Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Questions (44)

Brendan Smith


44. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the necessary upgrading of national and regional roads in the Border region will be prioritised for investment due to the particular economic challenges that will arise for the region following Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25397/18]

View answer

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Transport)

The national development plan, NDP, sets out the investment priorities to 2027 that will support the implementation of the national planning framework. In doing so, the NDP sets out the major challenges facing the country including: demographic change; the need to move to a being a low-carbon, climate-resilient society; Brexit; and realising sustainable growth.

The plan seeks to set out a balanced set of investment priorities - with those challenges in mind - within an overall capital envelope.  While the NDP acknowledges the continuing uncertainty about the final arrangements relating to the UK's exit from the EU, chapter 4 of the plan contains an examination of how targeted investment can promote economic resilience in the Border region in the context of Brexit.  This chapter touches on a range of measures, including promoting research and innovation, attracting new investment, assisting SMEs to prepare for Brexit and investment in transport links.

In the context of the road network serving the Border region, the NDP includes references to many roads to which I have already referred in an earlier question.

Schemes on these routes are at various stages of development, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities, will be advancing the schemes on a phased basis within the overall capital budget available to it.

As regards the A5, implementation of the upgrade of the route is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities. Under the Fresh Start agreement, the Government is committed to providing €75 million sterling towards the cost of the first phase of the scheme. The project is the subject of legal proceedings at present.

The funding allocated to my Department as part of the capital plan review last year includes financial provision for meeting the Government's commitment regarding the A5 in three £25 million tranches over the period 2019 to 2021.

I will take just one supplementary in order to facilitate other members. I welcome the fact that the Minister has committed to visiting the Border region during the summer months to see at first hand the interdependence of the road network in the North and the South and the huge challenges that businesses and commerce in general in the Border region face due to the adverse impact that Brexit will have. I emphasise that our local economy in the Cavan-Monaghan and south Ulster area is very heavily dependent on the agrifood sector, the construction products sector and the engineering sector. By definition those sectors require good infrastructure to transport their products to ports and airports. They use heavy goods vehicles. If vehicles are delayed on the roads as a result of inadequate infrastructure, there will be a cost to the business of the primary producer. The challenge is for local businesses to remain competitive. We have to try to assist those companies to remain as competitive as possible through the upgrading of infrastructure, and trying to reduce those transport costs as much as possible. That is within the competence of the Government. For historical reasons, the region has not had the investment required. It is now facing the particular challenge of Brexit. Investment must be prioritised.

I hear the Deputy loud and clear. I will be delighted to visit. Perhaps as well as looking at the roads the Deputy could arrange that we visit one or two of the companies that are likely to suffer.

Question No. 45 replied to with Written Answers.