Header Item Greenways Development (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item Road Projects

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 927 No. 1

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy] In order to advance this to the next stage, will the Minister and his officials agree to meet a group which has been set up and which is representative of people who are concerned about this section of the planned route? Will he meet and engage with them to see how we can overcome this impasse in order that we can come to an agreement, select a new route and move on so that construction can commence for the final leg of the project between Athlone and Galway?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I will consider that. If I think there is any useful purpose in meeting the landowners and any groups involved, I will consider doing so. I am not inclined to get involved in a local dispute if I think it will not do any good. It is very important that we consider, under the greenways policy, what we are going to do here. I understand the problems for landowners and the fact that they feel threatened by the possibility of compulsory purchase orders. My officials and I are determined to promote greenways throughout Ireland. The possibility of a coast to coast greenway of the sort envisaged here is something which we must turn into a reality. We will have to examine all the possibilities. Regarding rerouting, it was probably a mistake made by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, initially in the preferred route it put down here and it was probably jumping the gun a bit.

I would be prepared to consider meeting the parties to which the Deputy referred if I thought it would be of any use. However, I will not meet them if I think it will be just another empty exercise. It is very important that this is done. If I see an opportunity for ministerial intervention which would do some good, I will certainly act accordingly. In the meantime, the previous Minister put this project on pause and talks are hopefully going to go ahead which will resolve this problem.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy This is not simply a local dispute. It concerns a large section of the overall greenway project. Approximately 55% of the route of the greenway between Dublin and Galway goes through privately-owned land, yet no representatives of the owners of those lands were on the steering committee. That was a mistake. They should have been on the steering committee from the outset and had their voices heard. The reason the project has been very successful to date is because of the local buy-in from those in the areas where it has advanced. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, was in Coolnahay recently and he saw the success of local buy-in to the greenway project and he also saw that when he visited our region. The reason it has been so successful is that State-owned land has been used in those areas. There are alternatives here. I am a strong supporter of this project. I do not want to see it shelved and fall off the cliff, as it were, in Athlone. I want it to go all the way to Galway. Everybody wants to see that but let us bring it to Galway in a manner which can be done in consultation with the various stakeholders that will not impinge on farmers who are going about their daily work on their farms when there are alternatives that could be considered. I ask the Minister - in all sincerity - to meet those landowners, explore the alternative options and see if we can reach a compromise to advance this project to the next stage and have what we all want, a greenway from Dublin to Galway in the very near future.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross We are probably ad idem on this. We all want to see this greenway developed and brought to fruition. It is just a matter of the best way of doing that. There is a process already being shaped by my Department for the development of greenways and difficulties of this sort. Specifically, my Department will consult all stakeholders in the coming months. This proposed strategy will include the recommended approach to be taken by authorities and agencies tasked with delivering greenway infrastructure where engagement and consultation with landowners is required and, when finalised, will inform the approach to be taken when talks are resumed on the delivery of the section of the Galway to Dublin greenway between Athlone and Galway. It may have been paused but it has not been halted. I can assure the Deputy of that.

  Engagement with the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, and with other stakeholders will be a necessary part of the process in seeking to resolve the issues of concern which have been identified to date. In addition to identifying and agreeing a preferred route, potential levels of compensation to affected landowners will be examined. The Department will look for guidance to the compensation package put in place to enable the TII and the local authorities to deliver national road schemes.

Other Questions

Road Projects

 7. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if he will allocate increased funding to Transport Infrastructure Ireland to initiate the shovel-ready projects in the capital investment plan, such as the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom road; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [30727/16]

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin This question relates to shovel-ready or almost shovel-ready projects in the capital investment plan, namely the N22, Ballyvourney to Macroom road, which is in County Cork but as a resident of County Kerry I point out that it is one of the two main road arteries serving our county. Until that road is upgraded, our economic progress potential will be seriously hampered. I want this project to be considered a priority for construction. It is contained in the capital plan, which was a great achievement, but we now need to get it built.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I thank the Deputy for raising this matter, which is very important to his area, other areas and nationally. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding regarding the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects, including the N22, is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII - formerly known as the National Roads Authority, NRA - under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 and in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act.

The capital plan published last year provides for a gradual build up in capital funding for the road network from the current relatively low base towards the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. In this context there will be a  significant ramp up in funding from 2020 which will facilitate the construction of projects such as the Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme.  As Minister, I have to work within the capital budgets included in the plan. TII, in planning the construction schedule for individual projects, also has to take account of the annual budgets available.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicated in his budget speech that, in light of economic growth, he is bringing forward the capital plan review.  There is a strong case for additional funding for the transport sector which I will make robustly when the time comes. However, the parameters for the review and the final decisions on allocations are matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government as a whole.

I am optimistic that the fact that the review of the capital plan has been brought forward means there will be opportunities for acceleration and I will certainly consider this project as one of those which is certainly of merit and which is needed in the area.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin I thank the Minister for his reply. I want to put two points to him. The first is an invitation to travel the N22 and see the congestion caused in the village of Ballyvourney and the town of Macroom and to experience at first hand what many people experience five, six or seven days a week, depending on the circumstances. Will he sit down with me - a Deputy from one of the counties affected - the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and representatives of TII and the local authorities involved to see what we can do to ensure that the sod is turned on this project as the earliest possible opportunity? I welcome that the review of the capital plan has been brought forward but we need to do everything possible to progress this project. This is the greatest socioeconomic project for the south-west region that is in the queue of current projects. The fact it has not proceeded is hampering County Kerry. Our prospects for development are very dependent on feeding into the engine that is Cork city. The latter is situated 50 miles from Killarney but it feels like it is 100 miles in view of the congestion on the route. It is holding back County Kerry. This is a vital project that needs to be prioritised and built as soon as possible.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross That is certainly an invitation I could not refuse. I thank the Deputy for it.

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