Road Network.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 188 No. 11

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Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames I thank the Minister of State for deputising for the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey. My issue this evening is the need for the Minister for Transport to clarify the timeframe for the implementation of the Claregalway bypass, as he indicated and promised in the programme for Government.

I trust the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, is familiar with the case. Claregalway is a village approximately 5 or 6 miles from Galway city, choked by daily traffic volumes of more than 33,000 cars, as recorded by Galway County Council, the National Roads Authority, NRA, and other agencies. This brings the village to a halt and severely affects people’s quality of life. At a public meeting a year ago one woman said she counts 41 cars before she can go out her gate. There have been fatalities over several years. There is mayhem at the local school of 200 children, which is at the junction of the N17 and the N18. The road is seriously dangerous. Local councillors — I was one — cannot provide local funds because these are national routes and the Department of Transport has not provided money to relieve the traffic.

It was embarrassing to see the numerous deputations that came to Galway County Council. Deputies Grealish and Fahey declared the promised land in the form of a bypass which is in the programme for Government. Meanwhile, local people provided local solutions with rat-runs. This is where the real danger lies and I fear lives will be lost. These rat-runs are Cregmore to Lydican, and Claregalway to Corandulla to Clonboo. The engineer for Galway County Council told me today that the problem is greater now on the N84, which is substandard at Clonboo, as a result of the traffic being diverted from Claregalway. There are traffic delays of three to four hours morning and evening in Claregalway. Growth in Tuam is stifled as a result of this traffic.

Claregalway was not considered a major inter-urban route although towns with lower traffic volumes have been bypassed, for example, Loughrea. It is time to widen the brief. The programme for Government contains a commitment to build a bypass in Claregalway. The N17 is not the answer for the number of people living in the rural hinterland who need daily access to the city. There are studies and traffic counts to support this point. Claregalway is ripe for development because of its strategic location and range of social, educational and commercial infrastructure but it is choked and needs a bypass.

When will the Minister for Transport sanction the money for the building of the Claregalway bypass as promised in the programme for [840]Government? I checked the programme today in case it had gone away. I want an answer to that question this evening and I am not talking about the N17. When we have the answer we will be able to work out the timeframe for the delivery of the bypass because we know that tenders, contracts etc. need to be worked out. I want no fudges, just facts because we have had many broken promises. Galway County Council submitted a preliminary report on the bypass route to the Minister seeking €20 million. That bypass would comprise a 5 km road, one major bridge and five roundabouts.

Within the past month a red herring was thrown in to the pot at a county council meeting. I want the Minister of State, at the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Killeen, to tell me the truth tonight. Does the Department of Transport plan to sanction 100% of these moneys or will it expect a local development contribution? If so, what percentage does it expect that contribution to be? I have heard a figure of 20% local money and 80% from the Department of Transport.

If the Department seeks a local contribution that will require a vote from members of Galway County Council to raise a loan for that 20%. To do that we will need to get the members of the county council who are not local to Claregalway on our side which will involve considering the broad transport needs of the county. Galway County Council has submitted 22 capital schemes to the Department of Transport that would amount to €300 million. This would include Barna, Spiddal, Oughterard and the Oranmore dual carriageway. The county manager wants to know whether the Department of Transport is willing to work with Galway County Council on the basis that it will provide 80% of the money. Galway County Council would need to raise €60 million, being 20% of €300 million, over the next five to ten years, at a rate of approximately €10 million a year. The Department would need to fund the balance of €50 million a year over six years. This is a red herring because it will slow down the bypass. The county manager says that if the Department does not work with the council on this issue it will stifle growth in County Galway.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Deputy Tony Killeen): Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen I thank Senator Healy Eames for raising this issue. I will try to answer her questions in so far as the information is provided. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey.

The Minister for Transport has responsibility for overall policy and funding of the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects, including the allocation of moneys to those projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority under sections 17 and 19 of the Roads Act [841]1993, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.

The agreed programme for Government includes a commitment, in the context of the NRA programme, that Claregalway is to be bypassed by 2012. Claregalway is located on the N17 and will be bypassed as part of the N17 Galway-Tuam road which is a national road project. The scheme is being advanced as a motorway and the motorway order and environmental impact statement was published at the end of 2007. A date for the oral hearing has yet to be announced. The 2008 allocation is €0.75 million. The Minister is confident that the commitment in the programme for Government will be delivered and that the Claregalway bypass will be in place by 2012.

