Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press release VFM examination report on The Development of a national Roads Network

Press Release

25 May 1999

Value for Money Report: the Development of the National Road Network

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. John Purcell, has carried out an examination of the development of the national road network in the period 1994-97.

A major programme of investment in the national roads started in 1994, as part of the Operational Programme for Transport. This involved expenditure of ?1.2 billion (in 1994 prices) on road improvement projects between 1994 and the end of 1999. Substantial financial assistance was made available by the EU from the Cohesion and European Regional Development Funds for the roads programme.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) was set up in 1994 to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national primary and secondary roads. The NRA is obliged by law to arrange for local authorities to carry out road construction or maintenance work on its behalf, where possible.

The examination focused on achievements in relation to the roads programme in the period 1994-1997, during which almost ?800 million was spent. The overall objective of the examination was to establish if the systems in place in the NRA were adequate to ensure that the national roads development programme was carried out economically, efficiently and effectively.

A report on the examination is being presented to Dáil ?reann today. The main findings of the examination are summarised overleaf.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Fergus O’Brien at (01) 679 3122

Main Findings

Expenditure on Road Improvements

  • Expenditure on national roads totalled ?792 million in the period 1994 to 1997. This was in line with planned expenditure. Around ?503 million was spent on projects to improve four strategic primary road corridors, linking the country’s main cities and ports.
  • The EU provided an estimated 60% of the funding for primary road projects. This was significantly less than had been expected from EU sources. Some projects overran considerably on cost and the EU Commission has not agreed to co-finance the extra spending. The balance was met by the Irish Exchequer.

Individual Road Improvement Projects

  • Planning and design of road improvement projects is a very lengthy process. Significant delays can occur because decision-making is fragmented across a number of organisations at central and local government levels and because of the complex network of policies and procedures which have to be accommodated.
  • Substantial increases have occurred in the estimated costs of many projects included in the programme between 1994 and 1997. The increases are significantly more than could be explained by inflation and have been attributed mainly to poor estimation of costs at the start of planning and major changes in the scope and quality of projects at the design stage.
  • The economic justification for an individual project can be altered if the expected costs and benefits change significantly during planning and design. No case was found where a project was stopped because of negative changes in its economic justification.

Measuring the Impact of the Programme of Improvement Work

  • The expected impact of road improvement work on the four strategic corridors was specified before the investment programme started. Targets were set for improvement in the level of service and reductions in journey times by the end of 1999.
  • The roads investment programme was expected to result, by the end of 1999, in a reduction of 204 minutes in the combined average journey time on the four strategic corridors. This will not be achieved. The NRA now expect savings of 175 minutes on average journey times on the four corridors.
  • The establishment of the NRA and the experience of the current road development programme have led to a strengthening of the processes and procedures for the strategic management of roads development but there is room for further improvement. Better management information is required within the NRA to track outputs and inputs against quantified targets for measuring effectiveness. There is also a need for the NRA to benchmark its performance against its counterparts in other countries.

The contents of this page were last updated on 26/09/03