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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 Oct 2019

Vol. 987 No. 2

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Brexit Preparations

Marc MacSharry


48. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the transport system particularly at major entry and exit points is adequately prepared for the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit. [39769/19]

Does the Minister believe that the transport system, notably at our major entry and exit points, is adequately prepared for the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit? As he is aware we face the distinct possibility, particularly in light of the proposals coming from the United Kingdom in the past 24 hours, of a no-deal Brexit. It is an outcome that would have disastrous implications for the island of Ireland. Among the many problems which will arise is the impact it will have on Ireland's importers and exporters, most notably at our ports and entry points.

The Government has extensive preparations in place for a possible no-deal Brexit on 31 October 2019. In its action plan published in July 2019, the Government acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit will be highly disruptive and will have profound implications across all aspects of society.

It would be impossible for the UK to maintain the current seamless arrangements with the EU across the full range of sectors, including transport connectivity, trade flows and supply chains.

The contingency plans in place, including in the transport sector, will mitigate but cannot eliminate the impacts of a no-deal Brexit. The reintroduction of customs or border controls as a consequence of Brexit will undoubtedly increase transit times for all traffic travelling via or from the UK to continental Europe, including for many Irish importers and exporters. The three locations for which Ireland is heavily dependent on connectivity to the UK are Dublin Port, Dublin Airport and Rosslare Europort. The OPW has worked with relevant agencies and Departments in delivering the required facilities for agriculture, health and customs checks at these locations. Temporary facilities are now in place to meet the needs of these agencies. Additional staffing in customs and excise and the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Health have been recruited and trained to provide the necessary support and to manage the efficient movement of freight and people through these locations. The necessary associated staffing and IT systems are also in place. I understand that testing of the relevant IT systems is continuing. Communications with stakeholders is ongoing and will continue during October 2019. My Department is also working closely with other agencies to have appropriate traffic management plans in place in the event that there is significant congestion in Dublin Port that impacts on wider traffic flows in the surrounding road network.

Regarding wider transport systems and services, the EU has adopted time-limited measures to ensure basic transport connectivity with the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The temporary measures cover air transport connectivity to the end of March 2020, road freight connectivity to 31 December 2019 and cross-Border bus connectivity, also to 31 December. The EU is considering proposals to extend these arrangements to 24 October 2020 in respect of aviation and to 31 July 2020 in respect of internal haulage and cross-Border bus services.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In respect of rail, Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland Railways are working together to ensure the Enterprise service continues to run post Brexit.

There are concerns about potential disruption to the UK landbridge immediately after the UK's exit. My Department, along with the Irish Maritime Development Office, has met all the main ferry companies and has been assured that not only does sufficient capacity exist on alternative direct routes to continental EU ports, but should the demand for additional capacity arise as a result of Brexit, the shipping companies can respond. It is recognised, however, that these longer direct routes may not be a suitable alternative for all goods, particularly time-sensitive products.

I thank the Minister. Only 200,000 of the 1.3 million containers arriving in Dublin Port originate from outside the EU. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, that figure would rise to 1 million, which would be an astronomical increase in customer requirements. Dublin Port is our largest port, handling 38 million tonnes of cargo per annum. The equivalent of 13 km, or approximately 8 miles, of containers are dispatched and offloaded in the hour before dawn. The port's CEO has been open about the mismatch between the unpreparedness of hauliers, importers and exporters and the capacity of State agencies to cope. It would be negligent of us not to plan on the basis that there could be congestion. I am concerned that our only response to this so far is to make arrangements to text message truck drivers and ask them to pull in at truck stops and wait until the congestion passes. This is hardly a foolproof plan underpinned by a substantial vision to deal with the problem before us. We hear that Rosslare may be able to assist, but its arrangements will not be in place until January 2021.

Has the Minister confidence in the ports' ability to handle a no-deal Brexit? Have the systems he has planned been road tested?

