Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Commencement Matters

Road Network

10:30 am

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross. It is particularly significant that he is a former Member of this House, but the issue I am bringing up today is more significant. As a Senator based in Limerick city, the upgrade of the N20 to a motorway, the M20, between Cork and Limerick is the number one infrastructural project for both Cork and Limerick at the moment. If one travels from Cork along the N20 to Limerick at the minute, it is approximately 100 km in length and takes well over an hour and a half. In the last 12 to 14 months alone, there have been nine fatalities on that route, so we need the motorway from a safety perspective if for no other reason. It takes an hour and a half to drive 100 km. If one drives on the Limerick to Dublin motorway, the M7, it takes just over two hours to do double that, 200 km.

We speak about regional development, but we need to put it into action. We need balanced regional development where the Cork-Limerick-Galway axis acts as a counter-pole to Dublin, which is bursting at the seams. We need the M20 to grow this western corridor from Limerick to Cork. Many of my constituents in Limerick are commuting on a daily basis between Limerick and Cork. Likewise, many have businesses in both locations. A rising tide lifts all boats for us in the southern region. We want this M20 for this route between Limerick and Cork.

There are a couple of aspects to it. Route selection has already taken place, and the plan had gone to An Bord Pleanála. Due to finances, the project was discontinued in November 2011. What is now required from the Minister is a ministerial direction to restart the scheme. Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, formerly the NRA, should be required to prepare an updated business case for this M20 route. It will stand on its own merits. It will grow and will provide the engine to drive growth in both Limerick and Cork. I understand it is a costly project, but the Minister will know, as a former member of the Public Accounts Committee, that we are looking for value for money. The construction of this route, which would be 80 km in length, would cut the time by about 30 minutes. One would be able to commute from Limerick to Cork in just over an hour. At the moment it takes at least an hour and a half. We are at a comparative disadvantage in the region, where we have a substandard road linking the second and third largest cities in Ireland. In terms of being a modern economy, we have to ensure that takes place.

Much of the work along the existing route selection - that is, environmental impact studies, motorway orders and oral hearings - had started with An Bord Pleanála. I understand the Minister will probably have to go through the same process again, but if it transpires that the existing route is the one chosen, much of the work will already have been done. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this matter on the Commencement. What I want from the Minister today is a clear direction that he will get the planning process under way again. I know a mid-term review of the capital plan is due over the next year. Will he ask TII to upgrade the business case, which it can present to him so that he can kick-start the process again?


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