EU funding for transport

 

Sir, – Last Friday, the Taoiseach criticised “misperceptions” about how EU funding works (’Taoiseach says no EU ‘pot of money’ for transport projects”, News, July 13th).

May I remind him that €500 billion is being invested in multi-modal (road, rail, airport and sea port) transport infrastructure in 2014-2020, with another €250 billion to finish these TEN-T Core Network Corridors by 2030.

May I also add that the decision to exclude the west and northwest from the TEN-T Core was his.

Yes, the largest percentage comes from member states, but EU grants form “another significant contribution”, while “loans, guarantees and other risk-bearing instruments” are designed to draw in private sector capital by lowering risk and raising confidence.

The EU is now proposing an investment package for a new maritime route to Europe via Waterford and Cork ports, as the UK will no longer be a common transit area after Brexit. This is to upgrade port and supporting infrastructure, including rail.

On climate change, the EU is moving (subject to member states’ approval) to apply the polluter pays principle to road freight, ie to encourage freight off road and on to rail. That makes the argument for rail, including western rail, all the more compelling.

The Government seems to have lost its way in keeping up with changes in how EU supports work, let alone navigating them successfully. Not so local authorities. Fingal County Council, for example, is set to borrow €70 million from the European Investment Bank in the next five years to trigger a €180 million investment in transport, environment, enterprise, tourism, and social and cultural facilities.

The Department of Public Expenditure has let it be known, however, that it would be less than enthusiastic about, and unlikely to give approval for, similar loans for the west and northwest regions, despite the generous low-interest rates available.

The EU is quietly encouraging local and regional authorities to draw down such loans, viewing it as one way of getting around member states that are less than enthusiastic about the concept of balanced regional development, and that continue to refuse to nominate infrastructural projects in the regions, even in circumstances where there is significant matching funding on the table.

Perhaps the “misperceptions” arise not among the citizens who highlight such shortcomings, but in the Government that is responsible for them. – Yours, etc,

KEALAN FLYNN,

Galway.