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Budget 2017 of nearly €2bn for Transport, Tourism and Sport to be welcomed – Ross & O’Donovan

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan TD welcomed the announcement of today’s budget that provides an overall allocation of €1.8billion next year for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, representing a €72m or over 4% increase on 2016.

Minister Ross commented: “With many competing priorities within Government, this represents a positive outcome for my Department’s Vote next year and it enables my colleague, Minister O’Donovan, and I to make progress in key areas we have identified since coming to office. I am particularly pleased that the land transport programme, which represents over 80% of my budget, will increase next year by €90m or 7% to €1.46 billion. Our baseline capital funding will now exceed €1 billion.”

Minister O’Donovan added: “As a result of the budget, the actual baseline level of funding for sport will increase by €3m over the 2017 ceiling agreed in the capital plan. This will allow for a new round of the Sports Capital Programme in 2017. In total there will be €52m in capital funding for the overall Sports capital envelope. This will meet all existing commitments under previous rounds of the Sports Capital Programme, continued National Sports Campus developments as well as commitments to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the Kerry Sports Academy at IT Tralee. My colleague, Minister Ross, and I look forward to making a more detailed announcement on the new round shortly with allocations under the programme being made in 2017.”

Highlights are:

Public transport subvention increase of €31m next year.

The Regional and Local Roads programme increases by 10% to €275m in capital funding next year.

€344m for Public Transport Investment to ensure completion of Luas Cross City – the most significant transport project in recent times.

Speaking at the Press briefing Minister Ross outlined the sections further:

“The Department spends almost a third of the Government’s capital programme. For that reason, my key focus is on securing a step change in funding levels for transport, tourism and sport in the mid-term review of the Capital Plan which was flagged in the budget speech today. This is where we start to make real change on a more sustainable multi-annual basis.

The existing Capital Plan provides €10bn for transport over 7 years. Today’s budget adds a further €55m annually to our baseline capital funding next year which translates to a €330m increase over the remaining 6 years of the plan. This is progress and a good starting point for the discussions on the revision of the Capital Plan and the delivery of our Programme for Government commitments in the transport, tourism and sports sectors.”

Public transport
“I have spoken in recent weeks of my wish to increase the level of PSO funding available for allocation by the NTA. I am delighted therefore, that this year I am able to provide an additional €31 million (or 11%) to fund our public transport service contracts and our Rural Transport Programme. I am committed to delivering a progressive, safe and efficient public transport system that serves all who use it.

While the NTA will decide the exact allocation to each operator over the next few weeks, I expect this increase in PSO funding will provide for much needed improvements to public transport services such as -

o Rolling out 10 minute DART services;
o Extending Kildare Line commuter rail services through the Phoenix Park Tunnel and into the heart of the city;
o Maintaining progress with the bus market opening competitions
o An additional €2m for the Rural Transport Programme will improve existing services and develop new routes in 2017

Importantly, the increased allocation will also allow for exchequer support for the vitally important heavy rail maintenance programme within the PSO funding stream. This work is critically important as it allows for the safe operation and maintenance of rolling stock (carriages etc) across the country. Provision of this additional money for heavy rail aligns with the objectives of the Strategic Investment Framework Programme in ensuring we secure appropriate funding levels to maintain our existing assets.

My Department’s allocation of €344m for public transport investment will also ensure completion of the Luas Cross City Project which is the most significant capital project in public transport since the original Luas Red and Green lines opened. I am delighted to announce that the project is on time and within budget and it is expected that it will open for passenger services before the end of 2017. I very much look forward to using it myself.

Luas Cross City will be a very welcome addition to the public transport network in Dublin, enhancing the overall capacity available which will help in alleviating congestion in the city as the level of economic activity continues to grow.

Of course, the bus continues to provide the backbone of our public transport system throughout the country and I am providing funding for the purchase of 110 buses for the Dublin region fleet in 2017 and over 70 buses for the Bus Éireann fleet.

I never thought that I would announce with pride that I am now the Minister for Fixing Potholes, but life takes many strange turns! There have been substantial cuts in the funding available for national, regional and local roads over a number of years. The Capital Plan provides funding to be gradually restored over the coming years from a low starting base. I have now secured the first significant step towards restoring funding to a sustainable level in the medium term – particularly for regional and local roads. Capital expenditure on the regular maintenance of local and regional roads will increase from €250m to €275m in 2017 over 2016 – some 10% (excluding the emergency funding provided for storm and flood damage in 2016).

In line with the Strategic Investment Framework, the primary focus in relation to regional and local roads continues to be on road and bridge maintenance and renewal. It may not be the most exciting of announcements but I have heard local and national public representatives, from right across Ireland, make the case for maintaining local and regional roads. Well-maintained roads are essential to road safety, and also to delivering local services and supporting growth in regional and rural locations.

