Dáil Éireann - Volume 655 - 22 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.)

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Durkan has nine minutes remaining.

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: As I was saying when the debate adjourned last evening, the responsibilities likely to fall on the proposed Dublin transport authority, DTA, are great and I hope they do not conflict with other statutory bodies and authorities. I hope we do not end up with a turf war between the various bodies that deal with local issues such as roads, transport and education, as access and transport with respect to education is very important.

Another issue I meant to deal with last night which will bear a further visit is the question of the Minister’s responsibility to the House. I do not agree with the regularly held belief that if the Minister is not directly running the show, he or she has no responsibility to the House. [265] The Minister has responsibility for every penny of the budget coming from his or her Department. The Minister has responsibility for the parties to which this funding goes, as well as an onus to extract from those bodies information raised by Members of the House at any particular time.

The practice has developed over the years where it is very handy for Ministers to opt out and say they are not directly responsible because the area is run by the HSE or some other body; in this case it would be the Dublin transport authority. The Minister appears to have no responsibility. At what stage does responsibility go along with allocation of money? In every other show on Earth, one follows the other automatically. It is not so in this House, and that is for the convenience of Ministers. That is fine when in government but as I have often said in the past, it may be a long time coming but everybody will get a touch of the Opposition, and then it will not be so nice. It will be too late to change the rules at that stage.

We must be absolutely clear in the running of this House. I was delighted last night to see two relevant Ministers come in here to answer matters on the Adjournment. I particularly commend the Taoiseach and Tánaiste for that. For a long time, we in the Opposition have been treated with contempt, with one particular Minister of State coming in to take replies to two, three or four matters on the Adjournment. If those in the House begin to treat it with contempt, the public will eventually conclude we should be treated the same way.

On the transport issue, I have repeatedly put down questions on the convenient locations of bus stops and their safe construction. It is a simple matter that encourages the use of public transport. A stop should be well located and appointed, sheltered and properly maintained. The reply which comes back again and again is that the Minister for Transport has no responsibility to the House, or this is a matter for the Garda. I do not know what the Garda should be doing about the matter except in regard to safety issues. The Minister for Transport should have overall responsibility in this area. Two or three years ago when some of my constituents were tragically killed at a bus stop in the city, who came into the House to explain the matter but the Minister for Transport? He is the Minister with responsibility.

I ask the Minister of State to convey to his colleagues some hint that we might expect a response that deals with the issue. It is helpful to Ministers if this is done in the interests of accountability and transparency, rather than them avoiding responsibilities, ducking, dodging, bobbing and weaving in trying to get away from an issue. The process would be helpful to Ministers and backbenchers on both sides of the House. This would be beneficial to all, and consumers in particular.

When we do not get ministerial responsibility, we must write directly to the body involved. We get a reply or a promise of a reply in an interim or holding letter, which tells us of the great things that will happen and plans in the area. This issue relates to general locations of bus services or stops with Bus Átha Cliath. We are then told the request is technically impossible, unreasonable, unfeasible or cannot be done. In writing again, we would suggest the matter be examined in a certain light. After that a long silence ensues and after a year or so we might get another reply.

If somebody thinks this is funny, he or she should wait to see what the real fun will be. It is not smart at all but a serious deficiency in the system of accountability. The location of bus stops and rail stations have an impact on people’s health and safety and the quality of their daily lives. It is the duty of those responsible to reply courteously when asked. There should be no scheming and trying to dodge the subject.

I can foresee all kinds of penalties being piled up to discourage the motorist, that hated creature who approaches the city cautiously and eventually ventures into the city if he or she can get there without being accosted by clampers and various other groups and bodies who [266] have other intentions. In case anybody has failed to recognise it, the motorist contributes more than €5 billion to the Exchequer annually. That is ironic.

Some of us must use our cars every day because it is impossible to get public transport. Sometimes the public transport is not dependable or is unavailable or not available at the required times. This is relevant to the greater Dublin area as covered by this proposal.

It is likely that we will be further hammered in the future. I do not look forward to that, and I do not care what the excuse is. Motorists are currently contributing heavily in terms of the easing of transport. One cannot travel in any direction on a motorway without being hit by a toll. If one is unfortunate enough to be hit once or twice in a day, one could be hit three, four or five times. Industry and businesses are hit regularly. We are paying in that way. We are also paying motor tax, insurance and VRT. I tabled various parliamentary questions to the Minister for Finance which he answered and he accepted responsibility. The total contributed by the unfortunate motorist for daring to come into the capital city is enormous. I would like to believe that the Dublin transport authority will not set out to screw the motorist to the ground in order to make itself appear feasible, acceptable and politically correct.

  Deputy Timmy Dooley: I welcome this legislation which will ultimately introduce the Dublin transport authority. Anyone who wants to check the record will find that it is rather unusual for me to support the establishment of an agency. I have in the past voiced my dissatisfaction, here and in other fora, with the notion of the Government transferring responsibility from Departments to agencies, but this is an exception. In this case it is right to establish a transport authority to deal with difficulties that have been identified for some time. Others have stated that it is regrettable that this legislation did not come through more quickly, but lessons have been learned in the intervening years and now is the right time to move ahead and deal with the issue. That is about to happen and I welcome it.

I lived in Dublin for a number of years and I could see the difficulties encountered in traffic management with the emergence of serious congestion, with the journey of five miles from the outskirts of the city to the city centre at peak times taking one and a half to two hours. It was clear something was wrong. The difficulties have been exacerbated as a result of the growth in the economy. We are thankful for that growth, but it has created pressures on our infrastructure.

It has been the experience in other countries, whether in cities or on interurban routes, that regardless of how much extra infrastructure is put in place, it eventually becomes clogged because the growth in population and the use of cars always increases to fill the space available. We need to be more creative in our use of the existing infrastructure. The previous speaker will not be happy to hear my view on this, that we need to encourage people to use our important infrastructure and assets around the clock if possible. I believe in congestion charges and in encouraging people to utilise basic infrastructure at times when it is available. That is something with which the DTA must grapple, although perhaps not immediately. If the growth projections for this city in the next ten to 15 years are right, that is something that might emerge. I am interested to note that the legislation contains a requirement for the DTA to have a medium and a long-term strategy in terms of transport planning. That will be helpful.

There have been difficulties in the city over the years which are probably not as prevalent now as in the past. The roll-out of broadband technologies required road openings and there was a lack of co-ordination between the various agencies involved in putting down fibre-optic lines. A section of road would be opened one week, replaced and re-tarred, and the next week the other side of the road would be opened by some other corporate organisation to put down its fibre-optic link. This clearly demonstrated the need for a joined-up approach, for seamless [267] integration across the city, given the various local authorities, agencies and stakeholders which require access to the roadways for the provision of services underneath the roads or the provision of transport services. A co-ordinated approach is necessary. Somebody needs to take responsibility. It is not possible for local authorities and transport agencies to do that. This legislation is, therefore, welcome. The Bill is comprehensive and seeks to identify potential problems and to address them through the creation of the board and the advisory board.

The way we use cars currently is not sustainable in the long term. In that respect I disagree strongly with the previous speaker. It is not a case of the motorist versus the cyclist. We are all citizens, we are all consumers and we must all get to work. We must all go about our business, whether it taking children to school, travelling to work or travelling for leisure. We need to come together as a community to address the problems. There are people who must use their cars. Clearly there are also people who would not use their cars if there was an alternative. For that reason the remit of the DTA in developing and promoting public transport in the city is vitally important. It is a remit it will carry out adequately, in conjunction with the current providers of the services in question. It is not feasible to continue to utilise cars in the way we currently do, given the expected growth in the population of the city in the next 15 to 20 years. We need to begin planning for that. That is not to suggest we should ban cars from the city immediately. However, we need to consider introducing certain restrictions.

Given the cost of fuel, the impact of the car on the environment and the growth in population, it is important to formulate a strategy now. I am hopeful that the DTA will not ban the use of cars entirely but will restrict their use in a way that encourages people to use public transport services. However, those services must be provided. It is incumbent on the DTA to ensure there is an adequate number of buses to assist people in making that modal shift away from the car in the context of their daily commute. Clearly there will be people for whom this will not work, but it does not have to be a case of destroying the motorist altogether. Most people will still have a requirement for a car at other times of the day. It is the peak periods on which we need movement.

A strategic report is required. There is a need for long-term planning and there is also a need for short-term intervention. If the DTA is to have any credibility in the long term it must be seen to have some early wins. It must involve itself early on and be seen to address the crisis points. In that regard traffic management plans are probably the first area in terms of the utilisation of the existing infrastructure and of ensuring a targeted approach to increasing the level of public transport through providing a greater number of buses. Integration is the key to the future success of the DTA. Traffic management plans must be customer focused and not agency or organisation focused. The biggest challenge for the DTA is to move away from the silo approach, or what consultants refer to as the vertical approach, and towards an effectively horizontal approach so that as one moves from one area to another there is seamless integration of the various organisations, local authorities etc.

It will be difficult to get the agencies to work in a more collaborative way, but that is necessary if the authority is to be successful. The focus must be on the consumers’ experience rather than on just how the agency does its business. We need to make public transport much more user friendly and integrated ticketing will help in that regard. More joined-up thinking is necessary in terms of connections between the rail initiatives in Dublin and the provision of feeder buses and link buses. It is necessary also to look at the orbital routes that have been suggested. Few of those exist in the city, as everything seems to be based on a hub and spoke effect. The DTA will have to consider the needs of the consumer rather than the needs of the locations of bus garages. We have to move away from that approach and become much more consumer focused.

[268] There is a need for more buses in Dublin. Deputy Connaughton was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transport of which I was a member and various agencies and organisations came before it. The committee had some good debates on the bus service in Dublin. It is important to find the methodology to increase the number of buses. We must also examine how buses get around the city. We have been good at planning quality bus corridors, which come from the outskirts of the city — or in some cases the outlying counties — and make their way to the city centre. However, in the final mile and a half or two miles they get completely blocked up. We encourage people to travel by bus from Naas, Bray or wherever and then it takes an hour and a half to get from, for example, Donnybrook to the city centre. Clearly, people are not happy with that experience and it can make them decide to drive the next time they travel. The DTA needs to finds a methodology that unblocks the city centre to allow buses to move more freely to ensure a better user experience.

