The National Roads Authority has defended an estimated four-year wait for the opening of the new Gort–Tuam Motorway.
In a letter issued to Galway TD Michael Kitt earlier this month, the NRA confirmed that it had been advised by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport that additional funding is to be provided to progress the scheme to contract award and this will enable the NRA to “recommence dialogue” with the preferred bidder on a public private partnership scheme.
Programme and Regulatory Manager Gary Lynch said it is now anticipated that the contract could be signed next year and the construction period for the project would be approximately three and a half years.
Deputy Kitt has since slammed the news as “very disappointing” and questioned the length period associated with the construction of the long-awaited route.
“It doesn’t make sense therefore that the estimated completion date is not until 2018. There is a clear need for the authority to provide more clarity on the timescale,” he said.
“I would welcome a statement from the NRA to this effect, and an indication that there is a firm commitment to this project and a determination to bring it to completion in a shorter time period than three and a half years down the road.”
When contacted this week by Galway Independent, a spokesperson for the NRA defended the timeline for the multi-million motorway, saying that confirmation from the private investor was expected by November and construction could begin in early 2014.
“With a project of this scale, it would be industry norm to have a construction period of three and a half years. It is a 57km stretch so there is significant work involved,” he said.
The Joint Committee on Transport is to meet with the CEO of the National Roads Authority today, Wednesday 24th of July to review the National Roads Programme and Deputy Kitt has signalled his intention to table further questions on the issue at the meeting.
The motorway is expected to cost in the region of €550 million and will be funded by an annuity from the State to the private contractors over a period of 25 years.
It is understood that hundreds of jobs will be created during the construction process, with the opening of the road to have a major impact on traffic flow in Claregalway.
Meanwhile, the operator of the M6 Ballinasloe to Galway motorway has denied that it is seeking to implement further tolls on the route.
It was claimed earlier this week that N6 Concessions were seeking to introduce further tolling points to target drivers who enter and exit the motorway at different points to avoid paying the current charge.
The report claimed that the move had been driven by low volumes of traffic on the €427 million stretch and the private owner was under threat of defaulting on its loans if the situation was not addressed.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, N6 Concessions spokesperson Gareth Gallagher dismissed speculation that any application had or would be made to introduce further tolling points and said that no consideration had been given to the sale of the route.
However, he acknowledged that traffic on the road was “significantly lower than was originally projected so the project is underperforming”.
The National Roads Authority declined to comment on the introduction of further charges this week but the Department of Transport said it did not envisage any changes to the current framework.
“Under the Roads Act 1994–2007, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads.
“Any re-negotiation of the current tolling scheme would be a matter for discussion between the two in the first instance.
“However, the Minister has indicated that he is not disposed to increasing the number of tolling points on the motorway networks.”