Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (14)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

14. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider funding for the east-west link which is urgently needed in the north-east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25672/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

There have been proposals dating back to 2001 to develop an upgraded East-West route linking Dundalk to Sligo, taking in Cavan, and involving linking elements of the national road network and regional roads along as direct a route as possible.

As regards the regional road aspect of the proposal, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.

My Department did provide funding to Cavan County Council, acting as lead authority for Councils in the area, of over €2m in the period 2007-2014 to progress the regional road element of the project to preliminary design. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the post 2008 recession meant that grant funding for road improvement schemes had to be curtailed because expenditure on maintenance/renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.

The National Development Plan (NDP) does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but funding is not yet at the level needed for the adequate maintenance and renewal of regional and local roads. For this reason the primary focus for capital investment at present is the maintenance and renewal of the network and implementation of the 12 regional and local road projects identified for development, subject to necessary approvals, in the NDP. There is no provision under the NDP for the improvement of the Cavan to Dundalk section of the East- West link.

Some limited provision is being made in the capital budget for the appraisal of a pipeline of upgrade projects. This is intended to cover the appraisal of projects for future development, if possible. In this context the Department has provided grants to Cavan Council since 2018 to enable the Council to update the assessment of the regional and local road section of the proposed scheme in line with the current requirements in the Public Spending Code. The aim was to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it could be justified. The work undertaken to date has pointed to a substantial increase in the estimated cost of a full scheme to upgrade roads between Dundalk and Cavan. In light of this the Department is currently liaising with the Council in relation to the carrying out a risk based analysis for the route between Dundalk and Cavan.

As regards the national road aspect of the proposal for a Dundalk to Sligo scheme, Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s major road improvement programme is focussed on the major schemes identified for development in the NDP.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 12.