The Government is under-funding vital road repairs by as much as €100m every year, putting lives at risk and undermining the safety of road surfaces across the country.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) chief executive Michael Nolan confirmed the situation yesterday as he revealed that just 11 of the 150 road safety
scheme objectives have been achieved to date in part due to funding gaps.
Speaking at the latest meeting of the Dáil’s cross-party Public Accounts Committee, which also heard revelations that his group has written off almost €10m in unpain M5 tolls in the last two years — meaning 4% of drivers get off scot-free — Mr Nolan said Ireland’s 5,500km of roads have “very poor engineered structures, pavement structures”.
Asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy if the money currently being provided is adequate, Mr Nolan said there is a repeated under-spend every year and that it is causing serious cumulative problems for road surfaces.
“We should be spending in the order of €140m annually on re-paving our national road network,” he said. “Pavements last maybe a seven to 12 year cycle, depending on the surfacing, so we should be hitting about 400km of roadway every year. We’re only hitting about 130km of roadway as we speak. So, in monetary terms, the under-funding is somewhere in the order of €100m.
“That’s OK in the short-term, you can get over a couple of years under-funding. But when the under-funding is persistent we will find ourselves spending maybe €2 in future years to fix what €1 would do today. It’ll cost more… a stitch in time.”
In later questioning from Labour TD Alan Kelly, Mr Nolan confirmed that just “nine or maybe 11 of the 150 objectives in the road safety strategy” have been achieved and that they expect there will be 50-60 objectives achieved within the strategy’s seven-year time-span.
“Is that not seriously worrying? I mean it’s not your fault, but that is seriously worrying,” Mr Kelly said.
At a later stage of the committee, TII officials confirmed that €5.2m of unpaid tolls were written off last year and €4.9m in 2015 because of difficulties in tracking down non-payers.
TII official Nigel O’Neill said the situation, which Fianna Fáil TD and PAC chair Sean Fleming said means one in 22 drivers gets off “scot-free”, came despite 2,648 judgments and 50m toll journeys a year.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s PAC meeting also heard a number of PAC members call for the chairman of the board of the Health Information Quality Authority, Brian McEnery, to appear before them to answer questions.
The issue relates to meeting minutes provided to the PAC showing Mr McEnery attended a meeting of Nursing Home Ireland which discussed the possibility of boycotting the Fair Deal scheme while he was representing an accountancy firm.
The meeting minutes also showthat the chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, Tadhg Daly, asked individuals present at the November 4, 2015, meeting to “immediately delete and destroy” the draft documentation on the issue.
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