I am happy to be back in the Seanad for this debate and look forward to hearing Senators' thoughts on the range of projects to be rolled out in the transport, tourism and sporting sectors over the lifetime of the national development plan, NDP, which forms part of project Ireland 2040.
In June this year, I launched Linking People and Places, the name given to the transport, tourism and sport elements of the national development plan. At the launch, I was accompanied by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell, who generously gave her of time to lead a panel discussion on the topic. Something particularly interesting which the Senator expertly drew from the panel members was the connections across the sectors.
It is that emphasis on the bigger picture that Project Ireland 2040 seeks to focus upon. We need to focus on the bigger picture because Ireland is changing and will continue to change during the next ten years and beyond. We will have more people, more jobs, more commuters and more tourists.
It is not just Ireland but Europe and the world are changing too. Some of these changes are positive; others are challenging, but either way we cannot ignore them. That is the reason we need to plan now for the challenges of tomorrow. However, it is not just about tomorrow. We already face challenges today in meeting the demand for public transport services, in improving the roads network, in providing the facilities needed for increasing numbers of tourists and in encouraging and funding greater participation in sport.
Some of these challenges stem from reduced investment during the period of economic and financial crisis. The first priority is to return to what is called the "steady-state" funding level, which is the investment levels we need to ensure the services and infrastructure we have today are appropriately maintained. Then we need to address the challenges we face because of our growing economy, such as the problems with congestion in cities and towns and capacity issues on public transport services. We need to lay the groundwork for the future and start planning and delivering the projects we need for the future in an integrated way. That is what we are seeking to achieve during the lifetime of this national development plan, NDP.
We will do this by linking people and places in the national, international and social spheres. In linking cities and regions, we have ambitious plans for both public transport and the road network. A greener and expanded public transport network will add greatly to the choice and experience of the travelling public, improve quality of life, ease congestion in cities and help to deliver a low carbon society.
We have already started to increase the size of bus fleets and expand services. We are planning to invest in greener and cleaner buses and roll out BusConnects across all major cities, starting in Dublin. Many Senators who are interested in BusConnects in their home areas have asked questions and I am very happy to address this. I think it is more appropriate if I do it at the end because I will have the advantage of having heard what most of the Members have to say.
BusConnects will help to develop sustainable, living cities for families and communities and will support economic growth and jobs. It will deliver new and improved bus services and corridors, faster journey times, next generation ticketing and cycle lanes to remove conflict between road traffic and cyclists. I acknowledge the difficulties that people have encountered in their areas in some cases and hope to address them in any way possible.
Alongside this, we are funding cycling and walking networks across the country, building on the investment of more than €110 million to develop cycling and walking infrastructure in all cities during the next four years. In addition the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I recently published a new greenway strategy, which sets out a framework by which we can develop more of these wonderful cycling and walking attractions in rural areas around the country. In the way there are links between the national planning framework and the national development plan, we will back up this policy framework for greenways with a committed funding programme. Some €53 million will be invested in greenway infrastructure between 2019 and 2021. Last week we opened up the application process and invited interested parties to make an application to access that funding programme. Together with improved bus and cycling infrastructure, the NDP will fund improvements in the national rail network too; improving connections across the country and between the North and the South. We are also examining the role that an extension to the western rail corridor can play in the Atlantic economic corridor.
In addition to these initiatives, we are also funding the construction of MetroLink. This will provide faster, reliable journey times to and from key destinations such as Swords, Dublin Airport, DCU, Ballymun and the Mater Hospital, while offering interchanges with other public transport services. We also will expand the DART network by providing additional carriages, improving signalling and extending electrification across the network to provide better services.
Those improvements have facilitated the introduction this month of the new ten-minute all-day service across the DART network. That level of service effectively means people can just walk up to their local station without the need to look at any timetable. The next step will be to provide fast, high-frequency electrified DART services to Drogheda, Celbridge-Hazelhatch and Maynooth. In addition, new DART stations will provide interchange with bus, Luas and metro networks. Building on the success of Luas and recent extensions, including Luas cross city, we have started a process of adding an additional 27% capacity to the Luas green line through lengthening existing trams and platforms. The route for the remaining element of the DART expansion programme - the DART underground tunnel - will, of course, be established and protected to allow for its future delivery.
We need to increase funding for the 100,000 km of roads around the country. The sheer scale of the road network is not well known but it is actually twice the European average per head of population. That is a lot of road. The road network is the workhorse of our economic and social infrastructure. Most of our freight is carried by road, all bus services rely on the road network and regional and local roads are essential in linking communities across the country. We need to restore funding to the levels required to appropriately maintain, renew and improve the road network as it is today. Most importantly, Project Ireland 2040 provides the framework for that funding.
