Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Development
Flooding at Ballycar on the Galway-Limerick Railway and Investment in Heavy Rail: Discussion (Resumed)
I welcome our guests witnesses and thank those who have travelled at a time when the country is experiencing the effects of Storm Diana. Before the committee are: from Geological Survey Ireland, Mr. Koen Verbruggen, director, and Dr. Ted McCormack, groundwater flood programme; from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Mr. John Fitzgerald, principal; from Clare County Council, Ms Carmel Kirby, director of physical development, and Mr. John Leahy, senior engineer, roads and transportation department; from Iarnród Eireann, Mr. Jim Meade, chief executive, and Mr. Colin Hedderly, senior track and structures engineer; and from the Office of Public Works, OPW, Mr. John Sydenham, commissioner, Mr. Liam Basquille, principal, engineering services, and Mr. Cian O'Donaill, south-west regional engineer.
I remind witnesses, staff, members and those in the Gallery to turn off their mobile phones or switch them to flight mode. They interfere with the sound system and make it difficult for parliamentary reporters to report the meeting as well as affecting the television broadcast and web stream.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact 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. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They 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 House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. It is proposed that any submissions, opening statements or other documents supplied by the witnesses to the committee be published on the committee website.
On 23 May 2018, the committee held a public meeting on the question of flooding at Ballycar on the Galway-Limerick railway and investment in heavy rail. The committee has also engaged with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Transport Authority. Six months later, we resume our hearing and we have invited the same organisation back to update the committee on progress in mitigating the flood risk at Ballycar.
The first railway in Ireland and the first suburban railway in the world was opened in 1834 and is still in use today, 184 year later. That is the Dublin to Dún Laoghaire line. It seems that we need to take a very long view when considering investment in heavy rail, which is capital expenditure with a long-term payback. Members of this committee have spoken of the closure of railway lines in the Border regions including Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, the Derry route, which gave a fast connection between Derry and Dublin, and the Sligo-Leitrim railway, some of which were closed because of the policy of the then Government of Northern Ireland. This made the remaining sections of the railway line in the South non-viable. Members also spoke of the closure of the west Cork railway, which makes it difficult to travel from west Cork to Dublin and back in one day.
It is not all bad news, however. Many railway lines were closed only to be reopened years later. The Harcourt Street line was closed in 1958; a member of this committee travelled on one of the last trains on that line. Part of the line with a cross-city link to the Broadstone line, which closed to passengers in 1936, is now one of the busiest in the country. The lines from Cork to Midleton and Dublin to Dunboyne, the Phoenix Park tunnel and the Galway-Limerick line were all reopened in recent years. However, the Galway-Limerick line is regularly closed due to groundwater flooding at Ballycar. These line closures are all too frequent and cast doubt on the viability of further investment in the western rail corridor. This means the certainty of supply that rail passengers expect is simply not there. I hope the organisations here today will indicate their willingness to work together to mitigate this flood risk at Ballycar.
The flood mitigation measures, which could reduce the flood risk to an acceptable level, would be to lower the water level by draining Ballycar Lough to the sea via Lough Gash, to raise the railway, or a combination of the two. The committee would also like to receive an update on heavy rail investment plans. The Geological Survey of Ireland, GSI, is the lead agency for groundwater flooding, which occurs in karst, or limestone, areas. I look forward to hearing what progress is being made with the study on this flooding which occurs in the west of Ireland, in south Galway, areas of Mayo, Roscommon and the neighbouring counties and, in particular, in Ballycar, County Clare.
I call Mr. Koen Verbruggen to make his opening statement on behalf of the Geological Survey of Ireland, GSI.
Mr. Koen Verbruggen:
I have sent the committee an update on the statement we provided in May. I will not read through the full statement but will focus on the main update.
As the Chairman noted, we have taken a lead on groundwater flooding because of our work on the groundwater programme which prior to this had focused on groundwater pollution and protection issues. We are working a great deal with the EPA and Irish Water.
In 2016, A Programme for a Partnership Government, under the area of climate change and flooding, contained an objective on turlough systems, namely, that the Government “will provide resources to the OPW to commission studies into individual problematic (prone to flooding) Turlough systems, if requested by a local authority or another relevant State agency.” That is what our programme has been designed to do.
The GSI has progressed this to the point of near completion of the first phase. In the first quarter of 2019, GSI will deliver groundwater flood maps to the OPW as required under second implementation cycle of the EU Floods Directive. That has involved instrumenting up to 60 of these turloughs. We have had data loggers and have also developed a methodology for studying them which uses the European Space Agency's Copernicus Programme data which enables us to look back at the historical record and create stage maps to display how they have responded. They are quite complex as they behave quite differently to river flooding which is much more flashy and responds indirectly to groundwater.
On the monitoring side, we now have realtime data from more than 12 of these turloughs and from the flood mapping. The mapping for the whole country will be complete by the first quarter of 2019.
On the flooding at Ballycar, the turlough is included in the GSI's flood mapping operations using the Copernicus Programme data which we demonstrated to the committee on the last occasion with slides. The turlough, as well as some other flood prone areas along the western railway corridor, is being monitored using Copernicus satellite imagery. This monitoring technique is still being developed but preliminary data for Ballycar turlough is available to the OPW and Irish Rail.
We have been invited to take part in the technical subcommittee meetings regarding the flooding and will attend the next meeting on 17 December in Ennis when we will provide an update and ensure that the data is being used.
I thank Mr. Verbruggen for his very informative presentation, his engagement in the process and for taking the issue very seriously. The National Parks and Wildlife Service can address the risk to special areas of conservation downstream from Ballycar around Lough Gash and Newmarket-on-Fergus, down to the River Fergus and the Shannon Estuary. I call on Mr. John Fitzgerald to make his opening statement on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Mr. John Fitzgerald:
I thank the committee for its invitation to attend today. Our Department has not had a central involvement in this project to date. At the committee's meeting last May, I set out some general background for information on how certain sites of nature conservation value are protected, the role of our Minister in nature conservation and as a prescribed body under planning law and also in relation to environmental assessments. While our Department does not have a decision-making role in the technical funding and planning consents in relation to any project that might emerge in respect of Ballycar, I wish to reiterate that the Department fully appreciates the importance of this issue and is more than willing to work with the proponents of any project that may emerge in a constructive fashion on this matter.
