Cork-Limerick road to be upgraded to full tolled motorway at estimated cost of €2bn

Travel times between two cities expected to be reduced by 30 minutes with improvements in road safety

Construction is likely to take four to eight years depending on whether the work is done in simultaneous or staggered 40km stages.

The Cork-Limerick N20 road is to be upgraded to a full motorway at an estimated cost of around €2 billion and road users will have to pay via tolls for the improvements which will cut travel times between the two cities by up to 30 minutes, it emerged on Monday.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) briefed public representatives from Cork and Limerick on the current status of the upgrade on the N20, which has claimed at least 64 lives in the last 27 years with collisions on the road likely to be four times more fatal than the average road in Ireland.

According to Jari Howard, M20 project co-ordinator with Limerick City and County Council, the upgrade to full motorway status over the full length of the road will see travel times reduced significantly and approximately 70 lives saved in the first 30 years.

Mr Howard said that travel times between the two cities will be reduced by 30 minutes while travel times from the existing dual carriageway near Blarney in the south outside Cork City to the existing motorway at Attyflin in the north outside Limerick will be cut to just 40 minutes.


The new 80km motorway will be have two carriageways and a hard shoulder either side of a central median and because it will be a motorway, there will be slip road junctions rather than roundabouts with a speed limit of 120km/h compared to 100km/h on dual carriageway.

The new motorway will be tolled but unlike the tolls on the M8 at Watergrasshill and Portlaoise where road users pay a flat fee irrespective how far they travel, the tolls will be distance based and barrier free where users pay after their journey on the basis of how far they have travelled.

“The toll will be similar to the barrier free toll on the M50 so we will have a total of eight gantries between each of the nine main junctions on the route so you will pay for whatever distance you travel so if you travel from Blarney to Mallow, that is all you will pay for – it’s more equitable.

“We are also trying to make the tolling effective so that it keeps HGVs and trucks out of towns like Charleville and Buttevant because often with single point tolling, trucks can duck off the road and end up going through a town to avoid paying a toll and then come back on again.

“But we think that with multi-point tolling, drivers are less likely to duck off and go through a town for the sake of saving what will be just small change – we are hoping people will say this makes sense because of what they can save on fuel costs so they will stay on the motorway.”

The route for the new M20 will use between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the existing N20 including from Cork to Blarney and on to Mourneabbey before following a new line east of Mallow, Newtwopothouse and Buttevant where it will rejoin the existing road.

The new M20 will then cut west of Ballyhea and Charleville in North Cork and it follows a new line as it enters Limerick, west of Banogue before coming back to join the existing route on the Croom By-pass to connect with the existing M20 motorway at Attyflin near Patrickswell.

The new motorway, which involve the construction of six new road bridges, eight new river bridges, two new railway bridges and 45km of associated national, regional and local roads, will be futureproofed with a projected capacity of 40,000 vehicles a day, said Mr Howard.

The upgrade also involves six Transport Hub Locations with Park and Ride facilities for people wishing to use public transport while it will also incorporate an Active Travel element for cyclists and pedestrians linking many of the communities along the 80km route.

Mr Howard said TII will be forwarding the business case for the project to the Government later this year and once approved, it will then enter planning with construction likely to take four to eight years depending on whether the work is done in simultaneous or staggered 40km stages.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times