I have full confidence in what Dublin Port has done. I cannot guarantee that there will not be disruption. We are anticipating disruption in a no-deal Brexit, but we are doing everything possible to mitigate those circumstances. Dublin and Rosslare ports have taken all necessary measures possible. There will also be congestion at Dover, Calais, Holyhead, Liverpool and elsewhere, but what measures are taken there will be outside our control.

The Deputy is not completely right about the preparations at Dublin Port. I will outline some of them. A traffic management group chaired by my Department is considering the potential knock-on impacts on the wider area and city traffic management of any potential disruption at Dublin Port in a no-deal scenario. The group is focusing on possible disruption and associated traffic management communication contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.

I feel sorry for the hauliers who are going to get the text message. God knows where they will be when they get it. Some 40% of our unitised exports will go via the landbridge, as the Minister well knows. We have a great deal of time-sensitive agricultural and pharmaceutical produce. Has the Minister met Dublin Port and the major ferry companies to establish alternative routes to the landbridge that would be attractive and quick to market for time-sensitive goods in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

I have met the ferry companies on various occasions, as have my officials. It is important that we have contact with the ferry companies, given that the landbridge could be a flashpoint. It is anticipated that there could be difficulties if there are queues at Dover. The question for the ferry companies has been whether they would be able to provide the additional capacity that might be necessary in the event of queues at Dover, other British ports and elsewhere and hauliers deciding to take a direct route to the Continent. The companies have assured us that they would have the capacity to take the extra demand and that they would respond rapidly to queues and difficulties at ports as a result of the landbridge.

There are alternatives to the landbridge. There is air freight, but that is probably only for high-value, low-volume freight. There is lo-lo, which will obviously take longer. There are direct routes to the Continent that can be taken. We are looking at these alternatives aggressively. Communication with ferry companies has been ongoing for months. We are confident that the necessary measures will be ready if we need them.

Road Safety Authority Campaigns

Thomas P. Broughan


49. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the Road Safety Authority, RSA, should upscale its road safety campaigns, especially in the case of speeding and aggressive driving practices, in view of the tragic and disappointing road traffic casualty figures to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39754/19]

Something like 112 people have tragically lost their lives on the roads this year, seven more than at this stage last year. The breakdown is 21 pedestrians, 59 drivers, 13 passengers, 12 motorcyclists, five cyclists and two pillion passengers. Does the RSA need to upscale its major campaigns to try to bring home the message to speeding and aggressive drivers in particular that their behaviour is perhaps the key cause of these tragic figures?

The figures for deaths on our roads this year are disappointing and a matter of serious concern for the RSA, the Deputy and me. We have seen a general long-term downward trend in road deaths on Irish roads over the past two decades. The number of road deaths dropped from 458 in 1998 to a record low of 144 in 2018, a decrease of more than 68%. This result has been achieved through the work of many people and organisations, better maintenance of roads, improved standards for and testing of vehicles, significant increases in the standard of driver training, and a wide variety of public messages to improve the awareness of safety among the road-using public, complemented by effective enforcement and the ongoing development of road traffic law, including a new regime for drug-driving and, most recently, tougher legislation on drink-driving, which I introduced last year. Organisations such as the PARC Road Safety Group and the Irish Road Victims Association, IRVA, should also be applauded and singled out for their bravery and the effectiveness of their road safety campaigns.

As is widely acknowledged, the lower the number of road deaths becomes, the more difficult it is to reduce the number of tragedies on our roads further. Last year's figure of 144 road deaths was a record low, as was the figure of 157 in 2017. We have always known that it is a challenge to keep up the pressure to reduce the figures further, as seen across Europe.

In general, speeding is one of the principal causes of deaths on our roads and roads across the world. In respect of recent road deaths, however, it is important to remember that the Garda is still conducting investigations into those cases. We should not prejudge what particular factors will turn out to have been involved in them.

