Boost for Transport Investment in Government’s July Stimulus

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Boost for Transport Investment in Government’s July Stimulus

26 August 2020

Boost for Transport Investment in Government’s July Stimulus

Transport initiatives figure largely in the capital expenditure allocated by Government in the July Stimulus. Out of a total of €500 million capital expenditure, the transport was allocated over €115 million; that represents nearly a quarter of the total.

At the launch of the stimulus, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath T.D., pointed out that the capital expenditure –“...now being allocated to Departments...will accelerate a broad range of projects in 2020 and support the momentum of economic recovery in 2021. The projects and programmes have a wide geographic and sectoral scope, and notably including housing, education, sustainable transport, environmental protection and heritage/tourism” [1].

 
Greening of Transport
So what areas of transport will benefit from the capital allocation?  In brief, transport infrastructure including Local Authority support for pedestrian and cycling accessibility, funding for rail and national road maintenance and renewal and repair of other essential transport infrastructure will benefit. There is also an allocation for some electric vehicles. The funds for roads, which represents less than 10 per cent of the allocation, is for maintenance. Specifically, the funding of the road network to protect it in respect to climate change (including repairs to damaged roads as a result of severe weather events).
 

Table 1 summarises the allocations: 



My recent blog for CILT had focused on the greening of transport investment projects [2]. The recent allocations in the Stimulus Package confirm the ‘greening’ in transport investment; in particular, support for cycling, pedestrian and accessibility projects. Indeed the Minister for Transport, Eamonn Ryan T.D., pointed out that – “...almost 80% of that package will be directed toward active travel in both urban and rural areas. This increased funding will support local authorities across the country in their response to the challenges of COVID-19. We’ve seen some fantastic examples recently of local authorities improving towns and villages through re-orientating streets toward the pedestrian, the cyclist and public transport and I want to see that replicated in every local authority area” [3]. 

In addition, the package is going to assist in the introduction of new bus services in Drogheda, while enhanced and improved services will be introduced in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Laois / Offaly, Limerick, and Mayo. On the rail, the allocation is for the inter-urban rail network. The funding will be primarily focused on support works along the Dublin-Cork line and will mean that 50% of the line will be capable of 160kmh speeds by the end of the year. There are also funds designed to support an expanded programme of station improvements which will benefit passengers.

The transport stimulus has a particular emphasis on job creation. As shown in Table 1 above, over 1400 are expected to be created m the new initiatives. The realisation of new jobs does depend on the funds being drawn down. For that reason, the Minister for Transport, Eamonn Ryan T.D., strongly urged – “... all local authorities to prioritise suitable schemes and seek funding from my Department as soon as possible” [3].

 
Support for Regional Airports
In a separate capital allocation, the Department of Transport provided nearly €2.5 million in Exchequer funding for Regional Airports. Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton T.D., who has responsibility for aviation, pointed out that the funding – “... honours commitments in the Programme for Government to deliver funding that will support services and ensure safety at our regional airports’ [4]. Three airports are being supported under this imitative. They are the airports of Donegal, Ireland West (Knock) and Kerry.

The allocations are set out in Table 2




The €2.5 million funding is a prelude to further support being planned for the regional airports as a whole. Minister of State Naughton promised that she would finalise a new five-year Regional Airports Programme in the autumn.
 
Conclusion
The Programme for Government gave a clear commitment to making a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland. It points out that – “The Government will commit to an allocation of 10% of the total transport capital budget for cycling projects and an allocation of 10% of the total capital budget for pedestrian infrastructure” It further states that – “Each local authority will be immediately mandated to carry out an assessment of their road network, to see where space can be reallocated for pedestrians and cyclists. This should be done immediately” [5]. The July Stimulus allocates considerable public money to meet the commitments in the Programme for Government. And there is plenty of evidence of Local Authorities responding to this mandate. One has only to look at the pedestrianisation of streets and the provision of additional cycling facilities in Dublin City, Cork City and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown. Certainly, this is the time to get on your bike. 
 

References

  1. Michael McGrath T.D., Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Details of the July Jobs Stimulus, 24 July 2020 https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/48b48-the-july-jobs-stimulus/#capital-investment
  2. Tom Ferris, Greening of Ireland’s Transport Investment Projects, CILT, 12 May 2020, https://www.cilt.ie/Greening_Project
  3. Eamonn Ryan T.D., Minister for Transport, Jobs Stimulus Package, 24 July 2020 https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/95f23-ministers-ryan-and-naughton-welcome-jobs-stimulus-plan-totaling-250m/
  4. Hildegarde Naughton T.D.,  Minister of State at the Department of Transport with responsibility for Aviation, Funding for Regional Airports, https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/1cf76-minister-of-state-naughton-announces-funding-for-regional-airports/
  5. Programme for Government 2020, Page 13, June 2020 https://www.greenparty.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020-06-15-ProgrammeforGovernment_Corrected-Final-Version.pdf 
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