FEARS OF an economic slowdown have prompted the Irish government to rein in infrastructure and transport spending in the country's national development plan.
About IR£4.6bn (£3.7bn) was earmarked for the NDP in 2001, but this year's budget estimate announced by finance minister Charlie McCreevy indicates that cuts of £480M have been made.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) was to have received about £640M for road improvement schemes, but has only been allocated £540M. This means four road schemes due to start this year could be put on hold.
There will also be demands for funding to start the £4bn Dublin Metro project, which is expected to come before the cabinet soon.
Any fall in funding would be another blow to Ireland's roads programme which has been dogged by an unresolved farmers' dispute over compensation for land which began in June 2001 (GE August 2001).
NRA sources said the dispute was causing serious problems.
Award of two contracts worth £80M - the Cashel bypass and the Heath Mayfield motorway bypass in Kildare - has been delayed because tenderers cannot gain access to land for site inspections.
Pre-tender environmental assessment and surveying work has also been badly affected and is likely to cause further delays.
The Irish Department of the Environment said discussions with the Irish Farmers' Association 'were continuing'.