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Other Questions. - Road Network.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 54. Mr. Cuffe Information on Ciarán Cuffe Zoom on Ciarán Cuffe  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if, with regard to a recent NRA publication identifying 109 blackspots on the Irish road network, he intends to issue a direction to the NRA to prioritise these projects over all other NDP roads projects over the current term of the NDP; if all of these blackspots will in fact be physically improved under the current NDP roads programme; and if not, the number of them which will remain unaltered as they will be bypassed by new routes on greenfield sites which may or may not be tolled. [23571/02]

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I understand that the recent report, to which the Deputy refers, was undertaken by the National Roads Authority in order to identify high accident locations on the national road network.

In the context of the national development plan, approximately half of the 109 locations identified in the report will be bypassed or substantially altered under the national roads programme as set out in the NDP. Fewer accidents should result at these locations as a consequence. The scheduling of any necessary remedial works at locations identified in the report will be a matter for the NRA, together with relevant local authorities, in the context of available resources under the NRA's remedial measures programme. It should be noted that at the end of 2001, accident reduction measures had been put in place at 342 locations on national roads as part of the Government strategy for road safety 1998-2002, and measures at 58 further locations are due for completion in 2002.

I do not propose to issue a direction to the NRA in regard to this matter because I do not believe that such an approach is necessary or desirable.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Will the Minister agree that the key wording in his response is “in the context of available resources”? Will he agree also that the decision by the last Administration to ignore the advice of the NRA not to upgrade the exist[26] ing primary road network but instead to build a completely new motorway network – the NRA's survey indicated there was no justification on a demand basis – was on safety grounds? Given the current lack of resources and the fact that spending on these new roads means we cannot improve these accident blackspots throughout the country, would it be better if the Government was honest and reverted back to the NRA's recommended policy to upgrade existing roads instead of going ahead with motorways which we cannot afford, for which there is no need and which will not include safety benefits?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon I remind the Deputy that the time limit for a supplementary question is one minute.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I will just finish this question. Does the Minister agree that if the rest of the national road network cannot be made safe, it would be best to revert to the original NRA proposal to upgrade the primary roads? It is not too late to do so.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The Deputy and I are unlikely to agree on this matter. The country needs major new inter-urban motorways between the major population centres. That is Government policy and I do not know of any other party in the House which shares Deputy Ryan's view that motorways are not needed and that only other roads should be improved. Motorways are substantially safer than other roads. About half of the 109 locations identified in the report will be bypassed or substantially altered. Good progress is being made on that.

I recently asked the NRA to give additional attention to improving areas which we are not in a position to bring to motorway standard yet and to see if it could introduce short-term solutions without compromising longer-term investment.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I am encouraged by the last comment because I understand that none of the new motorway sections has been started and none of the CPOs has been enforced. Does the Minister agree it is not too late to implement the policy he has just mentioned and, while we do not have the money, to make the current primary road network safe while completing the sections of motorway that are under way? We can then develop motorways if finance is available. Does he think that is prudent policy?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Not at the expense of giving up on the motorway programme. I have asked the NRA to make sure that, without compromising its future investment in motorways, it should look at things like climbing lanes and improving roads. If it is an either-or question, we must build the motorways. However, I have asked the NRA to tackle, within its resources, the spots the Deputy is talking about. There is no point making a huge [27] investment in an old road if it is to be abandoned in two or three years' time.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton Has the Minister consulted the National Roads Authority about changing some of its road specifications around the country to a lower specification?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I have not. The NRA is expert in engineering and safety in that regard and I will leave such matters to them.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton Has the NRA done so?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I have demanded better value from the NRA for the funds which this House votes it.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton Has the National Roads Authority revised the specifications?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Not to my knowledge. I presume it has specifications for dual carriageways, motorways and roundabouts, and that there is an engineering framework within which it constructs roads. That is as much as I can tell the House.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton There are reports of several sets of engineers working on those matters.


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