A CAMPAIGN has been launched in Co Monaghan against plans for a new dual carriageway to replace the N2, from Clontibret to the Border at Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone.
The new road would replace the existing Monaghan bypass, which was opened just four years ago.
None of the route options being examined by Monaghan County Council and the National Roads Authority (NRA) incorporates the bypass, built at a cost of €26 million, or other large sections of the existing N2 that were also improved in recent years.
The proposed 25km route, which is the subject of public consultation, would link up with a new A5 dual-carriageway between Aughnacloy and Derry for which the Government has pledged to contribute £400 million (€487 million).
A spokesman for the NRA, for which the county council is acting as agent, said the new N2 was “part of a cross-Border initiative with the Northern Ireland Roads Service” to improve links between Dublin and Derry. “We’re looking to incorporate a bunch of little road schemes into one big one”.
Noel Murphy, spokesman for the Don’t Bypass the Bypass campaign, said the pledge had been made in 2007 “at a time when we thought we were flush with money” and needed to be reviewed in the light of changed economic circumstances.
“The proposed stretch of road [in Co Monaghan] will carve through complicated drumlin country, costing up to €12 million per kilometre – a total of €300 million,” he said.
“We are calling on the Government to exercise commonsense leadership and stop this flawed road project.”
Mr Murphy said large sections of the N2 had recently undergone major road improvements, with towns along the route bypassed. This included the “brand new” 3km Monaghan bypass completed in 2006 and 13km of “excellent quality highway” in the county.
“The remaining 14km section between Monaghan and Aughnacloy was granted planning permission in 2004 and substantial consultancy work has been carried out on this proposed roadway, which was expected to cost €50 million [and] now seems to be shelved.
“Traffic flow analysis taken from the NRA statistics show an 8.7 per cent decrease in volumes from a peak in 2007-2010 on this road. The maximum recorded volumes of 6,029 vehicles per day in 2007 fall well short of 10,000 required to justify investment in a motorway.”
Mr Murphy, whose family home is located in one of the route corridors being studied, said the latest plan “is being advanced at a vigorous pace by the Monaghan County Council and Grontmij consulting engineers despite the fact that the country is in the depth of a recession”.
He claimed that there had been no real communication or consultation with landowners, householders and businesses that may be affected by the plan. “Some farmers will lose homes and farm buildings that have been farmed by the family for generations,” he said.
Inadequate time had been given to the general public to make informed submissions on the route options being studied, which did not include upgrading the existing N2 route, but Mr Murphy said public pressure had resulted in the closing date being extended to August 31st.
The NRA spokesman said three public meetings were held last year and a consultation last month in Monaghan town on route corridor options, which 348 people attended. A further round of consultations would take place after a “preferred route” was chosen later this year.
Last February, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the N2/A5 was “an obvious project that is of mutual benefit to everybody. We have interests in the northwest. We want to ensure that the people in Donegal and that part of the world have proper transport access . . .”
The proposed road “will proceed because it is strategically important. It is not something that should be done based on a whim or just as an optional extra. It is important that it be completed and there shall be no more about it as far as I am concerned”, he added.