Scheme Update

May 2020 – Phase 2

Work on the N/M20 Cork to Limerick scheme is now progressing to the examination of alternative options to determine a Preferred Option to connect the two cities.  During this Phase, the N/M20 project team is developing and appraising road-based and rail-based options, to initially identify a shortlist of options and following detailed examination and appraisal to identify a preferred option.

The work completed in Phase 1 (Concept and Feasibility), identified the preferred road-based scenario as being broadly within the N20 corridor via Charleville and Mallow. This road-based scenario performed best overall in relation to the project objectives following appraisal of seven road-based options.  (See Phase 1 Update for a more detailed explanation)

Two rail-based scenarios were identified in Phase 1, one involving improved service frequency with through services at Limerick Junction on the existing line, the other providing a new direct line between Charleville and Limerick.

In Phase 2, the project team will develop,  assess and appraise the road-based options in the broad N20 corridor and further develop and appraise the rail-based options to identify a preferred transport option to connect Cork and Limerick.   

To assist with the development of options, the project team has defined a Phase 2 Study Area as outlined in Figure 1.  The Study Area is being used to develop road-based and rail-based options, which will be examined and appraised by the project team to identify a shortlist of options for further examination and assessment to identify the preferred option.

Fig 1.

Phase 2 Study Area

The Phase 2 Study Area for the appraisal of the road-based and rail-based options is outlined in Figure 1.    The Study Area boundary is indicative, and the project team may undertake some studies/surveys beyond the Study Area boundary. 

The Study Area is broadly in line with the study area developed as part of the previous M20 scheme with the following additional areas identified in Figure 2, included to reflect the context of the current project:

  • additional area between Charleville and Limerick City to consider rail-based options and consider connectivity with proposed public transport projects;
  • additional area between Blarney and Cork City to consider connectivity with proposed public transport projects; and
  • additional area east of Adare to consider connectivity with the proposed Foynes to Limerick Road (including Adare Bypass).

Fig 2.

The project team is identifying the key constraints, undertaking studies/surveys and developing options within the Study Area.  

The initial road and rail-based options will be developed and comparatively assessed by the project team to identify a shortlist of options. Once the shortlisted options have been identified, the project team will hold a public consultation event seeking the views of the public and other stakeholders on the shortlisted options, which is programmed for later this year.

Following the public consultation, the shortlisted options will then be subject to further development and appraisal by the project team in relation to the project objectives to identify the preferred transport option for connecting Cork and Limerick.

Your Views

Should you have any views or comments on our work in Phase 2, we invite you to get in touch by email, by phone, by post or in person. Please see the Contact section for our contact detail.

Planning Applications Within the Study Area

The Phase 2 Study Area is the current Planning Referral Area for the N/M20 project. Planning applications within the Study Area are referred by the planning departments in Limerick City and County Council, Cork County Council and Cork City Council to the N/M20 project team for observations. The project team carry out a risk-based assessment on the applications and provide observations to the planners for their consideration. The project team are available to assist potential applicants during the pre-planning consultation stage. The planning referral area will be subsequently refined and reduced at the end of each Phase of the planning and development process. 

Next Steps 

The next major milestone of the N/M20 project will be the identification of the short-list of options. Public consultation on the short-listed options is programmed to be held later this year. The project team will engage directly with property owners, businesses, other stakeholders and the wider public to help inform and identify further information to assist with the identification of the preferred option.

Public consultation forms a very important element in the appraisal of options. It will be comprehensive and feedback and participation will be welcomed and valued by the project team. Clearly, Covid 19 restrictions make public consultation challenging at this time. In the period immediately ahead, this will take place through a variety of means which will include updates to website, liaison with stakeholders including representative community and sectoral organisations as well as public representatives. The public consultation elements will be advertised in advance in local newspapers, on local radio and on the project website www.corklimerick.ie.

The N/M20 project office in Limerick is currently closed to the public and will be re-opened to the public in a phased approach in accordance with national guidelines. However, the public may submit their views, comments and queries to the project team. Please see the Contact section for details.


February 2020

The work to date has focused on examining various road-based and rail-based scenarios for improving transport connections between Cork and Limerick. Whilst all of the road-based scenarios examined have the potential to improve connectivity, the appraisal work concluded that the road-based scenario running in the broad N20 corridor via Charleville and Mallow performs best overall in relation to the project objectives and is the preferred road-based scenario. Rail-based scenarios involving improved service frequency with either through services at Limerick Junction or alternatively provision of a new direct line between Charleville and Limerick have been identified for further appraisal in the next phase of work.

Phase 1 is an important stage as it defines the concept for the scheme to be developed and confirms its potential to achieve project aims. The project team have used an objective-based appraisal to consider a number of high-level strategic transport improvement scenarios that could address existing and future anticipated problems in the network between Cork and Limerick. The objectives have been formulated by defining the deficiencies in the existing network, in particular the N20 national primary route which is predominately single carriageway.  Route capacity, recurrent congestion in urban areas and a high record of severe accidents are of particular concern.

