Wednesday, 11 October 2000
Seanad Eireann Debate
That Seanad Éireann condemns the failure of the Government to take practical short-term action to deal with traffic congestion and proposes a ban on the publication of any further long-term strategy plans until concrete action is taken on:
It is nice to see Members again after the recess. I have a little difficulty tonight because I do not have my specs but I know what I want to say. I deeply regret that it is Minister of State's good and amiable self that is sitting in that chair rather than either of the architects of what can be called the destruction of Dublin.
Mrs. Ridge: We condemn the Government on its approach. There is a touch of Pontius Pilate in the Government's approach to the major and continuing difficulties with traffic congestion, not only in Dublin but in practically every town and village. The most annoying feature is the number of reports followed by strategy plans regarding traffic in Dublin. They could be the making of a small Brazilian forest. The new strategy plan promises a travelling Utopia which I forecast will never be delivered because it is impossible. Even our youngest citizens will probably be entitled to free travel before the master plans clicks into place.
I am perturbed that I am addressing these words to the Minister of State, who is not the architect. The two Ministers involved, namely the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, are out of touch with the realities of life on the ground. One of the reasons is that public representatives, the humble counsellors, those who know what is happening on the ground and who are in touch daily with those who experience the difficulties, no longer have a committee. It was disbanded. People were asked to come back again but there has never been a meeting.
As a member of the steering committee I had the honour of representing local authorities on the Dublin Transportation Initiative. That was a misnomer because I have not seen any real initiative in eight years, having been first appointed in 1992. I am sorry to say that the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, axed public representatives, possibly because he did not like what they were saying. The role of public representatives is to do the best for those they represent. To be charitable about it, what we have is a complete and utter mess. This started eight and a half years ago when I was a member of the DTO. I was party to the interim report, the final report and all the other reports it produced. There was never a shortage of reports – just a complete shortage on implementation. Eight and a half years later there are some groundworks for the Luas line to  Tallaght, but I cannot predict when the first tram will travel in that area.
I wish to address the most ridiculous issue, the park and ride facilities in many of the outer urban areas that could be renamed “park and joy ride” because no secure parking facilities are provided. I have not heard of any sites being designated, although I have heard mention of sites which might be designated. For example, the Red Cow interchange would be an important stop-off point for people coming up the Naas Road, but we do not have the land there for it. The whole situation is an absurdity. How can one expect people to access a Luas system if they do not have a place to park their cars? Nobody can disagree with me on that issue.
As a member of the DTO I visited two other cities of comparable size that had light rail systems. In each case major park and ride facilities were provided at each end of the line and smaller facilities at the interim stops as part of the whole system. Nobody tried to acquire the land at a later stage; it was an integrated package.
In my area of Clondalkin we have access to the Arrow service only if one walks or uses a bicycle, and somebody takes care of it, because the parking area at the railway station has not changed from the time the main Cork-Dublin line was built about 1850. We have a Victorian amenity. Nobody can leave their car there. Thousands of people would be delighted to hop onto the Arrow but what is the point? There is no room to leave one's car and if one happens to get one of the four parking spaces, there is no guarantee that the car will be there on one's return or that it will not be clamped or burnt.
The entire system is ridiculous. I am annoyed about it because everybody started out with high hopes that we would deliver a package that would work for the people. I am particularly perturbed about the long-term nature of the strategy and the possibility that it will change yet again. Under the original strategy, a second or spur line was to go from the Red Cow to Clondalkin. That has been axed and what we are to get is, believe it or not, Le Metro. This metro is a line on the map but there is no acquisition of land and no in-depth studies. It is the long-term fatuity of the strategy that is so annoying.
I will give an example of how the transport services have declined. I am from Dublin and when I was a child one could get on the train at Ballyfermot – the railway station was in the CIE works – and not get off again until one got to Bray. That cannot be done now. We could go under the park and on to the Amiens Street line. The deterioration of the transport system would drive one to despair. It is a reminder of how bad things are now to realise that what could be done 40 years ago cannot be done now.
I wish to refer to integrated ticketing. I do not think there is such an animal. We have had repeated promises of integrated ticketing which, obviously, is a good idea and would save passengers a great deal of time, annoyance and running  to shops for tickets. However, the integrated ticketing as described by the DTO has not yet arrived.
Reference should be made to the concept of making journeys quicker. The side doors of the buses are still kept closed. If I remember correctly, the reason is that the Labour Court made a ruling that the driver could make the decision as to whether the side door should be opened or closed on the basis of safety considerations. Why has this not been reviewed? If I were a bus driver, I would be equally concerned about my safety, but we have a ridiculous system whereby we build buses with doors that are not used. This is just another practical issue that could be tackled.
Any normal citizen would be delighted with a quality bus service. Even the term “quality bus” sounds wonderful. As far as I can see, however, the only people who have derived benefit from the quality bus so far are the “quality” or the people living in Dublin 4, Donnybrook and along that route. They have an accessible and realistic quality bus. Where I live there is a bit of a bus lane followed by no bus lane, another portion of bus lane and then none.
It is even more annoying to drive out from town along Kevin Street. There is a small sign pointing out that the bus lane is not yet operational. It is so small most people cannot see it. As a result there is an exceedingly long queue of traffic even though people can legally drive in the bus lane. That situation has not changed over the past three months. The sign has not been increased in size and people only discover they can use the lane by accident. That is pathetic. I do not know why the lane is not being used and the Minister might not know either. Either it is or it is not a bus lane and it should be removed if it is not available for use. The motorist is faced with Hobson's choice. People have no wish to clog up their city and they are fed up being taxed and clamped. They would be happy to use a viable alternative but it is not available.
Cycle lanes are most welcome. Even at my advanced age I would use the bicycle in my area, but I cannot because our cycle lanes are full of travellers' caravans and trucks. Having checked with several authorities, nobody appears to have the power to remove them. How can we be asked to use our bicycles on the main road, with the danger of getting killed, when for more than 200 yards at one location and at various other places in Clondalkin the cycle lane is blocked?
The taxi problem is like a long playing record. Everybody is aware of the rights of taxi drivers, but nobody is aware of their obligations. The four local authorities in Dublin worked together hard and long to arrive at realistic proposals but were then stymied by the Taoiseach's taxi forum, a red herring if ever there was one. We are approaching the festive season again, but it will not be festive for people depending on taxis to get home.
Rail safety is another issue. There is still no voice-over on the DART and the visually  impaired are still obliged to count the stops. What a service. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, are presiding over a dangerous and explosive situation in Dublin. It is, in the words of Seán O Casey, a “state of chassis”. Grandiose, pie in the sky, long-term schemes will bring no relief. I urge the Minister to reassess the situation before the city explodes.
Ms Keogh: I second the motion and welcome the opportunity to speak on this topical issue. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it is topical is the tragic events that have occurred late at night in the city involving young people who are unable to get public transport. I am not apportioning blame to anybody for what happened.
I have two daughters who use public transport all the time. They come into town for their nights out and so forth. My husband and I bought them mobile phones so they would always have a link to home. We could not tolerate the worry of their being in town, trying to get to a public telephone and not knowing when they would arrive home. It is a problem experienced by every family, not being able to let one's children out at night without worrying about them getting home safely or at all. They are dependent on taxis and the nitelink service.
The term “nitelink service” is an oxymoron. The bus runs on the hour. One can only get the bus in town, from where it departs for selected areas. It is dirty and unsafe, according to my girls, and I do not envy the bus drivers who operate the service. It only operates on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Perhaps Dublin Bus does not realise that Sundays are big nights out as well. Nothing has been done with bus schedules to acknowledge that Sunday is the second busiest retail trade day in Dublin. We still have the old Sunday service that existed when we used it to visit our grandparents across the city, and that was nearly 40 years ago.
There are short-term problems that can be dealt with in the system. Of course there must be a long-term strategy as well. I would be delighted if there were a metro and if Dublin had the public transport systems that exist in every other major city in Europe. A friend of mine who has just returned from New York told me today that one hardly sees a private car on the roads in New York city because of the excellent public transport system. That city has a population of 12 million people. Why can we not manage such a system here?
One aspect of the position with bus services has to do with competition. The sooner private operators are allowed to operate various routes throughout the city, the better. Services are being provided in a very stingy manner at present. The bus that goes to the airport had to weave its way round the legislation in order to obtain a licence. That is daft in this day and age. We are currently looking for short-term solutions because of the  horrendous traffic congestion. If there is a shower of rain in Dublin everything stops. I know someone who took two hours to get home to Bray on a Friday evening just because it happened to be raining. This is not acceptable.
