Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Ceisteanna (115, 116)

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

171 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport his views on a recent ESRI report which held that Transport 21 was a seriously flawed document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6581/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

254 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his views on a recent ESRI report which held that Transport 21 was a seriously flawed document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6632/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions 171 and 254 together.

In December 2006, the ESRI published, as part of its Winter 2006 Quarterly Economic Commentary, an article entitled Evaluation Transport 21. While I welcome any constructive assessment of Transport 21, I do not accept the analysis in that article. Transport 21 provides unprecedented capital investment for the development of Ireland's transport system over the period to 2015. This investment will transform both the national road and public transport networks in the country. The investment programme being funded by Transport 21 is based on an extensive and robust body of research, analysis and policy work over a period of years and the projects identified for development are consistent with the results of that work.

The DTO's A Platform for Change provides the basis for the proposed investment in Dublin and this was subject to an independent economic evaluation, which is reported in the document itself. Iarnród Éireann carried out and appraisal of its Greater Dublin Integrated Rail Network Plan and this was reviewed by independent consultants and found to be robust. A full appraisal was also undertaken of the Strategic Rail Review by the independent consultants that prepared it and the proposed national roads investment was informed by the Roads Needs Study.

Each project in Transport 21 will be evaluated in strict accordance with the Department of Finance Capital Appraisal Guidelines and Value for Money criteria. They will also have to go through the necessary statutory approval processes, which, for most projects, will mean a public hearing before an inspector where the case for the project, including the business case, will have to be clearly set out. Indeed, I have gone further than Department of Finance Guidelines require in that my Department has commissioned independent consultancy reviews of the business cases for a number of major public transport projects presented by its agencies.

In addition, I have established a Monitoring Group, comprising representatives of a number of Government Departments, to oversee progress on Transport 21. The Group will satisfy itself that proper procedures are being followed in the appraisal, management and post project review of projects. In this regard, an independent audit is being put in place, which, among other things, will review how the implementing agencies are appraising projects, so as to satisfy Government of the robustness of these evaluation processes and their consistency with the Department of Finance Guidelines.

Already, the country is beginning to see the benefits of the significant investment that has been made in transport infrastructure over the past few years. The major inter-urban roads programme is on target for completion in 2010, with about 67% of the network either open to traffic or under construction. Most of the roads projects completed last year were delivered ahead of or on time and under budget. Our railways are also witnessing significant increases in passenger numbers, with Iarnród Éireann's carryings at a record high of over 43 million journeys and Luas carrying almost 26 million in 2006. I expect further significant progress in 2007.

The unprecedented funding provided in Transport 21 is needed now to develop a modern transport infrastructure that the country requires for its future economic prosperity. I am glad that the Government has re-affirmed its commitment to Transport 21 by including all of the projects for the period 2007 to 2013 in the National Development Plan.

Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 135.