Road-Based Scenarios

Seven road-based scenarios have been identified based upon providing a new high-quality road between key nodes at Cork (the N20 at Blarney and the N25 at Dunkettle) and Limerick (the M20 at Patrickswell and the N24 at Ballysimon). A number of the scenarios use sections of the existing M8 motorway to the north of Dunkettle. All scenarios are based on preserving the existing road network to provide local access to communities.  Grade-separated junctions along the new route would provide for strategic access and interchange with the local road network.  The seven road-based scenarios are shown in Figures 1 to 7 below.

Figure 1: Road-Based Scenario A (new route in N24 corridor from Cahir to Ballysimon)

Figure 2: Road-Based Scenario B (new route in R513 corridor from M8 at Mitchelstown to Ballysimon)

Figure 3: Road-Based Scenario C (new route in R512 and N20 corridors from M8 at Mitchelstown to Patrickswell)

Figure 4: Road-Based Scenario D (new route in N20 corridor from Blarney to Patrickswell)

Figure 5: Road-Based Scenario E (new route in N72 and N20 corridors from Fermoy to Patrickswell)

Figure 6: Road-Based Scenario F (new route in N20, R513 and N24 corridors from Blarney to Ballysimon with spur to M8 at Mitchelstown)

Figure 7: Road-Based Scenario G (new route in R513 and N24 corridors from Mitchelstown to Ballysimon)

The National Transport Model has been used to predict the level of traffic that would transfer onto each of the proposed road-based scenarios and thereby provide traffic relief to urban areas experiencing the environmental impacts of through traffic. The modelling is also able to predict the improvement in journey time between Cork and Limerick, which is a key metric in determining the performance of the scenarios, particularly with respect to economic opportunities created in efficiently connecting the two cities.

The performance of each of the road-based scenarios has been appraised using Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) in relation to the 17 project objectives listed under the Project Objectives to determine the best performing road-based scenario.  The MCA framework and further explanation of the methods used are contained in Technical Note 1: Phase 1 Multi-Criteria Analysis

Whilst all road-based scenarios have the potential to improve connectivity between Cork and Limerick, the appraisal concluded that the road-based scenario running in the N20 corridor (Scenario D) performs best overall in relation to the project objectives and is the preferred road-based scenario.

The results of the appraisal confirm that the road-based scenario running in the N20 corridor (Scenario D):

  • provides the highest journey time savings between Cork and Limerick
  • has the potential to save the greatest number of road-based collisions across the network
  • public transport service times and reliability would improve and there would be an opportunity to use the new route for express inter-city bus services
  • has the greatest transfer of traffic from the existing road network onto the new scenario
  • provides the highest level of traffic relief to towns and villages
  • provides a step change in connectivity between Cork and Limerick, as well as improving connectivity for the regional towns along the corridor
  • provides the opportunity to grow the Atlantic Economic Corridor by improving connections to west Cork and Kerry
  • provides good opportunities for connection to existing and proposed public transport interchanges
  • enables opportunities for walking and cycling activity in towns and villages due to reduced traffic levels

The preferred road-based scenario will be carried forward to Phase 2 Option Selection. 

The Public Spending Code requires consideration of all potential options including public transport alternatives. Road-based public transport, including buses, are considered as part of the road-based scenarios. Rail-based public transport is considered with the following rail-based scenarios.

Rail-Based Scenarios

There are two rail-based scenarios which are shown in Figures 8 and 9 and described below.

Figure 8: Rail-Based Scenario 1 (Existing Cork to Limerick Rail Line)

Rail-Based Scenario 1 (RS1) – Existing Cork to Limerick Rail Line – this scenario proposes to double the frequency of Cork to Limerick train services to half-hourly by introducing a new direct service on the existing lines leaving Cork 30 minutes after the Dublin train, which will continue to stop and allow transfer to Limerick at Limerick Junction. The recently completed works at Limerick Junction would allow the direct service to pass through at-grade without any conflict with other services. The new service would stop at Mallow, Charleville and Limerick Junction but passengers would not be required to change trains at Limerick Junction like they do now.

Figure 9: Rail-Based Scenario 2 (New Rail Line Charleville to Limerick)

Rail-Based Scenario 2 (RS2) – New Rail Line Charleville to Limerick – this scenario would involve the provision of a new railway connection between Charleville and Limerick. This would allow a new hourly service to leave Cork on the half hour and arrive in Limerick using the existing line between Cork and Charleville and then the proposed new line between Charleville and Limerick. The new line could connect into the existing Limerick to Dublin line outside the Limerick metropolitan area to utilise the existing line into Limerick station. The new service would have intermediate stops at Mallow and Charleville.

The two rail-based scenarios will be carried forward to Phase 2 Option Selection.