Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
BusConnects: National Transport Authority
I remind members and those in the Visitors Gallery to turn off their phones completely as they can interfere with the recording equipment.
During this session the committee will consider the National Transport Authority's proposal for a radical redesign of the Dublin Bus network, the BusConnects plan. The committee welcomes the representatives from the National Transport Authority, NTA, Ms Anne Graham, chief executive officer, Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer and Mr. Tim Gaston, director of public transport services.
I wish to advise that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If witnesses are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I invite Ms Graham to make her opening statement.
Ms Anne Graham:
I thank the committee for the invitation to attend. I am joined today by my colleague, Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer, and will be joined shortly by Mr. Tim Gaston, director of public transport services. I understand that the committee wishes to focus in this meeting upon the Dublin area bus network redesign proposals, which is part of the overall BusConnects Dublin programme. Last month we published our network redesign proposals which we believe will deliver a better bus system for the people of Dublin, for the city itself and for the region. Our proposed new network will be simpler to understand and use, will offer greater connectivity to more people and will provide for a substantial overall increase in bus services.
The existing bus system in the Dublin area has evolved on a route-by-route basis over many years and, indeed, many decades. We have reached the point where a complete and total review of the bus system is needed to position it to meet the growing transport needs of the Dublin region. To undertake this review, we engaged Jarrett Walker & Associates from Portland, Oregon in the United States of America to assist us. Jarrett Walker & Associates specialise in the redesign of public transport systems in urban areas and have worked in cities around the world, replacing traditional bus networks with revised networks that work better for more people. It is important to note that the objective of our review was to redesign the bus system to make it more useful to more people and to enable more people to go to more places than they can currently by bus. The report is a detailed and comprehensive document that draws on the local knowledge and expertise of planners and officials in Dublin Bus, local authorities and the NTA as much as it draws on the international experience of Jarrett Walker and his colleagues.
The first step in the redesign process was to review the existing network. This identified several issues, including complexity, overlapping routes, too many buses in the city centre and a poor orbital service. With regard to complexity, the sheer number of routes and branches is a barrier to understanding the network and discourages many trips for which the bus service could be useful. Many overlapping routes with differing frequencies prevent buses from being evenly spaced to minimise waiting. Along with very low frequency on some routes, this means many people wait longer than necessary. There are too many buses in the city centre. Many streets carry very high volumes of buses which produces major delay due to buses blocking each other. On the poor orbital service aspect there are too many services running directly into and out of the city centre, but poor service for travel between many other destinations away from the city centre.
On the point about complexity, it is worth looking at the map that we have included in our written submission that shows the existing city centre bus routings. It is beyond argument to say that it is virtually incomprehensible to most people; yet it is the best map available to describe the city centre bus network. This means that people become familiar with their one or two bus routes for fixed journeys and avoid using the network for anything else. In the case of visitors, most migrate to the Luas and DART system, which is much easier to understand and use, and avoid the bus system because of its incomprehensibility. We want to change that and provide a better system that is easier to understand and navigate and, most important, will get more people to more places sooner.
In June 2017, we published the Dublin area bus network redesign choices report which set out information on the existing bus system and proposed a number of strategies that could be considered in the redesign of the bus network. We sought public feedback on the simplification of the radial bus services to form high frequent spines, as they are called, the reallocation of some radial services to create frequent orbital services, and the use of interchange to allow connections between different bus services and between bus, DART and Luas.
A public survey was made available online and in paper format. More than 12,000 people responded to the survey, approximately 1% of Dublin’s population, which was an unprecedented level of response.
The level of support shown for the proposed strategies was extremely high. Some 80% agreed or strongly agreed that it is worth asking people to interchange in order to create a network that helps more people reach more destinations sooner. Some 89% supported the idea of consolidating routes into spines and 85% supported the reallocation of some radial services to create frequent orbital services. From this feedback, we proceeded to develop a detailed plan based on those strategies.
I will now address the network proposals and the key elements of the redesigned bus network. It is proposed to convert a complex network of overlapping routes into the city centre into seven high frequency “spines” designated A to G, with buses coming every four to eight minutes all day and even more frequently at peak hours. Moreover, a new network of high frequency orbital routes will be created. These will intersect with the main spines to form a web-like grid of routes where buses are always coming soon. As well as providing for easy movement between the spines and the orbital routes, the orbital routes will allow much more movement between different areas of the city without the need to travel into the city centre.
A further proposal calls for the implementation of a much larger overall network of frequent routes where the next bus is always coming soon, within 15 minutes or less, and with easy interchange wherever frequent lines cross. It is also proposed to introduce a new 90-minute fare that covers any combination of bus, DART or Luas trips beginning within 90 minutes so that no additional payment is needed to change buses or change onto DART or Luas. The journey can be longer than 90 minutes; the fare just requires the last leg to start within 90 minutes. Overall, the proposed new network will provide a 27% increase in bus services. Just as important, when we calculate the increase in accessibility, the average person in Dublin will be able to get to 20% more useful places within 30 minutes than they can under the existing network. The figure of 20% is the average across the region, with many people seeing higher increases. Under the revised network nearly 1 million Dublin area residents will be within 400 m of a bus service coming every 15 minutes or more frequently all day, an increase of 250,000 people.
Overall, we believe that the proposed network proposals are vastly beneficial for the Dublin region, but there are trade-offs. While most people will not need to change buses, some people will. In some cases, people who currently have a direct service may have to change buses to get to their destination. However, because these two buses will operate on routes with a much higher frequency of service, in most cases people will be able to get to their destination in a shorter overall time.
A public consultation process on these proposals has commenced and will run until 28 September. All of the network redesign information has been published on the BusConnects website. An online and printed survey is now available, allowing people to give their views and comments on the bus network redesign proposals. The online survey is at www.busconnects.ie.We will shortly be announcing a series of information sessions across the region where people will be able to come to have details explained and queries answered.
These proposals constitute a major undertaking to redesign our bus system to better cater for today’s needs and to be positioned to accommodate the region’s future needs.By its nature there have to be trade-offs in such a massive redesign task, and not everybody can be better off under the new network. However, the vast majority of people across the region will gain from these proposals, which will provide a network that will enable more people to get to more places sooner. That concludes my introductory statement. I trust that I can answer any queries that arise.
I welcome the representatives from the National Transport Authority, NTA, here today. The opportunity to have this engagement is welcome. For the most part, BusConnects offers huge potential for a positive effect and an opportunity to enhance and improve the bus service that is currently operating in Dublin. As Ms Graham quite rightly said, the service has evolved over a period of several decades, although I think Dublin Bus did carry out a reorganisation of the routes in the early 2000s, so there has been some progress in recent years. It would be wrong of us not to acknowledge that.
I am struck by the point Ms Graham made that a public survey was made available and more than 12,000 people responded to it. To me, that indicates the pivotal role that Dublin Bus plays in transporting people around our capital. It is terribly important that this consultation process engages with the people who use this service. I welcome the fact that the NTA has extended the consultation process by two weeks to 28 September. However, the month of August is a write-off for a variety of reasons, such as school holidays and people travelling abroad. Moreover, unless the witnesses can change this today, we still do not know the times and venues of the public meetings at which people can tease out the various bus routes. Given these facts, I think there needs to be flexibility around the date of 28 September. That is something the NTA should bear in mind. If it does not see the same level of interaction that it did previously, the NTA should certainly be flexible around extending that further.
I think the NTA needs to very quickly publish the dates and venues of its engagements with communities. To my mind, it should have been able to do this already. I have heard a figure of 18 locations. Perhaps the witnesses can correct that. I do not think that is enough. I think the process needs to extend to every part of the greater Dublin area as well - Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and all the areas served by Dublin Bus. There needs to be a very strong presence on the ground. People need to be able to go in and interact with the representatives of Dublin Bus.
I have gone through the website on a number of occasions. It has been suggested to me that if it had a Google Maps add-on people could use the site to navigate the proposed routes, as opposed to merely looking at the maps. It might make it an awful lot simpler for people to engage with the process.
I would like to hear some reassurances that this is not a box-ticking exercise and really is about engagement with the people it is going to affect. Moreover, I would like reassurance that if a huge area of concern is identified it will be possible to change some of the proposals. For example, most of the direct city services from commuter towns such as Balbriggan, Skerries, Swords and even Dunshaughlin have all been eliminated. That has taken place even though there is a huge demand in the morning and evening, reflected in the number of people using the services. A witness said that additional services would be provided at peak hours to limit overcrowding. Perhaps that is an opportunity to look at retaining some of these services, for which there is quite clearly a huge demand.
