Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Road Projects Status
36. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of the works to be carried out on the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom road in view of the fact that the expenditure allocations 2018 to 2020 document states that the land transport programme for 2018 will include planning, design, land acquisition and advance works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49439/17]
Since 2013, when the compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, were confirmed for the N22 Macroom bypass, tendering for construction has been the next key milestone in that project. The process could take much of a year, including putting it out for tender and assessing the details afterwards. It does not need to be held up with any of the other processes, such as land purchase, archaeological issues or fencing. It can be done at the same time.
Will the Minister release it to tender for construction in the next year? What are his plans? What kind of works is he lining up to be carried out on the N22 over the next year?
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in respect of the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the allocation of funding to individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act.
This road scheme involves the construction of 22 km of new carriageway from just east of Macroom to west of Ballyvourney, including a bypass of Macroom town. The scheme will address the inadequacies on the existing road layout in a variety of ways, including improving road safety, increasing the capacity of the road, improving journey times and relieving congestion in Macroom town. TII is responsible for implementation of the project within available budgets. The scheme has full statutory approval. TII has progressed land purchase and advance works on the project, including archaeology and site investigations. The tender documentation for the construction contract is also being prepared, and EirGrid and Cork County Council have sought procedural advice from An Bord Pleanála in respect of pylon relocation.
The Ballyvourney to Macroom upgrade scheme was included in the Building on Recovery capital plan, and TII has been progressing preparatory work related to the project. As the plan provides for the gradual build-up in capital funding for the road network, with funding backloaded towards the end of the plan period, the construction programme for the major national road improvement projects will ramp up from 2020. Construction of the Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2020. However, within this context, I understand that TII has progressed land purchase and advance works on the project, including archaeology and site investigations. I also understand that the tender documentation relating to the construction of the project is being prepared. TII allocated €4 million to this scheme in 2014, €5 million in 2015, €3.8 million in 2016 and €14 million this year.
The question is fairly specific. It is on the outline of works the Minister intends to see carried out on that much-needed project over the coming year. He has spoken about the archaeological work and the fencing work. These were part of the original contract, yet they were plucked out and presented as advance works while the substantive project was parked. These works are independent of the substantive project. They do not need to hold back the release of the tender for construction. The tender itself is clearly being prepared. Will the Minister release the project to tender for construction in the coming year? He Minister is talking about potentially beginning work in the first quarter of 2020, but a job of this scale could take much of a year to go through the tendering process. There is no need to wait for the other stages to be complete. It is something on which the Minister could start in order that it could be ready when the archaeological and fencing works are finished. From what I can see on the ground locally, much of the fencing work is in fact pretty much finished. The Minister has outlined various figures in respect of land purchase. This funding has been drip-fed over recent years. It does not need to hold up the works. It is independent and the tendering can take place in parallel with any of the other stages.
I cannot give that commitment to the Deputy in this situation, and I do not think he expects me to. A lot of progress has been made. I will not say that it is ungrateful, because I do not expect gratitude from anybody for anything, but it should be recognised that TII has been allocated progressive and increasing amounts of money. I will repeat that €4 million was allocated to the scheme in 2014, €5 million in 2015, €3.8 million in 2016, and €14 million this year. The commitment is there. As far as I can see, and the Deputy can contradict me, we are only talking about the timing. He is talking about something happening almost immediately while I am talking about 2020. I cannot tell him that I will advance that at this stage, but I am not going to reduce the commitment we have made to this particular project in any way.
I do not believe the people of Macroom are ungrateful. They are frustrated and they are sick of waiting for the bypass. They have been waiting for many years and have seen the drip-feeding of funding for land purchase, funding which has decreased and increased over the years. We want to get to the stage where the project happens and we are able to drive on that road.
There are ways in which the Minister can speed up the process. I have shown him one such way. The tender for construction can be run at the same time as other works are being carried out. These works do not need to hold the tendering back. There are ways in which the Minister can carry out the process much more quickly. We are offering him solutions. We are asking whether the Minister will take them, run with them and make the road happen more quickly than he has projected in his figures. It is possible.
The road is happening and it is going to happen. It is not happening at the pace which the Deputy, understandably, would require. The considerable sums being spent on the project are proof of the commitment to it. The option of accelerating the construction of some of the Building on Recovery schemes, including the Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme, was considered. This was not possible within the overall funding envelope available, however, given the moneys needed to meet the Government's commitment to contribute £75 million sterling to the first phase of the A5. Unfortunately, there are other very expensive projects to which we have made commitments and we must keep those commitments as well.