COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Are civil servants running rings around Minister Eamon Ryan? Or are the Greens throwing the roads people a bone? Or what’s going on?
IrishCycle.com reported last month how Minister Ryan has funded road-widening, capacity projects under “Active Travel” funding.
There were some accusations that this article was incorrect. So-far nobody has come forward to say why.
As reported in that article: Minister for Transport and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that he was funding walking and cycling infrastructure in 2022 to the tune of €289 million. But spreadsheets released to the media detailed projects totalling nearly €388 million, including public transport and road capacity projects.
That’s €99 million of projects which went unmentioned but listed in spreadsheets under “active travel”.
IrishCycle.com understands that the heading of “active travel” includes small-scale public transport projects.
Walking, cycling and small-scale public transport projects used to be funded under what was called the National Transport Authority’s sustainable transport measures grant (STMG) programme. For some reason — when there was already questions about transparency — it was thought it was a good idea that this was renamed “Active Travel Allocation”.
It’s also understood that the Department of Transport were made aware of this… but why did anybody think this was a good idea to start with? And then some of the projects listed are mainly just road widening or planning for such?
Others are larger scale bus projects, which range from looking at walking and cycling as a secondary to looking at cycling as an afterthought and only have continuous cycle paths where it doesn’t get in the way of buses or cars too much.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport told this website at the time: “The commitment to spend €360m per annum on Active Travel will be allocated through €289m announced today, €60m allocated under Greenways programme, €4m allocated to TII for Active Travel as well as other amounts being spent within the Department.”
The spokesperson added: “The Department believes that all projects being funded will have a positive impact on Active Travel in Ireland. There are over 1,000 projects funded today that will help transform our cities, towns and villages and make cycling more attractive for people and provide them with an alternative to the car for their journeys to work and school. We are also improving footpaths and junctions for people walking.”
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But some of the 1,045 projects listed include projects listed in 2021 but not finished or started — that could relate to extra funding for those project or it could be related to the €132 million underspend on walking and cycling in 2021, which is understandable given the rapid increase in funding and which we understand councils will be allowed to keep.
The Department of Transport highlighted that it was the largest spend on walking and cycling without mentioning the understand last year.
A large number of entries on the spreadsheet for funding names just areas or streets without outlining even if the projects are cycling or walking or both. In some cases, municipal districts are named more than once on lists without any indication of what the money will be spent on.
This varies from council to council, but the lack of clarity is amplified by a lack of clear project descriptions. There’s also no clarity if much of the lower about of funding is for in-depth planning or for quick-build projects.
Requests for further information even under Freedom of Information legislation have been denied. Last year, IrishCycle.com requested a further breakdown of €240 million funding via a Freedom of Information request but the National Transport Authority claimed it would “cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption” of its work.
If nobody is trying to hide anything, the why didn’t anybody mention €99 million in bus and other transport projects?
There’s a whole lot being spend on walking and cycling, but there is a lack of transparency here that needs to be addressed.