I agree with the Deputy that the work of the RSA in getting the message out about the dangers of speeding and other irresponsible driving practices is an essential component in maintaining pressure. Speeding is a crucial factor in more ways than one. As the Deputy, who has taken a keen interest in road safety for many years, will be aware, speeding not only increases the risk of collisions, but significantly increases the probability of death or serious injury resulting from collisions. It is the single most important factor, nationally and internationally, in road deaths.

The RSA works strenuously every year to promote public awareness of road safety, including the danger of speeding. A targeted anti-speeding campaign was conducted last May, and another is planned for later in October, around national slow down day.

At the same time, it has always been the case that we need to act on multiple fronts. That is what we have been doing in the overarching framework provided by the national road safety strategy and which was reinforced by the mid-term review of the current strategy.

I am aware of the many campaigns the RSA has been pursuing, such as those on unaccompanied learner drivers, the wearing of seatbelts, crashed lives, the safe cross code and so on. Thursday, 26 September was European day without a road death, EDWARD, but there seemed to be little promotion of it, either here or Europe-wide. Next week, from 7 to 13 October is Irish road safety week and issues such as drink-driving, tyre safety, speeding, leading lights, motorcycle safety, drug-driving and driver fatigue will all presumably be highlighted. Is any research or evaluation being carried out on the impact of the RSA's current campaigns, which focus on singular issues? Would it not be better to concentrate on overall driver behaviour, including aggressive driving, tailgating and moving at great speed while changing lanes and overtaking? It might be better to focus on that in a broad, dramatic way in order to get the message across to drivers to slow down.

I am always open to suggestions from Deputy Broughan on reducing deaths, as he knows. I take his point about a lack of promotion of project EDWARD. The Deputy must not have seen much about it. A large media event was held to mark it last week in Dublin Castle, which was attended by me, the Garda Commissioner, the chief executive of the RSA and several other people who were involved. I do not know whether it attracted much publicity but I would guess, based on what the Deputy has said, that it did not. It is not within our power to tell the newspapers or media what to cover. Sometimes they cover the things we want them to and sometimes they do not. I was disappointed that it did not get much more coverage. It was a dark and difficult day for road deaths as there were two deaths on the roads just after midnight. The committee on road safety, on which I, the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Garda, the RSA and others sit, meets every quarter. I would be happy to take the Deputy's suggestions to that committee.

The RSA's current road safety strategy aims to reduce collisions, deaths and injuries by 30%. There is huge interest across the world in the vision zero approach, which Sweden, other Scandinavian countries and Canada have been pursuing. It seems there is a lacuna in the RSA's requirement to develop and implement sufficiently successful information and education campaigns.

The other element of this issue is enforcement. Both this and the previous Government slashed the size of the traffic police by more than half. The Garda Commissioner says he wants to return the numbers of traffic police to more than 1,000 and get it back up to the kind of force we had in the mid-2000s. Is that something on which the Minister will work? We are also hearing that the tender for handheld devices has not even gone out yet.

Enforcement is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality. I understand that the Deputy is frustrated by the fact that there are not enough gardaí on the roads. There will probably never be enough gardaí on the roads for enforcement purposes, though numbers are increasing. I will convey the Deputy's message to the Minister for Justice and Equality when I see him at the next meeting on road safety, which he regularly attends.

The Deputy asked about speeding. My proposals for a graduated speeding penalty system, which will be more targeted and proportionate, are due to be considered shortly at a Cabinet committee. Evidence suggests that drivers continue to drive in excess of the safe legal speed limits. A more robust approach is needed-----

Members are waiting. I am not being critical, but the Minister's answers are going on too long. There is a two-minute rule and that is it. I am being more than reasonable. I know this is important, but the fact that we have only completed a few questions is an embarrassment. I must implement Standing Orders. I call Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, who is taking the next question.

