A new stretch of the M8 linking Laois and Tipperary was opened this morning seven months ahead of schedule.
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said the 40 kilometre, €434 million motorway between Cullahill and Cashel, on the main Dublin to Cork road, would improve road safety.
Johnstown and Urlingford in Co Kilkenny and Littleton and Horse-and-Jockey in Co Tipperary have been bypassed by the road. Almost 16,000 vehicles will be removed from these towns and other villages on the route and an estimated 20 minutes will be cut from journey times between Dublin and Cork during peak hours.
"Road safety will be greatly improved for drivers using the new motorway as they can now bypass minor junctions on the existing N8 where many of the most serious high speed collisions have occurred,” Mr Dempsey said as he officially opened the road today.
Chairman of the National Roads Authority Peter Malone said 80 kilometres of motorway had been opened to traffic in 2008.
Funding for the scheme was provided under the National Development Plan, 2007-2013, with part funding by the European Union from the Trans-European Transport Networks Budget.