The National Roads Authority (NRA) has said its planned motorway service area on the M6, between Athlone and Moate, is needed to prevent driver fatigue which could cause serious accidents.
The authority recently wrote to Westmeath County Council after Athlone area councillors called for the service area plan to be scrapped at a meeting last November.
In his reply, the NRA's programme and regulatory manager, Gary Lynch, emphasised that "there is a very significant road safety dimension" to its service area programme.
He said that, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), "driver fatigue is a factor in 20% of fatal road accidents."
Mr Lynch added: "In light of this situation, the RSA has previously expressed its support for the authority's service area programme and is anxious to see facilities provided taking account of the significant road safety benefits that would ensue.
"In addition, recent EU directives and regulations... have imposed onerous limitations in respect of permissible driving times for professional drivers.
"The authority's service areas, existing and planned, can make a significant contribution to drivers' compliance with these statutory requirements.
"The authority, accordingly, remains committed to the delivery of its online service area programme in the shortest timeframe possible."
The NRA had acquired the lands and secured planning permission for the service area between Athlone and Moate, but the timing of construction work depends on when funding is made available.
Local councillors have criticised the initiative, saying the M6 in the Midlands was already well served by the towns of Athlone and Moate.
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