Three motorway service areas to open following legal row

The new sites, which cost over €20m to build, have remained closed due to tender dispute

An engineer works on a newly rebranded Circle K service station in Rathfarnham, Dublin, in April. Circle K is set to operate three new motorway service areas. Photograph: Conor McCabe

An engineer works on a newly rebranded Circle K service station in Rathfarnham, Dublin, in April. Circle K is set to operate three new motorway service areas. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

Three motorway service areas that have cost Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) more than €20 million to build, and for which it is paying almost €20,000 per month for security, will finally be opened.

Development of the three areas, on the M11 near Inch, Co Wexford, on the M9 at Kilcullen, Co Kildare, and on the M6 at Moate, Co Westmeath, was halted after a legal challenge to the award of a tender.

The largest portion of the State road builder’s costs has been incurred at Inch, just north of Gorey, where the unopened facility has had round-the-clock security and nighttime lighting since 2015.

In addition to the ongoing security costs, the TII spent an estimated €10 million on developing the site and services building.

The facility was initially expected to open in 2014, but when TII identified retailer Topaz as its preferred bidder for the concession to operate the three service areas in May 2015, this decision was challenged in the courts by the SuperStop 2 Consortium, involving Applegreen and Tedcastles Oil Products.

The Inch facility has consequently remained closed since completion in 2015.

At Kilcullen and Moate, the costs are less because TII did not construct a building on either site, but it did develop off-ramps and an overbridge from which traffic must be securely blocked.

TII recently confirmed to Fianna Fáil councillor for Wexford Malcolm Byrne that the legal issues have been resolved and a contract has been signed with Topaz, which is now operating as Circle K.

Circle K’s Canadian parent company, Alimentation Couche-Tard, bought Topaz from Denis O’Brien in 2016.

Sources indicated Circle K will take a 25-year lease on the three sites and pay to build the service facilities at Kilcullen and Moate.

Millions of euro

TII has spent millions of euro on junctions on the M6 and M9 to provide access to the planned services at Moate and Kilcullen. A motorway bridge has also been built at Inch.

Michael Nolan, chief executive of TII, said the organisation had incurred €575,000 in legal costs after it was challenged by an underbidder for the concession to operate the three service areas.

Mr Byrne welcomed the news that the three areas were to open. It is understood the Co Wexford service area will be open by the end of the year, while the other two will be open by mid-2019. Mr Byrne said that “finally, finally, finally we will be able to buy a cup of coffee on this road which will link to the bypass of Enniscorthy early next year”.