In case of national roads, increased funding is already committed for 2017 in relation to the PPP road programme. The PPP programme is well underway at this point. The Arklow/Rathnew Bypass and Newlands’ Cross upgrade schemes are completed; and the construction programmes for the three other road upgrade schemes - Gort to Tuam, Gorey to Enniscorthy and the New Ross Bypass – are progressing well.

Work on road improvement projects included in the Capital Plan will also be advanced in 2017, including
the Naas Bypass widening
associated work on the Sallins Bypass and
the road upgrade for the Grange Castle Business Park.

The scale of major roads projects – in terms of cost, timelines and planning and design - means that they can only be brought forward within an overall planning framework. That was set out in the current Capital Plan. However, the Government is now preparing for the mid-term review of the Capital Plan and I am absolutely determined to make the case for transport investment to be both increased and accelerated as a result of that review.

I am acutely aware of the need to bring the maintenance of our roads – national, regional and local – up to a proper standard as quickly as possible.
The Capital Plan includes a range of roads projects, whether on national or Regional/Local Roads, can assist national and regional competitiveness and growth. I believe that the social and economic case to accelerate these projects and, indeed, bring forward more such projects is only getting stronger as traffic growth leads to greater congestion and accident risks.

Funding of Smarter Travel Policy measures will be continued in 2017 with a particular focus on cycling and walking infrastructure, including Greenways, and soft measures to support sustainable transport and travel such as mobility management initiatives.

My Department is developing a new strategy to set out a cohesive and forward-looking approach to the development, funding and promotion of Greenways and this will help inform our input into the review of the Capital Plan.

The main change in the funding of the aviation programme is a €1m or 4% increase in the capital programme, bring the overall envelope to over €27m.

This programme includes over €12m to continue supporting the four regional airports - Donegal, Knock, Kerry and Waterford - for safety and security related projects and activities under the Regional Airports Programme 2015-2019 as well as supporting the two PSO air services to Donegal and Kerry.

It will also provide €1m in grant aid to repair the Shannon Estuary Embankments protecting Shannon Airport which were damaged in the 2014 winter storms -subject to securing State aid approval from the EU Commission.”

Speaking at the Press Conference Minister O’Donovan further detailed the Sports and Tourism elements:

“I am delighted that 2017 will see another round of the Sports Capital Programme. Details of this round will be announced in due course based on internal discussions and taking account of the overall Sports policy review currently underway. Myself and my colleague, Minister Ross, look forward to making a more detailed announcement on the new round shortly with allocations under the programme being made in 2017. In this regard we will be engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of the mid-term review of the Capital Plan to maximise the level of funding which we will have to allocate.

In the meantime, it is business as usual for the clubs and groups that received funding under previous rounds of the SCP with €19m already paid out this year. These grants are helping clubs to improve pitches, refurbish sports halls and buy essential equipment.

The allocation to Sport Ireland will allow Sport Ireland to continue its key priorities of increasing participation and developing and supporting high performance sport in Ireland. It is important that there is an appropriate level of investment in sport to ensure that participation opportunities and high performance successes are maintained and improved. It also provides for expenditure by Sport Ireland on its sports programmes, including grants to National Governing Bodies of Sport, Youth Field Sports and the Local Sports Partnerships. Other sports programmes include International Carding Scheme grants, High Performance Programme, anti-Doping Programme, Women in Sport initiative, National Trails Programme etc.

The capital allocation to Sport Ireland will provide for the continued development of the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown. This includes the completion of the National Indoor Arena and Office Accommodation.

The overall envelope for tourism next year will be €122m including €109m current and €13m capital. This represents a €1m or 1% increase on 2016, and this funding will be ring-fenced primarily for overseas marketing efforts in context of the challenges of Brexit.

The Irish tourism industry has a proven track record in creating employment throughout the country and driving growth in the economy. Last year's record tourism growth has continued throughout 2016 to date. Overseas visit numbers are well-up and tourists are spending more. While this performance is very encouraging, we are determined that the growth will continue in line with the ambitious targets set out in the tourism policy “People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025”.

Accordingly, strong Exchequer funding commitment to the sector is essential to achieve sustainable growth into the future, in line with the policy targets. The 2017 allocations for tourism product development will provide for continued capital investment by Fáilte Ireland in the experience brands – Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and ‘Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air’- through the development of attractions and other tourism infrastructure.

The current allocations will further enhance, animate and promote these key experience brands by funding business supports, training, festivals, events and other related programmes. The development and sustainability of Irish tourism will be further supported by funding targeted at growing high-yielding event and business tourism, including supporting preparations for Ireland's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.