Regional Development Minister welcomes draft budget allocations
Sinn Féin Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, MP, MLA has welcomed the draft Budget 2007 announced by Peter Robinson, Minister for Finance and Personnel.
The Minister said: "The draft Budget allocations are good news for the Department for Regional Development (DRD) and our entire community.
"The draft allocations would allow DRD to extend the Concessionary Fare Scheme during 2008 to introduce free travel on public transport for those aged 60 and over.
"DRD would also assist Translink with the investment of some £137 million in railways. Around 20 new trains could be procured to replace existing rolling stock and provide additional capacity with the aim of facilitating further passenger growth."
Speaking about rail infrastructure the Minister said: "The draft proposals would allow Translink to take forward important railway infrastructure projects. This includes track life extension works north of Ballymena and the commencement of a major track relay project between Coleraine and Derry. There would also be significant improvements to the Belfast to Dublin line between Knockmore and Lurgan. These schemes would reduce journey times and increase the frequency of services.
"Bus capital, which would amount to some £45 million over the next three years, would allow for the continuation of the bus replacement programme and for further modernisation of the bus fleet."
These substantial investments in public transport would help retain and improve services on the Derry line. They would also make bus and rail more attractive as an alternative to the private car and would advance the Minister's commitment to sustainable travel.
"The draft allocations would also provide for the introduction of Rapid Transit, which would provide us with an opportunity to dramatically change travel patterns in Belfast. Many cities around the world have used rapid transit to re-brand themselves, to get people out of cars and into high quality public transport, to address congestion, and to reduce pollution. The Department is exploring the best routes and technology and looking at all options to identify the best scheme for Belfast," he added.
"The draft Budget proposals would also provide for an improved ferry service on the Ballycastle to Rathlin island route.
"It would also fulfil DRD's existing commitment of joint funding with the Irish Government of some £14.3 million grant aid towards a runway safety scheme at City of Derry Airport.
"Our roads network would benefit from some £572 million of investment over the three years to 2011, and that would result in a significant increase in the size of the motorway/dual carriageway network, reduce journey times and improve access to urban centres and regions in the north."
The Minister said that this proposed investment would allow for the opening of the M1/Westlink and M2 upgrades in 2009, the dualling of the A4 from Dungannon to Ballygawley and, the opening of the A1 Beech Hill to Cloghogue in 2010, which would complete dualling of the main route from Belfast to Dublin.
"The proposed allocations would increase funding for roads structural maintenance to around £200 million. This would reverse the short-sighted decision by Direct Rule ministers and allow increased maintenance expenditure across the road network.
"On Water and Sewerage, DRD has secured some £646 million of financing facilities which would be made available to Northern Ireland Water over the three years to 2011. This investment would further improve our water and wastewater infrastructure and improve compliance with EU Water Quality and Environmental standards, and contribute to the protection of the natural environment." ENDS