Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said the building of the €1bn M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick is “a top priority” for the Government. Mr Donohoe said that priority will be “reflected” in his 10-year capital plan, which is due for publication later this month.
“The Taoiseach, in the aftermath of the budget, made it clear that building and completing the M20 is a priority for this Government and that will be reflected in the capital plan. This plan will be very ambitious,” he said.
Mr Donohoe said the delay in the plan’s publication was to allow the conclusion of the National Planning Framework, which is out for its final phase of public consultation. “By the time the Department of Housing have made an assessment of that consultation it will be mid to late January and it will be published in the aftermath of that,” he said.
Previously when he was transport minister, Mr Donohoe said the M20 motorway was too expensive to commit to in one go, but it is clear the much awaited link-up between Ireland’s second and third biggest cities will now proceed. Mr Donohoe rejected criticism that a deficit in our regional road infrastructure cost us the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
“When I look at what cost us the Rugby World Cup bid I don’t actually think it was infrastructure at the end of the day. But it was the first time we put a bid of that scale in and we have learned from it. I think our country compares well to France who won the bid, but all that being said, we do have gaps which we have to fill.”
He said the benefit of such long-term planning is that the cost of such major projects can be spread out.
“If we begin to talk of these ambitions over the space of a decade it gives you the space then to move forward with large-scale projects which are not affordable in the timescale of a single budget. “We are going to do that in the capital plan,” he said.
Speaking at a recent Cork Chamber event at Paírc Uí Chaoimh, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave a strong backing to the M20 project. The 96km stretch of motorway has long been demanded from business and communities in both cities.
“That process of planning and design can begin immediately as money is no longer a barrier,” said Mr Varadkar. He went on to say that the cost of land construction and land purchase will not be included in the Government’s current spending programme.
There was some confusion regarding the future of the motorway as the finance minister did not include it as one of a number of capital projects outlined in his budget speech last Tuesday. Such confusion has now been dispelled.
“Capital investment can change geography and be a real means of releasing the full economic and social potential of Cork, Limerick and Munster,” Mr Varadkar said.