Active Travel project removed from Pathfinder programme because of delays in delivery

A walking and cycling project in Naas has been removed from the Pathfinder programme because the council was not able to meet the requirement of delivering the project by 2025.

Transport sources are seeing the news as a warning to other councils that projects need to be delivered faster.

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Separately but interlinked, IrishCycle.com understands that there is a focus for more targeted spending on walking and cycling funding given that the full allocation was reached in 2022 and construction inflation means that the funding is worth less than it was when the Government first formed.

On the decision about the project in Naas, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The decision to remove this sustainable mobility and urban renewal project in Naas from the Pathfinder Programme was not taken lightly and follows many months of working with and supporting Kildare County Council to help meet the necessary and fundamental criteria for the project.”

“The purpose of the Pathfinder Programme from its the very outset was to demonstrate how sustainable mobility projects can transform how we travel in our communities, and critically, how this can be done at speed. As such, a key criterion for the initial designation as a Pathfinder was the capacity of projects to be delivered by the end of 2025,” the spokesperson said.

Kfmradio.com reported that “Kildare County Council communicated that the Part 8 approval would likely be in quarter 3 of next year, but the Minister had stipulated previously it must be completed by quarter 1 or 2.”

The spokesperson said that progress in delivering the Pathfinder Programme within that timeframe is monitored on an ongoing basis by the Department of Transport and by the Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) Leadership Group, which is one of the climate action taskforces established by the Government.

The project in Naas was named ‘Naas Mobility Network Integration’ and had the aim “to reduce traffic congestion in Naas town centre, improving safety and accessibility.” The plan included a short extension of Corban’s Lane as an alternative route for motorists and linking and construction of walking and cycling infrastructure.

It was reported by local radio website kfmradio.com that €20million in funding for the Pathfinder project In Naas was “withdrawn” by Minister Eamon Ryan, but the Department of Transport told IrishCycle.com today that the Pathfinder programme is not a source of funding. Local newspaper website kildarenow.com also reported that only €75,000 had been allocated to the project for planning it.

The Department of Transport spokesperson said: “In relation to funding, it has been made clear from the beginning that the Pathfinder Programme is not a funding programme. Supports for the projects selected come from within existing budget envelopes across a variety of Government funding programmes and, in most cases, Project Promoters came to the programme with funding already in place.”

This tallies with what was said by the Department when the Pathfinder projects were announced in October 2022 with the Pathfinder programme described as “not a new funding stream” but rather “an initiative aimed at ensuring the projects selected are provided the impetus to deliver quickly and demonstrate what can be achieved with the right level of ambition and innovation.”

The spokesperson however said that the ‘Pathfinder’ status does provide the projects involved with “priority consideration within existing programmes to accelerate delivery.”

“For this particular project, there was no funding identified by the sponsoring Local Authority. Working with the Department of Transport, it was agreed that Kildare County Council should pursue funding from the Climate Action Fund (CAF) which is administered by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications. However, no such application was made to the CAF, hence no funding has been assigned or withdrawn from the project,” the Department of Transport said.

The spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons including the scale of the project and the planning route required (with associated timelines), it is evident that the project will not be completed by end 2025. The Minister took the difficult decision on the basis of the latest information provided by the Council on the delayed progress of the project, following a series of engagements with the Local Authority over the last year.”

The spokesperson for the Department added: “This is not a reflection on the merits of the project. It is hoped that Kildare County Council will continue to pursue the development of this ambitious project which can hopefully complete over a longer period.”

The Department also confirmed that, to date, no other projects have been removed from the Pathfinder Programme.

Kildare County Council has said that it will continue to look at all possible funding options to progress the project.

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