Road Development Plan: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann welcomes the "Road Development Plan for the 1980s" prepared by the Minister for the Environment.

Before I go on to the motion it gives me great pleasure to welcome the Minister to the Seanad for the first time during this period. I am sure he has been here on other occasions but this is the first since his appointment as Minister of State. I wish him well and many, many years of success in his Department. I have no doubt he has the capabilities and the background in local authority administration to give us the right leadership in that Department, together with his Minister and the other Minister of State, Deputy Connolly.

Let me say at the very outset that this, I suppose, is a history-making motion. It is the first time, I believe, over a number of decades—I think the last one was in 1926 or 1927—when any Department or Minister prepared a programme on a ten-year basis. I think it was prepared on the previous occasion as a result of the 1916-1922 period to try to update bridges and roads damaged during that period. I think the Minister must be complimented for his foresight in making a plan available to the Government and to the nation that gives, first of all, projections of works to be carried out in that decade and the financial backing that is necessary to carry them out. That projection has been clearly spelt out in the plan and indeed I am grateful to have the opportunity of moving this unique and history-making motion in the Seanad today.

The growth rate of traffic over the last number of years no doubt was responsible for bringing such a plan before us here—the ever increasing number of heavy and articulated commercial trucks that have increased so much in number over the years plus the great number of motor cars and other traffic on our roads now that we did not see in the thirties and the forties. We also have the EEC haulage. Our roads are now used by European hauliers who have to carry heavy payloads and high tonnage so that it is necessary to update our roads and at least give our national primary network two-laned roads with hard shoulders in order to carry this traffic which we have seen travelling up and down the country over the last few years. Our roads were not constructed for the type of tonnage that they have to carry today. A great input of capital is necessary to maintain the existing roads. In my view the first priority is to maintain our existing standards at the highest levels. The projections in the plan for further development must be realised so that this type of traffic can move easily and speedily through our country as through any EEC member country.

I want to refer specifically to the by-passes. This is of great importance. They should come into operation right away because every provincial town today has the problems of trying to get articulated trucks through the narrow streets. It is necessary that this type of traffic be diverted as soon as possible because it is creating great chaos in those provincial towns and also for the truck operators. It is important for them to get to their destinations as fast as possible. When I speak of by-passes, I see in the plan that there are some towns where it is not indicated that there will be by-passes in the sketches proposed for this decade, the eighties. I suggest to the Minister that pedestrian crossings, overhead crossings, or vehicular tunnel crossings such as that in Maynooth would be used in towns where we are unable geographically to provide a suitable bypass otherwise. I suggest that recognition be given to pedestrian overhead passes and vehicular or underground passes to take the normal local vehicular traffic within the provincial towns where by-passes are not indicated in the plan.

People forget that as a result of road widening farmers along the route often have their farms split in two. I can envisage that the day is fast coming when livestock will no longer be safe travelling on foot on the roads and I would suggest that the Department officials look into the possibility of providing underground livestock passes from one part of a farm to another. This does not create a big problem apart from drainage; you can do it quite easily in the same way as you construct culverts.

There is the problem today where a farmer, his wife and his kids have to police their cows from their milking parlours across to their pastures because of the ever-increasing traffic. That is one point I would like the Minister to consider.

I am very conscious of the value of the non-skid surfaces. That is a matter of first concern. Many people have lost their lives on a slippery surface as a result of the wrong type or size of chips being used, often with too much tarmac mixture through the chips. I would like to see the elimination of these black surfaces. This would also give greater vision at night and a better background to lights. We have one of these black stretches leaving Limerick on to Shannon. It is a deadly surface because vision there is almost nil. That should be eliminated. The "black spot" signs are only put up by the county council for one purpose—to safeguard them against damages and insurance: it is an insurance regulation to put up a "black spot" sign where many accidents happen throughout the different counties. I should like to see these "black spot" signs removed immediately and the necessary work of realignment and surfacing taking place in that particular area so that these signs could be removed and further accidents would not take place. Putting up a "black spot" sign does not necessarily mean that you are going to keep people safe because it does not always result in reduced speed and for that reason you have deaths continuing to take place.

I would also like to see proper definition of crossings, whether by roundabouts or white lines. Tourists or people from Europe and the States find no indication as to who should stop. I would like to see more definition on major crossings whether it be a roundabout or whatever other means. This is very important, as is sign posting. It is all right for people who know the country well and can get around, but for our visitors the sign-posting programme should be accelerated as fast as possible.

Lay-bys properly constructed on main roads are a necessity for the heavy articulated trucks we have today. Only out at Enfield do I see a lay-by with proper catering facilities provided—and, indeed, it took an Englishman to find out that there was a living to be made by setting up a catering unit at a properly defined lay-by. Anybody who passes along that route to Enfield will identify what I am talking about. It is a patch lay-by where the heavy vehicular traffic can pull in at times when they may not be able to pull in at hotels or restaurants in towns. These lay-bys should be provided and there should be some incentive for the provision of catering facilities.

I welcome especially the introduction of the national primary route from Dublin to Kinnegad. That takes most of the western, midland, north western Galway traffic to the west. You can leave the west and be held up for an hour-and-a-half coming from Kinnegad into the centre of the city here in Dublin. I am glad that is outlined in the national primary plan as a dual-carriageway. I welcome also the proposed routes from Naas to Portlaoise, Limerick to Ennis, Collooney to Sligo, Mallow to Cork, and various other routes. I am delighted that they are defined in the plan here for the eighties and I would like the development to be tackled right away.

From the tourist point of view the hedges along our main roads, tourist roads and country roads are a disgrace, choked with briars and all types of weeds, and I would welcome an arrangement whereby, by agreement with the farming community, by a grant from the Department of the Environment or, failing either, a compulsory order would be made by the Minister to ensure that no hedge reaches more than four feet high along our main and national primary, secondary or regional roads. We are lacking in that respect and much good work could be done in ventilating our roads by the removal of these hedges. This would give better visibility for the lovely countryside that we have here in Ireland, especially from the tourist point of view. Bridges are hard to negotiate with these large vehicles and I would hope that any of the old sores we have on our roads, bridges that have been there since the thirties and which are now outdated, would be immediately dealt with when we are tackling this problem in the programme outlined here.

I suppose it would not be right for me as a Mayoman to let this occasion pass without mentioning first of all the problem we have down in Mayo. The main urgency is the acquisition of land, the realignment and improvement of our national routes. Indeed, if you look at the road from Ballinlough border at Roscommon into Mayo you will see that the Department officials at one time decided that the Mayo people could accept a lower standard of road for their national primary and secondary than in every other county. I still maintain that the roads in Mayo are as important as any other roads in Ireland. We have the greatest road network in the whole of this country; we have one-eighth of the whole country's roads in national secondary. The reduction of the hard shoulder that was implemented from Ballinlough into Ballyhaunis was a reduction of standard from that of Roscommon, Sligo and Galway. I resent that very much. It was a decision by the Department officials on that occasion. While traffic volumes are not as high as in Dublin, Cork and various other large centres, there are large sections or unimproved national primary roads in Mayo still to be developed. For example, the road from the county boundary at Roscommon right through Charlestown, Swinford to Castlebar, is one of our national primary roads. I can say here to the Minister that we have acquired land, a four-mile stretch on that particular road, and we intend to pursue that acquisition policy in order that the 28 kilometres of that national primary road will be completed within the decade of this programme that is now before us. That road work is essential. The road is joined at Swinford by the Ballina road which is going into the very important town of Ballina. It is essential that work would start this year on the four miles of road for which we have land being acquired and plans designed. I hope that a substantial grant will be made available, something over £650,000 to £750,000 for that type of work on that national primary.

We have also the national primary road that runs from the Sligo border right through Charlestown, Knock and into Ballindine on the Galway side. I want to compliment the Minister for the heavy injection of capital he gave to us over the last two years for the provision of the road for the centenary year at Knock. He must be congratulated for bringing that about and enabling the access road on the national primary to Knock to be dealt with. We hope that the deficient portions of that road will also be brought up to national standards. I am glad to say that in the light of the expected grants for the 1980s we will be able to continue that great progress in design and acquisition in respect of our national primary and secondary roads. As I said earlier, we have one-eighth of the national secondary network of roads in Mayo and that area should be dealt with and the necessary capital brought into Mayo.

As regards our regional roads, by Ministerial decision a block grant was introduced some few years back. That gave authority to each local authority to allocate from national primary and secondary a portion of whatever amount of capital they had in the block grant to whatever schemes they wished. In Mayo we were unfortunate again because at that time, at the introduction of the block grant which was preceded by a 100 per cent grant from the Department for the taking over of sand roads for tarring, we had something around 1,500 miles of non-tarred roads in our county and we had to subsidise work to the extent of 75 per cent out of rates in order to bring up our black topping to its present state with roughly 70 per cent of sand roads tarred in the county. I think it was unconstitutional to ask the people of Mayo to do that but because our county road programme was so far behind—as is our national primary and national secondary now—we had to dip into the rates of the county to bring about the 70 per cent tarring programme on county roads that we have at the moment. We shall pursue that policy until we have at least 95 per cent of the roads in Mayo tarred.

In order to give effect to our regional road and to our county road programme an injection of about £1 million in 1980 is necessary. We got £618,000 last year but with inflation and the increased cost of tar products—the oil brings it all about—we would need that type of money in order to keep abreast of our road problem in Mayo.

Prior to that block grant we had a grant known as a tourist grant. That, of course, affects most of the coastal counties in this country and indeed some of the inland counties where they have waterways and various other tourist amenities. That was scrubbed in transit as a result of the introduction of the block grant and while it may not have been a major contribution—I think the contribution we got in the sixties was around £55,000 in Mayo and that was when we could get some work done for £55,000—it was of great help. That was knocked on the head and there is no such specific grant now while we have many, many counties throughout this island with great tourist potential. I believe that the tourist board should make some moneys available for this type of purpose, identify a type of road and classify roads as real tourist roads that do not come under national primary, or secondary and some of them, not under regional classification, but which could give great access to beaches and lakes, and to shooting and fishing facilities. A great portion of that money could be allotted to the tourist areas of the various counties.

