Thursday, 11 July 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Road Projects Status
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter. I am looking for an update on the proposed works at Ballymaquirk junction, which is on the N72 Mallow-Killarney road and intersects with the Kanturk-Banteer road. It is a very dangerous junction. It is one of the most important junctions in my constituency, in the heart of the Duhallow region. Most people and families from that region travel through this junction, many of them several times a day, getting to work or going to Banteer, Nad and Cork city.
There were some near misses this year. This is an issue that Bernard Moynihan has been raising continually at Cork County Council level. It is of vital importance that we get an update on it and that the Department and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, take seriously the proposals that are being put by Cork County Council. I understand some remedial works are being done in the short term, but there are issues over the Part 8 planning application to acquire the lands around the junction for the proposal from Cork County Council to put in a roundabout. This is a major piece of infrastructure at the junction and it will take a considerable time, but the Department, TII and Cork County Council must be as one on this project.
Some 4,000 people signed a petition to have work done here. Earlier in the summer, before the grass was cut, the junction was dangerous and it remains so. People are crossing that road, travelling west and east. There is a main line that runs from Kanturk to Newmarket and Rockchapel. People are travelling daily from as far west as Abbeyfeale, through Rockchapel, Newmarket, Kanturk and into Cork city. There is a throughput of people at this junction.
The problems with the junction were made obvious when there was a football match in Kanturk on a workday evening. The amount of traffic coming through the town from the Banteer and Ballymaquirk junction left it chock-a-block. I cannot emphasise enough to the Minister the importance of funding this project and ensuring a roundabout is put there as soon as possible and that all the necessary work, and paperwork in the first instance is moved through the Department and TII as soon as possible because we must ensure the safety of people at this junction.
The most recent incident there involved trucks. The volume of traffic passing through that junction is quite alarming. It is a feed road right into Duhallow, so the entire region will be using it, including western and northern Duhallow, Kanturk and Dromtarriff. I raised this issue in a debate previously, on 18 December, and that shows how serious I am. I want an update on what the Department and TII are doing. How quickly can we get proper remedial works done and a roundabout placed at Ballymaquirk to ensure the safety of all those who are using the road?
I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. First, I must explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding of the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, however, the planning, design and operation of individual local and regional roads is a matter for the relevant road authority, or for TII in conjunction with the local authorities concerned when it comes to national roads.
Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the national development plan, NDP, has been developed by Government to underpin the successful implementation of the new national planning framework, NPF. This provides the strategic and financial framework for TII’s national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. In the ten years covered by the plan, more than €11 billion will be invested in the overall road network. Following the economic downturn and the subsequent reduction in the availability of Exchequer funding, Project Ireland 2040 provides for the gradual build-up in funding for the road network, but it will take time to restore funding to the levels needed to maintain the road network in a steady state condition and allow for investment in new road improvement schemes.
Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Acts. The N72 road is a national secondary road that runs east-west from its junction with the N25 near Dungarvan in County Waterford to the N70 in Killorglin in County Kerry. The N72 Ballymaquirk junction improvement scheme has been identified through TII’s HD15 programme as requiring safety intervention. The HD15 process involves the recording of accident clusters and the identification of locations where accident statistics are above average.
Because of the scope of intervention required, the scheme has been upgraded to TII’s minor works programme, which provides for more substantial safety measures. TII has advised that this scheme is likely to require the compulsory purchase of some lands and, because of this, the scheme may take a number of years to get to construction. However, Cork County Council has concluded the appointment of technical advisers to progress the project. Accordingly funding provision is being made available this year to Cork County Council by TII to pay for the services of the appointed technical advisers.
The proposed scheme, which is located near the River Blackwater, is in a special area of conservation. Mitigation measures will undoubtedly be required as part of this development. This will have to be factored into the entire works programme along with planning and acquiring lands for the development and installation of a new roundabout. The timeframe for the proposed works has not been identified at this stage in the process. I fully support the efforts of TII and Cork County Council to put in place road improvement works to remedy the safety issues which have been identified at this location.
I note that consultants or people have been appointed. While I recognise what the Minister said at the outset, he does have influence. This is a very serious junction in my constituency which has serious implications. He has noted the above average incidents and the need for safety measures, including a roundabout. I am asking that the Minister go back to TII to request that it work very closely with Cork County Council to give the project the urgency it deserves. I am sure it will be supported at local authority level and I do not doubt that Councillor Bernard Moynihan will do all he can to ensure that all that needs to be done at that level is done. I note the Minister's reference to the River Blackwater, planning, and the acquiring of land, but that takes time. It will not happen, however, unless there is serious input from and an urgency given by the Minister, his office and the Department to TII in their regular meetings to seek updates and explain the great significance of the project. It is an issue of health and safety.
I hope that the Minister will impress on the Department and TII the urgent need for these road safety measures at the Ballymaquirk junction and seek regular progress reports on the matter so that the project can be completed as soon as possible.
I fully accept what the Deputy says about the dangers of this road, which the Department and the TII accepts. This is apparent from its upgrading to the minor works programme and it is passing through some of the necessary hoops. I cannot interfere in the planning process in any way, nor would the Deputy expect me to, and I will not do so. I accept, however, the seriousness of the details of the road crashes he has outlined.
There will likely be compulsory purchase orders as a result of what is happening here and it might take some time. It would be wrong if we did not accept the need for the planning process to go ahead in a meaningful and correct manner. It may be frustrating but it is necessary. As I said in my opening remarks, the appointment of technical advisers has been provided for with funding from TII but there may be conservation mitigation measures which will also take time. I accept the Deputy's pleadings, but unfortunately he will have to be patient to see the necessary processes go ahead. Nonetheless, we fully support the need for what he is looking for. The time may be frustrating but I will convey the urgency he has expressed in the House to the TII.