It was said that the choices report came about as a result of consultation between the NTA, Dublin Bus officials and Dublin City Council officials. Were any of the bus drivers, who engage with service users on a daily basis, consulted or made part of that process?
I hope this works and I am certainly not wishing that it will not work but it may be that changes are introduced and we actually notice an increase in the number of people going back to their cars. People have become used to getting on to a bus and going from one point to a second point without the need to change over.
Thank you, Chairman. I have only one or two more points. The key point is to get the notion out into the wider public and give people the opportunity to have their say. Maybe we should schedule a further meeting with the deputations following the public consultation. By then we would know about the submissions that have come in and we could come back and discuss the matter further at that stage.
The National Transport Authority has said that under the revised network almost 1 million Dublin area residents will be within 40 m of the bus service and that a bus will come every 15 minutes or better all day. What is the current set-up? What percentage of Dublin residents are within 40 m of a bus stop?
The question of a changeover from one bus to another is relevant. What is the average distance going to be? Will people be able to get off one bus and move or walk to another bus stop? Will it be the same bus stop? How are we going to facilitate people with reduced mobility, those who may be visually impaired or elderly people? How are we going to ensure transfers for people who previously could go from one point to another without changing over? We could be forgiven for thinking following the past six or seven weeks that we have a fabulous climate in the country. Normally, we have a wet country, especially in the winter months. People will have to make the changeover. How can we ensure that when people have to make a changeover they will not be left out for long periods in inclement weather?
The NTA has acknowledged that some people will have to do that. Can the NTA deputation identify the routes? Reference was made to people losing a service that is being replaced with another service or an alternative service. That will help. That was seven minutes.
Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. I thank the NTA deputation for coming in. We had a discussion prior to the public session. I had proposed that the unions should come before the NTA in order that we could raise concerns with the NTA. I imagine that would have been the most practical way. I raised my disappointment with the Chairman on why that was not flagged and why we opted not to do that. I am not saying it was deliberate, but certainly it is not a proper way for any committee to do business. We should hear the concerns and then have the opportunity to raise them with the NTA. It certainly limits scrutiny and curtails questioning. I have made my views clear to the Chairman.
Second, I raised the matter with you this morning, Chairman. Your job as chairperson, a Chathaoirligh, is to oversee the agenda. Now, something like that on the agenda ought to jump out at you. We have the National Transport Authority before the committee for questioning. Then, we have the unions in for questioning. Yet, we bring the NTA in before the unions. That means the authority representatives have left the building but we have had no opportunity to ask them or raise the concerns highlighted by the unions. It ought to have jumped out at you, Chairman.
We have already discussed this. I want to make one point clear to you, Deputy Munster. You can attack me if you want - that is your business - but you did not send me an email saying that you wanted the union in before the NTA.
It should have been passed on. Anyway, you should have examined the agenda prior to the meeting, Chairman. That is your job. That is what you are given your position as Chairman for. If you did not look at the agenda, then you cannot blame everyone else.
I wanted to ask about the consultation undertaken during the drafting of the plan, in particular with disability groups and groups who work with elderly people in the community. What was done to ensure they were catered for as part of the process? Can the NTA deputation outline what was done? More than anyone, these particular groups are inclined to rely on and use public transport.
We had a delegation in from MetroLink this morning to discuss the public consultation process. The NTA has said that it would have more meetings. Most people have raised the fact that they believe there is little in the way of public consultation or that it is very much one way. I will ask the question again. We asked the question at the earlier meeting as well. Will the NTA agree to appoint a liaison officer specifically to deal with the public consultation processes? Such a person could be available for communities and members of the public who have serious concerns and who believe the process currently under way is not addressing them. I cannot imagine why the authority would be opposed to the idea. Would the NTA as a public body agree to set up an official public liaison officer to deal with community groups and others with concerns?
Other concerns have arisen. One relates to the severe reduction in direct services to the city. That is probably the greater concern. People may well have to get two or three buses to get to work. Does the authority believe that is reasonable? People place as much emphasis on convenience as on time or speed. What if a commuter has to get three buses and is entirely dependent on those three buses arriving on time and on the frequency of the buses? If that does not materialise or if a commuter is hassled because of the need to get three buses to work, then he or she may decide to take the car. That is the first thing that will come into the minds of people. They may take the view that it is simply too much hassle and too far to walk to the bus stop. Even then, the commuter will have to get two or three others. Alternatively, he or she could take the car. This could well backfire and be a retrograde step.
People have asked other questions. They may be localised concerns but they have been raised because people cannot get answers. One relates to the Luas extension to Lucan. The concern raised is that the route seems to be the same dedicated road space for bus corridors that is dedicated for the Luas track. Can the authority representatives confirm whether that is the case? If so, how in God's name is that supposed to work? There are numerous localised issues but if the authority had an official liaison officer, then the officer could deal with these issues and give clarity to people.
Another question relates to Lower Artane Cottages and the road being widened and how the change will affect those concerned. I know of a dozen or more who have been affected. The authority will need a contact person ahead of submissions to clarify how exactly the plan will affect them as well as to inform them and enable them to make submissions. The more information they have, the better.
That is about it for now. In particular I am calling for answers to those questions. Can the authority give details of the discussion undertaken with disability groups and representatives of elderly groups in communities? They are the people most likely to use public transport constantly.
I did not realise that. I am terribly sorry. That is fine. My apologies, Deputy Murphy, you are not next but you will be after your colleague.
Senator Ó Céidigh wishes to give his time to Senator Dolan. I want to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to contribute in the right order. Senator Humphreys will speak for the Labour Party, followed by the Independent members and then Deputy Lahart.
I attended the presentation in the Royal Hibernian Academy; there was a bit of a to-do there also.
I have several questions. The consultation has been pushed out to 28 September. That is unacceptable because half of the people of Dublin will not be around for the majority of that time. The city is empty. If I want to be cynical I could say this happens frequently, either over the Christmas or Easter periods or the summer holidays. I do not know the reason that date was agreed. Is there a deadline we should be aware of? I plead with the witnesses not to ignore the request from Oireachtas Members or the public to revisit the cut-off point of 28 September because people are only settling back into their homes and jobs at that time.
I still have difficulty with the maps provided, despite having taken a microscope and a magnifying glass to them. I would love to have a detailed explanation of how these new routes will impact on the city street by street and house number by house number. There will be loss of greenery and, in some instances, loss of property in the surrounding areas of the city but it is very important that we know how the impact of that on a house number by house number basis. I would like to be provided with detailed maps covering the areas of Crumlin, the Liberties, Kilmainham and Ballyfermot because I still cannot read the ones provided, and I am not that dumb. I hope the witnesses will be able to provide that. Are they available in that detailed format online?
There was another question about the national children's hospital. It appears the national children's hospital will not have a direct bus route other than from outlying areas. That will be a loss to the people within the south side of city. There is talk of restricting general traffic in Mount Brown to public transport only. That is a very busy area already but when the hospital opens in 2021 or 2022, what will be the transport options to the hospital for people in the centre of the city, especially for those in the south side?
I note we are going back to a single deck fleet. I remember the City Imp, the 123, that served Inchicore down to the Liberties. We are returning to a single deck fleet but an electric vehicle fleet should be considered having regard to the environment and energy conservation in the future. Why was the single deck fleet chosen? Is it because the buses are more frequent? Why was the City Imp and similar buses withdrawn having been introduced in the 1990s?
Was a study done on the Luas, and perhaps the DART also? Despite a difficult start, the Luas has transformed the city. Unfortunately, the transformation has meant that the city is clogged with cars which are beginning to take over neighbourhoods around every Luas stop. One cannot park near my one in Rialto because cars have taken over the area. Unfortunately, the residents are being penalised. They are being told that the only solution is paid parking but the problem is not of their making. It is the influence of the development of the national children's hospital.
Has consideration been given to connecting buses to each major Luas stop, where there is an outpouring of people from the Luas, to take them from there out of the city? That would mean people would not park their cars at the Luas stop all day or wait to collect somebody to bring them further out of the city?
