I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for selecting this Commencement matter and I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross. The Minister will be aware that I am a member of the transport committee, and the reason I have raised this matter is that the chief executive officer, CEO, of Transport Infrastructure Ireland raised it at the committee's meeting last week. He informed the committee that the current funding allocation for road maintenance was cut by approximately €6 million, or 16%, to €31 million. He mentioned that the funding allocation was €58 million in 2008, before the financial crisis.
During that financial crisis the Minister's predecessors confirmed that even though major projects had to be delayed or cancelled at that time, road maintenance would always be maintained or, in some cases, increased. I am aware of some large projects that have been restored and in the case of the Gort to Tuam motorway, it has been completed to Tuam. There are other projects in the capital plan. It is ironic that the road maintenance funding is being reduced. The allocations for local and regional roads were announced yesterday, but my question is specifically about maintenance. The weather over the winter and especially over the last month has caused havoc, particularly with regional and secondary roads in more rural parts of the country and in my constituency, Mayo. The potholes never disappeared but they are now back with a vengeance. Mayo and Galway have the biggest network of secondary and local roads in the country so there is a need for more maintenance. The CEO, Mr. Michael Nolan, said:
If current levels of maintenance funding are not increased, there is an increasing deterioration in the condition and capital value of our national roads network. Even with increased funding for capital pavement renewals, if routine maintenance is not adequately funded, we will see pavements and other assets deteriorating more quickly and having to be replaced earlier than otherwise would have been the case. A proper balance between ordinary maintenance expenditure and capital renewals investment is essential. [...] In relation to our 2018 maintenance allocations, we have been forced to substantially cut our allocations to local authorities. We have reduced our provision for salt purchases for 2018. While salt stocking levels are adequate, we will review the situation following the winter season. We have also cut our allocations for traffic route lighting. The budget provisions for maintenance of the high-speed motorway network has been maintained.
I ask the Minister to clear up some of the confusion that has arisen.