I understand that there is a joint statement by Clare County Council, the Office of Public Works and Irish Rail, which is responsible for maintenance of the railway. I now call on Ms Carmel Kirby to make her opening statement on behalf of three bodies.
Ms Carmel Kirby:
It was agreed by the three agencies concerned, Iarnród Éireann, Clare County Council and the Office of Public Works, OPW, to deliver a joint opening statement to the committee. We welcome the opportunity to update the committee on developments since May 2018 when we previously attended.
Clare County Council was requested at that time to facilitate a process and to reconvene as a steering group to move the issue towards a resolution. Clare County Council engaged with Iarnród Éireann and the Office of Public Works over the summer months, with a formal meeting early in October and a further meeting earlier this month. The latter was attended by Clare County Council, Iarnród Éireann, OPW, Shannon Group and RPS, the consultants to Iarnród Éireann.
RPS has been engaged by Iarnród Éireann to develop a feasible engineering solution to the flooding issue at Ballycar. The consultants have been given a more wide-ranging and a broader remit to include consideration of the downstream impacts and also to develop measures to mitigate against any potential impacts in the Shannon area of any proposed solution. A technical subgroup has been set up to liaise directly with the consultants, and technical input will also be provided by the Geological Survey of Ireland.
The updated report will take account of the following, as necessary: the Shannon CFRAM study, including the Shannon Estuary North and Mal Bay River basin district hydrological study and the flood risk management plan for river basin, 27/28, Shannon Estuary North and Mal Bay; recently completed and ongoing schemes, including Ennis - The River Fergus Lower (Ennis) certified drainage scheme; the Ennis South flood relief scheme and other arterial drainage schemes and drainage districts; and any Land Commission embankments that may be in the study area.
Further meetings have been scheduled for December 2018 and February 2019. RPS is to finalise its new report and present proposals to Iarnród Éireann in the spring of 2019. From this report, the most appropriate technically feasible option to address the Ballycar flooding issue will be considered by the bodies.
This represents the joint position of the three bodies. We are committed to the concept of sustainability and to the delivery of optimum service of key strategic infrastructure and will continue to work together to resolve the problem on the rail line at Ballycar.
I thank Ms Kirby. I welcome the progress made and the attendance of officials from the various agencies. The progress shows what can be done when State organisations work together. There is more to be done on this issue but it is satisfying to see that dates are set, meetings have been held, authorities are taking responsibility and a solution is in sight. It is important the solution is identified, funded and placed on a plan to be implemented.
I understand that a draft regional strategy is under way. It is an important document and it is important that this key improvement in the infrastructure between Ennis and Limerick is resolved and identified in the document and that funding is forthcoming. Will Ms Kirby confirm if Clare County Council has made a submission on this or is it its intention to do so? What is her broad view on this?
We are beginning to see momentum on this. I commend the members of the committee who have supported me, as Chairman, in shining a light on the issue and in seeking that a plan be put in place for its resolution.
Given that we have made some progress, it is important we keep that momentum going. The working group has been formed and it is actively engaged. A consultant has been appointed and is putting together a report which, ultimately, will come up with a recommendation and a solution. That working group will report back to this committee once that report is published. I ask for the support of members in this regard.
Will Ms Kirby address the question I asked on the draft regional spatial and economic strategy, RESES? If other members have any comments to make, they may do so.
Ms Carmel Kirby:
My understanding is that the draft regional spatial and economic strategy is due for public consultation at the end of next week, that it includes enhancing regional accessibility through upgrading transport infrastructure and that the transport investment priorities for the Limerick-Shannon metropolitan area set out in this RESES, include the development and promotion of existing intercity rail and commuter links between Limerick and Galway, including Ennis. It does not specifically mention the infrastructure that will be needed at Ballycar to alleviate the flooding there. Mr. Jim Meade in Iarnród Éireann might wish to comment on that by making a submission to the draft RESES when it comes out at the end of next week. Clare County Council would support a submission to the RESES on that.
Mr. Jim Meade:
We would welcome the opportunity to look for funding through that forum. We always look at any funding streams that become available to see where we can add to our current funding stream. We will make an application, as appropriate. Once we have the correct solution, we do not mind where the funding comes from if we can solve this once and for all.
Mr. Jim Meade:
Irish Rail is fully committed to this project. It has been there for a long time. If there was an easy solution, it would have been done a long time ago. We are very happy to be part of the group. There is a positivity about the group to look for a solution to this. It is not Clare County Council's, OPW's or Irish Rail's problem. It is our problem and that is the way we are approaching this. We will give it whatever resources it needs to get to the end result.
I thank the group for its work on this. It is clear that it is going to be a combination of raising the rail line in some places and drainage, with some means of mitigating against the flooding in the other areas. Is there any idea of the costs involved or the breakdown as to where this will end up? One of the things that always jumps out at us in these things is if there is going to be a very high cost. What are the expected costs?
Mr. Jim Meade:
We have just given the revised terms of reference to RPS. It is working out the scope of work with the technical team, which has a member from each of the four groups on it. The plan is to first work out the solutions and to understand what is a permanent solution and then start costing those solutions. At that stage we will review what is the most viable option. We do not want to limit the thought process around it by saying one has only €1 million, €10 million or €100 million to deal with this. Initially, we want to know what the correct solution is.
