I will address that point in a moment.
The level of specification envisaged for the core and comprehensive networks is disproportionate to the level of flows across the network, particularly to our isolated network. This is especially true of rail. The European Commission's objective of improving connectivity and establishing a joined up European rail network is laudable. However, irrespective of what it does, the Irish network will never be joined up to that of the rest of Europe. What is sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander in this case. I will cite two examples. The proposal will require full electrification which is fine, for understandable reasons, from the point of view of the Commission and continental Europe. However, only a tiny proportion of Ireland's track is electrified. Even when we had money under the Transport 21 programme, the only electrification envisaged was between Malahide and Balbriggan to extend the DART. No other electrification has ever been planned on the mainline rail network simply because it is not justified by the nature of the network. Full electrification would cost an estimated €3 billion and the goals of higher speed, greater efficiency and capacity would still not be achieved without further very significant investment in track, the elimination of level crossings, which is difficult and expensive, and other safety upgrades.
The second example refers to roads. The proposal would require Ireland to provide rest stops and secure truck parks every 30 miles. This measure cannot be justified economically or commercially. We have some experience in establishing rest stops and rest areas on motorways and it is not always a straightforward commercial proposition. The proposal would require us to go much further than is necessary. Journeys in this country are usually of less than four and a half hours' duration and stops are not always required. In many cases, drivers have disembarked following a ferry crossing of eight or nine hours and will therefore have had a rest.
We also have serious concerns about the governance structures set out in the proposal which will have the Commission oversee the delivery of the corridors in question. We should avoid imposing unnecessary burdens on member states and commercial operators. Under the existing guidelines, we have completed a number of cross-Border transport infrastructure projects on time and within budget. Given that North-South co-operation in this area is very good, we do not see a need to add a further layer of unspecified Commission regulation and thereby increase the level of administrative burden.
We fully support co-ordinated development of trans-European networks and, where necessary, action at European level, particularly for cross-border sections of the transport networks. However, the top down approach being adopted is excessive, a view that is shared by a number of other member states. The Council, specifically its legal service, has been asked for a written opinion, which it has not yet given, on Article 172 of the Treaty on European Union, which effectively states that a member state must agree to any project of common interest to be located on its territory. In other words, if we do not agree to a project, it will not proceed. The Commission proposal, which is couched as a regulation and has high levels of requirements, does not state what will happen where countries do not meet its requirements. However, having sought informal legal advice on the matter, I am informed that a country which does not meet the requirements of a regulation will be taken to court and a fine or other penalty will be imposed.
We are asking that a more nuanced approach be taken to the drafting of the regulation to take account of the differences between member states, for example, different types of infrastructure. Ireland, for instance, has a unique rail gauge. Other member states share our concerns or have different concerns about the proposal. The primary concerns relate to the level of cost involved, the legal obligation to deliver the proposed measures by certain dates and the fact that the proposal pre-empts decisions by member state governments about what they should spend their money on ten years before the event and, as a result, ties the hands of governments that have not yet been elected.
At this stage, we have still to reach a common position in the Council. However, it is likely that the common position, when reached, will be much different from the text proposed by the Commission. We are reasonably confident that our concerns are gaining some traction with the Council and Commission. We have had frequent discussions with the Commission bilaterally and in meetings about our particular issues and officials are well aware of them. A representative of the Commission will travel to Ireland later this month to see for himself what our transport systems are like. We believe we will secure a better deal than that which is on the table. We would be pleased to return to the joint committee to report on further developments as and when they take place. While I have tried to cover everything, it is not possible to do so. I will be pleased to answer any questions members may have.