Wednesday, 1 February 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
126. Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the projects contained in Transport 21 that will be completed in 2006; the projects that will begin construction in 2006; the details of these projects, including costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3352/06]
Since the launch of Transport 21 in November last, I have received applications for two railway orders for Luas extensions to docklands and Cherrywood. The public inquiries for these projects, are expected to be completed by the summer and contracts awarded by the end of the year. The Cherrywood extension is expected to commence construction this year. An announcement on the preferred route for linking the red and green Luas lines in the city centre should be made later this month, while the public consultation on the route of metro north should also commence later this month.
The first phase of the DART upgrade project has been completed on time and within the budget of €176 million. Delivery of the 67 new intercity carriages for operation on the Dublin-Cork route will be complete later this year and they will be introduced into service gradually, allowing Iarnród Éireann to provide a service every hour on the route by the end of 2006.
The public inquiry for the Kildare route project began on 23 January and construction work on the project is expected to commence in 2006. I expect to receive, in the next few months, a railway order application in respect of the re-opening of the railway line between Glounthaune and Midleton. Other rail projects, expected to commence construction in 2006 are the new docklands railway station and the new intercity railcar depot at Portlaoise.
With regard to buses, Dublin Bus recently submitted an application for funding to me for additional fleet requirements, taking account of the emerging findings of its bus network review, which is nearing completion. This is being examined in my Department at present. I understand Bus Éireann is also finalising proposals for the expansion of its fleet and I expect an application from that company shortly.
Three roads projects have opened to traffic since the launch of Transport 21. These are the N6 Kinnegad-Enfield bypass, N22 Gortatlea-Farranfore and N6 Loughrea bypass. Work has commenced on three further projects, namely, the N5 Charlestown bypass, M50 phase 1 and the N51 Navan inner relief road. During 2006, the NRA expects to complete 13 projects with a combined length of more than 82 kilometres and the major impact of Transport 21 will be felt this year with the commencement of work on 15 projects with a combined length of 334 kilometres. Deputies will appreciate the scaling up of delivery of the roads programme.
With regard to costs, I have stated previously that I do not consider it prudent to release commercially sensitive information on the cost of individual projects within Transport 21 until the public procurement processes are complete. I must maintain that position in the interests of protecting the taxpayer and ensuring Transport 21 is achieved within its budget of €34 billion.
Ms O. Mitchell: I am aware that the two Luas lines to which the Minister referred, the link between the A and B lines and the B1 line, were well advanced long before Transport 21 was thought up, as were all of the projects mentioned. My concern centres on the projects which have not yet commenced but which have completion dates as part of Transport 21 that are looking increasingly unrealistic. For example, the first phase of the metro between Clondalkin and Tallaght is to be operational in four years’ time and the full north-south metro link to the city centre, the airport and beyond that to Swords is scheduled to be operational in six years’ time. The Minister would need to order the trams now to have them delivered in six years. Is it realistic to expect to have that project completed in time? If it is his intention to do so, what has happened to make it happen? Have the project teams been assembled? Is anybody driving the projects forward?
The Minister announced the setting up of the Dublin Transport Authority and the appointment of Professor O’Mahony as its head. However, the Minister had no thoughts on what the job entailed but instead asked Professor O’Mahony to come back in a few months and explain to him what it entails. Is Professor O’Mahony the person who is supposed to drive all of these projects? Is it realistic to expect them to be completed within the timescale outlined in Transport 21?
Mr. Cullen: The Deputy’s opening remarks were correct in that many of these projects had been in planning. There was no certainty of any of them going ahead. Transport 21 provided immediate funding to get the projects up and running, which is what has happened. Later this month the public consultation on the metro north route will commence, which is quick progress. In terms of the framework scheduling in my Department, which I released in broad terms into the public domain, we are well on schedule or ahead of schedule.
With regard to the ordering of rolling stock, last year we placed huge orders for intercity carriages for Iarnród Éireann, which will be delivered in 18 months. We do not need six years to place orders. Moreover, we want to get the most modern equipment available.
