The management of Ireland West Airport Knock have welcomed the opening of the new M17 motorway which they say will shorter journey times between Galway and the airport.
The new M17/18 from Tuam to Gort was officially opened last Wednesday by Minister for Transport, Shane Ross and will join with the existing motorway from Gort to Limerick.
The new €550 million motorway has been seen by many as an advantage for Shannon Airport, with motorways now available for the majority of the journey from north Galway to Shannon Airport.
Both airports are in competition for passengers from Galway city, and the convenience of the motorway could prompt some to choose Shannon over Knock.
However, Joe Gilmore, the Managing Director of Ireland West Airport, said the M17 will be a significant boost for the airport, as it will cut 15 to 20 minutes off the journey from Galway city to Knock Airport.
“We are delighted to welcome the opening of the new M17 Tuam to Gort motorway. Not only will the completion of the motorway improve the transport infrastructure along the western corridor, but the shorter journey time will make our airport even more convenient for the people of Galway providing even easier access to our network of 24 international destinations, including the biggest selection of UK services available from the west of Ireland,” he said.
Mr Gilmore also pointed out that in 2016 over 70,000 Galway residents flew from the airport availing of the 24 international destinations now available. In addition, he said close to 100,000 overseas visitors visit the Galway region annually as part of the their trip to the west after flying into Ireland West Airport, providing an economic boost of over €30 million annually to the Galway region.
The new road is of motorway standard for a distance of 53.2km from Gort to the Kilmore junction near Tuam and a dual-carriageway type 2 cross section from the Kilmore roundabout to the Mountpotter roundabout north of Tuam, a distance of 4.2km.
The opening of the project has led to calls on the Government to extend the motorway into Co Mayo. The Claremorris Chamber of Commerce says money should be provided to start planning for the extension to Claremorris and link up the N5 to the motorway network.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring said the new motorway, which will be toll-free, will help attract employment and investment to the west.