Dáil Éireann - Volume 655 - 21 May, 2008

Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Noel Ahern, on Wednesday, 21 May 2008:

That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

Dáil Éireann declines to give the Bill a Second Reading due to the severe lack of democratic accountability procedures inherent in the Bill in respect of the operation of the proposed Dublin Transport Authority.

—(Deputy Fergus O’Dowd.)

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I note that section 26 of the Bill also outlines the Minister’s ability to issue policy directions and guidelines to the Dublin transport authority, DTA. I intend to insert a strong amendment here specifying the Minister’s absolute responsibility to report to Members of the Oireachtas on all matters pertaining to the DTA. As I said earlier, the Dublin transport authority must not be allowed to become another quango or a HSE on wheels. The DTA will be a significant and powerful organisation with an enormous budget. It will also have a vast transport, planning and socio-economic agenda. It is imperative that the DTA and the Minister for Transport of the day are fully accountable to the Dáil and to their fellow citizens.

I accept that Part 2, section 41 establishes that the DTA must attend the Oireachtas transport committee and Committee of Public Accounts if requested to do so. However, I strongly believe that political responsibility for the organisation must be fully accepted and acted upon by the Minister for Transport in the pre-eminent chamber of this House, the Dáil. At present, [74] the Minister is unaccountable for bodies such as the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the Road Safety Authority, RSA. I will attempt to amend this Bill to ensure he must answer to Dáil Éireann on all major issues of policy and performance with regard to the Dublin Transport Authority. I hope the Minister will give a commitment to do this and that an initiative will be taken, in conjunction with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the Ceann Comhairle, to ensure there are no more unaccountable quangos——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: ——such as the HSE and the NRA which can totally ignore the Deputies in this House and refuse to answer their questions.

Chapter 4 of the DTA deals with strategic traffic management. The issue is topical given that the Minister and his colleague, Deputy Frank Fahey, have been doing a media double act, a kind of comedy double act, recently——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: ——with madcap proposals for congestion charges, road pricing and banning cars from a wide area of central Dublin. Traffic in Dublin and the greater Dublin area is on a constant knife edge and I welcome the provision that obliges the DTA to draw up and enforce a comprehensive traffic management plan and relevant guidelines following wide consultation with the local authorities and other stakeholders. However, there is an even more pressing reason a comprehensive and strictly enforced traffic management scheme is increasingly vital to the greater Dublin area. This is, of course, the proposed “big dig” for the metro north, the rail interconnector and the Luas link which, if not properly managed, could cause chaos and total gridlock in Dublin city centre. We are all extremely worried because the Minister is the man on the bridge. He is the man in charge of this potential traffic and socio-economic disaster. The last time I asked parliamentary questions in the House, the Minister had a hysterical reaction when I questioned him on the big dig.

The Labour Party has long been a strong supporter of fixed-rail projects, such as the metro north, the Luas link and the rail interconnector, and if I and my party had our way these projects would have been developed and delivered years ago for the people of the city and the greater Dublin and mid-Leinster region. Yet there is major concern that mismanagement of the big dig could devastate business life in the city and cause an unprecedented level of congestion. Earlier this week we heard the Dublin City Business Association making public its concerns that €2 billion per year could be lost to the Irish economy during the big dig. On behalf of the Labour Party, I will meet the Dublin Chamber of Commerce later this week to discuss the concerns of local business people.

The experience of Sheffield, which the Minister of State will remember as he and I were city councillors at the time, is a case in point. During the building of Sheffield’s light rail system it was said that business life in the city centre was sterilised. Such an outcome must be avoided at all costs. I asked the Minister to clarify the impact of the big dig and what exactly will happen to the city. We recently had an avalanche of sensational newspaper reports about the destruction of St. Stephen’s Green and the removal of much-loved Dublin monuments, such as the statues of Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell, and, indeed, although I do not think it is much loved, the removal of the Spire. The Minister must ensure a transparent process that keeps the public completely and absolutely informed of all developments and the full potential impact of the big dig as soon as possible. That is why I believe the Bill should contain [75] references to the big dig. We should deal with it in the Bill and have provisions on how it is to be managed. I will table amendments in this regard on Committee Stage.

In the context of traffic management, I hope the Minister will finally address the ongoing issue of the current tolling regime on the M50. As the Minister knows, readers of the Evening Herald have been making their voices heard in their thousands on this issue. The M50 fiasco is simply one of the worst and most costly deals for Irish taxpayers that has ever been agreed in the history of the State, costing us at least €600 million in the next 15 or 20 years. Motorists believed that with the Government buy-out of the West Link bridge and the lifting of the barriers from next August, some relief was finally in sight, but instead they are being hit with a further price whammy and the prospect of ever-spiralling charges for using the motorway. There is a great danger that motorists will try to avoid using the M50 if at all possible once the new charges are introduced, with the result that there will be a large increase in the number of drivers rat-running through residential neighbourhoods, including those in the Minister of State’s constituency and mine, and using the streets around the already clogged-up city centre. Motorists should be encouraged to use the M50 more rather than less when the big dig begins. Is this likely to happen with the imposition of higher toll charges in August?

The Minister must now step in and fully review the operation of the present tolling regime before barrier-free tolling begins to operate in August. The Minister previously discussed with me the proposals for and debates on congestion charges in New York and Sweden and the local referendums that were held on this issue. Surely citizens in Dublin and throughout Ireland should have similar democratic rights. I intend to propose that section 11 be amended to provide for local and regional referendums on all major traffic management issues. Let the Minister put the issue to the people of Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Louth and so on.

Part 5 of the Bill, which deals with land use provisions, is very timely and pertinent. The reprehensible failure to properly integrate transport needs with commercial and residential developments has been one of the worst and most shameful failures of Irish public policy in the past decades. Many high density developments were built without adequate transport links during the Celtic tiger years and citizens in new residential developments across Ireland have been left with an appallingly low level of public transport provision, if they have any at all, often for years on end. Development after development was sanctioned with little thought, provision or enforcement throughout the mid-Leinster and wider regions. In my constituency, as the Minister will remember, a proposal for a vast new urban centre on the north side was recently approved by the planning authority, Dublin City Council, which is a PPP partner of the developer. This will provide for the astonishing number of nearly 1,400 apartment units and duplexes, plus 76,000 sq. m of retail space, in an area of Coolock that is already poorly served by public transport.

What is missing in this proposal? No fixed-line transport system is planned, despite the fact that a north side Luas from Donaghmede to Ballymun and the airport was part of the DTO’s 2016 plan which was laid out eight years ago. In another part of my constituency, the famous north fringe, we have been waiting for a new DART station for the past six or seven years but it has been put off until mid-2009.

The Bill before us contains a series of valuable amendments to the Planning and Development Act 2000, which are intended to ensure consistency between the authority’s strategy and the various plans and guidelines produced by local and regional planning authorities in the greater Dublin area. It appears, however, that county and local development plans will not have to obtain binding DTA approval in the absence of ministerial intervention under section 92. I understand the distinguished Professor Margaret O’Mahony of Trinity College, the first head of the DTA establishment team, left the organisation because of the failure of the Govern[76] ment, particularly the former Minister, Deputy Cullen, to ensure that every local authority in the greater Dublin area was obliged to obtain DTA approval for all development plans to make sure they contained fully integrated transport plans. I will submit amendments on this issue on Committee Stage.

Chapter 3 of Part 5 provides for vital integration measures, including the sharing of ticketing systems, stops, stations and other infrastructure. Fully integrated ticketing should have been operational by 2005. Instead the completion date was pushed back to 2010 and then to 2013. During this period the cost of integrated ticketing has also skyrocketed from the original figure of €29.6 million to at least €50 million. The outgoing Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. John Purcell, issued a damning report that strongly criticised the management of the integrated ticketing project. All this goes back to the fact that the Government failed to set up the Dublin Transport Authority in a timely manner. I was reasonably heartened by a recent briefing given to the Joint Committee on Transport by the newly established integrated ticketing project board. It is hoped we are finally on track to have an integrated ticketing system in two years’ time.

One of the most critical factors in the failure to roll out integrated ticketing, as I mentioned, was the absence of an overarching organisation such as the DTA, which is absolutely essential to drive through all the integrated aspects of a modern transport system for Dublin. Further integration measures proposed in Chapter 3 include an integrated public transport information system. The legislation should mandate the DTA to drive the roll-out of a real-time integrated public transport information system. The Minister of State may remember talking about this in 1991 in Dublin City Council and on the traffic committee with Dublin Bus. There was talk of the possibility of showing bus information in real time on bus stops. Here we are, 16 years later, and what have we got?

The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, spoke extensively about the development by the DTA of a single public transport brand for the greater Dublin area and provision is made for that under section 57. I welcome that but I would like a lot more information on it. For example, how much will the rebranding exercise cost and will all transport providers, including public and private operators and rail, light rail and bus services, be included? As expected, part 6 of the Bill provides for the dissolution of the Dublin Transportation Office and its incorporation into the new DTA. I pay tribute to the work of the DTO, led by Mr. John Henry, the CEO, and Mr. Willie Soffe, the chairperson of the steering committee, a former Fingal County Manager who was also the transport manager of Dublin City Council for many years. I pay tribute to the team on their work in recent years. Although the DTO had a limited remit, the organisation has contributed significantly to developing and advancing transport policy in the greater Dublin area over the years. I hope this good work will continue, especially as regards the development of long-term transport strategy. I welcome the Bill’s references to research and the provision of information.

4 o’clock

I welcome the decision by the Minister to re-establish a Dublin transport authority and to publish this legislation. The tenor of much of my speech may sound critical to the ears of the Ministers of State and the Minister, but the Labour Party and I are committed to developing and delivering a strong and sustainable transport network, with accessible public transport for all commuters in the greater Dublin area and across the country at its heart. Given this legislation’s long and difficult gestation, it could have been better and more comprehensive and democratic. I intend to introduce a series of amendments on behalf of the Labour Party on Committee Stage to address the gaps and deficiencies I have outlined. I hope the Minister of State will respond positively.

[77]   Deputy Michael Kennedy: Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Dála Noel Ahern. As a member of the Joint Committee on Transport and as a resident of and Deputy for one of the country’s fastest growing regions, Dublin North, I welcome the Bill because it is long overdue. No one knows this better than Deputies from Dublin North and counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow and parts of south County Louth.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: I agree.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: The Deputy asked for part of County Louth to be subsumed into Dublin.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Only in terms of transport.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: When the new lord mayor of Dublin is elected, the Deputy’s constituents will welcome Louth being subsumed. I am uncertain in that regard, but the Deputy speaks for his constituents.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: The lord mayor will be from Drogheda.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: I welcome that the Bill addresses the requirement to consolidate all public transportation into one authority. Commuters in my area and throughout the greater Dublin region are under pressure. The authority will free our congested roads from the agencies charged with taking care of them, public transport and funding. The Bill will ensure the overhauling of these aspects.

The landscape of public transport in the greater Dublin area is changing with the advent of Transport 21, particularly in respect of metro north, DART extensions to Balbriggan and, hopefully, Drogheda in Deputy O’Dowd’s constituency, more buses and additional park and ride facilities around the city and county. As desired by each Deputy, the authority will be empowered to deliver on each of these promises. Every Member would agree that streamlining the decision-making process is essential. No Deputy in the greater Dublin area has not been frustrated by the current system, with its multi-agency confusion and ensuing indecision. This mammoth Bill’s most important aspect is the proposal to give decision-making powers to a single authority. No single agency or Department has the same level of power. The concentration of power and responsibility is vital for the effective and efficient running of the new authority and for the delivery of a reliable, integrated and efficient transport system for all citizens. Since some 1.6 million people live in the region and more than 800,000 vehicles traverse the city’s roads per day, resolving the outstanding issues in public transport and gridlock has never been more important.

The Bill’s aim is to establish an agency with the power to deliver a cost-effective, efficient and integrated system. To achieve this, it is necessary to empower the authority in an unprecedented way. The DTA must and will be responsible for all strategic public transportation planning. It must be the go-to agency on all planning matters. I welcome the requirement for ministerial approval of all strategic planning, ensuring a healthy level of Government consultation. Of prime importance is the plan to introduce a 12-20 year strategic plan for the greater Dublin area, including a six-year implementation plan to set out a pathway for the commencement of the larger strategy.

I welcome the authority’s role as the main procurement agency for infrastructure not already under the remit of the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA. Other powers include responsibility for allocating capital for public transport initiatives, traffic management and the regulation of fares. Another important aspect of the Bill is the power given to the authority to seek standards in the delivery of services by the transport providers and the power to act against any agency [78] should those standards not be met. Similarly, the DTA will have the power to intervene if an agency is not delivering on its public transportation project commitments. The DTA will be able to step in if transportation planning guidelines are not adhered to by local authorities. As a member of the Joint Committee on Transport, I look forward to debating this issue as we move to the next Stage.

The delivery and implementation of Transport 21 should and will be a priority for the new authority. Let us not underestimate the importance of Transport 21. A €34 billion project will deliver seven new Luas lines, more buses, DART extensions northwards and a new metro system, north and west. As a Deputy representing Dublin North, I am excited by the metro development. While I am aware that the delivery of metro north will remain under the remit of the RPA for continuity purposes, its operation should fall under the new authority’s aegis once it has been completed. For now, metro north is included in Transport 21 and belongs to any debate pertaining to the DTA. For the first time, passengers will be able to get on a metro at St. Stephen’s Green and travel to Dublin Airport in less than 20 minutes. Another few minutes would bring them to Swords in my area.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: They will be able to canvas for the Deputy.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: The speaker without interruption.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: The Deputy would not need that help. He has two quotas.

Of primary importance is the linking of regular Dublin Bus services — I would describe them as Nipper services — from large housing estates with various metro and DART stops. It will revolutionise the legendary Dublin North, Louth, Meath, Wicklow and Kildare commutes and reverse our constituents’ daily reliance on cars to get into the city. In recent weeks, the RPA issued tender documents to four preferred bidders. I look forward to the awarding of the contract at an early date. I also look forward to the issuing of the railway order in autumn and I hope that the project will go to construction in 2010. To highlight the benefits of the metro, one should imagine going from one’s house by foot or short bus trip to the local metro or DART station and arriving in town within 30 minutes of leaving home. I look forward to it. Hopefully, I will still be coming to Leinster House.

