Route for Cork-Limerick motorway cautiously welcomed by residents group

Whitechurch Residents Association spokesperson, Dee Hosford said residents in the area are still reviewing the announced route but are “cautiously optimistic”.
Route for Cork-Limerick motorway cautiously welcomed by residents group

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said it “represents another step towards the delivery of this project” and said the mixed-modal solution was “essential to de-congesting and transforming towns along the route.” Picture Denis Minihane.

THE preferred route corridor for the long-awaited N/M20 Cork-to-Limerick project has been announced, with the selection reflecting “the wishes of a vast majority”, according to the project co-ordinator.

A multi-modal transport project which includes active travel infrastructure for walking and cycling, improvements to public transport, new and improved safe road infrastructure, and environmental integration for communities along the N20 transport corridor between Cork and Limerick has been proposed.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said it “represents another step towards the delivery of this project” and said the mixed-modal solution was “essential to de-congesting and transforming towns along the route.”

Whitechurch Residents Association spokesperson, Dee Hosford said residents in the area are still reviewing the announced route but are “cautiously optimistic”.

“They’re going to upgrade the existing road which will address the safety concerns which is amazing for all involved,” she said. “And then I know further out the route there are bypasses of Mallow, Buttevant, and Charleville which are badly needed — we all know they are bottlenecks,” she added.

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has welcomed the announcement of the preferred option but called for the project delivery timeline to be accelerated.

Yesterday’s announcement follows significant public consultation and detailed appraisal of a number of road-based and rail-based options and active travel strategy.

The project team has stated that 80km of new and improved dual carriageway between Cork City and Patrickswell, Limerick, will address the existing road’s safety deficiencies.

Road design, including cross section, road type (protected road or motorway), junction strategy, and accommodation works will be developed during the next phase of the project.

The preferred road-based option broadly follows the previous 2010 M20 Cork-Limerick scheme. Between 30% and 40% of the existing N20 road will be reused to develop the new dual carriageway.

The project team said bypasses of Mallow, New Twopothouse, Buttevant, Charleville, and Banogue “will remove strategic traffic and heavy goods vehicles from these communities, significantly improving air quality, reducing noise levels, and further supporting public realm improvements, sustainable transport and vibrant communities”.

The project team has also recommended the development of a ‘no change’ additional hourly rail service between Cork and Limerick via Limerick Junction, reducing rail journey times by over 20 minutes between the cities.

The new rail service is being recommended by the project team for consideration within the All-Island Strategic Rail Review.

The project will deliver 80km of transformative active travel (walking and cycle) infrastructure, connecting the communities of Cork, Blarney, Grenagh, Rathduff, Mallow, New Twopothouse, Buttevant, Charleville, Bruree, Banogue, Croom, Patrickswell, and Limerick.

The impact of the integrated proposal will be “transformative and far-reaching”, according to Pat Daly, CEO of Limerick City and County Council, which is progressing the project in partnership with Cork County Council, Cork City Council, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and the Department of Transport.

Speaking during a press briefing on the project yesterday, Jari Howard, N/M20 project coordinator, said the selected road-based option “reflects the wishes of a vast majority” following significant consultation.

“We’ve listened to the people and we’ll continue to listen,” he said.

“We’ve written to the over 700 properties underneath the preferred option. We’ve issued them a brochure and invited them in for a meeting with the project team.

“The important thing is that we speak with those people over the next few years on an ongoing basis as the design develops.”

Speaking to The Echo following the route announcement, Dee Hosford of Whitechurch Residents Association who was involved in the No to Navy group which opposed one of the shortlisted options, gave an initial welcome to the route announced.

“It’s still very new and we’re still looking at maps and everything but we’re cautiously optimistic from the outcome today that it’s not going to come near our area here in Whitechurch,” she said.

“We’re relieved more than anything. In our area, it would have been the navy route that affected us the most. That would essentially have been the new full motorway which would have started just outside Blarney and continued all the ways on to Limerick.

“Thankfully, the project team have used some joined-up thinking here and they’re going to upgrade the existing road which will address the safety concerns which is amazing for all involved and then I know further out the route there are bypasses of Mallow, Buttevant, and Charleville which is badly needed — we all know they are bottlenecks,” she continued.

The CEOs of Cork Chamber and Limerick Chamber Conor Healy and Dee Ryan highlighting business support for the N/M20 plan.	Picture: Gerard McCarthy
The CEOs of Cork Chamber and Limerick Chamber Conor Healy and Dee Ryan highlighting business support for the N/M20 plan. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Mallow-based Cork East TD Seán Sherlock also welcomed the route selection.

“Thankfully the towns of Mallow, Buttevant, and Charleville will now be bypassed,” he said.

“Sixty-two people have died on the existing road in the past 25 years.

“We must see funding secured and proceed to planning stage so that we can have a safer road between the two cities,” the Labour TD continued.

At yesterday’s press briefing, it was stated that this next phase of the project, which will include detailed design, an environmental impact assessment and the preparation of a business case for Government, is envisaged to take two years to complete.

Mr Howard stated that it would be 2027 “at the earliest” before a contractor would be appointed, pending planning approval.

“We’re looking at about 2027 at the very earliest before a main contractor could be appointed,” he said.

“Then to build the entire project could take four years but as I say, once again, it would be a Government decision on how this project is procured whether it’s in one contract, two contracts, or a number of contracts.”

Speaking to The Echo following the route announcement, Dee Hosford of Whitechurch Residents Association who was involved in the No to Navy group which opposed one of the shortlisted options, gave an initial welcome to the route announced. Picture Denis Minihane.
Speaking to The Echo following the route announcement, Dee Hosford of Whitechurch Residents Association who was involved in the No to Navy group which opposed one of the shortlisted options, gave an initial welcome to the route announced. Picture Denis Minihane.

Ibec, which represents Irish business, has welcomed the preferred transport option but called for the project delivery timeline to be accelerated.

“The aim must be to accelerate the project delivery timeline. Investment decisions and planning laws must enable this,” Ibec head of regional policy, Helen Leahy said.

“Given the significance of this particular project to the development of the region, it is vital that the entire project is delivered in the shortest timeframe, with clear timelines for completion. We look forward to engaging further on the project during the design stage.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould said there cannot be any further delays with the N/M20 project.

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