Is a Cork to Limerick motorway needed?

27 April 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth


An annual issue
There are a number of chestnuts in Cork news circles: the need for a Cork to Dublin direct flight, the debt at Cork Airport, and the slowness of the Cork to Limerick road.

Well, in relation to the latter a joint statement was issued today by Cork and Limerick Chambers of Commerce. It highlighted the criticality of the M20: a proposed upgrade of the Cork to Limerick road to Motorway standard. The chambers said the M20 would be a key piece of enabling infrastructure required to facilitate the successful economic development of “The Atlantic Corridor”.

Chamber of Commerce unhappy with Transport Minister
According to Conor Healy, Cork Chamber CEO, “It is very disappointing that the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe TD (Fine Gael) has refused to allow the M20 motorway to progress to planning stage. The M20 is a critical infrastructural priority as its completion will have a domino effect across both of the economic centres, Cork and Limerick, the wider Southern region and the Atlantic Corridor as a whole. It would result in improvements in employment, attraction of FDI and reduced traffic congestion and improved journey times between both urban centres.”

Speaking about the need for an upgrade to the current N20 Limerick Chamber CEO Dr. James Ring said “inter-urban road connectivity between Ireland’s 2nd and 3rd cities is a critical, and long overdue void in our national road network.

The current road is substandard and hampers the ease at which business can be done. Improving access between Cork and Limerick will allow our two great regions to combine our complementary strengths, improve business interactions and deliver meaningful balanced regional development”.

Cork and Limerick Chambers’ concluded by highlighting that every effort must be made to facilitate in a timely and proactive manner what is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure for the southern region and called on the Minister to give a clear commitment to the progression of the M20 and agree timelines for its delivery.

Is there an argument for not having a good road between Cork and Limerick?
Call me a conspiracy theorist but there possibly is.

Cork Airport operates in a competitive marketplace, it has to compete against both Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport for international traffic.

We have already seen what happened when a motorway was completed between Cork and Dublin: the number of flights at Cork fell, because Dublin “became closer” in terms of road time.

Similarly, if Cork and Limerick became “closer” would Shannon Airport outdo Cork Airport? Would the independent Shannon be able to lure airlines from Cork, and reassure them no passengers would be lost as the Cork audience would still be able to easily access the routes?

There is an irony to improved road networks. There are many small towns in Ireland that lack their own sense of identity – and become commuter towns – because they are too “close” to larger towns. In life it seems its hard to have your own success if you competitors are too close, or if you have too many competitors.

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