Traffic management in the city is critical to the success of the extra use of public transport. We must be prepared to take tough decisions to get that right. For that reason, I believe it will be necessary to consider congestion charges, which have been successfully implemented in other countries. In addition, certain sections of the city may have to become car-free zones. While that may be a difficult task initially, it will promote the usage of public transport. In conjunction with that, we have to be assured that the capacity is available on the public transport network so that when people are asked to take the ultimate step, they can be accommodated.

The fundamental aspect of the Bill is the promotion of the principle of co-operation and collaboration between the various organs of State. That is helpful because we have to move away from the old-fashioned demarcation lines that existed in those companies and agencies and move towards a more horizontal structure. The recently published OECD report, Ireland: Towards an Integrated Public Service, refers to that and to the notion of networked approaches to working. That is a good example, as the DTA will have to provide a networked approach to finding a solution to transport problems in Dublin. I wish it well in that regard.

It is relatively easy for us to talk in this House about building the networks, making the connections between the agencies, breaking down the barriers that exist and getting rid of demarcation lines. That in itself will be difficult, and it is clear that the management of change, especially in any State agency, will be difficult. There are vested interests in all of those organisations who will resist change. No doubt they will not find it easy to move into a more collaborative environment. Nevertheless, we have to move in that direction. I hope the various stakeholders and interests in those organisations — be they union or management — are prepared to take that leap for the greater good, and in the interests of the delivery of a public transport service in Dublin city that is focused on customers rather than just being about the agency continuing to deliver the service it believes is relevant. That is where some of the difficulties may lie. The authority has the powers to carry out the necessary change.

I welcome the mandate and the remit of the authority. The area defined as the greater Dublin area has been extended. That is welcome, given the potential for population increase in the long term in those areas. One needs to begin the process of improving public transport in the outlying areas from which people commute. Local authorities and other bodies will not come together of their own volition in spite of the regional authority structure. The kind of collaboration and co-operation that takes place between local authorities is not in line with the expectation that came with the establishment of regional authorities. I am happy the authority will have a strong mandate to be able to deliver the outcomes that are required.

[269] I welcome also the fact that the DTA will have the power to take over projects itself if it deems it necessary. In some cases there may be resistance or a level of inertia in moving forward and it is important that the authority will have the power to take over and drive those projects. The fact that the authority will be able to give mandatory directions to implementing agencies is also important because an authority without the powers vested in it to make things happen would ultimately become just another toothless organisation.

I welcome especially the aspect of the Bill that deals with the transportation strategy and the land use and planning process. We have to achieve consistency between land use and transport policy. Deputy Connaughton and I are aware of that in terms of the western rail corridor and the difficulties encountered in that regard to re-open the line and to convince people of the long-term future and viability of the project. Much was made of the fact that local authorities had not zoned, or in some cases had zoned in a way that was not helpful, the lands close to the rail line, especially where stations needed to be built. It would have been better for the viability of the rail line if there were higher density residential locations in and around the villages where it was proposed to locate train stations. That is critically important because there is little point having low density areas in proximity to rail lines because then one does not get the advantage or the usage of it. The DTA will have to ensure that local authorities are mindful of that in their local and county development plans and that they will also have to take into account the regional planning guidelines to ensure there is joined-up thinking. It is important for the implementation of the policy that this is set out in the Bill.

1 o’clock

We must look also at how the DTA model can be used in other areas around the country. It is too early to suggest how it might be rolled out, but perhaps when the legislation is reviewed at a later stage it might be possible to have regional transport authorities based on what is proposed in the greater Dublin area. That would be helpful, for example, at the confluence of counties Clare and Limerick and Limerick city. There is an ongoing demand from Limerick city to seek a boundary extension into County Clare, something which I obviously reject and have rejected at every opportunity. If Limerick city moved away from the notion of having to claim territory in Clare and moved into an environment where we had a more horizontal approach to service delivery rather than just moving the demarcation lines it would be more helpful. Perhaps the model used here might be used for other non-transport service delivery, including regional housing agencies where there can be difficulties in agreeing policies where cities and counties meet. Perhaps lessons can be learnt from that.

I welcome the amendment accepted in the Seanad to allow local authority members to sit on the board of the authority. The restriction on elected representatives sitting on boards has appeared in a number of Bills in recent years, which is regrettable. Being a member of a local authority should not preclude somebody serving in such a capacity based on his or her knowledge and experience which might be relevant to this matter. I believe the knowledge and experience of a local authority member on this kind of agency would be more than helpful.

In supporting the Bill and wishing it a speedy passage through the Dáil I believe in the development of a single brand for public transport in the city is helpful and useful, and will ultimately drive towards a seamless integration that is customer-focused and there to serve the citizen rather than the agency promoting it.

  Deputy Joanna Tuffy: Obviously the Bill is welcome. I would also welcome the prompt establishment of the authority which is long overdue. I believe the concept of such an authority was originally announced by the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan. That announcement anticipated a body that would have much stronger powers than what has eventually come to pass in this legislation. In November 2005 the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, [270] set up with great fanfare a team headed by Professor Margaret O’Mahony charged with establishing a Dublin transport authority. It is only now that we are seeing this legislation. A great deal of time has been lost in the provision of public transport. The Government has used the establishment of this body as an excuse to avoid doing much about public transport.

We have had the Dublin Transportation Office. The general objectives of the new Dublin transport authority include in section 10(a) “the development of an integrated transport system which contributes to environmental sustainability and social cohesion and promotes economic progress,” and in section 10(d) “increased use of the public transport system”. Section 11(a) outlines that among the principal functions of the authority are to “undertake strategic planning of transport.” Section 11(e) states that the authority should secure

(i) provision of public passenger transport services,

(ii) provision of public transport infrastructure,

Obviously the powers are stronger than those of the Dublin Transportation Office. However, the main function of that body, as with this body, is strategic. Many years ago the Government announced A Platform for Change which was going to do great things for public transport most of which have never been done. I was a member of the Dublin Regional Authority, when I was on South Dublin County Council. Approximately seven years ago or possibly more the DTO made a presentation on A Platform for Change to a meeting of the Dublin Regional Authority. It was stated that in a short time there would be great emphasis on the provision of additional buses by Dublin Bus. There were also medium and long-term projects. Most of those things never happened. The easiest and most practical thing to do was to make major investment into Dublin Bus and provide significant numbers of buses for it. However, that never happened. Before the last general election we had the announcement with great fanfare of Transport 21, which was going to do the devil and all for public transport. Again nothing significant has happened out of Transport 21.

I was a councillor on South Dublin County Council in 2000 when Irish Rail gave a presentation about the Kildare route project which was supposed to be completed by 2005 with extra train stations along the route, including in Lucan. I remember many years ago the then Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O’Rourke, announcing the Lucan train station. It was only thanks to the Adamstown SDZ, which was adopted by South Dublin County Council, that the train station in Lucan was opened last year for the first time in 40 years, which happened just before the general election.

Will it be any different with this new authority? Is it more buck-passing to another body and more deferred local government? Will there be more studies, reports, announcements and strategic plans for way off in the future? Generally the completion dates for these projects, particularly the important ones, are after the next general election and never within the timeframe of the current Government. The most important things that need to be done do not require a Dublin transport authority. The most significant thing that could be done immediately with relatively moderate cost and very little digging up roads, which would be very practical and pragmatic, would be major investment in Dublin Bus. We should provide Dublin Bus with hundreds of extra buses, which would immediately make a great improvement to Dublin’s public transport system. We also need to consider much cheaper bus fares. In order to promote public transport it needs to be affordable and available, which is not the case at the moment.

The short-term measure, the investment in Dublin Bus, that was announced by the DTO many years ago, as part of A Platform for Change never happened. The opposite has happened. The majority of the hundreds of buses promised to Dublin Bus as part of the national develop[271] ment plan never transpired. As a representative for Dublin Mid-West, I am aware that last October Dublin Bus was instructed to take three 25X buses off peak time journeys from Lucan to the city centre because they did not fit into the Department of Transport’s interpretation of the authorisation of bus departures. Those three bus departures have been in operation for approximately three or four years. They were notified each year to the Department of Transport but it was only last year that the Department instructed Dublin Bus to take them off. Initially it was because the Department had not been properly notified and then it was something to do with competition. My view is that it is a matter of interpretation.

Something similar has happened in Swords, which has caused serious problems for people’s use of public transport in Lucan and Swords. People in those areas want to use public transport. Of course they do not want to be stuck in traffic every day for an hour and a half coming into town and another hour and a half going home. However, if they are left standing at the bus stop and they have a car, the chances are that they will use it. Removing those three buses had a significant knock-on effect on people’s ability to get buses from Lucan into town. We cannot wait for the Dublin transport authority to be set up to sort out that problem. The Department of Transport should find some way to allow Dublin Bus to put on those extra buses in Lucan and Swords as quickly as possible because the Department’s actions are forcing people who were using buses to go back to using their cars. That is not acceptable.

The Government has dithered on public transport. It has nothing to do with the setting up of authorities, it is an ideological choice on the part of the Government. It does not want a good public transport system. It does not want to give Dublin Bus the extra buses that could make a huge difference in terms of public transport. That is the obvious solution because buses can travel from A to B in a way that no other form of public transport can do. The roads and the infrastructure are already in place. It is simply a matter of ordering the buses and putting them on the roads.

I am the Labour Party spokesperson on the environment and a key issue for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is the reduction of our carbon emissions. The Government has done nothing significant in that regard. It is all about promoting more use of cars. The changes in vehicle registration tax and motor tax encourage consumers to change from one form of consumption to another, albeit a better form of consumption. They are not moving from cars to public transport.