I welcome the plan, for which we have waited a long time. I am delighted that the Minister has to Ministers of State on whom he can call in the implementation of this plan. I know that there is a financial projection in this development which will be accelerated or retarded according to the financial climatic conditions of every year in that decade. There is no reason to believe that it may not be pursued because of financial difficulties, but there is also no reason to believe that it will be completed if we get the necessary moneys.

Approaches for long-term loans should be made and, I am sure, will be made to the World Bank to put this programme into operation. If our internal financial commitments are to be curtailed we should go ahead with a major loan for this type of work because inflation will beat you every year you delay in implementing these proposals. Until we get our own oil offshore and our own tar at a much reduced price, it will be necessary to get a major loan from the World Bank for this necessary type of development. I have no doubt that with the energy of the three Ministers behind it it will be completed within the ten years.

I second the motion.

I join with Senator O'Toole in extending a welcome to the new Minister and in wishing him success in his term of office.

It is a good thing to have this motion on the Order Paper, to give Members an opportunity of discussing the road programme for the eighties; it has been on the Order Paper for some time. When it was left for so long it is a pity that the discussion was not left over for another week or so, when we would know the position as regards provision for road development in the budget. The Book of Estimates arrived only this morning. We did not have time to look into it and see what moneys are being allocated for road development. It is obvious, from what Senator O'Toole said, that he has a very wide knowledge of the road problem, coming, no doubt, from his long experience as a member of a local authority. He made a great number of very valid points. I join with him in expressing the hope that what he wants to see done will be done in the reasonable future, not just in the part of the country to which he specifically referred, but in other parts, including my own.

It should be said at the outset that this is a well-prepared booklet which gives members of local authorities and others very valuable information as to how the Road Fund is financed, what the powers of local authorities are and the road design for the next ten years. In so far as it does all that, it is a very valuable document and I am glad to have it. I have some reservations about the plan, as drawn up, for road development in my own part of the country but I shall deal with that at a later stage.

The hopes expressed in this booklet and the statements of policy in the target years of 1983—4—5, on up to 1989, for the finalisation of some of these schemes are very laudable, but we must examine the policy against the background of the restriction being placed on local authorities. Local authorities are confined, by order of the Minister, to an expenditure not greater than 10 per cent more than that incurred last year. I am a member of Cavan County Council and our experience is that the amount of money allocated to our council last year was inadequate for the work that had to be done. An increase of 10 per cent on a sum that was inadequate last year is even more inadequate this year, because of the increases in wages and in the cost of road materials.

There is a very substantial wage increase for road workers from 1 January 1979 to what it will be by the end of the current year. If my figures are correct, road workers' wages at 1 January 1979 were about £48 or £49, something under £50. Because of increases in the national understanding and so on, I understand that the wages by the end of this year will be in the region of £70; that is a very substantial increase. I do not begrudge it to that section of the community, but it is a very substantial increase and when we take that into account how will a county council who are restricted to an increase of 10 per cent on last year's expenditure be able to carry out anything like the same amount of work which was done last year and which in many cases was inadequate and did not meet the needs of the county?

If we compare the prices tendered for the supply of those materials for this year with those prices tendered 12 months ago, there is a very substantial increase in the cost of these road materials, very much in excess of 10 per cent. A factual appraisal of the situation confronting local authorities shows that if the present restriction of a 10 per cent increase is enforced throughout the year these authorities will not be in a position to maintain roads to the desired standard.

At present, there is a very serious deterioration in our roads. It is a matter of grave concern to public authorities, engineers and county managers all over the country. This deterioration is due to a number of factors. It is due to inadequate supplies of money over the past few years and, indeed, further back if one examines it deeply; it is due to an increase in traffic, especially to a very great increase in heavy vehicles. The actual weight of some of the vehicles using our roads today is far beyond what the roads were ever intended to carry. It is the opinion of engineers involved in road maintenance that expenditure on some roads in an effort to maintain them is little better than a stop-gap policy; the foundation structure of these roads is not adequate for the heavy traffic they must carry. The maintenance work is less than effective; it cracks, rain gets into it, frost further interferes and we are not getting good value for money spent.

In my opinion, based on a good number of years' experience as a county councillor, a lot of the maintenance work being done is not effective for the simple reason that the engineers are not able to get down and tackle the major problem of building roads suitable for the volume and weight of traffic which they have to carry. I realise that that would entail colossal expenditure but there are areas where the building and maintenance of roads is a major problem because of the nature of the soil and because of the high road mileage in some counties as compared with others, due to the contour of lakes and bogs and so on. These areas would need very great injections of capital to build up the roads properly and should get larger grants through the EEC fund.

Very special attention should be paid to our areas without a rail service—almost all of County Cavan is without rail service. That applies also, to a degree, to Leitrim and to an area of Monaghan. Because these areas are without a proper road service or structure and have no rail service, they need extra expenditure on road building. On page 21 of Road Development Plan for the 1980s it is stated that 10 per cent of our road network carries 60 per cent of the traffic. That is a fact which I do not dispute, but it is true that other areas are restricted in development because of inadequate road structure. We might have a greater development of industry and a greater spread of population in parts that are not now developing because the road structure is not there. I would not be unduly influenced by that figure of 10 per cent of the network carrying 60 per cent of the traffic.

I draw attention to the map on page 20 of this booklet. My point is better illustrated by reference to map No. 1 on page 12, where you have a big blank area stretching from road N55 over to N16 and N4. That is the area that covers a part of west Cavan, the whole of County Leitrim and a large part of County Sligo. According to these maps, there is no indication of the building of roads in that area and unless there is an intention to service that area with a helicopter fleet, then it is obvious that that area will be neglected. The policy of restricting the development or the maintenance of county roads owing to the shortage of capital will in years to come mean that an ever increasing amount of money will have to go to road maintenance. There will be nothing for improvements, the removal of dangerous bends, blind corners, dangerous hillocks on roadways that restrict road vision and the erection of minor bridges. This policy of road cuts will lead on to road ruts. It is an unwise policy and will leave the country in a greater difficulty with regard to providing an adéquate road structure in the times immediately ahead.

Everybody knows that the traffic in Dublin city is a cause of great frustration and annoyance to people. It will have to be firmly tackled in the immediate future. It is possible that the suggestion made by Senator O'Toole with regard to underground tunnels for pedestrian traffic in different parts of the country could certainly be applied with great benefit to Dublin. I am sorry that in all these projections there is no mention of development of the road from Clonee to Dublin. That is the section of the main arterial road from Dublin to Enniskillen which serves County Cavan, part of Monaghan, part of Leitrim and Fermanagh which is, unforturately, outside our jurisdiction for the time being. While it is possible to travel from Cavan to Clonee at a moderate speed in one-and-a-half hours or less, it often takes most of an hour to get into the city centre. I can see no indication of any plans for the improvement of that bottleneck approach to Dublin city using the road which serves our end of the country. As long as that situation persists it will slow down or hinder the industrial development of counties which that arterial road is meant to serve.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator has one minute of his time left.

I have a lot to say in one minute. I am astonished that there is no provision for an improvement of the Cavan-Granard road—a road which carries very heavy traffic, as figures on the map indicate and which is in a very bad state. It is quite common for lorries to go off the road into the fields. Quite recently a cattle lorry went off that road because of the breakaway in the road edging and 18 cattle were lost.

There is another road to which I want to draw attention because of the area's potential for development. Killeshandra is a developing industrial town in Cavan, with a great creamery and a milk powder plant. It is on the perimeter of the most undeveloped area in west Cavan and is quite convenient to Leitrim. The road from Cavan town to Killeshandra meanders its way and is a cause of very great difficulty to truck and lorry drivers who are constantly complaining about it. It is a source of great disappointment to me—and it will be to the people of Cavan—to see that there is no hope of that road being improved in the immediate future. It is not listed anywhere that I can see in the programme, right up to 1989.

I could, if I had the time, draw attention to the need for developing the port of Greenore and providing proper adequate road approaches to it to serve that north-east corner of the country; that is a suggestion that was made by the North-Eastern Regional Development Organisation. I cannot see anything in this book that would indicate that it will be tackled in the immediate future or indeed in the present decade.

That is a good road to finish on.

Have I any time left?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

You have stolen a minute.

There is a reference somewhere in this book which says that the local authority have some function with regard to the development of tourist amenities and so on.

There is great potential for tourist development in the coarse fishing areas of Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, part of Roscommon, part of Meath, Westmeath and Longford; it is the greatest coarse fishing area in Europe. The potential is not being realised because of inadequate approach roads to the places of interest to thousands of fishermen who come across here from Britain and Europe.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is a good road to finish on.

I join in the welcome for the Minister of State, and in praise of the Minister for the Environment for his foresight and enterprise in putting forward this plan, which is a very necessary and very useful initiative. I thank Senators O'Toole and Kiely for introducing this motion and giving us a chance to talk about a very important subject, particularly in this country.

In general, we take roads for granted. We assume that they will be there, provided for us, will be adequate for all our needs. We, perhaps, do not tend to assume this in regard to the railways, yet, in a sense, they are a very important part of our infrastructure. Roads are particularly important to Ireland because, as this booklet points out, we carry a higher percentage, both of passenger traffic and of freight traffic, than any other country in Europe. We do not fully appreciate the enormous use made of roads in this country, the extent to which we are dependent on them. We are used to thinking in terms of the motorways in Britain, the autobahns in Germany and so on and do not really realise that our roads play a bigger role than in those other countries. At the same time, we have an enormous land area in relation to our very small population; thus we have a very considerable mileage of roads to try to provide. Senator O'Toole has pointed to some of the problems which arise in Mayo and these are seen all over the country. We are faced with an enormous expenditure, something in the region of nearly £100 million in 1978—an expenditure which, as Senator O'Toole has pointed out, is tending to escalate. Yet it is a very essential burden that we must try to carry if we want to continue developing our industries; if we want to continue attracting industry, if we want to have a country that is pleasant to live in as well as attracting this industry, then, difficult and financially painful though we may find it, we must give very considerable priority to our roads infrastructure.

