Engineers call for single body to oversee key State building projects

Unit could plan investment in housing, schools, water treatment and transport

Engineers are frsutrated at the slow pace of infrastructural projects such as Metro North.

Engineers are frsutrated at the slow pace of infrastructural projects such as Metro North.

 

A single State body should be responsible for building homes, schools, water treatment, roads and railways, and other key projects, engineers say.

Engineers Ireland published a report on Tuesday showing that “frustrating” delays still hold up infrastructure construction, despite progress in some areas .

Its president, Dr Kieran Feighan, called on the Government to set up a single unit to manage recently-announced spending plans.

“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,” he said.

The group’s report comes in the wake of the Government announcing plans to spend an extra €500 million a-year between 2019 and 2021 on tackling bottlenecks in housing, school places and water treatment.

Engineers Ireland represents 23,000 professionals with experience in areas such as transport, communications, energy, water and waste.

Its report, The State of Ireland 2017, urges the Government to speed up the building of the Cork-Limerick motorway and the proposed Metro North connecting Dublin city centre with the capital’s airport.

Dr Feighan noted that there were still hold-ups in getting big developments to the building stage. “There are delays in getting projects on the list in the first place, delays in procurement, delays in planning and appeals,” he said.

However, he added that once developments get through planning, the Republic has “quite a good track record” in finishing them on time and on budget.

Dr Feighan argued that Government spending on infrastructure had delivered in the past. “From 1993 on, if you look at the transportation side, our road network was completely transformed, our airports and ports also benefitted from targeted investment,” he said.

Engineers Ireland’s report found improvements in parts of the Republic’s existing infrastructure, including water and waste water treatment. “It’s still inadequately maintained and needs investment,” Dr Feighan warned.

Caroline Spillane, Engineers Ireland director general, said that the organisation was pleased at the Government’s spending plans.

“This is absolutely vital to the country’s sustainability and prosperity, but risks remain and we continue to spend less as a proportion of our gross domestic product compared to the other EU28 states,” she added.

Ms Spillane pointed out that independent thinktank, the World Economic Forum, recently said poor infrastructure was hitting the Republic’s ability to compete internationally.

Engineers Ireland is also calling for the Government to improve links between ports and the west and northwest, to award the contract for the National Broadband Plan without further delay, and to speed up the expansion of Dublin’s Dart and Luas rail services.