Oylegate bypass may not go ahead despite earlier indications
Plans to extend the M11 south of Oylegate after the completion of the Enniscorthy bypass appear to be 'dead in the water' according to Fianna Fail TD James Browne.
But the County Council remain hopeful that the project can proceed, despite the Fianna Fail deputy's concerns.
Work on the proposed four km extension to the southern end of the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass was expected to begin at the end of 2018. However, in a letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Deputy Browne was informed that the proposed Oylegate to Enniscorthy bypass road improvement scheme is not included in the Government's capital investment plan from 2016 to 2021. It went on to say that 'the further advancement of the proposed scheme cannot be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.'
'The letter doesn't just seem to be saying it won't be advanced. It seems to be saying it's not going in ahead. To me, it looks like it's dead in the water,' explained Deputy Browne, who received the letter after he put a parliamentary question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.
'I was under the impression that it was to go ahead following announcements during the General Election and articles I have read. However, the government have decided that it's not part of their plans.'
Director of Services with Wexford County Council's Road Department Eamonn Hore said that the extension was never part of the government plan but said that they are 'quietly confident' that it is still going ahead.
'It never was part of the government plan. The contract is for the bypass of Enniscorthy but we have made the case that it doesn't make sense to stop there. At the very least, it should stop after Oylegate,' he said.
'The TII agreed to fund the exploration if it,' he continued. 'On foot of the recommendations made by Wexford County Council, they have decided to look at it.
'It's definitely going to happen at some stage but we can't put the money in place until we have examined the different routes.'
Mr Hore said that they are taking the process in steps and still hope to have the design and funding secured so that work will commence at the end of 2018.
Mr Hore said that it was not in their view that the extension had been scrapped, adding that he thinks wires have been crossed.
'From every point of view it makes sense not to bring the dual carriageway to a halt north of Oylegate and we are being listened to. It was never in the programme.'
In February, County Manager Tom Enright announced that approval had been received from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that the M11 project could proceed beyond Oylegate. Speaking to this newspaper in June, he said he hoped that the proposed extension would get underway at the end of 2018. He went on to say that the county council was currently arranging the procurement of consultants to carry out the detailed design work for the extension, which will cost around €30 mn.
However, Deputy Browne was not hopeful following the TII response.
'The bypass is necessary. If it doesn't go ahead, Oylegate will be the only village or residential area between Belfast and the Rosslare Europort. This will mean a lot of cars and heavy goods vehicles will continue to travel through Oylegate.'
'The village will effectively come to a standstill,' added Deputy Browne, who said that he expects traffic jams similar to those in Enniscorthy to hit the village.
According to him, the village is already dealing with heavy traffic at certain times.
However, Oylegate-based councillor Willie Kavanagh doesn't view the current traffic situation as an issue and said that he has not witnessed any traffic jams during his 40 years in the village. He said that, if the bypass doesn't go ahead, he doesn't expect traffic to increase.
As owner of The Slaney Inn, Cllr Kavanagh said the bypass will not affect his business whether or not it goes ahead, saying that most of his customers are local. However, he said it could have a huge hit on the local supermarket, restaurants and filling station in the village, which rely on visitors and passing motorists for trade.
However, according to Deputy Browne, scrapping the extension will have an impact on Oylegate and the wider community.
'It is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wexford town. if there are serious transport problems for those travelling from Wexford to the airport and other places, it is going to have an impact on business.'