Council’s €6.5m spend on key road not yet built

Story by Adrian Cusack

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019 5:24pm

Council’s €6.5m spend on key road not yet built

The 2007 realignment of the Crescent junction in Athlone was the first phase of the still-to-be-built Railway Field Road.

The council has spent more than €6.5 million on a new link road in the centre of Athlone - and that's before the main construction work on the road has even started. 

For over a decade, a transfer of land for the so-called Railway Field Road was the subject of a dispute involving Westmeath County Council and transport provider CIE.

The impasse between the two State bodies was finally resolved in recent months, and next year construction is expected to begin on the road which will be located between The Crescent junction and St Vincent's Care Centre.

The realignment of The Crescent junction in 2007, around the time the Athlone Towncentre opened, was regarded as the first phase of the Railway Field Road development. 

The council sees the new road as a vital piece of infrastructure and, to date, the local authority has incurred costs of more than €6.5 million because of it. It's possible that the overall cost to the taxpayer so far is higher than that, as CIE may also have its own costs arising from the project.  

Figures released to the Westmeath Independent as a result of a Freedom of Information request give a breakdown of the costs met by Athlone Town Council and/or Westmeath County Council as a result of the road project between January 2006 and April of this year.

The breakdown showed 'capital contracts' spending on the project amounting to €3.26 million, and 'land costs' for the Railway Field Road which came to €2.02 million.

In addition, €502,000 was spent on consultancy costs and professional fees or expenses relating to the new road. Legal fees and expenses attributed to the project amounted to €69,559.

Some €171,000 in project costs was listed under the heading of 'plant/ transport/ machinery and equipment'.

There was a further €422,000 in local authority costs associated with the construction of the new Athlone Mixed National School in Arcadia, after it was relocated from its previous site adjoining The Crescent junction.

Local authority officials and councillors have long viewed the Railway Field Road as a development that will ease traffic congestion in the centre of town and facilitate Athlone's growth and development in the years ahead.

The dispute over the project between the CIE and the local authority became a long-running saga with countless meetings, and several false dawns, before agreement was finally reached between the sides last September.

At an Athlone Municipal District meeting in March, it was stated that a detailed design of the road still had to be prepared. It was envisaged that the project would go to tender later this year and that construction would begin in 2020.

The council said the new road would consist of four lanes at each end, but would “taper to two lanes” in the centre.

The Southern Station Road will be restricted to buses only once the new road is in place, and new bus parking facilities are to due be provided for CIE on the Railway Field.



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