Opening Remarks by Minister Ross at the Select Committee – Revised Estimates
Thank you for the opportunity to present the 2018 Estimate for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport today.
2018 provides an overall gross allocation to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport of €2.03 billion. This is used to provide investment in critical infrastructure and to ensure that vital services are available to the public during 2018.
This €2.03 billion represents an 11% plus increase on gross expenditure levels over 2017. There is an increase of 3.4% or €23m in current or day-to-day expenditure, while capital or investment expenditure will increase by over €197m, or17%. This additional funding across all sectors will help us invest and expand services this year beyond what was conceivable only a few short years ago. In following years there will be a significant intensification in activity.
I’d like to now say a few words about Project Ireland 2040, which as you all know, includes the National Planning Framework and the 10 year National Development Plan (the NDP).
The programme of investment set out in the NDP will result in a comprehensive road, bus and rail network. This will provide a high level of service to all the regions of the country, linking the regions to each other as well as to Dublin. It will be delivered progressively to match transport demand and deliver benefits steadily over the next decade.
This investment in transport will improve accessibility to every part of the country. In the context of Brexit this is crucial for our transport and tourism sectors. This is supported by the non-exchequer investments set out in the Tier 1 area of the NDP – ports and their access routes. Similarly the improved access to airports will facilitate access to tourism and export markets.
I will now briefly go through the five programmes of investment in my Department and the funding levels and plans we have for 2018.
Civil Aviation Programme
The Civil Aviation programme has an allocation this year of €28 million. The largest element of the programme is the regional airports programme (at €13.6m). Funding is also ear-marked to cover costs associated with our membership of Eurocontrol, other subscriptions to international organisations and costs incurred by the Irish Aviation Authority for exempt services. The State reimburses the IAA for communication and air navigation services in respect of exempted classes of users, i.e. Military, State aircraft.
The key priority for investment in the aviation programme over the short to medium term is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports and to maintain air access to relatively remote regions (Donegal and Kerry)
The Land Transport, Programme B, which is the largest programme by far in my Department’s Vote, representing 81% of my overall budget, will increase this year by €203m or 14% to €1.66 billion.
A large portion of this is capital investment. The main components of the programme are: roads improvement and maintenance funding (with an overall budget of €883m); the public transport investment programme (at €401m) and public service provision payments (at €300m). The programme also includes provision of €5.5m towards the Carbon Reduction Programme and operating costs of the National Vehicle Driver Licencing system (at €19m).
In respect of Public Transport, in Budget 2018 I secured increased multi-annual capital investment funding envelopes for the coming four-year period. This includes providing an enhanced capital envelope of €2.7 billion for a multi-modal public transport investment programme between 2018 and 2021. The 4 year envelope will allocate investment to protect the quality and value of our existing public transport networks. Programmes to be funded include BusConnects, MetroLink, DART expansion, ongoing retro-fitting of older existing public transport facilities to improve their accessibility features, cycling and walking and traffic management measures in our capital and nationwide.
These programmes will be implemented by Irish Rail and also the NTA which has statutory responsibility for development of Public Transport in the Greater Dublin Area.
This year I secured an 8% increase in the overall Exchequer funding for Public Service Obligation services across the bus and rail networks. These services have grown in recent years, and the increase in funding in 2018 brings the cumulative increase over three years (2016-2018) to €75 million, or 36%.
That means that a total of over €285 million will be allocated in 2018 to support the delivery of these socially necessary but financially unviable services. It is of course also an area which requires ongoing scrutiny to ensure the taxpayer receives value for money in respect of the services delivered, given the considerable expenditure incurred.
As is normal, the precise allocations to the companies – including Iarnród Éireann – will be decided by the NTA in accordance with the various contract arrangements that it has in place with PSO service providers.
Additionally, Rural Transport services that respond to local needs have also increased and we will continue to support these through enhanced funding.
In relation to roads, my main priority remains the maintenance and safety of the network. The 2018 allocation will allow approximately 2,300 km of the regional and local road network to be maintained and approximately 2,100 km to be strengthened.
Major Capital roads projects to be progressed include:
- the Naas Bypass widening/Sallins Bypass/Osberstown interchange project,
- the upgrading of the Nangor and Adamstown roads near Grange Castle Business Park
- two PPP projects which are under construction; namely New Ross Bypass and Gorey to Enniscorthy. The Gort to Tuam PPP has opened.
