Monday 27 September 2010

N11 / N25 / N30 roads - An Taisce concerns

An Taisce have this week expressed concerns with respect to proposals for the N11 / N25 / N30 roads.

The following bulletin was received from An Taisce:

In June the National Roads Authority (NRA) and Wexford County Council (Wex Co Co) bounced no less than eight supposed “route options” on the population of South East Wexford for a proposed new road from Oylegate just south of Enniscorthy to Rosslare. This manoeuvre has caused consternation and not a little animosity.

Using the classic “divide and rule” technique, the NRA has succeeded in getting most of the animosity deflected into local rivalry. Knowing full well that, once they might determine a “preferred route”, the NRA would be supported by the other threatened populations (in order to keep the road out of their backyard), the NRA has also deflected proper examination of rationale.

At a time when expenditure anywhere has to be carefully scrutinised, the NRA is still coming up with “Tiger” projects that do not stack up.

New roads have to be “obviously necessary” either to circumvent recurrent and increasing bottleneck problems or to accommodate projected increased traffic for an accepted development area or for some other stated or obvious public need.

In the case of N11 / N25 route to Rosslare, the quoted focus for Mr Eddie Breen the Wexford County Manager (and Board member of the NRA) is : the Port of Rosslare. Mr Breen has stated that “ is vital that the roads serving Rosslare Port should be up to the standard enjoyed by its rivals”.
This statement begs several questions such as : What are the rival ports to Rosslare ? Why are the current roads considered to be inadequate when it has been proven that they serve the port well ? Will building a new road bring more jobs to the port or to the surrounding area ?

Mr. Breen claims that the port is “underutilised” at present and that to be able for the port to “see its full potential”, bigger roads are needed. If this is the case then there should be supporting figures to prove it. There are none. The port got to full capacity in mid 2006 without a new road and without any problem. Since then the port and road traffic volume have slipped steadily backwards.

The “Port Lobby” at one time was calling for the port to be expanded but that dream flies in the face of reality. The port is silting up. It only stays open thanks to occasional maintenance dredging of the berths. The port “declares” a depth of 7.5m to a solid rock bottom but at times it struggles to get 6.5m and the narrow fairway only stays clear thanks to the daily passage of the ferries with their big mud-churning propellers.

The ferry skippers know that, if for any reason the ferries stopped running for a week or more, they might not be able to access the port if any volume of silt drifted into the fairway. Capital dredging of the port and the fairway would cost many millions of Euro and would not increase port capacity. The Port Lobby may have deliberately falsified the expectancies to get a “chicken and egg scenario” going to try to build the roads first and then to try to justify rebuilding the port.

The Annual Average Daily Traffic figures from the NRA's own counters for the N25 into Rosslare showed 6230 in 2002, 7076 in 2006 (peak year), 6603 in 2009 and an estimated 6115 for 2010. The peak figures for August (the busiest month for the port) were already below 2002 levels in 2009.

Who in their right minds would want to use these figures to justify building a new road ?
The answer is certainly not Mr. Breen: when challenged with these figures he stated that the new road was for traffic in 20 to 30 year's time (a projection for which nobody has any figures at all).

In other words the road is proposed because the NRA guesses it might be needed.

Add this charade to that we witnessed for the New Ross Bypass. This route chosen by the NRA flouts the National Development Plan by trying to create a bypass for the N30 when only the N25 is supposed to be provided with a bypass in the NDP. The NRA chose the most expensive route option costed by them at €315 million (for that read €400 million). The alternative route was never properly evaluated and was costed privately at €40 million but was dismissed with a kiddie's comparison chart by the consultant in a woefully inadequate and biased Environmental Impact Statement.

The suspicion that there are hidden agendas here is reinforced by checking on potential re-zoning consequent on the routes chosen and on the land owners that could benefit. That aside, the mere fact that the NRA is unaccountable and seemingly cannot be stopped from spending money that we clearly need elsewhere is enough to sound alarm bells but when that money is about to be wasted on unnecessary projects, there should be brakes applied. Since we appear to have a Government of wasters – applying the brakes would appear to be unlikely.

When asked about whether he could control the NRA, the Transport Minister replied that he “simply provides the funding”.

In terms of sustainable road development : What Wexford really needs are its existing roads repaired and upgraded and some genuine provisions for public transport for a system that will at last serve the people and not the operators.

Programmes for building new roads in Ireland's current circumstances simply represent the dreams of NRA planners who should have been made redundant before now and the schemes of some questionably professional consultants.

An Taisce

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