By Pádraig Hoare
A timeline on progress of the long-mooted Cork to Limerick motorway must be spelled out instead of being “announced and re-announced” by the Government.
That is according to Fianna Fáil spokesman for finance, Michael McGrath, after Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said it was not possible to outline a timeframe for the M20, which is expected to cost in the region of €1bn.
Political and business leaders have long campaigned for the upgrade of the road between Cork and Limerick, and the Government inserted it as a key project of Project Ireland 2040 earlier this year.
It was a u-turn from the previous Government, when then Taoiseach Enda Kenny poured cold water on the idea in 2016, saying it was too costly.
The need to upgrade the Cork-Limerick road was first mooted in 1998, but the economic crash of 2008 put paid to the project.
In 2011, the then Transport Minister Leo Varadkar officially declared the project stalled, saying there was no money available.
His successors toed the same line, until Mr Varadkar officially greenlit the project on his first official visit to Cork as Taoiseach.
The favoured M20 route, from the junction with the proposed Cork northern ring road near Blarney to the junction with the N21 at Attyflynn in Limerick would reduce travel time between the cities from 61 to 45 minutes.
In response to Mr McGrath’s question, TII said it has allocated €1.5m to Limerick City and County Council this year to advance planning and design work on the scheme, and was currently procuring the appointment of technical advisors before the end of the year.
“The scheme is at an early stage of development and it is not, therefore, possible at this time to indicate a likely timeframe for construction of the project which will, of course, be dependent upon the satisfactory conclusion of the statutory planning approval process,” it said.
Mr McGrath said the response was “very disappointing to those of us who have been campaigning and waiting for this much-needed piece of infrastructure”.
“The M20 project is continually announced and re-announced, yet at every occasion, no actual dates for commencement are ever provided. Communities up and down the preferred route are fed up waiting for confirmation as to when construction will begin,” he said.