The DART system will be extended northwards from Malahide to Balbriggan and beyond, allowing for swifter and more regular journeys for commuters. I hope that the expansion will cater for all of the coastal communities of Dublin North and beyond. The region has experienced significant population expansion, most of which occurred in Dublin North. The populations of Donabate and Lusk will grow to a projected 20,000 each, the population of Rush to 15,000, the population of Skerries to 20,000 and the population of Balbriggan to 25,000. The extension of the DART system is essential for those communities and others northwards.

With the expansion comes the need for more DART and mainline carriages. The authority must be briefed on the need for more carriages as the DART network is extended. It is important that the rail service is supplemented by the provision of a large network of buses in surrounding areas. Additional bus services are needed to cater for the growing populations in north Dublin and the surrounding counties in the greater Dublin area. These are areas that probably will not be serviced by rail in the future. Therefore, bus transport will play an important role.

Another of the authority’s functions will be the power to relate contracts for rail and bus provision to ongoing performance and service standards. This will ensure that best value is achieved for the taxpayer. The authority will also have powers to intervene and take action on [79] a project should a particular transport agency not act on its direction. I will be relieved when Transport 21, which is a major undertaking, comes under the direction of the new authority. The authority will then be capable of implementing an integrated plan so as to streamline the city’s transport system into one of the finest in Europe.

One of the most attractive elements of the proposed Dublin transport authority will be its facilitation of the integration of the public transport system. It is important that a brand akin to those with which we are familiar in London, Paris and New York is created. We must make sure that people are aware of the steps being taken towards the integration of the system. Once executed, integration will allow commuters to switch seamlessly between bus, rail and Luas. In line with this, it is important that we create an integrated information system that allows passengers to plan and discover the cost of their journey, on any or all modes of transport, in a matter of seconds. For example, the Transport for London website includes live updates, bus, tube and national rail timetables and traffic updates for road users and offers users the opportunity to sign up to live mobile telephone alerts. The site also provides an efficient journey planner where commuters enter their start and final destinations and are presented with an array of travel options. There are significant benefits for commuters and tourists in offering such a comprehensive information system.

An important aspect of the integration of public transport services will be the provision of park and ride facilities at various locations in the city. This will allow more motorists from areas beyond the conventional public transport catchment zones to avail of whatever mode of transport the park and ride facility services. In my area, people in north Dublin and south Meath will be able to use the proposed metro north park and ride facility at Swords-Lissenhall. It is important that this facility is constructed without delay, well in advance of the completion of metro north. It will help to relieve much of the current congestion in the area. I hope the Dublin transport authority will also provide for a regular bus service from the Swords-Lissenhall park and ride facility to the city via the Dublin Port tunnel. It is important to offer commuters as many transportation options as possible.

An issue of great importance to my constituents in Swords is the 41X Dublin Bus service. Other Deputies may not appreciate the significant impact which the issues with this service are having on commuters in Swords. Will the Minister of State ensure, once the Bill is enacted, that legislation is brought forward to reform the Road Transport Act 1932? Under the provisions of this legislation, Dublin Bus is forbidden from using the port tunnel. This licensing issue has held up the efficient operation of the 41X service, affecting thousands of commuters on a daily basis. Allowing Dublin Bus to use the port tunnel would save at least half an hour of commuting time at peak hours. It is easy to understand the frustration and confusion of commuters that a decision on this issue should rely on such outdated legislation. This must be sorted out as soon as possible, with or without the involvement of the Dublin transport authority.

It is important the Dublin transport authority addresses the issue of usage by other motorists of the Dublin Port tunnel. I have raised this issue several times at meetings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport. It is currently prohibitively expensive for motorists to use the tunnel even though it remains substantially empty for long periods of the day. I restate my suggestion that we consider imposing the same usage rates for motorists as apply in the case of the M50. It is not in the interests of avoiding congestion to channel traffic to two main arteries in the city when we have a fantastic element of infrastructure such as the tunnel. I do not share the NRA’s concerns about avoiding congestion in the tunnel. That aspect can be well managed.

Although I have concentrated on public transport provision, it is important to consider the necessary improvements in the road network. Road transport will remain a substantial element [80] of the transport system. Some Members may suggest that road building should be forsaken in favour of a concentration on the public transport system. I disagree with the assertion that the two strands of infrastructural development cannot take place side by side. No matter how good the public transport system in my area and many other areas, there will always be a significant reliance on roads.

At Dublin Airport, which is in my constituency, incoming tourists hire cars as they leave the airport and cabs transport others into town. For the thousands of people working in the tourism industry, road building is especially important. The primary mode of transport for tourists is car hire. Good roads are vital for the expansion of our economy. One of the reasons that the north Dublin-Meath-Louth region has experienced such rapid economic growth is the M1 motorway. The quality of the roads in the vicinity of the airport and leading into the city is extremely important. Road building should be one of the priorities of the Dublin transport authority.

Strategic planning is important in all this. I particularly welcome the requirement by the authority for developers to provide transport impact assessments. Of equal importance is the requirement on local authorities to ensure these assessments are satisfactory and consistent with the authority’s strategic approach. Planning must be brought to the fore by local authorities throughout the region to ensure that no future development is completed without incorporating the policies set out in the Dublin transport authority strategy. The authority must support the NRA in its road building endeavours, especially in view of the recent road safety report which observed that motorways are safer than single lane roads. This emphasises the importance of a modern road network for Dublin.

Upgrading work is ongoing on the M50 and many of us have driven on the new section south of the toll bridge. It is a pleasure to drive on three-lane carriageways. However, I am struck by the apparent lack of three lane driving experience on the part of some motorists. A public information campaign on three-lane motorway driving might be useful, along the same lines as the television campaign to raise awareness of other aspects of good driving such as correct overtaking and proper signalling. The Minister might put this suggestion to the Dublin transport authority once it is established.

On the composition of the authority, I welcome the inclusion of county councillors and county managers. These people have unparalleled knowledge of the needs of their communities. I also welcome the provision obliging the authority to be accountable to the Minister. This is essential in terms of offering public representatives the opportunity to question the authority on its activities and policies.

I am not opposed in theory to the proposed ban on private cars in Dublin city centre. However, the experience in London suggests there may be difficulties here. The extension of the Luas, the development of the metro system and the provision of additional buses will enhance our public transport options. They will have to be in place before we can consider the banning of cars on O’Connell Street, College Green or Dame Street. It is essential that we provide proper public transport first.

I welcome the DTO’s proposal on traffic management during the construction of the metro and reject Deputy Broughan’s reference to social disaster. An omelette cannot be made without breaking eggs. We need the management of Dublin City Council to come up with a traffic plan but I want to see the metro built even though it will undoubtedly cause inconvenience. I experienced the difficulties that arose during the construction of the M1 motorway but that proved to be a wonderful piece of infrastructure at the end of the day, and I have no doubt that the metro will be the same.

[81]   Deputy Olivia Mitchell: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this long-awaited Bill. For a number of years, the absence of a body to pull together the diverse and often competing providers of infrastructure, public transport, traffic management and policing has been a major source of frustration to everybody who lives or does business in Dublin. Public representatives from Dublin cannot but be obsessed about the traffic congestion that has been part of our lives for so many years. We all recognise the need to bring together these agencies to provide a co-ordinated, integrated and coherent public transport plan which is seamlessly delivered, and to that extent I welcome the publication of this Bill.

We have waited many years for this authority and the present Bill represents the third attempt to establish a body that would provide coherence to transport in Dublin. The first body was abolished in 1987 by the then Fianna Fáil Government. That was followed by the Dublin transportation initiative, which led to the establishment 15 years ago of the Dublin Transportation Office. While most of the expertise and evidence based policy formulation in the transport area resides in that body, it never fulfilled the role for which it was originally envisaged. It simply did not have the necessary powers and so remained a policy body, albeit one that is widely respected for the independence and objectivity of its views and public utterances, even when observers disagree with them.

This failure to establish a body to co-ordinate traffic has had a heavy price and Dublin residents, workers and businesses have suffered. The inability to control congestion has impacted significantly on the rising cost of doing business in the country’s capital and in no small way contributed to our current economic woes. There has been no co-ordination in the planning or delivery of the projects which were commenced. Single projects were poorly co-ordinated and often overlapped. The absence of a body to drive delivery of projects resulted in their failure in many cases. Infighting, jealousy, self-interest, turf wars and futile competition between the agencies responsible for Dublin traffic ensured zero progress and little integration or co-operation. It is vital that the new authority does not depend on mere moral suasion, which does not work when self interest is at stake. As a member of the advisory body to the DTO and a former local authority representative, I witnessed with despair the competition that took place between various providers and agencies and the turf wars whose sole victims were the travelling public. Lack of agreement meant we could not have integrated ticketing or private buses and that buses and Luas could not run on the same road. There has been an absence of common purpose between the agencies and they have failed to recognise their role in serving the public. It was as if they were self serving entities. This Bill attempts to create unity of purpose but a common logo is not enough to make the agencies co-operate. Strong powers are needed to bring them together, kicking and screaming if necessary, to pursue the public good. Perhaps it is human nature that the private interests of the various players are put before the public interest but it is the Government’s responsibility to tip the balance in favour of the public.

For many years I have called for the establishment of this authority, so I am disappointed that I have to make two major criticisms of the proposals before us, namely, the Minister for Transport’s capitulation on the introduction of competition to the Dublin bus market and the proposed authority’s lack of accountability to the Dáil.

Once this body is established, it will become another HSE in terms of its lack of accountability. It should be inconceivable to Deputies, particularly those who represent the greater Dublin area, that after this Bill is enacted we will never be able to have a question answered on Dublin Bus, metro, Luas, DART or any other transport project, despite the fact that we are going to spend billions of euro on projects which will dominate our streets for many years to come. We will be unable to get an answer to parliamentary questions or raise these issues in the Dáil. I simply cannot vote for such a proposal. Much as I want to see a Dublin transpor[82] tation authority, it has to be accountable. A body cannot spend huge sums or make vital decisions on behalf of 40% of the country’s population without effective reporting structures and accountability for its policy and performance.

The Minister has suggested the establishment of an advisory body to introduce an element of accountability. I have been a member of advisory bodies and have seen them in action. As a member of the Dublin transportation advisory body, I found it to be an absolute farce. The agencies came, listened to what the director had to say and then squabbled with each other. It was not democratic and it certainly did not improve accountability. Any public representative who cares about the future of Dublin and its transport system or has an interest in seeing the system improved could not support an agency possessing this kind of power in the absence of accountability before the Dáil.

My second disappointment concerns the future of the bus service. One of the great hopes we have had for this body was that it would be the mechanism to regulate bus competition and award contracts to competing operators. It is an outrage that the Minister has capitulated on this matter. The only interest he is serving is that of Dublin Bus and its workers. I understand that the job of Dublin Bus and its unions is to protect workers but it is the Minister’s job to protect members of the public who need to get to work in the morning. Irrespective of whether one has a private car, one’s interest is best served by the improved capacity and services that only competition can bring. Vesting a regulatory function in the authority would ensure that competition did not become counterproductive or a free-for-all, yet the Minister has reneged on this.

He has promised to reform the 1932 Act but even if he follows through on his word he will merely confirm the primacy of Dublin Bus and its ownership of all existing routes. Subsidies to the company have substantially increased in recent years even though its daily carrying figures are static. Regulated bus competition has been promised by three successive Ministers and the previous Minister even promised 200 buses for the private sector, as well as subventions for uneconomic routes. These commitments seem to have disappeared into the ether of the last election.

The Minister made much of the inclusion in the legislation of EU public service obligations and he promised to introduce public service contracts whereby subventions would be linked to performance. However, these contracts are, if not meaningless, certainly far less effective when there is no real sanction for failure to perform. If a service provider does not perform to the required standard and if buses are not provided with the frequency and regularity required, there should at least be a threat that its contract will be discontinued and given to another provider. In the absence of such a sanction, there is no incentive to perform. The worst that can happen is that Dublin Bus will receive a lower subvention the following year. Who will suffer then? The only possible outcome will be the provision of an even worse service for the public.

The public’s interests come behind those of the agency charged with providing the service. At the very least, the Dublin transport authority should be enabled to source alternative providers in circumstances where the contract performance on the part of Dublin Bus is sub-optimal. This is a still a long way from competitive public tendering but at least the type of threat to which I refer might make some difference in the context of the standard of service to the public.

Other areas have been neglected in the Bill, including the need for some kind of representation on the board or some kind of input from bodies such as Dublin Port and the Dublin Airport Authority. These are both vital pieces of infrastructure generating huge quantities of [83] traffic and both fundamentally important to the Dublin and indeed the national economy. Their requirements and their view points should form part not only of the strategy, but of the implementation plans.

I support and welcome many aspects of the Bill. I refer, for example, to the genuine attempt to ensure co-ordination among the national spatial strategy, county development plans, local development plans and the authority’s own plans. This is absolutely crucial in the long term if we are to achieve the kind of co-ordination and sustainability to which we aspire. However, it remains to be seen whether the measures will actually work. The Minister will be obliged to monitor progress and he should not be slow to intervene if there is clear conflict and inconsistency among the various plans. In saying this, I am conscious that previous Ministers did not move to ensure consistency between the national spatial strategy and county development plans. We will all pay for that failure in the future.

I welcome the decision to integrate the functions of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the new body. The taxi industry in the Dublin area is clearly part of the overall transport network and it should be regulated by the authority. A strong central body is required to deal with the taxi industry, particularly in the aftermath of suggestions that there is an over-supply of taxis in the city. It should, however, be clear to the authority that if such an over-supply exists, it is related to the high fares that can be commanded by those in the industry. There is an obvious solution in this regard. The primary interest of the regulator must be the consumer and not the provider of the service.

