Dáil Éireann - Volume 688 - 09 July, 2009

Other Questions. - Appointments to State Boards.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport when the chief executive officer, CEO, for the Dublin Transport Authority, DTA, will be appointed; the estimated salary for the new, CEO of the DTA; the person he plans to appoint to the board of the DTA; the [78] mechanism for appointing members of the public to the DTA board and advisory body; when he will publish promised legislation to transform the DTA into a new national transport regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28383/09]

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: My Department is proceeding with preparations for the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority during 2009. A key part of those preparations is the recruitment of a CEO. The necessary recruitment process has now been concluded and I expect to be in a position to announce the outcome in the near future. The annual salary for the CEO post will be €211,363.

In accordance with section 14 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the Minister for Transport is responsible for appointing the members of the DTA. Membership of the authority will comprise a chairperson, three ex officio members and six ordinary members. The chairperson and six ordinary members must be persons who, in the opinion of the Minister for Transport, have wide experience of transport, industrial, commercial, financial, land use planning or environmental matters, the organisation of workers or administration.

Last March I invited applications from people who wish to be considered for appointment as an ordinary member of the new authority. The purpose of the application process was to encourage people who believe that they can make a positive contribution to the development of the transport system in the greater Dublin area to put their names forward for consideration. The process yielded 66 applications, which I am considering. The procedure for the appointment of the 24 members of the Dublin Transport Advisory Council is set out in section 17 of the 2008 Act.

In January 2009, the Government approved the general scheme of the Public Transport Regulation Bill which contains proposals for a new bus licensing regime which will replace the Road Transport Act 1932 and the provisions of the Transport Act 1958 that relate to the provision of bus services by the State bus companies. It is proposed that responsibility for bus licensing and public transport services contracts nationwide will be assigned to the DTA under the Bill, which will also provide for the absorption of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the DTA. The Bill will also provide for the renaming of the DTA as the National Transport Authority given its proposed national focus in relation to commercial bus licensing, future bus and rail subvention and the regulation of small public service vehicles. The draft Bill has now been prepared and has been circulated to Departments for observations. On their receipt, it is my intention to seek Government approval for the publication of the Bill as soon as possible.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Is the new chief executive from this country? The Minister said it was an international competition. On the appointment of members of the public, it is good news that a number of people have put themselves forward for that position. It was my view on Committee Stage of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill that the people should elect the key members of the board, as would happen in many other countries. These are people with an expertise and interest in the matter.

Will the criteria for membership change now that the body is to become the national transport authority rather than just one for the Dublin area? We spent approximately 13 hours on Committee Stage of the DTA Bill because it was so significant but is the Minister envisaging any of the powers of the regulator being changed in any way in the new Bill? For example, what will be the ability of the new regulator to grant bus contracts and other public contracts for the whole of Ireland?

I presume the new national transport authority will now have authority over all public service contracts throughout the country. Does the Minister envisage that the licensing Bill will bring about the final changes for that to happen and what will be the timeframe on it?

[79]   An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will call the Deputy again. Otherwise we will lose track of all the questions.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It was difficult to keep up. With regard to the composition of the authority, I do not anticipate the need to change the criteria for people who will go on the DTA when it changes to a national transport authority. The same types of skills — a wide experience in transport, industrial, commercial and financial land use, planning or environmental matters and the organisation or workers and administration — mean such people can stay as they are. I may have to consider a geographic spread of the people involved.

From 9 December this year, all PSO contracts and subvention will be subject to a contract, and any new PSO will be subject to open public tender from any operator, public or private. The DTA will administer all of that. When the national transport authority comes into existence, it will look after the licensing at the time and it will have the responsibility which currently resides in the Department.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will call on Deputy Broughan so as not to break his sequence. I will then go back to Deputy O’Dowd.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: When does the Minister envisage the Commission for Taxi Regulation will be absorbed? Does he agree there is an ideal opportunity to change the remit of the taxi regulator, which relates to some of the points I made earlier? Deputy O’Dowd mentioned the next matter earlier. What is the final timeframe on integrated ticketing in the greater Dublin area?

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: We hope to have the Commission for Taxi Regulation absorbed into the national transport authority as quickly as possible. There are considerations regarding transfers of staff and so on that will have to be taken into account, and some industrial relations matters will also have to be dealt with, along with pensions and so on. It will happen as quickly as possible because we want to build up a critical mass in the DTA at an early stage.

What was the second point? It was something unrelated to the original question.

  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I asked about integrated ticketing, which is a key task.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: It is expected to have it completely rolled out at the end of 2010 and early 2011.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: When the Bill went through the Dáil I made the point that the Minister should have opted for the national transport authority as the DTA has limitations. One of the problem areas relates to counties Meath and Louth. Much of the Bill is excellent, particularly as it relates to land use and strategy but, for example, planning permissions in County Meath must conform to transport plans, while in County Louth they do not need to regard them at all.

It is very important for that anomaly to be cleared up around the country because when the economy recovers and the building industry picks up again, we want to ensure there is joined-up thinking, with transport plans linked to housing estates rather than what has happened over the past 12 years.

With regard to licensing, which currently resides with the Department, I presume that authority will go to the DTA or the national transport authority when it comes along. There have been many cutbacks in Bus Éireann around the country and people are up in arms over them. I was told that two years ago Bus Éireann in Drogheda requested from the Department a [80] consent to vary a route so as to include a railway station in the mornings. It has waited two years for that decision.

Is the Department operating in Soviet Russia or why is there such slow and unacceptably ridiculous decision making and bureaucracy? Why will the Department not approve the route straight away?

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is extending the boundaries of the question.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: To the Kremlin only.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: If the Deputy had given me some notice I could have informed him on that issue. I have had similar complaints from Bus Éireann in Deputy Broughan’s area and from other Deputies. Nearly every time I went to investigate, I found that the company had started a service which was in direct competition with an existing service that was licensed. It was told it could not do so under the terms of the 1958 Act and that it had to seek consent. If it had sought consent it would be dealt with. In about 80% of the cases, consent was not sought but the company complained about not getting the service. I do not know if that is the case in Drogheda but I will check it out.

  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: In this case there was no competition.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: I agree with the Deputy’s other points. We had a discussion on the DTA Bill and I wanted to get the DTA element through at the time. The Deputy rightly pointed out that we would return to this issue and I indicated that I would introduce proposals for a national transport authority. We are doing this because it is important to get the land use and transport.