Route 17 covering Rialto to the UCD area will no longer service any of the housing estates in Crumlin. I reiterate the need for a map outlining, step by step, the loss of property, trees and infrastructure heading towards the outskirts of the city centre. In terms of the city centre, it is clogged with traffic already. How will we manage to increase the speed of the bus service? We cannot tear down old Dublin to do that.
It has been said there are winners and losers in this proposal. There are some very big losers, and that will be my primary focus. People measure their journey from door to door. If they have to travel a distance from a bus stop, for example, they will drive, park their cars and clog up suburban roads and so on, which is an unintended consequence. That will happen.
I was involved in a major origin and destination survey, which was the first time CIÉ collaborated with a community. I did the groundwork in our local community in Leixlip. That was in the mid-1990s. The public transport was designed to match the results of that. There were ten major initiatives as a consequence of the survey and they have worked very well. All of them were implemented over a period of time.
The same happened in Celbridge and Maynooth. There are 50,000 people living in those three towns, and it is estimated that an additional 30,000 will live in them over the next six years. Some of that development will not happen but quite a bit of it will, and some of it is under way as we speak. It is not an insignificant sized community, which is served by rail as well as bus. There is very heavy bus use. Whether they are in the west, east or north of the city, we want to discourage the car user and make public transport more attractive. I believe the real losers in this proposal are those living on the fringes of the city or in communities that will not have the permeability some of them currently experience.
There is a huge dependence on the bus in the Dublin region. That is not the case in other cities that are served by trains, underground services and so on. It is not a normal feature and it is probably not comparable with other areas. I caution against trying to replicate that in this city because of the absence of connectivity to the various train lines.
The information sessions will be incredibly important because people require detail.
In Confey, in my area of Leixlip, the 66A bus goes into a housing estate of 700 houses. Essentially, people will now get some sort of feeder bus to Leixlip village where they will get on another bus. They will get off in Lucan and get on another bus, whereas they are used to travelling on to a City Speed into town. That is a description of something that could be very off-putting. To give another example, some of the Celbridge buses travel on the Dublin road and bypass Leixlip. They will now come into Leixlip. When they come out of the other side of Leixlip, however, because Celbridge has the priority on that junction, the buses will queue and cars will get priority. Have the junctions been considered? That is one with which I am very familiar.
I accept there are gains in the proposal but the City Speed buses coming from Maynooth, for example, bypass Lucan and Chapelizod.
Under the new proposal, however, the spine bus will now go in that direction. There is congestion in all these areas. There is no possibility of a priority bus lane or a bus lane because of the width of the road. Whatever about a bus lane, there certainly will not be room for cycle lanes. There is far too little detail. Has an origin and destination study been done? Is that done only when designing a timetable? I accept there are different versions of, or approaches to, this proposal depending on whether we are dealing with the routes, infrastructure or timetable. I accept there are different processes to be gone through. However, if I get on a City Speed bus in Leixlip, I can be at Heuston Station within 25 minutes and while the rest of the journey to the town will depend on congestion, it is quick enough after that. Under this proposal I would have to get off the bus that I got on in Leixlip, which is full leaving there, and get on another bus. Not everyone will fit onto the second bus. They would then have to wait for another bus and, as has already been said, the weather may not be particularly brilliant. I am familiar with Lucan and I do not know where bus queues could be accommodated there.
I have been describing my area, but the case would be exactly the same with the 37 bus, which comes from Carpenterstown. In a counterintuitive way, people would have to go up towards Blanchardstown to get a bus into town. In Bray, the 145 would be replaced with a 212 local bus from Ballywaltrim, which would come through the heavily congested main street in Bray. The bus would then have to do a loop to the train station and back around. To be honest, I cannot visualise why it would be attractive to get on a bus when one considers such scenarios.
Unless the periphery is got right it will generate even more traffic and people may well abandon their cars. They may well drive from parts of north Kildare to Lucan and look for somewhere to abandon their cars, rather than having to change buses twice before getting on the bus they sought in the first place. They will be the big losers and unless some of this loss is addressed, we will run into a situation where the exact reverse of what is proposed will happen, namely, that more traffic will be generated. With regard to the smaller buses that are proposed, what would the fleet be like? Would it be accessible? Are they low-floored? Have they been purchased? I seek some detail in this regard. Would they be run as part of the Dublin Bus fleet? How would that be arranged?
We have a good working relationship in north Kildare with the public transport providers because we have engaged in a way whereby we have said what our needs are and, in many ways, they have been matched. In recent years we have been told a business case has to be made for new route. A development of 1,000 new houses is being built on a non-existing road. What will be the arrangement for augmenting services? Will a business case have to be made on each occasion this happens? It is more likely to happen on the edge of the city, for example, in Fingal, north Kildare and Bray. The closer we get to the city, the greater the gain and the further we go from the city, the greater the loss. It is more attractive to use a car the further from the city one is.
This summarises some of the concerns I have. I do not believe a forensic look has been taken at some of the junctions, pinch points and areas where people would have to connect with the bus on the spine, or of the queuing conditions people would encounter when they got off one bus, which may be full. How would people be accommodated in this situation?
Níl a fhios agam faoi sin, sin scéal eile. Níl agam ach cúpla ceist ginearálta. I am the kind of person who looks at the glass half full and not half empty. Unfortunately, sometimes in these Houses we look at glasses as being more half empty than half full. Like Deputy Troy, I believe a strong positive effort has been made here with regard to improving the traffic congestion in Dublin city. From my perspective, it is certainly worthy of being given every fair chance. Having said this, it is important that committee members and others question and challenge it to ensure it is robust and that it has a better chance of working effectively.
I am impressed by the fact that international consultants from Canada have been approached. Very often we do not necessarily have all of the expertise internally in Ireland, and it is useful to get the best practice we can from outside of our country and see how it fits into our requirements.
My questions are on public consultation. I agree that the timeframe should be pushed out by another couple of weeks given the time of the year, as many people may be out of the country on holidays. I would like a sense of where consultation with trade unions and other stakeholders is at. These include bus drivers and key people who make this happen on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour and route-by-route basis.
On integration, as Deputy Catherine Murphy noted, linking with the radial routes is very important for those who live outside of Dublin in terms of how they connect to the internal network in the city. Does the NTA have a sense of the direct and indirect financial implications? What are the environmental implications? How would we know when this is a success? What are the key performance indicators? What would tell us we have achieved the specific goals? It is only then we would be able to measure how successful or otherwise we are.
I welcome the NTA. It will be important to future-proof this proposal. Not alone must it work but it must do so for many decades. It has to be something that can be built on. It is a new construct and foundation. However, it could end up not being future-proofed. I am concerned there is great pressure to conclude the project but it needs to be measured and measured again to make sure it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. The cost of not getting this right in terms of accessibility would be high.
I do not wish to be alarmist, but people with disabilities and their families have appeared before the committee and their growing sense of frustration in that regard is palpable. They understand that if they cannot use public transport or any other public service, they are being prevented from participating in the life of the country in education, employment, housing and so forth. Transport connects everything from sport to families, work, training and education. That frustration will not go without being expressed very strongly and it will not be expressed verbally. That is the sense I have of where people are. We are educating people very well and they are going to school with their colleagues, but if they cannot go somewhere after that, a price will be paid on the streets. That is my view. It must be done right.
With regard to the question about KPIs, it is unsuccessful if it is not accessible. What engagement has the NTA initiated, if any, with people with disabilities and their organisations on this project? If it has, when did it do it? What engagement has it initiated, if any, with the National Disability Authority, NDA, and, in particular, its centre of excellence in universal design? Does the NTA have an awareness of Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, on accessibility, which states state parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, transport and so forth? It states these measures shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles. We have an opportunity to eliminate some obstacles and barriers. Yesterday there was an invitation to engage in consultation from the NDA at which a series of complaints and issues were raised by people with disabilities. I have spoken to four of those people and two of them are in this room. The other two are not present. As they put it, without rehearsing it, there is a sense that things are going backwards. I have the same concern. How many vehicles have been built or constructed like the two bus types that were on display yesterday outside the NDA? One was a single decker and the other a double decker. To return to the NTA, has the board of the authority been advised of and/or engaged in any consideration of accessibility issues related to the project and/or its understanding and responsibilities in respect of Article 9 of the CRPD?