The correct approach is being taken by the Minister in leaving the CIE group, Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann and the RPA as independent agencies. On the other hand, the Dublin Transportation Office is to be subsumed into the new authority. The DTO possesses a vast amount of experience and expertise in transport modelling and empiricism. The DTO can provide validity to the agencies projects because it is respected as the only independent body with that kind of expertise in analysis. As we make a new beginning, it is important to ensure that this expertise is not dissipated. As a policy body, the DTO should be subsumed into the new authority and should act as a regulator in respect of independent service providers such as the RPA and Dublin Bus.

What is not clear is the new authority’s strategic plan and its implementation plans in respect of projects that have already been announced under Transport 21. Will the promised projects relating to Transport 21 to be re-evaluated, re-prioritised, dropped altogether or increased in number? As activity in the construction industry begins to flag, particularly in the area of housing development, it is vital to sustain capital investment. These badly needed transport projects are the ideal vehicle to minimise the impact of the reduction in house-building activity. Activity in this area will help to retain vital workers and deliver valuable and long overdue projects.

I wish to be parochial by mentioning one of the projects which appears to have been dropped from the original proposals in A Platform for Change to extend Luas to the Rathfarnham area. There is a gap in the planned transport network which encompasses the entire area between Dundrum and Firhouse-Knocklyon. If one looks at a map, it is obvious that this is the only area which will not be serviced. A feasibility study was promised during a previous election campaign. However, this was only carried out in respect of the route which it had already been decided was not viable. It appears, as expected, that the route is still not viable, particularly because there is too much congestion on the streets in the area. It is farcical that this excuse is being given. The fact that there is traffic congestion indicates an urgent need for the provision of some link to the transport network. This should not prove to be beyond human ingenuity.

[84] The matter to which I refer should be reconsidered. Due to the narrowness of the streets and the congestion that exists, it is impossible to provide a decent bus service. Regardless of the number of buses provided, the road simply cannot take them. I ask that the new authority examine this matter at an early stage.

There are several vital issues to which consideration must be given at an early stage. Effectively, these issues have proven to be too hot to handle for the existing agencies and the Government. Transport 21 is, in effect, a list of unintegrated projects and that sort of decision making must stop. It was decision making of this nature that gave us the port tunnel, which took on a life of its own and proceeded even after the decision to drop its continuation into an eastern bypass of the city. It is almost evitable that the latter will proceed at some stage; otherwise, we will have built a tunnel that effectively runs into a cul de sac. No matter how one describes it, this has proven to be the case. The port tunnel is totally under-utilised, with spare capacity at all times of the day and night. This is so because there is a need for demand management due to the fact that the tunnel runs into the cul de sac to which I refer in Dublin Port.

It is not a defence to say that projects of this nature are not built to reach full capacity on day one. This project will never reach full capacity, particularly with its current configuration and the pricing regime relating to it. I am not saying that the city would be better off without the tunnel. The city might, however, have been better off if a different solution had been put forward, particularly when the decision had been made to drop the eastern bypass. That is all history. A promise was made during the 1997 election campaign to the effect that the eastern bypass was off the agenda. The latter no longer appears to be the case and in the past seven years no fewer than three feasibility studies were carried out in respect of this matter. However, no one has grasped the nettle and decided what will happen. Is the bypass to proceed? Someone must make a decision in that regard.

The decision to which I refer must be made in the context of other projects relating to the south side of the city. If, for example, an incinerator is to be built at Ringsend, how will it be serviced? The two major bailing stations for the region are also located on the south side of the city and these will have to be moved to Ringsend if the incinerator is built. Also relevant is the possibility that Dublin Port will be moved. It defies belief that the Government proceeded to spend almost €1 billion on the construction of a tunnel to serve a port that might be relocated.

These decisions to which I refer and plans for their implementation must be made with speed and in the context of an overall and coherent transport strategy for Dublin. Discussion about the building of alternative bridges to facilitate metro work has come much too late. I have been speaking about this matter in the House and outside for many years. The division of the city into its north-side and south-side areas has been the subject of many jokes. However, this has been made a reality by the inability or refusal on the part of the Dublin City Council to provide additional bridges over the River Liffey. The Macken Street bridge, which is finally under construction, should have been completed ten years ago. What prospect is there of additional bridges, temporary or otherwise, being in place to facilitate metro work or the removal of all traffic from O’Connell St.? There is also the question of whether the metro will be completed within our lifetimes.

It will be the job of the new authority to drive the projects to which I refer. It must be given the power to force local authorities, in the context of projects with which they are proceeding, to facilitate projects undertaken by other agencies — such as metro or Luas — regardless of whether they want or approve of them.

[85] One of the criticisms I would level at the Bill as it stands is that the DTA does not appear to have the power to direct the local authorities to perform. While reference is made to transport service providers being required to perform to a certain standard, a similar requirement is not being put in place in respect of local authorities. Such a requirement is essential. Bridges and road connections are a vital part of the transport system’s infrastructure.

There are other matters which have been neglected in the Bill. There is a need for representation on the new authority from the Dublin Port Company and the Dublin Airport Authority. I do not know if those responsible for the port or the airport have been consulted in respect of the Bill. However, these are vital items of infrastructure and they are responsible for generating huge volumes of traffic. Both are fundamentally important to Dublin and the national economy. The points of view of the representatives of both bodies to which I refer should form not only part of the strategy, but also the ongoing implementation plans.

The four Dublin local authorities and the three outer counties which form the greater Dublin area are now significant traffic destinations as well as traffic generators. The office of the director of traffic, which has been based in Dublin City Council, should be subsumed into the new authority. This office undoubtedly has been very effective in managing traffic in the city, although this has been at the expense of the rest of the region. It has introduced a system of queuing at the boundary which has not helped traffic in the rest of the greater Dublin area. From now on, the greater Dublin area must be treated as a coherent whole and not simply as a city centre with traffic problems.

The remit of the traffic director must include the greater Dublin area operating not from one local authority base, but the new body in the interests of the entire area. If we were to be honest about the traffic problems of the city centre, they are much less than those of the suburbs now.

It is not mentioned in the legislation but bodies such as the quality bus network office may be subsumed as part of the DTA. It certainly should come under the remit of the new body.

I may find it impossible to support something I have long called for simply because of its lack of accountability to the Dáil. In all honesty, no Dublin representative can vote for a HSE for transport, finding themselves with their hands tied behind their backs and never again being able to raise an issue concerning the metro, Luas or Dublin Bus in this House, or have any kind of a debate or answer to a question.

  Deputy Dick Roche: I came initially to this debate simply to sit in and take the ministerial place but it is a critical debate. I will take up the last point made by Deputy Mitchell because she made a very interesting and rich contribution. I do not say this in a patronising sense because I listened to her contribution with great interest.

As the Deputy noted, we are always divided in two directions in this House, with one direction the creation of agencies that can work and the other ensuring that we do not have agencies created outside the remit of democratic accountability. I agree with the general thesis that there have been far too many people on all sides of the House — none of us is blame-free — who have called over the years for the establishment of quangos to do this and that. I would personally be quite willing to support a fairly radical hunt. That does not come from today or yesterday as I have had the view for many years. Agencies, when established, should have a specific life span subject to review and culling as appropriate.

The Deputy would accept that the concept of a transport authority where we could have parliamentary questions on when the Luas broke down or the 84 bus did not run, etc., would go that little bit too far. Democratic accountability is very important, which I accept absolutely, [86] particularly in terms of the overriding necessity to keep control on public expenditure and general performance. If the Deputy and her party were to give further consideration to the final point she made in a very fine contribution, she would see there is a certain impracticality there.

It is interesting to consider the debate over the years and at the very early stages of the State, particularly the first Cumann na nGaedheal Government, when there were some very fine debates on establishing public authorities which have business acumen, drive and efficiency and which are not fettered by excessive degrees of parochialism, which inevitably becomes part and parcel of politics. On the other hand, the authorities are kept in general control. The commercial State-sponsored bodies were the result of a long debate aimed at achieving such a result.

The Deputy may agree that one of the problems has been that boards have not exercised sufficient control over the years. I was particularly attracted to her absolutely correct comments on turf wars and the failure of people in some public service agencies to see their objective as just that — public service. We must re-examine this issue. I do not agree with the Deputy that the Minister is taking a wrong step but there is a core of an important point here, which is how we establish public service agencies and ensure public service obligation and delivery is to the fore in those agencies, rather than careers or personal ambitions of staff.

The requirement for a Dublin transport authority has been discussed in this House for many years. It is clear the time has long since come for us to have an operational agency. A very small team under Professor O’Mahony in Trinity College produced a very good report in March 2006 and the Government approved the drafting of legislation shortly afterwards. Other events intervened.

In accordance with the commitment in Towards 2016, the report of the team was published in November 2006 and there was then a period of public consultation during which submissions could be made. The proposals put before the House by the Minister are informed not just by a very rigorous academic study as to what is the appropriate way forward.

The study conclusions generally would be in accordance with Deputy Mitchell’s own conclusions in this particular area, as well as those of many of us on all sides. It was also improved by the process of public consultation and the vigour that the Minister has brought to this issue. As we know, the Minister lives in one of the constituencies around the commuter belt, which extends from Cavan to the Wexford border. It is a substantial area.

The mandate, remit and functional area of the new authority will cover not just Dublin city and council, but Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, south Dublin and the surrounding counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. It is very important we approach the issue of transportation and physical planning in that substantial metropolis.

I also take the view that giving the DTA overall responsibility for all surface transport in the area is a good move. As the Minister put it when he introduced the Bill, the objective is to ensure the people living and working in the greater Dublin area will in future have a high-quality integrated transport system that meets their needs in a sustainable way. That is an issue in which we have a unity of purpose in this House.

A significant amount of every commuter’s day is now spent in increasing frustration. The issue is not just about infrastructure. I can never quite grasp the reason there is a pathological incapacity to drive in Irish people. Unfortunately, I have no choice about driving because of ministerial duties but on the journey most days, the standard of driving I witness on the roads is absolutely unbelievable. It is not just a question of physical capacity on the roads, but a physical inability to make decisions which makes a contribution.

[87] It is not always learner drivers at fault — very frequently it is not them. A point was made by a previous speaker that some better public information on how to drive on a road would not go astray.

To return to the main purpose of the Bill, I very much welcome the idea that we will, for the first time, bring this area into better focus. It is an astonishing reality that over 7,000 sq. km are contained in the area covered by the Bill. Almost 40% of the State’s population, or 1.7 million people, are living in that area, with an extraordinary and phenomenal figure for vehicle registrations there. There are close to 850,000 vehicles which, along with their hapless drivers, must travel tens of millions of miles every week. The total direct and indirect cost to the community, environment and industry is very significant.

This Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation, in terms of quality of life, to come before this Dáil. As as we become economically more progressive — we have become wealthier in many ways and we have seen an explosion of car ownership — if people do not have efficient, effective, clean and properly operational public transport services, they will inevitably use the conveniences of their own vehicle.

The Bill gives the new DTA a very wide remit, focusing on delivery and integration of services. The launch of Transport 21 in November 2005 was an important first step, but it was not the ultimate step. Transport 21 provided a substantial transport infrastructure budget — €34 billion — for the first time. It was critically important that such moneys were earmarked for the development of public transport. The lack of available resources in the past meant that all transport investment was made on a stop-go basis. One cannot develop rail transport and flexible bus systems in such a manner. Commitment like that provided under Transport 21 is necessary if light rail systems, such as tramways, are to be developed. I do not blame any earlier Government when I say that money was not available in the past. We simply did not have the resources that were needed. The allocation of a major multi-annual ring-fenced transport investment budget was a critical step, but it is not the only step that needs to be taken. It ended years of stop-go investment that made it impossible to develop the kind of infrastructure we needed.

The next important step is being taken in this legislation. One might argue that the Bill is timely or overdue, depending on one’s viewpoint. The Bill gives us considerable reason to be optimistic about the future. The Minister for Transport has outlined the policy priorities that inform the legislation. We can all agree with the priorities in question. The first objective of the Bill is to ensure that Transport 21 is implemented in a timely and cost-effective manner. We need to ensure that €34 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent in a way that delivers value for money for each euro. I am glad the Bill will produce measurable and time-related targets. That is critical. Any authority that is put in place will need to have a strict remit. We will have to make clear what is expected of it. Its targets will have to be set out in objective time-related terms. Measures will have to be taken if targets are not reached. Members on all sides of the House recognise such realities.

I would like to make a point that is relevant to this House and to politics in general. It relates to the point I made to Deputy Mitchell at the outset. I was not trying to score points. If we are to have the type of public transport arrangements we need, we will need to stand back a little from more parochial issues. We will have to set specific timeframes and targets for the authority. We need to be prepared to judge its work in the totality rather than on a day-to-day basis. I take issue with Deputy Mitchell in this respect. If the Minister were directly answerable, some of the business focus that is needed might be lost. It is possible to have the business focus that is needed while providing for answerability. Public service agencies should be more willing to provide personnel to attend Oireachtas committee meetings from time to time. As the Mini[88] ster said, the idea of optimising the benefits which arise from the almost twofold increase in transport investment is to the fore.

The Bill aims to bring physical and transport planning together. We all accept that some appalling physical planning decisions were made in the past. We need a breakthrough in this area and the Bill provides us with that. It is vital that public authorities play as a team. Deputy Mitchell was right to say that public authorities do not play as a team. We have encountered sub-optimisation as a result of ridiculous turf wars. There has been a lack of co-operation between public service agencies. Deputies on the other side of the House will be aware of the turf wars between councils when it comes to providing services to areas which are contiguous to each other. Louth, Meath and Fingal county councils, for example, have encountered problems when trying to provide water and sanitary services across borders. Some public authorities act as if they own certain services. They do not own them — they operate them on behalf of the citizens we represent in this House.