I thank the group for its presentation and I have a number of questions. Mr. Verbruggen said he was going to do analysis. Has the analysis started? Is it nearly done? How long will it take? Is there agreement on the scope of work RPS is doing? Is it just to deal with the railway or with flooding as a wider issue? I know he is using the framework that has been done. At the end of the day, it is good to see a joint statement from the group and that a number of the group may be starting work together. In the context of whether there will be a requirement for planning, when will RPS be finished? In fairness to the OPW and the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, have been pro-active in trying to solve problems. Will the cost-benefit analysis that bogs down so many schemes be a problem? What I am trying to get to the nub of the issue here, and Mr. Meade said he is taking responsibility. If it means raising the line, will that be done with Iarnród Éireann's funds or where will this funding be coming from? We are six months on and it is good to see the group members talking to each other but diggers on the railway line or on the ground are needed to get work done. When will work start to the job done? RPS, with which I have worked on bogs around the country, is only getting guidance now and it is a slow procedure. Are we going to be here this time next year wondering about this with the line flooded? I want to see dates, times and whether the money is going to be brought forward, regardless of who has to cough up with the plan.
Geological Survey of Ireland, GSI, has done monitoring in different places, but some of this monitoring goes on for two to three years. Does GSI have the data it needs now or is it starting to put it together now? Perhaps I picked Mr. Verbruggen up wrong.
Mr. Koen Verbruggen:
As the Deputy knows from the work we are doing in Roscommon, this programme was scheduled to run for three years. The date of delivery to have those flood maps available is the first quarter of next year. That is on track. We have prioritised the Ballycar area after this, so we will have those flood maps available for the December meeting. That analysis has been-----
Mr. Jim Meade:
There are a couple of questions to answer there. RPS, as the Deputy will be aware, did a study a few years ago and has a lot of data collected on this already. We have just expended some of its terms of reference. It is on the case as we speak. I would envisage that it would have the job completed in six months. That is our target timeline.
Mr. Fitzgerald may be able to come in on this. Obviously, there will be screening out and appropriate EIAs. Could Mr. Fitzgerald let me know if there is any word of IROPI stuff or anything like that? Are there any problems like that ahead of it?
Mr. John Fitzgerald:
It is very hard to comment in the abstract without knowing what the engineering solutions that arise might be. We are happy to get involved with the proponents at the early stages to help provide information that would be needed by them and to give guidance in relation to assessments. We are happy to get involved in any discussions.
In the absence of any proposals, it is difficult to comment on what might be the effect on Natura 2000 sites.
Mr. Jim Meade:
As already stated, we expect RPS to have finished its work in six months. That is when we will have the solution and when we will start applying for funding. Iarnród Éireann does not have the funding to do this and it is not provided for in our current five-year financial planning. This will be supplementary funding from an area yet to be decided. We will go back to the Department and ultimately the Government with this proposal and then funding will be provided. We do not have funding for this at present.
Can Mr. Meade outline the effect of the stoppages? There have not been services for five or six weeks at a time. Any service, including the DART, is the subject of occasional problems. There are leaves on the line, all sorts of things break down, physical accidents occur and so on. We all know that any transport system has the odd one-day stoppage. It is an inconvenience but it does not affect passenger trends. Has Iarnród Éireann done any quantification of the effect of stoppages on passenger trends? In other words, do people return in the same numbers after the long stoppages or does Iarnród Éireann lose passengers in the long term? Does it take time to build up confidence in the system when these long outages take place?
My second question relates to National Parks and Wildlife Service. Mr. Meade indicates that the RPS study will be done in six months. Will that include proofing with the various agencies who will have to have an input, particularly the National Parks and Wildlife Service, so that when we get the report it is a question of funding? Alternatively, will it be a question of going around the agencies to find other ecological problems with the proposed solutions and so on? That should form part of the study. I would rather wait nine months to get an answer that is comprehensive to all the agencies and is ready for application for funding.
It is amazing how humans can make life awfully complicated. We all pay tax into a central fund called the Exchequer. I cannot understand how we have created so many streams. The sources of funding are like the Nile Delta. It all starts at one point and it all goes to one place, that is, the people. There are a million little rivers, rivulets and islands for all the funding to go through. It goes to this one and to that one. I will put a simple proposal to our guests. We should look for funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. That is what it is there for. All these bidding wars are manna from heaven for consultants. Ultimately, all the money will come from us, the taxpayers, through the Exchequer. Perhaps the committee could suggest to the Government that it should take the simple course. If this needs to be funded it should be done through one agency that can provide the money overnight so that Iarnród Éireann can get on with the job.
I wish to comment on the investment in the wider context of this railway line. This reminds me of the argument about the piers on Inis Mór. A small island of 1,000 people has one of the busiest ports in the country. Was it justified? The answer is that we either build a pier or we do not. It costs whatever it costs. The Atlantic does not know how many people are on the island, it just knows how to send in waves. An all-weather pier that would do the job would require a certain configuration. We have had some fantastic storms since and nothing has moved in the harbour, thanks be to God. There could be extreme weather events anywhere in the system. The same problem that was mentioned by our guests exists at Bray Head in Wicklow. It is a constant problem there. Protecting from a one-in-1,000 or one-in-10,000 storm situation will take whatever it takes and we should not be shy about spending money. Iarnród Éireann is lucky that it works on land. Things would be very different if it had to operate in the ocean.
I would not like to see us spend the money and not have the service. That relates to another issue in Iarnród Éireann's port. I am always a little puzzled by this "intercity" tag. I mentioned this to our guests previously. We keep talking about the trains from Dublin to Galway, from Dublin to Sligo and from Limerick to Galway as intercity. I would hazard a guess that the customers on some of those lines are like passengers travelling from Greystones to Dublin. A large number of them are commuters. The big growth is accounted for by commuters because a commuter tends to commute ten times a week, five times in each direction. The intercity traveller, as we conventionally understood matters, went to a city perhaps once every three weeks or once a month. Comparing one with the other, we find a 20:1 ratio in some cases.
A doubling of the track from Athenry to Galway was mentioned. Looking at the passenger figures on the Athenry to Galway-----
Having spent €50 million, €100 million or whatever, we then need to ensure that the line is heavily used. The numbers are growing and I thank Iarnród Éireann for that. However, we need to discuss this. I see the issue coming. I see it in discussions of rural broadband. The cost in rural Ireland is always the big issue. The questions are how much it is going to cost and whether we can afford it in rural Ireland. The answer to that is that if a heap of people travel on the line, which we can achieve by pursuing other infrastructural developments in tandem, the line will be well-used and will perform much better in a cost-benefit analysis. That is what I am saying. It is very important to Ballycar that there are a lot of passengers.