I have some questions about the opening statement and the comment that while most people will not need to change buses, some will. What is the approximate percentage? Has the authority considered this in the case of people with disabilities? It is an inconvenience for anybody to have to make one or two interchanges, but it is well beyond an inconvenience for somebody who has a mobility or other impairment or disability. The impact of making one or two changes is very heavy. It is not simply an inconvenience and another routine that one gets into easily enough. The statement also mentions - Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said this was generally a positive move - that the authority engaged Jarrett Walker & Associates from Portland, Oregon. Did it question and examine the consultants on their record concerning accessible public transport before it commissioned them for the project? What is their record in that regard?
We tend to think of the person in the wheelchair or the person who is blind, but people have a range of disabilities, some of which are hidden. They might have head injuries, different neurological conditions or intellectual disabilities. Measures such as the livery and signage being changed have an impact. Many of the people concerned have had to be briefed, walked through, coached or trained, whatever one wishes to call it, to be able to use public transport. When that is done, they can get from A to B and know their interchanges. Dublin Bus provides that support service-----
Senator Kevin Humphreys is the next speaker. He will be followed by Deputies John Lahart and Joan Collins. We are dealing with the parties in the order we always use. Therefore, there is no slight intended on anybody.
I welcome the delegates whom I seem to be meeting more often these days. I will try to be brief and precise.
The information sessions are vital. We have entered a public consultation process without a list of where the information sessions will take place. They need to take place very quickly because there is a great deal of confusion among the public about indicative and exact lines. I will discuss one of the routes which I took two hours to walk through last night. It is the C route, which is the one closest to my home. When one leaves Ringsend, there is no clear indication as to whether Pembroke Street or Bath Street will be used. In walking the route I counted 50 car parking spaces that would have to go. I have no notion of to where they will be moved. That is why the information sessions are so important. I counted five disability parking bays. There is one woman with a severe disability and I do not know how she will be able to commute or gain access. I walked around her home for some time trying to find where the bay could be put in close proximity. Again, there has been no communication, which is a grave concern.
On the routes that will be lost, one is the No. 47. It travels infrequently, but people have adjusted to the level of service. Importantly, it takes people to their hospital appointments at St. Vincent's University Hospital and continues on to UCD for students. The document does not state clearly that the route will be gone, but it will be because it is on the C route. The authority is doing a great deal of work and has many balls in the air with regard to consultation on MetroLink, BusConnects, the idea of having 1,000 guards or 300 parking spaces or whatever combination there will be. How many staff are working on the projects? Is the authority fully resourced for the amount of work taking place in a very short period?
I will conclude with a comment. It was fantastic to see the French football team travelling along the Champs-Élysées to celebrate winning the World Cup. They were on an electric bus. Paris and France are way ahead of anywhere else in the use of electric buses, yet the delegates are still talking about hybrid diesel buses. We need to move on in that regard, especially given the concentration of buses in the city centre.
My questions about the C route may sound local, but if anybody in this room walked one of his or her own routes, he or she would probably come up with similar questions about people with a disability, parking bays and other issues and how they are to be addressed.
I have a number of points to make.
The CEO needs to consider television and radio advertisements, if the issue has not already been considered. It is big. Dublin Bus has stated it conducted a review in 2011 that was almost equally as big. It is the second major review in a decade, but it is significant.
I reinforce all of the points made by Senator John Dolan. I am pleased he got to make them. There are penalties for connecting and they will have to be addressed at final report stage. They will come up in the public consultation stage. They will affect people with disabilities and people who have challenges with mobility, not necessarily older people. There is a penalty for having to disembark and connect with another bus service.
I like the idea of spines which I welcome. I have used the example of the 15 route, the service that serves a lot but not all of my area. Traditionally, if I hopped off the bus at Rathmines to go into a shop or the bank, I would have had to wait like an eejit for the next 15 bus to come along because 12 buses could pass me and I would not have been sure where they would have ended up. Under this system, it would be the A spine; therefore, I would know where any bus with the letter "A" on it would take me. That is very welcome and good news for commuters. People are going to be challenged. If one takes the far reaches of the constituency and beyond, for example, buses coming from Blessington, there will be a lot of connections in The Square. There are some pluses in that there will finally be a connection from Ballycullen, Knocklyon and Scholarstown serving the Luas red line. That is very much to be welcomed, but I have raised an issue which the NTA is taking up, namely, the lack of use of two really good quality bus corridors, QBCs, on Ballycullen Road and Firhouse Road which connect with the A spine on the Tallaght Road. In addition, one does not have the entire length of the N81 as a QBC, but it could be done very easily and it would also add efficiency.
I am not a member of the committee, but the challenge for it is whether it embraces the concept of BusConnects in principle. I do not wish to dictate to it, but that is the question it has to answer. SIPTU embraces it, but the NBRU has a lot of questions about it. I look forward to interaction with its members afterwards.
I have raised with the NTA the issue of localised park and ride facilities. I know that it has plans for large park and ride facilities on the fringes of the city, but there is a need for localised park and ride facilities to encourage those people who are a little further from bus routes to access them.
There is real concern about the withdrawal of services from housing estates. That issue is going to come up in more detail in the public consultation process. We are reflecting these concerns and there will be an opportunity to tease out the issue.
We must acknowledge what Dublin Bus is doing and what it has done with the network. Like the union representatives, I am a champion of the company and will defend it to the hilt, not just for the sake of it but also because it is a company that has turned itself around. It has an excellent culture, CEO and staff who deliver. It was back on the road first after the snow, quicker than any other form or mode of public transport. It is the most flexible public transport mode we have. As the infrastructure is developed for the interconnections, I hope it will provide things drivers do not have such as basic bathroom facilities when they stop. It is so easy to overlook such an issue.
That leads me to another question. I think it is going to be really important, given the content of the NBRU's submission, that the other stakeholders engage with the NBRU. It should not leave it exclusively to Dublin Bus. I would like to see the NTA engage with the NBRU. There are many worthy issues raised in its submission, but having looked at the BusConnects proposal, I can see that there are some areas that require face to face engagement in order to explain them. I also think the NTA needs to meet the drivers, the front-line staff. We have talked about people with disabilities, customers and people with special needs, but it would be worthwhile and is necessary as part of the BusConnects process to speak to the men and women who are delivering the service every day in winning hearts and minds.
My first issue is consultation. Last week in the Dáil during Leaders' Questions I asked about the consultation period being much too short. I note that it has been pushed out to 28 September, but it should be extended until October, given the extent of issues to be discussed. Last Monday week when I looked at the plan for my area, it was apparent that one would have to have the existing routes on one side and the proposed routes on the other and to examine them in minute detail to find out which areas had been affected. One can see it fairly well on the two big maps. I propose that the NTA further extend the consultation period.
Another issue about which I want to ask the NTA is the public survey that was carried out. It was said more than 12,000 people had responded, or approximately 1% of Dublin's population. Dublin Bus carries 140 million passengers every year. It was said that was an unprecedented level of response. What is the normal response level for such surveys carried out by the NTA? Does it ensure specific groups are included in surveys such as people with a disability, older people aged over 60 years, students who travel to college or drivers?
When I saw the map, I noticed that services along the coastline looked to be well connected. It looks really good in Rathmines and Rathgar and across the city, but as one moves out into working class areas, the difference between the current and proposed routes is evident. The service to estates is affected. The NTA referred to a 15 minute walk in the context of connectivity and jumping off one service and onto another. Services in certain areas are being wiped out. From what I can see on the maps, there is a real loss of service in areas on the periphery. Up to 99 people are to be brought on double-decker buses every five minutes and dropped off to interconnect with a 28 seater Mercedes bus service which will come every 15 to 20 minutes. That means huge queues of people will be dumped off in the connection area who will have to wait 20 minutes or more for the next bus which will only be a 28 seater. That is what it looked like to me initially, but I accept that I will have to look at the proposal in more detail.
