Speech on Roads Bill 2014; Seanad Éireann – Second Stage Debate

16th April, 2015

I am very pleased to come before the House today to present the Roads Bill 2014.


The purpose of this Bill is to merge the Railway Procurement Agency into the National Roads Authority. The Bill provides for the dissolution of the RPA and transfer of its staff, functions, assets and liabilities to the NRA.


The Bill also provides a timely opportunity to update certain existing provisions in the Roads Acts to reflect current policy and practice.


The newly expanded NRA will remain as a non-commercial State body and its statutory name will not change.

However, the merged entity will use the name “Transport Infrastructure Ireland” – or TII- for operational and branding purposes to better reflect is broadened remit.




The merger of these two State Bodies is being implemented under the Government’s Agency Rationalisation Programme, which forms an integral part of the Government’s wider Public Sector Reform Plans.


The Agency Rationalisation Programme Plan included a specific commitment to implement 48 agency rationalisation and reform measures under an Agency Rationalisation Programme. The Government reaffirmed and broadened its reform programme in January 2014 with the publication of the new Public Sector Reform Plan 2014-2016.


A recent progress report on the implementation of the rationalisation programme[1] found that measures affecting more than 90% of the bodies to be merged or rationalised were completed by the end of 2014, and when the remainder are fully completed there will be 181 fewer bodies operating in the Irish Public Service than in 2011 as a result of the measures taken in the programme.


The progress report found that over €24 million in annual savings will be achieved when the programme is fully implemented. It is anticipated that the annual saving under the merger of NRA and RPA will be in the region of €3.4 million, following the third year of the merger.


In line with the objectives of the Government’s overarching agency rationalisation programme it was considered appropriate to reduce the number of State agencies under my Department’s aegis and the merger of NRA and RPA is one of a number of agency restructuring initiatives currently being implemented.


I am mindful of the specialist expertise developed over the years in both RPA and NRA and it is my intention that, through this merger, valuable technical and professional skills will be retained to support the development of transport infrastructure into the future.


The specialist areas of expertise concerned would include Project Management, Negotiation and Management of PPP contracts, Transport Planning, Engineering design and advice, Planning and Environmental procedures, and Property acquisition and management.


It is anticipated that the sharing and further development of these skills in the new agency will, over time, lead to a reduction in the use of external consultants.   The new body will be encouraged to seek out opportunities to provide technical support, advice and services to other bodies on a commercial basis.


The purpose of Transport Infrastructure Ireland will be to provide, maintain and operate, either directly or indirectly, roads and light rail infrastructure and services in a safe, cost effective and sustainable manner to contribute to meeting Ireland’s long term economic, social and environmental objectives.


The merged entity will retain all the existing functions of the NRA and the RPA and the key relationships they currently have with my Department and with the National Transport Authority will remain largely unchanged.


My Department will continue to provide policy direction, and funding allocations for TII and its work programmes will be based on priorities set out in the Government’s capital investment plans.


TII will continue to undertake public transport infrastructure projects, including light rail projects such as Luas Cross City, on receipt of direction from the NTA to perform delivery functions on its behalf in the Greater Dublin Area and it will continue to receive funding from the NTA in respect of those projects.


In relation to roads, TII will remain as the sanctioning authority for national roads and will continue to have overall responsibility for the national roads programme. TII will continue to receive funding directly from my Department for this role.


The principal functions of Transport Infrastructure Ireland would be:


  • To secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads; and
  • To secure the provision of, or to provide, such light rail (Luas) and metro infrastructure as may be determined from time to time by the Minister


In respect of national roads the organisation would have overall responsibility for the planning and supervision of works for the construction and maintenance of national roads; and such other functions in relation to the construction and maintenance of national roads as are assigned to it.


In respect of light rail, the organisation would be entitled to enter into agreements with other persons in order to secure the provision of light rail infrastructure whether by means of concession, joint venture, public private partnership or any other means; and to acquire and facilitate the development of land adjacent to any railway works, subject to an application for a railway order where such acquisition and development contributes to the economic viability of such railway works.


In addition to the merger provisions in the Bill, I am availing of the opportunity to update existing provisions in the Roads Acts, having regard to current requirements in relation to the public road network and functions of the NRA.


These provisions are designed to:


  • give mandatory status to NRA standards for design, construction or maintenance works on national roads;
  • provide for the payment of grants by the NRA to road authorities in respect of   their functions in relation to regional and local roads;
  • clarify the position regarding recovery of unpaid tolls; and,
  • allow TII, and road authorities, to engage in consultation with An Bord Pleanala before making planning applications in respect of certain national road schemes.




