State may have to fork out €500m on new motorways
EU rules require 'high-capacity' network
THE State could be forced to build new motorways costing more than €500m to meet EU rules on providing a high-capacity transport network.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) said a road between Limerick and the port of Shannon Foynes and a second linking Cork with the proposed new Port of Cork at Ringaskiddy were needed to comply with rules on major ports being serviced by high-quality roads.
The Limerick road would "not" be a priority project in ordinary circumstances, NRA chief executive Fred Barry said.
He added that both schemes would have to be in place by 2030. Based on current prices, the roads could cost almost €520m to deliver.
Mr Barry said the roads were needed to comply with EU rules on providing access to vital infrastructure deemed to be part of the so-called Trans European Network (Ten-T).
Regulations are now in place which oblige member states to provide upgrades to the so-called "core network" by 2030. This includes some 2,200km of the motorway network and infrastructure including Cork and Dublin Airports and the ports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes.
While a €26bn fund has been made available across the EU up to 2020 to deliver the upgrades, matching funds must be provided by the national governments.
The developments are needed to provide safer and less congested travel, smoother and quicker journeys and reduce the impact of transport on climate change.
"During the Irish presidency (of the European Council in 2013) there were big significant changes (to Ten-T) where it moved from guideline to regulations, which means it has to be implemented or Ireland can be fined," Mr Barry said.
Based on current prices, a 40km motorway between Limerick and Foynes could cost €384m. The second road of 14km from Cork to Ringaskiddy would incur a €134m bill, with both totalling €518m.
Work is under way designing the Cork project, which is considered a priority because it would also service a large population and businesses including pharmaceutical companies.
It will be ready to proceed to planning by early next year, but is dependent on funding. Limerick to Foynes is less advanced.
"One of the things to be worked out is how we would link it with the Limerick to Tralee road so we get regional benefits," Mr Barry said.
"The road to Foynes would not have been one of our primary concerns. We would need to reconfigure several roads, and it's years away.
"But it takes 10 years to get a scheme from feasibility to open to traffic. We know that if a major scheme runs into judicial reviews or legal challenges, it can add five or six years. There's no risk at the moment, but we can't wait for five years. There's a lot of work and a lot of money needed."
Mr Barry said that projections from the Central Statistics Office suggest that road traffic will double in the next 30 years, based on economic, employment and population growth.
"The passenger traffic growth has to be provided by bus, train and Luas in the urban areas, but in our view, the non-urban traffic will be dealt with on the road network," he added.