Offaly one of the hardest hit by multi-million cut to roads spend
Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has reacted angrily to confirmation that Laois-Offaly will be among the counties hit hardest by an €88 million cut for national, regional and rural roads in 2022.
Deputy Nolan was speaking after the publication of a National Oversight and Audit Commission report which found that the Laois-Offaly constituency, with the worst confirmed regional roads in the country, has over 28% – almost one in every three regional roads in Offaly - requiring urgent structural or defect rehabilitation upgrading, with a corresponding 23% figure for Laois regional roads.
“This substantial cut will hit the Laois-Offaly constituency hardest, as we have the worst confirmed regional road network in the country. Local and regional roads are the arteries that connect many parts of the country and are highly trafficked routes. These roads represent 96,043km of the total 101,456km of our public road network in Ireland, carrying over 54% of traffic, but remain chronically underfunded since the financial crash," Deputy Nolan commented.
"Poor quality roads can be a major cause of concern to communities, directly impacting economic development in our regions and rural areas. Ongoing under-investment in these roads has now created a potential crisis, which the government chooses to conveniently ignore.
"Even analysis done by the Department of Transport, under the strategic framework for investment in land transport (published in 2015 and updated in 2019), conservatively estimates that investment of at least €630 million per annum was needed to keep the regional and local road network in a ‘steady state’ or maintained condition.
"This means that without this minimal investment level, our road networks would continue to deteriorate each year.
"This data also shows that the condition of roads in both counties deteriorated significantly between 2018 and 2020, which should have warranted a major investment in regional roads in the 2022 Budget, rather than the cuts announced.”
"Furthermore, a staggering 41% of Offaly’s local primary road network (county roads), are in a ruinous condition, with the corresponding figure at 33% in Laois. In reality, it means that for every 1km of primary local road in Offaly, 400m is defective. This is a truly shocking indictment of the government's failed investment in this constituency's local roads.
"Despite this stark warning and many years of subpar funding since the financial crisis, only €561 million has been allocated nationally for local and regional roads in 2022. This allocation represents a deep cut of €23 million over the 2021 allocation and is at least €70 million below what is needed to even maintain the existing network.
"Additionally, the national roads budget has been decreased by €65 million for 2022. Taken together, this means a massive €88 million or 7% cut, excluding inflationary cost pressures, in funding for all Irish roads in 2022, meaning any new capital investment projects are off the table.
"This major reduction in funding for roads next year is yet another slap in the face to rural communities and illustrates that rural Ireland is being forgotten when it comes to government priorities for capital investment," Deputy Nolan continued.
"Even more alarming is that the Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, on Wednesday supported the decision to slash road funding in 2022 in favour of public transport, telling the Dáil that such funding will be significantly reduced in future. This shows that the re-wiring of the NDP, through cutting over €4billion from road funding, is the price Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are prepared to pay to desperately cling to power.
"This government, despite its agenda, must accept and realise that rural areas depend almost solely on roads for all public and freight transport, getting to and from work, shops, school, healthcare appointments, church and accessing recreation and tourism travel.
"The government, with its urban bias, clearly did not get the memo that public transport in regional and rural areas, including rural towns, depends almost exclusively on a well-functioning and well-maintained road network.
"Minister Ryan must recognise that the Department of transport is not his personal fiefdom. He must immediately review the levels of funding provided to Offaly and Laois Local Authorities to enable them to provide vital road maintenance services,” concluded Deputy Nolan.
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