Thursday, 21 November 2019

Ceisteanna (10)

Brendan Smith


10. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a substantial increase in funding for the non-national roads network in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48138/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (5 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister is aware, there is no rail network in south Ulster and a consequent total dependence on the road network. In many instances, the regional road network in counties such as Cavan and Monaghan is equivalent to the national road network in other counties. There should be a substantial increase in funding for the non-national road network in light of its crucial importance in rural Border counties such as Cavan and Monaghan.

As I indicated in response to a previous question from Deputy MacSharry, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on these roads are funded from local authorities' own resources, supplemented by State road grants. Regional and local road grant allocations are finalised following the publication of the Revised Estimates Volume and take into account the expenditure outturn on projects and programmes in the preceding year.

As Minister, I have to work within the budget available to my Department. The 2020 allocations will reflect that. That being said and while the Revised Estimates Volume has not been published as yet, I anticipate additional funding for regional and national roads in 2020.

As in previous years, my objective will be to allocate funding to eligible local authorities on as equitable a basis as possible taking the length of the road network and traffic factors into account. The main focus of the grants will continue to be maintenance and renewal of the regional and local road network with a view to making progress towards steady-state levels of expenditure.

The allocations under the various grant programmes will be announced as early as possible in the new year.

In addition to increasing the moneys available for roads, it is important to manage those moneys effectively. In this context the Department reviews and updates its memorandum on grants for regional and local roads on a regular basis. This document seeks to ensure good value for money in respect of road grant expenditure.

In recent years, my Department has also supported a road asset management system, MapRoad, for regional and local roads. As part of this process, a road management office, RMO, was established as a shared service between the 31 local authorities. The RMO and the Department have been working with local authorities to ensure that the MapRoad pavement management system includes: an up-to-date road schedule of public roads; a record of all pavement-related works; and information on road surface types and road pavement condition.

The road pavement condition information generated by the MapRoad system forms the basis for the NOAC performance reports.

The objective of the MapRoad pavement management system and the NOAC reports is to provide the data needed for evidence-based prioritisation and management of both annual work programmes and multi-annual programmes by each local authority in their capacity as the statutory road authority for their area.

I thank the Minister. He is aware that the two counties I have the privilege to represent depend very much on indigenous business. Much of our employment is through small and medium-sized enterprises. Many of those enterprises are located along county and regional roads. To try to assist business in reducing costs in the very challenging time that lies ahead for enterprise in the Border region due to Brexit and other challenges, I appeal to the Minister, as I did in the past, to ensure that infrastructure is brought up to a better standard. As we know, good infrastructure helps to reduce costs for business and increase competitiveness. When deciding on the allocations for the non-national road network, I appeal to the Minister to take into account the particular needs of counties such as Cavan and Monaghan that have no rail network and are totally dependent on transferring goods and persons by road.

I will take what the Deputy has said into account when considering these allocations. The good news obviously is that I anticipate an increase to be announced in January. I cannot make any specific promises about where that money will go, but obviously it is a matter of great importance for the Deputy's area and others.

We need to recognise that the size of the national, regional and local road network, at approximately 100,000 km, which is twice the European average per capita, will always create funding pressures for the Exchequer and local authorities. The funding cutbacks during the recession had a major impact on the maintenance and improvement of the road network. Overall grant funding dropped from €2.3 billion in 2008 to €753 million in 2015. Funding for regional and local roads dropped from €604 million to a lowest point of €320 million in 2015.

We are under pressure of time. Deputy Brendan Smith has kindly forfeited his second supplementary question.