It means almost no effect or neutral.
We could spend a long time going through the detail so I will highlight one or two issues. The major interurban road network improvements represent one of the major elements of the investment programme. We have assessed that the effects of that on national competitiveness are marginal. At the same time it has cost a lot of money, much of it funded through PPP schemes but, nevertheless, it does represent a significant drawdown of Exchequer funding. The consequences for the environment are potentially significant. As we will see, Ireland's performance in terms of CO2 emissions makes for a very challenging future. The current economic situation offers a respite but does not really address that challenge going forward. The road improvement programme also throws up a number of difficulties the country will have to face in terms of spatial development, in particular the promotion of urban sprawl and with that the consequences both for the environment and equity issues.
One other example to highlight is the Luas improvements. There again, the contribution to national competitiveness is marginal. The cost has been significant but not nearly of the scale of the investment in roads. It has brought about some localised environmental benefits and also some spatial development benefits in the greater Dublin area promoting a more sustainable urban development form for the future. Likewise, there are other benefits in the areas of safety and equity. The table to which I refer is designed to illustrate the points on which we base our final assessment and recommendations.
One of the issues that has emerged from the work we have done is that Transport 21 largely ignored the environment and the consequences that go along with the investment programme. One graph attempts to show how Ireland's performance has changed relative to other countries in various parts of the world in terms of CO2 emissions. The essential thing to note in terms of the bar chart on view is the massive increase in per capita emissions that have taken place in the period covered by the graph. That is a challenge that will re-emerge substantially when the economy grows again after the current recession period.
It is interesting to note that in the meantime the Government has become wholly aware of this challenge and through its smarter travel plans has identified these and related areas as a series of clearly identifiable policy goals. It has identified a need to reduce travel demand and also reduce the level of car dependency. It has highlighted the need for a reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Measures have been identified in terms of decarbonising the car fleet, for instance. Issues have also been identified on the need to improve the accessibility of transport services and its accessibility to the community as a whole. It is important therefore to use that as a new starting point for the future. On the basis of the current economic circumstances the country faces and recognising the environmental and other challenges that exist for this and future generations we have identified a potential to refocus Transport 21 both for the rest of the period covered by the programme but going beyond that because obviously financial issues may dictate that to be the case. We have identified three broad strands, the first of which is the need to develop a multimodal approach to the major interurban corridors. The sorts of routes in question include those between Dublin and Cork, and Dublin and Galway. With regard to these corridors, we need to consider road pricing or some fuel duty increase.
One of the major consequences of improvements in roads has been undermining of the competitiveness of the railway system. The railway system faces a considerable challenge. It is highly subsidised and the subsidy requirement will rise sharply given the reduced competitiveness of the system. The country will then be faced with three options, one of which would be to accept a rising level of subsidy, and with that a reduced role for the railway as it becomes more dependent on people without access to cars. The second option would be to close the system down progressively. Given the financial position, that might be thought about. The third option involves overhauling the system radically to enable it to compete with the high-quality road system that has been developed in recent years. That would have very significant consequences for the country and the perception of people within it. I refer to the enabling of journey times between Dublin and Cork of one hour and 45 minutes, and similar journey times between Dublin and Limerick and other such routes throughout the island.
This affords an opportunity to deal with a phenomenon mentioned several times, that is, the financial support given to regional air services. They are heavily loss-making and require much subsidy given the size of the market served to ensure their continued operation. That subsidy could be used more productively to support surface-based public transport.
One of the points that emerged from our review is that there is little in Transport 21 about freight. This is a major issue that needs to be dealt with urgently. Evidence relating to the greater Dublin area suggests the financial position will dictate a major reduction in the amount of spending on transport. Since the Government issued its reprioritisation material in the summer, indications are that expenditure will have to be further reduced by two thirds. I refer to transport expenditure that is approximately 25% of what was being sustained up to 2009. The result is a need for prioritisation of major schemes. We reviewed the DART underground project, the Luas cross-city project and the metro north scheme and the evidence suggests that, on the basis of value for money for the taxpayer, priorities are such that the DART underground project should proceed first.
We also identified an opportunity to exploit the potential for road-user charging in the Dublin area. That would have two major implications. First, it would be a very useful traffic-management tool and, second, it would be a source of revenue to support the transport system as a whole. None of the recommendations would work without a much stronger planning system. During the review, we had extensive discussions with key officials who indicated that this was in train and would be pursued actively in the future. Allied to the transport proposals is a much stronger planning system that will encourage a more sustainable pattern of urban development.
Transport 21 had a major focus on Dublin and the interurban corridors but an important issue must be addressed in terms of major urban centres outside Dublin, including Cork, Limerick and Galway. All warrant the development of schemes that will support a much more sustainable future and that will help support those cities' future competitiveness as centres of economic activity. We have identified in the documents detailed proposals for this. There is a very strong need for more progressive and active monitoring of the impact of transport spending and whether the State is obtaining value for money from the investments being made.
We have seven messages we believe are appropriate. We identify and recognise that circumstances have changed radically since 2006, economically and environmentally. We have highlighted the success achieved in terms of the spending programme in improving the major interurban road network. Those improvements and road schemes have had an unintended consequence, that is, they have undermined the competitiveness of the major intercity rail network. We, therefore, recommend multimodal strategies to be pursued for those corridors, which strategies would seek to ensure the competitiveness of the railway system and bring about major environmental benefits, such as reduced dependency on the private car and, consequently, reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
With regard to the greater Dublin area, we have identified the need to prioritise projects given a limited budget and we have identified the DART underground scheme as the most promising in terms of potential to boost economic competitiveness, not only in Dublin but in the State as a whole. We have identified the need for potential opportunities afforded by various forms of road-user charging, within and outside Dublin.