We do not fully appreciate the enormous increase in traffic that has taken place over a few years; some of the figures are given here for it. We had 60,-000 private cars in 1948; we have over 640,000 private cars now. There are similar increases in goods vehicles and in all other road vehicles.

Another aspect—a very much sadder one—over which we have grown all too callous, taking it virtually for granted, is the death and casualty rate on our roads. All too often it just merits a small paragraph in the papers, perhaps a sad photograph. All these deaths on the roads are totally unnecessary deaths. We have a very considerable responsibility here to make our roads as fit as is feasible and practical. I wholeheartedly concur with Senator O'Toole in his suggestions regarding road safety, in such matters as overhead crossings where necessary, underways, well marked pedestrian crossings and more effective road signs, in such very simple and tremendously helpful matters as having a proper camber on the roads and keeping the hedges cut low. We are all very familiar with country roads with all sorts of zig-zag bends on them. They would be perfectly safe if only the hedges were cut, yet how often are there head-on collisions, or pedestrians struck at night time on this sort of road—all unnecessary?

When we talk about modernised roads we think in terms of the autobahns and motorways, and, undoubtedly, we have some need in this country for some such routes, perhaps not as much as elsewhere because their population is so spread out, but this is something we must gradually aim towards. Otherwise, we are going to be very much left behind in relation to our road capacity and performance as compared with those of the other EEC countries. Inevitably, the vehicles developed for these countries take for granted that such types of roads will exist and if we do not have something similar—quite apart from the many other advantages and occasionally, indeed, disadvantages of such roads—we shall find that our non-motorway highways will crumble under the weight of juggernaut type vehicles and other road vehicles which are primarily designed for very heavy surfaced autobahn-type motorways.

I should like particularly to address myself to the problems of our suburban roads. We have, in the Dublin area alone, almost one million people. The problems which we see in Dublin are duplicated elsewhere in Cork, Limerick and other urban areas. We are a much more urbanised society than we were. We have tended, unfortunately, to neglect our urban roads. We have already mentioned the juggernauts. For those of us who have experienced, as I have in my own area, these massive juggernauts coming across from Dun Laoghaire, cutting across through suburban roads that are really only designed for very light passenger vehicle traffic, they are terrifying, dangerous and enormously expensive and destructive. This is a problem we really must look at much more intensely than we have already. Additionally, we are still basically geared in Dublin to the idea of the old horse traffic. There is virtual total congestion, through goods vehicles alone, if you try to travel up and down towards the Dublin docks. This is something we must do something about.

There are also the actual problems of commuter traffic. I do not think that we have faced up to what we are going to do in relation to cars and buses. It is very easy to say, "We will ban the private car from the roads". If you are living in many suburban areas of Dublin, you would find it extremely difficult, indeed, to get to your work in any sort of reasonable time if private cars were banned from the roads. Additionally, very many families, for all sorts of very good reasons depend on their cars for their immediate transport. This is something we must take into consideration and perhaps we should consider making the centre of Dublin a non-vehicular area, unless perhaps for buses, but there is no way in which we can simply say that we will ban passenger cars. It is not on; it is foolish to even consider it, other than in a very limited sense. What we must try to do is to accommodate to this reality of life that most people today, for good reasons, are going to travel in their private cars, encourage them to do so and provide the roads that will enable them to do so, whilst, at the same time, keeping the centre of the city free and having adequate roadways so that the centre of the city can be by-passed where necessary, both by goods traffic and by passenger vehicles. We must also consider this question of safety which, alas, too often we neglect.

I am delighted to see that in the Dublin area, there are listed on Table 1, page 37, no fewer than 22 major developments. I am not happy that they are enough. A lot more will be needed, but at least they are listed and there is some form of a coherent approach and plan now towards Dublin traffic. In my own area I notice particularly the Templeogue, Tallaght, south-west ring routes, the Belgard Road and my own road, Grange Road.

Let us not ignore the fact that building new roads in suburban and urban areas brings its own problems. I am trying to balance the very necessary traffic needs we have just been looking at with the considerable social, financial and environmental complications of attempting to build any kind of urban motorways. There are a lot of different aspects that will have to be balanced. If I had a criticism of this road development plan it would be that it does not take fully into account the difficulties involved and also it is looking at road development in isolation. It has to be considered in the context of railways as well. One cannot just take one and ignore the other. It is an essential part of our infrastructure. In speaking about regional development aids some people mentioned EEC funding. This is an area where we have an unanswerable case with the EEC for funding and it is one which we must press very strongly. I welcome and support the motion.

I notice that the "Road Development Plan for the 1980s" was published last May. I wonder to what extent it would be different if the report was being formulated at present in the wake of the very bad road conditions we have all experienced during the winter months. The road plan is quite informative, and helpful in regard to certain statistics which it brings out. It is not saying anything which we did not already know when it points out certain figures, such as that the number of passenger cars have gone up tenfold in the past 30 years, the number of goods vehicles have trebled in the same 30 years and that the position has been worsened by the very large number of large articulated trucks which have come on the roads.

It refers to the work done by An Foras Forbartha in the early seventies in the compilation of some reports on our road network position. Foras Forbartha, at that time, said that one-third of national primary routes and one-quarter of national secondary routes—these are the major primary roads in the country—were below a satisfactory standard. The road plan states that there has been considerable deterioration in the position since then. That we can all vouch for.

Consideration of this motion is particularly relevant in the context of the publication of the public services figures for 1980. If I could see any ray of sunlight or hope in those figures that the position and condition of our road network would be considerably improved in the next 12 months I would say so. As regards an increase in money terms of 9 or 10 per cent, after taking into consideration inflation rates of 16 or 17 per cent, and the ever-increasing cost of raw materials used in the road network and so on, we see an actual deterioration in real money terms for 1980 projected. This means that we cannot see the inception of the considerable road improvement works which were scheduled in this road plan. We would have expected some start to be made on a number of the major road improvements projected in the plan. I notice from table 4 that a number of road improvements on national primary routes were projected to start in 1980. The Minister should take advantage of this debate to give an indication of whether this work is going to start in 1980 or not. There is no point in people compiling road development plans, and putting a lot of work into them and proposing certain time schedules for what are very necessary works if those time schedules are not going to be met.

We all know that the Road Fund was done away with in 1978. With hindsight, we wonder whether that was wise or not. We know there were abuses and that there were various raids on that Road Fund over past decades. That is not to say that those raids could have been prevented. We might well have to consider starting a Road Fund which will be devoted solely to road improvements.

The most outstanding aspect of deterioration of our road network over the past winter has been the difference in the standards that have resulted from that deterioration from county to county. The Department should have uniformity in the specifications which they insist on every local authority conforming to in their road maintenance and road improvements. Some county roads have deteriorated at a much quicker and worsening rate than other county roads. To pass from one county to a neighbouring county can be a rather hazardous experience at present.

The manner of the execution of road works has always rested with the local authority. They were the sole determining authority as regards the way they would carry out the work, the standard of the work and the extent to which they wanted to put materials into a job. The employment potential of the project was a factor in their final decision. It is high time for the Department to insist on a uniformity of road work specifications.

The road plan refers to the energy situation and to the consideration it may play in determining whether we should go ahead with road improvements to our networks as envisaged in the plan. At the same time it does not hesitate in stating on page 26:

Any uncertainties there may be about the future of energy supply would not in themselves provide sufficient justification for holding in further abeyance a roads programme which is geared to a considerable extent towards removing existing deficiencies.

In other words, our present system of road network is so bad that no consideration should be allowed to interfere with bringing it up to what is necessary as a modern standard.

The plan does not provide for any motorway system and in this, of all the EEC countries, we are unique. In the light of the capital funding figures for 1980 the possibility of a motorway system will be put further into the future.

There is always need for extensive and long-term advance preparation for any road network improvement because it takes so long to buy land and design the various schemes necessary. It is necessary, therefore, that we should have a very definite programme laid out in advance. We cannot operate, if we want to have a satisfactory road network system, with a stop-go system. It is important from the funding requirement that there should be a continuing, uniform level of funds pumped into improving our road network.

In table 5 of the plan a figure in the region of £57 million is estimated as being necessary for road improvements in 1980. In the light of the capital figures presented today we are very far away from achieving that kind of investment by the State. The Minister should tell us whether the plan to start some of the road network improvements in 1980 and continue each year up to 1985 will be adhered to by the Government.

I should like to thank the Minister and the Department for this useful publication. The extent and the speed with which the Road Development Plan can be carried out is, of course, unpredictable. It will depend essentially on the success of succeeding Governments in strengthening our public finances. I have no doubt that our borrowing potential should be applied far more to the improvement of roads and telecommunications and far less to financing current budget deficits. In that way we would be ensuring that our scarce borrowing potential is devoted to the best purposes.

I wish to make three points, in particular, about this subject. The first concerns responsibility for roads policy. As this booklet explains, at present the Minister for the Environment is the Minister of Government in whom is vested responsibility for national policy, legislation and financial arrangements in relation to roads and road traffic. Recently the Taoiseach announced—and I applaud the decision—his intention to set up a Department of Transport and Communications. I suggest that national policy, at least in relation to national routes, should be vested in that Department. In that way a coherent and comprehensive view could be taken of transport needs and of how best roads, railways, airways and sea transport could complement each other to the national advantage. This suggestion does not in any way mean that the execution of Government policy in relation to all roads should not continue to be carried out by local authorities.

The second point I want to make concerns the urgent need for easier exit from and access to Dublin—for new radial routes particularly to the west, the north-west and the north. This is extremely important for the development of the midlands and the remoter parts of the west and north-west. Not only would expenditure for this purpose be an appropriate use of EEC regional and investment funds but of our own national funds. I recognise it might be difficult to persuade everyone in the west to agree on the concentration of expenditure on road improvements in the vicinity of Dublin, but I have no doubt that, together with the improvement of telephone communications, the improvement of access to and exit from Dublin would do a tremendous amount for the economic and social development of the west.