Public Transport Initiatives

Jonathan O'Brien


50. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to implement the Cork metropolitan area transport strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39905/19]

I have regularly raised with the Minister over the last two years or so the need for increased investment in bus and light rail transport in Cork city, and the publication of the Cork metropolitan area transport strategy. That strategy was belatedly published earlier this year and is an ambitious plan in many respects, though parts could be more so. The first part of the consultation on the overall strategy is complete, though there is more to come, and we now need to decide how to implement the strategy. I emphasise that this is not only about the long-term plan, but about what we are going to do in the next few years.

The Deputy and I are in complete agreement in welcoming the work completed so far in developing a draft Cork metropolitan area transport strategy and engaging with the public on that draft to hear their views. Its ambition fits within the framework created by Project Ireland 2040, namely, building a better and more sustainable Ireland.

The Deputy will acknowledge that the strategy is not yet finalised or adopted by the local authorities, because the views gathered from the very recent public consultation are still under consideration. Equally, the Deputy will acknowledge that the strategy in its draft form proposes a range of significant measures to improve sustainable mobility in Cork. The plan contains short-term, medium-term and longer-term proposals for delivering the strategy’s overall ambition.

Project Ireland 2040 currently contains funding for projects over the next decade, including projects in Cork which will see improvements to Cork’s bus infrastructure and active travel infrastructure, as well as some important improvements to the road network. Increases in public service obligation, PSO funding in recent years have already allowed for notable bus service improvements in Cork, such as the introduction of Ireland’s first 24-hour PSO bus service, which I understand has been a great success. Funding is available to support the implementation of those proposed shorter-term measures.

However, as I mentioned, the draft strategy as published for public consultation looks to the future, beyond the current ten-year Project Ireland 2040 funding horizon. That is exactly the type of long-term planning we need and is perhaps something we have not been successful in doing in the past. That long-term funding horizon will be considered as part of the mid-term review of Project Ireland 2040. When we come to that review, the medium-term and longer-term requirements of Cork will be set out in the finalised strategy and will inform our overall funding requirements for the next ten years.

I look forward to the finalisation of the Cork metropolitan area transport strategy in November, its adoption by the local authorities and to working with those local authorities in its implementation over the course of the next 20 years.

There is a significant feeling in Cork that we have an opportunity to learn from things that were not done right in Dublin over the last 20 or 30 years. We need to ensure, as the city grows rapidly, that it does not do so on the strength of motor traffic, but rather improved public transport. Focusing too much on the short term is a problem, but taking too much of a long-term view can be a problem as well.

There is a danger of adopting an ambitious grand plan which sets many objectives to be achieved eight, ten or 15 years into the future but does not provide for enough action in the next two, three or five years to get people out of their cars and onto buses and walking, cycling, etc. I would like to hear more about how the Minister intends to support that with investment from his Department. I would also like to put to him a proposal that the Cork Chamber of Commerce has put to me. The proposal calls for an NTA oversight delivery office for this strategy. I believe the NTA would be very open to that.

Cork would be lucky if it could benefit from mistakes made by Dublin. Some of our proposals for Dublin, like BusConnects, will not be mistakes. They will be extended to Cork and other cities as well. They will have a dramatic effect in moving people out of their private cars and onto buses. That is the intention for Cork and Dublin and the vision for the entire country. I should say that the strategy referred to in the Deputy's question is a 20-year plan. It does not promise some sort of panacea which will sort out the traffic problem in Cork in the short term. We have a real challenge in Dublin, Cork, Galway and other cities which we cannot solve by simply waving a magic wand. We have laid out in our answer our plans for buses, which would cost €545 million. Our plans for heavy rail will cost €274 million, active travel will account for €220 million, light rail will account for €1 billion, and roads will amount to €1.39 billion. That is a serious commitment to Cork in the long term.

I was not saying that Cork would benefit from the mistakes of Dublin but rather that it might learn from them. I am not even talking about the recent past. I am talking about 20 or 30 years of excessive reliance on the car and underuse of public transport.