If there is a problem with the price of oil or with carbon emissions, a solution is available to the Government, namely, massive investment in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. This issue does not just apply to Dublin, but Dublin is a key area in terms of the population and the level of emissions from cars in the city.

Every so often a major announcement is made with great fanfare about the metro west, the metro east or a new Luas line for some time in the future. We have the existing infrastructure in terms of Irish Rail and it is merely a matter of building on that. There would be a huge pay-off in terms of our infrastructure if, for example, we completed the Kildare route project, which was stalled because the Government did not sign the orders for it. The Government could have fast-tracked the Kildare route project if it had wanted to do so. It could have fast-tracked the interconnector from Heuston to the city centre, which would be a hugely beneficial project in terms of the number of people that could be encouraged to use public transport. It would not just help people along the suburban line from Kildare to the city centre but also those living in Cork, Portlaoise and other areas connected to Dublin city by that line. With the doubling of the rail track there would be greater capacity for more trains. The intercity trains would not be delayed by suburban trains and if we had the connector into the city centre people could travel all the way into the city. That would be a major incentive for people to use the service. [272] The rail line could then be electrified and extra train stations provided, in addition to those planned. That is something that should have been done years ago. Will this new authority announce more Luas projects and so on rather than doing the most important functions first that would have the maximum pay-off in terms of getting people to use public transport?

I have not read the Bill in any great detail but from what I can determine there is not a huge amount in it that integrates the area of land use with the provision of public transport. There is provision in section 44(c) to allow the authority “acquire and facilitate the development of land adjacent to any public transport infrastructure where such acquisition and development contribute to the economic viability of the said infrastructure whether by agreement or by means of a compulsory purchase order made ... under the Act of 2000” — I presume that is the Planning and Development Act. There is nothing new in that. Local authorities can do that already. The Government can designate strategic development zones for that type of development around public transport nodes.

Under the new Planning and Development Act there is a provision in respect of compulsory purchase orders for different purposes, which I presume is the one referred to, but as far as I am aware, that was never used by the Government. Given that that Act has been in place since 2000, why has it not been used by the Government? Will this provision be used? I hope it will be used. I must give the benefit of the doubt but as far as I am aware the provision under the Planning and Development Act for a compulsory purchase order for various public projects has not been used to date. That does not inspire confidence.

To be fair, the previous Government introduced the Planning and Development Act which included the strategic development zones. The first one adopted in the country was in Adamstown, in Lucan, which I represent. It is a good planning tool in terms of the delivery of housing with infrastructure and, in particular, public transport. There were requirements in the Adamstown plan to the effect that with the first 1,000 houses, a train station should be provided. A train station was provided by the developers well in advance of that date and it is open, and I welcome that.

Likewise, the Kildare route project is tied in to the development of Adamstown. Therefore, houses cannot be developed beyond a certain stage in Adamstown unless the Kildare route project is complete. That is welcome because there is something in place now to force both developers and the Government to implement the Kildare route project because at a certain stage the developers will not be able to build more houses unless that project is developed, and that will affect their pocket. It will affect everybody because we need to develop housing for families to live in. That strategic development zone is something that must be used to a much greater extent by the Government.

I am aware there are other strategic development zones. Perhaps there is a need for an audit of the strategic development zones that have been designated so far because I am aware some problems have arisen with others. The Adamstown one worked out well and was an excellent project by the council and everyone involved, but I am aware problems have arisen. Now that this area has been examined and we know it works, the Government should consider whether improvements need to be made to that process. That is the way forward in terms of planning and development to ensure we get public transport with development of housing and that housing is developed in the right areas.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published draft new planning guidelines and spoke about amending the Act, which would mean that councillors’ decisions would have to be consistent with the guidelines, but that would not be a very strong provision. A much more significant measure would be needed along the lines of the section in [273] the Planning and Development Act on the strategic development zones, which clearly sets out what should be in the those zones. That is what is needed in terms of amending our planning laws.

There is huge potential in the upcoming development plans for county councils to rezone land wherever they wish. South Dublin County Council will begin dealing with its new county development plan next year and, therefore, it will be adopted by 2010. I presume the same is the case in other local authorities, but what is to stop them from doing many unsustainable land zonings without regard to this? Will this authority be set up in time and will it be able to do anything? I do not believe so.

An attempt was made in my area recently to vary the county development plan in part of County Dublin. I was opposed to that rezoning and thankfully it was defeated because it would have been unsustainable. It was not near any public transport nodes. It would have led to urban sprawl in a rural area and issues about connections to water, waste facilities and so on would have arisen.

Some months ago the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provided information about a survey he had done on climate change. The information in the public domain indicated that 81% of people were in favour of carbon taxes, which I found hard to believe. I sought further information and eventually managed to get the full details of that survey. When people were asked whether they wanted to pay 8% on car fuel — and other types of fuel — almost 50% were opposed to it. In reality the opposition was probably even greater because people were asked about carbon taxes and other specifics in the context of a survey exploring reaction to the horrors of climate change. It was notable that when it came to the specifics, almost the majority of those polled were against the particular percentage on car fuel prices about which they were asked.

People want to do something about the environment, use public transport and do what is right. However, they also want fairness. It is not fair for the Government to be talking about slapping on carbon taxes for the use of cars when it has not, in the past ten years that it has been in office, provided public transport options. The reality is that if carbon taxes were introduced in the manner that seems to be anticipated by the Minister, they would almost certainly not be fair. In particular, they would impact on families and on people who are poor and living in isolated communities who do have access to good public transport.

  Deputy Chris Andrews: I wish to share time with Deputy Áine Brady, with the permission of the House.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this particular issue. Living in south Dublin and representing Dublin South East, it is obviously a problem that I see and face every day. Sometimes when people talk to public representatives such as Deputies and councillors, they believe they are detached from the problems of traffic and everyday life, but that certainly is not true. There is a sense that because we have the Luas, the DART and an increasing number of QBCs, people believe everything is rosy in Dublin 4, 6 and 8, when this is not true at all. Very many communities are located in those areas, Terenure, Rathgar, Crumlin, Dundrum and Rathfarnham, for instance. Every morning in the greater Dublin area, in which not everyone has access to public transport, private cars descend on residential and small communities and depart through them in the evening. In time the DTA will change that, but in the meantime in Dublin South East residents and visitors have a problem because many of the villages such as Ranelagh, Terenure and Rathmines are regarded by the planners and experts in Dublin City Council as obstacles to the delivery of traffic management systems. They regard these communities as difficulties which have to be overcome — and then they drive through and create arteries through these small village communities.

[274] There is a great sense of village and community life in Dublin South East, but most people are commuting through it, with ramifications for the quality of life of residents and families. In particular, Rathgar and Terenure have literally had a wall built between them, which has divided communities and had a major impact on residents. The RPA has just carried out a feasibility study to extend the Luas from Christchurch through Terenure and into Rathfarnham, but I am not sure how much further that process will go, given that this is not a natural route in the way the line to Sandyford is — it was traditionally a rail route. The line through Terenure would mean the displacement of traffic from the main artery into the residential side streets, the compulsory purchase of people’s gardens etc. It would also mean the Luas, for all its advantages, running through settled residential areas and small streets such as Brighton Street and Brighton Square, with major repercussions for residents. While this has been examined I am not sure how successful it will be, as it would mean the existing QBCs, in effect, will have to be closed down. Instead of complementing the QBCs, the Luas would, in fact, be replacing and substituting them. I am not convinced that is the objective when we are looking at public transport options.

The infrastructure that Transport 21 will deliver has an enormous impact. When a road race was organised through the Dublin Port tunnel shortly after it opened — or perhaps just before — I thought people would be wading through water because of the headlines about it over the years to the effect that it was flooding, leaking and so on. There were major objections to it, but it is a great success from the perspective of residents in the inner city and people visiting Dublin. It has had an enormous impact on people’s lives and reduced the number of heavy goods vehicles significantly, which has had a major impact on schools. The children attending City Quay school are much safer going there in the mornings. It is healthier for them, their parents and older people; the port tunnel has made a real difference to the lives of ordinary people and the city of Dublin.

The need for a DTA is very clear, and makes sense. People will find ways of objecting to it, of course, and that is inevitable since they object to everything that comes through the Oireachtas while, at the same time, wondering why things do not happen sooner and more quickly. The DTA will deliver faster and more reliable public transport. Reliability and the ability of public transport to arrive on time and deliver people to their destinations on time is the key. Luas has made an enormous difference and the reason it is so popular is that it is reliable, clean and efficient. When one leaves home in the morning, one knows one will get to work or to one’s destination within 20 minutes or half an hour from the time one arrives on the platform. While the authority will be powerful, the Minister and elected representatives will be more powerful and will have a direct say in how the authority delivers public transport infrastructure.

When the directly elected lord mayor is in place, there may be a turf war between him or her, the authority, the Minister and the councillors. If the lord mayor is from a different political party from the Minister, it could lead to interesting times ahead for us all. Members of the Dáil should keep this under review when the procedure for reforming local government is being framed.

I was concerned initially that the Dublin transport authority would be another large organisation, such as the HSE, into which Members would have very little input. This is not the case because I have seen what the Minister has done. The Minister stated the Government will retain responsibility for setting overall transport policy and determining the broad direction of transport investment policy, as already laid down in Transport 21. The Minister will approve the authority’s transport strategy and will be able to give mandatory policy directions with which the authority will be required to comply. This power is crucial and can be used to ensure [275] the authority acts in accordance with Government policy. The authority’s chairperson and chief executive will be required to appear before Oireachtas committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts. This is very important. It is good that elected representatives, including the Minister, will be able to determine how the authority manages its policy direction. The legislation allows councillors to sit on the board of the authority. Those at the coalface of interaction with residents in the city will have an input, which is very important.

Chapter 4 obliges the authority to implement appropriate demand management strategies. This is a reference to the congestion charge. The Minister stated recently: “While the introduction of congestion charging in the GDA is not provided for at this stage, the authority will be required to keep the position generally under review and may make recommendations to the Minister if it considers that additional demand management measures are required.” I welcome this. In principle, I have no difficulty with a congestion charge but the devil is in the detail. The required transport infrastructure is not in place and it would, therefore, be very premature to consider a congestion charge for Dublin. I have no doubt one will be introduced eventually but it is not yet on the cards. I welcome the Minister’s message in this regard.

