The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide €144 million for construction of a new motorway link in the west of Ireland. Contracts for the M17/M18 Gort to Tuam PPP Scheme were signed in Dublin earlier today by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform Brendan Howlin and the European Investment Bank for the project that will create up to 450 jobs, boost local economies in western Ireland and ease congestion on the key transport route.

The new four lane motorway will replace the existing N17/N18 roads, and reduce end-to-end journey times by around 20 minutes. The overall cost of the scheme is estimated at €550 million and the road will be toll-free.

Jonathan Taylor, European Investment Bank Vice President said: “The European Investment Bank is pleased to support this new investment in Ireland’s road network. This will not only improve transport links in the west of Ireland, but also directly benefit the construction sector with hundreds of new jobs. The M17 project represents the European Investment Bank’s third engagement to support PPP projects since 2010. We welcome leading European commercial investors' participation in the project. This shows that the Irish PPP market, with transitional assistance from the EIB, has once again become attractive to international investors. The European Investment Bank looks forward to supporting Ireland through similar engagement in the future.”

Minister Howlin said: “I am very pleased that we have achieved sign-off on the latest roads project to be delivered using the Public Private Partnership model and indeed the first, and largest, project of our new PPP Stimulus Programme.”

This is the second transport Public Private Partnership to be signed under this Government, following the M11/Newlands Cross project, and will create up to 450 jobs during the construction and post-construction phases. The entire PPP programme had been frozen since the economic crisis of 2008 but is now fully operational again.

“This 57km scheme will be a major boost to the Western region and I’m delighted that we have now secured financing under the PPP programme. The new road will be safer, and will bypass Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam which all suffer from congestion. Anyone who has travelled the existing route appreciates the difference this new road will make. I want to congratulate the NRA for getting the contract to this stage. I’m especially pleased that three members of the contract consortium are Irish civil engineering firms, and I hope this bodes well for our economic recovery,” Minister Varadkar said.

“This Government is investing significantly in transport projects outside of Dublin. The Gort to Tuam motorway is the only major road project to commence construction this year. Later this year the Belturbet and Ballaghaderreen bypass will open, which is the only by-pass to open this year. The focus now turns to tendering for the Enniscorthy and New Ross PPPs. When completed, the new motorway will reduce journey times between Limerick and Galway, allowing the two cities to work together economically, and supporting further investment and jobs. It will also reduce journey times from Galway to Shannon Airport, boosting the airport's growth prospects,” he added.

The 57km scheme will provide four lanes from Gort in the south to Tuam in the north, with a major junction with the M6 Galway-Dublin route to the east of Galway City. It will bypass Tuam, Ardrahan, Claregalway, Kilcolgan, Clarinbridge and Gort.

The European Investment Bank will provide €144 million over 26 years for the scheme, representing a saving to the State. Another €150 million will be provided by commercial funders, with a mix of international and domestic project finance banks represented alongside new international institutional investors. This diverse funding group is a strong signal of the international project finance market’s confidence in Ireland.

Fred Barry CEO of the National Roads Authority stated: “Today’s signing signifies a monumental step towards the construction of the Atlantic Corridor Motorway.”

The new road will take thousands of vehicles away from the centres of Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam every day and form part of the Atlantic Corridor along Ireland’s west coast. Construction is expected to take less than four years and the first traffic along the route is expected in late 2018.

All archaeological sites along the route have been investigated under licence from the National Museum and any compulsory purchase orders required to develop the road have already been completed.