Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (61)

Martin Kenny


61. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason his Department has not applied to the EU for the revision of the TEN-T core network, including applying for the reinstatement of the cross-Border Western Arc and the western rail corridor as stated in the programme for a partnership Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22913/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Under the Programme for Partnership Government, the Government committed to applying to the European Commission for the revision of the TEN-T Core Network, including in relation to the Western Arc. A submission is currently being prepared in this regard, which would seek to facilitate consideration of transport-related project proposals for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility for transport in the Western Arc region.

Importantly, the submission will also take into account national developments since the TEN-T Network was established, including the publication of our National Development Plan (NDP) and National Planning Framework (NPF) in 2018, as well as consideration of the implications for Ireland, including on western and north-west regions, stemming from the UK exiting the EU.

The TEN-T Regulation explicitly states that the European Commission should take into account national implementation plans when carrying out the review of the TEN-T Network. In Ireland's case, these would include both the NDP and the NPF. Both of these Government documents will shape the future development of Irish planning and infrastructure across a range of sectors, including transport.

Additionally, the UK's Withdrawal from the EU has been an evolving process over the last number of years, both in terms of the negotiations between the EU and the UK and in terms of contingency planning for a range of possible Brexit scenarios, which has been a whole-of-government effort coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The preparation and making of a submission calling for a review of the TEN-T network should be strengthened by the proposals under the NDP and the NPF and by the added urgency of the implications of Brexit.

Separately, in late February 2019, my Department received correspondence from European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, which stated that the European Commission is considering advancing the review of the TEN-T Network, which is due to take place no later than the end of 2023, as stipulated in the TEN-T Regulation. The Commission's review process will include: an evaluation study, which will conclude in spring 2020; a public stakeholder consultation process, which will conclude on 17 July 2019; and targeted consultation with Member States and a wide range of stakeholders, to commence in the coming months. My Department intends to be fully engaged as part of this review process.

With regard to the Western Rail Corridor, both the Programme for a Partnership Government and Project Ireland 2040 commit to an independent review of the costings for a proposal to extend the existing Corridor. Iarnród Éireann has appointed consultants to prepare a financial and economic appraisal, which will involve all relevant stakeholders, and the public consultation phase is underway. Upon completion, the review will itself be subject to a verification process by my Department to ensure requirements are met and in particular, that a wide consultation has taken place. I expect the findings of the review, which will advise as to the business case for an extension of the Corridor, in the Autumn. It is my intention to bring the findings to Government for consideration at that point.

Finally, I recently met with Minister of State Seán Canney, in his capacity as Chair the Atlantic Economic Corridor Forum to discuss the review of the Core TEN-T Network and the potential for EU funding in this regard. I am committed to working with the Taskforce and Minister of State Canney on this matter and will be sharing a copy of my draft submission with the Department of  Department of Rural and Community Development and the Taskforce in advance if its submission to Commissioner Bulc.

Questions Nos. 62 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.