Cullen speeds funding for Atlantic road


Minister for Transport Martin Cullen has "accelerated" funding for the Atlantic road corridor linking six "gateways" between Donegal and Waterford. Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent, reports.

Work on the Ennis to Galway section of the corridor is due to begin early next year, three years ahead of schedule, the Minister said in Galway yesterday.

He also promised to expedite construction of the Galway city outer bypass, with a projected start-up in 2009 and completion by 2012.

He said this would mean over 100km of motorway would be under construction next year around Galway costing €1.5 billion.

"This is a clear recognition by the Government of the importance of Galway as capital of the west," Mr Cullen said at a press briefing yesterday in Eyre Square.

Expenditure of €350 million on the Atlantic road corridor has been rescheduled under Transport 21 - incorporated in the new National Development Plan.

The Minister has allocated €1.5 million to speed up planning of the Galway city outer bypass, the construction cost of which has been estimated at €330 million.

Mr Cullen said the outer bypass would reduce traffic congestion in the city.

The route running across the Corrib, north of the city centre, is supported by business interests led by Galway Chamber of Commerce. However, it has been opposed by residents living in Menlo, a Gaeltacht village.

While placing most emphasis on road expenditure, including the new Galway-Dublin route, the Minister said the Government was committed to the western rail corridor. He had "high hopes" for the corridor, and preliminary rail clearing had already begun in spite of "a lot" of opposition to the project.

He said much depended on local authorities responding with spatial planning which would ensure that the rail corridor's use would be "maximised". However, its development between Sligo and Limerick was not predicated on such planning.

He said the development of commuter rail services between Galway and Athenry, construction of new stations at Oranmore, Co Galway, and Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, and a rail service between Ennis and Tuam formed part of the corridor to Claremorris. This would extend "eventually " to Sligo.

Asked about light rail for Galway to ease congestion, Mr Cullen said this was a matter for local authorities. The plan now was for "bus-based" public transport in Galway, but the fact that developers were paying over half of the cost of light-rail systems in Dublin was significant.

Mr Cullen is due to open the N18 Ennis bypass today, which he has said was "within budget and ahead of schedule".

Galway East TD Joe Callanan welcomed yesterday's announcements, and said the €1.5 billion investment would create an unprecedented level of construction jobs in the constituency.

He described it as "good news for Galway and good news for the west of Ireland".