The WDC Policy Analysis team investigates and highlights the fundamental role of telecommunications and transport access for the sustainable development of the Western Region and makes policy recommendations to improve the region’s connectivity.

Telecommunications

Broadband infrastructure is a transformative infrastructure, with the capacity to change what people do and the way they do it. Broadband has enabled innovation and growth and contributes significantly to GDP growth and generates significant employment growth.

Quality broadband access can make geographic distance to market far less relevant, providing easy access to worldwide markets. This can be particularly important in promoting regional and rural development and reducing, if not eradicating, the limitations of more peripheral locations. Rural regions with quality broadband access are on a more level playing field.

It is recognised that the market will not invest in broadband and next generation networks in all areas as the commercial case is weaker in more rural areas. In order to ensure that regional and rural areas are not disadvantaged, additional State investment is needed.

The WDC Policy Analysis team monitors and highlights weaknesses in broadband infrastructure and services across the Western Region. The WDC continues to engage with commercial providers and the Government on the priorities for investment, proposing future proofed solutions to ensure that the region is not disadvantaged and furthermore can take advantage of the opportunities that next generation broadband offers.

Reports and submissions on telecommunications are available here

Transport infrastructure

Transport infrastructure is the means by which trade is conducted. People and goods need quality transport infrastructure to move efficiently and competitively. Quality infrastructure is seen as a necessary though not a sufficient condition for growth. The WDC emphasises the need for improvements in road, rail and air connectivity for the Western Region. These will enable the region to develop indigenous businesses and tourism and compete for, and retain, foreign investment.

Air

As an island economy quality international air access is vital. The Western Region is the most remote region of Ireland situated on the Western periphery of Europe and the region needs good international air services to compete effectively in business and tourism. Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport at Knock – the two international airports within the Western Region – are vital service providers and act as key stimuli for further development in the region.

Rail

Rail transport is an important element of the transport mix, comprising inter-city, commuter and freight services where available. It is also a more sustainable transport mode than car use and it is likely that travel by rail will increase in importance as part of the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. The WDC monitors rail services and infrastructural developments and advises on improvements where needed and where possible.

The WDC Policy Analysis team is engaged in examining efforts to improve and grow rail freight traffic services from the Western Region, which already has the most significant rail freight volumes in the country.

Roads

The road network remains the primary transport mode, with two thirds of commuters travelling to work by car (Census 2011). The road network is particularly important in rural regions where access to rail services is more limited.

There has been significant investment in the national road network, however there is still no motorway north of Galway. Improvements in the road network elsewhere make the deficiencies in this area even more apparent. The WDC argues that the Western Region, and especially the North West, requires improved quality road infrastructure if businesses located there are not to be at a competitive disadvantage in terms of transport accessibility. The quality of the road network is also critical for tourism development and improved road safety.

Reports and submissions on transport infrastructure are available here