The Minister did not answer the specific question. The Cork Chamber of Commerce has made a proposal. It is eminently sensible and I think the NTA would be very open to it. We need a mixture of both short-term and long-term solutions. The Minister is right to say we cannot wave a magic wand, but some improvements are deliverable in the short term while planning for long-term projects that take a while to deliver, such as the light rail proposal. That proposal calls for a Cork-based oversight delivery office to ensure the delivery of this.

On two or three previous occasions, the Minister and I discussed the need to build on bus rapid transit with light rail in the medium to long term. Is the Minister committed to ensuring that this is delivered in the medium to long term?

I am aware of the Cork Chamber of Commerce's proposal for an oversight office in Cork to ensure delivery of the strategy. As far as I am aware, the NTA has no plans to do that.

It has no objection either.

I am sure the NTA is aware of the Deputy's feelings about that. I have not spoken to the Cork Chamber of Commerce, but I am sure it has made this proposal known to the NTA. If it has not done so, I will certainly be happy to convey it to the NTA and hear its reaction.

This is difficult. We are committed to implementation, but obviously we will have to negotiate the funding for these requirements of the plan as the time approaches. It will probably be after my time in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, but I believe any successor of mine will retain that commitment and do everything he or she can to implement this plan for the benefit of Cork.

Electric Vehicles

John Curran


51. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of the findings from the low-emission bus trials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39773/19]

Trials of low-emission buses have been conducted. Will the Minister give an overview of those trials, the types of buses that were trialled and the outcomes regarding their effectiveness and range? Particularly from the point of view of Dublin, where air quality is of concern, what improvements could we expect from making a transition to these low-emission vehicles?

The movement to low-emission urban buses is central to the promotion and normalisation of cleaner fuels and technologies.  A major shift to cleaner alternatives across the entire transport sector is necessary if we are to reduce harmful emissions.

I am sure the Deputy recognises that the emissions savings potential from the urban bus fleet alone is limited because buses account for less than 3% of land transport emissions.  That is why I am also maintaining a strong focus on expanding the carrying capacity of our public transport system over the coming years.  That is how we can really help address the largest sustainability challenge in the transport sector, namely, shifting more journeys from private motoring towards suitable alternatives in public transport and active travel. 

I assure the Deputy that we are on a clear pathway to low-emission urban buses. Implementing our commitment in the national development plan since this summer, Ireland is no longer buying diesel-only urban public buses.  Dublin Bus has already taken delivery of six electric hybrid buses, with a further three expected to be delivered by the year's end. There is a clear target in the climate action plan for 100 low-emission buses to be on the road by the end of 2020.  The NTA has initiated a tender to award a framework contract for double-deck diesel-electric hybrid buses.

The bus trial compared a range of low-emission buses along representative routes in Dublin and Cork. It provided useful insights into which technologies might be most appropriate in an Irish context.  A comprehensive report outlining the findings of the trial was issued to my Department earlier this month and I have sent the report to the NTA for its consideration.  I have published a high-level executive summary of the findings of the trial on my Department's website in line with a climate action plan commitment, and I also intend to release a non-commercially sensitive version of the full report before the end of the year.

In summary, the results from the trial show that electric buses performed strongly across a range of metrics.  Electric-hybrid technology, where deployed in conjunction with certain biofuels, also emerged as a potentially viable alternative, as did biogas.  The overall results suggest that electrification represents a feasible option for fleet transition that could help us to tackle our carbon emissions, improve air quality and increase our use of renewable energy in transport.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  However, it is important to note that fully electric double-deck models were not available for trial and that these results refer to single-deck electric vehicles.  Indeed, electric double-deck models are only slowly becoming available.

The NTA is reviewing the outcomes of the trial and these, together with supply and operational considerations, will feed into the NTA's development of a medium-term fleet technology pathway for the urban public bus fleet.  That strategy is due to be brought forward by the NTA by the end of the year.

I am sorry the Minister did not start at the end of his reply instead of the beginning, which had nothing to do with the question I asked. I specifically asked about the bus trials. He was getting to that when time ran out. I specifically want to know whether fully electric buses were included in that trial. They are being trialled in many other European cities. Alternatively, was the trial restricted to hybrid buses?