We must consider the points highlighted in the motion, such as integrated ticketing. This is a total joke. A student can get a monthly ticket to use on the DART and buses. That is fine, but ten journey tickets do not exist any more. There is the “2 easy” ticketing service which is useless and cannot be used on the various services. If one gets a ticket for the DART, one can use one of the feeder buses. If one arrives at Dún Laoghaire or Blackrock DART station one can get the feeder from there. However, if one gets one of the other buses from Dún Laoghaire one must pay the fare. That is crazy and off-putting for people.
An integrated ticketing system is 20 years behind, not just nine years behind. Every other transport authority in the major cities in Europe has this system, so why cannot Ireland have it? There is just one shop in Dún Laoghaire where one can buy these tickets, therefore, there is no worthwhile service available.
I do not think the public transport authorities realise that what people want is a reliable service whereby they can get from A to B and know, within a reasonable time, when they will arrive at their destination. It seems extraordinary to have the time the bus leaves the depot on the timetable at the bus stop. Perhaps the traffic causes some difficulty, but would it not be better to try to keep to a regular time where one would have some inkling that a bus was arriving at a certain time?
In relation to quality bus corridors, the one with which I am most familiar is the Stillorgan QBC. The 46A bus is the only one that uses that corridor regularly. Other buses use it only during rush hour. There is no feeder service to the QBC, therefore, how does one get to that service? The park and ride facility is a total joke. There is talk of extending the QBC towards Bray. There are no facilities in place for that service, including no park and ride facility. The car park at Foxrock Church which was being used by commuters is now closed during the day.
There may have been long-term planning but it seems to me that the issue was not thought through. I sometimes wonder if those who plan the system ever use it. I am forced into using my car much more than I would wish. My children and their friends are dependent on public transport and they find it is utterly unreliable. Given that there are simple solutions, why do we not use them? Why are consumers not asked what they want because they are the people who are in the front-line, having to stand in the rain and put up with the traffic congestion and long delays to get to their place of study or work?
“, welcomes the recently published DTI strategy update ‘A Platform for Change' which provides a comprehensive, updated framework for responding to the immediate transport requirements and for long term planning of transport network development and also:
–notes that the National Development Plan 2000-2006 provides for investment of £1.6 billion in public transport and traffic management in Dublin in the plan period, including provision of £200 million in respect of traffic management grants;
–supports the ongoing implementation of the Dublin Transportation Office short-term action plan, designed to advance and accelerate a set of measures consistent with the DTI strategy which can be completed by end 2000;
–supports the Government's commitment to provide a light rail system for Dublin, with the city section underground, and notes that work has already commenced in the Tallaght-Abbey Street and Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green lines;
–notes the acquisition of additional DART rolling stock with delivery of 26 new carriages already in 2000, and the construction of new DART and suburban rail stations, including the commencement of services to Greystones and Malahide;
–welcomes the continuing progress in upgrading the Maynooth-Clonsilla suburban rail line which is scheduled for completion by end 2000, notes that 20 railcars for use on the line have been delivered and that a further 60 have been ordered;
–supports the Government's commitment to provide key additional road infrastructure for Dublin – in particular, the southern cross and south-eastern motorways to complete the Dublin C-ring, the provision of a second Liffey valley bridge on the M50 construction of the Dublin port tunnel which is due to commence in several months time, and the decision to proceed with the planning and design of the eastern bypass;
–notes the issuing of guidelines to local authorities by the Department of the Environment and Local Government for the developing of park and ride facilities and the provision of funding for these facilities through the Dublin Transportation Office;
–welcomes the implementation of the auality bus corridor programme which is proceeding as quickly as possible consistent with the need for adequate public consultation and compliance with relevant tendering and contract procedures, and notes that four quality bus corridors have been opened to date (Lucan, Malahide Road, Stillorgan and Finglas), that a further four will be completed by end 2000 and that four more will be substantially completed by mid-2001;
I note that the motion condemns the Government for failure to take practical short-term action and then almost incredibly suggests a ban on the publication of a long-term strategy. I do not believe that those who welcome the initiatives taken by the Government and are looking for further initiatives to be implemented would welcome such a policy of inactivity. Senator Ridge mentioned that Ministers are out of touch. I suggest the Opposition is totally out of touch if it is unaware of the many initiatives taken by the Government in this area.
Mr. Walsh: It is fair to point out that there is no quick fix for the transportation system in Dublin or throughout the country. An integrated, comprehensive and multi-agency approach has been the modus operandi of the Government in this matter. There are many reasons for this,  including the rapid growth in the economy in recent years which has given rise to a significant increase in the numbers of heavy goods vehicles and other motor vehicles being registered, and that figure is increasing monthly. Traffic through Dublin Airport has doubled during the 1990s and there has been an unprecedented level of activity at Dublin Port in recent years. All of this is systematic of the very significant growth in the economy, which is welcome. However, one of the down sides of this is the traffic congestion which has ensued as a consequence.
There are other reasons for this problem, including the failure to invest, particularly during the 1980s. When other European economies were developing, there was no investment in transport in this country. During 1982-87, the national debt increased from £12 billion to £24 billion. I am sure Senator Ridge will agree with me that Garret FitzGerald has a lot to answer for because of his failure during that era.
Mr. Walsh: He was ably assisted at the time by being weighed down by Dick Spring and other elements of the Labour Party who were looking for investment in areas which were non-productive. Unfortunately, the Government is now in a position where it must meet this challenge and try to redress the inactivity of that particular era. If only 10% of the increase of £12 billion in the national debt during that era had been invested in this area, we would have nothing like the current difficulties.
I suggest to Opposition Members that if one studies the initiatives taken by the Government in recent years, one cannot but be impressed by the level of activity in tackling this problem. The amendment seeks to delete all the words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following, “welcomes the recently published DTI Strategy Update ‘A Platform for Change' which provides a comprehensive, updated framework for responding to the immediate transport requirements and for long term planning of transport network development”. I will come back to the DTI Strategy Update later. The amendment notes that the national development plan provides for significant investment of £1.6 billion in public transport and traffic management in Dublin in the plan period, including provision of £200 million in respect of traffic management grants. This is very significant investment in tackling this area in which there has been a dearth of investment in the past.
the ongoing implementation of the Dublin Transportation Office Short Term Action Plan, designed to advance and accelerate a set of measures consistent with the DTI Strategy which can be completed by the end of 2000 . . . supports the Government's commitment to provide a light rail system for Dublin, with the city section underground, and notes  that work has already commenced in the Tallaght-Abbey Street and Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green lines . . . supports the Government's approval of the development of a Metro in Dublin on a Public Private Partnership basis . . . notes the acquisition of additional DART rolling stock with delivery of 26 new carriages already in 2000, and the construction of new DART and suburban rail stations, including the commencement of services to Greystones and Malahide.
I listened to a radio programme recently on which many people in Malahide welcomed the initiation of that service. Initiatives are being taken, which the public has welcomed, and they are evidence of the Government's commitment and determination to tackle the shortcomings in this area.
The amendment continues: “welcomes the continuing progress in upgrading the Maynooth-Clonsilla suburban rail line which is scheduled for completion by end 2000 and notes that 20 railcars for use on the line have been delivered and that a further 60 have been ordered; supports the Government's commitment to provide key additional road infrastructure for Dublin – in particular, the Southern Cross and South-Eastern Motorways to complete the Dublin C-Ring, the provision of a second Liffey Valley bridge on the M50 construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel which is due to commence in several months time, and the decision to proceed with the planning and design of the Eastern By-Pass”, which has been left in abeyance for many years by successive Governments. A decision has been made in that regard.
The amendment further states: “notes the Government's commitment to fund road schemes associated with traffic management measures such as the Coombe By-Pass and North King Street; endorses the policy of promoting better use of road space in Dublin through implementation of a range of traffic management measures and intensified enforcement of traffic regulations; notes the Government's provision of over £25 million in 2000 to the Dublin Transportation Office in respect of traffic management grants to the local authorities in the Greater Dublin Area; notes the issuing of guidelines to local authorities by the Department of the Environment and Local Government for the developing of park and ride facilities and the provision of funding for these facilities through the Dublin Transportation Office.” The Government is using every means to try to ensure that as soon as possible it will be able to issue guidelines for the approval of commercial park and ride facilities but European Union approval is also needed.
