The national development plan provides for significant private sector investment in the national roads development programme. In line with this policy, a number of major road upgrade projects are being implemented by the NRA by means of public private partnerships, with the private sector being remunerated, in part, by user tolls. This will ensure earlier delivery of vital national road infrastructure. Through PPPs, private sector innovation will be harnessed in the areas of scheme design, construction and long-term operation and maintenance.
The NRA's current PPP programme comprises eight projects. In selecting these PPP projects the NRA had regard to a number of factors: a geographical spread of tolls across the network; the extent of service improvement to be provided by the improved route; the availability of sufficiently high traffic volumes to ensure commercial viability and the setting of tolls at an affordable and acceptable level to reduce diversion and gain public acceptance. Having regard to these criteria it is clear that there is limited capacity, over and above the projects already identified by the NRA, across the national road network to support viable tolling arrangements.
Despite the greatly increased levels of investment in the national roads programme, the increased cost of the programme combined with the more difficult economic and budgetary circumstances which limit the capacity to allocate more Exchequer funding requires that we consider all possibilities for generating additional funding to accelerate the implementation of the national roads programme. In this context and that of a broader review of the arrangements for the delivery of the programme, the NRA has recently identified a number of options for the development of tolling policy to enable the NRA to raise additional funding for the national roads programme. These options provide, inter alia, for the consideration, in conjunction with the NDFA, of the possibility of securitising toll revenue. The proposals submitted by the NRA are being considered in my Department.