Monday 5 December 2016

A €42bn capital plan - but Metro North won't be finished until 2027

Paul Melia, Daniel McConnell and Niall O'Connor

Published 30/09/2015 | 02:30

New Metro North
New Metro North

The Government's big-ticket item in the capital investment plan will not be delivered for at least 12 years.

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Construction works on a scaled-down Metro North project, set to cost €2.4bn, will not begin until at least 2021 - and the 16.5km line between Dublin City, the airport and Swords will not carry passengers until at least 2026 or 2027, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said.

The coalition's 'Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021' plan sets out €42bn worth of investment over the next six years, and promises to deliver 45,000 construction jobs.

The exchequer will directly fund €27bn worth of projects, with another €500m funded through public-private partnerships. The remaining €14.5bn will come from State agencies including NAMA, Eirgrid, Bord na Mona and Irish Water.

The centrepiece is a €10bn transport plan, of which a large bulk of the funding is allocated to ongoing maintenance designed to maintain the network 'as is'.

Design work on Metro North, which was chosen following a review by the National Transport Authority (NTA), will begin next year, with the NTA insisting that most of the €170m spent on an earlier version of the project would be recouped.

The new version will be around €1bn cheaper to deliver because one stop has been removed, and less tunnelling is involved. Mr Donohoe defended the delay, saying it would deliver an "immense return" to the taxpayer, and provide a 19-minute journey time from the city centre to the airport.

"It will take many years to design, get planning permission and construct before being opened in 2026 or 2027," he said. "But if we don't make decisions now on long-term planning of our city and country, the costs will accrue. This is the right long-term decision."

Some €860m is available for new road projects, as well as a schools programme to cater for more than 60,000 pupils.

Some €275m is proposed for broadband - half of what was expected - and there is also funding for 80 primary care centres, new maternity hospitals, the new children's hospital at St James's and construction of the National Forensic Mental Health Services Campus in Portrane, which replaces the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

In addition, some €444m is set aside for energy efficiency projects, and €430m for flood defence schemes.

A new IT system for An Garda Siochana, and fleet replacement, is also planned.

State bodies will play a key role in the delivery of the plan, with some €5bn expected to be invested by Eirgrid, Bord na Mona and the ESB on energy - including the controversial pylon projects which have divided rural communities.

Irish Water is expected to spend €4bn, and NAMA will spend €3bn on housing projects to deliver 4,500 units.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted the plan was affordable, and was not designed to 'buy' the General Election.

"For those who say this is politically oriented, believe me, it's in the interests of Ireland - and people will, in any event, make their judgment when they have their opportunity," he said.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said it would "build on the recovery".

However, the opposition said it was long on aspiration but short on detail, with Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming noting that it relied on the private sector delivering €15bn of investment.

"It is a wish-list of what many people would like to see happen in the country. That private investment is essential to this plan, but the Government has no control over that private investment," he said.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty described it as "very unambitious", adding that by 2020 we would have the second-lowest capital spend per GDP in Europe. "It is truly amazing what the Government can get away with when its PR machine kicks into overdrive," he said.

Where the money will be spent

Justice

State-of-the-art family and children court complex.

€205m in new garda technology and systems.

€28m to refurbish garda stations and courthouses.

New Forensic Science Laboratory.

Environment

Social housing programme - €2.9bn to deliver 35,000 new units.

Housing public private partnerships - €300m.

Water services - €4bn.

Flood defences - €430m.

Energy efficiency - €444m.

Transport

Metro North - €2.4bn.

Public transport - €1.1bn (Includes new buses, expansion of the DART to Balbriggan, completion of Luas Cross City and €50m traffic control centre for Irish Rail).

Ongoing maintenance and repair of roads - €4.4bn

Education

New schools and extensions to cater for 43,000 more post-primary students and 19,000 more primary students and replacement of old pre-fabs with permanent accommodation

€210m for schools technology.

€110m for third-level, plus another €200m for public-private partnerships.

Health

€3bn allocation for health facilities.

Four hospitals within five years, including the National Children's Hospital, Central Mental Hospital, National Maternity Hospital and National Rehabilitation Hospital

Headway made in planning for new Rotunda Hospital and Limerick Maternity Hospital.

Irish Independent

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