The Dunkettle interchange projectis vital to traffic flowboth to and from Cork and delays are worrying, says Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
In the Dáil last week, when I asked the Taoiseach about the latest update on the Dunkettle interchange, I found it very hard to get a direct answer.
There have been a lot of rumours about the project going way over budget and that this could actually jeopardise it.
Obviously, there was a lot of disquiet as it is an essential project for people who depend on it every day and also for future business in Cork.
There were numerous attempts to get answers through parliamentary questions and there was no commitment in the replies that said it is definitely going ahead.
Construction has been delayed and it was said that “serious difficulties have emerged between Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the stage one contractor, Sisk, in agreeing a target cost for the main contract”.
It is understood the cost of the Dunkettle project has risen to well in excess of €100m.
This is very worrying as once work starts it will take at least three years to deliver any improvements and construction was meant to start in 2018 and it was meant to be completed in 2021 so it is already delayed. After all, this project was first announced by the Government in 2011.
Given that the delay comes at the same time as the Government is looking for savings in the overall capital budget due to the massive overruns with the Children’s Hospital and the National Broadband Plan, a lot of business owners contacted me and asked that I get to the bottom of it.
Everyone living in or travelling to and from Cork city and county realises how crucial the Dunkettle Interchange is to the traffic flow to and from the city. It allows traffic to go in through the Jack Lynch Tunnel (opened 20 years ago this year) meaning traffic does not have to go through the city centre.
It is meant to allow for smooth connectivity.
Unfortunately, it has been too congested for too long and is like a car park at peak times and needs to be urgently addressed.
Connectivity is central to a modern economy, and it is clear to anyone looking at the facts of this project that it is vital to ensuring the continued economic success of the Cork region.
The current Government announced its upgrade in 2011 and then again when they launched the National Development Plan.
This was welcomed by businesses and by people who have to use it on a daily basis.
Upgrading the Dunkettle Interchange is necessary to allow for a free-flow layout and it would considerably increase capacity and stop the current congestion that happens at all times during the day — but in particular in the mornings and evenings.
When announced, the project was estimated to cost €100m, with construction anticipated to begin in early 2018. It was planned to be done by 2022.
It is now June 2019, and construction has yet to start. It is now believed that significant cost overruns are delaying and ultimately endangering this project.
The numbers for this project speak for themselves. The interchange is currently used by approximately 100,000 vehicles per day and allows for the flow of traffic between the M8, the N25, and the N40.
It serves as an interchange for the cities of Waterford, Dublin, Kerry, and Cork, but it is now becoming clogged more times than not.
We want the southern region to be an attractive place to live, work, and do business in, so this project is a vital first step.
The Dunkettle Interchange is vital to the thousands of businesses that function not just in Cork City, but those that are located in the surrounding areas.
The upgrade is needed urgently to improve connectivity with Little Island, one of the biggest employment regions in Cork city and home to more than 1,000 employers and 16,000 employees.
The interchange provides one of the main links to Cork Airport, which facilitated 2.4m passenger journeys in 2018. It also serves as a key link to the Cork Airport Business Park, which is home to many of the world’s leading companies, including Amazon, IBM, Black and Decker, Logitech, Analog Devices, Bank of New York Mellon, McKesson, and Red Hat.
There are already more than 125,000 people living in Cork. Project 2040 projects growth in the Cork region ofat least 50% by 2040.
This growth is welcome, especially as it will greatly benefit the area surrounding Cork city.
The need for the Dunkettle Interchange upgrade will not abate over the coming years. Businesses need to know now whether the project is going ahead so that they can plan. Doubts need to be removed as soon as possible.
Since I brought this issue up in the Dáil there has been confirmation that Transport Infrastructure Ireland are assessing the costs with Sisk and that there “are significant differences with the contractor in relation to pricing rates submitted” and that this assessment should be completed by July.
Dodging straight questions is never a good policy as it leads to doubt and uncertainty.
I hope that common sense prevails and that an agreement can be found to allow this essential project to go ahead and I hope the Government ensures that it will not be stopped.