Thursday, 7 October 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. The Minister for Transport has responsibility for overall policy and securing Exchequer funding for the national roads programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Tll, under the Roads Acts, 1993 to 2015, and in line with the NDP, the planning, design, improvement and upgrading of individual national roads is a matter for Tll, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Tll ultimately delivers the national roads programme in line with Project Ireland 2040, the national planning framework, and the NDP.
In the new NDP, launched on 4 October, approximately €5.1 billion is earmarked for new national road projects to 2030. This funding will enable improved connectivity across the country as well as compact growth, which are core components of the revised NDP. The funding will enable the development of numerous national road projects, including the completion of projects at construction stage and those close to it, as well as the development of many others.
The N6 Galway city ring road is one of the projects included in the new NDP, which is currently at the planning application stage. The proposed project around Galway city comprises 12.5 km of motorway and 6 km of single carriageway. The route would run between the existing N6 at Coolagh to the existing Ballymoneen Road and continues as a single carriageway road for a further 5 km of protected road, west of Barna. The new orbital route would travel around the city and include a new bridge crossing of the River Corrib.
Galway County Council published the road scheme and submitted the planning documentation for the scheme to An Bord Pleanála for approval in October 2018. An Bord Pleanála wrote to the council in April 2019 requesting further information about the environmental impacts of the scheme, and this was submitted in August 2019. An Bord Pleanála requested that the council publish the further information for inspection by the public. The closing date for further information on display was 25 October 2019 and this was subsequently extended to 24 January 2020.
An oral hearing commenced on 18 February 2020 and concluded on 4 November 2020, inclusive of a seven-month gap in proceedings due to Covid-19 restrictions. Galway County Council is awaiting a decision from An Bord Pleanála, which has recently been pushed back to a decision by a new target date of 19 November 2021. If planning approval is received from An Bord Pleanála and there are no legal challenges, the proposed project will require Government approval under the public spending code to proceed to the next stage, including procurement of a contractor, given that the project cost is expected to be more than €100 million. It would also be subject to final Government approval in advance of construction.
As the Deputy said, this project is a key component of the Galway transport strategy, which realises Galway city and county councils' vision of all elements of transport working together to achieve an integrated, sustainable transport system. The project would, as the Deputy said, free up road space in the city by removing through traffic for use by improved public transport services and active travel modes, while improving air quality and reducing noise levels in the city. As the principal economic centre of the west, Galway city is critical to employment in the region and this project would contribute towards ensuring the city is able to cater for future economic expansion and development. As a gateway to Connemara and the western region, which includes large Gaeltacht areas, the optimisation of transport connectivity within Galway city will be essential to help the region chart a steady course for economic growth. The additional bridge crossing of the Corrib will provide this accessibility to the west. By reducing traffic volumes on the existing road network, this proposed project will drastically improve journey times and allow for safer and more reliable journeys for road users. It will improve the existing collision rating, which currently stands at twice the average rate in the country.
The project will provide direct access to major employment centres at Parkmore and Ballybrit business parks, and offers an opportunity to execute the vision of the Galway transport strategy. Galway County Council has an advanced negotiating strategy in place for the proposed Galway city ring road. All affected householders were invited to participate and discussions and negotiations have been ongoing with those willing to participate since mid-2019. If the scheme is approved and confirmed, the council will prioritise the acquisition and agreements associated with the affected residential properties.