not been “just a few” motorists affected. He said the situation had thankfully calmed down over Christmas and lessons could be learned for the future from the situation.