Minister Ross Budget 2018 Speech

Wednesday 11 October 2017

I am pleased to say that I have secured total funding of 2 billion euro for my Department for 2018. This allocation is made up of 1.3 billion euro for capital investment and 700 million euro for current expenditure. Beyond next year, I have secured the largest increase in capital funding of all Departments to 2021.  Total capital funding over the next four years for transport will now be 7 billion euro, for sport it will be over 200 million euro and for tourism it will be over 160 million euro. This represents an additional 1.2 billion euro, or a 20 percent increase.  It is a very welcome development; it represents a serious acceleration of previous plans; and it makes a greater number of projects possible right across the country.  

It is important that we take on meaningful projects together –not just to ensure progress but also to create purpose and connect communities. BIG PROJECTS don’t just do what they say on the tin, as in provide new motorways and sports grounds; cycling and greenway infrastructure; an integrated public transport system and a bid to host an world class sports tournament - they also give our communities a sense of purpose and pride in their locality, county and country. As we slowly emerge from the years of recession I am very glad that my Department is now in a position to present the public with a number of ambitious projects which will benefit communities up and down the country, support employment initiatives and greatly add to our quality of life.

On transport, the focus is threefold:

1.      To keep our cities and towns moving by providing people with reliable and punctual public transport. For those who need to drive, we need to improve the traffic flows in and around our major urban areas;

2.      To Go Greener we will increase investment in new solutions that will give us a transport infrastructure that meets our climate change obligations; and

3.      To Keep Communities Connected, we will ensure that rural areas have continued access to affordable and frequent

Public Transport

My top priority over the next few years is to rapidly increase investment in public transport while also increasing public transport services. Next year, I will invest over €400 million in public transport infrastructure, and this will rise to over €500m in 2019, over €700 million in 2020 and almost 1.1 billion in 2021. That is a four-year capital envelope for public transport of over 2.7 billion euro. It represents a 275 percent increase in investment over that period; and it is a clear signal of the importance the Government is putting on providing good public transport. I am particularly pleased that this substantial allocation allows me to invest in a much needed, fundamental overhaul of the bus network in Dublin, which will make it faster, more reliable, convenient and affordable. 

I am allocating more than three-quarters of a billion euro for the BusConnects programme; a transformative investment package that will finance new and expanded bus routes and greatly improve bus access through and around the Capital. This programme represents the most integrated investment programme ever undertaken in bus transport in the Capital. It recognises that we need to do much more that simply add more buses to the existing network, with all of its inherent bottlenecks and other constraints. It is about adding more buses to a system that is reformed to ensure that it flows better, so that we actually carry many more passengers and get them to their destination quicker. 

In relation to public transport services, in 2018 we will be providing an 8 percent increase in overall funding to support Public Service Obligation services.  This will enable the continued delivery of socially necessary but financially unviable services throughout the country. Such PSO services have grown in recent years, and the increase in funding in 2018 is a cumulative increase over three years (2016-2018) of €75 million, or 36%.

The 2018 funding will also facilitate some further expansion, including the commencement next year of the planned roll-out of bus market opening, part of which will involve increased frequency on a number of core routes. 

Alongside this, Rural Transport services that respond to local needs have also increased and we will continue to support these through enhanced funding.

With regard to rail, there will be over 680 million euro capital investment in additional rail infrastructure between now and 2021. This will deliver additional Luas capacity on top of the soon-to-be complete Luas Cross-City project, which will be a hugely beneficial addition to the public transport system in our Capital City. This amount will also help fund additional trams and longer trams across the entire Luas network.It will also fund the City Centre Re-signalling Project to improve speeds through the central Dublin part of the mainline rail network, and a new Central Traffic Control Centre which will enable the DART Expansion Programme to progress, and it will help improve national rail movements too.Additional funding will also increase the rail fleet and allow further progress to be made on the electrification of both the Northern rail line to Balbriggan and the Maynooth line. Further funding commitments for electrification of the Kildare line to Hazelhatch as part of Dart Expansion will be considered in the context of the 10 year capital plan. We are continuing to invest strongly in maintenance and safety projects to keep our national railway system safe and effective.

With today’s 4-year capital envelope, we are progressing preparation of the Metro North; construction work on this project will start in 2021, with passenger services starting in 2027.  The 10-year capital plan to be published in the coming months will include the funding for the period to complete this significant addition to public transport.  I also expect to include a number of other significant major investments in that forthcoming 10-year plan.

Transport is not just for the able-bodied, every citizen must be able to avail of public transport with as much ease as possible. To that end, while all accessibility is designed into new public transport projects, I am also providing multi-annual funding of almost 30 million euro over the next four years for retro-fitting of older existing public transport facilities to improve accessibility.  This effectively doubles the previously planned investment amount.  

Sustainability

The impact of climate change, which even the most sceptical critic can no longer ignore, is very real and must be strenuously addressed without further delay.  I am pleased to announce that the regions, as well as Dublin, are to benefit a great deal from the unprecedented funding being set aside for climate friendly investments. There will be three major environmental sustainability schemes, with total investment over the next four years totalling 280 million euro. 

Cycling

Capital funding for Cycling and walking infrastructure will increase three-fold over the next four years. As Minister for Transport, I have been struck by the unbelievable growth in the number of cyclists taking to our roads. It is therefore imperative that we provide good, safe cycling infrastructure. Cycling to work and for leisure limits congestion, is great for personal health – mental and physical – but must be safe for all road users. Therefore I have committed to providing 110 million euro for new urban walking and cycling routes. This will transform the face of travel in our cities.

