Major investment in transport network to cut rail journey times
The State is to ramp-up transport investment to fund new buses, improve railway journey times and upgrade more than 350km of road across the country.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has announced additional funding of €100m to improve services, which includes an additional €35m for road upgrades and €60m for public transport.
The money will allow Iarnród Éireann to invest in track improvements on the Dublin to Cork, Limerick and Kerry lines, resulting in lower journey times of up to 15 minutes.
There is also funding available for essential maintenance of the railway fleet.
The additional money comes amid repeated warnings that the spend on transport services is at historically low levels, with essential maintenance on the road and public transport networks some €300m below the amount needed to maintain the network 'as is'.
"A gap developed between what was available and what was needed to adequately maintain, manage and renew existing infrastructure," Mr Donohoe said.
"This additional investment of €100m will be used to strengthen our national, regional and local road network, making them safer and better able to support economic development. Funds are also being provided for road safety measures, including the roll-out of drug testing devices which should result in fewer deaths on our roads."
Some €60m has been allocated for public transport. That includes €29m for heavy rail maintenance and €9m for line improvements between Dublin and the south and south west, which will reduce journey times by 15 minutes.
Another €1m is earmarked for an expansion of the Dublin Bikes scheme to the new university and health campus at Grangegorman, which will include 10 new stations.
Some €20m is being allocated for new buses. Bus Éireann has sought 60 new single-decker coaches to cater for growing numbers, and is planning to introduce additional capacity in the regional cities of Galway, Cork and Limerick.
The investment comes after an increase in passenger numbers, with more than 81 million journeys made across the network last year, a rise of just under five million. Numbers grew by 5.6pc in the regional cities, with more than 18.6 million journeys made.
The new buses are expected to be delivered on a phased basis between 2016 and 2017. The coaches will be used on public service obligation routes, and Bus Éireann also said that 20 new school buses were also under order and due for delivery early next year.
In addition, some €34m is being provided for "critical" road works. Some €10m is allocated for pavement improvements across the national network, with the remainder earmarked for upgrades to 350km of local and regional roads.
Local authorities will be allowed use up to €7.2m of this money for local improvement schemes, where communities can contribute funding, labour or materials to upgrade lightly-trafficked roads.
Another €1m is earmarked to pay for roadside drug testing devices, with €4.2m allocated to tourism-related projects including the Wild Atlantic Way and Ancient West corridor.
Some €800,000 has also been set aside to fund the National Indoor Arena.