The Bill represents an important move forward in this regard. It will help to overcome some of the sub-optimisation problems I have mentioned. The question of whether the problems associated with sub-optimisation and turf wars can be solved will depend on the officials who are put in place. That point was well made by Deputy Mitchell. If those who are put in charge of these matters have entrenched attitudes, it will be hard for them to make the changes which are needed. It is not just a question of rebadging — it will also be a question of refocusing.

The Dublin transport authority will have overall responsibility for strategic transport planning. It will have to undertake such work in close co-operation with the local authorities. The Minister has made the point that such co-operation will be complemented by the enhancement of the power of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to intervene. When I held that position, I was less than happy with the level of co-operation between public authorities. I was not pleased by the manner in which planning was handled within local authorities from time to time. I had to tell one council, which will remain nameless, that I intended to——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: It was Wicklow County Council.

  Deputy Dick Roche: No, it was not Wicklow County Council, unfortunately. I will speak about Wicklow in a moment. The Deputy is close enough. As the Deputy knows, I struck down the development plan of one local authority because it provided for more plonking of huge developments into areas which did not have the infrastructure to handle them. I also put in train the steps which my successor brought to fruition in Monaghan to ensure there was some rationality in planning. We have to accept that there have been tensions within the planning system. Councillors want to facilitate and support local development, while at the same time——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Getting a few bob.

  Deputy Dick Roche: ——producing plans——

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: That is what leads to tribunals.

  Deputy Dick Roche: I would be very careful if I were the Deputy. The parties on this side of the House did not have a majority on either of the two councils I am thinking of.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: As I said this morning, it does not matter where they come from.

[89]   Deputy Dick Roche: I am being diplomatic.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There should be no comments from other Members while the Minister of State is speaking.

  Deputy Dick Roche: I should not respond to such comments. I accept the chastisement. We all accept that there has been woeful sub-optimisation in physical and transport planning. The proposal to establish a Dublin transport authority to take the lead role in bringing the two sides of planning together represents a major step forward.

I am pleased that the authority will have the power to regulate transport fares and ensure that integrated ticketing, fares and information systems are delivered. Over a decade has passed since I spoke at an Oireachtas committee meeting about the need for integrated ticketing. I cannot understand why we do not have integrated ticketing. This is a good example of a turf war. There is no logic to the current situation. We have been far too tolerant of misbehaviour and sub-optimal management in the CIE group on this issue. It is amazing that one can go to Paris, buy a carnet of ten tickets and use them at any stage. The Parisian authorities look at it in a progressive way. They are happy to get one’s cash upfront. One can use one’s carnet at any stage in the future. It completely eludes me why a public transport agency like the CIE group has been unable to introduce a similar system over the years. I hope the authority will make progress with this issue quickly. I accept the point that this system needs to apply to the Luas network and the private operators as well the CIE group. It has to be introduced. If we are to get people to leave their cars at home, particularly when they are taking short journeys, we have to give them a chance to use the maximum number of public transport facilities. The best way to do that is to have a simple integrated ticketing system.

One of the responsibilities of the Dublin transport authority will be strategic traffic management planning, which is sub-optimal at present. I have to drive through the territories of three local authorities to get to this House. It is bizarre that different rules apply to bus lanes, to take a simple example, in the three areas. I do not understand why the bus lanes in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area are closed to cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  Deputy Olivia Mitchell: The buses do not run 24 hours a day.

5 o’clock

  Deputy Dick Roche: We do not need bus lanes 24 hours a day. By contrast, bus lane restrictions in the Dublin City Council area are confined to times of busy transportation levels. I do not understand the logic that informs such different approaches. These problems are not confined to bus lanes, incidentally. As one drives from one local authority area to another, one can observe the recent phenomenon of a proliferation of poles on every single road in the country. Anybody driving along Northumberland Road should count the number of signs that have been put up there. There is a different signage arrangement in the next local authority area. There needs to be rationality brought across the range, which can only be done by the type of integrated approach the Minister is proposing in the legislation.

The Government is committed to radical improvement in public transport services in the GDA. I do not believe it is unique to Government. It is a commitment all in this House share. Notwithstanding the validity of some of the comments made by Deputy Mitchell, it is very important that we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Bill has a considerable amount to commend it. It is not a false dawn but the start of some hope for transport users in the greater Dublin area.

In my last minute I will be parochial. The model of the NRA is being used here. Having failed to persuade the NRA to be a little more attentive to maintenance on the new superb [90] motorways it has opened, can it at least attend to the weeds on one or two of them, particularly those that go through the garden of Ireland?

  Deputy Terence Flanagan: As a Dublin Deputy I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Dublin Transport Authority Bill and fully support Deputy Fergus O’Dowd’s motion before the House that the Bill should not be passed in its present form as there will be a severe lack of accountability in the operation of the Dublin transport authority if it is. My party is very fearful that by passing the Bill in its current form we will be party to setting up yet another super-quango which would be unaccountable to any Member of this House and might end up out of control like the HSE. This is the last thing we on this side of the House want to see happen. We must learn from the big mistakes that have been made regarding the HSE.

The Bill needs to be changed urgently. We want to see accountability and transparency from the new body. After all this Bill will remove planning and operational decisions relating to transport from the Minister for Transport. We want the Minister to answer parliamentary questions on topics relating to the work of the Dublin transport authority within deadlines as other Ministers do. We do not want the Minister to be able to refuse to answer questions by stating that it is a responsibility of the DTA.

I note the DTA will consist of a chairperson and nine members appointed by the Minister for Transport. However, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport should have a say in the appointment of members to the DTA board, as will be the case with the new broadcasting authority of Ireland Bill. Those potential appointees to the board should be called before the Oireachtas committee and questioned about their suitability before they are appointed.

As there are currently 16 separate bodies involved in delivering public transport to the citizens of Dublin, it is no wonder that in the past ten years the city has ground to a halt. The average speed in Dublin has crawled down to 14 km/h, which is slower than a horse and cart. Our city suffers from chronic traffic congestion which is costing it at least €650 million every year and probably much more. There is no integration between transport services because of the politics involved in the various bodies. While I welcome the proposal to distil these 16 bodies down to one, the Bill cannot be supported in its current format.

My own party recognised way back in 1986 that a co-ordinated approach was needed in this area. The then Minister for Transport, the late former Deputy Jim Mitchell, set up a Dublin Transport Authority to prevent fragmentation of services. However, the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987 scrapped the authority as part of its cutbacks. Looking back, while it might have been done with the best of intentions, it has certainly cost us all greatly both in financial and qualify of life terms.

A new Dublin transport authority has been promised for 11 years. However, a Bill has only come before the Oireachtas in the past few weeks. The Bill was rushed through the Seanad in two weeks, which was too quickly given that it will establish such a powerful organisation. Members should be given time to digest and debate the Bill adequately. I am concerned about that and am also disappointed that the proposed new authority will only be set up on a statutory basis with effect from 1 January 2009, which is in seven months time.

I find it bizarre that the current projects such as the metro, the interconnector and new Luas lines which are already under way will not be monitored by the authority. Is it wise that this new authority will not oversee the construction of the largest infrastructural projects in the history of the State? Instead the RPA is monitoring these projects. Why is the RPA not being absorbed into the Dublin transport authority?

[91] The Minister for Transport promised the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, that a directly elected mayor of Dublin would be the automatic chairman of the DTA board but has now reneged on that promise which is of concern. At least with a directly elected mayor there would be some accountability regarding the body.

It is stated that 60% of people in the greater Dublin area rely on the car to get to work, because in many cases there is no public transport alternative. Just 15% of commuters use the bus, with less than 9% utilising rail services. In my constituency of Dublin North East there is not a proper transport service that services all the residents’ needs. There are not enough buses and some of the routes could be improved upon. There was promise in the past of a Luas service passing through Coolock and servicing the north fringe areas which was later abandoned. In addition, the new DART station at Clongriffin, which was supposed to open after 1,000 residents moved into the area, has not happened. There are now 3,000 new residents living in new homes in the area yet there is no DART station and every promised deadline has been broken. I have recently yet again inquired about that DART station and have been advised that it will not be available until September 2009 which is totally unacceptable.

The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, needs to update the Road Transport Act 1932 urgently as it is currently taking up to two and a half years to get a decision on a route licence from his Department which is totally unacceptable. Updates to the 1932 legislation should have been included in the Bill but regrettably have not been. There is a delay by the Department in granting permission to Dublin Bus to operate the 41X route from Swords to the city centre through the Dublin Port tunnel which is wrong. I today ask the Minister to grant this licence to Dublin Bus which is trying to provide a good service to its customers.

Fine Gael wants the Government to open the Dublin bus market to competition immediately. We want to see integrated ticketing in place. The cost of such a system has been €13 million to date, yet we have nothing to show for that. We want to see new bus services and timetables devised to feed into metro and Luas, to include new housing estates and operate orbital routes, and provide non-stop services from the commuter belt. We want to see the M50 work completed as soon as possible. There seems to be no urgency at the moment. It seems to be dragging on year after year. Despite all the work there is no relief to the hard-pressed motorist on the M50. That work should be made a priority. The proposed €1 M50 toll increase is a complete rip-off and should not proceed.

I cannot support the Bill in its present form, as there would be a severe lack of accountability in the operation of the Dublin transport authority. If this Bill is passed I am very fearful that we will end up with another super-quango like the HSE, which would be unaccountable to any Member of this House and might end up out of control. I look forward to my comments being taken on board and the Bill being amended for the better.

  Deputy Martin Mansergh: I welcome the Bill. Transport 21 is an ambitious plan and is much needed. The investment in transport in general and public transport in particular was a major project that began in the late 1990s for all surface transport across the country but was heavily focused in the greater Dublin area. The progress already made both in Dublin and in other parts of the country has made a huge difference to quality of life but I accept there is a great deal to be done.

I take the view that the Dublin transport authority will develop in time more like the National Roads Authority has done. I am not sure of the relevance of the comparison with the Health Service Executive. That is a completely different kettle of fish.

My office has a role in regard to the management of St. Stephen’s Green. In some ways, this highlights the need for co-ordination because three major projects will impact on St. Stephen’s [92] Green, including the continuation of the Luas line to join up the red and green lines. In all probability, that will go around part of the green. The rail interconnector is planned for the same location and the metro north will start there to head out to the airport and beyond. My predecessor, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, covered that point in his speech. When talking about major engineering works being carried out by different agencies and authorities, one cannot emphasise enough the imperative for co-ordination and co-operation. One of the roles of the Dublin transport authority will be to ensure that co-ordination happens in the vicinity of St. Stephen’s Green and everywhere else.

St. Stephen’s Green is a focal point in Dublin and the work there will involve sensitive heritage and environmental considerations. I am sure everybody will want to see the portion of the green that is affected fully restored after the works are carried out with minimal visual disruption. Many people will want to ensure also that the ducks, swans and other bird life that might be disrupted in part of the water will be well looked after. I and my office will do our best to ensure that is the case.

There are often complaints while such projects are under way. We have heard reference to that in the debate already about the disruption caused, when it will be over and whether it will all end in disaster. The first such debate I can remember goes back 25 years. The editor of the Irish Press used to write editorials about the total chaos that would ensue at the Merrion Gates when the DART system was built. There are pressures along that road but it is not the sort of apocalypse that was predicted. He was arguing for flyovers and possibly an eastern bypass as well.

We have the same sort of situation at the Red Cow at the moment and around the M50. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle recalls when the Naas dual carriageway was being updated a year or two ago and travel on it was slow and inconvenient. As one limped along, one wondered when it would ever end, but the fact is it did come right and it is now an excellent road. When I was a columnist with The Sunday Business Post , the editorial staff were always giving out to me about the Luas construction along Harcourt Street. The Sunday Business Post survived and the Luas provides a fine service into St. Stephen’s Green. We have to accept when improvement is taking place that there will be some disruption. However, it is important to have proper co-ordination in order to minimise the disruption but it is not totally avoidable.

The interconnector will have knock-on effects around the country. A point was made in the Irish Examiner recently that according to timetables — not that timetables are always to be treated as gospel — mainline train speeds from places such as Cork, Limerick and Galway are slower than they were in the 1970s. Part of the reason is the congestion on lines coming into and out of Dublin. As I understand it, Irish Rail sees the interconnector as playing an important part in relieving that pressure. Assuming that to be the case, it will have benefits throughout the mainline rail system.

The capital belongs to everyone and is used by many. It is used by all of us at any rate during the middle of the week. I lived in the city as a civil servant and adviser for 28 years. I am now back in No. 52 St. Stephen’s Green where I worked 30 years ago as a civil servant in the economic division of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: It is time for the Minister of State to go back.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is a bit like “The Return of the Pink Panther”.

  Deputy Martin Mansergh: I have met Deputy Olivia Mitchell more than once travelling in on the Luas. I appreciate that I am only a recently appointed Minister of State, but there is a [93] notion that Ministers are far removed from everyday reality and that we are driven around by other people. As far as I was concerned yesterday, ministerial transport consisted of the DART and a people carrier the OPW has for its staff, which saves a lot of taxi fares.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Who was pulling it?

  Deputy Martin Mansergh: In the course of the day I also used the No. 11 and No. 59 buses. I am immensely grateful. I intend to continue to use public transport. It is not only just one party in this House that uses public transport and bicycles at ministerial level. I do not promise to use the bicycle much, although I have one at home in Tipperary, but I intend to go on using public transport to a considerable extent because it is an efficient method of transport. One wastes less time because one can read easily on it, assuming that one is not catching a train where one has to stand in cramped conditions. I appreciate that one of the bottlenecks is on the northern services. I have seen that at stations. People may be standing even before the train has left the first stop on the way from Pearse station to Dundalk. I appreciate that much more needs to be done to try to sort out that bottleneck.

I am immensely grateful to those who drive me. I have no ideological hang-ups about public service. I like the notion of public service. I am not, in general principle, in any way against unions but I appreciate that private enterprise can add something of value. Something can appear very simple if one represents a constituency in south Dublin, regardless of party I hasten to add, but these are matters to be solved within the framework available to solve them, namely, social partnership negotiations. There is a degree of flexibility in that regard. I accept that more choice and competition is needed but that must be negotiated, it cannot simply be imposed.

