The MLA argued that the Transport Minister, Danny Kennedy, needs to work with his counterparts across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to attract investment.
His remarks were made in the Assembly on Tuesday 27th November, as MLAs debated new regulations of the TEN-T European Transport Programme, which could limit Northern Ireland’s ability to acquire EU funding.
Stewart Dickson MLA said: “Putting in place world class transport infrastructure and services is essential in providing for Northern Ireland’s economic and social well-being.
“In recent years, we have benefited from approximately £18m in TEN-T funding, but looking forward, the proposed regulations will limit our ability to benefit from the programme in the next funding period.
“The Commission is simply failing to recognise that what works on the continent may not work on an island like ours, which is on the periphery and is historically one of the most underdeveloped regions of the EU.
“They want to focus investment on high speed, long distance, and/or electrified rail, whilst our railway network is one of the smallest and most isolated in the Union. They want to invest in projects that shift freight from road to rail, whilst the geographical and economic reality is that most freight cannot be transported in such a way on our small island.
“And they exclude all areas from the Core Network except the Eastern Seaboard Transport Corridor and our eastern ports. This means that CEF funding, which is directed exclusively at the Core Network, will not be available for transport between Belfast and Londonderry, our second city.
“Failing to influence policy in this area will be detrimental to our transport system, our connectivity and our economy. It is now time for us, as an Assembly, to speak with one voice on the matter.
“Together, the administrations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have demonstrated the importance of the network from Cork, through Dublin, Belfast and on to Larne, and must continue to attract investment into this essential transport corridor.
“But we must also work together to bring investment into other corridors and areas, such as the North-West, which has the highest rate of economic dependency of both jurisdictions.
“Cooperation with other governments is also essential. TEN-T Priority Project 13, for example, shows a road network that connects Cork, Dublin and Belfast with Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London via Scottish and Welsh Ports.
“It matters to us whether passengers and freight can access our shores easily from London and further afield.”