The Dublin transport authority will streamline the decision-making process and will deliver the required infrastructure in the greater Dublin area. It will also strengthen the interaction between land use, planning and transport. I commend the Bill to the House.

  Deputy Áine Brady: I welcome the opportunity to contribute and I thank Deputy Chris Andrews for sharing time with me. The debate on the setting up of the Dublin transport authority for the greater Dublin area is very important. As a representative of a constituency in the greater Dublin area, it is an important development in ensuring we have a co-ordinated approach to transport issues.

Since my election last May, I have worked with many of the relevant stakeholders in trying to improve the level of service of our public transport service providers. Dublin transport issues cannot be addressed by considering Dublin alone. Solving the problems can only be achieved in conjunction with counties surrounding Dublin, namely, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, which are the home to many commuters to the city.

The proposed establishment of the new authority, which was the preferred option following consultation by the Department of Transport, will see the putting in place of a single authority to oversee and set the strategic direction for the provision of transport infrastructure and services in the greater Dublin area. Currently, there are approximately 16 bodies with some responsibility for transport in the greater Dublin area. These include the relevant Departments, principally the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; CIE and its three operating subsidiaries, Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann; the Railway Procurement Agency; the National Roads Authority; the Dublin Transportation Office; and the seven local authorities in the greater Dublin area.

Under Transport 21, an investment of €14 billion is being made in the greater Dublin area. The main elements of this investment are significant investment in rail infrastructure, including the metro and the Maynooth and Kildare lines, and the construction of the suburban interurban rail interconnector that will provide a tunnelled link between Heuston Station and the Docklands via St. Stephen’s Green, and a link to the northern line. It also provides for a bus network to create a meshed network of services, rerouted to take account of the rail developments. The development of park and ride facilities and the completion of the upgrade of the M50 are also included.

The creation of the authority will ensure co-ordinated and integrated delivery of the Transport 21 investment programme in the greater Dublin area. It will utilise key skilled personnel [276] to maximum benefit across a number of projects and rationalise the existing institutional arrangements while maintaining a strong strategic dimension. The authority will have a clear mandate to transform the transport system in the capital and will have unambiguous statutory authority to implement that mandate. It will set out the strategic framework for the delivery of transport infrastructure and services in the greater Dublin area in light of a strategic transport plan covering a period of 12 to 20 years. It will also prepare a six-year implementation plan translating strategy into action.

The authority will engage closely in each stage of the planning process, from the consideration of the regional planning guidelines to the consideration of city and county development plans and local area plans, in order to ensure the greatest degree of consistency possible between its transport strategy and the land-use planning process. The authority’s transport strategy will have to be consistent with the regional planning guidelines in the greater Dublin area.

The Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will have the power to ensure consistency between land use and transport policies. I welcome this aspect of the authority’s work in particular because there has not been a co-ordinated approach in the past. We have allowed the building of houses without providing adequate park and ride facilities. Maynooth and Confey rail stations are two cases in point.

A co-ordinated approach will bring focus to the planning of transport. The authority will assist in ensuring the transport infrastructure and services planned for the greater Dublin area are delivered on time and within budget and in a fully co-ordinated manner that minimises disruption to the social and economic life of the region. This planned investment in the greater Dublin area represents a particular challenge, given the scale of the projects proposed and the need to ensure integration in their planning, delivery and operation to maximise the benefit of the investment.

The absence of the authority did not mean that no development of the public transport system has taken place to date. However, its continued absence would give rise to a real danger that the investment envisaged under Transport 21 would not be delivered in a timely, cost-effective and co-ordinated manner. I believe the benefits of establishing the new authority will greatly outweigh its costs. While the authority will require significant resources to discharge its range of functions, a significant proportion of the human resources required will come from the existing agencies. There also will be cost savings associated with better co-ordination and integration of project and service delivery, as well as more rigorous powers of oversight in respect of the delivery of the projects.

The National Competitiveness Council has noted that the level of infrastructure in a country affects competitiveness and performance in a number of ways. Inadequate infrastructure can increase traffic congestion, reduce productivity and increase costs. This affects both existing firms and a country’s attractiveness as an investment location and in respect of its general quality of life. Ireland ranks poorly with regard to perception of the quality of its transport infrastructure. The proposed establishment of a single authority in the greater Dublin area to set the strategic direction for transport infrastructure and services and to ensure its implementation will contribute positively to national competitiveness. By delivering an integrated public transport network, there also should be a positive impact for the socially excluded and vulnerable groups who tend to have a heavier reliance on public transport to access employment opportunities, social and health services and leisure activities.

The timely delivery of the public transport infrastructure and services will provide an attractive alternative to private car users, particularly commuters, and will result in a modal shift to [277] more sustainable transport modes. Linking land use and transport planning and implementation will enable the authority, together with the regional authorities in the greater Dublin area, to establish more sustainable residential and commercial developments in the greater Dublin area. The traffic management and demand management functions of the new authority also will allow it to improve the efficiency of the transport network. This will have a positive impact on the reduction in growth of the levels of greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The authority has been established after a thorough consultation process and I welcome its establishment. Moreover, I look forward to the benefits it will bring.

  Deputy Paul Connaughton: First, like most Members, I welcome this Bill although everyone has reservations, myself included, about the Dublin transport authority. I am the Vice Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and during the past 12 months its members, including Deputy Áine Brady and others, listened to all the stakeholders. There are as many views on how the future development of Dublin traffic should be handled as there are days in the year. Everyone has a different view and a co-ordinated approach is required. If Dublin’s traffic management is to be successful in future, it must be implemented via the Dublin transport authority — I will revert to this point shortly. While it could prove to be a poisoned chalice in the future, at least it constitutes a genuine effort to bring together under a single umbrella all the stakeholders, each of which sincerely believes itself to have the only show in town. That is the great problem associated with competing demands and the existing competition.

There is no harm in painting a picture that demonstrates the importance of this issue and the extent and depth to which the Dublin transport authority must deliver in the years ahead. The last census of population revealed that the population within the functional area that will be given to this authority, if one includes the counties of Kildare, Wicklow and Meath with the greater Dublin area, is 1.5 million people. Moreover, this population is increasing yearly. Catering for such an increase is in itself a daunting task because problems will arise wherever one places such a density of human beings, irrespective of whether it is in the field of education or transport. In addition, statistical projections suggest that in 20 years’ time, there will be exactly twice as many cars registered to people in Ireland than is the case at present. In other words, unless something is done, there will be double the number of cars getting in one’s way along the quays in 20 years’ time.

Speaking from the perspective of an Opposition Member — I often made this point — some of the measures taken regarding Dublin transport in the past five or ten years have been highly positive. The Luas has been outstanding and the port tunnel is fine traffic infrastructure. The problem, however, is that because of the figures I have just outlined, one is obliged to run to standstill as an ever-increasing number of cars are descending on the city. One does not need to be Einstein to know this.

While I am not a native of this city, it is the nation’s capital and I have been using it for the past 30 years. I can never understand a few fundamental matters, some of which are minor. For instance, I fail to understand the reason that a breakdown of a lorry in the morning between the city centre and Heuston Station has the capacity to hold up traffic for up to an hour and a half. I cannot understand why it is not simply moved out of the way and got rid of. That is the peak period during which people try to get to work and such breakdowns give rise to all sorts of commotion. That only is a very minor matter. Moreover, Members will have noticed that the manner in which Dublin’s traffic is controlled during the eight weeks or so before Christmas makes it run somewhat better. Given the huge problems that exist in the city, I fail to understand the reason such a regime cannot be run every day of the year while all the basic infrastruc[278] ture projects under Transport 21 are being dreamed up and, one hopes, eventually implemented.

One fundamental matter can be discerned by anyone who has eyes in his or her head, namely, no matter what happens in future, the quays and all the other arterial routes into the city centre will never become wider. Consequently, there is absolute competition per square foot on every single inch of ground in the city centre. There is competition for it every day of the week between buses, cars, lorries, pedestrians and so on. Either Members as legislators or the Dublin transport authority must decide who will be given priority in that competition. Colleagues on all sides have been talking about congestion charges and similar initiatives, and I am certain that if one waits long enough, something like this will happen. Certainly, as was mentioned previously, no matter how wide the M50, the N6 from Galway or the other arterial roads into Dublin become, they will be filled from 7. 30 a.m. until 9.30 a.m. every morning. It is like water pouring into a bottle.

The point at issue is what one should do with the traffic when it reaches a certain point. I always have believed — this has been discussed at length at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport — that an interception system must be put in place. In other words, the traffic coming off the arterial routes must be intercepted. I do not know how far from Dublin one should do this as I am not an expert in this regard. I refer to a mechanism such as park and ride systems. This problem is not confined to Dublin as it also exists in Cork, Galway and elsewhere, albeit to a much lesser degree. The members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, together with its Chairman, Deputy Frank Fahey, visited a park and ride facility in Essex, England, two months ago. The town it was in was not nearly as big as Dublin so the idea might be more appropriate to Cork or Galway but I could see elements that would work well in Dublin.

There is psychology involved in people’s relationships with their cars. People feel safe and independent in the bubble that is the car; it is their domain where no one can interfere with them and nobody can tell them what to do. One need not talk to anyone in one’s car. Due to the fact that the car takes people from home to work, asking them to use it less is a huge psychological job. There is no new science behind this theory. There are 1,000 car parking spaces at the park and ride facility in Essex and those involved have found that people approaching the facility feel it will take around ten minutes to park the car and walk to where the bus should be. The operators told us that if a bus is waiting as one approaches the park and ride facility, one is more likely to avail of it because one has more confidence in the service. That is reasonable human nature. However, the next piece of psychology applies to the bus itself. It may be waiting for customers but there is no point taking it if it will hit a snarl up of traffic half a mile from where one works.

