Sunday, 19 October 2008

NRA may freeze all new road projects for four years

The National Roads Authority (NRA) may not start any new road projects until 2011 or 2012 because of financial constraints.

The Sunday Business Post understands that more than 90 per cent of the authority’s €1.4 billion budget for next year will be spent on the five inter-urban motorways connecting Dublin with Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. All projects in the planning stage will be postponed.

The NRA’s budget has been cut by €157 million next year, and six major road projects will be postponed as a result. It is now likely that these projects will be shelved for two to three years, and that other projects will face lengthy delays.

The NRA is working on more than 140 projects, which are at various stages from planning to completion.

NRA chief executive Fred Barry recently informed the relevant bodies that ongoing projects would be completed, but that no new road projects would begin for the foreseeable future, according to a senior source in the transport sector.

‘‘Anything that has started will basically be finished, but there will be no new starts until things pick up in 2011 or 2012,” the source said.

NRA spokesman Seán O’Neill confirmed that no new projects would go ahead next year, and said the six projects postponed last week were ‘‘either in planning, or the government were not under obligation to fund them as yet.

‘‘They were not part of the inter-urban corridor, which has the highest volumes of traffic and is a central transport network,” he said. ‘‘These are significant for the future of the economy. The bad news is that smaller projects may not go ahead next year due to financial constraints, but the focus will remain on the large - and necessary - road projects.”

There was concern that road grants for regional and local authorities - which amounted to almost €620million last year – would be cut.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey will not announce next year’s allocation until early 2009, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Transport.

Sunday Business Post

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