A major problem, both in the greater Dublin area and far removed from the greater Dublin area, is the issue of parking for public transport. When I am in Dublin, if I want to get the Luas, which means that all I would have to do is cross St. Stephen’s Green to my new office, I would have to reach the Stillorgan or Sandyford car parks by 8.30 a.m. at the latest because even though there are approximately 600 places, they will all be occupied by 8.30 a.m. or 8.45 a.m.

Many provincial railway stations, including Thurles and Limerick Junction, are increasingly difficult to park in unless one arrives for an early service. There are suburban stations throughout Dublin to which every approach road is filled with cars parked on and off the pavement. If we want more people to use public transport they must be able, in one shape or another, to park and ride, but in many places we are reaching the limits of our capacity.

One should not neglect the fact that transport links can play a major role in reviving somewhat neglected or run-down areas. They can give a major boost in that regard. The Luas has done that to a degree in areas like Smithfield and other areas in north Dublin. The metro north will have an important role in connecting key areas, including hospitals and DCU. I have some regret — Deputy O’Dowd might have a view on it — that it will merely go to Swords and Lissenhall and will not connect to the North-South railway line. Even with the facilities now being provided by, among others, Aer Lingus in Aldergrove and so on, we totally underestimate the extent to which Dublin Airport in particular is used by people from the North. That is something that may need to be further examined, but one can take these things in stages.

There has been fierce vested interest opposition to the metro to the airport. There is no doubt that large sums of money are collected by airport operators and those who might aspire to run terminals from parking fees. We have seen how the chairman of Ryanair has regularly attempted to rubbish the metro north project, although one wonders how he would fare at his main hub in Stansted if there was not the rail link to London.

[94] The metro is very expensive, I would almost say frighteningly expensive, and much of that expense has to do with land acquisition, not just the cost of building lines and operations. That is the reason, for example, for the cost of a line, which is not much longer, from Cork to Midleton where the rights of way were preserved, although the cost is nothing like that of the metro, even on the overland stretch.

Integrated ticketing is long overdue. It operates in most other cities. One reason for the delay in its introduction is concern about guaranteeing revenue flows for the individual operators and that that will not get interrupted.

I noticed that everyone has steered clear so far in this debate — perhaps I have not heard all the contributions — of what one might call the campaign being run by the Evening Herald on the subject of a toll-free M50. One should be clear that many of those campaigns may have merit. I recall the Belfast Telegraph did a “save the railway line to Derry” campaign but they are run, partly at least, to promote the sale of newspapers and not just the merits of the case. There is a philosophical debate, in providing very good facilities like roads or railways, as to whether the users and beneficiaries should make some extra contribution or should it fall entirely to the general taxpayer? I doubt the Minister intends to change the plans already in place on that and I cannot blame him for that. He does not deserve the popular abuse he is getting from the Evening Herald but I hope it helps it to sell more newspapers.

Earlier this week, as I said in the context of another debate, I called in to the decentralised office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Tipperary town, which is the naturalisation service. Talking to staff there they expressed the blessed relief of working close to home and not having to commute. In any big city or metropolis people cannot in most cases live within easy walking distance of their place of work but we must try to make commuting as easy and comfortable as possible. Above all, we must give people choice to ensure they have not only one way of going to work but that they can choose their times and methods of transport, which may vary from day to day.

  Deputy Joe Costello: I believe I am sharing time with Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Deputy Joe Costello: I am delighted to have the opportunity of speaking on this legislation. I never thought I would see the day that a Fianna Fáil Government would do something as practical and as logical as establish a single public body to take charge of transport in the greater Dublin area.

Fianna Fáil under late Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, when he came to power in 1987, abolished the original transport authority set up by the Labour-Fine Gael Government in the 1980s. It has taken nearly a quarter of a century for Fianna Fáil to see the light again. Even now the new Dublin transport authority will only be responsible for surface transport. Inexplicably, the metro, which is run by the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, will not be included in the authority. We therefore will have a Dublin transport authority for all surface transport in the greater Dublin area, but no authority for underground transport. It appears to be an Irish solution to an Irish problem, as the former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, would have said. I can imagine the problem we will probably continue to have as regards integrated ticketing. I do not know how many deadlines we have had in this respect, but with two separate bodies now dealing with transport, it will be the next millennium before it is sorted out.

No progress at all is being made. Like the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, I travel by public transport when I go down the country. I have been using Iarnród Éireann somewhat [95] regularly over the recent weeks. I purchase the ticket on-line, get a printout and reference number and turn up at either Connolly or Heuston, where, when one presents the piece of paper it is not recognised. One has to use one’s credit card in a particular machine, the purpose of which is to allocate a ticket. However, one does not get a ticket by quoting the reference number or producing the computer printout.

Can one imagine any business person whose office gives him or her a ticket to travel somewhere in Ireland, which has been paid for by the company credit card? Then he or she turns up at the station and is expected to produce a personal credit card in order to get the ticket. All of this is a very cumbersome procedure because one can effectively get one’s aeroplane ticket on-line — through the private sector — before going to the airport. One has only to insert it into a machine when one is dealing with one’s seating allocation or luggage before a flight.

To make matters worse, none of the machines at Heuston station works. If one is in a hurry and travelling to Galway or Cork, having ostensibly bought one’s ticket on-line for the sake of speeding up the system, one must try to bludgeon one’s way onto the train because the machine will not work — and the ticket collector will not accept one’s reference number or piece of paper. One must go back to the ticket office, queue up and get a ticket. That is absolutely scandalous and outrageous, yet that is as far as we have got. We are not even integrating the ticket system.

It is a matter of having a coherent functioning ticket system that is not about queuing up at a counter in the fashion that has been going on for centuries. That is a bad start indeed. To return to the RPA issue, why has it been omitted? The ostensible reason for this is indeed very hollow. The Minister said in his speech today: “The absorption of the RPA by the authority could jeopardise the ongoing public private partnership procurement process in respect of metro north, which is at a critical and sensitive juncture. Tender documents were issued to the four bidding consortia, just last week.” All of this is true, but after a quarter of a century of waiting, this sounds an astonishing reason for omitting one major agency of transport. Even it were true — as I presume it is — why is there no provision in the Bill for incorporating the RPA into the authority at a later stage? The only reason given is that we are at a critical stage of procurement for tenders at the present time. When this is all over, in a year or two, why does the Minister not say he will introduce an amendment to include the RPA into the authority? It does not make sense to wait all that time before we produce a greater Dublin transport authority, for which we have been waiting since the last one was abolished by the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, when he came to power in 1987 — and now a decision has been made to omit a very important agency, the RPA, which is involved in all of the underground transport in this city. It is not a very auspicious start for the authority in this respect.

I was delighted to hear the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh say he would preserve the wildlife habitat that is St. Stephen’s Green at the present time. He will not allow it to be interfered with. However, I note from the Minister’s remarks that St. Stephen’s Green is subject to preservation under the 1877 Act — and it cannot be used for any purpose, other than as a park. Massive development work in terms of the metro and the interconnector are certainly going to interfere with that, so that is why there will be an amendment. I understand that the park in Mountjoy Square is preserved under similar legislation. I did not have time to check, but I should not be surprised if Parnell Square, which is going to have another major metro station, has similar underpinning legislation dating back to the 19th century — where the curtilage and park area of those squares were preserved specifically under the legislation for the purposes intended and could not be used in any other way. Perhaps the Minister might check that out before the bulldozers are brought into Parnell Square.

[96] By the way, I am delighted Parnell Square will have a station pretty much in the heart of the city. However, the next station for the metro north will be at the Mater. I am one of those very much in favour of metro north despite Deputy Mansergh’s remarks to the effect that there appear to be many vested interests opposing the line to the airport. I was not aware that this was the case, although there was much concern by residents about the direction of part of the line, the depth of the tunnel and the necessary protective measures that needed to be put in place. The Mater hospital is a very appropriate place for what will be a major station, but the RPA has decided there will be just one entrance — on the North Circular Road. Of course, the entrance to the Mater hospital is on Eccles Street, and that will cause very considerable disadvantage in many ways. My suggestion is that there should be a joint entrance there.

Park and ride facilities are key to all of this, an issue that to date has not been addressed. I note that the metro north will not go into the airport per se but will stop about half a mile away, so that there will need to be a shuttle service right into the heart of the airport. We are facing a crisis at present in and around Croke Park, where the local authority has draft by-laws out for consultation in terms of residents only parking on major event days. These are becoming more frequent, of course, so eventually there will be a cordon around Croke Park, where nobody will be allowed to park. It will be in the region of up to two miles in some areas. At the same time we will not have any park and ride facilities. This means the outer suburbs will be peppered with commuter traffic coming to various events in Croke Park, rather than the inner parts of the city, and this needs to be addressed in terms of the plans for the greater Dublin area.

I am delighted to see the establishment of the Dublin transport authority. There should be just one authority and no exceptions. We must run the city’s transport system in a single-handed fashion. Failure to do so has caused the major problems that have arisen to date. I hope the Minister will take on board an amendment to subsume the Railway Procurement Agency into the authority.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Tá áthas orm labhairt ar an mBille tábhachtach seo. Táimid ag feitheamh leis an mBille leis na blianta. Is trua é go bhfuil a leithéid de Bhille, a bhunaíonn údarás den tsórt seo, ós ár gcomhair. Léiríonn sé nach bhfuil an Rialtas seo, nó aon Rialtas eile, in ann déileáil le fadhbanna tráchta Bhaile Átha Cliath agus a dtimpeallacht.

Ba mhaith liom labhairt faoi roinnt mionphointí a d’ardaigh mé cúpla uair ar Bhillí eile. Measaim gur chóir i gcónaí go mbeadh “údarás iompair Bhaile Átha Cliath”, seachas “Dublin transport authority”, in úsáid. Sa chaoi sin, is ina mhalairt de shlí a bheadh sé ós ár gcomhair. Ba chóir den Bhille “a body to be known as údarás iompair Bhaile Átha Cliath, or in the English language as the Dublin transport authority” a leagan amach. Tá athrú déanta ar an chleachtadh le roinnt blianta anuas. Faoi láthair, tugtar teideal Béarla sa chéad áit ar aon eagras nua a bhunaíonn an Stát. Is ansin a luaitear an tainm Gaeilge. Is a mhalairt de chleachtadh a bhí ann nuair a bhunaíodh an Stát. Ní gá dúinn ach féachaint ar roinnt de na heagrais agus comhalachtaí Stáit cáiliúla — Córas Iompair Éireann, Bus Éireann agus Bus Átha Cliath ina measc — chun é sin a thuiscint. Is trua é go bhfuil dearmad déanta ar an chleachtadh sin sa chás seo.

Má tá an reachtaíocht seo chun déiléala leis an dtodhchaí, tá sé suimiúil go bhfuil an túdarás seo srianta i gceantracha áirithe, atá leagtha amach sa Bhille. Baineann sé le Átha Cliath Theas, Fine Gall, Dún Laoghaire-Ráth an Dúin, Baile Átha Cliath, Cill Dara, Cill Mhantáin agus an Mhí. Ba chóir go mbeadh a leithéid d’údarás ag dul beagáinín níos faide ná sin. Ba cheart go mbeadh gar do 50 míle i gceist, chun go mbeadh an chuid is gnóthaí de Chontae Lú san áireamh. Má smaoinímid ar an líon daoine a thaistilíonn go dtí Baile Átha Cliath as cheantair [97] ar nós Droichead Átha — nó Dún Dealgan, fiú — gach lá, tá sé soiléir go bhfuil ceangal mór acu leis na fadhbanna tráchta atá sa chathair seo. Ba chóir dúinn pleananna a fhorbairt chun an daonra sin a thabhairt san áireamh. Tá níos mó ná 1.5 milliún duine clúdaithe sa mhéid atá luaite sa reachtaíocht. Caithfimid cinneadh a dhéanamh conas is féidir linn déileáil le trácht sa cheantar sin.

Ba cheart dúinn a chinntiú go mbeidh an túdarás seo freagrach don Dáil. Ní chóir go mbeadh aon bhealach ina mbeidh an túdarás in ann freagracht a sheachaint. Nuair a chuirfimid ceisteanna ar an tAire Iompair, caithfidh go mbeidh sé nó sí in ann freagraí a thabhairt dúinn. Go minic, ní bhíonn freagraí le fáil. Ní gá dúinn ach féachaint ar an HSE chun é sin a fheiscint. Cuirtear moill ar na freagraí gur chóir dúinn a fháil sa Teach seo. Ní bhíonn na freagraí ar thaifead na Dála.

Labhróidh mé mar gheall ar roinnt rudaí eile atá laistigh den Bhille. Measaim go bhfuil sé dainsearach go dealraíonn sé go gcuideoidh an Bille seo le tabhairt isteach príobháidiú sna chórais iompair, ar a laghad ar na bealaí busanna agus amach anseo ar an iarnród atá á fhorbairt i mBaile Átha Cliath. Níl ach cúig bliana de chonradh i gceist, i dtús báire, ó thaobh Bus Átha Cliath nó Bus Éireann de. Leanfaidh an conradh iarnróid ar feadh deich mbliana. Measaim gur chóir go mbeadh i bhfad níos mó de chonradh tugtha dóibh. Ba chóir go ndéanfaimid cinnte de go dtugfaí tús áite don chóras phoiblí atá á hoibriú ag an Stát, seachas an bealach atá leagtha amach sa Bhille seo a leanúint.

Decades of underfunding of public transport by successive Governments have resulted in absolute traffic chaos every day in this city and its outskirts. Congestion has made it very difficult for people to commute and for those living in the city to go about their daily business. The city has been shaped by the unco-ordinated interests of property developers, friends of Fianna Fáil. One developer, McNamara Construction, which is run by a former Fianna Fáil councillor, seems to be in trouble at present. It is regrettable that decisions on our transport system have been taken on the basis of the interests of speculators. Speculators and greedy developers, rather than city councillors, have planned our city for us.

