Dáil Éireann - Volume 434 - 12 October, 1993

Adjournment Debate. - County Galway Road Classification.

[848] An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Paul Connaughton gave me notice of his intention to raise the matter of the question of upgrading the status of the N63 road in County Galway from Laghtgeorge junction to Roscommon. The Deputy has five minutes to present his case and the Minister or Minister of State has five minutes to reply.

Mr. Connaughton: I should like to share my time with Deputy Michael Kitt if that is agreed?

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Connaughton: I wish to speak this evening about the anxieties and frustrations felt by several small communities who live along the N63 route in Counties Galway, Roscommon and Longford. The N63 originates at Laghtgeorge about ten miles north of Galway city and continues through Turloughmore, Knockmoy Abbey, Moylough, Mount Bellew, Newbridge, Ballygar, Athleague, Roscommon, Lanesboro and into Longford — a total distance of about 60 miles.

This national primary road is a disgrace for the thousands of people who have to use it every day of their lives. It is also a very important road in that it connects Galway city with Roscommon and Longford — all very busy commercial towns. The volume of traffic is increasing at a dramatic rate but the structural condition is deteriorating at an even greater pace. Cyclists and school children are taking their lives in their hands on this crooked, hilly and dangerous road. In order to highlight the dangers and the lack of action on this route many of the town development associations and other groups in the small towns and villages have co-ordinated their efforts recently to try to obtain funding to get a meaningful start on the road. The preferred choice of the local groups is to get the N63 [849] road upgraded in status from a national secondary to a national primary road. Taking into account the level of traffic and the important routes serviced by the N63, a very good case can be made for such a proposal. However, these groups will be shattered this evening with the news that the much publicised National Development Plan has actually earmarked certain EC funds for some national secondary routes, which, I understand, is the first time this has happened. The following is an extract from the National Development Plan 1994-1999, Chapter 9, page 100:

National secondary routes are also part of the strategic road network, accounting for 2.8% of the total road mileage and 11% of traffic. They perform an important economic function as medium-distance through-routes connecting important towns, serving medium-sized to large geographical areas and providing links to the national primary routes... There will also be investment in a number of other routes of very significant importance such as the N70 (Ring of Kerry), N56 to Killybegs, N71 (Cork-Killarney), N59 (Galway-Clifden), N61 (Athlone-Boyle) and the N76 (Kilkenny-Clonmel). Investment of £115 million is planned for the period 1994 to 1999.

Why leave out the N63? Given that funding has been obtained for the secondary routes, why has the N63 been omitted? I consider it an insult to every family from Laghtgeorge to Longford. It is a shameless decision and I do not know who is behind it. I would like the Minister to answer the charge by the thousands of people who use that road every day. They will be extremely disappointed that it is not included for upgrading. Do we take it that there will be no EC funding for the next five years?

Mr. M. Kitt: I thank Deputy Connaughton for sharing his time with me. I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words in support of the upgrading of the N63 road. I should like to convey to the Minister of State that this is the main [850] Galway, Roscommon, Longford road and it is a very busy route. I spoke at a public meeting on 14 June 1993 at which a gentleman said he surveyed traffic passing his house and found that 311 cars passed in a half hour one afternoon. That gives an indication of how busy this road is. I am aware that all the communities along that stretch of road wish to have it upgraded. Over the years they have seen that most of the money is spent on the national primary routes and the required amount is not spent on the national secondary roads. For example, in 1992 Galway County Council received a total road grant of £8.847 million but only £500,000 was allocated to the national secondary roads. It is time this road, which is very busy, was given the higher status. I would like if the Minister's officials would investigate the very bad stretches along the N63 route. The Minister is coming to Galway on 29 October. I would be glad if he would drive on that stretch of road and hopefully meet with some of the communities who wish to have it upgraded. People along this route, particularly in Moylough and Brierfield, prefer to go into the town of Tuam and take the primary route into Galway rather than travel on this very dangerous road. There is also a problem with flooding which makes it dangerous and the whole structure is bad.

In conclusion, I understand from the National Development Plan that £1,250 million is to be spent on the main national road network, which includes primary and secondary routes. We are told in the plan that these routes carry a quarter of all road traffic. I hope some of those funds can be spent and that a start can be made immediately on the N63. The preferred option is to have the road upgraded to national primary status.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Browne, Wexford): I thank Deputies Connaughton and Kitt for raising the matter.

The Minister is at present reviewing the national road classifications following the recent enactment of the Roads Act, 1993. The review will be completed [851] before responsibility for these roads is transferred to the National Roads Authority from 1 January next.

I have to say, however, that I do not anticipate any major changes arising from this review, for two main reasons. Firstly, the existing network is more than adequate for our present and future traffic needs and was decided upon after a lengthy consideration and consultation with local authorities. Secondly, additions to the network only serve to dilute the funds available for the national primary network by spreading the same level of finance over a longer mileage of roads. I also have to say that reclassification of a national secondary road to national primary status does not in itself guarantee extra funding since expenditure priorities have to be determined on the basis of established need.

My Department has looked again at the N63 and has concluded that it does not meet the criteria for reclassification to national primary status. The N63 Galway/Roscommon/Longford road is a typical national secondary road, linking a number of urban centres and forming an extension to the national primary road network. This road carries relatively light levels of traffic and even if it were reclassified it would simply join the bottom of a long queue of national primary roads which require investment.

As a national secondary road the N63 is fully funded by my Department. Over the last two years more than £750,000 has been invested in it between Longford town and Galway and I hope to continue the improvement of this road in the coming years. This investment will, however, be targeted in the areas of greatest need, eliminating deficiencies in the most heavily trafficked sections of the road.

The National Development Plan, which was launched yesterday, acknowledges the significant development needs of the national secondary road network amounting to £370 million. In recognition of this need it is planned to provide a total investment of £115 million in the network in the period 1994-99. This is [852] almost double the actual expenditure on national secondary roads under the current programme.

I would say to Deputies Kitt and Connaughton that if they make representations to the Minister, who is a very reasonable man, I am sure he will be only too glad to inspect the roadway when he is in Galway.

Mr. Connaughton: It is a pity the Minister of State is not coming down.