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Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Questions (93)

Bernard Durkan


93. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if the necessary roadworks will be allowed to continue in order to bring about all aspects of transport infrastructure such as roads up to a nationwide standard thus ensuring equal treatment throughout the regions while accepting the need to reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52880/21]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Transport)

This may seem peculiar at this particular time. There will be and is a necessity to ensure that all regions throughout the country have access to a reasonable road structure, with particular reference to those areas that have not experienced particular development but which will in the future.

The Minister for Transport has responsibility for overall policy and Exchequer funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015, and in line with the national development plan, NDP, the management and improvement of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with local authorities.

A key priority in the NDP, in line with the Department’s investment hierarchy, is to maintain the quality of the existing national road network. This consists of about 5,300 km of national roads, including 1,000 km of motorways, connecting Ireland’s cities and regions. I take the Deputy's point about ensuring that we have that connectivity. The NDP foresees Exchequer expenditure of about €2.9 billion on the protection and renewal of these national roads over the period to 2030. Such investment is required to keep the national road assets at a safe and robust level for all users. Investment in existing road assets can also assist in retrofitting them where applicable, for example by providing new bus lanes. Further, approximately €5.1 billion will be spent on new national road projects over the lifetime of the revised NDP to 2030. This funding will enable improved connectivity across the country, as well as compact growth, which are core components of the revised NDP.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority and works on those roads are funded from councils' own resources, supplemented by Exchequer grants where applicable. Grant support provided by the Department under the regional and local road grant programme is focused primarily on the protection and renewal of the network and the NDP makes provision for expenditure of €5.35 billion on this in the period to 2030. Provision is also being made for expenditure of €677 million on targeted road improvements for that period. Within the context of the capital ceilings set for the Department and its delivery agencies, the funding allocation for new public transport and new roads is in keeping with the agreement in the programme for Government. A 2:1 ratio will be maintained between new public transport investment and new road investment.

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. Might it be possible to identify a national minimum standard for quality of roads to facilitate those parts of the country that will require access to markets for heavy transport vehicles and access to investment in their respective areas, having particular regard to the fact that in a line from Belfast to Cork, and to an extent to Limerick and Galway, there is no access to that level of quality? From the point of view of investment in jobs and employment, there is a necessity to do so in the future.

I thank the Deputy. Ensuring that minimum standards are kept is a matter for local authorities. Local authorities, with TII, identify roads that need to be further maintained. The maintenance, protection and renewal budget was protected, which recognises the importance of road connectivity and safety for all road users. It is critical that we have new road infrastructure built as part of that. Public transport uses roads. We also need to make sure that we maintain and upgrade our existing road network to ensure we meet the minimum standards and that we retrofit, where possible, by putting in bus lanes, for example. All of this will form part of our vision for ensuring that we are connecting Ireland both in our rural and urban settings.

Would it be possible to make contact with the respective local authorities with a view to identifying the precise requirements in that area? I am thinking in particular of the increased employment prospects, which we are trying to encourage outside the immediate Dublin area to alleviate traffic congestion and to encourage industrial investment and employment throughout the country on a more even-handed basis. Would it be possible to contact the relevant local authorities directly with a view to achieving that kind of minimum standard for connectivity to facilitate our growing population and investment in jobs in the future?

I thank the Chair for the opportunity to speak and I thank Deputy Durkan for bringing an important question to the House. I would like to speak in support of the points that Deputy Durkan is making. On the new 2:1 ratio of expenditure on public transport to expenditure on roads infrastructure, it is important that we prioritise many of the vital smaller schemes around rural Ireland. In my own constituency, as the Minister of State is familiar with, I have been seeking to have the Castlemartyr and Killeagh scheme prioritised to alleviate the 24,000 passenger vehicles travelling along national routes through small villages. It is important for the Government to fulfil commitments that have been made through the new NDP and in the engagement process beforehand to ensure that these types of projects get full prioritisation, funding and support from the Government. They are needed in addition to the welcome investment in public transport.

I thank both Deputies. A list of projects is mentioned in the NDP. Projects currently under construction are the M50 traffic control management unit, the N5 from Westport to Turlough, the N56 from Dungloe to Glenties, the N22 from Baile Bhuirne to Macroom, the M8 Dunkettle interchange, and the N5 from Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge. There are other projects earmarked to begin construction within the coming months, for example, the N59 Moycullen bypass and the Listowel bypass. Deputies may feel that other projects are absolutely critical. We all have our own views on our own areas that we are familiar with, including local employment, local education and the connectivity that is required. It is up to the local representatives, working with local authorities, to put forward proposals regarding further projects that may be deemed necessary, looking at demographics, employment and future prospects over the next few years. That is part of the national development plan too. It explicitly states that local authorities can put forward proposals on projects that may be deemed necessary for their areas.