State agency to be called to account for lack of motorway services
Oireachtas committee to inquire into €15,000 a month bill on unopened services
Transport Infrastructure Ireland will be asked why a 101km stretch of the Atlantic motorway opened earlier this year without services. Photograph: Getty Images
State road-builder Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is to be asked to account for €500,000 spent on unopened motorway service stops.
The Oireachtas Transport Committee is planning to call in the State agency to explain the spend – which is rising by €15,000 a month – on an unopened services building at Gorey, Co Wexford, and on undeveloped sites at Kilbeggan, Co Kildare, and Moate, Co Westmeath.
TII will also be asked to explain why it lobbied against private sector motorway services being developed in counties Clare and Wicklow, and why a 101km stretch of the Atlantic motorway opened without services earlier this year, which may be in breach of an EU directive.
Committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd TD (Fine Gael) has previously questioned the ongoing €15,000-a-month spend on security and lighting at Gorey and security for access roads to the undeveloped Kilbeggan and Moate sites. It is expected senior officials will be asked to appear before the committee early next year.
Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesman Robert Troy TD, whose constituency includes Moate, has previously said the proposed facilities and existing motorway “access roads to fields” were unnecessary, being a short distance from Moate and private sector services on the Athlone bypass.
Documents on file with Wicklow County Council show TII lobbied against the development by fuel retailer Applegreen of facilities on the M11 near Ashford, Co Wicklow. Documents on file with Clare County Council show the authority lobbied against similar facilities near the Ennis bypass which had been proposed by Pat McDonagh, developer of the Barack Obama Plaza along the M7 in Co Offaly.
The letters show TII raised issues with county planners in each instance, including the fact that it was working on submitting plans for its own service areas.
A letter to Clare County Council from last year shows TII saying “it is considered premature to grant planning permission” for Mr McDonagh’s proposed development near the Ennis bypass. TII reminded the council of its own plan for services on a site between Ennis and Sixmilebridge.
In the course of the letter TII maintained “in the interests of clarity” that as a matter of principle it “neither endorses nor opposes” private sector provision of such service areas.
Ultimately, TII failed to develop its own services and opened the M8/17 without service areas over a distance of 101km. The authority’s latest position is that the earliest date for services is 2020, but this is subject to finance and planning permission.