My third point concerns maintenance. This document mentions on page 17 that deficiencies in the road system have arisen through insufficient maintenance to meet the wear caused by weather and traffic. It goes on to say that the losses caused by road deficiencies may be measured in terms of time-waste, wear and tear of vehicles, fuel consumption and road accidents. Recent journeying to Galway, and through Clare, Kerry, Cork and Limerick has convinced me that there is an appalling neglect of maintenance everywhere, especially in towns and indeed in cities as well. One sees deepening and widening holes and ruts. We seem to have forgotten that a stitch in time saves nine. Have we become so used to lavish public expenditure that we interpose nothing whatever between total neglect and the expensive perfectionism of the motorway?

One thing we should concentrate on, particularly in this time of financial stringency, is the timely repair and maintenance of roads. All local authorities should have small flying squads of what I would call "make do and mend men" to fill the holes and smoothen the ruts as they arise, thus safeguarding lives and saving a lot of damage to vehicles and expenditure of unnecessary money and time. That is something I would urge as being urgent. I should like to join Senator O'Toole in his recommendation that there should be compulsory lopping of hedges to a certain maximum height, particularly in beautiful counties like Mayo.

Much of what I should like to say has already been said by Senators O'Brien, O'Toole and Whitaker. I see the matter of road structure and maintenance at present in the context of the use of roads for commercial purposes by huge juggernaut vehicles that come in here with 25 and 30 tonne loads and go out with similar loads. These vehicles cross what we termed as adequate main roads in the past. They were never built for this kind of load. The surfacing and maintenance applied by county council workmen on the roads is very much a lost exercise, and an expensive loss at that. The material which is put on to carpet or blanket the road as a topping is collapsing. Damage is done and the roadway gets lower, out of alignment and into a very bad condition with high speed vehicles of the calibre I have referred to crossing them. The work is completely lost and cannot stand up even for a week to the demands made on it by these heavy vehicles. We have a road structure which serves to bring the people into the larger towns and into Dublin from all directions. These roads are occasionally used for the haulage of vehicle loads of 15 or 20 tons.

Senators will remember occasions when they saw 20-ton sand lorries going on very minor roads. Some roads are of such a width that the vehicle is compelled to go on the verge and this churns up the verge side. When a car meets another vehicle there, they invariably get stuck because they cannot get out of this ploughed-up verge. In this weather this is a usual experience no matter which direction one travels in. We should have an infrastructure of main roads sufficient to ensure that the materials that are put on them would last and the roads should be of such a width that vehicles could safely pass each other. As far as local populations are concerned, there should be roads which the drivers of heavy sand lorries or ordinary trucks that would have loads of seven, eight or nine tons would know would be easy ones for them to traverse, even if they were parallel to the main road to some extent and were linked by country roads to another main road. That kind of road should be constructed and maintained if we are to have a road structure that will enable people to have services locally.

The scenic beauty of the midlands and of the Cavan-Longford border at Lough Gowna, for instance, is regarded as the Killarney of the midlands. It is a poor commentary that from the town of Granard to Lough Gowna and across through north Longford to Aghnacliffe, which is the beauty of the area, the roads are both narrow and bendy and in a very serious condition as far as safety for the traveller is concerned. If we set value on bringing tourists into these areas and providing accommodation for them, we should ensure easy access and safe transport, which would attract them to come back again.

Longford is in the hub of Ireland. Senator O'Toole referred to the róad to Dublin going through Lanesborough and Termonbarry, into Longford and on to Edgeworthstown, Rathowen and Mullingar. That road is carrying more traffic in the midlands than any other. It is the road that is the most dangerous one to traverse even with the best lights at night. It has been the scene of serious accidents. Whatever we are going to do by way of road improvements or however acceptable this plan may be—and I welcome it—it is virtually important that more than planning is done and that schemes be implemented to whatever extent possible within the financial scope of the Government. They should apply that sort of effort in the areas that give service to the local community, to commercial interests and to scenic areas where tourists visit and from whom we expect to draw financial gain.

The road from Athlone crosses this road to Dublin at Edgeworthstown and goes on to Cavan. Senator O'Brien referred to this. It is a road that is carrying more traffic than it ever was intended to. There is a bog rampart on it that makes it entirely unrealistic to try to maintain it under the very heavy juggernaut vehicle traffic that is traversing it. It is vitally important for that reason that our council get enough finance to upgrade that road as soon as possible. I referred to this a year ago in a debate on a roads estimate. The upgrading of that road is of vital importance.

County roads are to a great extent the charge of local authorities, and county councils this year will have the experience of minor roads being allowed to deteriorate for want of finance and attention. Provision should be made in the coming year's estimate to enable them to redeem their debts, so to speak. People in rural Ireland would be able to have the same accommodation as their friends from accross the water have. In the area I represent one has only to go up any bohereen or cul-de-sac and one will find a channel inside which the wheels of a car run and a high ridge of grass and soil that was churned in from the sides. In the summer time two, three or four inches of grass grew and rotted down and the next year more grew. That is a characteristic of every one of these minor roads.

These are the roads that the people who contribute to industry and agriculture have to traverse. People are crying out to the county councils to come back and resurface these roads. Our county engineer told us that he was not in a position to do it, that it all depends on what is provided in the rates. We are inhibited in striking more than a 10 per cent increase in what we gave for roads last year. We are lucky that so far this year there has not been a heavy frost. These roads will be in such a condition and will have deteriorated so far that the same kind of effort will have to be made again to bring them up to a proper condition; whereas, as Senator Whitaker said, they could have been saved by a stitch in time. If people looked after the roads in the way that traffic load demands we would be saving money and the amount of money allocated could go a very considerable way towards keeping maintenance at a very moderate level.

I do not want to have to plead for grace like Senator O'Brien, but, if the Government do not take major steps to alleviate the difficulties on the various road structures to which I have referred, they will find themselves involved in more expense and the country will lose considerably more. I welcome the Minister to the House but I believe he is confronted with a problem of some magnitude. When he has conquered this problem it will be a feather in his cap.

It might be as well for me to say a few words at this stage. I should like to thank the Senators who welcomed me to this House this evening. Words of welcome always make me feel at ease and I lose some of my nervous tension. I should also like to thank Senators for the constructive manner in which they have spoken on the motion. This motion is well worthwhile. I have no intention of endeavouring to reply to the various points made so far, but I assure Senators that I have been listening attentively to them and I have noted what they said.

I am delighted to have the opportunity of speaking to Senators about this plan for the eighties. For some years past, and particularly since our accession to the European Community, there has been a growing awareness of the deficiencies in the country's road system and of the cost which these deficiencies impose on the agricultural, industrial, commercial and social life of the community. The country is highly dependent on the public road system for physical communication and movement. In fact, the proportion of passenger and freight traffic carried on the road system in Ireland is higher than in any other country in Europe. The growth in road traffic, both private and commercial, has been continuous since the end of the second world war.

Against this background and in anticipation of the demands likely to be put on the road system in the decade ahead, the Government's road development plan for the eighties was prepared. This was an ambitious undertaking, not least because of the fact that it is the first road development plan of its type since the foundation of the State. The plan demonstrates the Government's commitment, unprecedented in its time span and format, to tackle the deficiencies in the road system in a positive and practical way. The Government are, of course, very much aware of the problems involved in developing a ten-year programme of the kind put forward in the road development plan. Its progress will depend very much on planning and land acquisition at local level.

We believe, however, that it is essential that the strategy to be followed should be clearly spelled out, giving a firm indication of the priorities and of the Government's commitment, so that road authorities can proceed with confidence with their planning and land acquisition and the civil engineering and construction industry can gear itself to the work ahead. The plan will provide a positive basis for action by the road authorities in the years ahead. I am confident that they will play their full role in achieving its aims.

The plan provides that priority in State investment in the eighties will be given to the more important major urban and inter-urban roads, access routes to the principal seaports and airports and to relief roads and internal circulation roads in Dublin, Cork, and other important commercial centres. The plan provides for two-fold action. First, there is a substantial programme for what are termed normal improvement works designed to bring all sections of the national primary routes and significant sections of the national secondary routes up to a specified minimum standard and will include road realignment, road-widening and the eradication of accident black spots. Secondly, there is a special programme of major improvement projects, including dual carriageways, bridges, relief roads and by-passes in urban centres and on the principal inter-urban routes.

The overall programme of work is derived from analysis of deficiencies identified in the system of national routes by studies carried out by An Foras Forbartha and from land use, transportation and traffic studies carried out in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and other areas and also from the development plans of the local authorities and regional development organisations. The standard of road generally envisaged is an all-purpose road but this does not preclude the adoption of motorway standard by road authorities in any instance where they may consider the higher level of service is warranted.

The plan assigns particular importance to road maintenance to ensure continued benefit from previous investment in roads and the continuation of a satisfactory level of service to local communities generally. The road development plan affords special consideration to the role of road words in the preservation and creation of employment.

Expenditure on road works is a generator of widely distributed direct employment in quarrying, plant, machinery and other related industries. The greater part by far of the investment is spent on Irish labour, professional, skilled and unskilled and on material and equipment of Irish origin and manufacture. Further employment is generated as a result of expenditure of direct and indirect incomes which arise as a result of road works.

By settling on a broad programme of achievements, rather than on a restricted list of optimum improvement projects, one of the more important objectives of the plan was to ensure that the permanent work force of the road authorities and the suppliers and contractors who served them would be protected.

I do not propose on this occasion to review the major schemes envisaged in the plan. I should like to make the point, however, that there is a danger that people looking at the plan will tend to concentrate on the major schemes which are listed and not take sufficient note of the extensive programme of other improvement works which are provided for and which will be carried out in all parts of the country. The major improvement schemes are additional to the normal improvement programme which has already been expanded significantly in recent years. I should like also to make it clear that the time scales indicated for the various major schemes are flexible, having regard to the availability of finance and the preparedness of road authorities to undertake or continue particular projects at a particular time.

