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Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 12 February 2019

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Ceisteanna (58)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

58. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for investment in primary routes in County Meath. [6686/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (16 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

I will not delay. I was seconds late to the Chamber. I will hear the Minister's reply.

This question is about plans for investment in primary routes in County Meath. First, I wish to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in respect of the national roads programme. However, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, the planning, operation and development of individual road projects is a matter for the relevant road authority - that is, local authorities in whose functional areas road developments are situated - in the context of local and regional roads or Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned, regarding national roads.

Consequently, it is an operational matter for a road authority and TII to give an account of how a project is progressing within their functional areas of responsibility. However, following consultation, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on investment in primary routes in County Meath.

The N2 Rath to Kilmoon roundabout scheme is included in Project Ireland 2040. The scheme is being progressed through pre-appraisal and early planning. This project, which relates to a section of road approximately 6 km long, will address the existing operational and safety problems on this part of the N2. The expected benefits of the scheme will be to improve efficiency of traffic using the N2 corridor, improve safety and improve connectivity between Dublin and the north west.

In 2018, TII provided an allocation of €25,000 to Meath County Council to carry out the pre-appraisal plan for Rath to Kilmoon. A further allocation of €250,000 has been provided by TII in 2019 to allow the scheme to progress through planning and design. TII has issued approval to Meath County Council to progress the procurement of technical advisers to commence the design of the scheme. The procurement of technical advisers will take approximately three to four months.

The traffic problems at Curragha are exacerbated by traffic which is trying to avoid the delays at Primatestown and also traffic heading to Tayto Park. The Ashbourne municipal district engineer has been installing and maintaining signage at the junction as well as hedge cutting. The transportation section of Meath County Council has also prepared a preliminary design to calm traffic and improve definition at the junction and safety on the approaches, including the R155 as it passes the residential properties and school through the village of Curragha itself. My Department has made €200,000 available to the council to progress this work in 2019 .

The Minister will have an opportunity to come back in.

I might come back to it in a second.

What about the Slane bypass?

I will address the matter of Slane bypass.

I will clarify the difficulty I have. On the issue of the Rath to Kilmoon scheme, the difficulty I have is that my constituents are stuck in traffic every day. They get on to us to ask what is happening and we get very little information. I would like to know specifically, in the context of projects such as this which are listed for pre-appraisal under Project Ireland 2040, what that means. My reading of Project Ireland 2040 is that not all of the projects listed will get approval. Is that the case? We are spending money on consultants now and, at some point, a list of about half of them will be picked for construction. That is what a plain reading of that document suggests. There are other projects in my constituency that are also on that list, particularly the project at Clonee.

This is a major issue. The Minister is aware of that because he has met residents of the area, councillors and me in respect of it. People are at breaking point over the traffic there and it needs much more action. Farther up the road is the Slane bypass and it is almost exactly seven years to the day since it was refused planning permission and we still are nowhere near another planning application being made. Farther along again is the A5. I wonder if today's announcement will have any impact on projects on the N2 in County Meath.

I will address the N2 Slane bypass and come back to the Deputy's question in a moment.

In December 2009, a proposal for an N2 bypass of Slane was submitted to An Bord Pleanála. In March 2012, An Bord Pleanála refused planning consent citing its concern that, having regard to the importance and sensitivity of the location, a bypass of the type proposed could only be considered where it had been demonstrated that no appropriate alternative was available. Following additional studies, Meath County Council concluded that traffic management options were not viable alternatives to a bypass and an N2 bypass for Slane village was still required. Technical advisers were procured in February 2017 to re-examine the need for a bypass from first principles and bring the scheme through to make a new application to An Bord Pleanála for statutory consent.

The scheme is contained both in the NTA's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area and Project Ireland 2040. An N2 bypass of Slane is required to alleviate traffic congestion in the village and to reduce the potential for serious vehicular accidents due to the steep approaches to the very narrow Slane bridge and the high commercial vehicle content in the traffic flow.

The Minister will have a final minute.

I would like to yield my time to the Minister because I want to get answers to the questions I have already asked.

My understanding is that pre-appraisal is the first stage and it certainly does not mean that final approval is guaranteed.

Final approval is not guaranteed.

The Rath to Kilmoon scheme is not guaranteed.

My understanding is that it is not guaranteed, despite the pre-appraisal.

The expected benefits of the Slane bypass are that it will provide a bypass of Slane village, provide an enhanced living environment within the historic village, reduce journey times and traffic delays in the vicinity of Slane and enhance access between Dublin and the north west region. This scheme is currently at route selection stage. The route selection report is being finalised and is due for publication in 2019. A pre-application consultation process is under way with An Bord Pleanála. It is anticipated that the scheme will be published in late 2020. Subject to receiving planning approval the scheme may then progress to construction. The estimated construction timetable is three years with an anticipated completion date of 2024.

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