Thursday, 16 May 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Minister of State. My issue is that, as the Minister of State is aware, there is a long-standing proposal to build the new Cork to Limerick motorway. It is back on the books and a new contract was signed recently to start the initial process of identifying the route and delivering a motorway between Cork and Limerick, or as people in Limerick would say, the Limerick to Cork route.
One of the problems I am facing on the north side of Cork city is that we have a major problem on both the western and eastern part of the north side of the city in that there is little road infrastructure available to take heavy traffic coming from the Mallow direction. On the eastern side, which is what my Commencement matter is about, there are heavy goods vehicles passing through residential areas in The Glen, Mayfield and down into Silversprings because that traffic is heading towards the Port of Cork. If we build a new Cork to Limerick motorway, it is important that we do not have a bottleneck when it comes to Blackpool. This traffic will still have to travel on to the Port of Cork.
I am seeking that in dealing with this Cork to Limerick road, we would also tie in at least part of the structure at this stage in the process, namely, the north-eastern relief road, which would connect the Cork to Limerick road to the Cork to Dublin road. There were proposals more than 15 years ago for what was called the north ring road, NRR. Unfortunately, on the north side of the city we do not have what is in Dublin, namely, the M50. We have old road infrastructure which is no longer adequate to deal with the traffic coming into the city, especially heavy goods vehicles which are travelling on to the Port of Cork, which is growing every year.
We are building a brand new port facility in Ringaskiddy, construction work is well under way and, therefore, it will be an attractive port for heavy goods to go to because we will be able to bring in bigger ships because the port will have deeper waters for ships to dock in. It is in that context that I am raising this issue and I wonder if the whole issue of the north ring relief road on the north-eastern side of the city can be tied in together with the Cork to Limerick road.
I thank the Senator and I am taking this issue on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. The Minister has responsibility for overall policy regarding and funding of the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
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, in excess of €11 billion will be invested in the road network. There are two separate road proposals to alleviate traffic congestion for the north Cork city area. Under the NDP, there is a reference to an NRR, linking the N20 to Dunkettle. The Cork NRR is a scheme complementary to but independent from the M20 Cork to Limerick scheme and the NDP indicated that this scheme could be best assessed as part of the overall transport strategy for Cork. Another option is the provision of a Cork northern distributor road which is being considered under the Cork metropolitan area transport strategy, CMATS.The NTA is in the process of finalising the CMATS, which will be published in the near future. This strategy will establish the context for the consideration of the Cork NRR and the northern distributor road as part of an overall transport strategy for the metropolitan Cork area, which would include the examination of public transport and demand management options. The Cork northern distributor road will be appraised first and afterwards consideration will be given to the need for the proposed Cork NRR.
The original preferred route for the N40 Cork NRR was established by Cork County Council and Cork City Council circa 2007-08. It is approximately 22 km in length. I refer to the east and west sections. As this will be subject to reappraisal, however, it is too early at this stage to establish whether it can be best delivered and justified as an eastern section or a western section, or both, and the impact the Cork northern distributor road will have on its appraisal.
The CMATS study that is currently under way will set the context under which both the Cork NRR and the northern distributor road are further examined and progressed, if appropriate, subject to the availability of funding. The Cork NRR, if progressed, will be determined in accordance with departmental guidance for scheme appraisal and the the TII project appraisal guidelines for national roads, including a route options assessment and business case. It is very technical.
I thank the Minister of State for her contribution. It concerns the one area where road infrastructure needs to be built. The reason I suggest the eastern section should be done first is the western section is complicated because of the landscape. If there is a decision to work on all parts of the north ring road together, one will keep hearing the project is expensive and that the funding does not exist. If, however, one approaches it the way I propose, at least there will not be a bottleneck in Blackpool owing to traffic heading for a port. This is the priority. It is in this context I am raising the matter. I acknowledge it is under the remit of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, not that of the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.
As I stated, the response was complicated. Since I am not familiar with the locations in Cork that the Senator has spoken about, I have taken some notes. I will ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to revert to the Senator. I will explain to him that the Senator has recommended that the eastern section be one of the first parts to be prioritised. That is all the information I have.