In relation to the question of finance, I am happy to be able to record that the road development plan has been accepted by the European Investment Bank as the basis for work programmes to be included in applications by the Minister for Finance for loan facilities. In addition, a substantial programme of major improvement works selected from the plan for construction over the next three years has been accepted for grants from the European Regional Development Fund.

Finally, I am satisfied that the road development plan is realistic and capable of making significant improvements in the country's transport infrastructure. It provides a positive basis for action by the road authorities in the decade ahead and constitutes a determined initial step in the programmed development of a public road network for the eighties and beyond.

I should like to welcome the Minister of State to this House. It is the first time he has been in this Chamber and I wish him well in his appointment. The Seanad is a useful forum in which to discuss a road development plan because of the singular capacity of its Members to appreciate the problems of the roads of this island. Most of us have a background of county council membership for a long number of years and many of us have gone through the process of being elected to the Seanad through tramping the 26 Counties. In addition, others of us have had experience in large parts of this country as European candidates.

This document is very useful for a number of reasons. In the long term, it spells out what the priorities are. This is important for many reasons, particularly since we became a member of the European Economic Community. Governments are now going to the EEC to seek assistance by way of grants or loans for road programmes. A long-term plan over a ten-year period is a very useful background document against which to discuss these applications. The setting out of a long-term plan over a ten-year period is useful in another sense. I have felt for a number of years that we should be constructing a far higher proportion of main roads under a contract system. The background to this plan illustrates the dimensions of the problem. To a colossal extent work on main roads is carried out by county councils and the percentage of main roads being constructed under contract is at the extremely low level of 6 per cent.

As a member of a local authority for a number of years and as somebody who has driven through most of the country and particularly on the roads from the west to Dublin, I see major weaknesses in the present system under which we do not have contracts. I see a great deal of merit in the suggestion made by Senator Whitaker that, perhaps, a wider authority with responsibility for a much wider network of roads on primary routes is the type of authority that should be in the decision-making area where main roads are being constructed. This is necessary for consistency of materials and consistency of construction and possibly for cost factor as well. There are many examples where road works done under contract have been singularly successful over short stretches of road. In many cases the system breaks down when you leave the contract system. In a small country such as ours, the piecemeal building of roads by different counties, each constructing them according to their own lights leads to inconsistency. The development of a plan such as this, which sets out long-term objectives and approximate cost of plans, might supply the incentive to private contractors.

I agree completely with the plan in so far as the Dublin area is concerned. It might seem strange for somebody coming from County Mayo to talk about the necessity to improve the roads in Dublin but, as the plan itself states, basic access is the primary function of all transportation systems. In rural Ireland we have problems about roads and we have deficiencies in the funding of them. A large county like Mayo has a huge proportion of our total road network and we are terribly backward in the development of county roads. The deficiency has not been in the county councils or in the county engineers. It has been one of funding—the lack of adequate funding by Governments. Despite the problems we have, at least we have basic access. Regardless of how bad our roads are, one can drive from Louisburg to Achill or from Achill to Belmullet, or from there to Castlerea.

The most appalling access situation exists in examples in Europe today so far as road transportation is concerned. The deficiencies in the road system in Dublin are infinitely worse than they are in many cities such as Los Angeles, London, New York, cities with ten or 20 times our population. In many of these larger cities expenditure on roads was geared to the development in population. There is a bursting at the seams in the city of Dublin without a corresponding investment in the road system. This affects not just the people of Dublin but all the people of the country.

Returning to the question of basic access, on a drive from Westport to Dublin, one runs into the single largest problem at Kilcock or Maynooth and the run in from Kilcock. If you want to tell somebody how long it will take you to drive from Westport to Dublin the only area you cannot quantify is this crazy 30 or 40 miles into the City of Dublin where there is a totally inadequate road system, narrow roads, bends. This is the major artery to all the West of Ireland where there is major movement of goods by cement trucks, large articulated vehicles and where, literally, you can be caught behind these kinds of trucks for five, six, seven miles at a time. This is the single, most appalling road deficiency in the country, where there is not basic access, because of this bottleneck. We have had a bottleneck in the city for the past two or three days also. So, from the point of view of the countryman as much as the Dublin person, in terms of overall national development and of providing adequate incentives for people in industry and elsewhere to establish major developments in the west and other parts of the country, this is the major deficiency which has to be overcome.

I welcome the report and the emphasis it puts on the Dublin problem. As a Member of the Seanad, in so far as it is a movement to provide funds for improving the Dublin situation, I am completely behind it.

I want to make a few comments about the road from the west to Dublin. I agree with the concept of a motorway at some stage. I do not know where we will get funds, or when it will come, but certainly the provision of a motorway from Dublin, say, to Galway, with branches and arteries making connections with areas 50 or 60 or 70 miles to the north or south, to the north-east or the northwest, could revolutionise development in the country by providing access and eliminating bottlenecks. It could lead to very substantial developments in many ways and give much employment.

So far as the present trunk roads are concerned, there have been major improvements on the main road from the west, from the Westport-Castlebar area to Dublin, but there are still major deficiencies. In his useful contribution Senator O'Toole referred in particular to the bottleneck in the Castlebar-Swinford area. The county council have been purchasing land with a view to widening that road. That section from Castlebar to Swinford is the most deficient primary route in Ireland and it will take a long number of years before it reaches an adequate standard.

The problem we have in driving to Dublin from west Mayo really amounts to this. The sensible route to take is the primary route by Longford, but the big weakness in that route is that you are on the most appalling imaginable road from the town of Castlebar to the town of Swinford. It is a considerable distance on a hopelessly inadequate, narrow and dangerous road. Alternatively, if you take the other route, if you take the better road in the west through Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis and Castlerea, you end up going through Lanesborough and Ballymahon and while it is straight, is it a very dangerous road because it is much too narrow, there are far too many blind hills, and it is very dangerous at night.

I have a small proposal I should like to put to the Minister and his officials in the Department. If you look at the map you see the better road in the west from west Mayo towards Dublin, is the Westport, Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis, Castlerea road. When you get up to the east of the country by far the better road for travelling into Dublin is the Longford road, the road from Tulsk, Ballaghaderreen, Frenchpark, Edgeworthstown, on the route to Mullingar. If you want to envisage a better system, there is a short stretch of road from the village of Tulsk to the town of Castlerea. If you are driving from here to Castlebar, or Westport, or Louisburg, you take the Longford route, the main Tulsk road as far as Tulsk and, on the map, the straight road would be to drive from Tulsk into the town of Castlerea and from the town of Castlerea driving west, you have the perfect main western road for Castlerea into Ballyhaunis, into Claremorris, into Castlebar into Westport.

The point I want to make is the very commonsense point that, if you want to develop a major route which gives you the best road to the west, the best road to the east, all that is required is an upgrading of the road from Tulsk to Castlerea. I think we are talking about a distance of about 11 miles or so. It is something of that order. I would seriously say to the Minister that he should get his engineers to look at that small stretch of road and see the commonsense and practicality involved in upgrading it. It would be a very useful exercise and would be of benefit to us.

The report has very little to say about issues concerning safety, and safety is a very important factor. One safety matter about which I have very serious concern is this. Because of the enormous deficiencies in the road system all over the country, with different standards of roads, realistically it will take a generation or perhaps two generations before we have an adequate road system. It will take at least a generation before we have a road system comparable with that of more developed countries. For that reason, we have to pay particular attention to safety matters to a proportionately greater extent than many other countries. We are running the same types of motor cars at the same kinds of speed on roads that are absolutely inadequate.

The point I want to make about safety is that major investment in the road system with the provision of white lines and cats' eyes at corners would make a great deal of sense. Driving on narrow roads in some countries I have noticed bright white paint on bad bends and corners. This is a great help in guiding motorists at night and at other times. I believe it to be a major safety factor. Realistically we cannot achieve a desirable roads system for a generation and, therefore, a corresponding higher investment in that area is very important.

I want to make one or two other points. In another area there has been the most scandalous neglect by this Government and, let me hasten to add, by the previous Government. I am not scoring a political point. There have been two or three successive energy crises with the most dramatic increases in the price of oil. We have a bog resource in this country which, at the last estimate, despite the vociferousness of the demand for energy, has not been developed. If our bogs were developed at this stage they would provide enough energy for about 40 or 50 years. It is criminal that there are no State funds to build roads into our bogs. In theory they are supposed to be helped through the local improvements scheme but in practice it does not happen because there are inadequate funds. This is madness in a county like Mayo where there are thousands of acres of bog and yet the tractors, or the trailers, or the small trucks cannot even get into the bogs.

While all this is happening we are burning oil, importing coal and using other sources of energy the use of which could be reduced dramatically if there was a policy in that area. The employment which would be given by the opening up of the bogs and the use of native fuel is a very important point. It may be somewhat outside the scope of a major road development plan but if we are talking about roads a matter like that should be looked into and something should be done in that area.

I want to thank you, Sir, for your indulgence. On reading that registrations of passenger cars increased from 60,000 in 1948 to 640,000 in 1978 we realise we have a big problem which will need a lot of money to solve. What is in this report is very sensible.

My brief remarks will relate mainly to Dublin. There are few cities in the world of the size of Dublin without a ring road. As a consequence, the bulk of traffic, including lorries and other heavy vehicles, go through the centre of the city. This, in turn, leads to acute traffic congestion which was highlighted dramatically as recently as two days ago when it took buses 20 minutes to get from one end of O'Connell Street to the other. Admittedly, the problem was compounded on that occasion by road works nearby. The rigorous enforcement of parking and traffic by-laws will go some way towards meeting the problem. Another aspect worthy of close examination, however, by way of remedial action, is that of flexi-time. I suggest the Government could give a lead by investigating the possibilities of extending flexi-time in the public service.

