Kerry is unlikely to benefit from an upsurge in the tourism industry until major road schemes have been undertaken.
Two projects connecting the county with Cork and Limerick have been on hold for a number of years.
But tourism and business interests are planning to intensify pressure on central and local government to press ahead with bypass road schemes in Macroom, Co Cork, and Adare in Co Limerick.
Delays in improving access to Kerry is “costing the county dearly in terms of tourism and business”, it has been claimed.
Killarney municipal authority chairman John Joe Culloty said access to the county would continue to be a key issue. He said: “We see the Macroom bypass as the immediate priority, as work on its planning, design and land acquisition is much more further advanced than the Adare bypass and we would be hopeful of some progress this year.
“Getting the Macroom project completed — as it would also bypass Ballyvourney— would bring about a major improvement of the last important stretch on the N22 Cork to Tralee road,” he said.
He added it would also facilitate many Kerry people who had to travel regularly to Cork for work and medical appointments.
Meanwhile, a prominent figure in tourism also voiced fears the south-west could lose out in the industry’s continued growth— up 9% in 2014 — due to inferior access to the region.
Seán O’Driscoll, chairman of the Kerry branch of Irish Hotels Federation, also called for work to start on the Macroom and Adare bypasses, as poor road access was inhibiting tourism development.
“There’s no doubt if the journey time to Kerry was shortened, we would get more visitors,” he said.
“Access at the moment is too slow and these bypasses should be moved up the priority list. I would urge our politicians to continue to lobby for the necessary bypasses.”
He said destinations such as Kerry and West Cork needed to be ready to benefit from the further upsurge in tourism in the coming years and called for more flights into Cork and Shannon.
He welcomed the renewal, until 2017, of the state subsidy for flights on the Kerry-Dublin route. And while there would be an option to renew the subsidy for a year after that, there was no guarantee it would continue indefinitely, he pointed out.
Kerry Independent TD Tom Fleming has accused local authorities in Limerick and Cork of failing to act on the Adare and Macroom bypass routes when funding was available in the so-called boom times.
“Cork and Limerick county councils failed us badly,” he said. “They have sat on plans continuously over the past number of years when the country was awash with money and we’ve fallen behind with the National Roads Authority.”
Meanwhile, the protracted wait for a new outer bypass for Killarney is to continue. It could be at least another decade before work starts.
Kerry County Council has confirmed that the proposed 26km road “is currently suspended and unlikely to resume until the economic climate improves sufficiently to secure the necessary funding”.
The route of the road begins just on the Cork side of Killarney and runs cross-country to a point about 2km on the Tralee side of Farranfore.
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