I do not have a car and use the bus every day. I use public transport everywhere. There is good connectivity throughout the city. Bus stop No. 1987 is serviced by the 13, 69 and 68 bus routes. The 69 bus route serves Rathcoole. The 68 bus route serves Newcastle. It services the Bulfin estate and cuts through the South Circular Road all the way down into South Great George's Street. These three bus services are being taken off the route and will be substituted by the 63 bus which will come every hour. I will be at the bus stop in Inchicore waiting for the 63 bus every hour. I will be able to go to the Blackhorse tram stop and get on the Luas, but capacity on the Luas at peak times in the morning is inadequate. I do not know whether the NTA has checked whether capacity on the Luas can be increased to allow extra passengers to get on at that point and travel further into the city. That means that a lot of people will have a 15 minute walk to the next bus stop at the working man's club which oeople do not know is in Inchicore village. The existing 40 bus service has been changed to the G spine and will come every five minutes. We only made representations to Dublin Bus about four months ago because of the queues waiting at the bus stop at the working man's club. When I go there between 7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., there are 20 to 25 people waiting for a bus.
The 13, the 69 and the 68 will not go down that road but there will be a G-spine bus every five minutes at peak times. There will be problems for everybody further down the road as a result. In Drimnagh, there will be a complete clearout of 123 and 122 buses and there will be no connectivity with St. James's Hospital for any bus route. The 68 will be gone and students will have to go down the orbital route to Rialto Bridge and try to get access to a bus there to take them to the Synge Street schools.
This is the biggest change to have been proposed for this city and it has been done too quickly. Somebody said there would be a 15-minute walk but for older people that is a long walk, as it is for people with disabilities. Waiting times are long and I am not convinced that it connects people. In fact, it seems to disconnect people from public transport. Does the NTA view the big spinal routes as being privatised in the future, perhaps in four or five years' time? They are the areas where there is big capacity and usage. I hope the NTA can give a "Yes" or "No" answer to that.
There is no true connectivity to the national children's hospital as the 18 and 17 are being redirected. There will be no access to colleges such as UCD and buses have been taken completely out of the Crumlin area, now having to go around the periphery of the estates there. That has a serious impact on people and communities. We are having a public meeting at the Crumlin GAA club next Tuesday and we will see what response there is to that aspect of the plans. It should be interesting.
I wish the NTA the best of luck with this because it will not be an easy job but it is an extremely important job. We discussed the metro upgrade earlier on and that is difficult at local level but the number of challenges with BusConnects are a multiple of that. I have experience of many years' involvement in QBC designs. On every street the allocation of space is the most contentious local issue, whether it is because local retailers want car parking inside their shops or a traffic lane is going to be lost, and if we are to take out gardens it will be very tough. I agree that we need to consult on this but we also need a sense of urgency as our city is grinding to a halt and it will not be good for the country if our economy crashes on the back of a city in which one cannot do business.
There is also an urgency around providing the switch to public transport and making the system work, which will avert a cost of €2 billion per annum arising from gridlock. I agree also that public transport should be reorientated to places which do not have choices at the moment or where communities are more dependent on public transport because the level of car ownership is lower. I believe the NTA may need a dedicated office for that, something I spoke about with Mr. Creegan at a previous hearing. If we always contract consultants for the detailed design, we may not get the economies of scale we would get from doing it as a single project. From the point of view of engineering resources, we should switch money away from our road building and into this programme. We want less traffic coming into Dublin city but we cannot achieve that while we are carving up road space. It is up to the NTA to make the strategic decision to scale back all the road widening work in Dublin and reallocate engineers towards road design. We cannot continue doing both because one makes the other more difficult.
I will not go into the details of any one specific design but this is an opportunity for radical change and we should look at College Green, the Liffey Quays and the entire gyratory system around the city centre, which I describe as like the Ben Hur racetrack. The system around Westmoreland Street, Pearse Street, the Millennium Bridge and St. Stephen's Green disadvantages pedestrians and cyclists.
This is not just for the bus service but for the entire transport system and this is an opportunity to turn Dublin into a cycling city, at scale and with real ambition. The gyratory system in the city centre is antithetical to cycling and we are competing with other cities which are realising the importance of transport systems. Our nearest big competitor is probably Manchester, which has just decided to invest €1.5 billion in its cycling infrastructure. Our national development plan has some €50 million for greenways and it is an utter disgrace that we are completely ignoring cycling. There is money in the BusConnects project for cycling but I am flabbergasted at what we are suggesting for my constituency. We are suggesting, for example, that we take cyclists off the main street in Rathmines, which is beyond belief because cycling is the main mode of transport on that street, something people would see if they went down there at 5.30 p.m. or 6 p.m., where it is like downtown Beijing 20 years ago. None of the alternative route options seems workable in any way or at all connected with the idea of making Dublin a cycling city. I could get on my bike now and be on any point on the M50 within half an hour but everywhere within the M50 should be an entire cycling city.
We need the bus network, which is essential, but it is time to develop cycling. We have been talking about it for 25 years but we have done nothing. We have put in patches of lanes here and there and if this is another case of squeezing cyclists in as an afterthought, and not giving them priority, we will lose out to the likes of Manchester where they realise that urban design, urban permeability and urban villages are the way to go. If kids cycle to school, morning rush hour traffic is reduced by 30%. It will be tough but we should do it big and do it properly, with real vision and ambition so that we include cycling as well as walking. The hardest thing will be the politics of it because we will all represent constituents who will have concerns that their front door is being affected by a need of someone who is coming from five miles further out, or 30 miles in the cases of people coming in on the motorways. They will cry foul but we have to do it. We have no choice because car-based Dublin has to stop and a public transport-centred, cycling city is where we need to go. The NTA will have the Green Party's support and we wish it the best of luck.
Ms Anne Graham:
I will be assisted by Mr. Creegan and Mr. Gaston in trying to get through the questions and points raised. We recognise the Dublin Bus system is important for delivery of public transport in the Dublin region and the role everyone plays in the delivery of the bus service, including drivers, the trade unions that support them and the management of Dublin Bus. There are many different stakeholders involved in the delivery of the service we have now. We are talking about trying to improve that service, which everyone would like to be able to do for the people of Dublin.
We will address the matter of engagement on locations. Mr. Creegan will comment on the consultation after which I will deal with some other questions.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
A number of members asked about the information sessions. We are arranging the venues and ensuring the personnel will be available to give the support needed at those venues. At the beginning of next week, we expect to have at least an initial, if not full, list of venues, which we will circulate to all the elected representatives, put on our website and start to roll out over the coming two months.
The plan is in the public domain. August is a traditional holiday month when everyone goes away for two weeks. There are no ideal circumstances, but the opening of the consultation period on Monday is a start. There is huge demand. I have been flooded with questions which I cannot answer. The maps do not provide the level of detail people want to know. The sooner it starts, the better. Two consultations may have to be held because of the demand. There should be two meetings in every Dáil constituency - one in August and one in September.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
As the Senator stated, we would like to make a start. We can be flexible and add to it afterwards. There is demand to start having some of these information sessions and get information out. We would like to start and then see if there is a need for follow-up engagement after that.
Ms Anne Graham:
On whether this is a box-ticking exercise, I assure the committee that is not our intention. We want to engage in detailed consultation. It is not only Dublin Bus staff who will be present but also NTA staff to address any questions. Between both organisations we hope to be able to address people's questions and give them the information they require. We understand the maps are difficult. It is difficult to try to understand the impact of the existing network versus the proposed network. The information sessions are designed to give people the information they need.
A suggestion was made regarding a Google Maps add-on. We hope to develop other tools to make the process easier for people. I ask Mr. Gaston to explain what other tools may be available.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
We have a plan to put a tool, which is largely developed, online and we will see what sort of reaction we get to it. It will allow the user to put in a precise location and it will show a 30, 45 or 60-minute journey that he or she can make from there in the current network and the new network. It will overlay the routes that are coming with the new network so people will be able to see what the new network gives them. If they go into the existing journey planner, they will be able to see what the existing bus routes are. It gets complicated if one wants to view them on the same screen or page. It is difficult to compare one with the other. We will provide maps of the existing and new networks on hard copy at all the face-to-face venues. This tool will also be available to allow people to click on their location and see what their options are.
Ms Anne Graham:
A question was raised about how many people are close to the existing network. The measure we used was 400 m from the existing services. Based on that measure, the number of people close to the existing network is approximately 750,000 people. This figure will increase to approximately 1 million in the new network, which is a 25% increase in the number of people who are within 400 m of a public transport service.
Ms Anne Graham:
The Dublin network area covers 1.6 million people.