The amendment continues: “notes the purchase, by end 2000, of 225 new buses by Dublin Bus at a cost of £48.8 million; welcomes the implementation of the quality bus corridor programme which is proceeding as quickly as possible consistent with the need for adequate public consultation and compliance with relevant tendering and contract procedures, and notes that  four quality bus corridors have been opened to date – Lucan, Malahide Road, Stillorgan and Finglas – that a further four will be completed by end 2000 and that four more will be substantially completed by mid-2001; notes the substantial increase in buses scheduled on quality bus corridors; welcomes the extension of the strategic cycle network to 280 km track by end 2000; notes that the committee established to recommend the preferred way forward in terms of introducing an integrated ticketing system is due to issue its final report shortly; and welcomes the Government's proposals to provide for an increase of some 3,100 taxi plates in the Dublin taximeter area, subject to the outcome of the present court proceedings.”
It is evident from that list that significant and far-reaching initiatives are being taken by the Government, which will go a long way towards remedying the current problems. The DTO update strategy, which was published recently, contains many fine initiatives. It projects that by 2016 traffic in Dublin at peak hours will have increased by 72%, which is significant. That will require a radical transformation in the quality and quantity of public transport services.
The main elements of the strategy include public transport, which will require a much expanded network; an integrated mesh or radial and orbital services and a substantial increase in passenger carrying capacity; an improved DART suburban rail network, including improved passenger carrying capacity on the existing network and development of more tracks on existing alignments; and new rail lines, including an underground interconnector linking Heuston Station with East Wall junction via Pearse Street station and the docklands.
The initiatives in the rail network are overdue and need to be accelerated and improvements are needed in road infrastructure, traffic and demand management. A sum of £14 billion will be invested, half of which will be expended between now and 2006 and the remainder by 2016. Undoubtedly, the motion demonstrates a total lack of awareness of the tremendous initiatives and hard work undertaken by the Government and reflects 1980s thinking in Fine Gael rather than the new millennium.
As one who was a Member of the House in the 1980s I am intrigued that Senator Walsh, who was not here, seems to remember that time much better than I do. Fianna Fáil, which has been in  Government more than any other party over the past 60 years, has a great reluctance to confront issues until they hit us between the eyes. We do not plan and, therefore, we run into obstacle after obstacle.
We seem to confuse planning with projecting. Planning means taking decisions to deal with anticipated issues before they become huge problems, and we are not good at that. There is an issue here about which everybody is aware. I left Leinster House last Wednesday at 6.40 p.m. endeavouring to drive to Donnybrook, but 20 minutes later I had travelled 100 yards. I cancelled that appointment and then headed for south Kildare to visit my mother and it took me two hours and ten minutes to travel the 40 miles. There is an immediate problem which requires short-term, not long-term, solutions.
Let me suggest a few solutions. First, deliveries could be banned in Dublin city centre, similar to other civilised European cities, when there is traffic pressure. I suggest a ban between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. To allow deliveries during those times, as any economist will point out, is to provide a public subsidy to private enterprises. The large-scale disruption to traffic caused by such deliveries is a price other people pay. Should those who run businesses or the community at large pay for it?
Second, the necessary resources could be provided to ensure that junctions, traffic lights etc. are observed. A recent letter to The Irish Times commented on the changes to the Road Traffic Acts which seem to allow at least two cars to go through traffic lights after they have turned red. Yellow boxes are decorative effects to improve the otherwise bleak appearance of our roads. They are never observed. No one has ever been prosecuted for non-observation of yellow boxes unless another offence had arisen. That means that ignoramuses block access etc. and it can only be dealt with through a large-scale increase in the resources available to enforce traffic management. Traffic cannot be eliminated through traffic management but one can make what is there work better. This is a problem not only in Dublin.
The second traffic issue is the use of routes through the city by heavy goods vehicles that could use an alternative route. A by-law should be introduced stating that where an alternative route is available – for example, the M50 in the northern part of the city – heavy goods vehicles must use it and must not travel through the city centre unless they have business in the city. Such initiatives have been taken in many other cities in Europe. One will not observe delivery trucks or heavy goods vehicles travelling through these cities at rush hour.
It is an interesting spectacle to leave Heuston Station most Wednesday mornings and to be confronted by two lanes of heavy goods vehicles heading for Dublin Port, which cause incredible mayhem and threaten to cause enormous damage to the health of Dublin citizens because of the  emissions they generate. A great deal could be done in the short term while a great deal should have been done up to now. Pusillanimous indecision resulted in nothing being done.
We have been presented with wonderful multicolour plans, such as that published by the Minister for Public Enterprise. I am fascinated that on the map included with her plan it states “metro stations are indicative only”. The entire plan is indicative only because the rail lines that are already there are the only things guaranteed in the plan. The rest of it is an aspiration for Dublin, not a plan. I wish Dublin well. Every penny of the money to be spent is necessary, but it is not a solution to the immediate problem. The solution, or at least the alleviation of the problem, must be immediate. This means there must be buses on quality bus corridors. I will have no sympathy if I hear again that the trade unions in Bus Éireann or CIE are the cause of the problem. The first time I spoke at a Labour Party conference, in my first year as a member of the party, the first thing I had to do was tell the CIE group of unions that I would not do as they wished with regard to a motion. They did not want it passed because they did not like it. Trade unions are an important part of our society, but they do not run transport policy. It is not the role of social partnership to give transport unions a veto. Their interests are sacrosanct and I do not wish to deprive anybody of a livelihood or the right to earn an income. However, the fundamental issue of the quality of public policy is not an issue on which they should have a veto. I do not want anybody to suggest that either my party or anybody else is hiding behind them. That is not the way to go forward.
The Government amendment is wonderful, but although it is meant to deal with immediate problems almost all of it relates to things that will happen in the indefinite future. Everything in it is worthwhile, but none of it will make much difference to the quality of life of citizens in Dublin. One would hope in any such process that the local authority involved would be part of the solution. I assumed the lesson would have been learned from the debacle of the transfer of Members of this House that if one does not involve everybody who will be affected by something, one ends up with problems that are worse than those one is attempting to solve. There has been a classic example of this in recent times.
I wish to advert to an aspect which appears to be missing in these debates. The transport problem is not unique to Dublin. Only 40% of the population lives in Dublin; 60% of the population lives outside the greater Dublin area. By 2010, I estimate that the population of the greater Cork area will be approximately 400,000. Expenditure on the transport problem in Dublin over the next ten years will be approximately £10 billion. A considerable portion of this will be on public transport, including the metro, buses, etc. Every penny of that sum needs to be spent.
The Minister for Public Enterprise said in the House that under the national plan public trans port in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick would be allocated £50 million. The idea appears to be to sit back, not learn from Dublin's chaos and wait until equivalent chaos arises in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. It will then be necessary to retrofit a proper public transport system when it is vastly more expensive to do so. The solution is to plan, build and implement a proper public transport system for each of the major urban areas now.
I am not a provincial yokel seeking the same as Dublin, but I know that what has happened in Dublin will happen everywhere else. Ultimately, it will have to be solved and it will be up to five times more expensive to do so if we wait until later. It can be done now as part of an integrated plan. The resources to do it are available now.
Regarding public private partnerships, my party's official line is that we do not approve of tolling, etc. I do not wish to make fun of the official line but my concern is that no performance criteria are built into such partnerships. If people wish to run a toll road, I would set the condition that they must guarantee that they will not cause a disruption to traffic. It is simple – the people on the West Link bridge can be told that they can charge a toll as long as they do not cause a delay of more than ten minutes. Once the delay goes above ten minutes, they must lift the barriers and allow traffic through.
If these people want to make money, they must run it efficiently. They are supposed to be efficient but they should be told that if they cannot run it efficiently, they will not be allowed to run it. The aspect missing from our understanding of public private partnerships is a tangible, quantifiable measure of efficient performance. They are supposed to be good at that, but they are only good at creaming off effective monopolies.
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): I thank the Senators who have contributed to the debate so far and I wish to advert to a number of points that have been made. Senators Ryan, Ridge and Keogh asked why all these measures were not taken before now. I am amused when I hear that question because everybody thinks these problems should be solved now. It would be wonderful if that was the case, but the difficulty that existed until relatively recently was that our economic development was so far behind and there was a huge lack of money. One could talk about plans, but there was no money to implement them.
