Monday 19 March 2018

Government's €42bn plan includes a new Metro North, more than 60,000 school places and key road projects

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Paul Melia

Paul Melia

A NEW Metro North, more than 60,000 school places and delivery of key roads projects including a widening of the Naas dual carriageway and upgrade of Cork’s Dunkettle interchange have been included in the Government’s €42bn capital investment plan.

Some €27bn will be directly invested by the exchequer, with the remainder from public private partnerships and €14.5bn from ‘state owned’ enterprises including NAMA.

Investment in transport totals €10bn between 2016 and 2022, of which €3.6bn if for public transport and another €6bn for roads. Some €2.6bn will be spent on routine maintenance and to keep the network in a good condition.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that the 'Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021' plan would benefit all regions of the country. He said the people would decide if it amounted to electioneering.

The main points include:

Some €3.8bn in education, to include 62,000 school places, replacement of pre-fabs and acquisition of sites.

Another €210m for a schools IT programme, and €110m to universities.

€1.1bn for enterprise, including new offices and money to facilitate regional businesses.

Another €1.25bn for agriculture, including a rural development programme.

€3bn for health infrastructure, including new maternity hospitals in Dublin and Limerick, and a National Forensic Mental Health facility at Portrane in Dublin.

Investment in primary care and cancer services are also planned.

Some €2.9m for social housing, of which €400m is new funding.This includes money for 35,000 homes.

Some €444m for energy efficiency, and €430m for flood defences.

€330m for a new Garda IT system, and €40m for the fleet. Divisional headquarters in Dublin, Galway and Wexford and a new family law courthouse are also planned.

€275m for broadband.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said the plan would address funding deficits, and was affordable.

“Social house building was abandoned by the previous Government. €3bn will be provided for social housing alone, and the Government is committed to using every single source of funding for housing.

“The capital investment framework sets out an affordable way forward for the country. Now is the time to build on our recovery.”

Among the headline projects include a €2.4bn ‘New’ Metro North project, which will run from St Stephen’s Green to Dublin Airport and Swords but will not become operational until 2026 at the earliest.

It will have fewer stops, and shorter platforms to accommodate shorter carriages. Journey times will be 19 minutes from O’Connell Street to the Airport, with 8.5km underground.

It will serve the Mater Hospital, DCU, Ballymun and Swords.

“The first phase of the DART expansion will also begin, from the city centre to Balbriggan,” Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said.

“The DART Underground project will be redesigned. In the interim to those projects becoming operational, the Phoenix Park Tunnel will be opened, Luas Cross City by 2017 with continued investment in the size and quality of the bus fleet.”

He added that there were many ‘worthy’ projects which could not be funded.

On roads, some €6bn has been allocated - €4.4bn of which is devoted to maintenance of existing assets. Another €860m is targeted at new projects and by 2020 investment in roads will be at the levels required to maintain the network in a ‘steady state’.

Key projects including upgrading roads to Grange Castle Business Park in Dublin, the Sallins bypass, Dunkettle interchange in Cork, Westport to Turlough and Moycullen bypass.

Minister Howlin said the plan would be subject to review, and was a “common sense, honest and real” set of proposals.

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