CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
2 November 2007
It gives me great pleasure to be here today. Today's event is a further demonstration of this Government's commitment to transform our national road network, as mandated in the National Development Plan and Transport 21. I also would like to acknowledge the EU assistance that part-funded this scheme, and indeed the important part that EU assistance has played in the development of similar schemes throughout our country in recent years.
The N5 Charlestown Bypass consists of over 18km of main line single carriageway as well as 5km of single carriageway slip roads, side roads and link roads. The scheme bypasses both the town of Charlestown and the village of Carracastle.
This new Bypass will be known as "The John Healy Road" in memory of the acclaimed journalist who came from the town and I am sure he would be very proud to see this recent development in his home town. John Healy was a great Mayo man and a great champion and advocate for the west of Ireland. It is only right that his name should be honoured here, at the roots which he never forgot and which his heart never really left.
On that note, the benefits that The John Healy Road will bring to Charlestown include:
· removal of approximately 7,000 vehicles from their roads daily;
· improvement in the town environment through significant reduction in noise and air pollution;
· reduction in journey times along the N5;
· improvement in road safety generally.
Popularly known as the International Gateway to the West of Ireland, Charlestown is strategically located at the intersection of two national primary routes the N5 and N17. The N5 forms part of the East/West Strategic Road Corridor linking Mayo with the east of the country and the N17 is part of the Atlantic Road Corridor linking Sligo, Galway, Limerick to Cork and Waterford.
The development of the Atlantic Road Corridor which was a long standing concept in the national roads upgrade programme, is now being transformed into reality. This will connect the National Spatial Strategy's Gateway Cities.
In relation to the N18 Shannon to Galway road, the National Development Plan provided for the acceleration of funding for both the Crusheen to Gort and Gort to Oranmore schemes and I am delighted to say that both schemes will now commence in 2008. Between them, they will provide a total of about 50 kilometres of high quality dual carriageway and will be an important artery in the west of the country.
Ireland West Airport
The importance of a good road network in this part of the country is also crucial for our tourist industry generally and especially with Ireland West Airport being just down the road. The airport has seen a growth in business in recent years and now has regular scheduled services to Dublin, Bristol, Luton, Manchester, Stansted, Nottingham, East Midlands and Birmingham.
This summer also saw transatlantic flights to New York and Boston and discussions are ongoing regarding a summer 2008 service. In addition, charter flights are operated to a wide range of holiday destinations, including Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Crete, Portugal, Spain and the Canaries. In fact, I understand that passenger numbers increased by over 100% over the past 3 years, mostly on UK routes operated by "low-cost" airlines.
In the BMW region alone - which Mayo forms part of - national road investment is at an all-time high. Apart from the projects I mentioned earlier, many others are under construction including N6 Galway to Ballinasloe, N6 Athlone to Ballinasloe, N4 Dromod Rooskey and the N2 Castleblayney Bypass which I will also have the pleasure of opening next Monday.
Numerous other schemes are at varying stages of the planning process including projects on the N5, N16, N17 and N26 routes amongst others.
Under Transport 21, €1.53 billion of funding is being provided for the National Roads Programme in 2007 the largest single annual investment in roads.
This level of investment will be maintained in 2008. A total of over €16 billion will be spent on national roads during the lifetime of Transport 21 equivalent to more than €125 million every month.
Western Rail Corridor
We must not forget investment in Public Transport in the BMW region. Last year the Government approved funding of approx €100 million for the development of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor from Ennis to Athenry with a view to completing the project in 2009. Funding in principle has also been approved for Phase 2 of the Corridor between Athenry and Tuam for completion by 2011. Phase 3, Tuam to Claremorris, is due to be completed in 2014 while the Claremorris to Collooney section is being preserved under the Clár Programme.
Iarnród Eireann will in the next few weeks begin the roll-out of the first of the new 183 Intercity railcars. The Dublin-Sligo line is the first line that is to benefit from the new fleet.
I will conclude now by thanking all those involved for their hard work in bringing this project to fruition:-
the NRA and Mayo County Council
SIAC Wills JV
Engineers: Ryan Hanley WSP Ltd