We have tended to lose the run of ourselves over the past two or three years. Everybody appears to think that the type of economic performance over the past three or four years has existed since 1921. The answer to the question as to why measures were not taken is that money was not available at the time.
I agree with Senator Ryan to some extent regarding his assertion that we do not plan. We did not plan in the past and this is the reason for  the current situation. The DTO's strategy from the mid-1990s and its projections are totally outdated now. Even if it had been possible to deliver everything it suggested in the mid-1990s, it would have been difficult to avoid most of the problems that currently exist. There is a need to plan. This was not done in the past and we are suffering now as a result.
We have an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of the past. This is why I am pleased to have an opportunity to address the House on this particularly important issue. I am disappointed, but not surprised, at the terms of the Fine Gael motion. For some reason, they appear to think that the solution to Dublin's transport problem is to put our long-term transport planning on ice so that we can focus on short-term actions instead. This is precisely what was done in the past and what got us into the current situation.
According to Fine Gael, we should bring down a magical shutter on our time horizons at a point called “the short-term” and we will have the solutions to all our problems. If it was that simple, one must wonder why Fine Gael did not manage to address the problems when they were in Government. Did they even realise there was a traffic problem in Dublin before Deputy John Bruton got stuck in traffic? Their answer then was Operation Freeflow, a worthy initiative in its own right. It copied many of the suggestions published a month previously by Fianna Fáil for short-term solutions at that particularly difficult period.
However, it suffered from the same short-term frailties that are so evident in the motion before the House. I accept Senator Ryan's point that short-term measures are important. Some of the things he mentioned could be done with increased enforcement and a certain amount of co-operation. I have listened to the views expressed by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the city centre business organisations have produced many good documents and suggestions in relation to transport in Dublin and the various infrastructural needs that exist and which must be addressed urgently. They have lobbied strongly for them to be put in place and many of them are in the current plan or were in the previous plans.
I was horrified, however, to see that in one of their documents they talked about the necessity of the Government delivering over £4 billion in infrastructural investment “yesterday”. Their contribution to all this was that in three years time they would consider ways and means of doing what Senator Ryan suggested, that is, convincing their members that there should be off-peak deliveries in their shops. They are very fine ideas and publications concerning the traffic problems in Dublin, but they could take a lead in that area and it might be helpful to all of us.
In talking about the Fine Gael motion, I wish to mention the short-term progress that Fine Gael is advocating. It seems to think that short-term progress has to be at the expense of our longer and medium-term planning. Since when,  however, did our transport planning become split into two or three mutually exclusive time horizons? Such an approach could more accurately be termed short-sighted rather than short term. It is a fundamentally flawed approach to transport policy to talk in terms of freezing long-term planning and implementing short-term measures. If that is the best Fine Gael can come up with, it is just as well it is occupying the Opposition benches.
The Government's transport policy recognises the need to deliver in the short term but to do so against the background of a vision for where we are going in the medium and longer terms. Clearly, Fine Gael has no such vision and one certainly will not find it in the party's document entitled Getting Dublin Moving, which, rather than the White Paper it purports to be, is more like a piece of clingfilm, useful for holding many disjointed bits and pieces together but completely see-through. It is certainly nowhere near robust enough to provide a basis for catering for the projected 72% increase in the peak hour trip demand mentioned earlier by Senator Walsh, which will see close to half a million trips in the morning peak hour in 2016.
The Government's long-term vision for transportation in Dublin has its roots in the final report of the Dublin Transportation Initiative published in 1995 and endorsed since then by successive Governments. While economic circumstances have changed radically since 1995, the basic principle of sustainable transport, which is at the core of the DTI, remains as valid today and perhaps even more so. Of course, the vision needs to take account of our much changed economic situation and we have addressed this through the major review of the DTI strategy which has now been completed.
The DTO update document, which we published recently on foot of the review, has a number of key elements. These include a radical transformation in the quality and quantity of public transport services; strategic but limited improvements to the road network; improved traffic management and control measures; development of a demand management policy to reduce the growth in travel while maintaining economic progress and to encourage modal shifts in favour of public transport; and better integration of land use and transportation planning. The strategy also offers some preliminary advice, based on DTO experience since 1995, regarding future institutional arrangements for strategic land use and transportation planning and co-ordination in the greater Dublin area. That will be considered in the context of further related work which is being undertaken for submission to the Cabinet committee on infrastructure.
While the strategy is obviously an integrated one, I would like to single out for special attention its proposals in relation to public transport, given the crucial role which it will play in meeting the travel demands of the future. The public  transport elements of the strategy aim to cater for approximately 300,000 trips in the morning peak hour through an integrated public transport network, compared to just 70,000 today. There are a number of key elements, including a much expanded bus network, comprising an integrated mesh of radial and orbital services and a substantial increase in passenger carrying capacity – that is a priority as part of the short-term measures to switch passengers to public transport; improvements to the DART-suburban rail network, including improved passenger carrying capacity on the existing network and the development of more tracks on existing alignments and new rail lines, including an underground interconnector linking Heuston Station with East Wall junction via Pearse Street and docklands; an extension of the Luas on-street light rail network; a higher capacity segregated light rail network or metro; and a package of measures designed to improve the integration and attractiveness of the public transport network, including park and ride facilities, integrated fares and ticketing, quality interchange facilities and improved passenger information.
The total estimated capital cost of the strategy is £14.2 billion. Its implementation is expected to result in a high quality public transport service being available to most people within ten minutes walking distance of where they live; increase the share of the market accounted for by public transport from 35% to 65%; reduce congestion; improve accessibility; and result in significant environmental gains, including reductions in energy use and emissions. Obviously, that also would have a beneficial effect on the citizens of Dublin and surrounding areas.
My aim is to emphasise that the Government is conscious of the need to plan ahead for the short, medium and long terms. That does not mean that everything is to be done in the future, however. Many steps and actions have been taken or are in the pipeline, guided by the DTO's short-term action plan published in 1998 and the Dublin transportation blueprint published last year.
I take this opportunity to put these achievements on the record of the House, looking first at the bus service. The fleet has been significantly increased. In 1997, the year we came to office, it stood at just over 900. By the end of this year it will have increased to 1,100. As well as these additional buses, a significant bus replacement is also under way. The quality bus corridors are coming on stream, four are operational, a fifth is expected to start up next month, the physical work on three others are expected to be finished by the end of the year and the remaining four are expected to be complete or substantially complete by mid-2001.
In addition, a consultation document setting out proposals for a new regulatory regime for public transport has been published by my colleague, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke. The rail service in Dublin has also been considerably improved since we came  into Government. The DART fleet has been increased from 80 to 106 carriages, initial services have commenced on the Greystones and Malahide extensions and a further 12 carriages are scheduled to come on-stream in 2002. Some 27 diesel railcars have been delivered and are in operation and 60 more have been ordered. The Maynooth line upgrade is on target for completion by the end of this year, with improved services commencing early next year. Some 20 railcars for use on the Maynooth line have been delivered.
Major progress has been made on Luas which is adhering to the timetable laid down by Government. The Tallaght-Abbey Street line has started and is scheduled for completion at the end of 2002, with services commencing early in 2003. Preliminary clearance work has started on the Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green line, construction of which is to be completed in early 2003. The Lower Abbey Street to Store Street section of the Abbey Street to Connolly Station line has been approved and the inspector's report on the public inquiry into the Store Street to Connolly Station section is awaited. A consultancy group has been appointed to design and conduct a competition to select an operator for these lines and the operator is expected to be in place by autumn next year.
While park and ride is an important element of the overall public transport strategy, its role seems to have escaped the previous Government's attention. It fell to this Government to introduce tax incentives to encourage park and ride facilities. We have also provided £2 million directed specifically at the Dublin area and we have made significant progress. By the end of this year, 2000 park and ride spaces will have been provided. Furthermore, the removal of benefit-in-kind from public transport passes provided by employers for their employees should encourage greater usage of public transport.
There are a number of major roads projects which are critical to managing Dublin's transport. The southern cross section of the C-ring is well advanced and is expected to be completed early next year. In addition, the South Eastern Motorway, the last leg of the C-ring, is due to commence in early 2001, as is work on the Dublin port tunnel. Part of the Northern Motorway, linking the airport to the Balbriggan bypass, has already commenced and the second phase will get under way in 2001. These major improvements are vital for improved road capacity and they will substantially complete the major road network around the city area.