Despite Government claims to the contrary, the emphasis remains on facilitating the private car as a means of transport rather than on seeking to address the real problems causing congestion. If we are serious about this issue, we need to double or treble the public fleet of buses in Dublin. By doing so, we would have an efficient transport network and commuters would be able to trust bus timetables. There has been progress but because of the concentration on the private car, it is sometimes a question of one step forward and two steps back.

Our inadequate transport infrastructure is already struggling to cope with the unprecedented explosion in car ownership and use. Successive incompetent Governments have ensured that the car is no longer a luxury but a necessity because the roads are choked.

The term “greater Dublin area” suggests a land-grab by Dubliners. We are now taking over Meath and Wicklow and other counties. Perhaps we will win an all-Ireland final in Gaelic games if we entice some of the people in the areas to which we are moving to play for us. The people of the greater Dublin area deserve adequately funded, integrated public transport that is quick, affordable, reliable, clean and safe. I hope this Bill will address this issue and that is why I welcome it, but it could have gone a lot further. By comparison with the transport systems in other European cities, the system in Dublin is pathetic. Much more needs to be done.

Dublin Bus requires many more buses. The subsidy given to Dublin Bus is very low by European standards and it needs to be increased substantially so there will be a viable alternative to the private car. At present, only 50% of Dublin Bus’s fleet is accessible to those with impaired mobility. This figure needs to increase urgently so all those with a disability can access public transport on their doorstep.

[98] We must examine other European cities with a view to providing more cycle lanes and safer routes for cyclists throughout the city. Proper enforcement is required to ensure cyclists are not put in danger at road works and by drivers who have no regard for them. Not enough will be done by the Dublin transport authority to address this.

Hopefully, Members will be able to tackle some of the faults and problems associated with this legislation on Committee Stage. At the end of this process, it is to be hoped that a proper údarás will have been set up that can address the chaos that takes place in the streets of Dublin on a daily basis. Moreover, public private partnerships to deliver public transport should not be used. This week, Members already have witnessed the chaos that public private partnerships can deliver to communities.

  Deputy Thomas Byrne: Tá áthas orm labhairt i bhfabhar an Bhille seo. Measaim gur Bille an-tábhachtach é. Is as oirthear Contae na Mí mé. Tá a lán fadhbanna againn ansin, atá luaite cheana. Tá fadhbanna againn maidir le hiompair poiblí, mar shampla. Tá a lán rudaí ag tarlú sa Dáilcheantar. Ritheann traein ó Dhroichead Átha go Baile Átha Cliath. Stopann an traein ag Port na hInse agus Baile Mhic Gormáin. Tá traein againn ach ní freastalaíonn sé ar go leor daoine, measaim.

Bhí spéis agam sa mhéid a dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh nuair a bhí sé ag gearán faoin bpríobháidiú. Tá seirbhís bus príobháideach againn in oirthear na Mí. Tá an tseirbhís an-mhaith agus tá a lán daoine ag úsáid na seirbhíse. Tá sé níos saoire ná an tseirbhís phoiblí atá againn. Tá i bhfad níos mó seirbhísí ann do daoine. Is féidir le daoine an bus a fháil ar an uair gach uair agus ar an leathuair sna hamanna gnóthacha.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an cinneadh a rinneadh Contae na Mí a bheith páirteach sa Dublin transport authority. Measaim go bhfuil sé an-tábhachtach agus loighciúil. Measaim gur féidir argóint a dhéanamh Droichead Átha a chur san áireamh mar chuid den Dublin transport authority, nó údarás iompair Átha Cliath, ach tá argóintí in aghaidh sin freisin. Tá Droichead Átha mar chuid den Border region agus tá a lán buntáistí ag baint le sin freisin. Caithfimid é sin a chur in iúl anseo. Tá forálacha sa Bhille a riaraíonn gur féidir le seirbhísí áirithe a stopann nó a thosnaíonn taobh amuigh den cheantar seo bheith páirteach sa greater Dublin transport area.

I welcome this necessary Bill. While my constituency has some fantastic public transport and some fantastic privately-operated public transport, it does not work together. At present, the licensing system is extremely ad hoc and does not provide an integrated transport system in any shape or form. For instance, buses are obliged to start at particular locations simply to be at some remove from a Bus Éireann service. The inability to provide bus stops is making life difficult for large numbers of people who wish to use particular services.

I welcome the inclusion of County Meath within this authority’s area of responsibility. County Meath has the rail line from Drogheda, much of which lies within County Meath and is in my constituency. Moreover, the rail line from Navan and Dunboyne is well on the way. While bus services exist, as noted earlier they are not integrated, no system of bus stops is in place and ticketing is not integrated. Some of the private companies that operate in my constituency are forward-thinking in respect of integrated ticketing and want it to work. While they have been working with the Department, it will not happen in the short term.

Nevertheless, it constitutes a highly important part of this Bill. For instance, although I can get a bus from where I live to Laytown train station, it is not possible to buy a ticket to Dublin. One first must buy a ticket to Laytown and subsequently purchase a ticket from Laytown to Dublin. However, I use the train on a regular basis, including today. In general, a good service [99] is provided by both train and bus service operators and I am happy to use them. It is a great way to meet my constituents, a large percentage of whom use public transport. In the east Meath towns of Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington and Stamullen, as many as 75% of those who live there commute to work in Dublin on a daily basis. This is a massive figure and issues pertaining to public transport are extremely important in my constituency and always have been extremely important to me. I used the services for years when I worked in Dublin. However, as a Deputy for the constituency, it is important that I continue to use them to see at first hand both the benefits of the services and the difficulties caused to people when the services do not work as well as they might or when service provision has been insufficient for the existing demand.

An issue that Iarnród Éireann continually tells me it cannot deal with or can only be dealt with over a long time concerns the price of tickets and the fares scheme. Opposition Members have mentioned it is a great deal more expensive to travel to Dublin from Drogheda, Laytown or Gormanston than it is from Balbriggan and other stations that are closer to the city centre. It is an expensive business. According to the train ticket I used today, it costs €16.40 for a return ticket from Drogheda to Dublin. Were one to travel from Balbriggan to Dublin, the price would be approximately €6 or €7, or possibly less. This is a particular bugbear of mine that I have impressed on Ministers and on Iarnród Éireann. I will continue to so do because I am unhappy with some of the answers I have received on the issue, particularly from Iarnród Éireann. Its argument is that there is a better service from Drogheda, namely, the Enterprise express service. While that is true in respect of Drogheda, as the service does not operate in either Laytown or Gormanston, this argument does not stand up. As in other countries, there might be an argument to charge a higher price for the Enterprise service, were prices to be reduced substantially on the other services.

This issue must be dealt with and can be dealt with under this Bill. The authority can develop a fare scheme for public transport in the greater Dublin area. This would include services to Drogheda, which can be made part of the greater Dublin area for those services. The town itself could be incorporated into the area, if the Minister so decided. The services certainly will be part of it and will be under the authority’s control as it would be completely illogical otherwise. This matter must be dealt with because it affects people’s daily lives and adds a huge cost to them. If one performs the mathematics, it probably is cheaper to drive to Dublin if one can and if one has access to parking facilities, than it is to take the train from stations in my constituency such as Drogheda, Laytown or Gormanston.

While people consider Gormanston to be a very small place, it is the main train station for what is now the large town of Stamullen. A particular bugbear in Stamullen is that although a fantastic new car parking facility was provided in Gormanston, Iarnród Éireann decided to charge for it. I have no difficulty with this as the charge is quite reasonable. However, the cost of a ticket to travel from Gormanston to Dublin is much higher than an equivalent ticket to travel from Balbriggan, which is only two or three miles away. Consequently, there could be a difference of €10 on a day return ticket. I do not have the figures to hand for monthly or weekly tickets. However, this constitutes a real disincentive to use the services and the fantastic new car park in Gormanston. I noted this morning, as I passed by Gormanston on the train, that its car park was half empty. A large number of my constituents from Stamullen take the train from Balbriggan and I saw many of them getting on the train there. If the authority has such a power, it should use it for the benefit of people and for a more logical fare structure. This step is necessary.

I refer to the issue of bus stops and access to railway stations in east Meath. For the last two years, a private company has been providing a service that was not provided previously by Bus Éireann. It is a fantastic service, which runs every hour on the hour into Dublin from where I [100] live and all around Donacarney, Bettystown, Laytown and Julianstown. However, no bus stops exist and I receive regular calls to both my constituency and Dáil offices about buses stopping outside people’s houses. While the buses are licensed and are entitled to stop, the lack of infrastructure for them to pull in or to allow bus stops to be erected with information pertaining to timetables etc. constitutes a disadvantage and causes problems. I look forward to the authority taking action in this regard when this Bill is passed by this House. As it already has been passed by the Seanad, hopefully it will be passed rapidly by this House. Thereafter, the authority can get going and the Dublin Transportation Office can be merged into the authority, as is provided for in the Bill.

6 o’clock

I wish to raise an issue in respect of planning and development because east Meath often is held up as a bad example. However, it is not as bad as the media and Members opposite would have one believe. A great community exists in east Meath. There are difficulties that we wish to overcome, including those I mentioned relating to schools. A provision in section 86 of the Bill states that each planning authority within the greater Dublin area, GDA, including Meath County Council in my constituency, shall ensure that its local area plans are consistent with the transport strategy of the Dublin transport authority, DTA. If the Minister were so minded, I would be keen to see this provision strengthened.

A local area plan that is not consistent with the transport strategy of the DTA should not exist because the consequences of not complying with transport strategies that are for the good of the public may last a long time and may cost the Government and local authorities a great deal to rectify later. This is a great and welcome provision but I hope it is sufficiently strong. Local authorities, councillors and colleagues enact local area plans and development plans. Why are development plans not mentioned here? Perhaps they are mentioned in another section. I presume this matter is covered. When local area plans are enacted they should take account of transport issues, rather than go for the easy option. If public transport is not available in a particular place, councillors should think very carefully about zoning land for various purposes. Local area plans should include incentives. For example, a council could decide to zone land for residential purposes subject to land being set aside for the DTA for a train station, bus interchange etc. There are imaginative proposals councillors can make to ensure that they are consistent with transport strategy and that they play their parts in maximising the potential of an area.

Integrated ticketing is a big issue, and the public wants, expects and looks forward to that. It would be fantastic if one could buy a single ticket to take the bus from Grangerath, where I live, to Dublin, then take a train and perhaps get the Luas to Dundrum or Sandyford. That is necessary and should be one of the first priorities of the DTA.

There are some interesting provisions in the legislation relating to authorities implementing traffic management plans. Under the legislation, authorities in the GDA are required to prepare and adopt a strategic management plan for traffic every six years. The aim is to ensure the best movement of persons, goods, services and vehicles. This is good and in the Bill the DTA is given certain powers relating to local authorities. It may direct local authorities and road authorities to acquire land, prepare designs for specified works, undertake specified works, undertake traffic management schemes and apply the proceeds of parking or traffic management revenues for specified traffic management or transport related purposes. This is a good thing because often local authorities apply parking charges, which is good, but the money goes into the general fund. The Bill aims to see such funds used for public transport or traffic management purposes. Perhaps we will approach the DTA to issue directions if we want road [101] authorities to deal with traffic. Sometimes it is difficult to get local authorities and road authorities to do things that we see as logical, cost-effective and inexpensive.

I have a copy of the Bill as passed in the Seanad on Committee Stage but I understand the Seanad has since removed the provision barring councillors and members of local authorities from being members of the Dublin transport authority. This is a welcome step and I am sure Senators will be delighted and will let their electorate know of this development. Local councillors and public representatives generally are at the coalface regarding public transport and the zoning of land so their involvement is welcome. I hope that when appointments are made to the authority, councillors are considered, especially those who displayed a particular interest in these issues.

The councils involved include Dublin City Council and those for Fingal, Dún Laghaoire-Rathdown, South County Dublin, Meath and Wicklow so a large area is covered. The DTA will have overall responsibility for all surface transport and will have a hugely significant role. There will be a shake-up when this body comes into being.

I have been involved with a few other Deputies on this issue, including a number from my party. The Dublin Transportation Office has conducted high level studies relating to a 20-year period and I understand from the legislation that the Dublin transport authority will have to create a strategic transport plan covering a 12-year to 20-year period, which is to be welcomed. The DTO has consulted TDs on this and trying to see how the city and region will develop over that period is very interesting. It is a difficult task because in my constituency land was zoned when it might have been better if it had not been. Nobody expected the amount of building that has happened and it would have been difficult to plan for. Some of the problems we have were preventable but nobody could have foreseen the huge growth that has taken place. Putting in place a transport plan that covers such a long period is a difficult task for the authority but it is necessary; we must not look back and regret planning for the future.

The authority will allocate capital and current funding for public transport and traffic management. It is good that this is being done in a holistic way that deals with all the facets of public transport in the Dublin region.

I pay tribute to the providers of public and private transport in my constituency. Bus Éireann and its staff provide a fantastic service and its staff are always helpful. Irish Rail provides a good service within the infrastructural constraints it faces and its staff are very helpful. The infrastructure has improved significantly over the years. Private operators in my area also provide a very good service and people are happy to use them. Flexibus, part of the Meath accessible transport project, provides a fantastic service in areas which other operators cannot go into. It operates services from small villages such as Stamullen, Bellewstown, Rathfeigh and Ardcath. It also operates services to the hospital and various clinics. At my request Flexibus began a service between the village of Stamullen and Gormanstown train station, which is reasonably well used, though it could be better used. This is something constituents requested during the election campaign and I was delighted that Flexibus went ahead with the service because it showed a knowledge of the newer areas of my constituency. Deputy Michael Kennedy referred to the Nipper services between housing estates and train stations and they are important. Flexibus has provided such a service in one part of my constituency and hopefully the authority will develop this idea when the legislation is enacted. We want superior transport and more of it to make the area better.

