Empty M11 rest stop costs €16k a month
Hopes of seeing the new service station on the M11 south of Arklow open any time soon remain remote, as the granting of a tender to Topaz to run the facility remains tied up in the courts due to a legal challenge.
In the meantime, it is costing Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the former NRA, almost €16,000 per month to keep the empty premises secure and lit.
Work on site finished in May last year, and the tender to operate the facility was awarded to Topaz. It was expected the fit out would take around six months to complete, meaning the facility should have been operational by the end of the year.
Seven months on, the rest stop remains vacant, and the TII said this week that the cost for providing security to the unopened Gorey service area is €12,394 (incl. VAT) per month. A security guard is on site 24 hours per day, seven days a week. TII is also responsible for electricity supply charges to the amenity building and car-parking areas which averages out at approx €3,400 per month.
It emerged last August that the SuperStop 2 consortium involving Applegreen and Tedcastles Oil Products had gone to the Commercial Court to challenge the awarding of the tender to Topaz, and the case remains before the court.
In the meantime, the service station remains in limbo, and even when the legal matters are resolved, it could be another six months before motorists can stop in for a cuppa or a bite to eat.
The disputed tender involved the design, build, operation and finance of service stations on the M6 in Athlone and M9 in Kilcullen, and the fit out and operation of the M11 service station at Ballyellen, Gorey. Another bidder, Maxol, has also been joined as a notice party in the case.
Back in July 2013, Applegreen issued a statement to the media questioning the need of the service station at Ballyellen, when ground had already been broken to begin work on the project. At that stage, it was expected the station would be open by summer 2014.
In the statement in 2013, Applegreen revealed that it had plans to build a private service area further up the M11 at Cullenmore, Co. Wicklow, at Junction 14. It has since opened.
In the statement, Applegreen pointed to lower than expected traffic volumes on the Gorey bypass. It also questioned the financial viability of the Gorey project. Applegreen already has service stations in Arklow, Gorey and Ferns, Gorey, and invested €7 million on its Wicklow service station at Coynes Cross.
The Ballyellen service station has had a troubled history. Approval for the project only came about in 2010 following a Bord Pleanála hearing. Local residents had vehemently opposed its construction, mounting a strong campaign against it.