Ireland’s biggest business group has demanded a “world class” transport infrastructure for Donegal and the North-West to help it bounce back from the Covid pandemic.
IBEC (Irish Business Employers Confederation) says that as the economy gradually reopens and restrictions ease, decades of chronic underinvestment in key infrastructure including transport is threatening to undermine the prospects for economic recovery.
The group is calling on Government to ensure that the National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland (NIFTI) supports the delivery of an enhanced National Development Plan (NDP), underpinned by an ambitious programme of world class public services and infrastructure development.
Ibec North-West Regional Director Terry MacNamara said: “NIFTI can play a central role in ensuring the delivery of an enhanced ‘NDP Plus’ programme of investment to support better lives and better business in the North-West region.
“The NIFTI framework must ensure transport infrastructure investment supports greater ambition in the revised NDP. Connectivity and accessibility will be more important than ever post-crisis to support the region and address regional economic disparities for once and for all.
“The North-West is particularly exposed to the impacts of Covid and Brexit. Investment in the region must be prioritised following the downgrading of the region by the EU from a ‘More Developed Region’ to a ‘Region in Transition’. The renewed plan must positively discriminate in favour of the North-West, providing a higher rate of capital investment in the infrastructure of the region.
“Targeted and ambitious capital investment in transport, broadband, housing, education including a new Technological University, revitalisation of town centres and developing Letterkenny and Sligo as strong Regional Growth Centres, will be key to supporting the region’s economy to rebuild and ensuring it is better connected, more sustainable, and ultimately more competitive in the wake of the pandemic.
“Government should increase the national infrastructure budget by €70 billion over the revised Plan timeframe out to 2030, supported through Exchequer, private and international financing sources. In addition to increased investment, faster and more efficient delivery of key infrastructure projects will be crucial.”
Amongst Ibec’s key infrastructure priorities for the North-West region in its recent NDP submission include:
- Accelerate the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan and ensure a supportive regulatory environment for the successful roll-out of 5G.
- Complete the N4 upgrade, M17 Tuam to Sligo and N15 Sligo to Letterkenny.
- Upgrade of the N14 Letterkenny-Lifford/Strabane and progress and delivery of N2/A5 project from Derry to Monaghan/Dublin.
- Ambitious investment in skills, education and research and establish a Technological University in the region.
- Provide critical enabling infrastructure for Letterkenny and Sligo as ‘Regional Growth Centres’ to support the projected population growth of 40%.
- Prioritise investment in tourism infrastructure in the region, to support the development of new visitor experiences, upgrading of existing attractions and sites, and visitor awareness and accessibility to stimulate demand and build upon the tourism potential across the region.
- Invest to protect and sustain the all-island economy through increasing the Shared Island fund to €5 billion. This will support essential cross-border economic and spatial development.