  Deputy Richard Bruton: The tone of my remarks will be slightly different from that of the last speaker. I think Dublin’s transport policy has suffered badly in the past 15 years. John Wilson’s decision to abolish the Dublin transport authority was terrible. We are now re-establishing the authority after many years and many lost opportunities. Dublin’s transport strategy [102] has not had coherent leadership during this period — about four Ministers are involved with dozens of semi-State companies, all of which are monopolies, and four or five councils have their oar in. There has not been coherent leadership in this area. We have come up with ideas that were blindingly obvious, such as integrated ticketing. On the third attempt, as the Minister of State will have heard during his time on the Committee of Public Accounts, integrated ticketing was a disaster. We buried about €7 million or €8 million as the system was abandoned. Why did that happen? It was because wholly owned State companies deliberately obstructed the development of what was supposed to be public policy and there was no one to drive it through. There was no leadership within Government to deliver public policy. The Committee of Public Accounts rightly gave a withering report on the performance of the State in this area. We have also had withering reports from the committee on the way in which major public infrastructure projects were managed in the city, including the huge over-runs on Luas and the port tunnel.

The challenges faced by Dublin city over the last decade include a 42% increase in the number of passenger journeys over the last decade from Dublin county alone, not to mention Louth, Kildare and Wicklow. If we look beyond the boundaries the number is probably doubled. Why the Government decided to freeze the number of buses in the public bus network for five of those years defies understanding. Why it did not carry out its commitment to introduce bus competition, so that the private sector could offer alternatives and develop new opportunities, again defies understanding. These are public policies that were enunciated not by this Minister or previous Ministers but by Deputy O’Rourke in her capacity as Minister for Public Enterprise. She introduced these policies eight to ten years ago but they have not yet been carried out. Someone within the great army opposite must take some responsibility for this. I take my hat off to the Minister of State, who is willing to stand up, take responsibility and criticise people who are failing. This is a chronic failure, the consequences of which are very serious and will stay with us for decades to come.

The core Government strategy over the last decade was to achieve modal shift — to get people to leave their cars at home and switch to public transport, but a decade on the census shows there has been zero modal shift whatsoever. Whatever gains were made by Luas and DART were lost in the bus service. We have made no headway. Indeed, it is far worse than that. If we consider other modes such as cycling, which the present Minister, who is not here at the moment, has stated is a core aspect of his strategy, we find that the absolute number of people cycling has dropped by 20% in the last decade, despite a declared public policy of promoting cycling. I understand why people are not cycling — to ride a bicycle in the city would be taking one’s life in one’s hands much of the time. The number of schoolchildren cycling has dropped particularly precipitously, although one would imagine they would make a perfect target group for a public policy promoting cycling. The share of people who cycle has dropped by 50% over that period, with less than 4% of people using bicycles.

Another issue that has been clearly enunciated in public policy is the promotion of shared car journeys, so that cars are encouraged not to come into the city with only one driver. Again, over the last decade, the number of shared car journeys — those with more than one person per car — has halved. The outcome is entirely the opposite to the stated aim of public policy. Many extra journeys have been generated in the growth areas to the north and west of the city. Of these, 90% are undertaken by car, while public transport caters for only 10%. This represents a chronic failure in planning and delivery. Buses are a flexible tool that could have been used to serve those areas, but I know some of them myself and they have not been sufficiently targeted. We do not have any level of accountability for the way in which the resources we commit to Dublin Bus are deployed in terms of routes and frequencies. The poor [103] results in the bus sector have been obtained at huge cost. As the Minister of State knows, the cost of the subvention to Dublin Bus has increased more than tenfold over the last decade, increasing from €5 million to €80 million. The amount of the fare attributed to subvention, which was the equivalent of 12 cent in 1999, is now 54 cent. Thus, we are investing more public money while persuading fewer passengers to use the system. It is costing us more. In the core growth areas, where we should be delivering services so that those living in these high-growth areas do not become car-dependent, more and more people are using cars as their sole source of transport.

This has been a decade of chronic failure in planning, execution and delivery of transport in Dublin. While I will give one cheer for the arrival of the Dublin Transport Authority, it does not deserve any more than that. I hope it will bring some coherence, but I suspect that many of the problems that have beset previous Ministers for Transport will also beset the authority. The fundamental obstacles that have prevented effective development of transport strategy have not been removed simply by moving responsibility from a Minister to this authority. That is the point I make to the Minister of State, who is standing in for the Minister on this issue. We need assurance that we are genuinely seeing change and that this is not a continuation of the tendency, for which we were criticised by the OECD, for Ministers, when they are tackling a thorny problem and find it is not being dealt with effectively, to set up an agency that removes responsibility from the Minister’s desk, with all the attendant problems such as lack of accountability.

I am concerned that all the problems that have bedevilled Dublin transport in the last decade will continue to do so under this agency. There is no public accountability in this new agency. The issue of consumer powerlessness, which is the heart of the reason we do not have an effective system, is untouched. There is still no commitment to introduce competition so that we may have alternatives and contestability of the monopoly providers in this sector. The citizens of Dublin will not ride shotgun in this agency. They have been almost entirely squeezed out. Having a token councillor or official on the authority is not democratic accountability. Members of the House will also be cut out. There will be no more Dáil questions about performance in this area — not that the questions produce much useful information already. “Regulatory capture” is a phrase used by economists to describe a situation in which those being regulated have taken over the regulator. That is a real danger with this new authority, as it has been in the past.

Going through the Bill, one searches in vain for any measure designed to empower users of public services. This is a core issue. The recent OECD report stated that the problem with our public service is that it is not consumer-centred or customer-friendly. It is not out there trying to assess customers’ needs and meeting them. Nowhere in the Bill is there a new mandate under which public transport providers will have to become customer-sensitive agencies. There is not even a commitment to route and frequency review. We know Dublin Bus has not matched the changing population patterns in the city. It has been content with what it is doing and it has not responded to consumers. This must change. In the section that refers to contracts, tucked away at the end as a sort of also-ran, it is stated that the contracts may include, where the authority considers it appropriate, issues of consumer satisfaction and performance. There is not even an obligation on the authority, when it enters into contracts, to monitor these issues. It is just an afterthought.

The existing State companies have been given exclusive rights to continue operating the routes they already have. If exclusivity has been guaranteed, where is the change? The public operators are being put in the driving seat in terms of setting public service obligations. This is the notion that some routes are loss-making. There should be a tendering process for loss-making routes and if there is no tendering process, there should be full transparency. The [104] authority must set the appropriate subvention and if the company does not deliver, it should look elsewhere. However, the situation is the reverse. The public company is being asked how much it would cost to deliver a service and is then being written a cheque. This is not a change, rather it is the persistence of what has always been the case. The subvention increased from €16 million in 1999 to €80 million currently because the question of whether the €80 million so-called public service obligation is delivering real public service to a travelling public in need has not been asked. There has been no scrutiny and there will be none under the Bill.

No provision has been made for publishing route by route the cost of the public service obligation. The Government is persisting in the belief that a monopoly’s bus route performance should remain a secret. Why should this be the case? We are paying for the service and we have a right to know how many passengers are travelling, whether the buses are travelling on time, whether the routes are losing money and how much of the taxpayers’ money goes to subvent the buses. Why should we be denied this information? There is no mention of opening the system up to public scrutiny even within the monopolistic structure to which the Government is committed.

Accountability is a core issue for Fine Gael. The authority will be run by an executive and five ministerial appointees and will have an advisory council. The Bill does not establish a forum for public scrutiny. There will be no monitoring and scrutineering on behalf of the ordinary travelling public of the standards of service provided by the companies awarded contracts. An internal club of people examining one another is a recipe for regulatory capture, as has been the experience time and again among regulators. The scrutiny must be public and the advisory council must conduct its work in public, but the latter is not provided for. This is public rather than private business, the spending of taxpayers’ money to provide public transport. Why should it not be out in the open, which would allow us to question whether something is value for money?

We will be kept in the dark concerning many performance standards. The authority will not rail against poor performance or set and publish standards. The Bill does not provide for the publication of the contractors’ standards of performance. The contracts will be private, but the fact that there will be no publication must be changed. The fact that there is no requirement to reveal what has been paid must also change. Accountability to the Dáil is crucial, as there must be some accountability in the new structure. The Dáil would not be the only suitable forum. In 2002 when we believed that a Dublin transport authority was imminent, the Joint Committee on Transport, of which I was a member at the time, recommended a body comprised exclusively of Dublin politicians to scrutinise the performance of the authority and the agencies delivering public transport services. The body would eventually become directly elected. Why should there be no direct democratic accountability, which is at the core of the issue? There will be none, nor will there be Dáil questions, rather there will be occasional appearances before committees, as is the unsatisfactory case in respect of the HSE.

The Bill runs the risk of creating another HSE. We are not considering whether the establishment of a centralised body will lead to many savings among the bodies that have been regulating and managing public transport to date. The OECD outlined a key issue in lights, that is, if one is restructuring operations and establishing a new agency, as occurred in respect of the HSE, one must determine whether savings will be made, whether services will be delivered more effectively, how management structures will be rationalised and redundant bodies will be removed. None of these matters is addressed in the Bill. Rather, it accepts that everything will continue unchanged. A new body is being foisted on top of current bodies. Local authorities and monopolising companies will retain their roles and that is being copper-fastened, which is not the radical reform required.

[105] I will make myself unpopular, but price is the most effective tool in demand and traffic management. Deciding not to consider congestion charging for many years is crazy. We are continually introducing physical rationing mechanisms. For example, we install lanes, ramps and one-way systems and prevent people travelling on them. Despite imposing regulatory obligations that incur costs and affect people, we will not consider pricing as a means through which to allow people to make choices on how to spend their money. I had believed that we were in the market system and that we recognised price as an efficient tool to help people to allocate resources more effectively. It ensures that expensive public infrastructure is used effectively. However, it has been decided that price will not play a part in this matter. While road pricing may not be popular, it is an important element in any public transport strategy. The Government is deciding that pricing will not form part of the current strategy and that we must wait for God knows what to befall us for it to be included.

Pricing cannot be applied everywhere, but it can form part of a strategy that matches investment in infrastructure with pricing mechanisms to try to increase the efficient usage of the infrastructure. It would be a legitimate and logical way to proceed. The ESRI’s medium-term review stated that installing infrastructure is easy whereas managing it effectively to deliver the intended results is difficult. Policies must underpin the management, but the Government is fascinated by installing infrastructure. Ministers claim that the national development plan is a God send and that we should spend, spend, spend. Deputy O’Connor knows that roads will be full a day after they have been built. People will buy more cars and fill the space. Pricing plays a role in using infrastructure intelligently and allocating it efficiently.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: The Deputy has one minute remaining.

  Deputy Richard Bruton: Time flies when one is enjoying oneself.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I would almost give the Deputy some of my time.

  Deputy Richard Bruton: I do not oppose the establishment of the Dublin transport authority as it will be important. However, we must change many of the underlying failures that prevented an effective transport strategy during the past decade. It is not that Ministers did not want such a strategy, rather they could not make it occur because many of the strong agencies in question obstructed policy. If we are to change the situation, we must do more than simply establish a new agency. We must have genuine consumer choice and public accountability and we must hunt down the wasteful use of public money, such as in terms of buses. This must be the new standard applied by the DTA. However, the Bill is more of the same — guaranteeing the rights of this or that body to remain exclusive, keeping the Dáil and councils out of the picture and setting up small committees to run the authority. The Minister would have been more effective than those committees had he only done his job, but he was unable to do so. Why did he not do his job during the past decade? Will the Government guarantee that the situation will be different after the establishment of this quango and will the former make targets that will stick?

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of the mayor of South Dublin County Council, Councillor Billy Gogarty, father of our colleague, Deputy Gogarty.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. Deputy Bruton was kind to mention me in his contribution. I did not imagine humble backbenchers would come to the notice of Fine Gael stars such as Deputy Bruton.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Deputy O’Connor is the star.

[106]   Deputy Richard Bruton: Deputy O’Connor would build a nest in his ear and be the last to hear of it.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I am particularly sensitive that I will be followed by another big hitter in Fine Gael.

I see more to welcome in this Bill than Deputy Bruton does. It offers great prospects for the future of Dublin’s transport system. I often mention Tallaght in my contributions and, on this occasion, I speak as a proud Dubliner. Members from the west are probably fascinated to hear so much about Dublin, although I am sure Senator Butler’s guests from Foxrock, who are in the Gallery, will understand my accent better than those of some other speakers. People often think I was born in Tallaght but that is not the case. I was born locally in Holles Street, went to school on Clarendon Street and lived on Stephen Street.

That is a bygone era. Some Members will be surprised I am so old but I recall looking out from my grandmother’s house on the corner of Stephen Street and South Great George’s Street and seeing tram tracks being pulled up. I make this point not to be negative but to emphasise that caution is required in the provision of all our infrastructure, particularly transport infrastructure. What was done in my childhood days has come back to haunt the city, if not the nation. It is important we put in place infrastructure that will last and which meets people’s needs. I recognise that Ireland consists of more than Dublin but the city and its environs comprise a large population centre. It is vital we provide adequate infrastructure in the city.

The requirement for a Dublin transport authority was originally outlined as part of the launch of Transport 21 in November 2005. A small team, chaired by Professor Margaret O’Mahony of Trinity College, was established to make recommendations on the functions, structure and organisation of the proposed authority. This body reported in March 2006 and the Government approved the drafting of legislation in July 2006. In accordance with the commitment in Towards 2016, the report was published and submissions were invited from interested parties.

The programme for Government agreed in June 2007 committed the new Government, comprising Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats, the Green Party and some Independents, to expediting the establishment of the Dublin transport authority. Following his appointment, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, initiated a review of the draft legislation, which was completed earlier this year. This review resulted in improvements to the Bill in several areas, particularly in regard to the interaction between land use and transport planning, public transport service provision and accountability of the authority.

