Thursday, 16 December 2021
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
7. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has read the recently published Navan rail line assessment report; if he will now prioritise this important project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62399/21]
I wish to ask whether the Minister of State has read the recently published Navan rail line assessment report, if she will now prioritise this important project and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I have no doubt Deputy O'Rourke welcomes the inclusion in the draft transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, GDA, of a new rail link to Navan as one of its many projects and programmes to be delivered by 2042. I know the issue of a rail link to Navan was one of several that generated a significant number of submissions during the original public consultation held by the National Transport Authority, NTA, in November 2020. The GDA transport strategy is subject to a formal statutory approval process and will ultimately be submitted for ministerial approval in 2022. Therefore, it is not appropriate at this juncture to speak about prioritisation of one particular project over another.
As the Deputy is aware, there is a long lead-in time for big projects like this. If it is included in the final strategy, this project will require significant planning and design before it is shovel-ready. As it stands, the draft strategy, which covers all modes of transport and all counties in the GDA, proposes delivery of the Navan rail line in the latter half of the strategy period. On the proposal itself, the background report prepared for the NTA considered again the strategic rationale for such a rail link. It considered rail and bus options, re-examined the potential alignments of a rail link and provided a high-level assessment of cost and demand. While the benefit-to-cost ratio returned by the economic assessment was less than that seen for some other projects, the report concluded there was a strong strategic rationale for the proposal and that is why it has been brought forward for inclusion in the draft strategy.
Consultation on the draft strategy is currently open and is running until 17 December. I encourage the Deputy to make the case for the rail link in the final version of thestrategy, which will be submitted for ministerial approval in 2022.
I thank the Minister of State for her response. As she said, thousands of people from right across County Meath made submissions in support of the proposed extension of the rail line to Navan via Dunshaughlin. The evidence base has now been built for this project. It was contested for some time but anybody who recognised the opportunity that was there knew that the business case for the proposal would stand on its own two feet. Indeed, it does that and more. I ask the Minister of State to outline the opportunity, within the constraints that exist, to expedite and deliver this project ahead of the indicated timeframe of 2031 for the construction stage.
The NTA is working closely with Meath County Council to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the benefits of the Navan rail project encapsulating economic, environmental and societal benefits in addition to a multi-criteria analysis of options in accordance with the common appraisal framework for transport projects programmes. It is due to commence shortly.
It is expected that the revised transport strategy will be ready for approval and publication by mid-2022. Alongside the national development plan, NDP, the Department's forthcoming land transport investment framework will put in place a strategic framework to ensure that investment in the transport sector in the coming decades aligns with the overarching Government policies such as spatial targets for 2040.
It is a major project that will require significant design and planning. We have to wait for the strategy to be completed first.
We welcomed the initial consultation. We engaged extensively in it and encouraged others to do so. We are doing the same for tomorrow's deadline. There is serious frustration in the community that the project has been delayed to the extent that it has been. We understand the process but it is incredibly frustrating that the Government is moving from one review to another to a framework to a strategy. The case has been made in black and white. The project needs to be delivered. People want to see a date where rather than driving and sitting in traffic on the road to Dublin, they can get on a train.
I recognise the investment and the commitment in the NDP but it is backloaded. The Department is down money this year. It has had a 6% reduction in funding. Will the Minister of State commit to ensuring this project proceeds as quickly as possible?
There is a requirement under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 that the preparation of a transport strategy for the GDA is carried out. The current strategy was published in 2016. That extends to 2035. The Act requires that the strategy be reviewed every six years in line with the statutory framework. The NTA's transport strategy for the GDA is under review. This is the process that we have to go through. It is a major project that will involve significant planning and design. It is important that people feed into the second round of public consultation, which is open until 17 December.