Unlocking Development Opportunities – NTA Transport Strategy Update
The Government’s announcement of a new Medium Term Capital Investment Plan comes hard on the heels of the NTA’s recently announced development of a new Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). So, do these initiatives matter? In a word, YES! So what’s their significance for the regional economy, and in particular, for the development planning sector?
First a bit of history!
NTA’s current Draft Transport Strategy was published in June 2011 at a time of major economic and political uncertainty: – the EU-IMF Programme commenced in November 2010, and a general election was held in February 2011. Later that year, in November 2011, the current Government announced the National Capital Investment Framework 2012-2016, leading to the deferral (as expected by many in the industry) of key elements of NTA’s Strategy, namely Metro North and DART Underground schemes.
To provide greater certainty on short-medium term capital investment plans in the Dublin Region, the NTA in April 2014, published its 5-year Integrated Implementation Plan 2013 – 2018. In doing so, it has however exposed the challenges faced by NTA arising from the deferral of key elements of its current Draft Strategy. For example, as illustrated in Transport Insights recent bus operator advice, it is unclear if Metro North’s future delivery is warranted in the context of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit scheme from Swords / Airport to the City Centre.
Research undertaken in support of the recently published Draft Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport (SFILT) indicates that long run levels of capital investment in transport in Ireland over the period from 1953 to 2012 averaged 1.13% of GDP. Despite these investment levels being comparable with international norms (developed countries over the period from 1995 to 2007, averaged 1.23%), they have since fallen substantially – to 0.72% of GDP in 2012.
Informed by the findings of SFILT, the ongoing GDA Strategy Update and Medium Term Capital Investment Plan represent a much needed opportunity to clarify and align short-medium term investment plans with longer term strategic aspirations within the Greater Dublin Area. Let’s all hope they deliver! Why? Read on!
Why transport matters?
In addition to transport’s essential role in supporting economic, social, environmental and health policy goals, transport is also a key consideration in:
- Business locational decisions – including attracting foreign direct investment, whereby different levels of priority will be afforded by a business to labour market, business to business, supplier and market access.
- Development feasibility, which is dependent on a range of transport and non-transport related factors. Of the transport factors, those that have greatest relevance include transport policy fit, traffic impacts, required mitigation measures, and delivery time and risk. Ultimately all of these factors can contribute to the overall cost of bringing a development to fruition, potentially tipping the balance of financial feasibility.
So what are the development planning implications of the current governmental initiatives?
Compared to previous planning processes, the parallel development of NTA’s Transport Strategy and the Government’s Medium Term Capital Investment Plan provides much greater confidence that short-medium measures emerging from the former will be allocated the required level of funding by the latter. As a result, and for the first time since the crash, the potential exists to provide greater funding certainty to the delivery of major new transport infrastructure schemes.
Additionally, current levels of capital investment are below the long-run average levels – by both Irish and international standards. In his recent speech at the Transport Ireland 2015 conference, the Minister stated that “the case is strong for a substantially larger capital funding envelope.” Were we to return close to the long run average investment levels of 1.13% of GDP, would represent a potential increase of over 50% from recent (2012) levels.
Bearing in mind transport’s role in influencing business locational decisions, and as an integral factor in determining development feasibility, this provides a much needed opportunity for the development industry to plan with a greater degree of certainty. In a world where risk can be monetised and factored into the development decision process, this represents real progress!
What are the priorities?
In light of the national and international policy focus on reducing car dependency (and ultimately carbon emissions), the predominant focus of future urban capital investment within these planning initiatives is likely to be on targeted public transport infrastructure and service provision.
To establish their implications, and the commercial opportunities, land owners, developers and asset managers will need to first determine the nature and scale of effect arising from the planned investment, alongside the dependency of, risk (and cost) to the development proposal. Further issues to consider arising planned new public transport schemes include:
- Downstream planning requirement to align development proposals with Government policy objectives to reduce car use and maximise use of new public transport schemes – car parking standards and other mobility management measures are of particular relevance.
- Development of a strategy to de-risk the proposed development’s dependency on planned public transport investment, and offset impacts arising from potential delay in their delivery.
Through analysing and interpreting the implications of ongoing planning initiatives, confidence in the site valuation and feasibility stages of the development planning process can be greatly enhanced.