Mr Varadkar ended speculation the M20 motorway would vary from the route proposed when it was axed in 2011, saying if this happens “you’d set it back months and years”.
He said the Government’s capital plan, due out soon, will outline the 80km route as initially planned, from the junction with the N21 at Attyflynn, to the proposed Cork northern ring road near Blarney. This corridor would run to the west of the current N20.
“The intention is to follow the route plan which has been intended for a very long time, the direct route between Cork and Limerick, because that provides the bypass for Buttevant and Charleville, and other towns along the way,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said this was crucial, as it “doesn’t just link Cork and Limerick, but also Galway too. This gives us three big cities linked by road and rail which is important for balanced regional development.”
It will also provide the fastest link between Ireland’s second and third cities.
Senator Kieran O’Donnell welcomed the comment, adding: “The key thing now is we deliver the road quickly”.
The former Transport minister’s intervention, however, puts him at odds with the current holder of the portfolio Shane Ross who earlier this month asked Transport Infrastructure Ireland to explore alternative route options for the motorway.
There have been calls for a shorter motorway from Limerick to Cahir, which could then link with the M8 to Cork. However, Mr Varadkar said: “I feel for us to go down this route, you’d set the project back months and years”.
The move comes as a boost to landowners facing uncertainty around the corridor selection.
Mr O’Donnell said: “For me, you have to have a motorway that cuts down the time. You want Limerick to be the gateway along the western seaboard, and to be able to get to Cork in 45 minutes. The Taoiseach was the first person to come out and say the M20 was a commitment for government and funding would be provided for design and planning. We now need to proceed to design and planning quickly.”
Limerick TD Niall Collins has also raised the matter in the Dáil, citing concern over the impact on the landowners, who have been left in “limbo” by the uncertainty.