We have also taken a number of short-term measures designed to reduce congestion. These include the construction of free-flow slips at the N4, N7 and Ballymount interchanges on the M50. In addition, access to Dublin airport will be improved as a result of a co-operative, cost sharing effort between the NRA and Aer Rianta involving the construction of free-flow slips at the airport roundabout which should be completed  shortly. Funding is also being provided for new roads associated with traffic management measures, including the Coombe by-pass and the North King Street project.
Improved traffic management also has an important role to play. The Director of Traffic appointed for Dublin city has brought a greater concentration and efficiency to traffic administration and has implemented a strong enforcement policy. Progress is also being made on making the city more cyclist friendly. Some 140 kilometres of cycleways will be in place by the end of this year.
Mr. Dempsey: The taxi situation in Dublin also comes in for special reference in the Fine Gael motion. Once again it is a pity that their concern in relation to taxis did not manifest itself during their last term in Government when not one taxi licence was issued in Dublin. Instead they chose to let the situation drift and left it to this Government to pick up the pieces. That we did with courage. Since coming into office taxi numbers in Dublin have gone up by 750 and we announced last November that we were taking the radical step of issuing 3,100 additional taxi plates, more than doubling the existing fleet.
As Senators will know, High Court proceedings have been taken in relation to last November's decision and a range of provisions contained in the related regulations. Pending judgment in this  case, which I understand will be given next Friday, the court granted an interim injunction preventing Dublin Corporation from granting taxi licences. While the Fine Gael motion appears to call on me to defy the High Court and issue more licences, I am sure other Senators will understand that the Government must respect the court's order and await the outcome of the proceedings.
I emphasise that this Government is committed to dealing with the traffic problem in Dublin. We have shown our commitment through the very substantial funding we have provided and by ensuring that we have in place a comprehensive transportation blueprint and a framework for future action. We have already shown our capacity to deliver on the major ingredients of our strategy and the Cabinet committee on infrastructure will continue to drive the process with a view to ensuring that there are no avoidable delays.
The motion before the House represents nothing more than flawed, simplistic Fine Gael thinking on how to deal with the issues. While they claim to have all of the answers, their record in government shows nothing more than an abysmal failure to face up to their responsibilities to deal with the transport situation developing before their eyes.
While Fine Gael talks a lot about Dublin's traffic problems, this Government is more concerned about taking action to improve the situation. The amendment to the motion sets out in very specific terms our record of significant progress on this issue and the framework we have in place for continuing that progress. Contrary to what has been said by a number of Senators, the measures we are taking and that I have outlined are not in the dim and distant future. Many of them are taking place currently. Many of them will be completed before the end of this year or before the end of next year.
I want to refer to two points Senator Ryan made which are worthy of a brief response. The point he made about planning ahead now for places like Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Galway has been recognised by the Government. I have made money available for proper transport planning and transport management planning in the roads allocations that I made earlier this year. I intend to continue doing this in the years ahead because he is right, we should plan ahead.
In relation to the PPPs, the Senator seems to be under a misapprehension that the private sector will only be asked to provide money for the PPPs, build and run, whether it is roads, water or sewerage, and that they will be left to their own devices. Central to the whole concept of the PPP and what will happen is that the private sector operator will have to meet criteria. In relation to water it will be the quality and quantity of water. In relation to roads it will be the level of service, maintenance etc. It is not simply a case of getting them in to build the road and paying them or  allowing them to earn money from tolls. They will be tied to performance contracts and it is most important that we do that.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I support the motion proposed by Senators Ridge and Keogh. I thought I was in a very good position following the Minister's speech because I had expected him to make a very positive response. I am extremely disappointed with his response to the motion. All he has done is indulge in a tirade on the proposals it contains. He made no constructive proposals whatsoever in relation to the immediate problem. He referred to Fine Gael as nothing but flawed and simplistic in their thinking in relation to transportation. At least Fine Gael are thinking. The Minister is just ranting on without presenting anything solid.
The extensive amendment presented by his party to this House leaves much to be desired. Of the 17 points in the amendment, 15 deal with the situation in Dublin. One would think that the rest of the country did not exist. The reality is that there is an area outside Dublin and the greater Pale area and I hope that the Minister will take that into account. It was briefly referred to by Senator Ryan when he referred to Cork.
The bottom line is that traffic congestion is not unique to Dublin. It is a national problem. Right across Ireland there is traffic congestion in practically every town and city, in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo or any of the larger towns such as Tullamore, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford and Ennis in County Clare.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Our motion is very clear. It does not refer to Dublin. Our motion reads as follows: “That Éireann condemns the failure of the Government to take practical short-term action to deal—
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: —with traffic congestion and proposes a ban on the publication of any further long-term strategy plans until concrete action is taken on” a number of facilities that are outside the city. All of this should relate to a variety of towns and cities. I am disappointed the Minister does not see beyond the Pale. I am surprised the Minister does not see beyond—
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I am delighted the Minister said that the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, in his last budget, introduced tax incentives for park and ride facilities. He took on board a Fine Gael proposal. Unfortunately, the Minister for the Environment and Local Govern ment has not taken any concrete action on this issue to make these incentives work, to entice people to provide facilities and to encourage local authorities to put this plan into action.
Every town is short on car parking facilities. There is a lack of car parking and total congestion as a result. Nothing positive has been done by the Government to encourage and enhance facilities. No less than a few days ago, and to add fuel to the fire in terms of the congestion in the Dublin area, the Minister for Finance decided to shelve his decentralisation programme and, in the process, force more than 10,000 public servants to remain in this congested city and to spend two to four hours in their cars going to and from work. They could have a better quality of life and a better way of life if they located to some of the rural towns. The Minister does not see this as being related to traffic congestion. If the Government took a positive approach on this issue, it could help to relieve traffic.
Senator Ryan made a number of proposals in relation to trucks delivering supplies to towns during peak periods. That is something which should be examined. He made a recommendation which may not be that acceptable to various organisations, but we must face reality. It is extremely important that hard decisions are taken. The Government has done nothing substantial. All it has done is compile report after report while matters are grinding to a halt.
There is a huge fallout from traffic congestion, including a huge economic fallout. For instance, a young mother whose children are at school has to get up at all hours of the morning to take her children to a child minder who, in turn, takes them to school because if she takes them, it will take another hour or hour and a half to get to work. These are just some of the issues. This problem leads to a lot of stress and stress-related illnesses. In addition, because of the continuous congestion, there is a lot of pollution in the air caused by emissions from vehicles as they run their engines rather than motor along. This results in a lot of respiratory illnesses.
I suggest the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure meet more regularly. The Minister should speak specifically to the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, about the type of public transport system being put in place not just in Dublin but throughout the country. The train service to Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Drogheda and Dundalk is a disaster. Given the service provided, people are not encouraged to use the public rail service. The bus service from the capital to rural areas is a higgledy-piggledy operation. Buses sometimes run, other times they do not. There is no such thing as a three or a three and a half hour journey. A three hour journey could end up being a six or seven hour journey. This is totally unacceptable and it in no way encourages people to use public transport. The Cabinet sub-committee should examine this matter very closely, put forward immediate concrete proposals and provide an efficient service. That is  not happening currently. The situation is a disaster and it is time the Government recognised this.
Mr. Glennon: I second amendment No. 1 to the motion. I listened with some amusement to Senator Taylor-Quinn's Percy French solution to the difficulties with our transport system. I point out that the Minister was responding—
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: At least there was a train to west Clare in the time of Percy French. A Minister from the Senator's party, Todd Andrews, ended that service, if the Senator recalls. He is possibly not aware of the history of the Percy French line.
I welcome the opportunity to debate this important issue. I congratulate the Minister on the tremendous initiative he and his colleagues have taken. The future of transport in our capital city is an issue which has a bearing not only on the lives of the citizenry of 40% of the country, but on everybody who comes to the city from around the country and abroad, the number of which is ever-growing.
Before I deal with the motion, it is important to consider the inheritance this Government received in terms of strategic plans. We had a Luas plan which involved three separate free standing lines – one from Sandyford in the south, another from Tallaght in the west and a third from Ballymun in the north. That Government could not even see the small picture never mind the big picture. Luas was its Holy Grail and anybody who criticised it was deemed to be a wrecker and a negative thinker. The view abroad was that it was far more important to get the project completed even if it was wrong. Even the eloquence of their former leader in The Irish Times did not seem to change their determination to get the project completed.
