Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Departmental Expenditure

9:40 am

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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11. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total capital funding provided for his Department in 2022; the expenditure profile at the end of August 2022; if there is likely to be an underspend in any particular area, if so, if additional funding will be provided for the non-national road network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46316/22]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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23. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total funding provided in 2022 for the non-national road network; if he will ensure that increased funding will be provided for this road network in 2023 due to the need for an increased investment in these roads in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46315/22]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I thank my colleagues for assisting me because I have a meeting at 10 a.m. I hope that there is not an underspend on the capital side of the departmental budget at this particular time. If there is, I would like a reallocation of funding for the non-national road network. Our regional and county roads need more investment. Thankfully, there is an increasing in population in rural Ireland. If funding is available, I sincerely hope that it would be devoted to the non-national road network programme.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 23 together. In response to the Deputy’s query, the total capital funding allocated to the Department for investment in 2022 is €2.547 billion. As of the end of August 2022, €926.116 million in capital was profiled for expenditure and €707 million was issued. The variance was €219.110 million. In addition, €155.043 million of unspent capital was carried over from last year, of which €151.238 million was issued.

I will briefly summarise the expenditure profile for each programme. Under programme A, sustainable mobility, active travel and greenways, expenditure is €86.572 million compared to profile of €62.856 million, or 38% ahead of profile. Under programme B, sustainable mobility, carbon reduction and public transport, taking electric vehicle, EV, and EV infrastructure grants first, expenditure is €50.425 million, compared to profile of €63.034 million, or 12% behind profile. Expenditure is €165.856 million for heavy rail and public transport investment compared to profile of €271.148 million, or 39% behind profile. Under programme C, road safety and road networks, expenditure is €402.068 million compared to profile of €526.617 million, or 24% behind profile. Under programme D, civil aviation, expenditure is on profile, with no expenditure scheduled to take place prior to the fourth quarter. Under programme E, maritime transport and safety, expenditure is €1.311 million, compared to profile of €1.647 million, or 20% behind profile.

For subheads with underspends, the reasons for variations between expenditure and profile are as follows: in grants and infrastructure, the LEV grants provide funding towards several EV purchase grants, which are demand led. In general, demand was lower than expected at this point in the year due to global supply chain issues impacting on the availability and delivery of new vehicles into the Irish market. The drawdown of funding for infrastructure is also being impacted by global supply chains. In addition, the launch of a scheme for apartment charging had been delayed and was launched with Zero Emissions Vehicles Ireland, ZEVI, on 21 July. Under heavy rail safety and development, the underspend is predominantly due to the reduction in spend on DART+ fleet because of a renegotiation of the timing of milestone payments, with a significant down payment made to Alstom in December last year, which had originally been scheduled for this year. There is also a reduction in expenditure on new Intercity railcars due to an updated delivery schedule of 2023 for the majority of railcars.

In the area of public transport infrastructure, the underspend is predominantly due to a reduction in spend on ticketing, technology and integration, support and the bus programme. In the case of BusConnects Dublin, there have been delays to the delivery of new fleet. In construction and development of national roads, some of the underspend relates to the timing of payments. Regarding significant project delay, as Roadbridge Ltd. went into receivership in March, leading to the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge project being suspended.

Finally, in the area of regional roads, expenditure to end August on protection and renewal of regional and local roads was close to profile while expenditure on road improvement projects was behind profile. The shortfall in expenditure for road improvement projects is due largely to the impact of the Roadbridge receivership on the Coonagh to Knockalisheen distribution road project.

I will not read out the rest of this reply, but I would make the point that those underspends at this present time will be clawed back. We will not have a significant underspend at the end of the year. There are a number of additional rail and public transport projects that we expect to deliver and spend on in this year, which will mean that those underspends will not accrue at the end of the year.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister for his detailed reply. He negotiated very well in his Estimates campaign last year. There is a substantial spend under each heading. I sincerely hope that he will secure increased funding for the regional and local roads and the non-national road network for the coming year. As I mentioned earlier, thankfully there is a growth in population in rural areas. My own county is very rural and there is few national roads because of our Border situation. We are heavily dependent on the non-national network for the siting of people’s homes and enterprise and business. There is a lot of heavy traffic and we need to ensure that for the roads, which are at a reasonable standard at the moment, there is investment in those to protect the investment that was made over the years. Many roads in both counties are crying out for investment and upgrading. In this day and age, people are entitled to a proper standard of road to their home and to their place of work. I urge the Minister, if there is any leeway under any of the subheads, to consider allocating to the local authorities that have the capacity to spend more money before the end of this year and ensure there is increased funding for 2023.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I agree with the Deputy.

One of the key investments we need to make is in the protection and renewal of existing assets. As they Deputy will be aware, if we let a road go it costs far more to bring it back when there is structural damage, potholes and so on. It is far better to invest now in maintaining the road surface, the network and the drains. That saves money in the long run. We must ensure that is protected, which it has been in recent budgets.

The reality is that there are so many different asks, as we heard earlier, particularly in respect of new services connecting Ireland, including new rail services. We still have a significant shift to make. We are heading, as a Government, towards a ratio of 2:1 expenditure on public transport compared to roads. We are not anywhere near that yet. The significant increases in transport spending to come are going to be on public transport to make sure that we have options. Deputies Tóibín, O'Rourke and others said earlier that critical public transport projects need funding. Any underspend that we have this year is going to be used to invest in some of those projects for rail and other solutions that will give us the capacity we need to also help the roads by taking some of that traffic off them. Deputy Tóibín mentioned that it took him two hours to get in this morning. The solution to that is investing in public transport to help those who have to be on the roads.

9:50 am

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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A project that I have discussed with the Minister previously is the proposed east-west route from Sligo to Dundalk, via counties Fermanagh, Cavan and Monaghan. Parts of that road have been upgraded. It carries a large volume of traffic. It is an important artery in the Border region and the northern half of our country. I sincerely hope that dedicated funding can be provided in 2023 to ensure further planning, upgrading and the commencement of some works along that route, which is particularly important for towns such as Cootehill, Shercock, Carrickmacross and into Dundalk..

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I recall the Deputy and I having several conversations on that. The prioritising of roads is something that TII has a central role in. It does all work in this entire capital budget. There is not too much negotiation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the capital side, because the figures are set out in the national development plan. The approach to take in investment priorities within that is also set out in the plan. However, we have to take into account local specifics and areas, particularly where there is a lot of heavy haulage traffic and urban towns and villages that are getting that as through traffic. They are areas where we do have a specific problem. The route mentioned by the Deputy has some of the characteristics of that.