Planned road projects may not be completed in National Development Plan

Revisions to the National Development Plan may result in a number of flagship road projects not being completed
Planned road projects may not be completed in National Development Plan

Revisions to the National Development Plan may result in a number of flagship road projects not being completed.

A two-to-one rule which will favour public transport may mean road projects are downgraded, Government sources told The Irish Times.

The €165 billion 10-year plan (up from €116 billion in the last NDP) will set out the State's capital spending between now and 2030.

It will be launched in Cork today by Taoiseach Micheál Martin following a full Cabinet meeting.

A total of €35 billion will be pledged for transport spending up until 2030.

The big road projects included in the Fine Gael government's plan from 2018 will be retained — including the M20 motorway from Cork to Limerick; the Galway City outer ring road; the co-funded A5 to Derry; the upgrade of the N4 from Mullingar to Longford; and the N24 from Limerick to Waterford.

Two-to-one

Sources from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael described this as a “win”. However, it was quietly acknowledged 'within Government circles' that a two-to-one ratio in favour of public transport over roads would mean at least some of those projects would stall.

“The two-to-one ratio is very much carved into this NDP,’’ said a Government source. “There’s a commitment to BusConnects in Dublin and regional cities, regional rail, Dart Plus and MetroLink.”

The source said the list of road projects from 2018 will be included but with some strong “caveats” in terms of prioritisation for public transport.

One example was the 'M20' between Cork and Limerick, which will be described in the plan as M20/N20, meaning that some of the route will not be motorway grade and will be downgraded.

“This plan will involve a fundamental switch to public transport, which should not be a surprise to anyone as the two-to-one ratio is baked in,” the source added.

A senior Minister from one of the bigger coalition parties agreed. “Every thing is being climate assessed. You must remember it is (Green Party leader) Eamon Ryan who is managing the Department of Transport and also the transport budget.”

MetroLink

One of the key parts of the new plan will be the MetroLink connecting Dublin city centre to the airport, but there will be no estimate of price or completion date for the service.

It is included in the €1-billion plus band, however, if it goes ahead it will cost multiples of that.

Projects deemed “climate-positive” and “neutral” will get preference over those considered “climate-negative”.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said that the issue of reform has been at the heart of the review of the plan.

“Since I commenced the process with my officials and with colleagues across Government of instigating this review of the NDP about a year ago, the issue of reform has really been at the heart of it and has been a key focus of our attention over that period of time,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

The Minister said that he had introduced a number of “important reforms” in relation to the NDP, including “in the area of external oversight of major capital investment projects” that would see experts from outside the public sector being brought in to lend their expertise to the Project Ireland Delivery Board, which has overall responsibility for monitoring and leading the implementation of the NDP.

“People with external expertise in delivering projects in the private sector for example will now be joining that board to lend that experience to the State.”

A new major projects Advisory Group was also being established, he said to avail of the expertise of a number of experts in different areas which would help to avoid problems down the line, he said. — Additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke

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