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Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber and Dr. James Ring, CEO of Limerick Chamber.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber and Dr. James Ring, CEO of Limerick Chamber.

‘Re-routing the Limerick motorway makes no sense economically’

CORK TD Seán Sherlock has called on the Transport Minister to “quash rumours” and move the Cork to Limerick motorway to the next stage of development.

Fine Gael leadership candidate Leo Varadkar has pledged to prioritise the Cork to Limerick motorway in the next Capital Plan but Transport Minister Shane Ross appeared to dampen his enthusiasm and said that “creative” solutions are needed to save on the cost of the estimated €800 million project.

The solution Minister Ross refers to is centred around a potential re-routing of the motorway through Cahir in Co Tipperary where it would link up with the Cork-Dublin motorway and thus reduce the overall cost by removing the need to build an entirely new road.

It would mean that towns such as Mallow and Buttevant - originally proposed to be bypassed by the motorway - would see limited benefits from the road and they will remain on the existing main road to Limerick.

The Government’s Capital Plan Mid-Term review, which will revisit priority infrastructure projects up until 2021, is due to be published in September.

In his policy document, Social Protection Minister Varadkar, who is leading the race to become the next Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach said: “The new Capital Plan will allow us to bring forward long-delayed projects like Dublin Metro, the M20 between Cork and Limerick, motorway access to the West and North-West and major investment in our healthcare and educational institutions. It will also enable further investment to tackle our housing needs.”

However, Minister Ross told the Dáil on Tuesday that the project would use up almost all of the Capital investment budget. He added that progressing the project in stages or looking at other solutions would be a preferable course of action but refused to discuss details.

“It would use up virtually the entire allocation... that can’t be done, I’m afraid, that’s the truth,” he said.

“What I wouldn’t rule out in this particular case is creative solutions. When I talk about creative solutions people get alarmed that there is going to be rerouting,” he added.

Seán Sherlock said rerouting via Tipperary the M8 is not a creative solution at all and would be detrimental to the north Cork region and outside finance should be considered to fund the route.

“You have to open up towns like Mallow and Charleville,” he said.

“Economic regional development must be predicated on linking Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Galway and Sligo along the Atlantic Corridor axis. An imaginative solution could mean financing this through the European investment bank. We need to move this project to the next stage and quash the rumour mill and have clear language from Minister Ross about what route is to be selected on the basis of common sense.”

Sinn Féin Kanturk-Mallow Councillor Melissa Mullane believes the project may never happen and is being used as an election tool.

“We plead again and again but it just falls on deaf ears. Mallow is a fantastic town and it has huge business, such as Dairygold. The town needs the infrastructure. Buttevant and Charleville are getting bigger also,” she said.

“We can’t bring employment and businesses into an area without proper infrastructure. We’ve been promised it for so long. It’s frightful that coming up to an internal election in Fine Gael that they start promising things. The motorway has always been an election ploy and it never seems to come about. Until I see the first sod being turned I believe it’s a pie in the sky project. It would be devastating for businesses.”

Councillor Gearóid Murphy of Fianna Fáil said re-routing doesn’t make any sense economically, or for the environment. “Taking the motorway back out towards Dublin and then back to Limerick is very shortsighted. I hope it’s just a rumour. The Minister’s comments are not very encouraging,” he said.

“Regionally, it would be really detrimental to the area and would have an environmental impact to re-route the cars through Tipperary when they could take a much shorter route through north Cork and West Limerick.”

Independent John Paul O’Shea said re-routing the motorway would be a huge step backwards for growth in north Cork and the south west region.