Thursday, 30 September 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. F. McGrath: I congratulate the Deputies on their recent ministerial appointments and wish them well for the future. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for accepting my request for an Adjournment debate with the Minister for Transport on the major problems in the Dublin Port tunnel. I want to raise serious concerns about what is going on at the port tunnel. I am also voicing the concerns of the people of Fairview, Marino, Drumcondra, Santry and Whitehall. There is a crisis at the moment at the Dublin Port tunnel. I call for an immediate investigation into what is going on. I have been given a detailed report on serious flaws in the design process as well as possible dangers to staff and local residents. This €750 million tunnel is now at risk and there could be a disaster in the area. I challenge the city council and the Minister for Transport to come clean on this serious issue.
The three crucial points in my complaints are as follows. First, the huge entrance and exits to the tunnel are unstable. Second, water has been seen leaking into the tunnel through openings. Third, experts state that the tunnel has design deficiencies. Parts of the controversial tunnel were cracked and leaking water, according to the consultants’ report, a copy of which I have in my possession. There have been unresolved design deficiencies and the tunnel entrances and exits are now unusable. A note by health inspectors hired by Dublin City Council to oversee safety on the project has been ignored. The design deficiencies, cracking and the leakage in the tunnel are a time bomb waiting to explode. They should stop immediately and deal with the serious issues.
I am appalled that public representatives have not been informed on this issue. When I received the leaked document from the offices of the port tunnel, I was shocked and horrified by the information. The project has been beset with major delays. There have been soaring costs and debate about the building design.
I am also very concerned about the local residents in the area. We now have 173 property residents who have lodged complaints along the route of the Dublin port tunnel. Among the complaints are as follows. There are 112 cracks, 25 hairline cracks, 14 jammed doors and windows, three incidences of damage to roofs, four incidences of damage to plumbing, four incidences of damage to glazing and eleven other serious complaints giving a total of 173 complaints. These are the issues with which I deal every day on the port tunnel. Many other residents have lodged complaints on noise and disruption. I have the list in front of me and there is nothing to smile about regarding this matter. We have 173 complaints registered with Dublin City Council and I have many more.
I raise these issues because we were told that at the beginning of this project that these issues would not arise and that we were being alarmist. The concerns of the people of Marino, Fairview and Santry have been proved correct. The independent consultants have verified them and supported their views. I challenge the Minister to come clean on this issue and ensure the residents’ safety as well as the safety of the 400 staff in the tunnel. I hope these issues will be taken on board.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Mr. Callely): I thank Deputy McGrath for his kind comment on my appointment. I am delighted with my appointment as it is certainly a challenging task, especially with the infrastructural developments taking place. Today, I am trying to get a handle on my brief. I would be happy to give information to any Member on any project that is under way.
The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authority concerned. In the case of the Dublin Port tunnel, it is Dublin City Council. I am glad of the opportunity to inform the House of the good progress that is being made in the construction of the tunnel. Work has been under way on the tunnel since 2001. It is well on its way to completion and is expected to open to traffic towards the end of 2005. When complete, the Dublin Port tunnel will be of major benefit to Dublin city centre and especially to the communities that previously have had to endure high volumes of heavy goods vehicles travelling to the port. I am personally aware of that as it impacts on my own constituency of Dublin North Central.
The tunnel is part of a major investment programme in transport infrastructure in the greater Dublin area. Together with an upgraded M1, a completed M50, Luas and upgraded rail and bus services, it will assist in improving traffic flow around the city. Deputy McGrath raised some serious issues. He asked the Minister to come clean. I assure the Deputy that I have not held back any information. I think Deputy McGrath understands that is the way I operate. I invite the Deputy to make a submission about anything on which he seeks clarity.
The tunnel has been planned and designed and is being constructed to the highest international standards. Safety has been a key objective in the design and construction. It will remain a key objective in the operation of the tunnel. I understand from the NRA that a safety audit of the project confirms that the Dublin port tunnel complies with the requirements of the recently adopted EU directive on safety in road tunnels. I am also informed by the NRA that the operating system for the tunnel and the ventilation and safety systems have been designed with safety as paramount. Measures to deal with accidents, breakdowns and fires in the tunnel are all being installed. Safety features associated with the scheme include emergency telephones, lay-bys, pedestrian and vehicular cross passages, CCTV coverage of the tunnels, a 24-hour manned control room and fire and incident detection equipment to mention just some. These features represent a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safe passage of vehicles through the port tunnel and are in line with the best international practice.
Dublin City Council has informed my Department that in ongoing monitoring of the contractor’s designs by the construction supervisors appointed by the city council, some concerns regarding the design of floor slabs in the cut and cover tunnel sections were identified. A detailed review of this design issue is ongoing. If remedial measures are called for at any stage, the contractor is required to implement them at their own expense. These measures would be relatively straightforward and uncomplicated to carry out and by their nature would not lead to delays. Some leaks of a very minor nature and within construction tolerances have also occurred at some joints. As backfilling progresses over the segments concerned, the position is rectified. Dublin City Council has informed my Department that, contrary to the impression that may have been created, the tunnels are safe and stable. At no time could or have these minor leaks contributed the remotest possible risk to the health and safety of the workforce or to residents hundreds of metres away.
The tunnel’s construction work has been monitored in detail since the project commenced in 2001. This monitoring of both the design and construction processes is how deficiencies, if they arise, are detected and put right. The quality control exercised in the port tunnel project is quite clearly effective.
The position in regard to the operational height of the tunnel is that the Minister for Transport will shortly be finalising a review of this matter. This review was commenced by his predecessor. I hope this reply is helpful and informative.
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