Many road projects in National Development Plan may never be completed

Some projects will be significantly downgraded because of the two-to-one rule favouring public transport

Many of the flagship road projects included in the new National Development Plan may never be completed or will be significantly downgraded because of the two-to-one rule favouring public transport, according to high level Government sources.

The 10-year plan, encompassing all the State’s capital spending between now and 2030, will have a record budget of €165 billion (up from €116 billion in the last NDP). It is being launched in Cork today (Monday) by Taoiseach Micheál Martin following a full meeting of the Cabinet.

In all €35 billion has been earmarked for transport spending until 2030. All of the big roads projects contained in the Fine Gael government’s plan from 2018 have been retained – including the M20 motorway from Cork to Limerick; the Galway City outer ring road; the co-funded A5 to Derry; the upgrade of the N4 from Mullingar to Longford; and the N24 from Limerick to Waterford.

While their inclusion was being presented by sources in both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as a “win” for those parties, it was quietly acknowledged within Government circles that the programme for government commitment to a two-to-one ratio favouring public transport over roads, in addition to exacting climate-change obligations, would mean at least some of those projects would not be progressed.


“The two-to-one ratio is very much carved into this NDP,’’ said a Government source. “There’s a commitment to BusConnects in Dublin and regional cities, regional rail, Dart Plus and MetroLink.”

While the source said the list of roads projects from the 2018 was included there would be very strong “caveats” in terms of prioritisation, and that would favour public transport over roads.

An example cited was the “M20” between Cork and Limerick which will be described in the plan as M20/N20, in effect meaning that some of the route will not be of motorway grade and will be downgraded.

“This plan will involve a fundamental switch to public transport, which should not be a surprise to anyone as the two-to-one ratio is baked in,” said the source.

Climate assessed

A senior Minister from one of the bigger coalition parties agreed. “Every thing is being climate assessed. You must remember it is (Green Party leader) Eamon Ryan who is managing the Department of Transport and also the transport budget.”

The biggest single component of the new plan will be MetroLink connecting Dublin city centre to the airport, although no estimate of price or completion date will be included in the plan. It is included in the €1 billion-plus band though if it proceeds it will cost multiples of that.

Under the new plan some €5 billion will be allocated to health, €4.3 billion to education, plus close to €5 billion per annum for housing .

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is expected to lay down more demanding standards for competitiveness, value-for-money and for governance.

All of the major projects will also be climate-proofed, with those deemed “climate-positive” and “neutral” getting preference over those classed as “climate-negative”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times