Seanad debates

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Commencement Matters

Road Projects Status

10:30 am

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for the opportunity to address this matter which is a priority for him and others in the region. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, including the western relief road in Carrigaline, is a statutory function of the local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded from these moneys is a matter for each local authority.

Ireland has a particularly extensive road network, at approximately 99,000 km, and the maintenance and improvement of national, regional and local roads places a substantial financial burden on local authorities and the Exchequer. Given the cutbacks in State funding for regional and local roads during the recession, it was necessary to curtail the grant programme for major new regional and local road schemes and major realignment schemes to protect the funding available for the maintenance of the existing network.Analysis undertaken by the Department of the strategic framework for investment in land transport published in 2015 estimated, on a conservative basis, that expenditure of €580 million per annum is needed to keep the regional and local road network in steady condition. To avoid deterioration in the condition of the regional and local road network each year, 5% of the network needs to be strengthened and 5% needs to be sealed by way of surface dressing works. For the past number of years, only half the required road pavement works have been undertaken on the regional and local road network. These are the difficulties we face in addressing this issue which I acknowledge is a cause of huge concern to the Senator. The background is very bad but I am sure the Senator will be aware that the situation is improving and will improve further in the years ahead, particularly in 2019 and 2020, and in the context of the mid-term review, which is due to commence soon.

Decisions on the transport elements of the capital plan 2016-21 were, therefore, framed by the conclusions reached in the strategic investment framework for land transport. Based on the findings of that report, it is envisaged that maintenance and renewal of the road network will continue to be the main priority in the medium term and the bulk of the roads capital budget, approximately €4.4 billion, is earmarked for essential work, with a further €600 million allocated for implementation of the PPP road network, which is already under way. My Department must work within the annual allocation set out in the plan. In this context, the capital plan provides for a gradual build up in capital funding from a relatively low base to the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. While there will be an almost 9% increase in overall funding in this area in 2017, it will take some years to restore steady State funding levels for land transport. The focus will have to continue to be on maintenance and renewal of infrastructure.

Under the strategic grants scheme programme, my Department provided grant assistance to Cork County Council for the acquisition of land for the Carrigaline western relief road. As already mentioned by Senator Lombard, there is no grant commitment in place for the construction of the road. In this context, it was not possible to include a range of road upgrade projects in the capital plan given the overall funding envelope available. As regards the possibility of additional funding within the plan period, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is commencing the capital plan review. While there is a strong case for additional funding for the transport sector, the parameters for the review and the final decisions on allocations are matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government as a whole. I continue to emphasise to the local authorities the importance of prioritising expenditure on roads when allocating their resources.


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