A Merger Implementation Group is currently finalising detailed plans for the integration of both bodies. Proposals for the organisation structure, grade profile and total staff numbers for the new merged entity were recently approved by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, having regard to wider policies and practices for the restructuring of State agencies and, in particular, the Employment Control Framework.


The Implementation Group has put in place plans for integration of HR, ICT and Finance systems.


All NRA staff will relocate to RPA’s Offices in Parkgate Street on a phased basis and the relocation process will be completed by October this year.





The integration of two State bodies into one new entity presents a number of challenges, particularly from the perspective of human resource management. In this instance, the transfer of a commercial State body into the non-commercial sector is particularly challenging and issues concerning terms and conditions of staff require sensitivity and careful consideration.


In this context, I understand management and staff have engaged constructively in a recent industrial relations conciliation process.


A draft protocol agreement, encompassing a range of HR issues, was concluded under this process and a ballot of union members on the draft agreement is currently underway. I expect that all parties will continue to work together with a view to achieving the seamless integration of the two separate entities.







It is encouraging to note that both agencies are maintaining a strong focus on the delivery of their respective mandates are not allowing the merger preparations to distract them from performing their functions, including the delivery of some important transport infrastructure projects under the Government’s current capital plan.


For example, RPA is currently very engaged in leading with the delivery of the Luas Cross City Project in close cooperation with the National Transport Authority and services on the new line are scheduled to commence by the end of 2017.


The project, which has been prioritised in the Government’s 5-year capital plan, will create a Luas network by joining the Luas Red and Green lines.


Luas Cross City is expected to create up to 10 million additional Luas journeys per annum.


Although the RPA is being dissolved through this Bill, the merger with the NRA provides an opportunity to ensure that the value created over the years by RPA, in terms of organisational, engineering, design and project management skills, will be retained and integrated into a new body which will be a leader for planning, delivery and management of road and light rail infrastructure for many years to come.


The NRA is responsible for overseeing the management of 5,500 kilometres of national roads.


Its extensive responsibilities include management of the national road maintenance and renewal programme, major and minor road improvement projects, tolling operations, bridge inspection and rehabilitation, setting of standards, safety measures through to tunnel operations.


While reduced funding over the last few years has meant that the main focus has been on maintenance and rehabilitation of road pavements and bridges, some Exchequer funded road improvement projects did go ahead, for example the Ballaghdereen Bypass which was completed last year together with minor works projects including important safety schemes.


In addition despite very challenging financial circumstances the Government did commit itself to a PPP Infrastructure Stimulus Programme in 2012 which is now coming to fruition with a good market response to the projects.


Two road PPP projects are currently under construction: the  N11 Arklow to Rathnew project (which included the Newlands Cross flyover) and the N17/N18  Gort to Tuam project which is a very significant project consisting of 53  km of motorway and 4 km of dual carriageway.


Two further road PPP projects are at an advanced stage in terms of procurement: the N25 New Ross By-Pass and the M11 Gorey to Enniscorthy projects.




The Government is currently preparing a new capital plan for investment in infrastructure in the short to medium term and I will be making a strong case for additional funding for land transport.


Due to financial constraints the level of funding available in recent years for public transport and road projects has had to be significantly reduced.


A recent strategic review[2] undertaken by my Department found that the existing levels of capital investment in transport infrastructure are insufficient to adequately meet required standards and will lead to more costly renewal at a later stage.


Historically, Ireland has invested, on average, approximately 1.1% of GDP per year in land transport. Between 1999 and 2011 the average level grew to 1.4% of GDP as significant enhancements were made, most notably the construction in the motorway network and the construction of the two existing Luas lines.


However, by 2012 the average had reduced to 0.7% and investment levels have yet to recover.


The recent Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport report found that €1.3 billion annually is the minimum amount of Exchequer funding required.

In 2015 total Exchequer investment in land transport will amount to around €1 billion resulting in a funding gap of €300 million – just to allow the physical assets relating to the transport network to continue to operate as they currently do, without any investment in additional capacity.


The public transport requirements for the Greater Dublin Area are currently under review. This includes a review of rail projects for the Fingal / North Dublin corridor and the updating of the business case for the Dart Underground project.


When these reviews are completed I will then consider the options for addressing key public transport deficits in the Greater Dublin Area having regard to the costs and benefits of each project and to available Exchequer funding as well as other possible sources of funds.


I expect to finalise this review process by mid-2015.


On the roads side the priority for additional capital funding will be on maintenance and renewal of the national, regional and local road network.