We return to the competition for space I mentioned. If competition for space is part of the system, quality bus corridors must be given priority. No matter what a traffic light shows, the sensor on a bus should ensure it and its 60 to 80 occupants fly through. In this way priority is given to people who leave their cars at park and ride facilities and poor motorists will be left to watch the bus fly by. Problems exist in this system, however, because one must ensure that once the bus enters the city it can bring people to their places of work. There is no point in bringing a person within a mile of his or her workplace on a cold, frosty morning and then leaving him or her to use shank’s mare for the rest of the journey. People will not do this.

I have no doubt that there will eventually be a congestion charge in this city. However, it will not come into being until people are given alternatives and places they can safely park their cars. People must see that it is in their best interests to do this. There will be 1,000 good reasons for doing this in the years to come because the price of oil reached $130 per barrel [279] today. Economists have told me that in two or three years it will reach $200 per barrel. The price has doubled in the past 12 months so how would one dispute this forecast? Given issues such as energy conservation, carbon footprints and other matters I do not have time to go into, if ever there was an opportune time to do something like this, although it should have been done before, this is it.

I think the Luas is a great system for those lucky enough to live on the route, but it is important that it be connected. We all hope 30 million people will use Dublin Airport in five years’ time but one can imagine the problems that will ensue if the metro, or a different system, does not service the facility. There will be gridlock from the city centre to Dublin Airport.

I believe there will be an integrated approach to transport. We have not brought about integrated ticketing and this has been a huge bugbear for me for years. I have used Iarnród Éireann for many years to travel from Ballinasloe to Dublin and the service is beginning to improve but sometimes, at the weekend, it is horrendous. It is a good service on ordinary working days. When I buy a three or four day return ticket at Ballinasloe or Athlone, why can the price of the bus from Heuston Station to here not be included? This should be simple. The strange thing is, this is available to those who come to Dublin on a day return ticket from Ballinasloe or Athlone but not those who come on a three, four or 30 day return ticket. This is a long way from integrated ticketing. My understanding of integrated ticketing is that whatever mode of public transport one uses, one ticket will take one to one’s destination. We are a million miles from such a scenario. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Noel Ahern, may not agree with that but, either way, integrated ticketing is not available and we seem to be a long way from achieving it.

I have some problems with the Dublin transport authority and most of them have been well aired in the past few hours, but I want to add my tuppence worth. I am sick to the teeth of the mechanism of accountability to the Dáil that exists for the HSE and other organisations. This is not an original thought and my colleagues have spoken of it for months and years. Why are we going to create a similar animal in the DTA? I can see myself in a couple of years making representations on behalf of constituents of mine in east Galway who have difficulties with public transport in Dublin and cannot access a hospital. I will put down a parliamentary question to the Minister for Transport on the matter because I am elected, like everyone else here, to do a particular job for my constituents. This is a democratic Parliament that is accountable to the people. Under Transport 21, we have been told some €14 billion will be provided for Dublin’s transport system over the coming years and there will be a great deal of taxpayers’ money involved. When I put down my parliamentary question for the Minister for Transport in a few years I guarantee he or she, or the Ceann Comhairle, will write back to me and state the Dáil has no responsibility for the matter. Speaking as someone who has been here for some time, that is a bad day’s work. We will be on the slippery slope.

Some ten, 12 or 15 years ago it was the in thing to take responsibility away from politicians and whoever was in Government, but the HSE has shown this is a bad policy for everyone. The creation of this authority, as it stands, will also be bad policy because if a project is to stand up, it should stand up in this House. Let the new director general of the Dublin transport authority sit in this House where the civil servants sit today. We should allow that facility somehow. If there are important administrative and future policy matters to discuss, other Deputies and I should be able to ask the Minister for Transport questions as he will have ultimate responsibility. It has been suggested that the authority will be connected to the Oireachtas through various committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts — the authority could not sidestep the Committee of Public Accounts no matter how it tried. It holds every other State organisation to account. Obviously the Comptroller and Auditor General would have a say in what happens there anyway. It is no big deal in this particular Bill.

[280] I notice, if my briefing note is correct, that the DTA will be answerable with regard to the Freedom of Information Act. The note then goes on to say that the authority itself will decide, in its wisdom, which information will be released. I do not like this and I smell a rat. All of a sudden there will be a raft of confidential information that this House and ordinary members of the public will not be able to access. It is against this background that I genuinely believe that no matter what the authority does it should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

2 o’clock

The Minister mentioned that, initially at least, the Railway Procurement Agency will not be under the umbrella of this transport authority. I cannot understand this. In the future there will be competition for space between road and rail, as I mentioned earlier. With regard to the proposal contained in Transport 21, the ability to carry substantial numbers of people by rail from Heuston Station to St. Stephen’s Green in the centre of the city is of major importance. The Acting Chairman knows of the countless thousands of people who converge on this city every day at Heuston Station. If we cannot get these people to the city centre efficiently, it will become a major problem. The only way we can do this is to continue the railway line either underground or above ground.

A great deal of debate has centred around the input of Dublin Bus to the “big dig” that is to start in the near future. I can imagine the traffic problems that will occur when the big dig starts, as we already have major problems even before it starts. As a number of my colleagues mentioned earlier, I can only hope that when the Dublin transport authority is up and running, situations in which the same street is dug up four or five times in a year will occur less often. There is no point in saying I hope it will never happen again, as I am sure it will, but it might happen less often. Given the various agencies that will work under the umbrella of the Dublin transport authority, I sincerely hope this tendency will be overcome to some degree. Problems such as these raise the blood pressure of motorists every morning and evening. The smallest hole is dug for what I have no doubt are very good reasons, to allow utility providers access, for example, but, gallingly, the same hole is opened the following month and again thereafter. Why do we not have a more integrated approach? I assume that with the introduction of the Bill this will be less likely to happen.

I hope that for the sake of everyone in Ireland, not just those in Dublin, we will see a better approach to the provision of a more efficient traffic system for Dublin. The idea of extending the authority’s remit to counties outside Dublin is of major importance. Not long ago we met with the county managers of the counties concerned. They are doing a good job on their own but I got the distinct impression that one of them did not know what the other was doing. In my own county and city of Galway a few years ago, I certainly found that neither Galway City Council nor Galway County Council knew what the other was doing from a traffic management point of view, although they were both within a single county. This has been the major deficiency in Dublin transport over the years. I hope the Dublin transport authority will have the necessary clout to stop the faction fighting and the moral authority to ensure that actions are taken in a co-ordinated way. I can only hope for everyone’s sake that it is successful.

  Deputy M. J. Nolan: I wish to share time with Deputy Darragh O’Brien.

  Deputy Seamus Kirk: There are 20 minutes in the slot, so the Deputies will have ten minutes each.

  Deputy M. J. Nolan: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which is long overdue. Anyone who does business in Dublin city will be well aware of its major problems with traffic congestion, particularly over the past ten years. Much of this has resulted from the economic success of the country. In addition, with the migration of workers and other individuals and [281] families from west to east, the population of the east coast has increased significantly over the past ten years and the number of people working on the east coast, particularly in Dublin, has increased by up to 250,000 since 1999. This has clearly brought problems in terms of infrastructure development in our capital city.

The Bill is important in that it gives the Dublin transport authority jurisdiction not only over Dublin city centre and the three local authorities in the county, but also over areas such as Meath, Kildare and parts of Wicklow. It is important that the Bill make provision for the control of the authority to be extended if required in the future. In Carlow, 6,000 people leave the town every day, the vast majority of them to work in Dublin. Many of these people travel by car, which adds to congestion in the city.

Successive Governments over a number of years have invested significantly in improving the road structure as well as rail links and bus services. We as a people have become far too car-dependent. We must change our mindset to move away from cars and towards public transport. Regrettably, over the past number of years we have not had a first-class public transport system on which we could all depend and thus many of us, including myself, were obliged to use our cars more than our European neighbours. However, over the past six years in particular the rail service has improved significantly, as has the bus service. This improvement must continue.

The Minister for Transport outlined an ambitious plan four years ago in Transport 21. If all aspects of this plan are implemented, using moneys ring-fenced for this purpose, we will see a major improvement in our transport infrastructure over the next number of years. The number of cars on our roads has doubled in the past eight years and the city is choking with traffic congestion. The only way we can change people’s mindset is to give them confidence in a public transport system that works well and on which they can depend.

Local authorities have improved their work rates in that they manage road construction and repairs in a more efficient manner. There is greater co-operation between local authorities when two or more are involved in the same road works. It is welcome that they identify a lead authority and leave the running of the project to it. The Garda, by separating the functions of a specially designated traffic corps, has played its part in the improvements. I hope those improvements are ongoing.

This debate is timely because of the current crisis in oil production, including today’s record price for a barrel of crude oil. The crisis will affect how everyone uses cars and oil, on which we are dependent. If the price continues to increase during the coming months, there will need to be a more radical examination of our car transportation and national cost base policies, given our dependence on exports. Take the example set by Manhattan in the city of New York. Fewer than 10% of Manhattan’s residents own cars. The majority always use public transport or taxis. No business person in London uses his or her own car — business people use the subway because London has a good transport system. When Sydney built its Olympic stadium for the 2000 Olympic Games, it used that time of major investment to improve its public transport services and has consequently benefited. It is important to learn from the experiences of other countries.

While the draft legislation is focused on Dublin, it could be used as a template in other cities or towns experiencing growth and, therefore, traffic congestion. The Bill should experience an easy passage through the House because it will establish the DTA as the public authority charged with overall responsibility for surface transport in the Dublin area. If we are to succeed in establishing the authority in the short term, we should not spend too long in the consultation period. We are snowed under by reports on transport in Dublin city.

[282] A number of Deputies raised the issue of integrated ticketing. I do not understand why, in today’s age of computers and programmers, one cannot buy a ticket in Carlow or Kilkenny that can be used on bus, train and Luas services. The situation beggars belief.

I wish the Minister of State success with the Bill, which I hope is passed by the House speedily. The sooner the authority is put on stream, the better.

