For Oral Answer on : 16/09/2021
Question Number(s): 78 Question Reference(s): 43932/21
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Transport the funding his Department has made available to facilitate the design and construction of relief roads around towns and villages, such as Castlemartyr, County Cork; his policy on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer 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, and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. TII ultimately delivers the National Roads Programme in line with Project Ireland 2040, the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the NDP.
Within the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the NDP was developed to underpin the successful implementation of the NPF. This provides the strategic and financial framework for the National Roads Programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. The focus of TII’s activities is, accordingly, being directed towards the development of the major national road improvement schemes that are included in the NDP, along with the maintenance of the existing national road network.
It should be noted that the NDP is currently under review, in compliance with the Programme for Government and taking account of the different circumstances now prevailing. Work has been undertaken within my Department to contribute to this review, with funding for national roads being finalised and a prioritisation of projects to follow.
The strategic transport issues for all regions, including for national roads, are being considered in the context of the ongoing review of the nationwide NDP. As part of this review for national roads, I am focused on how to help achieve compact growth, removal of congestion within our towns, and decarbonisation, among other objectives. Towns such as Castlemartyr will be considered in this light.
The review of the NDP is a broad and wide ranging review. It seeks to strengthen the alignment with the National Planning Framework as well as take into account key developments since the launch of the current NDP in 2018. It will examine developments in the context of each National Strategic Outcome. It will take into account the commitments set out in the Programme for Government. It will also take into account the impacts of Brexit and Covid-19 as well as reflect key policy developments in areas such as Climate Change and the completion of Regional, Economic and Spatial Strategies for the three Assembly Regions.
I would also like to highlight that all national road projects, including those listed in the NDP or any revision to the NDP, are subject to applicable statutory approval and compliance with the Public Spending Code.
Furthermore, 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. Works on those roads are funded from Councils’ own resources supplemented by State road grants.
Under the current NDP, there has been a significant increase in Exchequer funding for regional and local roads, particularly in the last four years. Funding is not yet at the level needed for the adequate protection and renewal of regional and local roads and so for this reason, the primary focus for capital investment continues to be the protection and renewal of the network with some limited investment in road improvement projects including a number of bypass/relief projects such as the Portlaoise Southern Distributor Road, Dingle Relief Road, Sligo Western Distributor Road, Sallins Bypass, Tralee Northern Relief Road, Athy Southern Distributor Road and Shannon Crossing/Killaloe Bypass/R494 Upgrade, Athenry Relief Road and the Edenderry Inner Relief Road.
Enhanced Regional Accessibility
A core priority under the NPF is to enhance and upgrade accessibility between urban centres of population and their regions, in parallel with fostering compact growth of urban centres. This has an important role to play in maximising the growth potential of the regional urban centres and the economy as a whole. Substantial progress has been made since 2000 in improving the road linkages between Dublin and most of the other urban areas and regions. Under the current NDP, the objective is to complete those linkages so that every region and all the major urban areas, particularly those in the North-West, are linked to Dublin by a high-quality road network.
N25 Congestion & Castlemartyr Bypass
The proposed N25 Castlemartyr Bypass was not included amongst those national road projects identified for development during the period of the current NDP. However, in 2020 Cork County Council, which is the road authority for the area, completed the review of a Feasibility Report in relation to a relief road at Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, which considered constraints and issues in the area. The study indicates significant constraints will need to be examined in the planning of such a scheme and that a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) would be required.
The report also indicates that a feasible Outer Bypass would have to be progressed as a Major Scheme, which is not provided for in the current NDP.
In the meantime, TII has requested Cork County Council to further assess whether an inner relief road that represents value for money, could be a more feasible option than a major bypass. Geophysical and geotechnical surveys have been procured.
TII has provided an allocation of €100,000 to the Council for 2021 to progress this further study on scheme feasibility.
The Castlemartyr Bypass scheme, if found to be viable and feasible, could remove a significant portion of national through traffic from the village, thereby improving safety and facilitating the reliability of journey times for public transport. It could also lead to environmental benefits with an improvement in the air quality and noise in the village itself. In addition, it could provide more Active Travel opportunities and facilitate the development of public space within the village.