However there will be targeted investment where additional capacity is required to address bottlenecks, improve access to major ports and airports and to address the needs of industry. It will also be linked to public transport investment where required so as to ensure that transfers between different modes of travel are as seamless as possible.




I now propose to outline the main provisions of the Bill.

The Bill is divided into four parts.


Part 1 deals with technical matters such as the short title and commencement, definitions, savers and repeals.


Part 2 provides for the dissolution of the RPA and the transfer of its functions, property, rights and liabilities to the NRA.


Section 6 of Part 2 is the key section that covers the proposed arrangements for the dissolution of the RPA.


Section 7of Part 2 provides for the functions of the RPA to be transferred to the NRA.


Section 8is a standard provision to transfer land and any other property of the RPA to the NRA.


Section 13allows the Minister to specify by order any name (other than NRA) for use for operational or branding purposes, for the new body to better reflect its new remit. “Transport Infrastructure Ireland” will be adopted as the new name for the NRA, for operational purposes. For legal reasons, the statutory name of National Roads Authority is not being changed.


Section 14provides for the transfer of staff from the RPA to the NRA on the dissolution day, on no less favourable terms and conditions of service.


Part 3 deals with the functions of the National Roads Authority


Section 16 of Part 3 provides that the Minister may, on behalf of or for the benefit of road authorities, request the NRA to arrange for the procurement of goods or services in relation to regional and local roads. This is intended to facilitate road authorities by providing that goods or services may be procured at national level by one body (i.e. the NRA) when requested to do so by the Minister.


Part 4 provides for amendments to existing provisions in theRoads Acts


Section 20 of Part 4inserts new sections 15B and 15C into the Roads Act 1993 to provide new powers for the Minister.  The new section 15B gives a new power to the Minister to specify national standards for the design, construction or maintenance of public roads which must be complied with by anyone carrying out such works.


It also empowers the Minister to require the NRA to amend any standards specified by it.


Section 21 amends Section 19 of the Roads Act, 1993 to provide that any standards specified by the NRA in relation to the design, construction or maintenance works on national roads must be complied with by anyone carrying out such works, subject to the new section 15B(3) – which allows the Minister to require the NRA to amend any such standards specified by it.


Section 22provides that section 24 of the Roads Act, 1993 is substituted by a new section which extends the power of the Minister to include the making of grants to the NRA in respect of its new functions under the Bill in relation to regional and local roads.


Section 23amends Section 28 of the Roads Act 1993 which relates to the appointment of members of the Authority (NRA). The purpose of this section is to expand on the areas of experience and competence that members of the Board of the expanded NRA shall have. The list will now include “railway infrastructure”, to reflect the wider remit of the new body


Section 24 inserts a new section 51A into the Roads Act 1993 to provide that road authorities and the NRA may engage in pre planning application consultations with An Bord Pleanala in relation to proposed road developments which require an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.


At present there is no provision in either the Roads Acts or the Planning Acts for the NRA or road authorities to enter into pre-planning application consultations with An Bord Pleanála in relation to proposed road developments. This amendment is being introduced as it is considered desirable to allow for advance consultation with An Bord Pleanala on relevant projects.


Section 25 amends section 64 of the Roads Act, 1993 to provide that a road undertaking may initiate court proceedings for the recovery of any unpaid toll as a simple contract debt as if the toll was founded on a contract made where the toll is being charged and collected or where the liability to pay the toll is incurred. The purpose of this provision is to clarify that a road undertaking may take proceedings in the jurisdiction where the offence of not paying the toll was committed.


Section 26, by the substitution of a new section for section 82 of the Roads Act 1993, extends the powers of the Minister to allow him to request the NRA to make grants to road authorities or others in relation to regional or local roads. It also provides that the Minister may make payments to any person or body in relation to public roads. The Minister may also, under a new section 82A, request the NRA to administer the payment of grants to road authorities, in respect of its functions in relation to regional and local roads, on his or her behalf.




To conclude, the merger of NRA and RPA will demonstrate the best and most efficient use of public resources consistent with the Government’s Public Sector reform agenda and, in particular, its Agency Rationalisation Programme. The new merged body will benefit from the sharing of technical and professional expertise developed over the years in RPA and NRA helping to create a new organisation which will be a leader in the planning, delivery and management of transport infrastructure in Ireland.


Transport Infrastructure Ireland will play a key role in maximising the contribution that the State’s investment in Transport can make to supporting our growing economy and to meeting Ireland’s longer term economic and environmental objectives.


I commend the Bill to the House.


[1]A Report on the Implementation of the Agency Rationalisation Programme (Department of Public Expenditure & Reform) December, 2014.

[2]Report of the Steering Group established to develop a Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport (Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport) August 2014