Friday 24 November 2017

Roads to benefit most from €2bn aid package

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE country's road network will be one of the main beneficiaries of a €2bn stimulus package to be announced tomorrow -- but almost no money will go towards fixing potholes.

The focus will be on motorway projects and important national roads, rather than fixing damaged local and smaller roads.

This is because all projects funded by the stimulus package have to be public private partnerships (PPPs) -- with the State a minority player -- to keep them off national balance sheets, so that they don't add to the already huge deficit.

Road repairs and smaller projects are likely to be ruled out because they are not of a large-enough scale to come under PPPs.

At the opposite end, other significant infrastructural projects under the Department of Transport's umbrella -- such as DART Underground and Metro North -- are too big, and would take up too large a portion of the €2bn fund.

It also means that the A5 motorway to Derry -- which was to be co-funded by the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive -- will not go ahead, since the Stormont administration does not want to build it via a PPP.

Transport sources said road projects were well positioned because they had specific motorways lined up and ready to go in case funding became available.

Road projects likely to benefit will be similar to the N7 Newlands Cross junction upgrade, and the N11 Arklow-Rathnew road -- a single PPP which was announced late last year.

Outside the transport area, other projects expected to get funding are the shelved Grangegorman Dublin Institute of Technology campus on the capital's northside and the new national children's hospital, the location of which will be decided before September.

The Department of Communications and Education are also likely to be big winners in the scheme.

The €2bn will be funded through a combination of cash from the European Investment Bank, the National Pension Reserve Fund and the privatisation of State assets, such as the sale of parts of ESB, the State's stake in Aer Lingus and the National Lottery licence.

The exact amount of money ploughed into the stimulus plan depends on the money raised from privatisations, and the Government hopes that it could lead to annual stimulus announcements.

The details will be outlined by Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin tomorrow.

It is understood the announcement will not be a promise of projects that will definitely go ahead, but a ranking of those that will be at the top of the queue once funding becomes available.

Irish Independent

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