Applegreen and NRA's war of words on M11
THE NATIONAL Roads Authority said this week it expects to break ground on the new service station along the Gorey bypass at Ballyellen by the end of August.
It said that the Gorey project, which is part of the tender for the Arklow to Rathnew motorway, is going ahead, despite an announcement by service station provider Applegreen that it plans to build a private service area further up the M11 at Cullenmore, Co. Wicklow, at Junction 14.
In a statement issued to the media last week, Applegreen questioned the need for the Gorey service area, pointing to lower than expected traffic volumes on the Gorey bypass. It also questioned the financial viability of the Gorey project.
However, Sean O'Neill of the NRA, said that preparatory works began on site last year to allow the Gorey bypass to connect to the service station, and the contractor has already been engaged to start the work.
'The provision of motorway service areas is primarily for safety purposes,' he said. 'Safety is paramount and that is why these service areas are being added to the network. Anyone thinking they are purely being built for revenue generation is not focusing purely on the safety element.'
He said that any they would expect that any company wishing to build additional services adjacent to or off the motorway network, would only enhance safety.
'The Gorey service station will service the entire Euroroute One between Rosslare and Dublin,' he continued. 'Gorey was selected after a lot of consultation. These service areas have to be well spaced out. The primary mission is for safety, where you offer services and respite, and we are building these throughout the network.'
The Gorey service area will involve a flyover across the motorway, and disruption will be kept to a minimum during the construction period, with works affecting the motorway itself mainly taking place at night.
Applegreen, which already has service stations in Ferns, Gorey and Arklow, said it will invest €7 million on its service station at Coynes Cross in Wicklow. It will be located on the site of the original Cullenmore Hotel and service station. An Bord Pleanála upheld the County Council's decision to grant planning permission for the project, following an appeal process in June 2013.
An Applegreen spokesperson confirmed it was aware the NRA received approval from An Bord Pleanala in 2010 for a similar service area on the M11 at Gorey.
Asked whether the Applegreen site at Cullenmore could proceed if the NRA site at Gorey was also to go ahead on the same route, a spokesperson referred to the An Bord Pleanála Order and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted by the NRA, which was the basis on which the NRA was originally granted approval to build near Gorey.
Applegreen contended that the EIS envisaged that only one site would be required on the route from Wexford to Dublin, and predicted opening year traffic levels in excess of 20,000 vehicles per day at the Gorey location. Traffic volumes at the Wicklow site are 35,000 per day on average.
The company suggested that the current recorded traffic levels on the Gorey bypass were about a third less than predicted by the NRA in 2008, and said the predicted numbers were unlikely to be achieved until 20 years' time or more.
The company said it believes the remainder of the route south of Gorey is currently more than adequately served by several other easily accessible local service stations at Camolin and Ferns etc.
Applegreen said it was fully prepared to fund its 'shovel ready' plans without any recourse to the exchequer, whereas the NRA site at Gorey would be likely to require a significant state subsidy to be viable. Enabling works at the Applegreen site are due to start later this month and it is expected to be open by summer 2014.