Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I congratulate the new Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, on her appointment. I have not had a chance to do so formally and I wish her the very best of luck with the journey ahead. People may be aware that we were in the same year in college at NUI Galway, so I am very proud of her accession to such a high position. Well done to the Minister of State.
I will speak briefly to keep the Mallow relief road on the political agenda. The M20 is very much on the political agenda regarding the roll-out of that motorway between Cork and Limerick. As part of that, however, what the people of Mallow need and require now is an assurance regarding the relief road for the town. The Minister of State will tell us that the design preparation is in play and that consultants have been appointed since November 2019. We acknowledge that and there is a process to be gone through in that regard. JB Barry Transportation has been approved as technical advisers and the study area has been identified.
This project is part of the national development plan. There is a strategic outcome which is relevant to this project and it comes under enhanced regional accessibility. I am seeking assurances now from the Government that this project will not slip down the political agenda and that moneys will be put behind this project after the consultation process is over so that the project can be delivered.
It is an essential project in giving relief for the N72 and N73. The N73 is in a deplorable state. It is the Mallow to Mitchelstown road and it needs serious investment regarding realignment. The town of Mallow for many years now, however, has been asking for moneys to be made available for a relief road. It is important that dovetails with any project concerning the M20 in a way that ensures a seamless joining of the two projects to give that relief.
I ask the Minister of State and the Government to give an assurance that this project will not slip down the political agenda. As I have said, the Minister of State will probably tell me that the consultants have been appointed. I fully acknowledge that and we appreciate that design preparation is under way. We have been there before and route corridors have been assigned before.
That is why we want to remain vigilant about ensuring that the town of Mallow is not left behind in any capital investment for roads infrastructure. It is a key reference town in the province of Munster and a key point of connectivity between Kerry and Dublin as well. I appeal to the Minister of State to keep that in mind.
Once funding arrangements have been put in place through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Overall, TII is responsible for the delivery of the national roads programme in accordance with Project Ireland 2040 and the national development plan. In that context, TII provides the Department with regular updates on its delivery of the national roads programme. Within the timeframe given in the lead-up to the debate this evening, the following information is the most up to-date information available to me on Tll's delivery of this project.
Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the national development plan has been developed by Government to underpin the successful implementation of the new national planning framework. This provides the strategic and financial framework for Tll's national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. As set out in the programme for Government, the Government will be carrying out a review of the national development plan later this year, taking account of the priorities of Government set out in the programme.
The proposed N72-N73 Mallow relief road project is included among a number of major national road schemes that were identified in the national development plan for planning, design and construction. This scheme consists of a single or dual carriageway bypass of the town of Mallow. The scheme length would be of the order of 4.5 km to 7 km. The pre-appraisal plan for the Mallow relief road was approved by the economic unit of the Department. Following this, the procurement process for the appointment of technical advisors to progress the first four stages of TII’s project management guidelines was completed. Early planning, design and appraisal work for the project has commenced. Cork County Council and its advisors are currently assessing all route options available given the constraints.
The relief road project would provide numerous benefits. It would bypass Mallow, reducing congestion and improving the environment of the town. It would cater for strategic traffic. It would improve access to and from Mallow. It would bring economic improvements for the Munster region. It would provide cycle and walking facilities for non-motorised users.
The scheme is at an early stage of development and, therefore, it is not possible at this time to indicate a likely timeframe for construction of the project. The timeframe for delivery of any major or minor works or projects that require statutory approval, whether for environmental impact assessment or compulsory purchase orders or both, is between eight and 13 years. As this project is in the early stages of planning it is not yet possible to provide an accurate estimate of the total cost. The estimated cost cannot be finalised until the project reaches the business case stage of the process.
The Deputy may wish to contact TII directly for more detailed information on the agency's implementation of the national road network, including the N72-N73 Mallow relief road.
I thank the Minister of State for her reply. Again, I wish to reiterate the point that while there are statutory processes to be gone through in respect of Transport Infrastructure Ireland's responsibilities in that regard, it is important to state that there is considerable political capital in delivery of roads. That political capital comes from the fact that Government decisions are made in respect of infrastructural projects like roads throughout the country. I am again calling on the Government, once the consultation period has ended, to move to the next stage so that moneys can be assigned to carry out this project.
I welcome the fact that there will be a review of the national development plan. I acknowledge that but I am hopeful and optimistic that this Government will recognise the relief road from Mallow as being a key project given Mallow's location and centrality in the province of Munster.
We are talking about regional development and inward investment. We are talking about opening up the south-western region in the context of a keynote project like the M20 Cork to Limerick road. If we go on an east to west trajectory then it is vital that the town of Mallow does not get left behind in that analysis.
Notwithstanding the response of the Minister of State, which I appreciate, and the fact that there are environmental impact assessment reports and compulsory purchase orders to be gone through, I am asking for the Minister of State to give this her utmost priority.
As I outlined previously, once funding arrangements have been put in place through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the public spending code guidelines and the necessary statutory approvals. The N72 and N73 Mallow relief road has been identified in the national development plan. Therefore, TII is working to progress the scheme through planning, design and construction.
As I have outlined, the project is at an early stage in this process. The programme for Government commits to bringing forward the planned view of the national development plan from 2022 and to use the review to set out an updated national development plan for the period to 2031. The review of the NDP will be aligned with the national planning framework and Project Ireland 2040. Work is under way within the Department to contribute to this planned review and the programme for Government also states that the process of reviewing the NDP and updating the national planning framework will not frustrate or delay any existing projects.
TII remains committed to progressing the N72-N73 Mallow relief road and, as previously stated, this is subject to the public spending code guidelines and the necessary statutory approvals.