Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Questions (66)

Imelda Munster

Question:

66. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the breakdown of additional spend for each of the three CIÉ companies, capital and current, and a company (details supplied) in budget 2019. [45646/18]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

The question asks for details of the exact breakdown of additional spend for each of the three CIÉ companies, capital and current, and for Go-Ahead in budget 2019.

In budget 2019 I secured an overall allocation for 2019 of €2.3 billion for the transport, tourism and sport Vote. This spending will support delivery of the national strategic outcomes outlined in the national planning framework, it is aligned with the strategic investment priorities of the national development plan and it is a 17% increase on the 2018 level. Some €788 million, or 34%, of the total is being provided towards sustainable mobility measures.

The Deputy asked about the additional spend for certain individual transport operators for 2019. Since 2010 my Department no longer pays direct subvention to operators for public transport services. The award of PSO funding to support socially necessary but financially unviable services falls under the independent statutory remit of the NTA. The allocations to the individual companies are decided by the NTA in the exercise of its statutory mandate and in accordance with the various contract arrangements it has in place with PSO service providers. Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath provide the majority of PSO services. However, Go-Ahead has now commenced operating on a number of routes under the recent competitively tendered contracts awarded by the NTA under bus market opening. There are also a small number of PSO routes operated by other private operators.

As the Deputy is aware, the PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers' money and aggregate funding has increased in recent years. This year I provided an allocation of €285 million in PSO funding to the NTA, which is €75 million higher than in 2015, representing an increase of 36% in the past three years. This funding is allocated via the NTA to support the delivery of these socially necessary but financially unviable services, which have grown in recent years. In budget 2019 I secured further additional funding which means I will be providing €287 million to the NTA for PSO funding in 2019.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

As well as those increases in current expenditure, I have also secured significant increases for capital expenditure. These increases will allow the NTA and the operators to address both current infrastructure challenges and also plan for the future in terms of new and expanded infrastructure.

As the Deputy is aware, a key priority in recent years has been to reach the "steady state" level of investment in our heavy rail network. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that budget 2019 provides around €200 million to Iarnród Éireann in 2019 to maintain our extensive heavy rail network across the State. Achievement of the "steady state" level is a significant step forward for the rail network and is in line with last year’s IMF report on public investment, known as the PIMA report, and also the commitments outlined in the national development plan.

In terms of other capital investment programmes, my Department provides funding to the NTA, which in turn then allocates funding to the individual operators in accordance with its agreed capital investment priorities. Budget 2019 provides for significant increases in available funding for both heavy rail enhancement and BusConnects, and specific allocations will be agreed between the NTA and the operators in the coming weeks. The projects to be funded under these programmes include city centre rail resignalling, the new national train control centre and bus fleet renewal and expansion under BusConnects.

The increased funding I have secured over recent budgets will enhance and improve the experiences of the travelling public in 2019 and beyond.

The Minister seems to have handed over responsibility. I am surprised. The question was very direct and precise and I thought he would be only too happy to deal with it. I will repeat the question. I asked for details of the exact breakdown of additional spend for each of the three CIÉ companies, capital and current. Even if he has given over responsibility to the NTA, the fact he did not request those figures from the NTA, and then is happy to tell me exactly what was allocated for each company in capital and current spending, speaks volumes. This is added to the fact the last three budgets have been disastrous for transport. When a €30 million reduction in capital spend this year for transport, tourism and sport is taken into account, what the Minister secured overall was just €20 million in additional spend for his entire portfolio. There is no investment worth speaking of. Even for the basics like regional roads, rail and public transport, there is nothing. That the Minister could not come in here and tell me that he secured X, Y and Z in capital and current funding for each of the CIÉ companies is not what I expected.

I get staggered from time to time when I listen to Deputy Munster. I sometimes think good news is very unwelcome to her and that she finds it rather uncomfortable, so she has somehow to misinterpret it. I do not know what planet she is on. I have to repeat that the PSO subvention increased in 2016, 2017 and again this year. It is an increase. I do not know if the Deputy thinks it is a decrease. Over three years it will increase by 36% in total. That is an awful lot of money. Funding of €285 million is being allocated in 2018 to support the delivery of socially necessary but financially unviable journeys and routes. I do not see how the Deputy can complain about that. I can understand why she does not like the opening of the bus market but how she can complain about increased spending baffles me.

In terms of other capital investment programmes, my Department provides funding to the NTA, which in turn allocates funding to the individual operators in accordance with its agreed capital investment priorities. Budget 2019 provides for significant increases in funding for heavy rail enhancements and BusConnects and specific allocations will be agreed between the NTA and the operators in the coming weeks. The projects to be funded under these programmes include city centre rail resignalling, the new national train control centre and the bus fleet renewal and expansion under BusConnects.

The Minister is taking advantage.

I cannot see how the Deputy can be dissatisfied with the spend.