Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Volume of Traffic.

4.

asked the Minister for the Environment the county with the lowest volume of vehicular traffic per mile of (a) national primary route, (b) national secondary route, (c) main and county roads in the country.

5.

asked the Minister for the Environment the counties with the highest volume of vehicular traffic on (a) national primary routes, (b) national secondary routes, (c) main and county roads.

6.

asked the Minister for the Environment how the financial allocation made to Kildare County Council in respect of (a) maintenance of national primary roads and (b) maintenance of main and county roads, compares with similar allocations to the county having the lowest volume of vehicular traffic per mile of the roads mentioned.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4, 5 and 6 together.

Data on vehicle kilometres of travel are contained in the Foras Forbartha publication "Vehicle Kilometres of Travel" (1980 RT 257). The data on national roads in that publication enable valid comparisons to be made relating to each county and to each county borough, but the data do not distinguish between national primary and national secondary roads. The samples on which data on regional and county roads are based are not sufficiently large to enable valid comparisons to be made relating to these roads.

In the case of national roads, the volume of vehicular traffic averaged over the length of road in each county is highest in Dublin city and county at 16,613 vehicles per day, is lowest in Leitrim at 1,729, while the corresponding figure for Kildare is 8,148. Allocations of State grants for maintenance works on national roads are not based simply on vehicular traffic per kilometre. In particular, the condition of the roads must be taken into account. In 1984, the allocations for maintenance of national roads amounted to £615,000 in the case of Kildare County Council, £1,089,500 for Dublin city and county and £200,000 for Leitrim.

As I have already indicated, valid comparisons cannot be made relating to vehicles kilometres of travel for regional and county roads. Road grants are not provided specifically for the maintenance of regional roads. However, county councils may, at their own discretion, use the block grant to supplement expenditure from their own resources on such maintenance. The cost of maintenance of county roads must be met solely from the councils' own resources.

Because a county like Kildare is situated next to Dublin — the single largest population bloc in the country — would the Minister not agree that it is true that not only must our national primary and secondary roads carry extraordinarily heavy traffic, but also our minor roads, again occasioned by the heavy volume seeking an alternative route to the capital city? Would the Minister not accept that there is a case for making a special allocation to the counties immediately adjacent to Dublin in order to compensate for that heavy volume of traffic which other counties do not have to encounter?

In terms of the actual amount of grant commitments for 1984 for national primary roads, County Kildare received the third highest amount, which was £530,000, after Cork, which received £834,000, and Dublin county which received £1,004,500. Therefore it is recognised that County Kildare carries a reasonably heavy volume of traffic and it does receive the third highest commitment from the Road Fund.

With regard to the Minister's continuous references to the fact that the maintenance of county roads must be met from local authorities' own resources, will he accept that, whatever difference of opinion there may be amongst political parties, there is unanimity on all sides of the House that the moneys being made available to County Kildare — no matter how we endeavour to utilise them — are insufficient to carry out any sort of a decent job on our roads in view of the amount of traffic they carry? While we appreciate that we may have received the third largest allocation last year would the Minister not agree that that, in itself, has not been sufficient to deal with the problem, that there is a feeling——

A question, please, Deputy.

——amongst everybody aware of the problem that desperate situations require desperate remedies? We feel that something better has to be done——

A statement is not in order.

Will the Minister make those moneys available so that that can be done?

With regard to the Minister's contention that Kildare County Council must deal with their county roads out of their own resources, and in view of the very special position of those roads, would the Minister consider making a special allocation to County Kildare in 1985 over and above the norm because, otherwise, the county roads in Kildare will fall into total disrepair?

With regard to county roads — and here I shall be dealing with Deputy Power's supplementary also — it has always been the policy of county councils to look after their maintenance. With regard to their improvement, county councils can use moneys from their block grants but maintenance must come, as it always has, from within the resources of the county. I do not propose to change that practice.

Pascal Mooney is the only man for the county roads.

Having regard to the views expressed on all sides of the House I would appeal to the Minister to take into consideration the special position — I know that each county will endeavour to have its position brought to the attention of the public — of Kildare by virtue of what he has told us in relation to the heavy volume of traffic generated by the proximity of Dublin city to County Kildare. While I would not make a case for Kildare in isolation, would the Minister not agree that unless something is done to alleviate the burden on local authorities immediately adjacent to County Dublin, the whole roads system is in danger of breaking down?

In my replies so far I have indicated that County Kildare are not hard done by, in the sense that they received, over and above their block grant, approximately £500,000, and with regard to national primary roads, they receive the third highest commitment. I contend that is a recognition of the point Deputies are making.

Would the Minister accept that there is taking place a serious deterioration in the condition of the surfaces of main and county roads throughout the country and that that is due to the inadequate amounts being allocated to local authorities by the Government for the repair, maintenance and improvement of those roads?

As the Deputy is aware, local authorities can operate from within their block grants with regard to their main roads. Maintenance of county roads has to be done——

Is the Minister aware of the deterioration taking place?

I can only speak about the travelling I have done, and I have done a bit in the course of the last year around the country——

I mean from the Department's brief.

From the departmental brief, there is not a great deterioration, the general roads standard is good. In isolated areas there is some deterioration. Some local authorities recognise this and operate a type of three tier system themselves, taking decisions as to how they should approach that problem; that, for example, busy county roads should receive preference and so on. Some local authorities have implemented this scheme. As the Deputy is aware, it is within their remit to do so because they are responsible for the maintenance of county roads.

Is the Minister aware that engineers in some counties have informed persons making representations regarding the serious deterioration in the condition of the roads that they have had to abandon some of the county roads in their counties because of the inadequate allocation of finance from central Government for their repair?

County roads constitute a matter for the engineers and the county councils themselves. They are responsible for their maintenance. The money we give them is not for that and never has been, so we have not withdrawn any funds from them. With regard to any improvements required on county roads, as the Deputy is aware the county councils can use their block grants. With regard to local authorities' own resources, they have means at their disposal now by which they can increase their own resources, or raise additional funds from their own resources if they so desire.

I am calling Question No. 7. We could go on county by county.

The Minister is living in cloud-cuckoo land if he does not know what are the problems involved.