Route selection for N52 link delayed due to policy changes

A report on the selection of the preferred route for a new N52 link road between Tullamore and Kilbeggan is being delayed due to the need to take into account new Government policy.

Offaly County Council is the lead authority on the project, which is planned in conjunction with Westmeath County Council. The project is effectively mothballed due to the failure of Transport Infrastructure Ireland to allocate funding for 2022.

Work on the route selection process is ongoing though, following funding allocations in previous years.

The consultants for the scheme, in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, were expected to publish a report recommending a preferred route option, within an already-announced preferred route corridor, in the second quarter of this year. But this has been delayed and there has been criticism of the impact of this on land currently sterilised due to the planning process.

Westmeath County Council recently informed councillors: “Following a Project Appraisal Audit was carried out by TII in May, it is now necessary to take into account recent Government policy changes such as the National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland (NIFTI) that was launched before Christmas. This will delay the publication of the Option Selection Report.”

Offaly County Council members heard in recent weeks that the report could be published “in a month or more”.

The third non-statutory public consultation process on the proposed link road was completed last October, following the unveiling of an emerging preferred route corridor.

Five route corridor options were originally considered, and the emerging preferred route is circa 8.1km in length and maximises use of existing upgraded sections of the N52, including the Tullamore Bypass at the south and the approach to the M6 junction at the north.

Leaving from Tullamore, the route corridor follows the existing N52 until just north of the L2003 Ballynamona Road, where it diverges to the east. It crosses the L2005 and the L2006 High Road before merging back with the existing N52 again, north of the county boundary in the townland of Curraghglass.

Both Offaly and Westmeath County Councils deem the new link road to be a priority in order to improve both connectivity and safety on the route, with very high volumes of traffic using the N52, at some 14,00 vehicles per day.