I thank the select committee for giving me the opportunity to present the 2019 Revised Estimate for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It provides for an overall gross allocation for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport of over €2.3 billion. We will use the funding to provide some of the economic and social infrastructure Ireland needs now. The funding allocated represents a 15% increase on investment levels in 2018 and each of our programmes of investment will share in the increased level of funding.
Much of the Department's work involves supporting services and maintaining infrastructural assets in safe and usable condition. For that reason, we sought and were granted an increase in our current expenditure budget this year. The coming year will see the support we provide in this area grow by 7.5%, which represents an increase of €52.9 million on the figure for 2018. Since Ireland's economy has picked up, it has been necessary for us to get back to investing in critical economic infrastructure such as the road network. Challenges such as climate change and congestion also mean that we need to provide stronger public transport links. Project Ireland 2040 provides for a step change in funding to meet our investment needs in this area. It also recognises the role played by ports and airports in the international connectivity of our island nation.
Our plan also provides scope to boost our tourism offering and support grassroots sporting endeavours at local level, while also providing world class facilities for our national and international sports heroes. For these reasons, the capital investment proposals before the committee for 2019 would see an increase of over €259 million or 19.5% compared to the figure for 2018. We foresee the increasing levels of activity continuing into the coming years.
In budget 2019 we made a policy choice to convert €30 million of our capital allocation for use as current expenditure. Maintaining our assets is a costly exercise, but it is necessary and saves money in the long term. Additionally, Brexit is very likely to adversely affect the tourism industry. We are choosing to prioritise support for the tourism agencies to best mitigate the negative impact of the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union.
Budget 2019 also saw an increase in the VAT rate charged in a number of sectors, including the hospitality sector. We decided that giving agencies the ability to target specific support for tourism in specific locations would be better. With the fillip these investment plans provide for tourism services, we can direct support towards those who need it most.
More recently, pressures across government have required all Departments to refine slightly their extensive investment plans for 2019. While my Department was able to assist Government colleagues substantially, we have not had to make cuts to any project. Our commitment to support the construction of the A5 road to Derry has not changed and we will meet our agreed commitments in that regard. We understand the Northern Irish authorities are equally committed. Work on the road will be undertaken in due course by our friends and neighbours in Northern Ireland and we will be able to fund our share as costs arise. In the meantime, we have been able to make the best use of any construction delay to move that funding this year.
My Department and I consider our task of delivering first class infrastructure and services to be both an honour and a duty. We will safeguard the taxpayers' investment as we do so. We work closely with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and follow the public spending code to monitor our programmes. Within my Department we have a team of economists and analysts who are dedicated to prior evaluation of projects and programmes. As a Department, we have well established oversight procedures in place to monitor expenditure and are fortunate to work with agencies with a recent track record of delivery and achieving value for money. We are aware, however, that we cannot be complacent and that increased levels of expenditure planned under Project Ireland 2040, as well as recent events, require us to examine with a fresh perspective how we go about our work in this area. The committee can be assured that good governance and oversight are at the centre of our work and will remain so in the years ahead.
I will briefly go through the five programmes of investment in my Department, the funding levels and plans we have for 2019. I will start with the civil aviation programme. Direct investment in aviation during 2019 will be roughly €37 million, which represents just over 1% of expenditure in my Department. Much of the work we do under this programme involves working with regulators and international partners. The international commercial nature of air travel means that my Department's investment focuses mainly on regional access. The largest beneficiary of the funding is the regional airports programme, at €21.7 million, followed by the funding earmarked to cover the costs associated with our membership of Eurocontrol, the costs incurred by the Irish Aviation Authority for certain services and subscriptions to international organisations. Therefore, the key priority for investment in the aviation programme in the short to medium term is providing support for regional airports. We confine our investment and support to safety and security related projects and our involvement is informed by the regional airports programme for the period 2015 to 2019.
Programme B - land transport programme - is the largest programme by far in my Department's Vote, accounting for approximately 80% of our overall budget. This year the programme budget will increase by over €260 million, or 16%, to €1.9 billion. Most of the increase derives from stepped up in investment in roads and mass transit services. The main components of the programme are road improvements and maintenance funding, with an overall budget of just over €1 billion; the public transport investment programme, at €481 million, and PSO payments for public service provision, at €302 million.
The programme also includes provision of €7 million towards the carbon reduction programme and a further €1.9 million, in carried-over funding, will be applied to this programme too. In addition, the operating costs for the national vehicle and driver licensing system are just under €22 million. This system helps us to collect motor taxes and fees such as toll fees on the M50.
As for public transport, in 2019, we will again allocate investment to protect the quality and value of our existing public transport networks. Significantly, the funding being made available in 2019 to Irish Rail, in its role as infrastructure manager, is at the steady-state level, as measured on an annual basis. That is hugely important and represents real progress. The steady-state level of funding carries through to our public service obligation, PSO, bus fleets also, with the funding provided allowing for the optimal amount of bus replacement, which means older and more polluting buses are replaced by newer and cleaner ones. It is not just steady state; we are also expanding and upgrading infrastructure. That means we are continuing to plan for the future with BusConnects, MetroLink, the DART expansion and the various cycling network plans in the major cities. We will also deliver new infrastructure like the extended trams, which will shortly arrive for the Luas green line, or the various cycling projects due to start construction this year, or the proposed new national train control centre, which should start construction by the end of the year. The funding provided in 2019 will make a real and lasting difference to the lives of citizens across the country. We are also committed to the ongoing retrofitting of older existing public transport facilities to improve their accessibility features and, as members will know, accessibility is built into new projects.
