Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (19)

Darren O'Rourke


19. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport if new environmental criteria are to be applied to existing or new transport projects as part of the review of the national development plan; if so, if he will outline the new criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7607/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The review of the National Development Plan (NDP) - which is being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with input from all Departments involved in capital development - is intended to take account of evolving conditions since the present NDP was published in 2018, and to strengthen alignment of the next NDP with the National Planning Framework and the Climate Action Plan. The review is considering impacts arising from the formation of a new Government, the outcome of Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and represents an opportunity to revise and update cost estimates.

Work is currently underway on phase 1 to form part of the evidence base for the revised NDP and which is addressing the key impact of sectoral strategies. For transport, a key input here is our revised sectoral strategy for investment, which is nearing completion and will replace the 2016 Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport (SFILT). This is intended to ensure that investment in transport is aligned with and supports overarching Government policy, including the spatial strategy for the coming decades - as established by the National Planning Framework and articulated by the 10 National Strategic Outcomes - and our increased national ambition around combatting climate change as committed to in the Programme for Government.

The draft investment framework sets four priorities for future transport investment, and projects will need to align with one or more of these priorities if they are to be considered for funding. These priorities are: (1) Decarbonisation; (2) Protection and Renewal; (3) Mobility of People and Goods in Urban Areas; and, (4) Enhanced Regional and Rural Connectivity. Furthermore, the proposed investment framework establishes modal and intervention hierarchies to guide investment; these hierarchies seek to ensure that project sponsors deploy the most environmentally sustainable solution to a given transport issue and that investment is proportional to the issue at hand. Where projects under consideration propose solutions that are ostensibly less aligned with these hierarchies, they must demonstrate that solutions from further up the hierarchies are unsuitable or not feasible.

I have approved the draft investment framework for public consultation. The framework is sufficiently advanced that my Department and its agencies are applying the investment priorities and hierarchies to support and inform our consideration and prioritisation of investment as part of the NDP Review. This means that planned and prospective investment is being considered through the same lens at a high level and in a standardised way, including in respect of its contribution to decarbonisation of the transport system.