That is a point well made. Before the officials answer Deputy Ó Cuív, I note that Deputy Fitzmaurice posed a question to the OPW and wants a response. Would the Deputy like to remind the representatives from OPW of his question?
I refer to the cost-benefit analysis. We must be careful to note that a bigger scheme could alleviate flooding for farmland as well as the railway track. Who is the OPW working with on it? Is the OPW to any applications on this? Will it take into account the number of passengers and the value of the line if an application is submitted?
Mr. John Sydenham:
The issue of cost-benefit analysis has been mentioned by previous speakers. We are in the process of developing the scheme. As members may be aware, it is a broader scheme. The original scheme involved raising the railway line. There were questions around whether that would solve the problem completely. The general consensus was that it would alleviate but not completely eradicate the issue. RPS is now looking at a broader scheme which will potentially have a far better impact, keeping the railway line in that catchment area open for longer. Due to the fact that it is a larger scheme, we logically conclude that it will be more expensive. Having said that, we have not seen the final scheme. The technical viability of the scheme is one thing, the cost is something else. Those two things can be determined reasonably quickly and are quite clear. Issues arise when the benefits are considered. Mention has been made of the rail link's importance to the region, the spatial strategy and all of that. I do not wish to dictate how this is looked at, but it is important that all benefits, tangible and intangible, are looked at very carefully. The gap between the costs and the benefits will have to be taken in to consideration. That is the answer to Deputy Fitzmaurice's question. We have to look seriously at the cost and the benefits. There is an issue if the gap between the two is substantial.
As has been said, we are spending taxpayers' money and we have to look very carefully at economic viability. That said, we will look at anything with an open mind and I can give that assurance. The agencies are working very well together and it is important we look at all aspects of the costs and benefits of this and then make decisions on how it will be taken forward.
Deputy Ó Cuív made a number of points. He directed one to Irish Rail on the number of passengers lost through rail line closure. He made a very good point on whether all aspects of the proposal will be looked at by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Will the proposal be shovel-ready and ready for funding? He also made a point on the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport funding the entire scheme and I would support this. I would support anyone who can pay for it doing so.
Mr. Jim Meade:
It is quite correct that when the flooding occurs, it is not just for a few days. As we all know, without going into the history of what and why, the shortest flooding was seven weeks and it has been for up to 15 or 16 weeks in some cases. The numbers trend on the line is up, which is positive. People are migrating towards public transport and we see this. When the line is closed, we put on bus services and alternative options are sought by the travelling public. When the line reopens in April or May it could take until autumn before the numbers come back fully because people do not change overnight. It could be having an impact on the overall numbers because people must keep changing. This was the point being made. If we trend it over several years, the numbers are rising. Were there no disruption to the line, it is a fair assessment that the numbers might rise even further because it would be people's normal mode of travel. The substitutions are not as slick or clean as the train because people are chopping and changing between buses and trains.
When the report is finished it will be with the agreement of everybody. There will be nobody outside the tent stating it does not agree with it. That is our plan and it is being led by Clare County Council to ensure we all sign off on it, subject to any planning process the solution may require. When we come back with a solution to get the funding we may have to go into a planning process.
I fully welcome the support of the committee to help us get funding. We do not mind who gives it to us. We are not fussy. Once we get funding and if the committee can help us achieve it, we will take it with open arms.
I thank the witnesses for coming before the committee again for what has been a productive meeting. It is important that the committee is kept briefed on progress and I ask the witnesses to do this through the clerk.
We need to hold on to Mr. Meade and his team from Irish Rail for the next section of the meeting on opportunities for investment in heavy rail and I invite him to make his opening statement on this topic.
Mr. Jim Meade:
As I advised the committee in May, while the national development plan details funding of €2 billion for the DART expansion programme, this refers to the physical location of these works. The benefits of the programme are national and network-wide, giving more capacity for more services on all lines through improved infrastructure and a fleet expansion of almost 50%.
Rather than reiterate the scope of that investment, I will advise the committee of developments in the meantime and how these will benefit the national heavy rail services we provide. Most importantly, the continuing improvement in our funding situation means that we may approach the steady-state funding scenario targeted under the national development plan for 2021 two years ahead of schedule in 2019. This means we will be properly funded to maintain our network and fleet, protecting what are vital national infrastructure assets.
We will introduce an additional Dublin to Sligo service in each direction on weekdays from Monday, 10 December, which we hope will mark the beginning of a period of intercity frequency expansion. Further service expansion on the Sligo and Westport lines would be desirable, to hourly services between Dublin and Sligo and two-hourly services between Dublin and Westport. Fleet investment under the national development plan will free up some of our intercity fleet being used in the Dublin commuter area to assist in service expansion. However, further study would be required on infrastructure requirements to facilitate such frequent services.
On the Rosslare to Dublin line, there may be scope for additional daytime services to be modelled within the constraints of the existing intensively operated DART service. Strategically, we are also working with local authorities on the route to address the medium to long-term strategies required to protect the line from coastal erosion, with 45% of the route in a coastal or estuarine environment.
Iarnród Éireann also has an ambition to increase frequency of Galway to Dublin services to hourly, and the Galway transport strategy of the National Transport Authority and the Galway local authorities targets that rail services will be increased in frequency, subject to passenger demand and usage. This would encompass enhanced frequency of Galway to Athenry commuter services. Double-tracking would facilitate this, with an interim measure of a passing loop and second platform at Oranmore to give a commuter frequency of up to every 15 minutes.
This leads me to other service enhancements possible in our other regional cities. The National Transport Authority is also preparing a draft Cork transport study, which will include additional stations to be provided in tandem with development, and other measures to enhance frequency of services. We have been working closely with Waterford City and County Council on the plans for the Waterford north quays, which incorporate a relocation of Plunkett Station as part of an integrated transport hub. We are progressing signalling and station layout designs to accommodate increased service frequency, and look forward to being part of an exciting development for the city and the region and public transport services for both.
