Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport

Revised National Development Plan: Discussion

Mr. Peter Walsh:

Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you for the invitation to attend today. I am joined by my colleague, Mr. Nigel O’Neill, director of capital programme management. I understand that the committee wishes to discuss the revised National Development Plan 2021-2030, NDP, published on 4 October 2021. Before commenting on the NDP, I would like to briefly describe the duties assigned to TII through legislation.

The National Roads Authority, NRA, operating as TII since 2015, was established under the 1993 Roads Act. It is the general duty of the authority to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads, having regard to the needs of all users. TII is the approving authority for national road projects.

In 2015, the NRA was merged with the Rail Procurement Agency and the Roads Act 2015 added the function of securing the provision of, or providing, such light rail and metro railway infrastructure as may be determined by the NTA. The NTA is the approving authority for metro and light rail projects. In September 2021, TII became the approving authority for greenways. I make the distinction between the duty and function of TII in order to explain why, whereas I will provide information to the committee in relation to national roads projects, I will defer to the NTA as the approving authority for the MetroLink and Luas light rail projects.

I will speak on NDP priorities for national roads. The NDP is structured around the ten national strategic outcomes set out in the national planning framework and listed in an appendix to this statement. Priorities are set out in the NDP for national roads in six areas.

First is protection and renewal, supporting national strategic outcomes Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 10. Maintaining Ireland’s existing national road network to a robust and safe standard for users is identified as a key sectoral priority. The national road network is valued at approximately €31 billion. The first priority area for TII is managing the asset condition of the 5,300 km of the national road network, sustaining operations and maintenance, providing enhanced priority for public transport, enhancing safety, and providing managed motorway systems. The pavement asset management programme is the largest component of protection and renewal. The NDP gives explicit priority to providing climate resilience measures. The provision of minor safety improvement projects and safety schemes is also an important part of protection and renewal.

The second area comprises major projects under, and commencing, construction and supporting outcomes 1 and 2. Investment in these projects is committed to and identified in the NDP as contributing to enhanced regional accessibility and compact growth. Since 2018, five projects have been completed while five others are under construction. They are the M50 traffic control and management, N5 Westport to Turlough, N56 Dungloe to Glenties, N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom, and the M8 Dunkettle interchange upgrade. Three projects, the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge, N59 Moycullen bypass and the N69 Listowel bypass, will commence construction within a few months and be complete in 2024.

The third area comprises major projects in planning supporting outcome 2, enhanced regional accessibility. The N20 Cork to Limerick project is identified as a major investment in the NDP and in a list of selected investments for the southern region. The project is being brought through planning and, subject to approvals, delivery.

The fourth area is major projects in planning supporting outcome 6, high quality international connectivity. Explicit priority is given to progressing, through planning and delivery, national roads projects which strengthen access routes and improve connectivity to Ireland’s ports, specifically, the N21-N69 Limerick to Adare and Foynes, N28 Cork to Ringaskiddy, and N11-N25 Oilgate to Rosslare Harbour projects. The N28 Cork to Ringaskiddy project received confirmation of its planning consent and land acquisition orders in March. An Bord Pleanála has indicated that its decision in relation to planning and land acquisition consents for the N21-N69 Limerick to Adare and Foynes project will issue this month.

The fifth area is major projects in planning supporting outcome 1, compact growth. The NDP gives priority to the delivery of infrastructure which facilitates compact growth in towns and cities and national roads projects that provide bypasses for urban areas experiencing major congestion. One such project is the N6 Galway city ring road, which is in planning. An Bord Pleanála has indicated that its decision on planning and land acquisition consents for this project will issue this month. Other projects in this category are the N2 Slane bypass and N52 Ardee bypass.

Finally, there are other major projects in planning. Explicit priority is given to progressing another 24 named national roads projects listed on page 64 of the NDP. These projects are to be progressed through planning in the 2021-2030 period, subject to further approvals and available funding. A further, implicit, objective of the NDP is that national roads projects additional to those listed in the NDP can be considered for progression to planning in the 2021-2030 period subject to funding and further approvals.

On funding, five-year departmental capital allocations for the period 2021-2025 are set out in the NDP. The figure given for the Department of Transport is the gross voted capital allocation. The funding to be allocated to TII is not set out. The Department has indicated that the funding for new national roads for the ten years of the NDP will be €5.1 billion of Exchequer funding. However, current indications are that funding in the years 2021-2025 will be in the order of €1 billion and much of that will be required to complete the projects at construction with limited funding available for the progression of projects in the planning phase. Separate funding for protection and renewal is to be provided.

I thank members for their attention.


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