Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Road Projects

10:30 am

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, to the House.

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for selecting this Commencement Matter for discussion. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to deal with it. As he will be aware, Rosslare Europort has expanded quite rapidly as a result of Brexit. Continental ferry traffic year on year increased by 447% in January. There are far more direct shipping routes and it is obvious that Rosslare Europort is continuing to expand. In a post-Brexit environment, the port will grow in importance. I sincerely hope that, in the long run, it will be classified as a tier 1 port. In addition, Rosslare Europort will play a critical role in the development of offshore wind infrastructure in the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea. I believe it will become Ireland's offshore hub.

The Minister of State will be aware that the M11 motorway runs from the M50 and down through Wicklow and Wexford. It is a great road. However, those travelling south along the road suddenly come to a shuddering halt in the very pretty village of Oylegate. The problem is that there are tailbacks in the village. It is a great inconvenience to have lorries stalled in the village and it is also environmentally damaging. The lack of an extension to the motorway is also a major concern in Oylegate and Rosslare itself from a road safety point of view. The delays of approximately 20 minutes which are being experienced have a serious impact on logistics for those in the haulage business.

The Minister of State is aware that successive Governments have long promised to complete the M11. We have been waiting for a long time for that to be done. For some reason, there now seem to be delays in selecting the preferred route to complete the motorway. This process was undertaken in the past but it has had to be done again recently. Residents have been left in limbo regarding exactly what is happening. It is completely unfair to the landowners and property owners whose land or property may be on the possible routes that a preferred route has still not been indicated.The Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU has written to the Government to indicate strongly its view that the M11 must be completed. The Irish Road Haulage Association has said this initiative is key if we are to ensure the long-term development of Rosslare Europort, especially regarding easy access for vehicles using the port and ensuring there is no stalling of those vehicles in Oylegate. Rosslare Europort has stated that this is an essential development not only for vehicles now travelling to and from the port, but also for its long-term development. The completion of the M11 is also very important for the quality of life enjoyed by the people who live in Oylegate and Rosslare.

In the context of the review of the national development plan, NDP, and the critical importance of Rosslare Europort in a post-Brexit environment, I ask the Minister of State to provide us with an update regarding the plan in this regard. I also ask for an assurance that this project is a top priority for the Government because it is essential not only for Wexford and the south east but also for this country's long-term development. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State could provide us with as much detail as possible.

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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I thank Senator Byrne for raising this important issue, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Once funding arrangements have been put in place through the Department of Transport, 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. Overall, TII is responsible for the delivery of the national roads programme in accordance with Project Ireland 2040 and the NDP. In that context, TII provides the Department with regular updates on its delivery of the national roads programme.

I will provide the most up-to-date information available to the Minister in the timeframe up to this debate. Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the NDP was developed to underpin the successful implementation of the national planning framework. This provides the strategic and financial framework for the national roads programme from 2018 to 2027. The focus of the activities of TII is accordingly being directed towards the development of the major national road improvement schemes aligned with and included in the NDP, along with the maintenance of the existing national road network.

The N11-N25 Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour project focuses on improvements to both the N11 and N25. The project commences south of the M11 Gorey to Enniscorthy motorway, which opened in 2019. The existing route runs through Oylegate village and on to Wexford, where it connects with the N25 road from Wexford to Rosslare Europort through the villages of Tagoat, Kilrane and Rosslare Harbour. This project consists of approximately 33 km of high-quality route which will form a strategic link between Rosslare Europort, Dublin and the rest of Ireland. The project will form part of two strategic links - between Rosslare Europort-Wexford and Dublin via the M11 and N11, and between Rosslare Europort-Wexford and Cork-Waterford via the N25.

The proposed scheme has been subject to pre-appraisal to establish compliance with the requirements of the public spending code and the common appraisal framework for transport projects and programmes. Approval was given by TII to Wexford County Council, as the sponsoring agency, to proceed with the appointment of technical advisers for phases 1 to 4, inclusive, of the TII project management guidelines in respect of progressing the planning, design and appraisal for the project. Phase 1, concept and feasibility, has been completed, while phase 2, option selection, has commenced. The virtual public consultation process on project constraints and option selections commenced on 6 July 2020 and concluded on 10 August. All feedback has now been considered by the project team and the detailed assessment of the scheme options and different combinations of scheme options is progressing to identify the option that best meets the project objectives.

The progression of this scheme is dependent on the availability of funding. The timeframe for delivery of any major or minor work projects requiring statutory approval, whether an environmental impact assessment report or compulsory purchase order, or both, is between eight to 13 years.As this project is in the early stage of planning it is not yet possible to provide an accurate estimate of the total cost of the project. The estimated cost cannot be finalised until the project reaches the business case stage process.

This project will increase the safety and capacity of the N11-N25 corridor. In addition to providing and improving the connectivity between Wexford and the surrounding areas of international markets, this proposed project will also provide journey time reliability for road users which will improve the quality of life for local residents. It will strengthen Ireland's international links, having a positive economic benefit to the region. A major benefit provided by the proposed project is improvement in road safety and the provision of infrastructure that can accommodate a larger volume of road users. In addition, improved journey time reliability may encourage an increased usage of road-based public transport.

Rosslare Europort is a key strategic transport link between Ireland and both the European mainland and the United Kingdom. In addition to the N11-N25 Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour project, the N25 Rosslare to Europort access road project is proposing to provide improved access to Rosslare Europort from the N25 national primary road to ensure and secure the sustainability and competitiveness of our key transport link.

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I think the Minister of State realises the importance of this road and its completion. Again, I am concerned about the timeframe we are talking about. There is an ideal opportunity now in the context of the review of the national development plan, because obviously we are in a very different world from when the NDP was drawn up, and a number of submissions have been made about the importance of this. I ask that the Minister of State conveys to the Minister for Transport that this project is not just important to County Wexford; this is a critical piece of infrastructure for the country. Yes, it will improve road safety within the area but access and egress from Rosslare Europort is essential for this country's future economic development not just in terms of freight but, as I mentioned, the development of the offshore hub. Again, my concern relates to the timeframe we are talking about. I ask, in the context of the NDP review, that this would be given priority.

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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I thank Senator Byrne for raising this very important issue and I will convey his concerns to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan. Without doubt, this is a national project. Its importance is critical to unlock infrastructure and potential, and, especially in a post-Brexit era, it is compounded in terms of its importance. I understand how important it is that this project is included in the review of the capital plan. I will bring the Senator's views to the Minister, Deputy Ryan, in connection with that and thank the Senator for giving me the time to outline the merits of the project.