Roads crisis sparks calls for farmers to help fund repairs
Rapidly expanding agricultural sectors such as dairying and forestry could be facing massive annual bills for road maintenance, amid calls for hundreds of millions of euro to fund the country's transport network.
Road conditions are described as at 'breaking point' in the regions where the increase in milk production is most concentrated, with the maintenance backlog in Cork alone estimated at over €80m.
"The road network is in a crisis state as it is. We can't just go on breaking up roads and expect the taxpayer to pay for everything," said Cork deputy mayor, Joe Carroll.
The comments come just a week after Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe warned the Department of Finance that increased productivity in the dairy industry would leave the rural road network in desperate need of repair.
Mr Donohoe's officials wrote to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform insisting the Transport Department needs an extra €300m a year to prevent the road network falling into disrepair, with road maintenance budgets halved in many counties in 2008 when national finances dipped.
"Investment in local and regional roads is vital if the rural economy is to reach its full potential. Such investment will help businesses grow and create jobs," Mr Donohoe said.
A 50pc increase in milk production will generate an extra million tonnes of product to be hauled around Cork alone, with an additional 41,000 truck journeys on the roads.
A study commissioned by Cork County Council, where 25pc of the national dairy herd is located, estimated the increased annual road maintenance cost due to dairy expansion to be €1.5m.