In terms of new schemes, the NDP lists 23 national road schemes that already are at planning, design or construction stages. One of those is the long-awaited strategic road link between Cork and Limerick. Another 20 national road projects have been identified by Transport Infrastructure Ireland for pre-appraisal and early planning work with a view to developing a pipeline of projects suitable for future development. At a regional and local level, another 13 significant road improvement projects are currently being advanced under the NDP. All of these schemes will better link local communities, reduce congestion and contribute to the local economy in their areas.
It is not just about linking cities and regions. We also need to build better links with the wider world. That is why the investment planned by the State airports and ports is so important. We are providing additional capacity at Dublin Airport through the new north runway and work is already under way on it by the DAA. Complementing that investment, a new control tower, which will facilitate operations on the new runway is under construction by the Irish Aviation Authority.
Both Shannon and Cork airports are looking to sustainably grow their businesses into the future through targeted investment programmes and working with stakeholders to improve their offering. The role of the smaller regional airports is recognised in the national development plan and there will be continued Exchequer support for safety and security projects. All these projects will improve our links with the wider world and help to sustain and grow trade and tourism.
As an island, we need ports to plan for the future. In that regard I am happy to say there is a significant investment programme under way in all our tier 1 ports of national significance. Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes each has projects under construction that will help improve efficiency, connectivity and capacity. This is important because all ports of national significance, whether it is the three tier 1 ports or Rosslare and Waterford in their role as tier 2 ports of national significance, have a crucial role to play in maintaining our trade and tourism connections with Europe and beyond as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The State is supporting those investments through improved access to our international gateways.
I already have referred to MetroLink which will better connect Dublin Airport with the city centre, while the national development plan has details of a range of road projects to improve access to ports of national significance. These include the M11 to Rosslare, the N28 to Ringaskiddy in Cork and N69 to Foynes.
The national development plan is also about linking with one another and with visitors to our country, including through tourism, where we are looking to support and grow the industry across Ireland.
The tourism sector will benefit from the planned investment in both national and international transport links across the country, which I have outlined. The NDP commits almost €108 million to Fáilte Ireland between now and 2021 and states this level of investment will, at a minimum, be maintained out to 2027. Priority areas for this investment include the development and enhancement of tourist attractions and activity-based tourism to provide the type and quality of experience that visitors are seeking.
We will use the investment to support and grow tourism in rural communities, in line with the further development and promotion of the regional tourism brand experiences - the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands - which leverage the appeal of Ireland's natural, cultural and heritage offering. NDP investment in tourism throughout the country comes with the added benefit that the new or enhanced attractions and activities will increase the attractiveness of local areas not just as places to visit but also as places to live, work or invest in.
We are increasing investment at all levels of sport from the grassroots to the elite, with a view to increasing participation and improving facilities. The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I published a new national sports policy in July. The policy sets out our vision for sport over the next ten years and provides the policy backdrop to the investments that are planned under the NDP. We have since announced a new round of the sports capital programme, which will make €40 million available to support the development of sports infrastructure in communities across the State. The NDP also commits to the establishment of a new large-scale sports infrastructure fund, which will be available to larger projects when the proposed Government contribution exceeds the amount available under the sports capital programme. At least €100 million will be provided under the new fund, which is designed to provide a more structured approach for this funding. The full terms and conditions of the new scheme are nearing finalisation. We will open the fund for applications in the coming months.
We are continuing our investment in the development of the Sport Ireland national sports campus. It was a wonderful summer of sporting achievement for Ireland, with highlights such as the silver medal for the women's hockey team and the hosting of the European para swimming championships at the National Aquatic Centre. I am pleased that many of our successful athletes are based at the national sports campus. The Government's continued investment will ensure our athletes have access to world-class training facilities in Ireland. The NDP commits €42 million to fund the completion of a national indoor arena and a national velodrome and badminton centre at the campus. The construction of the second phase of the national indoor arena is well under way and the arena is due for completion next year. This covered facility will ensure our elite athletes and teams can train in training facilities that are always open all year round. The national velodrome and badminton centre is expected to be completed by 2021. It will consist of a 250 m cycling track with badminton courts in the track infill area. The development of the campus will not stop there. Sport Ireland is reviewing the master plan for the campus in consultation with the sporting bodies. The review will guide the development of a ten-year strategic vision for the campus, which will be aligned with wider Government capital planning, as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.
I acknowledge that Project Ireland 2040 sets out a vision for the future that is ambitious in its scale. We need to be ambitious if we are going to build a better Ireland that addresses the demands of today, meets the challenges of tomorrow and is a place that we, our children and grandchildren are proud to call home. The investment committed by the Government under Project Ireland 2040 for the transport, tourism and sport sectors will help to ensure they play their part in realising that ambition and delivering for citizens. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators. I again thank the House for the invitation.