Ireland's government will spend 34.4 billion euros ($41.3 billion) on roads and rail services over the next decade, seeking to end traffic congestion in the east and improve links to the west of the country.
The plan includes a rail line to Dublin airport, 850 kilometers of roads and a train station in Dublin akin to New York City's Grand Central station, Transport Minister Martin Cullen told reporters in Dublin today. The government will invest 26 billion euros, with the rest coming from partnerships with companies.
``If achieved, this plan will go a way to improve our competitiveness, which has been sliding,'' said Philip O'Sullivan, an economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin. ``It's important that it doesn't get bogged down.''
Ireland's transport links lag behind other countries in Europe, after government spending cuts in the 1980s left the road and rail network unable to cope with traffic generated by the country's decade-long economic boom. Ireland's infrastructure ranks 14 out of 16 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum.
The 10-year investment plan, amounting to about 20 percent of Ireland's annual gross domestic product, may help Ireland match transport in countries including the U.K. and Hungary, rivals for inward investment.
Ireland motorway density, the kilometer of motorway per 1,000 square meter area, was 1.79 percent in 2003, compared with an average of 16 percent in the European Union.
Road and Rail
The Fianna Fail-led ruling coalition's plan includes provision to extend the M50 motorway that circles Dublin to six lanes from four. Road improvements will also lop 41 minutes from the journey from Dublin, the country's capital, to Cork, the second biggest city, Cullen said. The trip takes about 4 hours.
In addition, the government wants to build a metro that will reduce the journey to Dublin's city center from the airport to 17 minutes. It will also seek to join the city's two existing tram lines by 2008, and build a train station under Dublin's St. Stephen's Green, a 22-acre Victorian park in the city center, close to the government's headquarters.
The investment may also buttress Ireland's economic growth, economists said. The country's economy will expand at the slowest pace in at least a decade in 2005, the central bank said on Oct. 19, reducing its growth forecast for this year and next as near record oil prices hurt export growth.
Gross domestic product will expand 4.25 percent in 2005 and 4.75 percent in 2006, the Dublin-based bank said.
The investment ``could support the economy and the construction sector, as house building runs out of steam,'' said Goodboody's O'Sullivan, adding that one in eight Irish workers are employed by building companies such as CRH Plc, Europe's third- biggest maker of building materials.
Shares in Dublin-based CRH rose as much as 4.1 percent to 21.70 euros today, and traded at 21.52 euros at 3.55 p.m. in Dublin.
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