Thursday, January 18, 2007

The penny drops for the National Roads Authority - Rest areas on motorways are needed after all

N11 motorway near Arklow, County Wicklow Photo credit:

Transport Minister Martin Cullen on Tuesday announced details of the Government’s €1.53 billion investment of funds in the 2007 National Roads Programme. This investment in the country’s roads, represents the largest single annual investment in road infrastructure in the history of the State.

On Wednesday, the National Roads Authority announced that it has begun seeking sites to build rest areas on motorways, which have already been opened.

The penny has dropped that the dismissal of rest areas as unnecessary was bizarre, stupid and simply beyond belief.

The argument was that a driver in need of petrol, a pee or a rest could find a village off the motorway.

The stupidity of the argument, is as my mother would have said, enough to make a dog strike his father.

Last December, it was reported that up to €4.6bn of the €18.5bn of taxpayers' money that will be spent on new main roads over the next decade will go into the pockets of landowners. Fred Barry, chief executive of the National Roads Authority is reported as saying that the increases in the cost of land for major roads projects as "disturbing".

Land acquisition accounts for 23% of the cost of roads projects in Ireland, but just 12% in England, 10% in Denmark, 9.4% in Greece and 1% in Iceland. A further 2% of the €18.5bn provided in the Government's Transport 21 for road building over the next decade will go to archaeologists.

Before Tom Parlon joined the self-styled party of enterprise, the Progressive Democrats, he led a successful campaign as leader of the Irish Farmer's Association (IFA), to force the Government to compensate farmers at development land prices.

The IFA, the representatives of farmers who are huge beneficiaries of European taxpayer largesse (rich Ireland is still in the money, having German and Dutch taxpayers fund the bonanza) in 2001, had the cheek to claim that the State had no right to appropriate land for roadbuilding via a Compulsory Purchase Order.

Now, the geniuses at the NRA and their political master Martin Cullen will have to go cap-in-hand to farmers again for land for service areas.

I'm an optimistic person but this type of carry-on without anyone taking responsibility for it, would depress a saint.