After years of underinvestment in our infrastructure during Direct Rule, Northern Ireland is starting to see the benefits of the Executive’s spending on rebuilding our region. Since 2011, over £5 billion has been invested in a range of new infrastructure projects that have improved Northern Ireland.
- new roads including the A8 Belfast to Larne dual carriageway, A2 Shore Road, Greenisland dual carriageway, A26 Frosses Road and the Magherafelt bypass;
- new schools such as Bangor Grammar, Strathearn Grammar, Magherafelt High School and Whitehouse Primary School in Newtownabbey;
- new colleges like Belfast Metropolitan College in the Titanic Quarter and the North West Regional College;
- new healthcare facilities such as the new South West Acute Hospital and Health and Care Centres in Banbridge and Ballymena and
- new tourism assets like Titanic Belfast.
- Infrastructure investment brings multiple benefits to Northern Ireland. It assists in the delivery of improved public services. It increases our economic competitiveness and it creates much needed work for local construction companies and workers. Put simply, investing in infrastructure is good for Northern Ireland.
This is our plan for rebuilding Northern Ireland
1. INVESTING IN NEW ROADS
Northern Ireland needs to keep investing in new and improved road networks to keep our region competitive. Investment should be focused upon improving connections between our key towns and cities and schemes that are of strategic and economic importance. We will support projects such as:
- the dualling of the Newbuildings to north of Strabane section of the A5;
- dual carriageways for the Londonderry to Dungiven and the Randalstown to Castledawson sections of the A6;
- the York Street interchange;
- the Ballynahinch bypass;
- the Newry Southern relief road and
- the Enniskillen Southern bypass.
2. IMPROVING PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The Department for Regional Development has steadily improved public transport in Northern Ireland. Passenger numbers are rising, customer satisfaction is good and service reliability and punctuality is high. We have invested in enhancing services including:
- new buses, new bus stations and new park and ride schemes across Northern Ireland;
- new trains including an upgrade to the Enterprise service, track improvements on the Coleraine to Londonderry line and upgrades to Portadown and Antrim railway stations;
- support for rural and community transport providers and
- new ferries for the Rathlin and Strangford to Portaferry services.
We want to see that success continue. The DUP will take forward key public transport schemes such as:
- the Belfast Rapid Transit Scheme;
- the Belfast Transport Hub which will be a high class gateway for Belfast offering improved access for commuters and also create investment opportunities;
- extending the network of Park and Ride Schemes at places like Portadown;
- an integrated Bus and Rail ticketing system similar to the Oyster Card.
3. A SINGLE DEPARTMENT FOR DELIVERING INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Northern Ireland has been validly criticised for taking longer than the rest of the UK to deliver major infrastructure projects. An Infrastructure Action Plan has been developed by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) which will see DFP designated as the sole delivery department for all infrastructure projects, with the exception of water, roads and transport because of their specialist nature.
Departments would retain responsibility for prioritising projects but the Executive as a whole would benefit from economies of scale plus consistency in how projects are delivered, allowing a significant reduction in the time to construct a scheme with one department solely responsible for all aspects of project delivery. We propose that the Infrastructure Action Plan is implemented with the Department of Finance responsible for the delivery of all non-Department of Infrastructure projects.
4. BETTER MANAGEMENT OF PUBLICLY OWNED LAND
Much positive progress has been made with the creation of the Asset Management Unit (AMU) and its work on developing a register of all publicly owned land in Northern Ireland. The AMU has helped the Executive dispose of unwanted land and assets and helped to realise sizeable efficiency savings through the better management and utilisation of assets, but this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of our ability to efficiently manage publicly owned land and assets. The DUP proposes that examination is given to how the role of the AMU could be enhanced including through, for example, the possible transfer of the title to all land to the AMU to help make the management, disposal etc. of land simpler and more efficient. Ultimately, the DUP would like to explore the potential of creating one single entity akin to Public Wealth Funds that operate in places like Sweden and Singapore to effectively and efficiently manage all central government owned land and assets in Northern Ireland.
5. ESTABLISH A £1 BILLION NORTHERN IRELAND INVESTMENT FUND
In 2014, the DUP announced its intention to establish an Investment Fund for Northern Ireland. The Fund would use Financial Transactions Capital as well as drawing in support from the private sector to create a Fund to help finance projects in areas such as social and affordable housing, energy efficiency and renewables, telecommunications networks and urban regeneration. Detailed discussions have been ongoing about leveraging in further finance from the European Investment Fund with the aim of creating a £1 billion fund to support the private sector in financing schemes. The DUP will press ahead with realising the ambition of a £1 billion Northern Ireland Investment Fund.
6. INVESTING IN WATER
The DUP will make the necessary investment in our water infrastructure utilising the increases in capital funding in recent national budgets. If necessary it will utilise the asset sale flexibilities in the Fresh Start Agreement to fund capital investment.