Roads 'will deteriorate badly if cuts continue'
on 08/02/2013 00:00:00
The NRA fears that if such regular maintenance is not carried out, it will lead to greater demands on its road rehabilitation budget, which also has been slashed by 50% to €100m.
Mr Barry told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that such a reduced road maintenance budget was not sustainable in the long-term, although it was "not the end of the world" for just one year.
Mr Barry stressed that the ultimate cost of keeping the national road network in a good condition would be substantially more expensive if maintenance was not carried out on a regular basis.
The roads authority also defended the payment of €15m to the two public private partnerships (PPPs) which operate the M3 Clonee-Kells and the Limerick Tunnel since 2010 in compensation for traffic levels failing to reach agreed targets on both routes.
Compensation for the M3 toll operators rose from €524,000 in 2010 to almost €2.5m last year, while payouts to the Limerick Tunnel operator increased from €1.25m in 2010 to almost €5m in 2012.
Mr Barry said the reduced traffic levels due to the economic downturn made it likely that compensation would have to be paid to the M3 toll operators until 2025 and the Limerick Tunnel operators up to 2041.
However, he insisted that it was still clear that the cost of both road projects had delivered good value in terms of reduced road crashes and improved journey times.
The committee heard that PPPs were still carrying two-thirds of the burden of traffic levels failing to meet their targets.
He claimed the NRA's sharing of the risk strategy is "working really well."
Mr Barry pointed out the PPPs, which operate the country's 11 tolled roads cumulatively lost money in 2012.
He told the committee that the compensation levels paid to some PPPs will only reduce in the event that the economy recovers with an associated increase in traffic levels.
Most consortia bidding for road-building PPPs by the mid-2000s were unwilling to bid on carrying the full traffic risk, he explained.
Mr Barry claimed it was now impossible to get any company interested in a future PPP project to even share such a risk.