We live in a pressure-group democracy and road development can and does affect various groups and interests. It can involve property acquisition and demolition, and disturbance of business, industry and, of course, neighbourhoods. However, the situation will become intolerable in Dublin shortly unless remedial action continues to be pursued and unless various interests, including local communities and environmentalists, are prepared to compromise so that the intolerable situation which is developing rapidly can be avoided. I should like to make a call for co-ordination on rail and road systems in Dublin. At present there is no coordinating mechanism for examining alternative systems of transport. Such a co-ordinating mechanism is crucial, not least because of the huge financial investment required.

Several Members of this House are members of local authorities and, lest it be overlooked, it is worth drawing attention to a circular sent by the Department of the Environment to all local authorities last August, enclosing a copy of a specification for road works. It prescribes standards for materials and workmanship and it should lead to the adoption of a uniform, scientifically-based standard of road construction over the country as a whole, and should also facilitate the preparation of contract documents.

In conclusion, I should like to join with other Senators in extending a welcome to Deputy Fahey to the Seanad and to congratulate him warmly on his appointment as Minister of State.

I formally second this motion and in so doing I welcome the Minister of State on his first appearance in the House and congratulate him on his appointment as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment. I know he has had previous experience at that level. I am sure the Department will benefit therefrom and that he will prove successful.

I should also like to compliment the Minister and his Department for producing this booklet entitled "Road Development Plan for the 1980s," a very detailed publication which I am sure is very welcome. Ireland, because of its structure, being an island, is very dependent on roads for transport. We have railways and air transport but it must be recognised that 95 per cent of passenger and 85 per cent of freight traffic is carried on our national roadways. Therefore, it is most important that we should have a definite development plan for roads for the eighties. The increase in motor vehicles from 1948 to 1978, as has already been pointed out, was tenford and in respect of all vehicles eightfold. This constitutes a vast increase placing tremendous pressure on our roads system. Last year there was an increase of 26 per cent over the previous year, in the registered number of vehicles , an increase of 48 per cent over 1976. That increase highlights traffic congestion. I remember travelling to Dublin to an All-Ireland Football Final in 1961. I travelled that day in fairly record time. Yet, on the first day I attended the Seanad my journey home took me longer than that trip in 1961. That is yet another illustration of the congestion there is on roads at present. As all Senators know, time is a very precious commodity in the life of business people and all others on this island. The real costs entailed in the congestion on national and secondary roads, in economic and social terms, are very significant.

There is tremendous need for a good roads system on which Ireland is so dependent for physical communication and movement. In this respect transport conditions and considerations often dictate stock turnover and holdings and siting of factories and of depots is very important. Efficient distribution affords producers much tighter control over the timing and reliability of final deliveries of goods. Losses caused by road deficiencies may be measured in terms of time and wear and tear on vehicles—as Senator Whitaker pointed out earlier—where roads are not properly maintained. Road accidents can also cause loss of time and money. Here again traffic congestion can be the cause. Traffic congestion is also detrimental to the commercial, industrial and farming life of the country. Sometimes traffic moves at the rate of six miles per hour in cities which causes terrible delay with presumably loss of finance to business people and those involved in the transport business.

National and county roads comprising 90 per cent of the entire roads system are of vital importance to agriculture. They must be maintained and repaired to meet the needs of agriculture and other social needs. That is the real importance of the production of this road plan for the eighties with which I am sure everyone will agree. Its implementation will also give employment. Indeed, in Ireland, the employment potential of roadworks is well recognised, affording wide distribution of direct employment on and off the site, using Irish skilled and unskilled labour, material and equipment. In this context I might mention that roads in foreign countries were built with much Irish labour. If our people were prepared to build roads in foreign countries then it is logical to assume they would work equally well on road construction here, providing us with a road system of which we can be justly proud and which would be the envy of anyone visiting the country. According to this booklet, in 1977 the monthly average number of road workers was 9,540. As a result of an allocation in July 1977 of an additional grant of £500 million and some other additional grants, the monthly average for 1978 was increased to 10,088. I am sure that when the development plan gets under way there will be a further increase in employment and one of the objectives of the manifesto will have been achieved.

It is important to provide dual carriageways to ease congestion, with major bridges especially across rivers in towns. Here I am thinking of Limerick City where the construction of a third bridge is necessary across the Shannon to ease the congestion there and to facilitate the flow of traffic. I was delighted to read in the Press that a subcommittee of Dublin Corporation decided to provide an east ring road around Dublin. Senator Hillery spoke about it already. Senator Conroy said it would ease traffic congestion in the city especially bearing in mind the present volume of articulated truck traffic plying between various EEC countries. Ring roads are necessary in other towns especially in Limerick. Naas is a glaring example. Also lay-bys are necessary on these main roads, as was mentioned by Senator O'Toole, where restaurant facilities might be provided. Such facilities should be included in the plan so that people travelling long journeys could have something to eat without having to enter large towns or hotels where they may have to wait a considerable time.

It is most important also to make roads safe which could be achieved by the erection of proper sign-posts and warning signs where roads may be accident blackspots and so on. The tourist industry could benefit from this road plan also. As Senator O'Toole mentioned, there is need to have hedges cut and maintained at a certain height. Indiscriminate dumping on roadsides is an environmental hazard. I passed through a town yesterday near Charleville where there was a lorryload of refuse dumped at the side of the road. This problem should be tackled and people dumping refuse should be subject to heavy fines. Such dumping does not project a good image of our country.

In regard to the national primary network, I am delighted to note that there will be a dual carriageway from Dublin to Portlaoise with a by-pass in Naas. The Dublin to Portlaoise road is the busiest road in the country carrying all traffic from Dublin to the south—Limerick, Waterford, Cork and so on.

I am pleased to note also that the Cork to Mallow road will be reconstructed and that it will be a dual carriageway. It is a busy road. At present there is terrible congestion on this road especially during the beet harvesting season. One can be delayed behind a line of traffic for ten miles or so travelling at 15 or 20 miles an hour, whereas on other such roads into towns of similar population in other parts of the country traffic could travel at 60 miles an hour. The Limerick to Ennis road is another road carrying a lot of traffic and I am glad to see it included on the map also.

Senator O'Brien was disappointed that there is a vacant space in his county. I was looking at the map to which he was referring and there are vacant spaces in many other parts of the country also. I am sure that all these vacant areas will be taken care of in time. The Department and the Minister had their priorities in order in tackling now roads most in need of reconstruction. I am glad also to hear that there will be no hold-up in finance, that the European Investment Bank has recognised this plan, and also that there will be grants coming from the EEC Development Fund. Senator O'Brien referred also to inadequate finance. There must have been inadequate finance prior to 1977 also because I remember coming to Dublin when the construction of the dual carriageway from Newbridge to Naas was at a complete standstill. Since the end of 1977 continuous work has been taking place on it and progress is being made. In July, 1977, there was an allocation for selected improvement projects and an increase in the overall allocation of grants in 1978 to £37.548 million. This is something that must be borne in mind. Certainly, this Government could not be accused of not providing adequate finance for road development.

Senator Markey thought that we had not a definite programme. This road plan constitutes a definite programme and I am sure that the Minister for the Environment, with the assistance of his two Ministers of State, will ensure that this programme is brought to fruition.

I shall not detain the House long. There are one or two points I want to raise. We have a ten-year plan. My information is that the EEC have had a look at the plan and are happy with it and that is a good thing. The Minister may have mentioned this fact but I was not present when he spoke. The EEC see it as a contribution to regional and economic development in Ireland. The one thing that is not so good at present is that the Regional Fund of the EEC is still being spent in about half of the territories of Europe, covering approximately 40 per cent of its population and cannot in any way be dealing with the real problems of regional imbalance. There is no doubt that the entire road system is a problem for us now. At least, it can be brought in as a problem of imbalance. Just to inform the House, I should say that two of the sub-committees of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Secondary Legislation of the EEC are having a look at what is going on in the Commission in relation to the policy for the Regional Fund. Some discussion documents are in existence. We have had access to them. We are hopeful that we will be bringing out a report on this matter shortly, making some recommendations which might be of general use. The fact that this committee is a Joint Committee means that we will have reached some sort of concensus on our ideas which I am sure the Minister will find of interest.

I decided, on looking at the facts which are available, not to talk about any of the principles or suggestions, but the facts that periodically we talk about, making more use of railways and taking the pressure off the roads. I did not appreciate that 85 per cent of the freight carried in this country is carried on the roads and that 90 per cent, approximately, of passenger traffic is carried on the roads. This is an indication of the level of the problem. People's daily economic behaviour is not going to shift—to reduce the problem for us. A possible exception would be the immediate area around the Dublin urban conurbation. Another review has got to be ready by January 1981.

Therefore, the Minister is to be congratulated that his Department have produced a ten-year projection of our needs. I would see this projection as a guideline. We should not rest at that. If, through ingluencing the EEC we can get more funds, then we can speed up progress and projection dates of completion of various road sections can be brought forward.

I do not know if it has been mentioned in the House that Mr. Donovan of the Confederation of Irish Industry made a point in public recently that many of these projects, as listed in the ten-year plan, were shown to be sharting around 1985 and finishing in 1990. He made a lot of mileage out of the fact—no pun intended—that five years to build a section of road of a certain length was much too long and, by implication, that the Public Service were falling down. When I examined the matter I found that the expenditure projected in the plan is about 50 per cent up on the average expenditure over the last few years. That is a notable increase. Also some of the bottleneck areas, for instance, the road from Heuston Station to the west is projected to be finished between 1980 and 1981. There are some immediate commitments to bottlenecks. As far as the road network is concerned we have a massive problem. Of the total moneys involved in the ten-year plan, something like £550 million allocated—I cannot be more exact—is for improvement of the existing network, excluding Euro routes. There is a big problem. Even after the implementation of the plan we will be the only country in the EEC that will not have a motorway because a motorway is not included.

One would hope that the EEC would see their way in the future—hopefully that the "own resource" budget would open up and more funds would be available—to speed up the plan and would recognise that Ireland, at the estern tip of Europe, is one of the regional areas needing a massive injection of help. We are not dependent on the Regional Fund alone; we have the Ortoli facility and the new investment fund but most of that comes by way of loan. Even if there are through the EMS arrangement some interest subsidies, nevertheless it means national borrowing and adds to the problem which we all know so well and about which we have been talking over the last few weeks.

