Spending on roads upkeep just half what it should be
Spending on the upkeep of Ireland's crumbling regional roads is just over half of what's required to keep them in good condition.
The Department of Transport's secretary general Graham Doyle has admitted that the shortfall of spending to maintain roads is a "very significant concern" as fears were raised that costs will spiral over the next decade as the network deteriorates.
He said that while €580m a year was needed for regional and local roads, just 55pc to 60pc of that was being provided.
Mr Doyle was appearing before the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to be quizzed on his department's spending in 2015.
Some €730m was spent on the roads that year. Mr Doyle explained that the bulk of that went on maintenance, with limited funding for new road developments.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy raised concern that there was a "significant shortfall" in funding for maintenance. She asked if this would lead to greater expenditure needs in five or 10 years' time by not spending more on the roads now.
Mr Doyle said that the department considered the problem in its Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport.
He said one of the primary aims of this was maintaining the roads. "It's one thing making the case for new roads to be opened, but it's another thing to engage in the slightly less glamorous issue of maintaining them," he said.
"But it is critically important because our belief is that if you don't carry out the maintenance over a period of time, well then the cost of restoration at some point in the future becomes very, very significant."
He said that officials found that if the entire department's budget was applied to maintaining the land transport network - which includes roads and public transport - it would be "about €300m per annum shy of what would be needed to maintain what we termed 'the steady state'".
"So the shortfall in relation to what we believe we should be providing on the road network versus what we are providing in terms of maintaining the road network is very, very significant," he said.
"It accumulates over time and that has been a matter of very significant concern to us."
He said the issue had been considered in the department's capital plan.
"We reckon we need to spend about €580m per annum in relation to the regional and local roads for example. We are providing probably about 55pc or 60pc of that at the moment.
"However, under capital plans... we will get up to those steady state levels over the next four years," he said.