OVER a dozen planned public transport projects have been postponed as a result of cutbacks totalling more than €500 million introduced by the Government since last October’s budget.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said savings announced in yesterday’s supplementary budget would inevitably lead to delays in some projects because he had been forced to cut his department’s spending budget for 2009 by e315m.
The latest cutbacks come on top of a further e182m in savings arising out of the Government’s decision in February to introduce a package of measures to reduce costs through savings on pay, advertising, PR, consultancies and professional fees.
Capital spending on regional and local roads will be hardest hit in the latest round of cutbacks with overall spending being reduced by a further e150m in the current year. “This budget adjustment will result in an unavoidable reduction in the overall level of road improvement and renewal work in 2009,” admitted Mr Dempsey.
He also confirmed that a further e150m will be taken off his original capital funding for public transport projects. Acknowledging that yesterday’s budget had been “difficult for the public,” Mr Dempsey said the Government remained committed to radically improving Ireland’s transport system.
However, he pointed out that any cutbacks should be viewed against large increases in spending on transport over the past decade.
Among the public transport projects being postponed this year are: nUpgrade and resignalling of the Dublin-Maynooth railway line.
* Preparatory work for electrification of the Maynooth line.
* Preparatory work on an upgrade of Cherry Orchard-Inchicore line.
* Construction of a new railway station at Kilbarry on the Cork-Blarney commuter line.
* Implementation of the Railway Safety Commission’s programme.
* Upgrade works on Luas power lines.
* Planning on the Metro West line. nFunding cutbacks totalling e20m were also announced for traffic management grants in the greater Dublin area, including park and ride facilities.
* A programme to improve accessibility for disabled persons to public transport also had its budget slashed by e5m to e20m, while e3m of spending on an integrated ticketing project was deferred until 2010.
The minister stressed that delays to several Iarnród Éireann projects in the Dublin area would not impact adversely on the completion date for the Dart underground interconnector between Inchicore and the Dublin docklands.
He also said e25m would be saved by a delay in an expected decision by An Bord Pleanála on the application for a railway order to commence work on Metro North from June to September. Mr Dempsey said the two underground light rail projects remained the key elements of Transport 21 which remained a Government priority, although he could not give any guarantee about a timescale for their completion because of the state of the country’s finances. A reduction of e10m in the Government’s annual subvention to CIÉ could be offset by the transport company selling property, he suggested. However, Mr Dempsey said he did not anticipate that it would lead to any further reduction to bus services than those already announced by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.
Last night, Fine Gael transport spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd accused the minister of picking on soft targets like disability access and projects to benefit commuters which accounted for only a small portion of his department’s overall funding.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved