Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction, including the distribution of funding, for individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
TII shall, of course, work within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040. This encompasses the National Development Plan 2018-2027 (NDP) which has been developed by Government to underpin the successful implementation of the National Planning Framework (NPF). This provides the strategic and financial framework for TII’s national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027.
How projects are identified/selected
The NDP identifies two categories of national road improvement projects: –
- The first category covers projects to advance to construction, subject to the satisfactory outcome of the project appraisal and development consent approval processes.
- The second category relates to projects at pre-appraisal and early planning stage which are being assessed with a view to developing a pipeline of suitable projects for development.
The question of extending the M3 to Cavan town
While early stage assessment work was carried out a number of years ago on a potential road improvement scheme from the end of the M3 motorway, north of Kells to Cavan, this work was subsequently suspended due to funding constraints.
Therefore, in the context of what I have just outlined, this project is not included amongst the national road schemes that were identified for development during the period of the NDP 2018 - 2027 and the advancement of this scheme cannot, therefore, be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.
N3 Virginia Bypass
A bypass of Virginia town is, however, included amongst a number of schemes identified in the NDP for progression through pre-appraisal and early planning during 2018.
This scheme has been identified as a Strategic Investment Priority in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the NDP.
This project has been subject to Pre-Appraisal in compliance with the requirements of the Public Spending Code (PSC) and my Department's Common Appraisal Framework (CAF) to establish if it should be progressed to Stages 1-4 of Planning and Design, in accordance with TII’s Project Management Guidelines. The Project Appraisal Plan has been approved by my Department and Technical Advisors were appointed in September 2019 to progress the Scheme to planning, design and appraisal.
Expected Benefits of the Virginia Bypass
The proposed scheme will seek to remove the current inefficiencies of the existing road in terms of safety, capacity and travel times. It is envisaged that it would also have a number of important benefits including:
- Improved road safety, by reducing frequency and severity of collisions;
- It will support economic growth by increasing network capacity and reducing travel times between Dublin and the Northwest;
- Environmental improvements in noise, air and water quality for Virginia Town and Lough Ramor, proposed Natural Heritage Area (NHA);
- Improved access to the National Road network for the towns of Ballyjamesduff and Bailieborough.
Regarding the reference by the Deputy to the East-West Link, as I have previously outlined to you on 9th July, 23rd July, and 17th October 2019, proposals to deliver an upgraded East-West route linking Dundalk to Sligo, taking in Cavan, involve linking elements of the national road network and regional roads along as direct a route as possible. Essentially the route involves upgrade/realignment works on the regional routes from Dundalk to Cavan and on national routes from Cavan to Sligo.
As regards regional road aspect of the proposal, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area is a statutory function of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.
My Department provided funding to Cavan County Council (acting as lead authority with Monaghan and Louth County Councils) with over €2m in the period 2007-2014 to progress the regional road element of the project to preliminary design.
My Department has discussed the project with Cavan County Council and this year I gave an allocation of €100,000 to the Council to enable it to undertake a detailed appraisal, in line with the current requirements in the Public Spending Code and the Capital Appraisal Framework, of the Cavan to Dundalk section of the route. The aim of the detailed appraisal would be to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it can be justified in terms of appraisal and advanced for further consideration in relation to schemes for future development. Preparation of the appraisal is the responsibility of the Council.