Spending on Active Travel by Irish councils in 2022 reached €310m, up from an initial budget of €289m. It is the first year of this Government’s term that there has not been an underspend on walking and cycling.
The funding mentioned in this article is allocated to councils by the National Transport Authority. It does not include spending on rural greenways, which is allocated by TII and makes up most of the remainder of €360m per year promised in the Programme for Government.
The allocations range from footpath renewal works to major projects. It also includes design, planning and building funding for different stages of projects — so, if funding was spent on design work in 2021 you might see the same project listed in 2022 for building cost. For larger projects, the allocations for construction can also be made over a number of years.
Terry Brennan, a spokesperson for the National Transport Authority who has a focus on Active Travel, said: “In 2022 we were working to a budget of €289m initially, and ended up spending approximately €310m.”
After a Freedom of Information request for the Active Travel spending in 2022, the NTA released a spreadsheet with a spend of over €500m in 2022 — or €500,098,872 to be exact.
The difference between this and the €310m figure includes a mix of the previous years’ underspend and legacy payments. The NTA’s Active Travel funding stream is a reworking of what was called the ‘Sustainable Transport Management Grants (STMG), which covered some minor public transport and related works. It was expected that the Active Travel funding stream should be just walking- and cycling-related from this year onwards.
In response to a question on a number of projects which are public transport or road upgrades with walking and cycling elements, Brennan said: “It is also worth noting that the programme was previously titled Sustainable Transport Management Grants (STMG) and was only changed for 2022. All of these projects were started under the STMG banner and contractual commitments made at that time, although they are still predominantly active travel projects.”
The top ten projects in terms of the amount spent amounted to nearly €95 million.
Of these, a number were not mainly walking and cycling projects including €27.2m on major site work on Waterford’s North Quays project which is designed around wide roads, €10.7m on the Blackglen Road Improvement Scheme in Sandyford in Dublin which is a junction capacity project, and €9m on the Belmayne Main Street and Belmayne Avenue Bus and Cycle Scheme which is BusConnects-style project advanced ahead of the main BusConencts as part of access to a housing development in the northern fringe of Dublin City.
Another project listed is the McCurtain St project in Cork which is mainly a bus project and wide footpaths provided as part of the project have already been overrun with illegally parked cars.
The issue of Waterford’s North Quays project is covered in a separate article also published today. The project allocation was nearly twice as much as the 2022 allocation for the Clontarf to City Centre Cycle Route — although as with most large projects, there are allocations over a number of years.
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The NTA said that it is funding approximately 30% of the Blackglen Road Improvement Scheme to “contribute to the active travel facilities which are being provided along the route.”
It said that the MacCurtain St project is “a sustainable transport project which includes both active travel and public transport enhancements and includes improvements along Anderson’s Quay, Camden Quay, Penrose Quay, Merchants Quay, Patrick’s Quay including Christy Ring Bridge, Lavitt’s Quay, Mulgrave Road, Devonshire Street and Cathedral Walk.”
To put the full spreadsheet spend for Waterford City and County Council in context, their €53m in spending was the same level as Cork City, but both of those were higher than both the DLRCC (€42m) and Fingal (€27m) when the two Dublin areas have significantly higher populations.
Because of the way in which the spreadsheet was provided, IrishCycle.com cannot break the figures down further to know what part of it was current 2022 spending and what was say 2021 allocation/underspend only spent last year or what was provided to a council when other councils make it clear they could not spend their allocation.
The spreadsheet shows a list of projects that were allocated funding in 2022 and, a second tab on the spreadsheet shows a list of projects that received an allocation in 2022 but incurred no spend.
The NTA said that approximately 1100 projects received an allocation in 2022, and 220 projects incurred no spend. Brennan said: “Of these 220 projects, 152 (69%) had an allocation of €100k or less.”
There are several reasons for projects to be delayed including waiting for planning approval or issues with the plans or securing consultants or contractors.
Brennan said: “The allocations in 2022 got added to across the year. Some of the new allocations were made to replace projects that were not started in 2022, or had stalled or had stopped. There is also some overrun form 2021 captured in there also.”
Data: Projects where there was spending and those with zero spend