Roads in northwest ‘hampering’ investment, jobs and tourism

Business leaders ask Minister for Transport Shane Ross to invest in ‘vital lifeline’ to area

Business leaders from the northwest have met Minister for Transport Shane Ross to demand investment in the region’s road network, which they say is “severely over-capacity” and hampering jobs, investment and tourism.

Representatives from chambers of commerce along the N4 and N5 networks, which cover Athlone, Mayo, Mullingar, Longford, Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Donegal and Roscommon, said the “vital lifeline” to the northwest had been neglected for decades.

They said the roads that connect the midlands to the northwest were badly in need of repair and needed upgrading to motorway status in sections.

“We’re fed up with constant postponements. These roads are severely over-capacity. The condition of the roads is very poor in certain areas and a number of stretches have been responsible for many fatalities,” spokesman for the chambers David Kiely said.


The business leaders said the current state of the roads was putting the northwest and west at a disadvantage for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and creating jobs, and demanded works be included in the Government’s 2017 capital spending plan.

“The N4 is a vital lifeline to the west and northwest of Ireland for industry, commerce and tourism,” said Mr Kiely. “It is a major gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way and to the proposed Center Parcs facility near Ballymahon.”

Capital plan

The group wants all pre-construction works on the N4 motorway from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, to Rooskey, Co Roscommon, to be completed in the short term ahead of commencement of construction by 2021.

On the N4 from Collooney to Castlebaldwin in Co Sligo, it wants construction to commence during 2018. On the N5, from Longford to Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, it is calling for work to start now.

It also called for the completion of all planning and preconstruction works for a bypass of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, ahead of beginning construction by 2021.

Speaking later, Mr Kiely said Mr Ross had been “open and sympathetic” to the group’s proposals, but that they would “come down to financing”. The group plans to meet Mr Ross again in six months before the capital plan is financed.

“There are 100,000 people employed along these networks,” said Mr Kiely. “The infrastructure just isn’t good enough for us to take advantage of the economic bounce.

“We’re being repeatedly told by the IDA that the lack of roads is hampering FDI in the northwest. We expect the whole plan would take until 2026 to complete if we started now.”

Top priorities

Ibec senior economist Gerard Brady said the proposals would cost the State €350 million-€400 million.

“This represents the major outstanding development in terms of regional development,” he said.

“US surveys have found that access to a highway is among the top priorities for companies looking to invest somewhere. If you don’t have one, it’s hard to get companies to look, never mind invest.

“There is a road safety issue here too. Most of the N4 is single carriageway and is already over-capacity at several points. Without investment, it simply won’t be able to continue operating safely at the level it is at now.”

Ciaran Corcoran, site director with US multinational Abbott Diagnostics, which is based in Co Sligo, said the plans were about “creating an attractive location and a brand” in the northwest.

“You need to have the right talent and for that you need to attract the right talent to the area,” he said. “That’s top of the list. Expansion and growth in this area has been left behind.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter