Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 14 December, 1995

Adjournment Debate. - Tramway Development Proposal.

Ms O'Donnell: Traffic chaos and congestion in my constituency of Dublin South has been steadily worsening during the past ten to 15 years. It is not an exaggeration to say that traffic management is a key political issue and of daily concern to thousands of residents of Dublin South. It is the only reason many citizens in those areas contact their elected representatives.

The quality of life for thousands of Dubliners is eroded on a daily basis by their experience of sitting in cars trying to get to and from work and, indeed, to and from schools. Sadly, in the past we did not have proper planning integrating land use, transportation and road policy. For that reason the people of [1934] Dublin South view with joy the announcement of the new tramway system, particularly its extension to Dundrum. However there are various concerns in relation to the proposals that the tramway should not be extended beyond Dundrum.

The combined population of the wider Dundrum area including Goatstown, Upper Kilmacud, Balally, Sandyford, Ballinteer, Marley, Rathfarnham, Churchtown and Dundrum itself must be in the region of 80,000. What numbers are expected to use the new system? I presume the projections have been done by the DTI. It is intended that the widest possible usage of the new tram system will be achieved. How is it intended to accommodate the huge increase in commuters who will descend on Dundrum village in order to avail of the new system? Regular feeder buses from the outlying densely populated areas would be necessary for the viability of LUAS and the avoidance of further traffic chaos in Dundrum.

Much of the wider population of the area has to traverse Dundrum in order to go about its daily business. The traffic problems in the area have increased as each of the above mentioned suburbs has been developed. It regularly takes 15 to 20 minutes to travel 200 yards along the main street of Dundrum. Parking in the village or its environs for those wishing to transact business there is almost impossible as the car park and the shopping centre are extremely congested at all times. No matter what time of the day one observes Dundrum village, the traffic is bad. Where is it proposed to have car parking facilities for commuters who wish to use the new tram route? If they are to be provided in the village, traffic chaos will be exacerbated and trade will be affected.

Will the Minister explain why it is proposed that the tramway will not extend beyond Dundrum? Would it not be economically viable and good use of public money to extend the line to the Stillorgan-Leopardstown industrial estate? If the line is to be cost effective, surely such a demand cannot be [1935] ignored. I understand there are 6,000 people working in this successful industrial estate. It would cost an additional £15 million to extend the line to Sandyford industrial estate but it would only cost the taxpayer £1 million. In the context of Dundrum traffic, the extension of the line to the industrial estate would make much more sense and would also mean a greater possibility of providing parking facilities for commuters and for feeder buses. It is imperative that the bypass route for Dundrum, which was the only road the DTI agreed should be built within the outer Dublin ring, should be built at the same time together with the Wyckham bypass, both of which would contribute to traffic calming in the village. If they are not constructed at the same time as the tram link, there is likely to be a reluctance by commuters to attempt to enter Dundrum to take the tram.

Dundrum is struggling to be a vibrant village and it is constantly choked with traffic. I hope there will be good public consultation at all stages of the proposed tram development with elected representatives. There is a democratic deficit in relation to the roads proposal because no questions can be asked in the House about roads which are the responsibility of the National Roads Authority. It is important to keep all the elected representatives and the residents fully informed and consulted regarding the various developments.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Stagg): I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. The final report of the Dublin Transportation Initiative which was published last August recommends an integrated transport strategy involving a programme of investment in roads, public transport and traffic management complemented by improved enforcement.

The Government has decided that the DTI transport strategy will provide the general policy framework for the future development of the transport system in [1936] the Greater Dublin Area and has agreed to the establishment of institutional structures to oversee implementation of the strategy and to ensure the continuity of the land use and transportation planning process.

In the case of public transport, DTI recommended a number of major investment projects including the development of a light rail network; the introduction of quality bus corridors; improved interchange facilities for buses and other public transport and off street bus parking facilities in the city centre; extension and upgrading of DART and suburban rail services; provision of secure park and ride facilities on the public transport network; an integrated ticketing system for all public transport services.

The core light rail network recommended by DTI provides for lines to Tallaght, Cabinteely — via the old Harcourt Street railway line — and Ballymun at an estimated cost of £300 million, in 1993 prices. The Operational Programme for Transport 1994 to 1999 provides for a total expenditure of £200 million on light rail during the period, £175 million of which is proposed to be EU co-financed. The DTI final report endorsed this expenditure as about the limit of what could be physically implemented in the period.

In late 1993, a high level project team, comprising CIE personnel and consultants, undertook a detailed analysis of six possible options which could be implemented within the £200 million allocation for light rail.

These options were examined against a number of criteria including their contribution of DTI objectives, the likely level of use of the network, the likely level of transfer from private car, disruption during construction, engineering feasibility and the financial performance of the service.

The objective technical recommendation of the project team was that priority should be given to the construction of links to Tallaght and Dundrum, via the Harcourt Street line, and this [1937] recommendation was accepted by the previous Government in October 1994.

Following the Government decision, the light rail project team proceeded with the detailed planning and design work for the priority phases to Tallaght and Dundrum, including the determination of the preferred technical route alignments. Earlier this week the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications launched a major public consultation process. This will be undertaken by CIE on the preferred technical route alignments for the priority phases. I should stress this point. What has been launched is a public consultation process on the proposed routes. Nothing has been cast in stone. We are at the beginning of a process which will give local people a full opportunity to air their views. This process will continue over the coming months. It will include a formal public inquiry which I expect to be held next autumn.

Already telephone and fax hotline numbers have been established and households will shortly receive information through their letterboxes. In the New Year CIE will hold exhibitions in shopping centres in the areas involved and a full time public office will be opened in O'Connell Street. Members of the light rail project team will be available to attend meetings and answer questions. A modern public transport system needs a modern legal basis. Legislation is therefore being drafted which will provide a comprehensive legal framework for the development of the light rail network in Dublin. The Bill will provide, among other things, for the holding of a mandatory public inquiry.

I outline all this to highlight that the final configuration of the lines can only be definitely determined when the public consultation programme and the statutory procedures have been completed. The aim is to have the LRT links to Tallaght and Dundrum completed by the year 2000.

While I would be far happier to be in a position to announce that the lines to Cabinteely and Ballymun and Tallaght will be constructed simultaneously, the [1938] reality is that it would be neither physically nor financially possible to do so within the lifetime of the Operational Programme for Transport. In such circumstances it is inevitable and regrettable that many people are bound to be disappointed whatever the outcome.

However, I would like to reiterate that the decision on implementation priorities was based on the results of an objective analysis of a range of possible light rail projects each costing about £200 million. The proposal includes restoring a service to the Harcourt Street line for the first time in 35 years. Most of the route will be completed by 1999 and the remaining section to Cabinteely is included in Phase 2 which will follow later. The alternative would be to stop short of Tallaght which is not practical or to raise additional Exchequer funding from the taxpayer which is undesirable.

The decision on the priority phases does not imply any abandonment of the remaining phases of the core network to Cabinteely or Ballymun. The core light rail network represents the network that best meets the aspirations of the DTI strategy. It is, therefore, my intention to ensure that the completion of the core network is retained as the medium term objective and that priority is given to its completion once the priority phases to Dundrum and Tallaght have been implemented.