  Deputy Darragh O’Brien: I am speaking as someone who has stepped outside his car and used trains since being elected to the House. This city has serious traffic problems. I am fortunate that my area has the DART service. People will use public transport if it is efficient and frequent. Bringing all of the agencies together under a single authority must allow them to work together on behalf of the public. Deputy Connaughton was correct in his reference to the significant population growth in counties Louth, Meath, Kildare, Dublin and Wicklow on the east coast. The number of cars on the road cannot continue to increase at the current rate. Work on the M50 is ongoing and has made a difference to the parts of the road I have been on. However, if one builds extra roads, cars will fill them. We must consider managing change in the public transport sector.

For the first 15 minutes of Deputy Connaughton’s contribution he backed the Bill wholeheartedly, but he was more ambiguous during the last five minutes. He raised a concern discussed in our policy groups and at committees, namely, that we should not create an authority that operates at arm’s length from the Department. It must be answerable to the Houses and the Minister for Transport and, from reading the Bill’s details, I am satisfied that this will be the case. Members have often stated that certain agencies are not directly accountable to the House or do not take our opinions and those of our constituents into account. The DTA will be a positive step, as it is clear that the Minister will have overall responsibility and a mandate to direct the DTA in what it must do on a day-to-day basis. The position of the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, was mentioned. The RPA will function as a separate entity under the DTA’s remit and its procurement business will continue.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on important legislation crucial to the delivery of many aspects of Transport 21, which will further improve the transport network in the greater Dublin area. The passing of the Bill will see through a commitment in the programme for Government to ensure the prompt and efficient delivery of Transport 21 and other improvements to the capital’s transportation systems. The delivery of Transport 21 must be co-ordinated by a central agency such as the DTA that reports and is answerable to the Minister for Transport.

In my constituency of Dublin North, Transport 21 will bring about a world class public transport infrastructure in the next five to six years. Metro north, which will run from St. Stephen’s Green through the city to Dublin Airport, Swords and beyond towards Donabate, will improve the access for people in my constituency to the city centre and beyond. In this regard, the DTA will be important for my constituency. Transport 21 and metro north will provide a necessary rail link to the airport. It has been projected that, during the next five to six years, 30 million passengers will pass through the airport. Currently, 95% of all passengers through Dublin Airport access it by private car. This situation must change because the area’s road network is being clogged.

The previous Government under former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, gave a firm commitment to deliver a high-speed metro connection to north County Dublin, including the major town of Swords. This transport plan was fully supported financially by the then Minister for Finance, the new Taoiseach. Metro north will have the annual capacity to carry millions of passengers into Dublin city centre and St. Stephen’s Green in less than 25 minutes and will link with the Luas and mainline train networks through the interconnector at St. Stephen’s Green.

[283] It is many Deputies’ opinion that Transport 21 is the single most ambitious and forward-thinking project undertaken by any European country in the past 50 years. The new transport network will improve the lives of thousands of constituents in Dublin North, Dublin city and the greater Dublin area, in particular by the delivery of metro west in west County Dublin. The Government gave this commitment to the people before the election when many Members of the Opposition stated that the Government would not deliver on Transport 21. This legislation advances that commitment a step further. Many of those who criticised Transport 21 were the same people who said, ten years ago, that the Luas system would either not be built or would not be operationally effective. Some 25 million Luas journeys are now made every year. The efficient and effective Luas service will be further improved under Transport 21 by linking both lines in the city centre. The success of the Luas is proof that when an efficient, effective and dependable public transport service is provided, people will leave their cars behind.

Other planned improvements under Transport 21 include the extension of the DART network to Balbriggan, serving Donabate, Rush, Lusk and Skerries. This enhanced rail service is vital to meet the needs of this growing area. The increase in the capacity of the northern rail line to four tracks will further increase the capacity and frequency of trains. While the Railway Procurement Agency will retain responsibility for the delivery of these projects and will remain a separate agency, the Dublin transport authority will work closely with it to ensure that both surface transport and rail-based transport are planned and delivered efficiently. In all cases, the Minister for Transport will retain overall responsibility and the Dublin transport authority will be directly answerable to him or her.

The Fingal area of Dublin will be transformed by the delivery of Transport 21. With the airport in Swords, the M1 motorway, the northern rail line and the upgraded M50, we are at the economic and development heart of the State. This has ensured full employment in my constituency. During the general election campaign, I gave a firm commitment to my constituents that I would do my best to ensure that the great improvements outlined in Transport 21 are delivered. I am confident that the establishment of the Dublin transport authority, working in conjunction with the Department of Transport, will ensure a speedy delivery of these commitments.

Last year saw the delivery of the first 100 additional buses for the Dublin area, as promised under Transport 21. We must continue to improve the bus network and to ensure it works in tandem with other transport agencies. The Dublin transport authority will be able to bring this about in an effective and cohesive manner. There must be further utilisation of the Dublin Port tunnel, which has proved extremely successful. Some bus routes are using the tunnel, which provides speedier access to the city centre from the Swords and Kinsealy areas. These types of services should be further expanded.

In this regard, I draw the Minister of State’s attention to several anomalies that have arisen in the Swords and Lucan areas where particular Dublin Bus services have been excluded from using the port tunnel because of competition considerations arising from the Road Transport Act 1932. I ask the Minister of State to consider whether the Dublin Transport Authority Bill can be used to amend the 1932 Act to make it more relevant to a modern public transport system. The current difficulties with the 41X bus route in Swords have arisen as a consequence of that legislation. There is no reason that this service should be prevented from continuing to use the port tunnel. I intend to table amendments to the Bill to deal with this anomaly. In the meantime, I ask the Minister to look favourably on the revised application by Dublin Bus in respect of the 41X service so that it can once again use the port tunnel to access the city centre. The Department should grant the revised licence without further delay.

[284] I compliment the local authority in my area, Fingal County Council, on the work done in recent years by the county manager, Mr. David O’Connor, and the director of services for transportation, Mr. Mick Lorrigan, to secure improvements for my constituents as part of Transport 21. I am pleased that the Bill provides that the Dublin transport authority will work closely with local authorities, whose members have vast local experience and are eager to assist. The Dublin transport authority will have a crucially important role in the delivery of the Dublin aspects of Transport 21. While I welcome its establishment, I intend to monitor its work closely to ensure that a cohesive and integrated public transport system is developed in the next five to ten years in line with the Government’s commitments.

Much of that work is already under way. The second terminal at Dublin Airport will soon be constructed. The upgrading of the M50 motorway is well under way and improvements can already be seen. There are hundreds of additional buses on our streets and new rail carriages are in use. The port tunnel is an important infrastructural element in the city’s transport system. Further improvements will be seen in the coming months, such as the commitment given to me by Iarnród Éireann that all mainline trains on the northern line serving the city centre at peak times will, by the end of the year, have eight carriages and that the same will apply to all DART trains by the end of September. While we await the establishment of the Dublin transport authority, there are many steps that can be taken now to improve the daily lives of commuters.

Another important aspect of the Dublin transport authority’s responsibilities will be to ensure that county development plans take full consideration of public transport needs in all new developments. The authority will have a formal role in the drawing up of county development plans. Many local authorities, including Fingal County Council, have shown themselves to be progressive in this regard, but it is important that the Dublin transport authority has a formal role. Public transport services are improving in general but there are many areas in which further improvement is required and many actions that can be taken relatively speedily, such as the delivery of park and ride facilities for buses pending the introduction of the metro. The public must be put first in all our considerations. We must cut through the red tape and introduce amendments to archaic legislation that is not serving the public good.

I welcome the provision in the Bill that the Minister for Transport will retain overall responsibility for setting transport policy in the Dublin area and determining the direction of transport policy investment in line with Transport 21. The Minister will have responsibility to approve the Dublin transport authority’s transport strategy and will be able to give it mandatory policy directions with which it must comply. The authority will be accountable to the Dáil and the Minister for Transport. I look forward to its establishment and to the continued implementation of Transport 21 in line with Government commitments.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: I congratulate the Government on finally bringing forward this Bill. I was a Member of this House when my former, sadly deceased, colleague, Jim Mitchell, brought forward legislation in 1986 to set up a Dublin transport authority to resolve the problem of the fragmentation of transport services in Dublin. Unfortunately, that legislation was scrapped by Fianna Fáil in 1987. The Fianna Fáil-led Government is now bringing forward legislation that could have been enacted more than 20 years ago.

In the context of transport policy, this could best be described as a Bill for slow learners given the length of time it has taken to acknowledge the requirements in this area. The tragedy of the scrapping of the legislation in 1987 is that many of the problems with the transport system in Dublin might never have occurred if there had been one overarching body in charge [285] of transport and road policy, which could have ensured a coherent and co-ordinated development of public transport systems and an integration of the services provided by those systems.

Unfortunately, as other speakers observed, we still lack an integrated ticketing system and this Bill does nothing to rectify that. Millions of euro of taxpayers’ money have been wasted in recent years in paying consultants to look into what is apparently the mystical possibility of providing integrated ticketing for our public transport services. We seem incapable of achieving something that is in operation in other EU member states and elsewhere. We may ultimately need a consultant to investigate the consultants to ascertain the reason for this wastage of millions of euro in public funding.

This Bill is generally positive in its intent. However, as other Members argued, none of us wants to see another quango with devolved ministerial powers that is unaccountable to this House. Following the enactment of this legislation and the establishment of the Dublin transport authority on a statutory footing, it will no longer be possible to receive replies to questions asked in this House about our transport system, including rail and Luas. There is no real accountability in this Bill. The authority will perhaps be called before an Oireachtas committee once or twice per year but we cannot be certain about transparency.

