Engineers call for single body to develop infrastructure

The representative body for Ireland’s engineers has called for the establishment of a single unit tasked with the development of the nation’s infrastructure which, it says, will expedite the building of projects such as the Metro North and M20 Cork-Limerick motorway.

Engineers Ireland said current decision-making on significant capital expenditure is spread across government departments with little central oversight.

The body said the rollout of broadband should be seen as being as important as the electrification of rural Ireland.

The comments came following the publication of the group’s report, The State of Ireland 2017 — A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, the president of Engineers Ireland, Kieran Feighan, welcomed the Government’s summer economic statement to invest an additional €500m in infrastructure every year from 2019 to 2021.

“While progress has been made in terms of increasing capital investment and quickening of project delivery, there are still some frustrating delays with infrastructure,” said Mr Feighan.

“To ensure it can meet its infrastructural goals, the Government must address how we deliver our capital projects and Engineers Ireland strongly believes a single infrastructure unit is required to plan investment in key areas such as housing, transport, education, health, energy, water, and the digital economy.

“As things stand, planning and delivery in these areas are spread across government departments, each competing for finite funding, with multiple layers of decision-making and little central oversight.

“A single infrastructure unit, as in the UK and Switzerland, could work collaboratively with external experts such as engineers, planners, and economists to identify priority infrastructure projects as part of an integrated and long-term vision, speed up project delivery, and explore innovative financing and funding mechanisms.”

The report recommends the acceleration of the development of Metro North and the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway; that broadband should be considered “an essential service similar to electricity and water”; and that variable speed limits and multi-point tolling is needed to tackle congestion on the M50.

“The installation of Ireland’s nationwide broadband infrastructure is akin to the electrification of rural Ireland in the last century in terms of scale, ambition, and the socioeconomic benefits it will deliver,” said Mr Feighan.

“The Government has faced fiscal restraints in recent years and a lack of investment, specifically in land transport, has resulted in bottlenecks and congestion which are beginning to impact on the day-to-day lives of Irish people.

“To ensure we can meet our ambitions as outlined in the new National Planning Framework, we must substantially increase capital spend in the long run to meet ever-increasing demand,” he said.

The report was launched at the Engineers Ireland offices in Dublin, with the event also involving a roundtable discussion with Mr Feighan and Stephen Kinsella, Department of Economics, University of Limerick; Tony Hanway, Virgin Media Ireland CEO; and Caroline Spillane, the director general of Engineers Ireland.



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