I would hope that phase two of this ten-year plan would be "operation speed up". An "operation speed up" is a way of getting more resources. This is probably the right time to say to Deputy Fahey, the Minister of State in this area: "Rath Dé ar an obair. Look for as much as you can get because we need it all." I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him the best.

As in the case of everybody else I have one localised point to make, which is this: even thought I would probably be the first to advocate comprehensive, integrated planning of the networks even though you complete only sections of the road, according to availability of resources, where it would be possible to show that provision of a section of road would eliminate a bottleneck I would not hold up the provision of that road until such time as the total plan is agreed. To that extent I am quite concerned that the approach being taken now by Dublin Corporation in relation to motorways and routes being discussed at present is a sort of comprehensive one and, therefore, some parts of the programme which could be implemented without a lot of fuss may have to wait. I am thinking in particular of the roadway which is being considered to by-pass the Clontarf Road on the East Wall side, what is now known as the Fairview embankment road. The Fairview embankment road is not a big deal. It is a £350,000 investment. I would hate to see people who come from north Dublin along the coast road sitting in their cars in the North Strand when a £350,000 road would provide them with a by-pass. I am all for integrated, comprehensive planning and everything I have ever written or what I have said in this House would prove that. Nevertheless, if it can be shown that a section can be implemented without having to go through built-up areas, where house demolition problems arise, work should proceed. A by-pass would lead to the development of a sports complex, of playing pitches alongside. Therefore, I would advocate that. There must be other examples of that kind across the country. I just happen to know about that one.

My message would be: an excellent ten-year plan. I am delighted to see it. It constitutes a 50 per cent increase in expenditure on roadways and phase two should be "operation speed-up", get more money from the EEC.

Like those who have spoken I should like to welcome the new Minister of State to the Seanad and wish him the best of luck in this very important Department. As a man who travels frequently from Clonmel to Dublin I am sure he is every bit as aware of the problems we have with our roads system as is everybody else.

It is a good thing that we are discussing this very important road development plan for the eighties as we begin the decade. As our economy develops, as more and more industries come into the country, as we decentralise, as people travel more, live further away from their places of employment, roads will play a major role and more and more money must be invested in the provision of accessible roads, that are easy to travel on and which facilitate traffic from A to B.

We must realise that as housing accommodation becomes more and more expensive in Dublin city, and people begin to move 20 or 30 miles out of the city, they will have to travel into work. We must provide transport that will allow them to get from their homes to their places of employment fairly fast. At present that is not possible. For example we do not have bus lanes in Dublin city. Neither do we have—at a time when we are trying to conserve energy—bicycle lanes. These are two important aspects that we must consider. As a start we could consider the provision of those two types of lane in the Dublin area.

Another aspect of this report to which I would like to draw attention is the section devoted to the sign-posting of roads. We need to pay particular attention to this. It is not important only from a tourist point of view. Very many of us who live in Dublin, who know Dublin particularly well, still find it very difficult to find our way from one part of the city to the other. Within the city itself signposting is almost negligible. Going from Dublin to other parts of the country, unless on the main routes, it is very difficult to know the places at which to turn off and so on. The Minister could, through his Department, advise the various local authorities to co-operate with one another in ensuring efficient and clear signposting. That would help to solve the many problems caused by congestion and so on.

Being a small island country, and given the fact that, as the report says, 95 per cent of passenger travel and 85 per cent of freight travel is done by road, it is important not only that the Department of the Environment should pay special attention to the infrastructure and to investment in roads but that local authorities, through this Department, should co-ordinate their plans and ensure that roads are properly maintained. We have a very high unemployment rate. I cannot see why many people who at present get money for doing nothing could not be usefully employed in improving and maintaining the roads. This money should be spent for the benefit of the community and the economy.

I welcome this report. It is an important one and will become more and more important. We are trying to conserve energy. Given, as the report says, that 20 per cent of all energy consumed in Ireland is by cars, trucks or other vehicular traffic, it is important that we examine the most efficient way of using energy for the transportation of people. In this respect is is deplorable to see people coming into work in the cities every morning, one to a car.

I should like the Minister and his Department to pay particular attention to the provision of bus lanes and bicycle lanes. These ideas have been mooted by others. They are very important. As we progress into the eighties, as energy becomes more and more a problem, as people have to travel longer distances, particularly to their places of employment, these matters should be examined thoroughly, and this is possibly the opportune time to do so.

I should like to thank the Minister for coming into the House for the debate on this report. Sometimes it is difficult to get Ministers into the House to consider reports but the fact that this new Minister has done so today indicates his concern for and his interest in the provision of a better infrastructure and a more efficient roads system for our community.

I should like to join other Senators in welcoming the new Minister of State. I welcome also the opportunity provided for this discussion. This is a very wide subject and the plan is on a national vasis. Purely because of the constraints of time which exist in this type of debate I would like to confine my remarks to the urban areas and in particular to the Dublin situation.

Road construction gives rise to very understandable anxieties with many people, both as to the cost of the undertaking and also the possible effect on communities by disruption in areas through which traffic has not previously flowed. In order to get the problem in perspective you really have to get down to analysing what the costs and the benefits are of a co-ordinated and well-thoughtout programme, as indicated in this plan, and the cost of going on as we are. Some Senators have rightly pointed to the cost of inadequately kept roads and inadequately maintained roads. In addition to that I would like to make the point that there are very direct and unnecessary costs arising even when roads are properly kept but where the transport system to which the road network is allied is basically inadequate. There is the problem of congestion which is bringing not only traffic in Dublin to a halt but is having a serious and fundamental impact on life in the city.

The problem of energy which has been high-lighted in this debate is accentuated and multiplied out of all proportion by traffic which is snarled up and which simply cannot flow freely. The difference in the rate of consumption of petrol and other fuels in vehicles when the traffic flows smoothly and when it does not and when it is continually slowed or stopped is enormous. That is a pretty direct cost which hangs around the neck of every citizen in the country, particularly now with the impact which fuel is having on our imports and on our balance of payments and the cost of paying for it. There is also the direct cost of wear and tear which has also being mentioned but which still arises even when roads are well maintained but where the system itself is inadequate. The average life of a car alters greatly between when it runs efficiently and smoothly through most of its life and when it is normally engaged in snarled up and chaotic traffic conditions.

There are also some important indirect expenses that it is important to bear in mind when we consider the overall cost/benefit of road construction. There is the time factor which has already been referred to; the loss of production, the loss of service. The loss of output which arises from delays in transport and in travel is enormous and incalculable. It is a very definite cost and even though it may be, to a great extent, hidden. So great is the problem becoming that it is perhaps less and less hidden.

In relation to the useful life of a vehicle, to which I have already referred, there is another point which is of some importance. If vehicles are driven in traffic conditions and on road systems that are efficient, the useful life of that vehicle will be lengthened, the cost of maintaining it will be reduced and the time when it is replaced will be that much further away. That in the long run will have an important and a very considerable benefit in reducing our imports in so far as it will give us a permanent saving in imports if our vehicles remain longer in use.

The inefficiency to which Senator Kiely has referred in lost time and fatigue is perhaps one of the most important of the indirect costs. It is of very great social concern to people. It is daily becoming a greater problem and one which is causing the height of aggravation. The ordeal facing workers, be they using public transport or private transport, in spending two or three or perhaps more hours per day in simply getting from their homes to their work is something which I do not think anybody would seek to defend regardless of the circumstances. It is an appalling loss of time; it is an appalling intrusion into the time they have for family and social life. The hours spent by people going to work, queueing for buses or simply sitting in buses or cars that are going nowhere is a problem which will have to be tackled almost regardless of the cost.

On the question of cost generally, I agree that it is heartening to hear the contribution of the Minister particularly in regard to the qualification of the plan set out for assistance from the European Investment Bank and also, for grant purposes, from the European Development Fund. Those two factors alone help to put the overall cost which we are undertaking in this type of plan very much into perspective.

I would like to refer to the effect on health generally of the present road system in urban areas and particularly the Dublin area. The effects of inpossible traffic conditions in terms of stress over long periods are of fundamental importance and must, in many cases, place a very great strain on and do a great deal of damage to the average citizens' health. Travelling through congested traffic conditions day after day driving against the clock under stress is obviously an extremely unhealthy occupation and one which it is in everybody's interest to eliminate as quickly as we can.

There is also, of course, the direct problem of pollution. Surveys have shown clearly that the incidence of pollution—in the case of petrol driven cars, carbon monoxide and lead and other substances—grows tremendously in cases of congested traffic as compared with free flowing traffic. Also, in a highly built-up area, such as Dublin and in many other areas throughout the country, over a long period of time obviously that has a very serious effect of the health of the community. The whole range of respiratory ailments; heart conditions and all that allied to the stress to which I have referred highlight another immense cost, perhaps a hidden cost but one that is very real and one which everybody is in favour of tackling. Looked at in those ways, the problems and costs of road construction do fall into perspective and perhaps this may help us to reach decisions which in some ways may be unpopular but when viewed against the background of these problems are seen to be very necessary.

Road construction in the Dublin area, to which the plan refers, will play an immense part in relieving some of the problems to which I have referred. Nevertheless there will be very understandable worries and doubts about it, doubts with which most of us will have a great deal of sympathy. It must be remembered also that whereas, road canstruction may in many cases disrupt communities—traditional, longstanding communities—the present situation if we do not tackle the problem is also very disruptive to communities. So great is the problem and the pressure now that many motorists are availing of side roads which were never intended for through traffic, but which are now being used because of the snarled-up, congested position on the main thoroughfares.