Second, if we move from full diesel to diesel-electric hybrids, which are the buses currently on trial, what will be the net reduction in our carbon emissions? I was disappointed when the Minister indicated that from July 2019 we would no longer buy all-diesel buses, but then bought diesel buses at the start of that year and effectively pushed the decision on hybrid vehicles into next year. This is important because the Minister's influence is not confined to Dublin Bus and buses in the national fleet. The Government's actions impact on other purchasers and can make electric or hybrid buses the norm, rather than what they are at the moment. Perhaps the Minister might comment specifically on the trials.

I will provide the Deputy with some more information. The trial compared 15 different bus models of different technology types across a range of parameters. Fully electric, hybrid electric and compressed natural biogas models were tested alongside two exhaust-retrofitted diesel buses. The buses were assessed for CO2 and air pollutant emissions, energy efficiency, cost and infrastructure requirements. Trials ran from December 2018 to April 2019 in Dublin and Cork. The two primary objectives of the trials were to implement a method of testing which would be repeatable and would provide a fair means of comparing different technologies. The findings of the trials have taken us a considerable way towards clarifying our longer-term trajectory for low-emission buses, with electrification identified as the preferred technology. It is important to note that bus procurement is complex. While reducing carbon and pollutant emissions is a key priority for this Government, a range of factors must also be considered when determining the most appropriate alternative to diesel buses.

We did keep our promise about July. The Deputy should not say we did not.

The buses bought before that time were low-emissions diesel vehicles.

That promise was kept but it was not done in an upright fashion. The announcement was made that from July there would be no further purchases of diesel buses but diesel buses were bought before July so there would be no demand for the rest of the year. What vehicles are being committed to now? Will they be hybrid electric, full electric or both? The Minister has indicated that next year there will be 100 of these low-emissions vehicles bought. How will this translate to carbon reduction and will there be a specific impact on air quality in Dublin? As the Minister knows well, that air quality is now at a level that is inappropriate and unacceptable. Will the Minister clearly indicate if the vehicles to be trialled and rolled out over the coming years will full or hybrid electric?

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for facilitating me and I welcome the question from my colleague. The National Transport Authority, NTA, announced it was to purchase 600 hybrid diesel vehicles but it seems the jury is out on that. The Minister said the preference is for electrification of the fleet, so how can the NTA indicate it will purchase 600 hybrid diesels in the coming years when we do not have the full results of testing? Hydrogen is used as a power source for buses in Scotland and Brussels but the Minister has not mentioned it. I have read some reports on the effectiveness of hybrid diesel buses in London and many of them are running fully on diesel because the system is not effective. I take the Minister's point about the complications in this regard. How can the NTA state it will purchase 600 hybrid diesel buses when the jury is out on what system would be most suitable for Dublin transport?

Deputy Curran spoke about the buses that were bought. The Deputy is correct that before July, the NTA placed an order for Euro 6 standard diesel buses as part of its long-term fleet replacement and expansion programme. Euro 6 technology is the greenest diesel option and these buses will be deployed to replace the oldest and most polluting Euro 3 and Euro 4 standard models in the fleet, with consequent improvements to levels of air pollutant emissions. It is worth noting a switch to alternative fuels and technologies represents a considerable State investment in supporting infrastructure. We are absolutely determined that there shall be no more diesel-only buses and we will keep that pledge.

In the short term, we may move to hybrid buses but the medium-term procurement strategy has yet to be finalised. Electric buses are scarce and my Department sought to source a hydrogen and double-deck electric bus for assessment as part of the trial but was unable to do it at the time of testing. These options may not currently be commercially feasible in the right-hand drive market. However, the potential for the deployment of zero-emission hydrogen or double-deck electric buses should not be discounted as technologies and markets are developing apace.