Mr. Cullen: Major international tunnelling projects have been completed well within that timeframe. I have no doubt it is possible to do this. My expectation is that we will deliver it. I do not, however, underestimate the complexity of delivering the projects. One of the major tasks assigned to Dr. Margaret O’Mahony was identifying a key person with the necessary hands-on project experience, particularly in the area of tunnelling, to head the Dublin Transport Authority. Very few people around the world have this experience. I have spoken with individuals from the UK, US and elsewhere about this type of experience and capacity. Deputies are aware that I visited the UK to understand the scale behind the development of terminal five at Heathrow Airport. This project is akin to, but of a lesser scale than, the two major tunnelling projects in Dublin — the metro and the intercity connector. Connecting the stations involved is a significant project.
We examined the matter in detail before Transport 21 was published and there is no doubt we can accomplish it. We have learned lessons from our earlier projects. The roads programme is indicative of the scale of delivery on budget and well ahead of time. I would be more than satisfied if——
Mr. Cullen: That is not necessarily true. The great economies of Europe — France, Germany and Italy — have major tolling schemes. Irish people use them all the time and experience no problems with them. We are quite willing to pay the charges.
Mr. Eamon Ryan: Transport 21 contains a €32 billion envelope. The Taoiseach clearly wishes to see an additional project introduced as, at a crucial time in planning, he is talking about the need for an outer orbital motorway for Dublin, which is yet another motorway. How does this work within Transport 21? Will the Taoiseach automatically get his way? Will we be forced to drop another project and will the Minister be forced to ask the Minister for Finance for additional funding for the outer orbital motorway? Alternatively, is the Taoiseach simply trying to distract attention from the central issue? I agree with the Minister that we need tolls to manage congestion on the M50 but is the Taoiseach unwilling to address this political reality and, therefore, distracting us by discussing other outer orbital roads, which were not included in Transport 21? What will happen with regard to that outer orbital motorway?
Mr. Cullen: I agree with the Taoiseach with regard to the outer orbital motorway. I have quite strong views on the matter. We also agree on the need for significant investment in public transport in Dublin. There is no question about the need for this investment, which is a significant element in the way we resolve many of the issues. Such an investment would persuade people to leave their cars at home by giving them an alternative to motor transport in the form of good quality public transport systems. We can accomplish this.
Mr. Cullen: Does the Deputy wish me to answer his question? It is clearly stated in Transport 21 that we need an immediate study on where the route is to be, its impact, its interaction with other roads and its impact on the M50. This study has commenced. Once this study is completed, there are a myriad of funding mechanisms which could be put in place. We must first establish the location of the outer orbital motorway, its length and its route. Having decided this, we must examine its impact on other traffic in Dublin. We need to know about this so we do not build the wrong road.
Ms Shortall: My question concerns the proposed metro to Dublin Airport and Swords. In the Minister’s plan, the completion date is 2012 and we have been informed that it will take a minimum of seven years to construct. By any reckoning, we are behind schedule. I understand the metro’s route had already been agreed and that the RPA was working on proposals for a route from O’Connell Street, taking in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin City University, Ballymun, Dublin Airport and Swords. Work is underway on planning this route. The Minister appears to be suggesting that alternative routes could be examined and I understand he is inviting tenders today for some geotechnical testing on three different routes. Will the metro take the original route?
Mr. Cullen: The Deputy is correct in stating that metro north is one of the most advanced projects. A considerable amount of work has been carried out on this project. We are not starting with a blank piece of paper on this route. A considerable portion of the route has already been decided. It is quite clear how one gets from Dublin Airport to Swords as the local authority has preserved this route.
Mr. Cullen: Yes. I am not involved in day-to-day technical operations but there have been discussions with the local authority and the county manager told me the instruction is to ensure the route identified by the authority, which is overground, will not be touched. I have no reason to——
Mr. Cullen: Nobody has told me that the route has been changed. If one examines the section of the line from Dublin Airport to Swords, the route is obvious and speaks for itself. As far as I am aware, the local authority has preserved this route for metro north. I hope it brings maximum additionality to the route but the Deputy is correct.
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