(CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
I am delighted to be here to day to open this latest section of the M9 between Waterford and Knocktopher.
The people of Knocktopher and Mullinavat and surrounding areas will long remember today as the day they got their towns back. Like so many other towns along national routes, they have had to endure daily congestion at a level which made local trips into and out of their respective towns very difficult, frustrating and time consuming.
I am sure it is not unreasonable to believe that those people driving through the towns on their way to more distant destinations would have shared these frustrations too.
I understand that this new section of motorway will carry up to 12,500 vehicles per day after we cut the ribbon.
That will give an idea of just how many vehicles were trundling along the original section of the N9 on a daily basis.
As of today, nearly 84 kms of motorway on the M9 have been delivered. Today’s opening marks the penultimate milestone in the delivery of an entirely new route from Junction 11 on the M7 all the way to the Waterford City Bypass. The final 40km section, from Carlow to Knocktopher is on target for delivery later this year.
Once the final section is completed, it will be possible to travel from the M7/M50 Red Cow junction to Waterford City in approximately 90 minutes – an unheard of journey time just a few short years ago.
Since October last year, we will have opened over 130 kms of motorway and dual carriageways across the country.
This includes the N25 Waterford City Bypass, which links up with the section of new motorway we are standing on here today. It has undoubtedly already brought significant benefits to the people of South Kilkenny, Waterford City and County.
I hope that the expertise being garnered from the completion of major road projects will serve us well as we move on to deliver other even more technically complex infrastructure projects under Transport 21 in the future particularly in the public transport area.
Under Transport 21 the focus up to 2010 is on the completion of the major interurban 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. Both the M1 and the N6 are open to traffic and the others are well advanced and on target to be completed by the end of this year.
More than €1.4 billion will be spent this year on enhancements to national and regional and local road infrastructure. This level of investment provides a much-needed fiscal stimulus around the country and it also helps maintain thousands of jobs.
The delivery of these vital routes will transform our national road network beyond all recognition. This investment will equip us with an extremely valuable tool to capitalise on once our current economic difficulties ease.
The ability of our manufacturers and service deliverers to get their goods and services to market cheaply and efficiently in a fiercely competitive environment is what will win business for Ireland Inc. in the future. These interurban motorways will all deliver that ‘in spades’ so to speak.
Of course, the delivery of these Major Interurban Routes is not just about speed, efficiency and reduced journey times. The safety that these roads will deliver is just as important.
Safety has to be to the fore on our roads. As the Easter holiday period fast approaches, it is comforting to note that the awful death toll and serious life altering injuries resulting from traffic collisions is reducing.
The type of road we are opening today plays its part in this welcome reduction but, in all cases, the person behind the wheel has to take responsibility for his or her own safety and the safety of fellow road users.
I want to make a special request of everyone here today. Please reduce your speed, and please don’t even consider drinking and driving – I hope the more this is repeated the more the message will get through to those of us who believe it can’t happen to them. Unfortunately, it does!
Finally, my special thanks to
· the contractors Bam (Formerly Ascon) Ltd,
· the Engineers N9/N10 Consult (a joint venture between Arup and Roughan & O’Donovan – Faber Maunsell),
· Kilkenny County Council, and all their staff who can be very proud of what they have delivered here today.
Well done one and all.