Sports Funding

Jonathan O'Brien


52. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will reopen with additional funding the large-scale sports infrastructure fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39906/19]

The large-scale sports infrastructure fund has been very much in demand but it is unclear how much is budgeted for this in 2020. A figure of €100 million was mentioned so when will it be rolled out? There is a large demand for this type of fund so will the Minister look at reopening it?

I thank the Deputy for the question, the subject of which is prompting much interest from all Deputies. It is a very important fund. The national sports policy published last year provided for the establishment of a new large-scale sport infrastructure fund. The aim of the fund is to provide support for larger sports facilities where the Exchequer investment is greater than the maximum amount available under the sports capital programme. These may be projects where the primary objective would be to increase active participation in sport or large-scale venues or stadia where the focus is more related to social participation and high-performance sport. The new fund is designed to provide a transparent and robust system for funding such projects.

The Government has provided a capital allocation of at least €100 million for the period to 2027 for the large-scale sport infrastructure fund. The new scheme closed for applications on 17 April, with applications initially confined to local authorities and national governing bodies of sport. By the closing date, 72 applications were received. Details of all applications received have been published on the Department's website, along with the evaluation procedures and guidelines. Assessment is continuing in the Department but in view of the detailed information contained in each application, it will take a number of months to complete all this work. Accordingly, I expect that it will be towards the end of this year before any allocations are announced.

There are no plans to reopen the scheme. After allocations are made under the current round, a decision will be taken on the timing of the next call for applications. A key consideration in this regard will be the number of valid applications received that are considered worthy of a grant on this occasion. Furthermore, the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I will continue to make the case for enhanced investment in sport infrastructure, including greater funding for sports capital projects in the years ahead to ensure all of the objectives set out in the national sports policy are met.

The Deputy has referred to the "reopening" of the scheme but I am not quite sure if is talking about reopening what has been closed or reopening for new applications further down the line.

Perhaps a better way of putting it would have been to ask when another call for applications would be made with an additional budget. The applications already received come to €170 million, which is 170% of the budget. There will either be many very disappointed people and organisations or the Minister will have to consider extra funding over the next couple of years. There is also an issue with the spread of the applications, which are concentrated in particular areas. Some counties, such as Carlow, for example, have made no applications. The Minister cannot control that or direct people to apply to the scheme but an additional call would give some of those counties or areas that are under-represented an additional opportunity to put in an application.

Will the Minister indicate the budget that will be granted for 2019 and 2020? Will there be a set amount for the next five or ten years, or will the process be kept open?

The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I will always push for additional funding for sports capital projects of this sort and we cannot rule out anything. We are certainly not ruling out anything in this way. There is clearly no intention to reopen the closed application process and I am glad the Deputy clarified that. We will certainly not rule out receiving more new applications for the large-scale capital fund process as it has attracted a great deal of public interest and a large number of applications. Some bodies were not ready to make an application and they may be ready to do it in the next two or three years.

If the Deputy is interested, I can describe the types of projects seeking funding. There were 23 applications for a multi-hall sport campus; 14 applications for swimming pools and leisure centres; 11 applications for stadium improvement and development, including in the Gaelic Athletics Association, Football Association of Ireland and Irish Rugby Football Union, etc.; six applications for sailing, rowing, kayaking and water sports; six applications for local club-based facilities; five applications for athletics facilities; four applications for centres of excellence; and three applications for boxing, squash and motorcycling facilities. The applications are being assessed and we hope to have a result towards the end of this year.

This is a good initiative and perhaps it is a victim of its own success. As it stands, many worthwhile projects will lose out. The Minister itemised the kinds of projects being considered.

I am especially interested in the Cork Institute of Technology community sports project, the University College Cork sports park and the Munster rugby school of excellence. I hope the Minister will consider those. In any event, the major issue with the budget is that projects will be disappointed. It is a good initiative and there is scope to look at a subsequent call and additional budgetary allocation. As a side note, the Minister identified that some of the applications are for swimming pools, among other projects. I asked for this information per head of population in a parliamentary question and it was not possible to give that, but we lag behind some countries in that area.