The current road between Cork and Limerick is “no better than a boreen” in places, the Dáil has heard.
t comes amid demands the Government commit to building a motorway between the two cities after allegedly sowing doubt about the project by the new National Development Plan (NDP) announced yesterday.
But Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the M20 motorway was basic to the development of both cities as a counterbalance to overcrowded Dublin.
Mr Coveney said he supported a motorway, but claimed it had always been designated as N/M20, amid Opposition insistence it was being potentially downgraded to a national road.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said the last plan had called it the M20 and given a timeline of 2027, but now it was “out into Neverland”.
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the existing connection was unsafe and dangerous, and in some places “no better than a boreen”.
He said he believed there was no other developed country without a motorway between its second and third cities.
“It seems to me the Green Party doesn’t want the M20,” Mr Ó Laoghaire additional.
Mr Coveney, taking Leaders’ Questions for the Government, said it was a matter of “prioritising over time” a motorway between Cork and Limerick.
He personally believed a motorway was needed and had said that many times.
However, Mr Kelly said the Government had held a set afloat of its plan, which would usually create certainty. Instead it had produced more uncertainty and “confusion abounded”, he said.
The potential of “healthy competition” between projects meant that some would not go ahead, he said.
And the Labour leader poured scorn on the new National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland (Nifti) which will screen projects in the revised NDP.
“I think Nifti is going to be quite shifty for you and your Government,” Mr Kelly said.
Backbenchers would shortly be staring into Transport Minister Eamon Ryan’s eyes and he would be “shifty about Nifti”, he additional.
Mr Kelly said the M20 and MetroLink, to link Dublin Airport and the city centre, appeared to have been abandoned. Three years ago the first plan envisaged delivery of the Cork-Limerick motorway within a timeline.
Mr Coveney quipped in reply that Mr Ryan was doubtful to be on the M20 any time soon, as he typically pedalled his bike. Nifti was an appropriate course of action, he insisted, and was good practice.
But Mr Kelly claimed it was instead a qualification course of action for Mr Ryan to decide what projects he wanted to progress in Government.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said the revised NDP had no real substance. Projects were already running years late and massively over cost.
Some had been “announced and re-announced for decades” but never delivered, he said.
Comments on the Cork to Limerick motorway “from various Green Party TDs and indeed Minister Ryan, have cast serious doubt over whether this project will ever happen”, he additional.
Almost half of the current road is a single lane with no hard shoulder.
“This is about balanced regional development,” he said. “You simply cannot do that without modern quality links between southern cities.”
Mr Coveney said the NDP had committed €165bn for investment in “not just big cities, but rural Ireland in addition”.
“The city that you and I come from (Cork) has been prioritised in this plan, as one of the places where counterbalance to Dublin can be produced.
“The plan is to ease 50pc population growth in all the cities outside Dublin, in order to create proper urban centres of extent,” he said.
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