The end of the age of the internal combustion engine is in sight.   Electric cars have become, not just the preserve of the rich or the eccentric, but a reasonable and acceptable alternative to the traditional fossil fuelled vehicle. Our challenge is to make them mainstream – not the interesting alternative but the practical default. To that end I am setting aside 35 million euro to back innovative ideas that will help decarbonise the transport sector, including pilot initiatives for low emission technologies.  

My Department has worked closely with the Department of Finance and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on developing a wide-ranging package of measures and incentives to accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles. To that end, and in addition to new Budget measures on benefit-in-kind– on top of existing measures on VRT exemption and purchase grants available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – I have secured funding for the National Transport Authority to allow it to introduce a new Electric Vehicle Taxi Grant.

The Road Network

Roads are a key enabler of national economic activity. To keep the country moving, next year alone we will spend upwards of 430 million euro - 12% - on the national road network, and the total investment over the next four years will reach 2.4 billion euro.  I will be providing additional funding for managing and enhancing capacity on the M 50 and the M 11 and in addition there are a number of projects to be decided which will relieve bottlenecks and improve access to regional locations, thus helping to deliver jobs into the regions. In addition to investment in necessary road strengthening and maintenance works, there will be new national road projects, as well as the M7 Naas Bypass widening and in 2019 work will start on the Dunkettle Interchange in Cork and on the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin Road in County Sligo.

With regard to Donegal in particular, there will be an additional 10 million made available to repair roads damaged in the recent floods. I am particularly committed to ensuring that as few lives as possible are lost in road collisions and therefore I am providing additional funding for safety works on both national roads and on the regional and local network. Too many people are still losing their lives or suffering appalling injuries on our roads.

Tourism

The tourism sector has made an incredible contribution to our national recovery. It is a sector that is testament to what can be achieved when Government and local businesses operate in sync. I welcome the decision to continue with the lower VAT rate, which has been instrumental in driving growth, and I am pleased to be able to back that up with increased investment.  While the effects of Brexit remain uncertain it is crucial that we support our tourism and hospitality sectors in every way we can. However I would like to take this opportunity to say that price gouging in this sector will not be tolerated.

The Greenways have been a stand out success story, and a new development strategy for additional Greenways is being worked up.  Valued by local communities and visitors alike, they are a key ingredient in our sustainable tourism package and we will build more of them.  My Department is working on a strategy for the future development of Greenways and I expect to be able to announce the outcome of that strategy in the New Year. This strategy will be backed by an unprecedented level of funding. Over the next four years I propose to more than double investment in Greenways to 55 million euros.

I am also pleased to announce that I am able to step up investment in further tourism product development initiatives, including more for the Wild Atlantic Way and a new brand for the Midlands and Lakelands. Noting the importance of overseas tourism marketing, I have secured 2 million for digital investment in tourism marketing. This is critical in the context of Brexit and the decline in visitors from Britain.

Sport

I wish to turn to our plans for continued support of our national sporting bodies and the regional and community based facilities.  I am pleased to announce an unprecedented funding package for sports infrastructure, which will impact right across the country. The Sport Capital Programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland, with improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in every county.

A new round of the Programme was open for applications earlier in 2017, and the assessment process is nearing finalisation.  The number of applications was the highest ever received. In order to meet the hopes of as many of these excellent projects as possible, I am pleased to announce that extra funding has been secured for this round of the programme to meet the extraordinary demand. Allocations will be announced soon, based on the applications received, and I will be able to double the original 30 million euro allocation to 60 million euro. 

I am also pleased to announce yet another Grand Project - the establishment of a new Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund.  Whereas the Sports Capital Fund targets relatively small, local projects, the new Fund will help support larger projects. The Fund, for which I will set aside almost 50 million euros over the next number of years, will bring a more strategic approach to Government support of national and regional sporting facilities. Following on from the 30 million euro contribution to Pairc Ui Chaoimh and the 7.5 million euro allocated to the Kerry Sports Academy, the Government also agreed to give the go ahead to Phase II of the National Indoor Arena at the National Sports Campus earlier this year.  It will be complete in 2019.

I am also delighted to confirm that the Government is committing 16 million euros to develop a National Velodrome and Badminton Centre at the National Sports Campus in 2020 and 2021. As the first indoor velodrome on the island, this arena will be hugely valuable resource for our athletes while also helping to increase participation levels. The Government is convinced of the huge benefits, in terms of inclusion, health, wellbeing and child development, that arise from sport. The Programme demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment to helping community and sports clubs to realise those benefits.  All in all, over 100 million will be distributed over the coming four years. 

Finally, we will be spending more on coast guard stations around the country, we will be upgrading equipment and developing new IT systems.  We have been tragically reminded in the last year of the huge sacrifice the coast guard and all of our volunteers make to keep us safe on the water.  Between now and 2021, spending will be ramped up each year, with an overall increase of 25 percent.

Conclusion

Under this plan we will be investing and expanding services next year beyond what was thinkable only a few short years ago, and in the following three years there will be a serious intensification in activity. On the transport side, we are gearing up for a huge acceleration in the total level of investment, and in the number of projects which we can progress.

It is the most climate friendly transport investment package ever planned.  It backs up the Government’s National Mitigation Plan for climate change, and it signals our absolute commitment to doing all that we can to move toward a sustainable, environmentally sound society and economy.

In tourism, we will continue to invest in what has worked – the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and the new Midlands and Lakelands experience. 

In sport, hopefully buoyed by a successful Rugby World Cup bid, we will double what we planned to do next year on the Sport Capital Programme, continuing to put in place the pitches, pools, arenas and tracks that will produce our next generation of world beating athletes, all the while bringing top class facilities to schools and communities around the country. 

Ends
Press Office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 01 604 1090 / 01 604 1093 

 

Date of Speech: 
Wednesday, 11 October 2017