The View: Longford's N4 upgrade is good news but let's not all jump at once


Are we all going to be raising our glasses this week in celebration of a certain cabinet meeting some 60 miles down the N4 in Sligo?

The mere mention of the N4 has been a moot point for many both in terms of its overall upgrade and more pertinently in making Longford a more appetising business and tourist destination.

Of course, the incoming multi-million juggernaught that is Center Parcs is an obvious mind-focuser for those holding the Leinster House pursestrings.

Quite apart from the political kudos it might bring those who have been front and centre in the fight to sway the attitudes of messrs Murphy, Coveney et al remains to be seen.

What is undeniable however is the additional clout it will give the likes of Longford in being able to entice companies, perhaps not of the ilk of Center Parcs, but certainly ones of a reputable nature to the county.

Think of what having a fully fledged motorway on your doorstep will bring to the economic table.

Not only would it cut commuter times to and from the capital in half, it would suddenly bring Longford on a par with the Mullingars and Athlones of this world in attracting foreign direct investment and thereby boosting job numbers.

The case which was made by Limerick and Cork Chambers of Commerce in flagging their desires for a new Limerick to Cork motorway last year is symptomatic of the challenges confronting Longford’s business populous.

“This would give us a real edge, allowing for lower transport costs, increased competition in the economy, tax benefits from increased labour supply and employment effects,” said Cork Chamber CEO Conor Hanly back in March 2017.

With the right road network linking them, they would effectively become one large labour and customer marketplace, he argued.

And that’s before anyone dare mention the looming uncertainty that still surrounds Brexit.

The fact Fine Gael and Independent Alliance ministers have plumped for Sligo to unveil its vision for the nation's future over the next 20 years under the banner Ireland 2040 is a clue in itself.

The ‘confidence’ followed by ‘assurances’ uttered by locally based Fine Gael politicians in ensuring the N4 upgrade is contained in the Government’s Capital Plan on Friday have only served to enhance that appeal.

Also read: Longford councillor, Joe Flaherty demands motorway status for N4

The anticipated arrival of the national gas pipeline and the hundreds of thousands set to come Longford’s way under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme are indisputable positives.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Longford is a county that still faces many challenges.

Roads apart, the region’s rail infrastructure could arguably be described as being akin to those of a third world nature.

Overcrowding and carriage shortages and delays, sometimes lengthy ones, have become commonplace certainly in these parts.

It’s a damning indictment of our current rail network when you have to strongly consider whether taking a train is any quicker than opting for a bus to Dublin.

And since when has it become acceptable to hold up an entire train service from Longford to Connolly Station because there are leaves on the track.

Unfortunately, and as this author can testify to, it does happen.

Business closures, a still healthy supply of empty shop units throughout the county town, together with the events of the past couple of weeks tell their own sorry tale. Two serious assaults in two of this county’s largest urban centres are evidence enough of the damage such negative sentiment can do to a region still struggling to reinvent itself post Celtic Tiger and the post 2008 Irish banking crisis.

So while the trappings on offer in Sligo this Friday are unequically welcome, it’s an infrastructural pledge that is long overdue.
For so long Longford has been considered an economic backwater.

Perhaps now those waters are starting to turn for the better.

One thing is for sure, the people of Longford deserve nothing less.

Also read: Carrigy hints at imminent N4 extension upgrade for Longford

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