Having been out of the Dáil from 2002 to 2007, I find it extraordinary that the health service is no longer accountable to this House in a meaningful way. Parliamentary questions are transferred to the HSE, which sends a letter three or four months later containing a response written in the Civil Service jargon formerly used in the initial ministerial replies that were expanded upon after supplementary inquiries. Given that billions of euro will be spent on transport, it is not acceptable in a democracy that a body such as this is established without a direct mechanism for accountability to this House. There is no reason we cannot establish a communications network with this authority that functions better than the one which exists between the HSE and the Department of Health and Children. That would facilitate a Minister retaining political responsibility, thereby making the authority answerable to this House. This fundamental flaw in the legislation must be addressed because it will otherwise add to the democratic deficit that exists.

I acknowledge that Ministers want to escape accountability when things go wrong, but it is a sign of a tired Government that it seeks to undermine Parliament’s responsibilities and its own accountability with the constant creation of bodies with powers diverted from Departments to the point where they cease to have meaningful accountability to either House. This practice is bringing democracy into disrepute and undermining the Constitution. Government is being transferred to agencies which do not have an electoral mandate and Ministers are sealing themselves off from liability. When things go wrong, they can join in the complaints made in this House and escape accountability.

I want to speak about some of the problems that have arisen in the transport system. We have not brought the way we operate up to date by any stretch of the imagination. I am intimately familiar with the M50 as it serves my constituency. If a crash occurs on that road, traffic gridlock ensues for miles. Blissfully unaware of the gridlock, people continue to enter the motorway only to find themselves on a stationary parkway for several hours. When I drive from Dundrum to Dublin Airport in the middle of the day, I no longer rely on the M50 even though it is the best route in theory. If an accident occurred, I would find myself stuck in the middle of the road and unable to leave it. Even if I came along 30 minutes after the accident, I would receive no forewarning. All our motorways and principal roads should have computerised electronic signage at main entrance points to warn people about problems and blockages and suggest alternative routes. A computerised central office for Dublin’s roads should [286] provide this service. We are no longer in the 1940s and it is not rocket science to provide such a service. Countries which are less wealthy than Ireland can provide electronic information. Does a thought process exist which could develop such a service and who will take responsibility for it? Will we have to await the establishment of this authority before anyone even considers the possibility and will the authority have to co-ordinate all Dublin’s local authorities to run the service? I do not understand why signage is not yet in place given that it would save time and money, as well as reduce frustration and gridlock on our roads.

In regard to rail, Luas and metro, I was amused to read reports in The Irish Times and the Irish Independent about the Green Party’s transport policy launch, as if that party is semi-detached from Government. Deputy Cuffe waxed lyrical at the launch. The Irish Independent reported: “In a submission to the Dublin Transportation Office’s 20-year transport strategy for the capital, the party also says that public transport projects, including Luas extensions, metro north and metro west should be pushed forward and delivered ahead of schedule.” According to the Green Party, we should all be on our bicycles. The elderly and the disabled should be cycling into the city centre, irrespective of the weather or, in the context of city centre gridlock and the absence of cycling lanes, the number of people who would die under buses and cars if the cycling population increased. We should get real. The Green Party is in government and my constituency of Dublin South has a Green Party Deputy.

In the run-up to last year’s election, Fianna Fáil promised the people of Rathfarnham, Knocklyon and Ballyboden that they would get a Luas line. That was not set out in Transport 21 but in the pre-election excitement a feasibility study was commissioned on a line to the area. A stroke was pulled and it was pretended to the people of Knocklyon and Rathfarnham that the Luas was on its way, even though no funding was allocated in the transport plan to turn a single sod on the project before 2015. The Green Party ran around Knocklyon with leaflets promising a Luas line and, even more nauseating, it held a press conference this week in which it called for one to be provided.

The feasibility study published by the Railway Procurement Agency presents a Luas line which runs from Dundrum, through Churchtown, Rathfarnham, Terenure and Harold’s Cross to Christchurch. The route skims the edge of Rathfarnham but goes nowhere near Ballyboden or Ballyroan. It fails to approach Knocklyon and Ballycullen, which have a population density that would ensure the financial viability of a Knocklyon-Rathfarnham Luas line, because these were not among the areas which the Government asked the RPA to consider. The outcome of the study is that while a line is just about feasible, it will create traffic problems for other users and entail the loss of a substantial number of gardens in the Rathfarnham area. At the end of the day, however, the population density along the route means that it will lose approximately €2 million per year. The report was designed to suggest that it was not feasible or economically viable to provide a Luas line for the Rathfarnham area. From start to finish, this was a matter of election politics.

We will not deal with Dublin’s traffic problems by fooling around with QBCs or providing Dublin Bus with a few additional vehicles. This city must be modernised. London, Paris and Moscow have underground systems of a substantial nature by means of which very necessary and reliable public transport services are provided. Amsterdam has a fantastic tram system, which is completely reliable and which runs through some of the narrowest streets one is likely to find in any city in Europe. If a tram system is viable in Amsterdam, a Luas system for Rathfarnham, Knocklyon and the entire city of Dublin should also be viable.

Somewhere along the line, choices must be made. Part of the choice may be to substitute Luas for a bus service. This might be done for a number of reasons. The feasibility study to [287] which I refer is based on the assumption that there should be a single line and that there is a need to retain all bus services. Instead of taking a fragmented approach to the provision of Luas-type railway links, there should be an overall plan for the entire city and county of Dublin. As part of this plan, a map showing the areas where metro and Luas-type transport systems would be provided, in substitution for bus services, where appropriate, over a specific period of years should be provided. We should also realign bus routes in order that there would be a public transport service available to people who would not have ready access to the new systems to which I refer.

I have seen no moves being made in the direction I have suggested. I am not optimistic that the DTA will implement initiatives such as those I have mentioned, particularly in light of the continuing vested interests of all the sub-bodies below it, including Dublin Bus. The latter will continue to operate in a particular way within its own dominion.

We need a comprehensive transport plan that is not based on fragmented and piecemeal development. There is no other city in the world in which two Luas lines, such as those which run from Tallaght and Sandyford to the city centre, would have been built without their being linked. This was an amazing development. Not only are the lines not linked, there is also a suggestion that the carriages used on one cannot be used on the other. It would take a comedian to come up with that, particularly when one considers that we are discussing a publicly-provided transport service.

We must get real in respect of this matter. I do not want to read about Green Party press conferences. One of that party’s Ministers represents my constituency, Dublin South. Both he and the two Fianna Fáil Deputies for the area made false commitments to voters during the most recent election campaign. I want the terms of reference originally given to the RPA in respect of considering the feasibility of providing a light rail system in the Rathfarnham, Knocklyon, Ballycullen and Ballyboden areas to be revised. There is a financially viable and structurally feasible route via which services could be provided to these areas and to which links that would grant people access to these services could be provided.

There is no joined-up thinking with regard to the Luas line that runs through my constituency. Deputy Connaughton referred earlier to park and ride facilities. There are such facilities at some Luas stops but they are not in place at others. Since Luas stations were established, local authorities have taken to removing the on-street parking which previously existed and which enabled people living in other parts of south Dublin, who did not want to drive into the city centre, to use the Luas. This was done because so many cars were being parked adjacent to Luas stations that it caused irritation to those who lived nearby. That is understandable. However, where is the joined-up thinking?

If one wants to put in place a Luas station and reduce the number of cars coming into the city centre, it is blindingly obvious that there is one thing one must do when building said station, namely, provide underground parking. This is about long-term investment and not about providing a temporary solution to a problem. It is also about providing a public transport service for the next 100 years. I accept that it would be expensive to provide underground parking at a Luas station where over-ground parking could not be provided. It must be done, however, particularly when one considers what will be required in the long term. We should ensure that park and ride facilities are provided at any Luas stations that are developed in the future.

No one should threaten to impose charges on those who drive into the centre of Dublin city until a public transport system which is reliable and which will allow people to access parts of the city and county in a reasonable way, without being obliged to wait for buses that are stuck in traffic gridlock, is put in place. The imposition of congestion charges in London was feasible [288] and morally right because of that city’s superb underground transport system and extraordinary bus service, which is substantially more efficient than that which obtains in Dublin. There is also London’s over-ground rail system, by means of which people living on its outskirts can be transported into the city in a way that is far more efficient than would be the case here. Let us not pretend that our public transport system has advanced to a point where it is so sophisticated that we can justifiably charge people for bringing their cars into the city centre.

In recent days, I saw the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan, cycling out of the Leinster House complex at great haste. He was obliged to take careful action in order not to knock down another member of the Government and to avoid the occurrence of an unexpected by-election in my constituency. People should be obliged to use bicycles. However, where are the city centre bicycle parks that would prevent people’s bikes being stolen? If we want people to cycle into the city from the outskirts, we should follow the example of the Netherlands. Many years ago, I lived in Amsterdam for 12 months. There are bike parking stations all over that city. Such stations are very easily installed and are quite inexpensive and they allow people to secure their bicycles in a way that will prevent them from being stolen. If we install bicycle parks, it would encourage young people to come into town. However, they would only do so if they felt safe on their bikes. The only way to make them feel save is by putting in place cycle lanes in the parts of the city centre where they do not currently exist.

We should not be obliged to endure press conferences hosted by the Green Party at which its members seek publicity and call on themselves in government to do certain things. There should be real action and genuine steps should be taken to alleviate the transport difficulties that affect all of us who live in this city we love.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is time to catch a Luas to the north side. I call Deputy Cyprian Brady.

  Deputy Cyprian Brady: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit agus roimh An Bille um Údarás Iompair Bhaile Átha Cliath 2008.

Irrespective of whether they represent urban or rural constituencies, Members continually deal with matters relating to public and private transport. I welcome the publication of the Bill, the main purpose of which is to place a single, properly accountable public body, the Dublin transport authority, in overall charge of surface transport in the greater Dublin area. A primary objective is to ensure the delivery of the Transport 21 investment, which is currently under way, and create a high-quality integrated and, most importantly, sustainable transport system that meets the needs of people living and working in the greater Dublin area.

The necessary structures to streamline the planning and implementation of transport infrastructure and services in the greater Dublin area will be put in place by this Bill.

