Brian Guckian, a researcher into sustainable development and transport in Ireland, lays out the case against the proposed Cork to Limerick (M20) Motorway.
AN attempt to propose a 1 billion motorway between Cork and Limerick is already in difficulty according to a national sustainable transport researcher and campaigner.
Brian Guckian, who carries out research and development into sustainable transport in Ireland and who has advocated radical extension of the national rail network, light rail systems for regional cities and the modification or scrapping of a number of unsustainable road schemes including the controversial M3 in Meath and the Outer Bypass in Galway, said that the proposed M20 motorway was not supported by traffic count data, breached EU laws and guidelines on sustainable transport and contravened evolving government policies on climate change and energy efficiency.
He said that County and City Councils were among the primary perpetrators of soaring CO2 emissions implicated in climate change as well as chronic fossil fuel dependency in Ireland due to a deeply-entrenched roads culture in their organisations. He said a Submission to the Department of Transport in April of this year had proposed robust measures to deal with this, including staff re-training, re-organisation of Council roads departments into Sustainable Transport Departments and funding cuts and fines to Councils that insisted on proceeding with unsustainable road-building schemes.
Mr Guckian said that greenfield roads were "like huge carbon pumps", increased rather than reduced traffic, reinforced oil dependency, were profoundly uneconomic and constituted negative infrastructure that was discredited since the 1960s. He said a sample study of the secondary costs of the controversial M3 motorway in 2005 had found that it would generate total costs, conservatively estimated, of at least 5.6 billion over 30 years.
The initial public consultation on the proposed M20 motorway had already breached the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment by presenting a road scheme as the only option for improving transport links between Cork and Limerick. A holistic, economic and evironmentally responsible approach comprising a mixture of direct rail services, enhanced coach services and modest improvements to the existing N20 road had been ignored, whereas EU legislation required all transport options to be considered, and with an emphasis on sustainable modes such as rail and coach, he said.
Mr Guckian stated that in general the motorway proposal was deeply immoral, and not least because at an estimated 1 billion, it would take funds from much-needed primary healthcare, education, housing, public transport and other essential services in the Cork and Limerick region in years to come. If constructed it would also be largely unaffordable for users due to ongoing increases in fuel costs and charges.
An Atlantic Corridor did not have to be motorway-based but could offer transport choice and value via more modest road improvments in conjunction with greatly improved rail, railfreight and coach services, which would also signficantly cut traffic, he said.
There was already a direct rail link between Cork and Limerick via Limerick Junction, but an even more direct rail route which would cut road traffic had formerly existed via Charleville, Croom and Patrickswell, closed since 1967. Re-opening the railway between these points would cost an estimated 116 million - a fraction of the cost of the proposed motorway - and generate benefits of at least 14 million per annum, he said.
A common perception that rail transport needed allegedy high "population densities" for viability was also wrong, since its external environmental, social and economic benefits, which greatly increased viability, were never taken into account. He said that the Strategic Rail Review of 2003 had shown that rail would generate savings to Irish society and economy of at least 18 billion up to 2022. This figure was extremely conservative as it had been based on low values of CO2 and had not taken into account even greater savings from significantly increased railfreight services.
Mr Guckian indicated that Cork and Limerick County Councils would be referred to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who have previously indicated that 98% of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions from transport derive from a chronic over-reliance on road transport. He also said he was available to help opponents of the proposed road and can be contacted at email@example.com