I commend the Minister on the far-sighted approach he is bringing to the problems of transport in Dublin. I have certain reservations about it which I will go into later, but the park and ride aspect of the transport plan, which seems to exercise the minds of Senators Ridge and Keogh to a great degree, was not thought up in the past year or two. Park and ride, as a concept, has been around for a considerable number of years and it is good to see it being addressed in a proper manner. It is a very complex operation to put in place but at least with a plan of this nature, there is an opportunity for it to be successfully put in place rather than as outlined in the short-term plans about which we are hearing.
My reservation concerns, not surprisingly, the plans for the northern side of the city. There is a proposal in the plan for a line to Dublin Airport and onwards to Swords, and that is to be commended. That in itself would have a huge effect  on the availability of taxis in the city. I would question why it stops at Swords. From Dundalk to Swords, along the railway line, there are thousands of people who work at Dublin Airport. At the moment the only means of access to their workplace is by road. Great improvements have been made to that road over recent years but a continuation of the loop on the proposed line from the airport to Swords to join with the Dublin-Belfast line around Malahide would be not only of huge benefit to the workers, but it would hugely alleviate the traffic problem from Dundalk and particularly Drogheda and the towns of north Fingal to the airport. Senator O'Dowd will be fully aware of the difficulties encountered daily. Given the amount of capital expenditure on this overall plan, it would be a very cheap and valuable addition if this loop was to be completed. It would alleviate huge problems on that side of the city.
It would also create a significant knock-on benefit in that the number of travellers using Dublin Airport from Belfast and its environs has increased dramatically in recent years with the expanded range of services from the airport and also with the availability of cheaper air fares. These people invariably drive their cars to Dublin Airport and take up a carpark space for two or three weeks, thereby contributing to the current immense infrastructural problems at the airport. We are blessed with a very efficient train service between Belfast and Dublin, which is probably the most efficient in the country. The simple extension of the loop from Swords to the Dublin-Belfast line, somewhere around Malahide, would have a tremendously positive effect on the growth of passenger numbers from the North.
I wish to comment further on the motion rather than the amendment. As we approach Christmas, wish lists will probably come into fashion and the motion is a quintessential wish list. The people of Dublin and, in deference to Senator Taylor-Quinn, the country generally are very exercised about the difficulties with the transport system. However, we have heard nothing but negativity and carping from the proposers of this motion. Senator Ryan made a couple of very positive points in relation to heavy goods vehicle routes and unloading periods for these vehicles in the city centre. Does the Opposition favour the plan in its entirety or, if not, what parts of the plan will it retain and what parts will it do away with it? People are entitled to those answers.
The Fine Gael Leader was at his eloquent best when he recently referred to this plan as a mish-mash of previous plans. I suggest he knows it is the best and the only plan, but his only response was to deride the proposal. I will adapt something once said by a friend of mine, who was the rugby correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph, an unlikely source to be quoted by a Fianna Fáil Senator in this House, and apply it to Fine Gael – Fine Gael and its leaders are not bereft of any ideas on transport, they just do not have any.
Dr. Henry: I am rather disappointed by the Government's response to the Fine Gael proposal, which seems very simple and does not require the enormous number of amendments tabled, although I am delighted to see some of them. It is important to take note of the words of a colleague of mine in Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Seán Barrett, an economist with a special interest in the transport sector. He said that the various plans the Government has for transport in this city and around the country were splendid but that we also need to look at the short-term situation. I feel that this Fine Gael motion concentrates on the difficult short-term problem.
My husband and I must have been very far-sighted because when we lived in Killiney almost 20 years ago we decided that the traffic coming into Dublin was becoming too difficult. I had to leave at 7.30 a.m. to travel the nine miles to the Rotunda Hospital if I had a lecture at 9 a.m., which did not seem a very productive way to spend my time. I am delighted that all those years ago we decided to move into the city centre.
I am something of an expert on Dublin traffic problems because I am one of the few Members who either walks or takes the bus to the House. I rarely use my car to get here because it would take at least as long, so it is no great virtue on my part to walk here. I usually take the bus back because one of the intriguing aspects of the No. 10 bus is that it takes about three miles to get to the city centre but the route home takes only about four stops. Dr. Barrett's concentration on the issue of buses in the city centre is important and needs to be paid more detailed attention than the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, gave it this evening.
I am delighted the quality bus corridors are to be extended because they have made a huge difference, particularly on the Stillorgan Road and the route from Malahide, where Senator Glennon lives. They have been a great success. However, are the buses which have been ordered all the same size or do they include smaller buses which could be used at off peak periods, which would be more economic, both in terms of passenger numbers per litre of fuel used and the amount of pollution caused by the increase in traffic?
A simple matter in the Fine Gael motion which I am sorry the Minister did not address is integrated ticketing. The Economic and Social Research Institute told me that one of the big transport problems in the city at present is that a very large number of people traverse the city centre rather than travel there to work. There is very little incentive for such people to buy one bus ticket for £1.10 for part of their journey and then buy another for 85p to complete their journey. I do not know why one cannot buy a ticket for £1 that would take one around the city for a con siderable period of time and which would be of great benefit to us all. I had hoped Bus Éireann would have been instructed to take on board the integrated ticketing proposal immediately.
I am sure the Minister has been to various European cities where integrated ticketing has been the norm for decades. When I was in Bologna 20 years ago one could travel by bus for two hours for about 20p, which allowed the vast majority of people to get to their workplace, even if they had to change buses. It was an extraordinarily good system and I do not see how it could have been any more costly.
If I were in charge I would make bus tickets much cheaper and try to get as many people as possible travelling by bus. While buses are quite crowded at rush hour, they are not as full as they should be for a considerable amount of the day.
We never really thought about the problem of providing areas for people to park before getting on public transport. We should have been thinking about this when I was thinking about leaving Killiney. We will have to think about it very fast because people who live near DART stations are becoming increasingly angry about commuters parking in suburban streets. Areas should be found for park and ride facilities as rapidly as possible. I am never sure how much power Dublin Bus has when I make these suggestions. I wish it had more power because it is the one trying to run the system.
I recently attended the launch of a website for car sharing – I think the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, was the only other Member of the Oireachtas there – by the Dublin Transport Initiative at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in Nassau Street. I thought something might come of that and I was very disappointed to learn that only 47 people have clicked on the website to say they might become involved in car sharing. The one problem is that there is no incentive for people to car share, apart from the money they would save on petrol. I talked to people there about allowing such people use the bus corridors. I am sure the Minister has been in cities such as Singapore and New York where cars with four passengers are allowed use certain bus lanes. However, those involved in the transport initiative seemed very resistant to this because they said it would be a great pity to make any change to the bus corridors as they were working so well.
The airport is a very problematic area. Have any Members used the blue airport bus? I could hardly believe that it travels from Leeson Street to the airport in about 25 minutes for £4. However, why does Dublin Bus not allow that bus use its bus stops? Buses run every 15 minutes. To improve the position, there should be a better spirit of co-operation with this private enterprise.
Another bugbear I have, of which Dublin Corporation is in charge, concerns bus shelters. There is no bus shelter in Kildare Street although the footpath is sufficiently wide to accommodate one. In the area where I stand near the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development,  unless one takes shelter in the arcade one is out in the open. I raised this matter previously but without effect. Why can a few bus shelters not be erected given that there is always a crowd of people standing there? The same applies in Merrion Street where there are no bus shelters. It is discouraging for people if they get very wet.
The effect of pollution from cars should assume more importance. We are doing our best to improve the quality of air in the city and the NCT is helping to ensure vehicles are in good working order. Given the number of trucks and lorries on the roads there are continuous problems with air pollution and we are frequently in breach of EU regulations.
I will not dwell on taxis. As I have not been able to get one for so long, it would be pointless for me to discuss the matter. I have always managed to walk home before I could hail a taxi, or the No. 10 bus passed me on the way. Recently I encouraged the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, by saying I thought the service had improved. I know the Minister has had problems but she said that was the best news she had for a long time.
Mr. D. Kiely: I too welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome the opportunity to debate the problem of traffic congestion. One would be foolish to say there is not a traffic problem not alone in Dublin but in all the major cities. One would think nothing was being done. At the same time if one travels the length and breadth of the country, north, south, east and west, one will see roadworks every inch of the way. Bypasses are being opened and major development works are taking place. Judging by the Fine Gael motion one would think nothing was being done anywhere.