At Limerick, the transportation hub is targeted for completion, with rail services from Galway, Ennis, Limerick Junction and Dublin feeding into this. We are assisting the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the preparation of a feasibility report and business study on the development of the Athenry to Claremorris line. We are working to terms of reference established by the Department. Iarnród Éireann has advertised for, and will appoint, a consultant to undertake a financial and economic appraisal. This appointment will be made, and the appraisal will commence, by early January. The study will take 20 weeks. Thereafter, this will be subject to a peer review by the Department to complete the overall study.
Work on our new national control centre has commenced. This will see a new operations control and customer information centre established in Heuston Station to cover the entire network, and through modern technology will ensure we have a control centre equipped to enhance service performance and cater for the expansions in services planned over the coming decade and beyond.
We are also preparing plans for a comprehensive renewal of track on the Cork to Dublin route over the coming years. The objectives of the track relaying programme is to renew up to 220 miles of track so as to provide a reliable and sustainable track infrastructure to allow optimisation of the line speeds with an associated reduction in journey times where possible. This will further enhance Cork, Kerry, Limerick and west of Ireland services. A summary of the main benefits of this track relaying programme are more reliable track infrastructure, with an optimisation of line speeds to 100 mph to facilitate reductions in journey times; replacement of aged infrastructure with a minimum life cycle of 30 years; future-proofing for anticipated increased utilisation of the route in the short, medium and longer terms; and improved, sustainable and reliable infrastructure for our customers on a key commuter and intercity route.
This approach will provide a model for further asset renewal and journey time improvement around our network. This is a summary of our plans for the intercity and regional cities network, separate to the critical requirements in the greater Dublin area commuter belt. I am happy to answer any questions the Chairman and committee members may have.
I am sorry to harp on about the Limerick to Ennis line, but it is very important. There is a possibility that a spur to Shannon Airport could be established. A feasibility study was carried out a number of years ago. Could the issue be revisited? Would it be possible to carry out another feasibility study? Such a line would make the mid-west region more attractive. Connectivity to Shannon Airport would open up County Galway and the entire mid-west, including Limerick. It is something that should be considered. Perhaps Mr. Meade might comment on it. At the last meeting I recall him making the comment that there were plans to increase the frequency of services between Ennis and Limerick. That could be done by having a passing point somewhere along the track. Have such plans been advanced?
What will the development of a transportation hub in Limerick mean? Mr. Meade has included Galway, Ennis and Cork. Will he explain what it means and indicate how advanced the plans are?
My colleague Senator Coffey cannot be here, but he has asked me to ask a question about the north quays in Waterford and the proposal to relocate Plunkett Station there. He welcomes the advancement of that project, but how far along the road is it? There has been much engagement between the city and county councils which he says is very encouraging. He understands an integrated transport hub will be created at that location. Will Mr. Meade expand on the issue?
Mr. Jim Meade:
A study was carried out in the early 2000s of the feasibility of providing a spur to Shannon Airport. The result of the study identified a preferred route and Clare County Council was looked to to preserve the route in the long term as it was considered too expensive to provide the spur at the time. We can take the idea back to the Department. A study of the proposal is not a part of the current funding profile we have been given, but I am happy to raise the matter again with the Department to see if it can take another look at it.
Mr. Jim Meade:
It could be done. A light rail system would be less expensive, but I do not have a feel for the scale of such a project. I am, however, happy to take the idea back and discuss it with the Department. That type of study is not included in the current national development plan.
On the second question, we have not moved any further in identifying a location for a passing loop between Ennis and Limerick. It would be located on either side of or in Sixmilebridge. It is part of a long-term plan, but we have not advanced it since we last spoke about it.
When one arrives in Limerick, it is a three or four minute walk to the city centre. A three phase transportation hub plan was put in place for the site. Phase one included the front of the station, which is now the plaza. It has turned out very well. However, the bus station is not big enough. As part of the plan, a new bus station was to be built where all modes of transport would be integrated coherently. If we had a better bus station that was used more widely, people could come from north Kerry, County Clare and Cork, with which there could be direct links. It would also mean that there would be plenty of car parking spaces, as well as space for buses and even bikes. It would be a proper integrated transportation hub. We are supporting Bus Éireann in looking for funding to finish the bus station.
To respond to the reference to the quays in Waterford, I will have to double check and revert to the committee with correct dates, but the plan is moving well. The project was approved by the board recently. From memory, I believe the planning application might have been approved at this stage. I will check the exact point at which the project is at and formally respond to the committee. It is progressing well and there have been no roadblocks so far.
I welcome Mr. Meade. I am a Deputy for the constituency of Leitrim-Sligo and welcomed the announcement that more services were being added between Dublin and Sligo route from 10 December. The biggest issue I can see is with line infrastructure. What investment is to be made in Sligo in the coming years? One of my biggest complaints is the lack of carriages. It is a major issue. There is a lack of carriages every weekend and on most days of the week. The condition of some carriages is poor and would not be acceptable on the Dublin-Cork or Dublin-Belfast routes. The Sligo-Dublin service is the poor relation, which I do not think is acceptable. Mr. Meade has said the national development plan is ahead of schedule. Given the amount of money that has been invested in Iarnród Éireann, it is vitally important that serious consideration be given to the area I represent and the commuters who use the line. They are entitled to a rail service which is as good as that provided in any other part of the country, but they are not receiving it. Some commuters have to stand between Dublin and Carrick-on-Shannon, Longford and sometimes all the way to Sligo. The same is true in the opposite direction, which is not acceptable or good enough in this day and age. I am not a member of the committee, but I was told that Mr. Meade would be appearing before it this morning. I have read his report. It is vitally important that he realise he has an obligation and a responsibility to the people who use the train service on the railway line between Sligo and Dublin, including on a daily basis. The number of services on the line has increased, but we are receiving a second rate service, which is not acceptable. It takes three hours to travel from Sligo to Dublin. Is there any plan for investment? Mr. Meade has spoken about upgrading railway lines and increasing the speeds achievable in other areas, which would reduce journey times. Are there plans to do so at our end of the country? The carriages used on the line have been called "reject carriages". I have been a public representative for the area for many years, with Deputy Martin Kenny and other Members of the Oireachtas who are very annoyed, as are local councillors. The problem has been highlighted on numerous occasions and Mr. Meade and his officials have been made aware of it. Will he confirm that he will look at the issue very seriously, upgrade services and invest money in the line? We are entitled to it. People constantly say to me it would not be tolerated on the Dublin-Cork and Dublin-Belfast lines, or on any other line in the country for that matter. We are the poor relations. Mr. Meade must take responsibility. He should provide us with an update and tell us what he proposes to do in the next few years about the issue.
