Any delays to the €100m upgrade of the Dunkettle interchange will have “disastrous consequences” for Cork’s growth and have knock-on effects for key infrastructural and housing projects.
Property developer Michael O’Flynn and the Cork Chamber of Commerce issued the warning as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted the project will not be scrapped — despite documents seen by the Irish Examiner which warn that the contractor may have to be let go if agreement on a new pricing structure cannot be agreed.
The interchange was originally projected to cost €100m, but then jumped to €115m. Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s director of capital programmes, Peter Walsh, warned that, if a new pricing structure cannot be agreed, completion could be delayed by 12-18 months.
Speaking in Longford, Mr Varadkar said the upgrade “is going to happen” — but did not rule out delays.
“Well first of all I can say there is no chance of the project being scrapped, that’s a really important infrastructure road project for Cork and the Cork region,” he said.
“As has been the case unfortunately with a lot of construction projects, not just Government ones but private sector ones as well, the fact we have quite high construction inflation rates right now is driving up the cost of construction.
“So I understand now the TII is assessing the tender and there are negotiations with the company about a fair price. I would hope that any delay, if there is one, would be minimal, but as I say there is a tender in that is commercially sensitive, Transport Infrastructure Ireland is discussing it with the contractors for a fair price.”
Mr O’Flynn said any delay in the Dunkettle Interchange “will have disastrous consequences for the development of the North and East side of Cork”.
“Any new development proposed or granted recently is based on the Dunkettle interchange proceeding,” said Mr O’Flynn. “It has been a major issue for Transport Infrastructure Ireland and An Bord Pleanála in making decisions, ours and any other development will not go ahead unless there is a clear timetable for the delivery of the Dunkettle interchange.”
Last year, O’Flynn Construction received planning permission to build 608 residential units on a site in Ballinglanna, Glanmire. The permission for the units was granted by An Bord Pleanála, on condition that the development must be carried out on a phased basis “such that not more than 400 number dwelling units... shall be constructed prior to completion of the Dunkettle interchange upgrade works”.
The planning authority’s inspector’s report on the development noted previous application to develop the site “were both refused on grounds relating to prematurity pending the upgrading of Dunkettle interchange”.
“The traffic impact is a significant factor in making these decisions,” Mr O’Flynn told the Irish Examiner. “Not proceeding with the Dunkettle interchange is not an option for Cork’s development.”
Cork Chamber of Commerce said any potential delay was “of deep concern for business”.
“Delivery of the Dunkettle Interchange Upgrade is absolutely essential to deal with current congestion and the future economic and population growth of Cork and Munster as a whole,” said Thomas Mc Hugh, director of public affairs at Cork Chamber said.
“As a national crunch point, Dunkettle links access to Waterford, Dublin, Kerry and Cork and with over 100,000 vehicles passing through each day it is Ireland’s busiest junction outside of Dublin.
“Upgrading this interchange to free flow is critical for the success of economic drivers from Ringaskiddy, to Cork City, Little Island and Ireland itself.
“This delay is a source of deep concern for business and Government must ensure that any issue with progress is resolved as an immediate national priority.”