We take the point about the interchange, how it is constructed and the need to make interchanges as easy as possible. One objective is to minimise the distance between the interchange from one service to another. Many of the services will interchange at the same stop. There are places, particularly when interchanging from an radial to an orbital route, where people may have to travel or cross the road to a different bus stop. At the key hubs, however, people will generally interchange in the same area. We want to improve facilities at interchange locations, for example, by providing shelter, rest facilities and the other facilities to which members referred, to ensure people have the best facility, especially at the busy interchange hubs.
Mr. Creegan will comment on the consultation during the drafting of the plan.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Step one was the publication last year of a choices report when we went out to public consultation on the overall concepts we would use in developing the plan. The committee earlier heard the feedback we received on that report. The proposals were drafted by our designer, Jarrett Walker, and his colleagues, the NTA, Dublin Bus personnel and officials from the local authorities. We have now put out the document for public debate and consultation. It was important to develop something first before we could have the consultation on it and this is the document that was developed.
I read the NTA report which indicated there had been a two-week extensive consultation between officials from the NTA, Dublin Bus and Dublin City Council. My question was whether any bus drivers who interface with passengers on a daily basis were part of the consultation process.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
It was a design process. We used the word consultation in the report but we meant to say an intensive design process. We were locked in a room for a couple of weeks to design this. Dublin Bus had personnel there, some of whom may have been ex-drivers. There were schedulers and operations people, but I am not sure of the grades of all the personnel.
I asked about whether the NTA had entered into discussions with disability groups, or groups which work with the elderly, at that stage in the drafting of the plan, given that the removal of services is under consideration.
Ms Anne Graham:
As Mr. Creegan said, it was a design process. As such, we engaged with officials and people who are or were involved in the design of bus services. We have a network we want to consult on, and we are engaged with the National Disability Authority, NDA, about how we should go about engaging on the network with all the different groups, particularly those with a disability, while recognising this is a difficult message to get across in regard to the existing network versus the new network. We will take the NDA's advice on how we should carry out that consultation. We have engaged with the NDA about how we will go about that specific type of consultation.
Ms Graham said that was the design nature of the plan. Did the NTA not think it was relevant to engage disability groups at that stage of the design? Was their input not considered valuable or worth having at that stage?
Ms Anne Graham:
It is appropriate at this stage, now that we have a network plan about routing and interchange. Given we now have a proposal, we will put it forward to those different groups. Now is the appropriate time to engage with different groups on the impacts of the new network and whether those impacts can be mitigated in any way.
The Deputy asked about the appointment of a liaison officer for the consultation. There is a liaison team in the National Transport Authority, NTA, who are contactable through the BusConnects phone number. She also referred to MetroLink. Its liaison is being done through TII which also has liaison officers. We can forward their details to Deputy Munster.
Ms Anne Graham:
MetroLink is engaging with communities where needs be. Generally, they can answer questions over the phone if they are able. We want to direct people, where possible, to go to public meetings and engagement. If they are not in a position to do that, we will try to take the query over the phone. If we need to do other engagements, we will consider that.
The reason we had a group in this morning about MetroLink was that they said that the public consultation was flawed. They are very aggrieved at what they felt was a one-sided public consultation which flies in the face of what public consultations should be about. A public meeting is well and good but there could be hundreds descending on a room and depending on the meeting's format, and so on, it will not address all their concerns. They were not even aware that there was a liaison team never mind its contact phone number. Is Ms Graham saying that even at this stage, given the concerns about BusConnects and MetroLink, that she would not allow a meeting were someone to request one?
Ms Anne Graham:
If we can facilitate it, and I do not want to speak on behalf of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, where meetings can be facilitated, we will do so. On BusConnects, we have to cover the full Dublin region. We will not be able to meet every community, it is simply not possible, which is why we try to meet as many people as possible at the public meetings. Where there are individual queries or if there is a particular group that is unable to get to the public meetings, I am thinking of elderly groups and those representing people with disabilities, of course we will make arrangements for them separately. As far as it is possible, we will engage at public meetings and do follow ups by phone if there are particular difficulties. If a meeting is required for a particular group, we will try to facilitate that.
The reduction in direct services will be around 10%. That is across the city region. We have always said there is a trade-off between growing the orbital services with a small reduction in direct services to give people a better service overall.
The Luas extension to Lucan is in our strategy. Within the ten years of the national development plan, TII will work on a design for that, but it has not yet commenced.
There was a question about Lower Artane Cottages. That will be picked up in the bus corridors detailed consultation to take place in October.
Senator Devine asked that the consultation be extended. We will consider that. I am not sure if she referred to the maps provided in relation to the network or to the bus corridors, which is a separate consultation, for which detailed maps will be available although we do not have them now.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
There are no plans to dramatically change the type of fleet. Most of the buses will still be double deck buses. Single deck buses will come into use in some of the outer routes. Passenger demand on some routes might result in the use of a single deck rather than double deck but the vast majority will continue to be double deck buses.
We think that we will end up with electric buses but the technology is still not at the stage where we can get long distance, reliable services although there can be shorter routes by electric buses without difficulty. Technology is certainly improving and in a few years, we see that it will be a viable option in Dublin.
Ms Anne Graham:
We aim to implement whatever is the agreed network around the end of 2019-start of 2020. It is such an important network for the Dublin region, we would like to see its benefit accrue to the people of Dublin as soon as possible. That is our current timeframe.
I refer to Luas, transforming the city and trying to connect the bus network into the major stops. That is something that we are trying to do with this plan but if there are other ideas around that we would be happy to discuss them. There are details on the 17 route and getting the buses through the city centre which I will follow up on outside of the meeting. One of the objectives is to reduce the number of buses that go through the city centre because we recognise that it is difficult to get the current numbers through. Providing more orbital movements may also take the pressure off the city centre.
Deputy Catherine Murphy asked about her area. We used data, including POWSCAR data which is CSO data on the people's origins and destinations and used boarding and alighting data from Dublin Bus. The research is data-based and the proposal is to meet the origins and destinations in the travel people are doing, particularly to address the growth in orbital movements, and desired orbital movements, to make a trip. There is an overlay of peak services in addition to all-day services which may address some of the issues raised by Deputy Murphy. Mr. Creegan might care to add to this.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
There are two things that can be lost when we are trying to put so much information on the maps. The first is that the maps we have produced are midday service frequency maps. They show the network in the middle of the day, that is, it is the all-day service. Two things happen in addition to that. One is that the service on many of those routes is dialled up to a higher level and the intervals between buses is shorter and the other is that during peak hours, there are additional peak hour only services or routes. From the Cellbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth area there are six different services added into the system during peak hours. They contribute much of the capacity there of the current express buses. If the Deputy requires more information, it is available on one of the maps that went out. The routes are 324, 323, 325, 322, 326 and I may have missed one.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
They are peak time only going into the city centre, south docklands, UCD and other different combinations. They do not require a change of service. The C route which comes from Lucan and Cellbridge has direct services without needing to interchange.
The C3 and C4 route extends past Lucan. The C spine does not stop at Lucan and there is no need to change buses - the branches continue to wherever their termination point is. There was also a suggestion of a delay on C buses going through Chapelizod village. The C route bypasses Chapelizod village.
It is going to be replicated in another place. I refer to Lucan. The Celbridge bus does not come through Leixlip. The proposal is that it will. There is no room for a bus corridor because it is a narrow congested street. There are cluster and junction issues. I am making a general point using specifics. Have the junction and pinch point issues been looked at? Is that the kind of thing that will be looked at in the public consultation?
Ms Anne Graham:
We want to get those kinds of responses to highlight the issues we should look at in more detail. That is why we want the kind of feedback Deputy Murphy just gave us. Senator Ó Céidigh asked what success looks like. It is more people using public transport, buses in particular, and that is what we want to ensure happens. It is set up so we can provide for growth within the city and for more people using public transport.
On the financial implications, when we looked at the design initially we wanted to make the best use of the resources we have. We recognise now, though, that those resources may have to increase to deliver this network of services. There will be some financial implications but with the predicted growth in the number of people using public transport much of that will be covered by increased fare revenue. We also have to consider environmental implications in respect of greater use of buses but that will, hopefully, be offset by less use of cars and more efficient use of our road space. The key performance indicator is growth in public transport numbers.
