'It's €15m of taxpayers' money' - Cost of proposed Cork-Limerick motorway being questioned

Cork County Council members are questioning the cost of a new design for the proposed Cork-Limerick motorway and the likely delay in securing planning, again, for the M20 route.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) confirmed last week €15m was being allocated for design proposals for the 100-km motorway, expected to cost €900m to construct.

The original design for the route was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála before the government decided to mothball it due to the global financial crisis in 2008.

At a meeting yesterday of the council's Northern Division in Mallow, Cllr Noel McCarthy asked officials if there had been “mudslides or landslides” along the route corridor “that we haven't been told about”?

He suggested the cost of a new design seemed very high, considering a design had been drawn and approved a decade ago.

Cllr Gearoid Murphy agreed and claimed it was absurd that TII was estimating it would take a further two years to complete the design, and get it through another Bord Pleanála oral hearing.

The design contract was awarded to JB Barry Transportation and its project partners WSP and Sweco, as technical advisers.

A TII spokesman, however, said the design and grant of planning had since lapsed so both processes had to be approved.

The spokesman said it will take at least two years before a new design was completed and new approval granted by the planning appeals' body.

The tendering process for construction could take a further two years before work begins, possibly in 2023.

The National Development Plan envisages the motorway will be completed in 2027, although concerns remain in several quarters whether that target could be achieved.

Cllr Gerard Murphy said the €15m cost “had to be called into question”.

He said:

It's €15m of taxpayers' money. The vast majority of the work on the design has been completed. I know it has to be done from a legal point of view but we should get a detailed explanation of why it's costing so much.

Cllr Frank O'Flynn noted €20m had already been spent on design and getting it through the planning process.

Cllr Ian Doyle said he was worried the 2027 deadline would not be met and asserted it was vital that relief roads in Charleville and Mallow would be built in advance, otherwise those towns would become even more choked with traffic.

“The M20 is dragging on and the emphasis on having the relief roads in Charleville and Mallow becomes more important. We must insist they build them first,” Cllr Gerard Murphy said.

Cllr Timmy Collins said he was very concerned about the cost of the design and the timeframes being given about its completion and also the construction timetable for the motorway. “I don't know when God will pull the plug on me but I bet I'll be well underground before the M20 is built,” he added.

Councillors are to seek a meeting with Limerick County Council, the lead local authority, and TII in an effort to get a detailed breakdown on design costs.

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