The chief executive of Munster Rugby has criticised the Government for failing to fund the most urgently needed road connection in the country, and says the oversight will damage the regional economy.
The Government this week announced several road projects but decided not to proceed with the mothballed M20, the proposed Cork-Limerick motorway.
Head of Munster Rugby, Garrett Fitzgerald, said businesses would suffer because of the omission. He said that Munster Rugby was a regional business employing 140 people, with a turnover of €14m last year.
However, due to the state of the present national primary road linking both cities, Cork-based Mr Fitzgerald said it was easier for him to schedule a meeting in Portlaoise than travel to Limerick.
He said other businesses were facing similar problems.
“These are the only two main cities in the country not connected by a motorway. I understand they (the Government) can’t do everything, but this should have been a priority,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
He said the proposed N20 was a vital piece of infrastructure if Ireland was successful with a planned bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Mr Fitzgerald said, on the back of proposals some years ago to construct a motorway link between the cities, Muster Rugby decided to build a new training centre in Limerick which will open in July 2017.
He said a motorway trip between the cities would cut the journey time to 55 minutes.
“This has implications for the economy, for our supporters and all other businesses. It would cost €800m to build it now. If you leave it longer the price will go up,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
In 2012, then transport minister Leo Varadkar said he could not envisage the motorway opening before 2023. It was shelved because of the state of the public finances, despite millions of euro being spent on design.
Fine Gael TD Áine Collins said she was disappointed not to see the M20 on the list of approved projects.
“I will be working hard with my colleagues to ensure that this situation is rectified and that it is listed as a priority as quickly as possible.
“This doesn’t have to come out of current funding, as proposed improvements would need to go to Bord Pleanála which is a two-year process. It wouldn’t have to come out of budgets until 2018 at the earliest. In my view it makes good business sense to get moving on this project as soon as possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, the National Roads Authority (NRA) said it has not received any dates from the Government for the start of work on a number of major roadworks in Cork, despite the Government saying it was committing money to the routes.
They include the upgrading of the Jack Lynch Tunnel/ Dunkettle interchange, new bypasses for Macroom and Mallow, and a new Cork-Ringaskiddy road.
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