Thursday, 18 October 2007
Question 8: To ask the Minister for Transport the stage plans the development of the Leinster orbital route have reached; his plans to fund such a project in the lifetime of this Government; if he has plans to extend this road to Arklow or Gorey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24250/07]
Question 71: To ask the Minister for Transport his proposals for the Leinster outer orbital route, which will connect the towns of Drogheda, Navan, Naas and Newbridge; his views on whether such a proposal is economically viable, technically feasible and strategically beneficial; if the proposed orbital route is Government policy; the expected cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24339/07]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 45 and 71 together. As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in respect of the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, under the Roads Act 1993, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities.
Both Transport 21 and the national development plan committed the NRA to carrying out a feasibility study on the orbital route. Earlier this year, the NRA completed an updated feasibility study which built on a 2001 study which considered, in particular, the costs and benefits of such a route. The updated NRA study finds that there is merit in constructing an orbital route linking Drogheda, Navan and Naas. As part of the study, various possible route corridors were examined in detail. A corridor linking Drogheda to Navan to Naas was identified as the optimum route having regard to the policy objectives set out in the various policy documents on the route. There are no plans to extend the route through the Wicklow Mountains to Arklow or Gorey.
Neither Transport 21 nor the national development plan provide any funding for the scheme to be brought through planning and preliminary design or to construction in the period to 2015. The study is under detailed consideration within my Department.
Does the Minister not appreciate that there is considerable concern in Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow at the Government proposal for an outer orbital route that does not complete the orbit but ends at Naas?
The south east has already experienced certain difficulties in economic development and employment. Does the Minister agree that this area would lose out badly if it is not included in this major infrastructural development? Will he reconsider the exclusion of the last leg of the orbital? Will the Government accept in principle that there is an issue for the south east and that it is important that a connection be made to the N11? Will the Minister talk to people in the NRA about the very dangerous section of the N11 between The Tap pub and The Beehive pub? This section will take more lives unless action is taken to upgrade it.
The Government is not proposing this outer orbital yet. It is for consideration in the programme for Government. The report commissioned by the NRA is still under consideration. Any proposal that comes forward will be from the NRA, and it would then have to be accepted by the Government.
I think the Deputy recognises the reason the route is as such is largely due to the technical difficulties in trying to get through the barrier of the Wicklow mountains. I do not accept that if the outer orbital is provided and the remaining leg is left out, this will cause a major disadvantage to the south east in terms of roads. There will be two major routes to the south east along the east coast and to Waterford. The south east will be well served by a good road network. The other part of the equation, but slightly further back in planning, is the study on what was always called the eastern bypass. The bypass would continue from the port tunnel and would be another major advantage to County Wicklow. Both of these will be looked at together. Wicklow will not lose out as a result of decisions that were taken.
I acknowledge what the Deputy said about the N11. We have had much correspondence from almost every Deputy and councillor from Wicklow on this issue. I have taken it on board and I have raised the issue with the NRA. It is dangerous and about €27 million has been spent on it, but it would be desirable if we could move it forward very quickly.
I appreciate that, but I urge the Minister to keep dealing with that issue which is so fundamentally important. I ask him not to exclude the last leg of the outer orbital on the basis that the Wicklow mountains are in the way. It has been proposed that the road could skirt the southern end of the mountains, but if that does not happen, the south east of Ireland will be at a great disadvantage. There will be no linkage between the N11 and the new Waterford road, which is where the problem lies.
Is it not a fact that the Taoiseach promised, during the general election campaign in Laytown, County Meath, that this road would be built? The Minister states today that it is not being proposed. Is it not true that the Green Party is opposed to this? Deputy Cuffe, as chairperson of the Green Party transport committee, is opposed to this route and there is disagreement in Cabinet about this. Let us have the facts. It was not included in the national development plan and it is not in Transport 21. The Taoiseach stated that it would be built, but the Minister has stated otherwise and the Green Party is opposed to it. The Minister also stated that he would build Bremore Port and we need that very badly. Infrastructure around Dublin will collapse if we do not have this outer orbital route.
I was picking Deputy McManus up on a statement she made that the Government was proposing the particular route. I corrected her and stated that the NRA was proposing the route. The document shows that the cost benefit analysis is very positive.
The Government consists of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats and there is a commitment in the programme for Government to bring this to design stage during its lifetime.
It was put into the programme for Government to try to advance it to design stage. It will take five to six years to get it to the stage where it can be put out to tender. That is the intent during the lifetime of this Government.