As the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, pointed out last night, the greater Dublin area is the most densely populated region suffering the worst traffic congestion in the State. It is covered by seven local authorities, including Dublin city, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare. He also pointed out that the total number of vehicles registered in the greater Dublin area with local authorities in 2006 was 836,000. That number has grown since. The Minister of State also indicated the population of the region is close to 1.6 million people.

This is a substantial amount of vehicles and people and we need to encourage all those people to convert to public transport. It is imperative we do so. However, without a properly functioning public service, we cannot blame people for choosing to take their cars to work. [289] One should consider that an individual pays out an initial sum to purchase a car and goes on to insure the car and themselves and tax it as well. On a wet and windy Monday morning, the apparent choice of standing at a bus stop or train station for 20 minutes or half an hour or getting into a car means there is no choice. People will always choose a car unless we can provide a suitable and efficient alternative.

I see on a regular basis in my constituency of Dublin Central evidence that the current public transport system is at times inadequate. In far too many instances, the buses and trains are full by the time they reach my constituents on the outskirts of Dublin. This must be addressed and this Bill should provide people with an efficient and effective alternative to using their own cars. It is about encouraging people and making it simple and easy for them to access public transport.

A modern society requires a modern infrastructure. Since coming to office in 1997, Fianna Fáil in Government has moved to correct the impact of decades of under-investment in our transport infrastructure by committing unprecedented funding to this area. I will list a few of the achievements so far. There has been a complete overhaul of our rail service in terms of track and new rolling stock. Anybody who takes a train on a regular basis will have seen a difference. Although parts of the system must be improved and modernised, there has been a significant improvement overall in both stock and the quality of trains.

There are over 1,100 new buses for Dublin Bus, including 100 delivered over December 2006 and January 2007. The quality of buses has improved greatly from the days of the smoke-filled double decker buses which had people crammed on. There is a modern and efficient fleet. Importantly, going back to the time when Deputy Mary O’Rourke was Minister with responsibility for transport, accessibility for wheelchair users on the bus system has improved greatly.

There are also over 600 new buses for Bus Éireann and quality bus corridors have been introduced successfully in Dublin and are being rolled out in the other cities. The local authority took responsibility, making a hard decision and many people were not happy with the introduction of the corridors. They have made a significant difference. The route on the Stillorgan road has made a big difference. It is about encouraging people and providing them with an alternative service.

The success of Luas means it is being touted as the jewel in the crown, and it carries over 26 million passengers annually. I will return to the Luas later.

There has been a doubling of capacity for passengers on the DART, along with upgrading of stations. I take this opportunity to congratulate CIE on the work it has done on the DART stations and its rolling stock. There is a difference from when the DART was introduced, when at peak hours and even off-peak there were significant problems getting access to the train because of the sheer numbers using it. CIE undertook a significant programme of improvement and extending rail platforms and stops. It has also invested heavily in increasing rolling stock, which has made a big difference to the millions users every year.

Whether they are coming into the city centre from the suburbs or going from the north side to the south side, the numbers speak for themselves. The footfall through DART stations is very significant.

We also have a vibrant aviation sector. From 1997, we have had 200% growth in passenger numbers at the regional airports, including 110% growth at Dublin, 100% at Shannon and an increase of 150% at Cork. We must plan and design our infrastructure around these increases and pressures which are being brought to bear on our air transport system.

The ten-year, €34 billion capital Transport 21 investment programme, which was launched in November 2005, will deliver significant infrastructural renewal. A number of key policy [290] priorities in the plan include the timely and cost-effective implementation of the planned public transport infrastructure projects. There is also the effective integration of public transport services, including the development of an integrated ticketing service and the creation of a single public transport brand.

This Bill continues the work which has been done. A number of speakers mentioned the integration of the ticketing systems and any of us who have travelled to other cities around Europe will have seen that it works immensely well where such a system is in place. A person can go to a shop or booth to purchase a ticket which will get them on to a train, light rail, the metro and buses. Much work has been done by the Dublin Transportation Office in this area and the co-ordination of the various bodies is an issue. I hope, with the introduction of the Dublin transport authority, the various interests can be pulled together to put a form on the technologies available for the integration of ticketing systems to produce a brand that can be sold as the greater Dublin area brand for transport throughout the country.

I will outline some of the main provisions of the Bill, which contains seven parts. Part 1 deals with general matters such as definitions of key terms and relates to certain standard legislative provisions. Part 2 relates to the Dublin transport authority and concerns arrangements for establishment of the authority. The general objectives and functions to be pursued by the authority are set out in sections 10 and 11. The authority is required to prepare a draft transport strategy for the approval of the Minister setting out the strategic transport requirements for the greater Dublin area under section 12, and a six-year integrated implementation plan is also required under section 13, with a six-year review mechanism. Considering the change in technologies in transport around the world, which is immensely quick, we must keep up. We should not be afraid of looking at the experiences of cities abroad. Some, including the Dublin Transportation Office, have looked at various systems in place around Europe and the world, and we should not be afraid of looking at them to tailor such systems to our requirements. It is incumbent on us to get the maximum value for money from all these projects. If there are existing systems or technology — mechanical or ICT — we should look at them.

3 o’clock

Chapter 2 of Part 2 concerns the structure and governance arrangements of the authority. Given the large amount of Exchequer funds being allocated to the authority — under the Bill, some €4 million will initially be allocated to set up the interim board. The direct selection and appointment of the board will be made by the Minister. This will ensure adequate accountability and that the most appropriate people are appointed. I am delighted to see there is an onus on the board to consult widely with the various stakeholders, including local authorities, groups and especially communities. In my experience major infrastructure programmes cause disruption on a daily basis to people living and working around such developments. Prior consultation and providing adequate information initially may save trouble later. Lack of a good communications strategy and lack of information gives rise to rumour and innuendo, and people become concerned about their living environment and about their future and that of their children. A case in point is the group in the Drumcondra area, Residents for Realignment Limited, which campaigns for the realignment of the metro north. It has done significant work in trying to build lines of communication between itself and the transport developer. I am delighted that this legislation requires the board to do that. Under section 13 there is also a requirement to consult in regard to the six-year integrated implementation plan. Again it is incumbent on all authorities, but particularly when it comes to major infrastructural development, to make any plans available to the communities and people who will be directly affected by them.

The authority, consisting of ten members, will be appointed by the Minister, and the board will be responsible for performing the functions of the authority. Section 17 also provides for [291] the appointment by the Minister of a 13 member advisory council, which will scrutinise the work of the authority. I have experience of a similar type of framework in the context of the Grangegorman Development Agency which is a member of a consultative group which feeds directly into the board of the development agency and works extremely well. It opens up lines of communication with the board, clarifies decisions being made and gives people an opportunity to have an input into how projects are developing. The members of the board of the advisory council will include the Dublin City Manager and two county managers from the greater Dublin area or their nominated officers, four elected officers of the Dublin and Mid-East Regional Authorities, a member of the Garda Síochána and four ordinary members nominated by representative organisations. It is incumbent on agencies and authorities such as the one currently proposed to have a representative spread of people who are directly affected by any developments they may undertake. The board is subject to consultation with the National Development Finance Agency which has proved to be hugely successful in recent times in terms of financing arrangements. The chief executive officer of the authority is subject to summons before the Committee of Public Accounts and other committees of the Houses. This gives us direct access into how the authority does its work and how the experts and professional people employed by the authority can be influenced, and the authority will have to justify its decisions.

The possibility of incorporating the Commission for Taxi Regulation within the DTA by way of Committee Stage amendment is also being considered by the Minister. It would be an extremely good idea to include the Commission for Taxi Regulation within the DTA because it has a major role. Over the years taxi drivers have proved that they have a service to offer the people of Dublin and the wider community. In suburban areas taxis are as important as other public transport services. It would, therefore, be a good idea to incorporate the taxi regulator within the DTA.

The Railway Procurement Agency will continue as a separate body. However, the responsibility for integrated ticketing will transfer to the DTA. The integration of services is a major priority as regards Dublin city. Given the experience of the past number of years, the increase in traffic, the increased population in Dublin city and the wider area, ongoing management and integration of services will be crucial in resolving the problems we are currently experiencing.

Part 3 of the Bill comprises six chapters dealing with various aspects of the transport system. A number of important provisions which are designed to progress the development of a fully integrated transport system in the greater Dublin area are contained in Chapter 3 of Part 3. Section 44 in particular gives responsibility for the development of lands adjacent to any public transport infrastructure. I have had experience over the years of organisations and entities such as CIE, who are major landowners in the city area, being unable to properly secure and maintain their properties. This has caused major problems for people living in the vicinity. Bringing them under the DTA will co-ordinate matters and allocate responsibilities in that area. Section 64 deals specifically with the management of construction projects. I will speak later on those in Dublin city centre.

The Bill refers to local traffic plans. I would like the Minister to clarify what is meant by the term “local traffic plans”. Does it refer to a particular locality within the city, to a suburb or to the wider area and counties surrounding Dublin?

Part 4 of the Bill outlines a number of provisions relating to enforcement. Section 51 ensures the safety, efficiency and quality of service by empowering the agency to alter public service contracts. As public representatives there is an onus on us to ensure value for money but also to ensure safety and efficiency. This is included in the Bill. The Bill also provides for the appointment of authorised officers under section 78 and these officers will have the authority [292] to enter premises. We have a very good and strong traffic corps within the Garda Síochána. However, we are now at the stage where we must consider having a dedicated traffic police service, whether it is a transport police or what is called in the United States a metro police service. As time goes on and numbers increase, problems will also increase so that we will need a dedicated transport policing service.

Part 5 of the Bill deals with integrating land use and transport planning. The Ministers for Transport and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will have powers to ensure consistency between transport and land use policies. That is an important requirement under planning. To avoid problems further down the road, planning and design must be done at a very early stage, again getting all the stakeholders involved.

The Bill deals with other matters, including the interconnector, the Luas and the metro. There is a huge working and residential population in Dublin city centre who must be consulted and taken into account when engaging in major design and planning of the infrastructure being planned for the city. The less disruption and the less interference with people’s lives and environment, the better. That can be achieved, particularly with the proposed authority in place. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.