The authority’s functional area will comprise the greater Dublin area, incorporating the geographical remits of Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council, as well as Kildare, Meath and Wicklow county councils. The authority will have overall responsibility for surface transport in the greater Dublin area. The Bill puts in place the structures necessary to rationalise and streamline the planning and implementation of transport infrastructure and services in the region. The authority will have a clear mandate to transform the transport system in the capital and will have unambiguous statutory authority to implement its mandate. Fundamental to that will be the development of an integrated transport system.

I do not claim that transport infrastructure and services in Dublin are perfect. I live in Tallaght, which is the third largest population centre in the State. The Acting Chairman will allow me to speak about Tallaght because other colleagues have referred to every street in Drogheda and elsewhere. I am sure many streets in Kildare will be mentioned in due course. I have a particular understanding of this issue, going back to my time as a county councillor. I notice the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, has entered the Chamber. He was a far more [107] famous county councillor than I in those days but we soldiered together. I did not wait until last year to admit that we often found common ground and generally worked well together. Following the break-up of Dublin Corporation in 1994, I was elected to South Dublin County Council where transport infrastructure soon emerged as an important political issue.

I am proud of what has been achieved in the area of transport. However, I acknowledge — to coin a phrase — that there is a lot done and a lot more to do. I heard the fine contribution earlier by the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh. As a person from the inner city, I was glad to hear the commitment he gave to safeguard the ducks in St. Stephen’s Green, which is an important issue for me and my granddaughter. He also made the point that he will continue to make use of public transport. I am aware the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, also uses public transport, as well as riding his bicycle. I have not ridden a bicycle for a long time but I am always happy to use public transport, whenever that is possible. I would have preferred not to drive into the city today but I had to bring my car because I am collecting a large quantity of material on the Lisbon treaty. I could not bring that home on the Luas.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Why not? It would have been good advertising.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: It is difficult to walk through the city with lots of boxes. The Luas has been an important development for the communities it serves.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: A Luas carriage would be an ideal place to hand out referendum literature.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: The same is true of the DART. We must emphasise the importance of using public transport as much as possible. I will continue to do so. Taking the Luas from Tallaght and walking to Kildare Street is a much quicker journey than driving from Tallaght to Leinster House. It also keeps me fit and well. I am glad that my health is benefiting as a result of using public transport and walking.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Deputy O’Connor should take it easy. Too much exercise is not good for a person.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I strongly support the further extension of the Luas system. I have been campaigning for it for some time. I always took the view that the Luas line should have started at the Point Depot rather than Connolly Station and should have continued on through the west Tallaght estates to serve the communities in Saggart and Citywest. I am glad that a commitment has been given in this regard. I was also critical at the time the Luas was launched that the two lines were not joined. I understand there are engineering difficulties in this regard but I remain of the view that it should be done.

Now that we have seen how successful the initiative has been, there is no doubt that we must continue to develop it. We all know the old saying that to make an omelette, one must break eggs. However, I have heard colleagues make the point that this development will necessitate much disruption in terms of digging up streets and so on. Dubliners and people who visit the city from the west and elsewhere are tolerant of the necessity for some disruption in order to make progress. With the further development of the Luas system and the introduction of the metro, people will understand the challenges that arise. We will all have days when we complain but I expect we will generally be tolerant.

I was not being flippant when I spoke about the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, and the ducks in St. Stephen’s Green. The Government and the new authority will have to be sensitive to the effects of development on the local environment, not only in the inner city but also in my area and in the areas which will be served by metro north. Those decisions must be [108] taken in a sensitive way to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and that heed is taken of preservation requirements. Many of my constituents have expressed concerns to me about how the development will affect Tallaght village, the current infrastructure on the Belgard Road and the site of the institute of technology. Those questions will have to be addressed. I will always be prepared to represent those with such concerns, as will my colleagues. That is very important. When all this infrastructure has been provided, people will be happy. I occasionally visit the airport, although I do not go as often as some. I wish I could have gone to Moscow tonight but we are too busy. I do not want say a lot about the M50 and the problems it is currently encountering.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Do not.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Go on.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: When we drive to the airport, we realise the need for good services. The Luas-metro link will be welcome in that regard.

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, was in Tallaght several weeks ago while I was attending a meeting in Wexford of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: He sneaked in behind the Deputy’s back.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: He formally launched the new Flybus service from the Square to the airport.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Was the Deputy not there?

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I was on other Government business. The service is being used by my constituents and I am looking forward to taking a trip that involves a visit the airport so I can use the bus.

Every time we get out of our cars, whether to walk or cycle like my Green Party friends, is a positive development. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Mansergh, also said he is prepared to cycle. I was going to invite him to cycle or take the Luas to Tallaght to visit the Garda station site.

  Deputy Trevor Sargent: It is a long way from Tipperary.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: It is good to get out of our cars and take public transport or go walking, not only in terms of our well being but also for the environment. I hope Members opposite will support me in making that plea.

Other colleagues have discussed Dublin Bus. Years ago, when I attended secondary school in Drimnagh Castle and before I knew where Tallaght was, my mother told me not to travel too far up the road or I would get lost. I was living in Crumlin at the time. A friend of mine who lived in Tallaght told me that if he did not leave school in time to get the 4.15 p.m. bus from the Long Mile House, he would not get home until 7 p.m. Some critics would argue nothing has changed. The Luas is in place and there have been a number of developments in respect of bus services in Tallaght and the Dublin region. Reference was made on the ministerial benches to the need for joined up thinking. Sometimes I wonder whether those who have responsibility for public transport consider planning from the perspective of new communities.

As part of last week’s visit by the Ceann Comhairle’s Oireachtas education initiative to Dublin South-West, my good friend, Deputy Rabbitte, and I met students in St. MacDara’s [109] Community College. We were asked a number of practical questions by young people from the Firhouse and Ballycullen areas. The students pointed out that the bus service for these areas, which have developed in recent years, is still in the dark ages. These are the issues which people want addressed. The Minister of State at the Department of Food and Agriculture spoke about new communities in north Dublin and Deputy Thomas Byrne discussed County Meath. I do not understand why transport providers do not consider how they will serve people from those communities or persuade them to leave their cars behind. South Dublin County Council has won a number of awards for its proposals for Adamstown and Lucan, which require that stand alone communities have all the infrastructure and facilities they require. That is the way it should be everywhere. I do not wish to be parochial because everyone can speak about their own areas but I concur with the young people from Ballycullen and Firhouse when they say they cannot understand Dublin Bus’s inability to provide a decent service.

Having kicked Dublin Bus, I also want to praise the company. On Monday, I attended a function in Fettercairn in west Tallaght with Deputies Brian Hayes, Conor Lenihan and Rabbitte, at which awards were presented to several local schools, including St. Anne’s in Fettercairn, St. Aidan’s in Brookfield, St. Agnes’s in Crumlin, which is out of my constituency but beside my former home, and St. Paul’s in Greenhills. Young people were given awards for protecting their bus services. Dublin Bus has told me that it faces challenges and we often hear television reports about bus provision throughout the city. I am aware that vandalism takes place everywhere but I have never taken the view that bus services should be withdrawn from vulnerable communities just because some moron throws bricks. There has to be a better way of resolving the matter. I applaud the initiative taken by Dublin Bus in that regard while criticising its lack of thought and provision as far as planning is concerned.

When I was a member of South Dublin County Council, I was involved in previous incarnations of the Dublin transport authority. I read with interest that the Green Party has taken an initiative on transport and I look forward to receiving a copy of it. John Henry left South Dublin County Council to become involved in those bodies. It is important that they have an input from local authority members, who sometimes receive a kicking. I can be perfectly honest in that regard because I have no ambition to become a local authority councillor ever again.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: That will be reassuring to next year’s candidates.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I am very happy in my position and I will not be returning to the local authority. Deputy Durkan was a good local authority member, so he should not be knocking the role. Local authority representatives see issues on the ground just as Deputies do, and they take the Luas and DART. I often wonder why public representatives are excluded from certain bodies and I am glad that is not so in this Bill.

I cannot get my head around the fact that we have not yet devised an integrated ticketing system. I understand the Department of Transport has spent money on solving the problems but we should be able to jump on the Luas or a bus in Tallaght and be able to visit the Zoo, Lansdowne Road when it is rebuilt, Croke Park or the north county with a single ticket. I have been in other jurisdictions where this is done.

I am glad to have had this opportunity to make a brief contribution to an important debate for the Dublin region and the country as a whole. If transport is properly provided in Dublin, it will help the rest of the country.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this important issue which affects our daily lives. Some of us have been around long enough to see how time [110] has passed and the changes that have taken place. I attended a public meeting several years ago at which a proposal was put from the floor on using the railway line and the canal for road transport. Thankfully, the proposal was never proceeded with and the canal is now being used for leisure and amenity purposes. In addition, the rail system that runs through the town in which I live, Maynooth, and various other places is being utilised in a way in which it was never previously used.

When we set about trying to achieve that to which I refer, every conceivable obstacle was placed in our path. I include in this the suggestion that the railway line be concreted over and used for road transport. It was first put to us that it would not be possible to run extra trains because the tracks were of the wrong type or were too narrow or because there was only a single line. We were informed it would not be possible to do anything and that even if it were possible, people would not use the service. We argued that if the service was provided, people would use it. We also stated cognisance should be taken of the needs of the commuter as opposed to what was convenient for those responsible for drawing up timetables.

With the passage of time, things have changed and it is now proposed to consider how best to meet the needs of commuters. That is a good development. I congratulate Iarnród Éireann, Bus Átha Cliath and all those involved in the provision of public transport for addressing issues such as those to which I refer.

We are attending at the birth of another authority and it will be interesting to see what happens. If it is to be effective, the authority will have to be powerful and there is no doubt it will clash with other agencies of the State. The NRA and HSE do so on a regular basis. It will not always be the case that the new authority will be correct either.

Deputy O’Connor stated that public representatives will have an influence on the new authority. I do not know how much influence they will have on it. However, it is important to take account of the views of members of the public as expressed through their elected representatives. This is not only good for such representatives, it is also good for democracy. The latter is going out the window at a rapid rate, particularly at local level. I refer in this regard to the activities of the NRA and certain local authorities, which seem to make decisions solely on the basis of technical information and regardless of what anyone else might have to say.

The DTA will have an influence on the counties — Meath, Wicklow and Kildare — adjacent to Dublin and I hope this influence will be positive. I also hope the DTA will recognise the needs of particular areas. I recall it being stated some years ago that if traffic on the M50 moved any faster, it would lead to the creation of a traffic jam. That statement was utter rubbish. It was also stated that such a traffic jam would cause delays of up to two hours. I recall similar statements being made in respect of certain stretches of the M50, particularly those at Palmerstown and the Red Cow roundabout.

Can someone indicate whether it will be possible to carry out some serious advance planning? Will it be possible to employ an expert with knowledge of public transport and transportation in general? Will advice be taken from such an individual? Would it be possible to encourage him or her to visit some of the cities or towns throughout Europe which have solved their traffic problems and in which the authorities are able to convey many more people to and from work etc. than we do by way of a combination of public and private transport?

Whenever any of us poor, unfortunate fools who are elected by the public raise questions we are told we do not really understand these matters and that they are extremely technical in nature. Good reasons have always been given as to why we might not understand such matters [111] and we came to the conclusion that we could not understand them. However, it transpires that simple remedies will provide all the answers. I cannot understand why we must spend so long beating down the door before the message gets through to those for whom it was originally intended.

The Dublin transport authority will be another large body. It will be powerful. As we move towards a situation where there will be a directly elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, the interaction between his or her office and the DTA, particularly in the context of the need for investment in infrastructure, will prove extremely interesting.

One of the aspects which must be borne in mind with regard to the capital and its environs is how to convey commuters quickly, safely, efficiently and effectively from locations outside the city to its centre and vice versa. We are failing in respect of this matter at present and I do not know whether the Dublin transport authority will be able to do much about it. We always seem to introduce stop-gap measures to solve serious problems. There are countless instances where this has been done in the past five or ten years.

In the 1950s, the Naas dual carriageway was designed and built by people who were much less sophisticated than ourselves. Engineers employed by the local authority were responsible for its construction. The carriageway lasted from the 1950s to the 1980s and managed to accommodate traffic volumes in a way no major road development since has done. No sooner was the famous M50 built than it was out of date. No sooner was the upgraded road running from Lucan into the city opened than it was out of date. When these projects were proceeding, questions should have been asked as to whether it would have been possible to put in place additional lanes or separate roads in order that vehicles would not all converge on the one spot. I cannot understand why no one ever thought to ask these questions.

There are economies of scale and one can save money in the short term. However, in the long term the story will be different. There is a proposal to upgrade a road in my constituency that runs from Enfield to Edenderry. This issue is giving rise to great emotion among members of the local community. By the time the project is complete, the road will be out of date and will be incapable of accommodating the volume of traffic that will use it. Anyone who wishes to monitor the position in respect of this road may do so and may return in five or six years to inform me that I was right. I have no doubt this project is an absolute waste of money. In addition, a different type of road structure should have been put in place.

I understand a report was jointly published in the past couple of days by the Minister for Transport and his counterpart in Northern Ireland. The report indicates a prescribed minimum height for trucks using tunnels and this is higher than the roof of the famous port tunnel. How is it intended that traffic from the remainder of the country heading towards Dublin Port will negotiate the tunnel? There are few options. Either the floor of the tunnel can be lowered or the air can be let out of the tyres on larger vehicles in the hope that they might be able to pass through. It is daft that this transport report, which was drawn up by the two Administrations on this island, has reached a conclusion regarding the minimum height for trucks using tunnels and that our most modern tunnel cannot accommodate these vehicles. There will be a need for much more detailed reflection and debate on this matter in the future.

I wish to refer to the modern trend in planning to house the maximum number of people in as close proximity as possible to public transport. That is a good idea. However, it does not necessarily mean that people’s houses should be built on top of railway tracks. People will have a reasonable quality of life if their houses are situated within walking distance of their local railway stations. They should be able to walk there and back without difficulty.

Debate adjourned.