I thank Mr. Meade for his submission. Several Deputies have spoken recently about the train station at Castlerea. Will Mr. Meade ensure refurbishment works are carried out in order that it is presentable and attractive to those who use it? Some train stations are not being maintained very well.
Mr. Meade spoke about high-speed trains.
Will 100 km/h be the maximum speed on the high-speed trains? When will that be achieved? As Deputy McLoughlin stated, people have to stand when using the train. Additional carriages are needed. When will that be provided for the Sligo, Westport and Galway trains?
I welcome Iarnród Éireann's announcement on more services. I have been raising that issue for a long time.
I have another question on which I ask Mr. Meade to be clear in his answer. Has the western rail corridor review, which Iarnród Éireann is supposed to be doing, commenced, and when will it be finished?
I will be mainly parochial in my remarks but before I deal with the parish, I refer to one project that is complementary to the project mentioned by the Chairman. I cannot get my head around the fact that the Government is not proceeding with it. It is to connect Dublin Airport to the main rail system. It would allow mainline trains using the tunnel to go north, south, east and west. It would also allow for a connection to the entire rail system, including the DART. Will the witness give us a short brief on the reason we are not doing that? It seems to be a no-brainer in terms of a project that would cost hundreds of millions of euro as against billions of euro for a much longer project, namely, metro north, which I am not against? Why are we not connecting the entire rail system? When we arrive in any airport abroad the first thing we do is look to see if there is a train into the city centre and if there is, we go to the train station where very good services are provided.
On the west of Ireland service to Galway, I understand what Mr. Meade is saying about trains to Galway leaving on an hourly basis. An all-day service into the late evening is needed but to go back to my hobby horse, the commuters want to get into town some time between 8 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., therefore, the trains need to arrive at a much increased frequency at that time. The requirement is more spread out in the evening, with a train leaving from 4.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. People do not always leave town after work so the requirement is more spread out late into the evening, therefore, late evening trains are required, as we have in Dublin up to 11.30 p.m.
First, we cannot magic resources out of thin air so has Iarnród Éireann studied the potential of using existing resources to facilitate more trains at busy commuter times in and out of Galway? In terms of an obvious one, based on the population of the town we know there is a disproportionate number of commuters from Athenry to Galway. It seems to me that is based on frequency. Should more trains run, for example, from Limerick to Athenry where the commuter would change trains and, five minutes later, board the commuter Dublin to Galway train? It seems it is an urgent requirement to get much more frequent trains into Galway. That would breed success, the success would breed investment and so on.
Second, in terms of the other obvious question that arises, Mr. Meade mentioned the passing loop. That would be a good start, although his timing is optimistic. It is a 20-minute journey to Athenry. If that is divided by two, it is ten minutes. That means there would be 20-minute intervals but even that would be better than 40 minutes. That one small piece of the network would free up things. Is it being considered as a priority? Mr. Meade referred to a passing loop somewhere around Oranmore.
The other question is about the Limerick and Galway ends of that railway line. Has consideration been given to commuter trains that would have urban stops? Galway is a rapidly growing city. I understand a large number of people travel from Oranmore to Galway. That is growing rapidly and the only constraint is the frequency of the trains. Has there been any talk of Ballyloughane serving Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT, or whatever? Has there been any talk of an equivalent across the river, near the university in Limerick? It also goes very near Thomond Park and the institute of technology, IT. Rather than bringing everybody into the city centre and out again, has there been a discussion whereby they could get off near the IT and get a commuter bus to the IT or to Thomond Park?
There is a new fashion in regard to transport. People do not always use their cars or the train. Most of us are multi-modal now. We love taking the train when it is convenient. How much work has been done around that area?
That leads to an inevitable conclusion. I believe that will be successful. It will open the Claremorris line. I know Iarnród Éireann want to do that but it will open despite those who have been naysayers in that regard for a long time. I believe commuter rail is the future.
Mr. Jim Meade:
To reply to Deputy McLoughlin, there is no question that the trains are crowded across the network. What his constituents in Sligo are telling him is no different from what I have been told by people in Limerick, Galway, Westport and Waterford. Our numbers have grown significantly in the past three or four years in particular. They have been growing at between 6% and 7% per year, and some segmental areas have been growing much faster than that.
We do not want to start teaching history lessons to each other but it must be remembered that we have come out of ten years of no investment. We have started the process and I am happy to say that just over a week ago, the National Transport Authority, NTA, gave us the green light to start procuring fleet because we need more capacity, particularly in the morning peak. The lead time for brand new fleet, not just for Iarnród Éireann but for the best rail companies in the world, can be up to four years. We have a plan in-house that we have taken to the NTA, which is has signed off on, to add more carriages to the intercity trains to which we keep referring. That is a slicker process for us. There are fewer issues in terms of putting them in service because we are just lengthening existing trains. We have started that process but, realistically, we will not see those trains in service until the summer of 2021.
Mr. Jim Meade:
They will be hybrid. One of the things we are doing is converting this entire fleet to hybrid over the coming years, which will give us in excess of a 30% reduction in our diesel burn. It will also allow us run through built up areas on batteries only, so we will be eliminating some noise pollution as well. It is something we signed off on in the middle of the year when we ran a couple of test trains with Rolls Royce and MTU, the suppliers. We have done all the numbers. It will be very successful. We will be able to make that entire fleet hybrid, which is the way to go.
