Ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to be here this afternoon to perform the official opening of this, the final section of the M9 major interurban route linking Dublin and Waterford.
What a terrific day this is for so many reasons. From today, Dublin and Waterford will be linked by a continuous, uninterrupted, high quality roadway that provides a fast, predictable and, above all, safe connection between the two cities and their hinterlands.
All of us gathered here today will remember the tortuous journey between the two cities that existed before this investment began.
Places like Castledermot, Thomastown, Carlow and many others, through no fault of their own, struck dread into the hearts of any driver faced with the prospect of slow, unpredictable journeys along single carriageways between the two cities. Negotiating Thomastown in an articulated lorry was some achievement. Add in a bank holiday or a GAA appointment in Dublin and the result was pretty bad by any standard.
From today that is all history.
This road running as it does, down the central spine of both Kilkenny and Carlow, will provide high quality connectivity between the major population centres of Waterford City, Kilkenny City, Dublin and Carlow.
It also improves access to Waterford Regional Airport, Belview Port, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford Regional Hospital, Carlow Institute of Technology – to name but a few - and the various tourist attractions in the region. I expect that the list of people, places and organisations that will eventually benefit from the opening of this final section of the M9 could well be a very long one. Apart from the residents of Castledermot, Thomastown and Carlow, I should, perhaps, also mention the bypassed towns and villages of Knocktopher, Stoneyford, Paulstown, Dungarvan and Gowran. Some of these villages are very attractive and pretty in their own right but were never able to shine as much as they could have because of the relentless traffic moving through their thoroughfares.
It almost goes without saying that all of these new inter-urbans roads will open up access to the regions in a very practical way. These roads don’t just link two spots on a map but open up access to all the towns and villages along the way and indeed to areas beyond the end-point of the routes themselves. A few weeks ago I was present when An Taoiseach opened the Limerick Tunnel. That link, and the forthcoming Gort to Crusheen section of the N18 will prove invaluable in the opening up of the West of Ireland and reducing journey times to and from rural areas generally.
Together with the major interurban network of routes linking Dublin to Belfast, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford these works are vitally important to us on the periphery of Europe. In the years ahead, as our economy recovers, we will be able to capitalise on this fast and efficient network of roads which will allow the movement of goods and people around the country with a certainty that was not previously achievable.
From a road safety perspective this road will serve to provide a far safer route than the one it replaces. Motorway standard roads have been proven time and again to be safer than their single carriageway equivalents.
While these roads eliminate many common traffic hazards very effectively, they cannot remove the personal responsibility that rests on the shoulders of any of us who get behind the wheel of a car or use a public highway in any capacity.
We all share a responsibility to use the road network responsibly and to have regard to other users’ perspectives. Could I ask all road users, particularly as we draw into the long winter nights to be aware that we all share the road network, be safe and be seen by other road users and slow down.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank of all the people who contributed to the delivery of this project.
The planners, engineers, sub-contractors and everyone else involved. It is a job of work in which you can all take great pride. It is a job of work you can look back on in the years to come and say ‘I helped to build that’. I understand that this is the largest capital scheme ever undertaken by the people in Kilkenny County Council.
Well done one and all.