The new Suir Bridge is certainly an iconic structure and is a booster for confidence in the economy of the South East. There was huge interest among the general public as thousands took the free bus tour from the Granville Hotel to see the bridge and walk across it.
This shows enthusiasm and interest in developments in our city and county and a wish for a better future. What a pity that this opening did not take place during a better period in our economic history.
Even though the day was wet, that did not deter the joy on the faces of so many people happy to see the bridge finally open. Thee had been a constant lobby to secure the bridge going back a generation from the time of Michael Doody as City Manager. He signed a second bridge order as far back as 1979, 30 years ago.
Full marks to Minister Cullen for using his cabinet influence to ensure the bridge project moved to fruition. This could very easily have been left aside with Waterford and the South East suffering from lack of access for another generation.
At present, we lack a university but improving the infrastructure will help to address the regional imbalance. The bridge will also open up the region for tourism and ease access to the ports. Waterford city may lose a little through traffic but, as a consequence, will have less congestion.
The toll charge of €1.90 for cars could be a factor on how many will use the Bridge but transport firms will surely find it beneficial as it will cut 20 minutes and more off a Cork to Rosslare journey. Perhaps some new signage could be considered to promote the various tourism highlights of Waterford. The City Council may want some extra signage to highlight the attractiveness of ‘Urbs Intacta’. In France and England, on motorway signs, historic cities on various routes get special mention.
The length of the bridge and its height show how important the Suir is as a transport network in Ireland. It is a major dividing line between the southern and eastern end of the country. When the motorway becomes a reality and the new Kilkenny and Kildare sections are opened up, Waterford will be so much more accessible from the greater Dublin region. This will greatly improve access for business and pleasure in the South East. The North of Ireland and the Belfast region will also be closer to Waterford, Rosslare and the coastline.
Waterford must now try and build on this opportunity as we seek to emerge from recession. Promoting good value and good product is a key issue. Commuting opportunities for people working in neighbouring counties is opened up, not a bad thing given the industrial closures in Waterford recently.
A positive step in what has been a fairly dismal year for Waterford, it was great to see the bridge get such positive national publicity. Hopefully many will come to see it in person and explore this area. A university upgrade would be another boost but given the state of the public finances this is a looking more difficult.