On the issue of the carriages, I am familiar with the early services out of Sligo. The very same trains are used for the first two services out of Cork in the morning. They are Hyundai rotems. I take one of them regularly from Clare. They are the very same trains that Sligo people get on. They are not commuting on a second class fleet.
We have probably been overtaken at this stage but some years ago we had the youngest fleet in Europe. Our trains are not second class. They are very heavily subscribed at the moment. Many people-----
Mr. Jim Meade:
It is a state-of-the-art fleet but because it is so busy, the experience of the travelling public is not good. I accept that. We have to be honest with the travelling public and tell them that it will get worse before it gets better because more people are migrating to public transport. In many cases it is the quickest way to get between two key locations. Our patronage is growing. The morning peak for us, particularly in the greater Dublin area, is very busy. We are telling people openly and honestly that we have a plan. We are working with the NTA and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, which are putting in place the funding, but there is a lead time on that.
The national development plan, NDP, programme was announced only early this year or late last year and it is only in the past couple of weeks that we have gone through the process and they have given us the green light to start procuring the intermediate cars. There is a longer-term plan to put a framework order in place for 600 new vehicles over a ten-year time period. This would all add capacity as we go. I have to be clear with the Chairman and the committee, however, that it will get a little bit worse before it gets better in that regard because we just do not have the capacity at present.
On the issue of speeds and times, now that we have reached a fully funded state it is our intention to continue to upgrade the infrastructure. That is what we have done on other routes. The Cork line is not getting priority; it just happens to have the oldest infrastructure. The Sligo, Galway and Kerry lines were all relaid in the mid-noughties and it is all new track compared with the much older track on the southern half of the Cork line. This is why the relaying programme is going that way; it is all based on the condition of the asset not on the frequency of the line.
We will work through a plan for all the branch lines to reduce the journey times. Our long-term target is to bring the Cork services to two hours and 15 minutes in duration for all services. Currently they are two hours and 30 minutes or two hours 35 minutes in duration. The target also is to bring the duration of the Galway services to two hours and those of the likes of the Westport and Sligo services nearer two hours and 30 minutes than the current three hours. That will be done through improving works on the track and increasing line speeds. The two go hand in hand. If the condition of the asset, on which the train runs, improves and we can run at faster speeds, then we will run at faster speeds. Sometimes they can trade off. If we want to bring a key business train out of Sligo, Cork or Limerick for example, the more the train stops the more it is slowed down. When stops are added the train is slowed down. We have offered services as more frequent over time. The Maynooth line is very busy from Maynooth inwards and it is about having the slots to get everyone into the city centre in Dublin. The plan is very much to keep moving with the programme and to keep reducing journey times.
As for the refurbishment of stations, we started a programme last year to go through all of our stations. We had stopped doing this during the bad years. We were able to live without keeping up some elements there but we did keep up with the safety aspects. We have started a programme and we have put more money into station refurbishment, which we term "business facilities" this year and last year. We are investing more in that area and the programme will run for the next several years.
Reference was made to the review on the western rail corridor. Consultants are appointed - they start in January - to work on a 20-week programme, which will then go to the Department for a peer review. We will stick to those timelines.
Mr. Jim Meade:
Yes, give or take.
Deputy Ó Cuív asked about a line to Dublin Airport. Currently under the NDP, there is no study to look at connecting to Dublin Airport. Our plans at the moment revolve around the aspects I have just spoken of: getting more fleet, increasing the capacity of fleet, moving to electric and electrifying the Maynooth line and across to Hazelhatch, and completing the four-tracking from Clondalkin into Heuston to unlock that side of the network, thereby giving us more capacity. We do not have anything on our books to plan for Dublin Airport at present and it is not on our radar. That is the honest answer.
Mr. Jim Meade:
It is not currently. I will be honest with the Deputy that it is not on the radar. There are many things to do under the NDP. We have more plans than we have NDP funding. If any more funding becomes available we would put our hands up and say that we could do this or that to add to the service, but currently there is no plan for it.
The Deputy's comments on Oranmore are correct. We looked at that and we have modelled it. We can do a 15-minute service by putting a loop in Oranmore and a second platform. We believe that this has to be done in stages. Nobody is going to give us the funding to build a completely new railway with four or five stations at each end, but I have taken this proposal to the NTA, which is looking at the funding. If the NTA agrees that it is a good proposal it would be the first step in significantly improving the services for Galway.
With regard to the proposed Galway ring road, it will help the Connemara people going around Galway and anybody going out west but Galway city centre would still be congested. A train being able to come right into Eyre Square is the right thing to do. That plan is still with the NTA and we will support it very strongly. We believe that it would also be right to double-track the whole line because that would allow us to keep on the train, but the first step will be to do the piece in the middle at Oranmore, where one can cross trains every 15 minutes. That would then become a self-fulfilling prophecy and we could just keep extending the two lines.
I asked a question. In the meantime, while Iarnród Éireann is physically limited from Athenry to Galway, in order to increase frequency into Galway in order that people from Limerick and Athlone could get more trains into Galway, was consideration given to terminating trains coming from Ennis and having them transfer to commuter trains? Increasing the commuter use of that line would mean that if a person was coming from the Ennis direction, he or she would have more options to get into Galway.
Mr. Jim Meade:
We have not looked at it recently. We looked at it before, as members are probably aware. Long sections of single track make it very awkward to cross trains. It is all about timing and one would have to go as far as Gort to cross the next train. Because it is a single line, the infrastructure does not suit high frequency. We can look at the changing commuter patterns but if we take out one element then we might be delaying a Dublin train, for example, or taking out another train going in the other direction that may be giving a service all the way into Limerick. It is always a balance between serving one end more than serving the other end. It is certainly something we could look at but I think the solution is to do Oranmore. That is the first big step to proving the need for double-tracking.