On Senator Dolan's question, we mentioned earlier that we need to ensure this network of services also serves people with disabilities. We engaged with the NTA to see how we will engage with different disability groups on this network to explain the changes and to see what issues will arise for people with disabilities.
No, the ones that are coming, or have recently come, off the assembly line that people with disabilities - as will be known from yesterday - have serious concerns about. Those buses are going to be part of the rolling stock for this project, as things stand now.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
This is about bus services. Ms Graham and I were speaking about the need to work out a process of distributing this information appropriately and getting appropriate feedback on the services. On the buses, some have been purchased and manufactured. We had a large meeting yesterday at which there were some positives and some negatives about the new fleet. We have committed to making changes to address some of those concerns. We may not be able to address every one of them but we have committed to making changes - even to the buses that are already manufactured. It is down in many cases to colours, paints and things like that. The general type of double deck bus has not changed. It is down to finishes that we need to look at.
The Government and the Dáil have signed up to the Article 9 of the Convention. We are legally obliged to be moving in that way. Anything that does not move us in that direction, by a slip or whatever, is not a venial sin. It is unacceptable and we do not need to rehearse it any more.
Ms Anne Graham:
We will take that into account. We also fund the access officer in Dublin Bus and if we need to increase that level of service, particularly for issues on the network, and engagement, we will do that. Any help and assistance we need to put in place regarding these network changes will be put in place.
Ms Anne Graham:
I understand that. We are not necessarily going to give responses today but we take on board the points Senator Humphreys has raised. We need to hear these local issues to make improvements where we can on what is proposed. Deputy Lahart had a question on advertising. We have a radio advertisement to put in place and we will use other means of advertising to ensure we get extensive engagement on this. It is an important issue for the people that live in, work in and visit Dublin city. We are going to look at some of the issues raised for the committee.
Turning to engagement with the NBRU, and the other unions, in respect of work in Dublin Bus, our engagement is generally with the management of Dublin Bus. We expect those managers to engage then with the people working in the organisation. We expect that to continue at this stage but if there is a request for engagement with us, we will certainly consider that. Deputy Joan Collins asked about the public survey, the 12,000 people and that being 1% of the population. I am trying to remember what the question was.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We asked questions about the age and demographic of the respondents. There was quite a spread across age groups and areas so we were satisfied that we got very representative feedback from the survey. It was not skewed towards students, for example. There was a good spread across the age classes.
Ms Anne Graham:
It was an online survey.
The Deputy asked about the privatisation of routes in the future. There are no proposals to privatise routes. We do not consider that even the tendering we did recently relates to privatisation because the routes and the management of the routes still remain within the NTA. What is provided for is another operator operating within the Dublin region. In terms of the 2019 contract with Dublin Bus, we will be commencing engagement on it later this year to make a decision, as we are required to do under legislation related to the 2019 to 2024 contract.
When Ms Graham says that the NTA has no intention of privatising more routes, we can take it that she does not think any part of it is privatised. It is just that the terms and conditions of the employees will be changed by virtue of the change in operator.
Ms Anne Graham:
Not necessarily. As is currently the case, where 10% of the services will be operated by Go-Ahead, there will still be a right of transfer for the employees of Dublin Bus to move to that operator if they choose to do so under the TUPE regulations. In terms of the services that are provided, they are managed and are under contract with the NTA. We provide the contracts with the different operators. Currently, we have a contract with Dublin Bus that runs up to 2019 and we have a contract with Go-Ahead to operate 10% of services. A decision has to be made - it is part of the legislation - about what will happen after 2019.
I just want to tease this out ever so slightly. Ms Graham is not excluding the prospect of another operator coming in between now and 2019 or 2020 in the same way as Go-Ahead has entered the frame.
Ms Anne Graham:
Up to 2019, we remain with the current operator, which is Dublin Bus. Go-Ahead will commence operating services from this year onwards. The contract with Dublin Bus terminates because we are only allowed to put in a contract for five years. That is what is set out in our legislation. It is five years with Dublin Bus; it is a direct award. It means it does not go out to tender. We have to give notice by the end of this year whether we are changing that, whether there will be further competition or whether we will continue with the direct award. The process we have to undergo is set out in the legislation relating to the authority. We will commence it later this year.
This meeting is not about the matter I am about to raise but I will take the opportunity to tease it out a little. I have made the point about the livery, which caused a few chuckles. Perhaps people did not grasp the point completely. It was not about the colours - although the colours of the Dublin Bus livery, as Senator Dolan will know, are pretty significant - there was a great deal of investment and of communication with disability groups in designing it. When one drives around the city, Dublin Bus buses are instantly visible. That was one of the purposes of the choice of livery. We are not London, where the red bus is iconic. Dublin Bus is a semi-state, taxpayer-funded company. It is about ensuring that it is entitled to determine its own future as a taxpayer-funded company, notwithstanding the powers the NTA possesses. Theoretically, there could be a situation, if I am correct, whereby Dublin Bus could tender as an independent semi-State company for contracts outside this country.
I will conclude in a moment. I thank the Vice Chairman for the latitude. The NTA needs to recognise - I am sure it does - that there is a huge amount of sentiment in Dublin towards Dublin Bus. That is where the colour scheme came in. It was thought that the buses ought to remain identifiable regardless of what colours Dublin Bus chose to use. It is in the interest of consumers and of promoting positive competition between providers that consumers know the bus they are getting on is a Dublin Bus bus or a Go-Ahead bus when they are considering the service they receive.
A few months ago, I asked Ms Graham about the pay and terms and conditions of the Go-Ahead drivers and whether they would be the same as those of their counterparts in Dublin Bus. She stated that it was her understanding that they would but it was a matter between the operators and the employees. What flexibility is there?
Ms Anne Graham:
I am not sure whether I said that was my understanding. The terms and conditions of the Go-Ahead drivers is a matter for Go-Ahead, as the employer. If Dublin Bus drivers choose to move across to Go-Ahead under the TUPE regulations, as they may be entitled to do, their terms and conditions transfer with them. That is the situation.
We need to go through the other questions that have arisen. On the question about the livery, one thing we have to do on a statutory basis is create a single brand for public transport. It says we "shall" create a single brand. That is what is set out in our legislation.
Ms Anne Graham:
It says "shall". The provision is that we shall present a single transport brand. The reason for that is based on consumers. If there are multiple operators - I am not saying that is what we propose but we now have two operators in Dublin - we feel the people and customers of Dublin would like to see a single livery across the Dublin region because it then looks like a more integrated service. That is why, as part of the BusConnects programme, we decided to consider a single livery. It is part of the discussions we are having with Dublin Bus.
Who will make the decisions after 2019 in the context of the next five-year contract and what goes out for what I will call privatisation? There seems to be disagreement about what constitutes privatisation.
Ms Anne Graham:
Another point raised by Deputy Eamon Ryan concerned cyclists. They are not an afterthought in our plans. They are certainly very much part of the plans that we want to deliver for public transport. We already indicated that more than 230 km of segregated cycle facilities would be put in place as part of the BusConnects programme. I think that covers all the main questions that were asked.
I have two other questions. The first concerns the inconvenience caused by transferring from one bus to another and then another. That is a bigger issue of people with disabilities. Does the NTA have an idea of the number of people with disabilities who will be affected? The other question is about the NTA's consultants, Jarrett Walker + Associates, and that firm's track record in designing and advising on accessible public transport systems. Sin a bfhuil.
I made a point on viewing the proposed network. The connectivity of the east coast is certainly very well catered for. As one moves out towards the west, however, one can see how working-class estates are particularly stripped of buses. In the outlying areas, one leaves the main routes and depends on 28-seat feeder buses. How does that constitute connectivity?
It is important to clarify this. The submission we received says that the plethora of local services suggested in this plan will use 40 new 28-seat single-decker buses, a big reduction on the current double-decker fleet.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
Those are full-length single-decker vehicles. The 28-seat configuration allows more standing space. There are two main purposes for which we intend to use them. One is to reach areas double-decker buses will have difficulty servicing, areas with steep hills or on the fringes of Dublin. The other area where those buses may be used is in the O-ring, that is, the new concept of the inner orbital route. The reason for that is that there is a low bridge, so a single-deck vehicle is needed.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
It is between 50 and 70. Those are the typical single-deck vehicles seen in many other cities. They offer more standing space, which is particularly appropriate in O-ring, which is envisioned as a jump-on, jump-off service. That is the purpose for which those vehicles are earmarked. At the moment, 40 of those vehicles are on order. That is out of a fleet on the order of 1,000 vehicles. It is a very small percentage of the overall fleet.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Senator Dolan asked whether we know how many disabled people will have to interchange. The honest answer is "No". Part of this network design will bring in new people that are not able to use the current network. We simply do not know that figure. He also asked if we interrogated Mr. Walker's experience in accessible design. The honest answer is that he is highly experienced in designing public transport but we did not specifically inquire about the details of his experience in that area.
