Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
858. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will confirm the commitment to fund the TEN-T priority route improvement project (details supplied) in County Donegal; when it will go to construction; and the status of the commitment to co-fund the long delayed, Derry and Donegal to Dublin A5 upgrade dual carriageway project in order that the north-west region can have the same access and economic opportunities as the rest of the country. [11024/20]
As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and securing funding in relation to the national roads programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. TII is, therefore, responsible for the distribution of funds under the Capital Programme for the implementation of the national roads programme in accordance with Project Ireland 2040, within the framework of the National Development Plan (NDP).
Consequently, I have referred the question on the TEN-T project to TII for a direct reply. If you do not get a reply within ten working days, please revert to my office.
In relation to the Derry/Donegal to Dublin A5 project the planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade dual carriageway project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities.
As is the case for all such capital projects, the A5 upgrade scheme is subject to the planning assessment and approval process in Northern Ireland and since 2012 there have been a number of legal challenges to approvals related to the scheme. This has led to unavoidable delays to the implementation of the proposed scheme.
Most recently, a challenge to a decision by the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure to proceed with the A5 scheme resulted in the decision to proceed being quashed by the High Court at the request of the Department for Infrastructure in November 2018.
Following the conclusion of that legal action the Department for Infrastructure updated project environmental assessments and undertook a public consultation on a number of environmental reports, including an Environmental Statement Addendum 2019. The Department announced in August 2019 that based on the responses to the consultation the Department had concluded that a further public inquiry was required.
The Planning Appeals Commission was appointed to hold the inquiry and the hearings concluded on 13 March 2020. It is understood that the Department for Infrastructure is awaiting the Inspector’s report, which is scheduled for completion in September 2020.
The funding arrangements in relation to the A5 have been governed by the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan - A Fresh Start. Under this Agreement the Government is committed to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) towards the cost of Phase 1a of the A5 upgrade scheme once the statutory planning process in Northern Ireland is concluded. The Government's commitment to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) up to 2022 is also now included in the "New Decade, New Approach" document.
Allowing for the time required for the completion of the Public Inquiry process and for all new decisions relating to the project to be taken together with the possibility of a further legal challenge, the timeframe for the start of construction of Phase 1a of the A5 project is still uncertain. In view of the current state of play in relation to the A5 scheme and the timeframes involved, provision was not made in 2019 and is not being made in the calendar year 2020 for funding for the scheme by this Department.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to national roads. Under the Roads Acts, 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction of national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. TII and Donegal County Council have suceeded in securing EU funding for the design/planning stages of a number of TEN-T national road projects in County Donegal. However eligibility for such funding is confined to a subset of the national road network and is not available for improvement works on regional and local roads.
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is a matter for the Council.
There has been no co-funding available from the EU for regional and local roads since the conclusion of the ERDF-funded Non National Road Measure in the Regional Operational Programmes under the Community Support Framework for 2000-2006. Regional and local road works programmes are now funded from Councils' own resources supplemented by Exchequer road grants. The Department's grants to local authorities reflect the amount of Exchequer funding available.
Details of the regional and local road grant allocations and payments to local authorities are outlined in the regional and local road grant booklets which are available in the Oireachtas Library.