While it has been said that the motion concerns Dublin, Senator Taylor-Quinn said it concerned the rest of the country where no money is being spent. I draw her attention to the national development plan and, in particular, the region with which she is connected and which I am associated with as the representative on that body. I refer to one of her remarks about the lack of investment in other parts of the country. Under the national development plan a sum of £4.7 billion was allocated to the improvement and maintenance of national roads for the years 2000-06. Those works are in operation. Up to 2006 on the major inter-urban routes and the motorways a high dual carriage standard is being implemented. Grants of £1.5 million have been provided for traffic management in Limerick Corporation, Waterford Corporation, Galway Corporation and Cork Corporation. That is something in which the Senator's county is also involved. To say that nothing is being done is wrong.
I compliment the Government on its determination to do something once and for all about the traffic problem in Dublin. For the past 70, 80 or 100 years nothing had been done. Dublin is the only city in Europe that does not have a metro  system in operation. The Government has announced a ten or 15 year plan, and it will plan properly. Whether it takes ten or 15 years to complete I welcome and support it. One cannot wave a magic wand and get all the work done overnight, neither can one get rid of the problem overnight.
During the reign of the Fine Gael-Labour Government in 1983-87 at a time of high unemployment and high emigration, 80,000 to 100,000 people became illegal emigrants in England and elsewhere. People left the country in droves. A newspaper headline at the time of the election asked the last person leaving the country not to forget to turn off the lights. Now, due to good government and a vibrant economy people are being brought back from all over the world and, naturally, problems come with it. One such problem is the housing problem and there is also a traffic problem. Those problems are being tackled.
I was amazed to hear the Minister say that not one taxi licence issued during the term of office of the last Fine Gael Government. I thought it had issued one or two licences. This Government has granted 3,000 taxi licences, but this is being contested in the High Court and a decision will be made on Friday. Yet Senators are critical of what is being done. They also say there are no short-term solutions. There are short-term solutions such as the quality bus corridors which are in operation and working well, an increased number of new buses are in operation, there are new taxi licences, new bus lanes and so on. Much is being done in the Dublin area to alleviate traffic congestion in the short term.
The number of passengers who passed through Dublin Airport in 1991 was 5.5 million people. In 1999 almost 13 million passengers passed though that airport. That is an indication of the huge volume of traffic in a short time. The increase in car ownership is also due to the vibrant economy. A sum in the order of £14.2 billion, half the national debt, will be invested in a new metro and Luas system. I welcome that. A good transport system is the key to taking traffic off the roads. I am pleased the Government is taking this initiative. The completion of the M50 will be of major benefit to the city of Dublin. For me, coming from Kerry, the length of time it takes to get to the airport from the Red Cow roundabout is greatly reduced.
Mr. D. Kiely: I am pleased the Government has given extra money to Aer Lingus to keep Farranfore airport open. We are seeking an extension to  that airport and will need more funding from the Government. That has been promised. I expect it will be an international airport in years to come and will be very important to us.
I compliment the Government on what it is doing with the transportation system, not alone in the Dublin area but all over the country. There is a great buzz and great infrastructural work is taking place in the road network. I welcome particularly the Minister's announcement for the new metro system, the new Luas system and the extensions being provided. We cannot wave a magic wand. It was a pity Fine Gael, when in Government, did not put this programme into operation. Had it done so we would not have to wait until 2016, it would have been completed by 2010. Fianna Fáil always seems to be lobbied about problems and has to solve the problems put on our plate by other Governments. We have to clean up the mess, as we had to do in 1987 when the country was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Mr. Norris: I find difficulty with this amendment so I will probably vote with the Government on this issue. There are a number of reasons for that. The first is that the motion appears to be rather negative and shortsighted. It condemns the failure of the Government to take practical short-term action and, as a result, seems to be telling the Government not to do anything in the long term either.
We must have long-term thinking. No amount of immediate difficulty should stop the Government having its eye on the target of making the transport system in Dublin fully operative. If this is what the Government is doing, and I believe it is making serious efforts in this regard, it should be supported. It was this House, at a time when it was extremely unpopular, which amended the Dublin transport Bill to require the examination of an underground option. The amendment was put down in my name in that glorious period when the Independent Senators held the balance of power.
I well remember the opposition I encountered and the frantic telephone calls from Ministers and so forth who offered the earth, hypothetically, if I would withdraw the amendment. I also received abusive correspondence from some of my constituents. One man, a distinguished academic, wrote to say that unless I changed my mind immediately and announced the fact he would never again vote for me and would write to the newspapers to tell them I was responsible for the underground. In my reply I urged him to do that saying, “I do not think you would have any respect for me if I just changed my vote simply because you were removing your support.” I also said I would be glad if he wrote to all the newspapers because I did not think enough people knew of my involvement in this.
The environment correspondents of the newspapers, especially The Irish Times, were vehemently antagonistic to any underground option. It makes me laugh now to see them writ ing in such glowing terms about the metro element. All the detailed technical arguments we used regarding traffic flow, the number of passengers, the type of rolling stock and the gridlock that would have been permanently imposed on the city are now being used by these people.
However, I have a question about the timescale for the underground sections. Why is it so long? The Government is accused by its opponents of engaging in fantasy, that it is not just long term but will never happen. I believe it will happen. I take at face value the assurances given by the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke. However, there is something worrying about the extraordinary length of time involved before the underground metro system will be in place. I am not alone in feeling this way. The people involved in the Moscow underground, for example, have said it is an extraordinary timescale and that they could put it in place in four to six years. That would certainly be the case in some far eastern countries.
I was in Ankara some months ago with the foreign affairs committee. I asked to travel on the metro – I was the only one who did because it was regarded as rather boring – that had just been opened in Ankara. It has had a major impact, in precisely the way we predicted vis-à-vis Dublin, on traffic problems in the city of Ankara. I urge the Government to examine the timescale again. It is long-fingering this option too much, so to speak, particularly as, and I pointed this out in the House previously, a public private partnership is the likely way of proceeding. Groups like the Matsui corporation in Japan will put in the underground at very favourable terms for the Irish taxpayer.
I will support the Government in this matter because of the useful and valuable work done by the Minister. I was going to use the word “collaboration” but it would be ridiculous to suggest that I was collaborating with the Minister from the backbenches of the Seanad. However, I believe we helped to strengthen her resolve. We had the right person that day – two or three previous Ministers had been turned around by people in the woodwork but this Minister stood her ground. It is vital that Dublin gets this underground railway. It is the obvious thing to do. We were always told in the past, after we had won every other argument about geology and so on, that we could not afford it. Now there is a public private partnership, a group of people who are prepared to invest their money in it in return for being allowed to run the system for a while. We also have a buoyant Exchequer so there is no excuse for not doing it.
There are short-term measures. The corporation could be persuaded to stop trying to constrict traffic in Dublin. As I have said many times previously, it is trying to drive the cars out of the city by aggressively and in a hostile manner turning the infrastructure of the city against the motorist. One can see it in the way the kerbs are creeping further out onto the roads. Look at the bus system. The one place one will not find a bus  is in the bus lane – one will find them everywhere else. Of course, we are tantalised by being excluded from the bus lanes – that includes the hackney cabs. Why not make an arrangement to allow hackneys use the bus lanes? Motorbikes should also be able to use them. That would make them a little more efficient.
One regularly sees buses double parked – something none of us would get away with – or parked with their backsides sticking out and preventing traffic from passing satisfactorily. Something needs to be done about the behaviour of the bus drivers and those in charge of public transport in the city. On the other hand it is a stressful occupation and many of them are decent people. Too often, however, they are very cavalier. The buses cause a great deal of the traffic congestion and problems.
Why are deliveries allowed all over the city? I am aware that some of it involves money. One sees Brinks Mat and other security vans parked halfway on the pavement and halfway on the road. Nobody seems to be able to do anything about them. Have they got an exemption from the traffic regulations? The same applies to people making deliveries to pubs. They regularly block the roads.
There are a number of serious problems. I am lucky to live in the inner city. I can come to the House on foot or on a bicycle. I also have a car, although I am not hit as badly as other people. Every day on the chat programmes one hears somebody describing how it took three or four hours to travel into the city from Stepaside or other places. The day before yesterday I heard about a student who was travelling into town for their first lecture in Trinity College. The student left home at 6.45 a.m. and missed the first part of a 9 a.m. lecture. That is dreadful.
