Rumours were rife among Cork county councillors at a recent meeting in County Hall that the business bodies supported having an alternative to the now-mothballed M20 project run through the north Cork town.
The supposed logic of this was that a motorway link already existed from Cork to Mitchelstown and, therefore it would be far less expensive to build a link from there to Limerick instead of a complete new €800m link from Cork to Limerick.
Currently, the main road between the cities is through Mallow and Charleville. County councillors baulked at that idea, suggesting any such decision would economically isolate a large swathe of north-west Cork.
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said there was absolutely no truth that his organisation supported a Mitchelstown link. In fact, he said, the claim could not be further from the truth.
“Both chambers have been working jointly to get a direct motorway connection between Cork and Limerick,” he said.
The Cork organisation had recently met Cork ministers Simon Coveney and Michael Creed to emphasis the importance of restarting the plans for the M20.
The chamber has also been in touch with the Minister for Transport Shane Ross and is seeking a meeting with him to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, Limerick Chamber chief executive James Ring said his organisation recently discussed the issue with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.
“In the opinion of Limerick Chamber this is the most important project for the entire region,” he said.
“Mitchelstown is not an option because Mallow, Charleville and Buttevant need to be serviced with better road links. A motorway directly from Cork to Limerick would also open up better services to West Limerick and places such as Newcastlewest.” He said a motorway link from Mitchelstown to Limerick “would be just crossing villages.”
He said his chamber would be calling for the M20 project to immediately go through the planning process so when money starts to become available in two years’ time some work could be progressed.
Mr Ring said it might not be realistic to expect the motorway to be built in one fell swoop. However, he said bypasses should be built around Mallow, Buttevant and Charleville which could all be joined up to the motorway at a later date.
Cork county councillors are also hoping to put pressure on the Government to get the project back on track.
Senior executives from Transport Infrastructure Ireland recently met council officials and advised them that any political pressures councillors could exert to accelerate the increase in their spending budgets would be appreciated.
It also expressed its disappointment that the M20 is not on the current Capital Investment Programme (2016- 2021). It also said the need for the motorway was highlighted by the number of recent fatal crashes on the N20, especially in the Mallow area.
Councillors are also trying to lobby for the creation of a northern relief road around Mallow, as the town has extensive gridlock at peak times. A consultant has been appointed to carry out a feasibility study.
However, the national roads authority agreed there was a good business case for the project. The county council and Mallow businesses paid for another consultant to compile a report which was handed to the Government showing the economic benefits of building the road.