This I believe is known to those who study this very carefully as "rat running" and it conveys something of the nature of the problem. It is extremely dangerous in so far as it brings heavy continuous traffic on to roads that were never intended to take them: it can damage the houses on the roads in question: it is obviously a danger to children because the roads were not constructed to safeguard children against continuous, flowing traffic. The point I make, therefore, is that the cost to communities of doing nothing can be much greater in terms of disruption and other matters than the cost of actually getting down to this problem and constructing, where necessary, the type of motorways envisaged in the plan. There should, of course, naturally, be precautions which take sensitivity into account, the anxieties of people who live in certain areas where traditional communities have existed. We obviously have to preserve, as far as we can, traditional character and traditional amenities. Indeed, some forms of road construction in urban areas will present an opportunity to add to the amenities. Screening, in the form of trees, or even in the construction of new houses, should obviously be taken into account to mitigate the worst effects of pollution which may arise and which may increase as a result of the new roadway construction.

Finally, I would like to say again specifically in relation to Dublin that, whereas I very much welcome this report prepared by the Minister and his Department, one comment made by the Minister for Transport in the past week was, perhaps, the most refreshing comment I have heard on the Dublin traffic and road situation for a very long time. The Minister, Deputy Reynolds, clearly pointed out to Dublin Corporation that they have at least as much responsibility in the matter of solving the road and traffic problem in Dublin as anybody else. It was a breath of fresh air: it was lively and imaginative comment, comment which will do a great deal of good and may stimulate a lot of new ideas. I would support this whole idea of taking a fresh approach and using some imagination in this matter because whereas I support the road construction plans as set out in the plan, nevertheless, road construction itself is not the whole answer by any means. Experimenting with bus lanes, experimenting with cycle lanes, as Senator Harney has suggested, is something which should be tackled. We can learn an immense amount from this. If public transport was enabled to run efficiently and smoothly by means of bus lanes or other means, that would obviously greatly reduce the number of private cars being brought into congested urban areas and so we would have a dual benefit.

There are many related aspects of the immediate problem. Road construction is fundamental to the problem, but is not the whole problem. The construction of car parks to relieve congestion on the roads is something that has to be tackled. I accept that Dublin Corporation do provide car parks, but clearly not enough. The construction of high level car parks should be considered in an environmental context as well as everything else. It is clearly unfair to penalise and fine motorists for illegal parking when there are simply no reasonable facilities for them to park legally.

I rise to add my voice to what has already been said here today. This is an excellent, correct and precise report. We note from it the development for the eighties, and I only hope that with the lists of works that are included in it the finance will be readily available and that we will finish on target. There is one particular point I want to mention, the question of by-passes. We have the situation—perhaps it was already mentioned in the House today—within my own neighbouring county, South Kildare, where you have from Dublin to Naas a beautiful dual carriageway but any evening of the week, when you get as far as Naas you can have a traffic jam back as far as the Dublin side of the racecourse. It can take you anything from half an hour to three-quarters of an hour to get through the town of Naas. I know there are plans under way for a by-pass. I am not quite certain if all the legal aspects as regards acquisition of land and so on have been completed. I think this is a very urgent job because of the hold-up that you have just at that particular point. Perhaps this is something that has died out now, but I know that some years back, there was a certain amount of misapprehension about by-passes. I want to say to anyone who might have doubts—perhaps we are so modern in my own town of Carlow that we are ahead of everybody else—that I remember many years ago being at meetings at which the question of a by-pass was discussed and it was the general feeling at that time of the people present that this would be a terrible thing for the town: there would be a loss of business: it would become a ghost town. To those who have doubts like that I would say that if we had not gone ahead at that time with that project it would now be impossible to get through the town of Carlow. We now have, as I am sure the Minister is probably aware, living not too far away from it, a by-pass of the town and yet business has survived and not alone survived but has prospered over the years. We have got additional industry and were it not for the by-pass and the people who thought of it at that time, it would be impossible actually to get through the town today. To anybody who has doubts about a by-pass, I say I do not think it will have any detrimental effect on business in a town.

The other matter I want to mention is that while it is grand to have a plan and to work to it we must not neglect, while we are thinking of, and working in the eighties, something that is very important, and that is the maintenance and the up-keep of existing roads. I am a member of the local authority where at times at estimate meetings—indeed it happened all over the years; it is not something that happens under one particular Government or another—you have cutbacks on estimates, and you are leaving over maintenance of roads which should be done in a particular year. It is left over to the following year. We know that with rising costs today this is not good economics. If roads are not kept up to standard and parts are left over for the following year, it is fair to say that costs in the following year will be much greater. I would suggest to the Minister that as far as possible, with the funds available to him, he should pay special attention to having funds available for the maintenance of our present roads.

I should like also to refer to the section on signposting and in particular to the marking of white lines on the roads. I think it is terribly important that these should be kept up to date so that when a road is re-tarmacadamed the white lines would be immediately replaced. It is also very important—I think we have made progress over the years in this regard—that accident "black spots" should be signposted. I am sorry that there is need for so many of them but at least they give one warning in advance of the danger spots one is close to.

My final point is that whatever sums are available for roads and road maintenance, I believe that to keep on the employment force of the county councils and even to add to that force is working in the right direction, because we have at the moment people who, through no fault of their own, cannot find work and are unemployed. If employment could be found for these people in order to increase our work force with the councils they would at least be getting a decent standard of living; we would be saving money on social welfare. This is something which the councils and the Minister for the Environment should have a look at. I am not being critical of people who are unemployed; I am talking about people who are unemployed and just cannot get work. I think it would be good economics; you would be giving them employment, a better standard of living and at the same time you would be saving a certain percentage in social welfare benefits. In conclusion, I would like to join with the other Senators who have spoken here in welcoming the Minister to the House today for his first time.

First of all, I want to thank the seconder of this motion, Senator Kiely, and all the speakers who contributed to a constructive debate. Indeed, I want to pay a special tribute to the other side of the House. While the motion came from this side of the House, there was no question of politics involved. I want to commend them for that and say that it only goes to show me that everybody is treating this as an important issue, above politics. We all live in this country and we all want to have better communications and better roads. I just want to say to Senator O'Brien that indeed the 10 per cent regulation by the Minister in no way curbs the development of this programme and I would welcome greater EEC grants as he suggested. He may have misunderstood me when he said that pedestrian traffic would go underground rather than overground. I did say that for pedestrian traffic I would welcome by-passes overhead and for vehicular and livestock traffic a tunnel underneath.

As regards the other speakers, I want to thank Senators Conroy and Markey and also Senator Whitaker for his comments on my county, and its beauty. I welcome him to it as often as he can come. I know he is a regular visitor there and he will always be welcome. I know that Senator Kilbride is very much worried about the maintenance of the roads we have and the big problem facing us. It is indeed a big problem. Senator Staunton spoke about the reclassification of the tourist road on the other national primary, across into Castlerea for a distance of about eight or ten miles to bring us into the Ballyhaunis, Ballinlough, Claremorris area. It would, of course, need reclassification of our national primary to bring in that road. It may be possible, I do not know what the Department officials and the Minister may think of that.

I agree wholeheartedly with him about bog development and I can assure him that my party have already discussed this in the light of the energy crisis and I have no doubt that some improvements or breakthroughs in bog development and in bog roads will be in the pipeline in the not-too-distant future. Senator Hillery spoke about the standardisation of construction. I think it is necessary that we have a standardisation of construction throughout the whole of the country, rather than have a county identified as having a lower standard than another county.

Senator Kiely made a case about debris and unused vehicles and machinery strewn along our national primary network. I think that is a disgrace, I think some law should be brought in to enforce the removal of this junk. People tend, outside rural garages, to do all their parking on the roads approaching those garages. That is also something that we should tackle; it is unsightly from the tourist point of view and I would like something to be done in that connection.

I thank Senators Mulcahy, Harney and Donnelly for their mention of congestion. City congestion is damaging to health and so is the pollution in the air, which no doubt will have its effect on the human beings of every city where you have cars ticking over. Excess use of fuel will give that type of pollution that is highly dangerous to health. I might say to the people who are worried that this programme might might outdate our existing road programme that such is not the case. It is an addition and indeed it is not an alternative to the road programme we have in the various counties. It will not in fact dilute or devalue what we know of at the moment and what we have on stream in the various counties. That type of development and road construction that we have from the block grant will continue as usual. The only thing I see wrong with acquisition is that the terms agreed by the landowner and the local authorities might become outdated if construction work does not take place immediately after the terms of acquisition are brought into force. I think that is a major problem when you have to go back and you have objections to the terms of acquisition where works are not completed in the shortest possible time. The main thing that I see wrong not only in respect of construction of roads and the county council's administrative side and the engineering side and the carrying out of the work, is that we have a lower production on our roads for the amount of money spent than any other country.

Many people have suggested that we should let our roads programme out on contract. That was something we could have done in the past but with the present cost of the necessary machinery, for any individual contractor, group of contractors or company to purchase sufficient machinery to go into road construction today, the capital investment involved would be far beyond the guarantees that might be forthcoming from local authorities. For that reason I cannot see the contract system working while I should like it done on a trial basis on a certain section of a road where some contractor may have the necessary machinery for doing this type of work. I cannot see any contractor, or any group of contractors having the capital investment necessary to compete with a county council. The county council have an organisation set up; they have purchased their machinery. That machinery would, of course, become obsolete if you brought in the contract system, but I would like to see it on a "once off" basis on some section of a road to see how the cost per mile would compare and to have a watchdog in the Department watching the return for the moneys spent within the various counties.

I did mention the World Bank when I was speaking—I should have said the European Investment Bank. However, I do not mind which bank—you can call it the World Bank or the European Investment Bank—but we must get loans for this programme.

In conclusion, I sincerely thank the engineering staff of the Department of the Environment. This might be a small document when you look at it from the outside, but one must acknowledge the amount of energy, time and work that was put into the compiling of this document by our engineering staff, in the first instance, and by the co-operation of the engineering staff of every local authority within the State. Months and months of hard work has gone into this document and I compliment the engineering staff sincerely for its production and the administration staff within the Department of the Environment for its presentation. It is properly presented; it is easy to read; it is easy to know what they are about in the document and they must be highly commended for its production.

Finally, let me thank the speakers, the Minister, and the Minister of State for the very alert way he listened to every comment that was made here in connection with this document.

Question put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.05 p.m.,sine die.