The Government’s latest Capital Plan did not include linking regional cities via upgraded roads, and we understand that the prospect of such improvements is once again being discussed at regional authority level.
No-one can suggest that Waterford wouldn’t benefit from improved connections to Limerick, Cork and Galway, and the status of the N24 Rosslare-Waterford-Limerick road was raised at the most recent meeting of Piltown District Councillors in Ferrybank.
And we also know that the Cork-Limerick route has been as long-standing a bugbear between those cities as our connection to Limerick (in particular) had proven for many years.
Back in days of greater largesse, a highway from Cork to Rosslare was planned, bypassing the major towns between both ports.
And while Youghal and Carrigtwohill have been bypassed, and with a ring road running past Midleton, smaller towns like Castlemartyr and Killeagh remain bypass-free.
With work on the second bridge and bypassing of New Ross is set to commence next summer, our neighbouring town is set for a new lease of life, when cross-channel trucks shall no longer have to trundle up its rejuvenated Quayside.
Such regional linkages ought to have been addressed during the boom years, but we appear to be several years away yet from a serious resolution of the regional city road network.
Better linkage between Cork and Waterford would reduce journey times and allow for better commuting and deliveries while a better road to Limerick would also benefit Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir.
While Clonmel has a ring road, Carrick residents still have to live withy HGVs using the N24 which, at present, drive past no less than two secondary schools (three from March next), two primary schools and a building leased by the local VEC.
Any realignment of the Waterford-Limerick road would surely mean the bypassing of both Mooncoin and Carrick in tandem, and that in turn would call for the National Roads Authority to sit down with both Kilkenny and Tipperary County Councils to establish a coherent development strategy.
While Cahir has been bypassed, Tipperary Town remains a bottleneck, with the section of road between both towns among the worst national primary routes from a road safety perspective for motorists, cyclist and pedestrians alike.
Looking through Wexford, bypassing Enniscorthy is the next step in improving the East Coast Road route which links up with the M11, a road which has changed beyond all recognition over the past decade, bypassing both Gorey and Arklow.
As part of a regional development strategy, improving our roads appears logical and would also provide an immediate term boost for the region’s construction sector.
We ought to be spending more on road projects. At present, we’re only investing two per cent of GNP on such infrastructure, half the current EU average, so there’s scope for improvement in this area.
IBEC believes at least €10 billion may need to be spent in improving our road network between now and 2020, and with €2 billion in additional taxes taken in over the past year, one wonders if roads, a long-standing campaign staple, shall re-emerge on the agenda come next spring’s election.