That’s according to a senior figure in the Port of Cork, which is soon to start work on a €80 million container terminal in Ringaskiddy.
Port of Cork deputy chief executive Denis Healy, who also manages the company’s engineering services, said that if the new N28 wasn’t completed within seven years it would put pressure on the port’s handling capabilities, which would have a knock-on effect on the Munster economy.
Mr Healy said that preparatory work was being undertaken on the Ringaskiddy site and it is planned to have a contractor onsite towards the end of this year to start work on the container terminal.
This will be involve the building of a 350 metre quay at Ringaskiddy East which should be completed by the end of 2018. When opened it will be able to handle the equivalent of 350,000 20ft containers per annum.
It will replace the current container handling facilities at Tivoli dock.
That’s the first phase of the Port of Cork’s three-phase plan for upgrading services in Ringaskiddy.
The other phases, which it has permission for, are being put on hold until the road is built. Mr Healy said these were the extension of the deep water berth at Ringaskiddy West and the creation of a RoRo (roll on/roll off) cargo handling facility at Ringaskiddy East.
The current Cork-Ringaskiddy road is at capacity and the upgrading of the port’s Ringaskiddy facilities will have to be carefully managed to ensure the road doesn’t grind to a halt with the extra HGV traffic the port’s project will generate.
Mr Healy said that after the €80 million container terminal is opened, the company will ensure that no HGVs are transporting containers to and from the Ringaskiddy port at peak times.
This will be done by a computerised booking system which will give off-peak time slots for contractors to collect and deliver containers.
Bob O’Shea, project manager for the National Roads Office, said that depending on funding being made available by the government, construction on the 12.5km €180 million road might start in 2021. It would take two years to complete.
Mr O’Shea added it remains likely that there would have to be a Bord Pleanala oral hearing into the project, which could also take time.
A judicial review is also possible. However, it seems less likely now since the road designers have tried to placate some residents associations who were up in arms about the initial blueprint which included plans to close the junctions into Mount Oval and Maryborough Hill.
After scores of protests the road designers agreed to leave the Mount Oval junction alone and to create a new one at Maryborough Hill, which is just a few hundred yards from the existing one.
Mr Healy said it’s also vital that the Dunkettle/ Jack Lynch Tunnel be upgraded to deal with extra HGV traffic in the years ahead.