Cork and Limerick Chambers, which represent thousands of businesses in the neighbouring counties, have jointly commissioned a socio-economic study into the benefits of the proposed, 80km, €1bn road project, which was shelved during the economic crash.
Backed by chamber bodies in Mallow, Charleville, Shannon, and Ennis, the study, by Indecon Economic Consultants and Red C Research, will involve a survey of 2,000 businesses along the route.
Indecon will also co-host an M20 workshop at the Charleville Park Hotel, on April 7, to discuss the importance of building the motorway.
They hope to present the study results to the Government, in support of their calls for the scheme to be funded. The need to upgrade the existing N20 was first identified in 1998. Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), formerly the National Roads Authority, had identified a preferred route and submitted it to An Bord Pleanála in 2010. But it was subsequently withdrawn, due to financial constraints.
However, the Transport Minister, Shane Ross, put the project back on the agenda, late last year, when he allocated €1m to TII for preparatory work. Last week, Local Government Minister, Simon Coveney, said the M20 is now one of the Government’s priorities, as it finalises its National Planning Framework. This seeks to foster economic development outside the Dublin region.
Mr Coveney said a proper motorway link between Ireland’s second and third largest cities is vital, and he said the Government is looking at new ways of financing the scheme.
Cork Chamber said the proposed motorway would create a seamless Atlantic corridor from Cork, through Limerick and on to Galway. This would be an economic complement to the east coast.
“In order to facilitate growth across Munster and the wider Atlantic corridor, the cities of Cork and Limerick must be connected with a motorway fit for purpose to meet increasing traffic volumes from transport-heavy industries along the M20 corridor, and to enable new economic expansion,” it said.
“For too long, regions in Ireland have thought about one another as competitors for growth. The time is right to take a collaborative approach to drive forward the potential of the southern axis.”
Limerick Chamber head, James Ring, said severe capacity constraints on the N20 are hampering development.
“This motorway would have a hugely beneficial impact on our city regions. With the right road network linking them, they would, effectively, become one large labour and customer marketplace. It’s a game changer for the corridor, and all the more important because of the looming uncertainty about Brexit,” he said.
Both said they hope the economic study will be finalised in May and that its results will feed into the Government’s mid-term review of its Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan. 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 Blarney and Attyflynn from 61 to 45 minutes.