I wish to very briefly raise a couple of questions I asked earlier and that the witnesses have omitted to answer. One concerns the direct city service commuter town links. If the NTA omits them, what will be done to prevent a private operator coming in to fill this gap? There are a lot of commuter towns that are serviced by direct links at present. If passengers will now be obliged to interchange once or twice, there is an opportunity for a private operator to come in.
In regard to the branding of the buses and the legislation's use of the word "shall", are the witnesses aware that Dublin Bus has said it has no objection to other operators using the Dublin Bus brand? The NTA is proposing to change 90% of the fleet to accommodate 10%. Would it not be better to use the branding that is currently on 90% for the 10%? It would certainly make an awful lot more economic sense, given the fact that the Dublin Bus brand is so highly thought of.
When I made a suggestion about Google Maps, Mr. Gaston said that the NTA is in the process of developing a tool. I think Ms Graham used words to the effect that the NTA hopes to develop a tool that will enable users to take a virtual journey on the new network. When does the NTA hope to develop that? The consultation process has commenced. I would have thought that would be developed in advance of the consultation process, not midway through or, heaven forbid, at the end. I ask the witnesses to update us on that.
I thank the Vice Chairman for leniency. Finally, the witnesses said that only a certain percentage of journeys would need an interchange. They said that a percentage of those interchanges will be at the same hub. Do they know at present what percentage of journeys will need an interchange? Do they know what percentage of those interchanges will take place at the same hub? What percentage will require a walk of 100 m? What percentage will require a walk of 400 m? That distance is the parameter the NTA uses in saying that 1 million of its passengers will be within 400 m of a bus stop.
The witnesses will correct me if I am wrong, but I think they said that there will be no new fleet. I imagine there would be a huge demand for additional buses to ensure that this works. What additional buses will be required? Are the witnesses confident that a multi-annual capital budget will be put in place to ensure that the additional buses required to make this work will be available?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I should have been more precise. When I said there would be no new fleet, I meant there would no new type of fleet. The double-decker bus fleet will be the main workhorse for the future. Extra buses are definitely needed and the budget is in place. We are purchasing extra buses this year and we will be doing so next years. The fleet will be there to deliver this.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
We are finessing the tool that is being developed. We hope to have that online within the next few days. If people have comments and want to see other things on it, we will certainly look at those suggestions as well. We will have a tool that gives a similar output to what is used in the report, that is, an isochrone map showing the area to which users can travel with the routes laid on top of that.
Ms Anne Graham:
Finally, we do not know have the percentage of journeys that will require interchange and the percentage that will require a walk of 100 m or 400 m. That is not available at this stage. When we carry out a more detailed assessment the distance between interchanges will be much more apparent. For the moment, we have not put that level of detail in place for this network.
Deputy Troy posed a question about a commercial operators.
Ms Anne Graham:
Operators are entitled to put forward applications at any stage. Even now they can apply for a licence to provide any particular service in the Dublin region and it will be considered on the basis of the network we currently have when they make their application. If we are to change the network, that may also be taken into account.
However, the difference is that there is no incentive for a commercial operator to come in where a route is adequately serviced by Dublin Bus. If we change from a direct-link route, various towns will not be adequately serviced and there will be an incentive for commercial operators.
Ms Anne Graham:
There is a misperception that we will not serve communities. We want to ensure we service communities. We are talking about improving the service overall for the Dublin region. If an operator felt there was an opportunity where we are not serving, we would be disappointed with that because we would want to ensure we are serving the wider community with this proposed network.
I have a question on the interchanges. I find it hard to figure out where these interchanges will be located given that it will involve turning circles and queuing. Some of the locations look tight. Are they likely to be in places such as the Blanchardstown centre where there is already congestion getting in and out? When will the NTA have information on interchange locations and facilities?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We have it at the moment. The report outlines where the key interchanges will be. For example, there will be an interchange at Liffey Valley on the north side of the shopping centre and, therefore, it will be possible to access the C route which is on the N4 corridor. Blanchardstown is also a key hub and will have an interchange - it already has at some level. We are conscious of the need to ensure speedy access for the bus in and out, and we will be doing that in parallel. We cannot overlook designing the right system just because we need to do something else; we will do the something else as soon as we are able to.
Other interchange locations are where the spines cross an orbital, for example where Collins Avenue crosses Swords Road. That is a place where people will interchange; it is a bit different from a shopping centre. In those cases we will move the bus stops as close as possible to the junctions because in some cases they are too far away. We will ensure there is a bus shelter at each location. We will ensure we have a pedestrian crossing at the shortest route we can get between each of those locations. We intend to put all that in place before we launch the network at the end of 2019 or the start of 2020.
I acknowledge that there is a congestion problem and it is the role of the NTA to try to alleviate that. There are some pinch points where Luas, buses, taxis, pedestrians, cyclists and motor cars are competing with each other. Deputies and Senators are looking for greenways and trying to provide clean air in Dublin, which we support. In the meantime our infrastructure is not up to the standard of other European countries.
Irrespective of whether there is a traffic jam, pedestrians will now be stopped crossing the road when the light is red. Has the NTA considered putting in underground walkways in parts of the city? O'Connell Street was busy with fast traffic in its heyday. An underground pedestrian access from one side of the street to the other would take out one element of traffic lights and keep traffic moving.
Ms Anne Graham:
It has not been considered as part of this project or on our infrastructure. The only place where we have looked at is related to the MetroLink project where we are bringing in a rail service at grade and where we need to provide pedestrian and cycling facilities to cross that rail line. An underpass or an overpass is part of the existing preferred route. However, we are not considering any proposals for underpass in the city centre.
We were here when the NTA launched the core bus corridors project. I do not want to rehearse that. A month later we had a consultation about the network redesign. One of the first comments I read in the press was that every route would be affected. Did the two project teams in the NTA work hand-in-hand to put these two reports out? Ms Graham told Senator Devine that the core bus project would not come out until afterwards, which may be understandable. Why are the consultations not being held in conjunction with each other? The NTA seems to be putting the cart before the donkey. The NTA is proposing widening roads where people might lose their front gardens to find space for more car parking and upgrades for cyclists, which is welcome. Would it not have been better to hold that report back until the NTA had the routes finalised? What it has done has put the fear of God into three quarters of Dublin.
Ms Anne Graham:
We put forward the bus corridor proposals as a discussion document to alert people that this was a project we were considering as part of the BusConnects programme. The Vice Chairman is right that we need to know what bus network we are talking about and what we want to deliver. The bus network and its main spines align with the bus corridors we are considering and the improvements we want to make on the bus corridors. The work on the bus network has been done and we wanted to get that out for consultation.
We also wanted earlier in the process to alert people that when we are talking about the bus corridors, which is a different part of the programme, there will be an impact along those corridors. We wanted to alert people and there will be more detail available in October, rather than waiting until October when we would have just completed the BusConnects network consultation and then start into the bus corridors. People would be alarmed if we suddenly launched the bus corridors proposal. It is all part of one programme of improvements. There is some confusion between the two. They form two separate parts of the programme, but they complement one another.
Residents and business owners in Dublin have been watching this closely. When they look at the bus corridors they will see these blue routes earmarked as being permanently in place. At the same time the NTA is asking for a redesign, which is causing confusion.
Ms Anne Graham:
That was not our intention. We wanted to put forward both proposals so that when people were considering the network they know we will also look at the corridors, making improvements in the bus and cycling facilities, recognising that it will impact on the property of people living along those corridors.
The NTA gave an indication of routes in the first project and now they are being changed again.
I thank the witnesses for their time. In particular, I thank the NTA officials who were waiting so long. They were here before lunch and sat idly outside even though I presume they were still working away.
We will take a sos for 15 minutes and return with the representatives of the unions.