- Planning / Design / Land Acquisition and Advance Works will continue on other major capital plan schemes including Dunkettle, N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom, N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin and N5 Westport to Turlough.
The operations of the Road Safety Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety are within the remit of my Department. While the funding to these two bodies is small, at just over €5m, the work achieved by both is huge and vitally important. Of course the RSA has significant revenue raising powers. Last year, 2017, was the safest year on Ireland’s roads since road deaths were first recorded in 1959, with 159 deaths. While even one death is too much, I hope this trend in decreased road deaths continues. We will continue to support those bodies in achieving their goals.
Maritime Transport and Safety Programme
The key funding priorities for this programme in 2018 are the maintenance of the Irish Coastguard’s Search and Rescue helicopter service, the continuation of the Coast Guard building programme for volunteers and an annual contribution of over €7m towards costs of Commissioners of Irish Lights.
Of the €96m for the Maritime, Transport and Safety Programme, €66m is provided for the Irish Coastguard’s Helicopter Search and Rescue contract. €3.5m of current expenditure is allocated for the operational costs and training of the Volunteer Coast Guard units.
The capital allocation of €5m will be used for the building and renovation costs of coast guard stations across the country, to replace and upgrade search and rescue related equipment, to develop new IT systems and to procure other equipment relating to the Coast Guard remit.
My Department continues to support the excellent work carried out by the Coast Guard and its volunteer cadre. An example of their work can be seen during the recent Storm Emma weather alert where the Coast Guard supported local communities, principal response agencies and the emergency services.
Sports and Recreation Services Programme
The Sports Programme shows an increase from 2017 of over €3m to €111m.
The Sports Capital Programme is the primary means of providing Government funding to sport and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. In November and December 2017, Minister of State Brendan Griffin and I announced €60m in allocations under the 2017 round of the Sports Capital Programme to over 1,800 different sporting projects. The investment envelope covers these awards and also commitments made under earlier rounds of the Programme.
The capital envelope for sport also provides €4 million to meet all existing commitments under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.
Further funding of €5 million was made available for sports measures through Dormant Accounts Funding, mainly towards supporting the implementation of the National Physical Activity Plan in disadvantaged communities.
In relation to future investment, the recently published National Development Plan (NDP) contains a commitment to establish a new “Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund” (LSSIF) with at least €100m available during the roll-out of the NDP. My officials will draft the terms and conditions of this new Fund over the coming months. This Fund will be for larger projects where the proposed Government contribution would exceed the amount currently available for projects under the Sports Capital Programme.
The allocation to Sport Ireland will allow them to continue their key priorities of increasing participation in sport and developing and supporting high performance sport in Ireland.
Work commenced in July 2017 on the development of Phase 2 of the National Indoor Arena and it is due for completion in mid-2019. This phase will see the construction of full-sized and half-sized covered synthetic pitches, capable of accommodating all field-sports, together with changing facilities, offices, meeting rooms etc.
Tourism Services Programme
The overall envelope for tourism this year will be €134m – an increase of €12m on 2017. This includes an allocation of €3.6m for Greenways. The Greenways have been a stand out success story, and a new development strategy is currently being worked on – in fact the DRAFT strategy should be published and available in the next few weeks.
€134m for tourism programme, will allow Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to continue to develop Ireland’s tourism industry, driven by the further development and promotion of the signature experience brands Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. Last Thursday I launched Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – a new tourism brand that will significantly enhance the Midlands and bring jobs and economic growth to the whole region.
As we are all aware BREXIT is a significant challenge and Tourism Ireland has a programme of marketing activity in place for 2018. This programme will ensure Ireland is marketed appropriately in Great Britain, whilst at the same time seeking to build on the successful strategy of market diversification implemented since 2014. Fáilte Ireland also launched a “Get BREXIT Ready” programme of business supports to provide all the relevant information and insights businesses will need.
Last year I said that 2016 had been an exceptional year for overseas visitors. Today, I am happy to say that 2017 was a record-breaking year and the pattern is continuing in the early months of 2018. The CSO recently confirmed that in the two months to the end of February 2018, the total number of trips to Ireland increased by 7.9% when compared with the same period in 2017.
To conclude, in 2017 we made good progress across all the programmes under my Department’s remit. I have secured in Budget 2018 increased multi-annual capital investment funding envelopes for the coming four-year period and look forward to progressing the major infrastructural projects included in the NDP. I expect to see continued momentum across all sectors.