CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I am delighted to be here today to officiate at the opening of the N51 Navan Inner Relief Road scheme. Today marks yet another milestone event in the upgrading of our national road network. By providing this new stretch of road, we have achieved a number of important targets namely, improved road safety, improved access to Navan town and its hinterland, and enhanced predictability of journey times along the N51 route linking Drogheda, Slane, Navan and Athboy to the N52 at Delvin.
This project commences west of Navan town and connects the N3 Kells road to the N51 Athboy road. On a national level, this project will facilitate direct access to the new M3 motorway due to open in 2010 providing an important step forward towards a rapid, safer and predictable road transport artery in the North east region.
The benefits of this scheme for the townspeople of Navan will be significant. Over 7,000 vehicles will be rerouted away from Navan town centre onto the N51 from Delvin to Drogheda with expected journey time-savings along this route of up to 20 minutes at peak times. The enhanced quality of life for those who live or do business in the town will be of benefit to local residents and traders alike.
We have indeed entered more challenging times for our economy. However, I believe that we are far better equipped to meet the challenges than ever before. In terms of transport, infrastructure and connectivity, both in this region and countrywide, the capital investment programme which the government has put in place and will continue to deliver, leaves us well positioned to weather the immediate difficulties and to take early advantage of a return to economic growth.
The opening of this project today, together with the many others which are ongoing all around the country, are the clearest possible evidence of this Government’s continued commitment, under the ambitious framework of the National Development Plan and Transport 21, to the transformation of Ireland’s transport infrastructure.
Despite the current economic challenges, under Transport 21, up to €34 billion is being invested in Ireland’s road, rail, bus, tram, metro and regional airports between 2006 and 2015. Transport 21 is transforming the quality of life of families and commuters, linking communities together, and making it easier to do business right across Ireland. The cumulative Exchequer expenditure on Transport 21 projects and programmes over its first three years was almost €6.8 billion, while total PPP expenditure for the period was €1,020.7 million.
In 2009, over €2 billion has been allocated. As well as providing large sums for national road development, these huge levels of investment include substantial funding for Public Transport projects, over €1.5 billion in 2008 and 2009.
Specifically in relation to national roads, the focus up to 2010 is on the major inter-urban routes between Dublin and the border on the M1, the N4/6 to Galway, the N7 to Limerick, the N8 to Cork and the N9 to Waterford. The M1 is already open and the others are on target to be completed by 2010. At this stage, motorway standard roads are either open to traffic or well advanced in construction along the full length of each of the major inter-urban routes. All are coming in on time and in budget.
With this and other new infrastructure in place, we will be able to weather the current difficulties and take early advantage of the return to economic growth which must surely follow.
Finally in closing, I would like to express my gratitude to the National Roads Authority and the construction company on this project, Regan Civil Engineering Ltd, the Engineers, Ryan Hanley WSP, and last, but by no means least, the staff of Meath County Council. Well done, one and all.