As the committee will be aware, we apply a lot of funding to public service obligation services. In 2019, we will continue to support the continued delivery of these socially necessary but financially unviable services throughout the country. We intend for them to continue their growth over recent years and we will facilitate some further expansion, including progressing the bus market opening. As is normal, the precise allocations to the companies, including Irish Rail, will be decided by the National Transport Authority, NTA, in accordance with the various contract arrangements that it has in place with the various PSO service providers. Additionally, rural transport services that respond to local needs have also increased and we will continue to support these through enhanced funding. We will target new and innovative ideas to help decarbonise the transport sector, including pilot initiatives for low emission technologies and incentives to encourage the national taxi fleet towards greener fuels and private car drivers towards electric vehicles.
On roads, approximately €1.06 billion is available for the roads improvement and maintenance programme and with this, we will continue to provide grant support for the national, regional and local road networks. This investment will be used to maintain and renew the national, regional and local road surfaces. As members are aware, the total network is about 99,000 km in extent. It also will be used to meet our contractual obligations under public private partnerships that deliver parts of our motorway network, to maintain motorways in safe and usable conditions; to undertake safety works and bridge maintenance and rehabilitation, to carry out improvement schemes across the country on some minor roads and to undertake essential routine maintenance such as, for example, signing and lining, verge maintenance and preparatory winter maintenance.
With our partners in Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, and various local authorities, we intend to progress the following major Project Ireland 2040 projects during the course of 2019: the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin scheme; the N8 Dunkettle scheme, which will commence construction; the Sligo western distributor road; and road upgrades in the vicinity of Grangecastle Business Park. Early planning work on the M20 Cork to Limerick scheme also will commence.
Road safety is something which is of paramount importance and our support for the operations of the Road Safety Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety will continue. Both organisations have achieved a lot in recent years and continued that work in 2018. Road deaths are a blight on our communities and work undertaken by my Department and by the RSA, with the support and expertise of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, proves that we can influence driving behaviours and minimise the egregious losses that occur on our roads. This year, 2019, will see a continuation of that vital work.
In terms of maritime activities, we make investments to improve maritime safety and these are seen across the work of the Irish Coast Guard. They are funded through programme C, our maritime transport and safety programme. Funding for 2019 is at €103 million or 5% of the Vote. Most of that funding is directed to the Irish Coast Guard and the main cost here relates to the search and rescue helicopter contract. The programme also funds the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the body that operate buoys and lighthouses and keep seafarers and their cargoes safe while in Irish waters. We also cover various administrative costs associated with the Irish maritime administration. It is important to note that we will be continuing the coast guard building programme to ensure that the volunteers have adequate facilities for their operations and equipment, and we will be investing in IT infrastructure to enable the teams to further enhance how they work together.
Sport is programme D and at €125 million accounts for 6% of the Vote. This includes provision to deliver on all existing commitments under the sports capital programme and new allocations in respect of applications received under the 2018 round of the programme. These allocations will be made later this year. The funding will also cover our existing commitments under the local authority swimming pool programmes and to the Kerry Sports Academy in Tralee, which is due to open this year. Our new large-scale sport infrastructure fund is currently open for applications. We plan to announce our first allocations under this programme later this year.
Other priorities for investment in the sports programme over the short to medium term includes supporting high-performance sporting achievement, while also increasing participation in sport and physical activity at all levels. Last year, we set out our vision for sport in the National Sports Policy 2018-2027. We are now commencing the implementation of the actions outlined in the policy, which will transform our sporting landscape over the next decade.
Tourism services fall under programme E, which at €169 million, accounts for 7% of the Vote. It provides for the programme and administrative spend of the two tourism agencies, with Fáilte Ireland at €69 million and Tourism Ireland at €16 million. It also includes a €47 million contribution to the tourism marketing fund, €21 million for tourism product development and over €13 million for the development of greenways. This funding will allow Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to continue to develop and market the tourism industry, including the further development of the signature experience brands like the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. In budget 2019, I secured an additional €35 million, which represents a 26% increase in funding for tourism, which will allow the tourism agencies to provide fresh impetus this year in terms of industry support, product development and marketing of our tourism offering around the world. Following the expansion of the sector in recent years, we are in the position where we should focus more on sustainable growth.
The Government has allocated almost €8 million, in additional funding, to the tourism agencies to respond to the impact of Brexit. Fáilte Ireland is implementing a programme that places a focus on retaining business from Northern Ireland and Britain, while also offering supports to enterprises to equip them for the post-Brexit marketplace. Tourism Ireland is implementing a series of actions in the British market to address the decline in visitor numbers since the Brexit referendum, while also extending its regional access initiative. Tourism Ireland also continues to roll out its market diversification strategy, which focuses greater resources on attracting visitors from those markets who stay longer and spend more while on holiday.
In 2019, we will build on progress made in recent years, we will push our tourism and sport strategies forward and we will continue to build and prepare for the construction of a more mobile and connected country. I, like the members, am keen to see advances this year and envisage a result that will see all of Ireland share in the fruits of these proposed investments. I am more than happy to answer any questions on the 2019 Estimates of expenditure and investment for the services provided by my Department and our partner organisations.
To conclude, I received some adverse comments about not being here last week. I would like to explain my absence to the committee and I think I should do so. It was impossible for me to-----