In addition to the development of the N17 Tuam-Galway motorway, which will provide considerable relief to the town of Claregalway, Galway County Council has approached the Department of Transport about possible funding for an interim relief road. This proposal was put forward on the basis that it would provide relief from traffic congestion, in advance of the motorway, but also on the basis that a new road in the area would open up land for much needed housing and related development. A road designed to facilitate such development might qualify for funding under the Department of Transport’s regional and local road strategic grants scheme.

In December 2007, Galway County Council was asked to supply additional information to support the proposal for an interim scheme. In particular, it was asked to give a breakdown of the estimated cost including details of the cost of land, construction costs, design and supervision, and other costs, to indicate the extent to which it would open up land for necessary development, and to indicate the financial contribution the council would make to the road, including the potential income from development contributions arising from development supported by the road.

A reply from the council is awaited. When the information is received, it will be examined in the Department of Transport to assess whether the proposal would quality for grant aid under the terms of the strategic grants scheme.

The work progressing on the major inter-urban routes will have a positive impact for all regions and is aimed at ensuring that critical bottlenecks on the network are dealt with. The national roads programme must focus on projects with benefits for all regions.

Three projects in the BMW region are under construction in 2008, two of which are in County Galway. The N6 Galway to Ballinasloe scheme, which consists of 56 km of high quality dual carriageway, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2010. The N6 Athlone to Ballinasloe project, which consists of 19 km of high quality dual carriageway, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2009. A major programme of projects is in planning and includes [842]the N6 Galway city outer bypass, the N17 Tuam bypass and the N17 Tuam to Claremorris project. The N18 Oranmore to Gort and Gort to Crusheen schemes have been prioritised in the National Development Plan 2007-2013. The N18 schemes comprise 49 km of high quality dual carriageway and it is expected that construction will commence on both of them in the last quarter of 2008.

The development of the Atlantic road corridor from Letterkenny through Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford will connect the national spatial strategy gateway cities. It has been a longstanding concept in the national roads upgrade programme and has now been reinforced by Transport 21. It is envisaged that the route will be upgraded substantially to dual carriageway road standard.

A number of significant projects have been completed on the Atlantic corridor in recent years including the N15 Donegal bypass, the N15 Clar to Barnesmore scheme, the N15 Ballyshannon to Bundoran scheme, the N17 Knock to Claremorris bypass, the N18 Newmarket-on-Fergus bypass, phase 1 of the N7 Limerick south ring road, the Lee Tunnel, the Croom bypass, the Youghal bypass and the Ennis bypass.

A central theme of Transport 21 is connectivity with the BMW region, that is, the improvement of strategic road links to and from the BMW region by upgrading the N2, N3, N4 and N5. There also will be targeted improvement of a number of national secondary routes, which are particularly important for regional development. Examples include the N56 Donegal coastal route and the N59 coastal route from Sligo via Westport to Galway.

The major investment in roads in the Galway region is being complemented by increased investment in public transport. Work is under way on the western rail corridor. This project, which is due for completion this year, will restore the rail link between Ennis and Athenry and will enhance commuter services between Athenry and Galway. Transport 21 also provides for the Athenry to Tuam section of the western rail corridor to be completed by 2011. Bus Éireann is upgrading its bus fleet throughout the country, including in the Galway area, through the deployment of 235 new buses funded by the Exchequer.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I am a little confused by some of the information he has provided. He stated that the programme for Government includes a commitment, in the context of the NRA programme, that Claregalway is to be bypassed by 2012. Does this refer to the N17 or to the separate relief road that I stated was needed and which the people expect? This is what they would have expected Deputy Grealish to have been talking about.

[843]Deputy Tony Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen The information I have appears, in respect of the paragraph referred to by the Senator, to refer to the main N17 bypass. I then referred to the proposal by Galway County Council in respect of which outstanding questions arise.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames I see. I will finish on this point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Standing Orders do not so allow.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames Is the Minister of State suggesting the county council is holding up this project? On receipt of the new documentation from Galway County Council, when will the money be sanctioned?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I have allowed the Senator’s supplementary question.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames I require an answer to my question.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Minister of State may not be able to answer that.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames Members should find out.

Deputy Tony Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen I have already stated that a road designed to facilitate such development might qualify for funding under the Department of Transport’s regional and local roads strategic grants scheme.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames It might qualify.

Deputy Tony Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen That is what I have said.


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