There are many criticisms of the taxis. I have been in situations where I required a taxi and it is aggravating when one cannot get one. There are large queues at King's Bridge station and at the airport but the taxis come very quickly. One is horrified by the size of the queue but it soon melts away. Things are not quite as bad as we sometimes imagine. Yes, criticisms can be made about taxis, but can we have some perspective? I go to a gym which is also used by many Dublin taxi drivers. They were incredulous at the newspaper headlines the other day. They were being blamed for the death of that unfortunate young man who was murdered in a road rage incident. There was no suggestion that he had even been looking for a taxi. We tend to line up targets too easily.
I will vote with the Government on this because I believe it is doing something. In any case, the advice being given by this side of the House is dangerous. It is looking for a short-term policy but no long-term policy.
I support the amendment. It is a realistic appraisal of the overall traffic problem and sets out in clear and specific detail the plans and strategy which have been drawn up and announced by the Government for the short, medium and long term. The motion is misguided in a number of respects. In the first instance, it calls for no more plans or long-term strategies to be published. Perhaps there was a different intention when the motion was drafted but the literal interpretation is that all long-term plans or solutions, which are essential due to the complexity of Dublin traffic, should be suspended or set aside. Instead we should look at short-term measures and implement them. We should also consider putting long-term measures into action. The implication in the motion is that we are not doing so, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I do not want to bore myself or other Members by repeating what I said on other occasions on this topic. However, a few simple statistics on the infrastructural problems of inner city Dublin might illustrate a few points to those who have not already grasped them – I am not looking at anyone in particular in the Opposition benches. There is no simple quick fix solution, given that it is a hugely complex problem which has manifested itself very rapidly. As was pointed out by previous speakers, nothing was done for decades about infrastructure in Dublin to deal with the increased car numbers. This Government is taking firm action in this regard.
The centre of Dublin is guarded by the canals and the canal bridges or crossings dictate the volume of vehicles entering the city centre. Since everyone opposes highways and one cannot put airplane wings on cars to fly over the city centre, those who must go through the city centre do so by means of car or public transport. Yet the number of vehicles travelling into the city centre over the last 20 years or more years has increased by just between 2% and 3%. The bulk of that increase has been achieved through the introduction of the SCAT system which is a far more efficient traffic signal system throughout the city. Given the massive increase in cars travelling towards the city centre from all routes each morning, the increase in throughput over the 20 to 25 year period is just 2% to 3%. Obviously the solution lies in weaning people away from using cars and on to public transport of various forms.
It is most refreshing to listen to Senator Norris and the positive way in which he has approached this issue. We all accept, despite Professor Barrett's analysis, that even though buses have a vital role to play in the short term – I agree quality bus corridors should be included in the motion – their overall contribution to a rapidly escalating problem is minimal. Nevertheless, the development of quality bus corridors has been quite effective despite their limited overall effect. In relation to the four corridors in operation, the  increase in passenger intake at peak traffic times has been quite significant and is a success story in itself. The increase ranges from approximately 44% in one instance to approximately 190% in another. The quality bus corridors, though minimalist in terms of a solution to the very complex overall problem, are having an effect. If one takes the volume of vehicles on the roads, the low percentage of travelling public that represents and sets that against the huge physical and structural restrictions placed by the canal network around the inner city, one will get some insight into the massive problems.
It seems to be forgotten that various forms of integrated ticketing are in operation by Dublin Bus. There is unlimited daily travel involving bus, DART and suburban rail. There is a family bus and rail ticket for two adults and four children. There is a transfer 90 ticket. There is a weekly adult ticket. There is a monthly bus, student and adult ticket for bus, rail and DART. We all accept that the availability of these tickets is far from satisfactory. The committee will report shortly on the effective state-of-the-art ticketing system which will be similar to the credit card system. Some people refer to it as the “electronic purse”. To be effective, this must be obtainable from vending machines and various locations throughout the city so that the integrated ticketing system can be easily available to all intending passengers.
Experts agree that because of the security proofing and viability aspect of the system – there is no point producing something that will fail in six or 12 months – it will be used not just for Dublin Bus but for banks, supermarkets and as many other services as possible. It is forecast that it will take up to two years before the system is up and running. This is what the experts say. Perhaps Senator Ridge is an expert but I certainly am not; I just read what they say.
Mr. O'Dowd: I am not sure if people live in the real world, particularly the Government, because every morning when I am driving into the city I see an empty quality car corridor. When travelling to Dublin city every morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., the road leading out of Dublin is empty. A reversal of Government policy is  needed to reverse growth in Dublin. Industries and services should be located outside the city so that those who travel to Dublin, clogging the streets with traffic, will be travelling in the opposite direction. There is spare capacity in towns such as Drogheda, Dundalk, Navan and so on. The Government is not thinking strategically, it is not thinking for the provinces and this is why there is a major problem in Dublin. If the Government is to succeed in solving the traffic chaos, it must use the portion of the existing road network which is not being used by people travelling to and from work.
Driving through Swords every evening is terrible. Thank God, the Garda have been directing traffic on the roundabouts for the last few days. However, there is very little traffic travelling into the city, while commuters travelling from towns such as Drogheda, Navan and so on would fill these roads. This would partially solve the problem of the volume of traffic and is a matter which the Government should consider.
The Minister stated there will be 2,000 park and ride facilities by the end of 2000. The reality is that there are no park and ride facilities on the north side of the city. This has been the case for the last three years. If a quality bus service was available, I would gladly use it every day, as I know would Senator Glennon and others. The Government has no policy, it is just a sham.
Mr. Caffrey: I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I had prepared a different opening statement for the previous Minister. However, I must be nice to a Galway Minister, particularly given that Galway lost the All-Ireland.
Traffic in Dublin and throughout the country is currently a major issue. Senator Fitzgerald referred to quality bus corridors having a minimal effect overall. Many small measures could have a major effect.
Senator Ryan's contribution was interesting. He referred to articulated trucks clogging up the city. I visited Moscow last year, which is in a struggling economy, yet one will not see an articulated truck on the streets nor will they be seen in any major European city. A fortnight ago I travelled along the quays into Dublin city centre at 11 a.m. and I counted 11 articulated trucks, one behind the other, in the lane beside me heading towards Dublin Port. They took up the space of approximately 44 cars. If the Government invested £20 million in a port in Galway or Mayo, that problem would be eliminated. Everything is transported from around the country through Dublin and the streets of the city are congested. The Minister must address these problems.
Traffic lights stop traffic in Dublin from moving. Major European cities use overpasses and underpasses, which are not major infrastructural developments, and what they do for the move ment of traffic is unbelievable. If there were underpasses and overpasses at major junctions in Dublin traffic would move in a similar fashion to other European cities. Such infrastructure could be constructed in six months. It would relieve some of the key bottleneck areas in the city. Traffic lights generally are the bane of motorists' lives because they do not work most of the time and when they do, the sequence is wrong and traffic is held up. They do not add to the flow of traffic.
The public transport service in the west operates at the whim of ILDA. When ILDA decides not to work, there is no public transport. No trains left Mayo for ten weeks during the summer. Traffic congestion in the west is becoming as serious as in Dublin. A bypass is needed immediately in my home town, Ballina, not in five years time as outlined in the national development plan, because the traffic there is clogged up.
I am glad the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and Fianna Fáil have the solutions to all the traffic problems in Ireland, as outlined by the Minister earlier. They have a monopoly on solutions.
Mrs. Ridge: I thank the three Ministers for their attendance. I am amazed at the surprise and pretend indignation of Government Members because they must not have read the motion. We asked for a ban on any further long-term strategy plans until concrete action is taken, not on further works or developments. There is not a shortage of speeches, strategies and reports but we are slow on the ground. We ask for realistic relief in terms of the current situation which is appalling. One can talk about plans until kingdom come but I will place a bet, although that may be unbecoming in such an august place as this, that there will never be a metro in Clondalkin. No land has been acquired for it. These are ludicrous, off-the-wall plans.
Mrs. Ridge: I do not live in the past and I laugh when I hear references to the 1980s. I was not even a councillor at that stage. I am surprised at Senator Glennon. Did he think that we would praise the Government? Let us call a spade a spade. He should go outside Leinster House and consult the public to establish whether there is merit in us seeking immediate action on those four issues.
| Glynn, Camillus.
Ó Fearghail, Seán.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Ó Fearghail, Seán.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Question declared carried.
An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?
Mr. Cassidy: At 10.30 tomorrow morning.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October 2000.
|Last Updated: 11/09/2010 01:42:59||Page of 13|