The Minister for Transport, Mr. Seamus Brennan, T.D., today (13th February 2003) forecast that the pace of the national road-building programme will increase significantly over the coming years as a number of factors combine to allow for increased activity and substantial investment.
Minister Brennan made his comments when welcoming the confirmation from the National Roads Authority that on site construction will begin this year on 7 major road projects at a cost in 2003 of over €150 million and an estimated overall cost at completion of €1.1 billion.
Minister Brennan said: "The seven new construction projects- Dundalk Western By-Pass, Carrickmacross By-Pass, Kilcock/Kinnegad, Monasterevin By-Pass, Naas Road (Kingswood Interchange), Cashel By-Pass and Waterford City By-Pass - will maintain the momentum of the programme built up over the last 3 years. "
In addition more than €150 million has been allocated towards progressing a further 16 major projects to the tendering and construction stage and to advancing approximately 60 other projects at planning and design stage.
Minister Brennan said total investment in the national roads programme in 2003 was over €1.26 billion, the highest provision for national roads in the history of the State.
The Minister said he was now involved in discussions with the Department of Finance on securing a financial envelope for the roads programme up to 2006 with the objective of pushing ahead with the national roads policy provided for in the National Development Plan.
Minister Brennan said for this and other reasons he was confident of a significant increase in the pace of the road-building programme. He said a number of factors will combine to accelerate the momentum, including the completion of high expenditure projects like the Dublin Port Tunnel (allocation in 2003-over €200m), the MI Northern Motorway (over €100m in 2003), the South Eastern Motorway (over €130m in 2003) and the Kildare By-Pass (€43m in 2003), new tighter cost control measures, more efficient delivery of projects and moderation in construction cost inflation.
Minister Brennan added " Route by route the national roads network is being upgraded. Over the period 2000-2002, 28 major projects (comprising 187 kms of road), were completed and opened to traffic. In 2003 work is continuing on 17 major projects (comprising 154 kms of road), 11 of which are due to open to traffic including such major schemes such as the Drogheda By-Pass, Cloghran/Balbriggan, Youghal By-Pass and Glen of the Downs."
The Minister said the Government is committed to the full implementation of the ambitious national roads development programme. "We are in the 4th year of the programme. Rising costs and the changed economic and budgetary circumstances have to be taken into account with the result that some projects will take longer to deliver. However, let there be no doubt about our commitment to ensuring that the country has a national road network necessary to support its ongoing growth and development. The additional funding of €209m provided in the Budget, in difficult economic circumstances, underlines this commitment to maintaining progress in the upgrading of the national roads network."
Minister Brennan said that the 2003 allocation, in addition to the 7 projects moving to construction, would fund:
the completion this year of 11 major projects throughout the country, including: M1 Drogheda By-Pass and Cloghran/Balbriggan, N8 Watergrasshill By-Pass (Cork), and N5 Strokestown/Longford;
ongoing work on 6 other projects, including: the Dublin Port Tunnel, M7 Kildare By-Pass, and N22 Ballincollig By-Pass;
land acquisition and archaeological and other preparatory work on a number of major schemes, including the N18 Ennis By-Pass and the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road, clearing the way for tendering;
further substantial work on projects in planning and design to enable these projects to get to construction as quickly as possible, with the allocation of over €70m for scheme planning on national primary routes;
investment of €60 million on national secondary routes. (including a strong restoration programme).
Allocation of €9m for safety measures to provide for accident reduction measures at some 80 locations as well as 20 traffic calming schemes.
The Minister stressed that financial resources on their own will not be sufficient to guarantee the benefits from major investment now being made. Projects need to be delivered efficiently and cost effectively. Tight cost control and delivery of projects must be the foremost guiding principle of programme implementation.
Minister Brennan said: "In this context, I have instructed the NRA to instigate a wide range of measures to improve cost estimation and control and to secure greater certainty in the outturn cost of individual projects. These include the appointment of specialist cost estimation staff, the publication of revised specifications, reduction in land take, and the greater use of the Design & Build form of contract.
In addition, a senior group of officials is currently considering additional funding options for the national roads programme. As part of its work, the group is considering the scope for further improvements in cost estimation and control procedures, including the greater use of fixed price contracts."
The Minister also welcomed
the NRA's commitment to start a number of other projects in the BMW region on the N4 and N26 depending on the overall rate of progress of the programme and the financial commitments arising;
the allocation of major funding for preparatory works on major projects such as the Sligo Inner Relief Route, Ennis By-Pass and Loughrea By-Pass with a view to getting them to construction as quickly as possible.
The Minister noted that the 2003 investment in national roads will be complemented, as part of the Government's integrated approach to the upgrading of transport infrastructure and services, by investment of approximately €665m in public transport infrastructure and services compromising approximately €401m in capital expenditure and €264m in revenue subvention.
Tom Rowley (01) 6041089 087 8124723
Mary Sheerin (01) 6041088 087 2577148