Project Ireland 2040 is the Government’s overarching long-term strategy for the development of Irish society. Transport has a key enabling role to play in delivering this strategy and PLUTO will help to ensure that transport investment is aligned with and supports the ten National Strategic Outcomes.
The National Development Plan, published in February 2018 at the launch of Project Ireland 2040, notes my Department’s development of PLUTO and estimated that a draft report would go to public consultation in the fourth quarter of 2018, with the final report then to be published in 2019. This original timeline has been impacted by a number of factors.
PLUTO is underpinned by an extensive evidence base comprising of 13 background papers carried out by officials in my Department. These papers consider a wide range of issues such as climate change, Brexit, technology, steady state maintenance, compact growth, rural accessibility, interurban connectivity and international connectivity. Undertaking and finalising this volume of analysis underpinning PLUTO, including associated review and engagement with the Steering Group, has taken longer than originally anticipated.
To help guide future transport investment to support the delivery of Project Ireland 2040, a particular focus of PLUTO has been identifying potential constraints on the future land transport network. Using the transport models held by the National Transport Authority and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, this has involved scenario analysis based on National Planning Framework population projections and National Development Plan investment. Ensuring these scenarios were appropriately specified and provided robust evidence for PLUTO took considerable time.
The Strategic Research and Analysis Division within my Department which is leading the development of PLUTO experienced some staff turnover and held a number of vacancies in the latter half of 2018 and into 2019. While the Division is now operating at capacity, staff moves as the project has developed have influenced the original timeline.
I note that good progress has been made on PLUTO and I expect that the public consultation on the strategy will now launch in the first quarter of 2020.