Wednesday, 23 September 2015
7. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the upgrading of the N7; when works will be scheduled to commence; the expected completion time for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31805/15]
The value for money for this three-stage project far outweighs any other project on the road transport programme. I sincerely hope that when the Minister announces something, this will be part of it. As far as I am concerned, the key part of it, a link from the M4 across to the N7, is the Sallins bypass. Huge volumes of traffic are going through this small village. All the towns along the route have been bypassed except for Sallins. This is probably the third part of the whole key. I welcome the Minister's response.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding for the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. The assessment and prioritisation of individual national road projects within its overall capital budget is also a matter for TII.
Due to the national financial position, there have been very large reductions in expenditure on roads in recent years. Funding in 2008 was €2.3 billion while funding this year is around €764 million for the national, regional and local road network. The reality is that available funds have fallen well short of the amount of work that could be undertaken.
The Government will publish its new capital plan shortly. This plan will take into account the maintenance and strengthening needs of our road network to ensure it is fit for purpose. I am well aware of the importance of the project to which the Deputy has referred and the contribution it could and would make to economic development in his community and his county, as well as the scale of potential job creation, as it would have a very significant knock-on effect elsewhere. Those points and the Deputy's support for the project are well recognised in the work I am doing at the moment.
I understand where the Minister is coming from. I reiterate that it is a key bottleneck in the whole infrastructure. Since the upgrading of the Newlands Cross flyover we have seen increased traffic through the small villages of Kill and Johnstown as a result of that bottleneck. We see the potential for expansion at the millennium business park. There is already talk of a new application being made for 50,000 sq. ft. of office space if that interchange can be achieved.
The Sallins bypass is also crucial for that small village, which has a constant flow of traffic coming from the M4 to the N7, trying to bypass the M50 which is almost at capacity at peak times during the day. I really appreciate the Minister's support.
As the Deputy knows, I am not in a position to confirm or announce what will be in the plan or whether all or some of what he refers to will be included. I have to get Government support and agreement as to what that project will be and I am working on that at the moment. I reiterate that I am very much aware of the need for the projects to which he is referring. The Deputy has raised the matter with me continually over the past year and a half. I am particularly aware, because I see it myself, that although it has made a great difference in travel time for people coming off and onto the M50 and is a really important project, since the Newlands Cross flyover has been opened, it has had a displacement effect on other communities. There is also potential for further jobs in the areas to which the Deputy has referred. I take on board the points he makes and I am doing my best to respond to this and, indeed, to other projects.
To make one last point, the planning permission has been granted, all the ducks are in a row, but there is a notice for treaty that could be running out and I would be concerned about that. I exhort the Minister to put as much pressure as he can on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to include this.
I am well exhorted in respect of this project. I am aware of all the points the Deputy has made. I have outlined the challenges I face. We have a capital budget that has rapidly decreased for reasons with which we are all familiar. I am working very closely with the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and have been doing so for nearly a year, on how we can respond to the challenges we face.
I am very much aware of the fact that as we see the economy recovering, the infrastructure we have in place must be developed to support growth. We must ensure growth takes place in a way that is both economically and socially sustainable. We need to enable communities to make journeys safely, in a reasonable time and in such a way that the kinds of towns to which the Deputy referred do not find huge quantities of traffic being diverted into them because of other projects that have taken place.