I thank Mr. Meade for his presentation. I am from the Cavan-Monaghan constituency and I waited with bated breath during Mr. Meade's opening commentary on the national plan. We heard lots about the south of the country, about the transport hub, and about Waterford, Cork and Limerick. I am delighted for those areas that are so well facilitated with rail transport. Will Mr. Meade elaborate on or disclose some of the plans he has for north of the Galway to Dublin line? I am aware that Sligo was mentioned, and I appreciate how animated and passionate Deputy McLoughlin was about that particular line. I have a keen interest in the lines and existing lines to Navan and on to Kingscourt. We have some very heavy industry in that region such as Kingspan and Gyproc, and other industries, including indigenous industry, in east Cavan and south Monaghan. This potential and capacity to grow could be expanded if open freight rail was facilitated. Perhaps Mr. Meade could talk to us about the plans for a rail line to Navan, it second phase and the progressive reopening of the existing lines to Kingscourt in east Cavan.
The constituency is very much behind the curve in transport infrastructure. We have the M3 that stops abruptly at the Cavan-Meath border and we have no motorway into Cavan town. The N2 has still not been upgraded to motorway status. Even though we have a rail line, we have no functioning rail line. I would make the case that a freight or heavy rail line should be the first phase to Navan and then on to Kingscourt. This would be hugely significant for the area. From travelling to Dublin I can see that unfortunately our motorways are now clogged up again with cars and vans, perhaps with five lads in a van, and we are back to that boom situation again where people may have to travel to work in Dublin. The region is in single digit figures with regard to the number of IDA Ireland visits to the area and we are repeatedly told by IDA Ireland that their lack of visits and ability to bring the big companies to counties such as Cavan and Monaghan is always about the lack of infrastructure. I am sure that the big companies that consider Cavan and Monaghan look for broadband, motorways and rail. Will Mr. Meade talk to us about Iarnród Eireann's future plans for the existing Cavan-Monaghan line to Navan and potentially to Kingscourt?
I thank Mr. Meade for his presentation and its detail on all the lines.
I live in south Leitrim, and Dromod, Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon are the main areas from where people from my part of the world are heading toward Dublin. The trains, particularly at weekends, are packed. The congestion on those lines is a significant problem for many, particularly students going back to college etc. I was happy to read that Iarnród Éireann is talking about upgrading that service to an hourly service. Is there a timescale in that respect? Mr. Meade suggested the service would be two-hourly from Westport and every hour from Sligo.
In regard to freight rail, I am conscious that there are directives in preparation in Europe on freight transport, particularly road haulage, and pressure arising from the point of view of CO2 emissions etc. Having spoken to somebody in the road haulage sector, I am aware it is something about which they are quite concerned. The European perspective is that more freight needs to go by rail, which has a lower carbon footprint. Are there any such plans? Looking from the outside, it seems as though the passenger carrying network is already chock-a-block and if there is to be expansion in the area of freight, it will become difficult to meet the requirement.
In respect of the other sectors, all of the west needs to get a grip as to what we are going to do. While everything, I suppose, in every country, orientates towards the capital city, those of us in the west would like to see something happening with the western rail corridor with some sense that there will be connectivity along the western coast. What can we do in respect of that? Are there plans in that regard? Are we seriously considering that? Ultimately, if we step back from it - we spoke earlier in the meeting in private session about economic development - it is the part of the world that has the most potential because it is the least developed. I would be happy to see that Irish Rail was considering making applications for European funding to upgrade tracks to bring us to a stage where we can compete with the rest of the country in that respect. Funding is provided nationally through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. What plans are there, particularly through the trans-European transport networks, TEN-T, avenue of funding from Europe? There seem to be few plans, certainly with regard to the north west.
On the impact of Brexit on the network, particularly the Dublin-Belfast route, has Iarnród Éireann any contingency plans? Has Iarnród Éireann considered the impact the fallout from Brexit may have on the network?
Being parochial as well, has Iarnród Éireann any plans to upgrade Ennis station? There was an issue in facilitating wheelchair users. Has Iarnród Éireann advanced plans to deal with that?
On the online booking of through-tickets, for example, from Ennis to Derry, one can go into a station to pay for it, but can one do that online? Has Iarnród Éireann any plans to address that situation?
Mr. Jim Meade:
I got a cold shiver when I thought the Chairman would ask me could I solve Brexit. I will take the questions as I received them.
In response to Deputy Smyth, the Navan-Kingscourt line has potential. It is not in any of our current planning. It is not part of the NDP. Linking it to some of Deputy Martin Kenny's comments on freight, we have - even my predecessor had - a policy of maintaining the lines and infrastructure we have and not doing what was done in the 1960s, where we closed, abandoned lines and then lost them. Looking to the future, we recognise that many of these lines may become highly relevant. We intend to keep these lines in our ownership and as plans develop for them, be able to move forward with them.
On Kingscourt, currently, there is no plan, either with the Department or with us, and to be honest, we have not put any plan to the Department asking can we now go to Kingscourt. I am happy to start examining it. It would go into the next phase of NDP. I take the underlying point that if we do not start planning for these projects, they will never happen.
I ask Mr. Meade to start examining that. It is most relevant, especially in light of Brexit and the pressure in terms of CO2 emissions. It would be foolish not to be thinking that far ahead. Can Mr. Meade confirm whether that line is being maintained to Kingscourt at present?
Being familiar with the line, because I drive by it most days, I suggest it is not being maintained the way it should be. The infrastructure is there and more work could be done to ensure that it is maintained. I appreciate that such matters take time and planning and funding need to be put in place. Ultimately, the most important measure that can be taken is maintenance of the line.
Mr. Jim Meade:
I take the Deputy's point.
Freight tends to be high volume and long haul. That is the model that works well for any freight operation. That said, we have some freight operations across the network.
The board has asked me to examine the future of freight. The timing is probably good in that we are now starting to ask what opportunities could we start looking at for freight in terms of what can be moved off-road due to the environmental impact. We are re-examining our freight operation.
Freight has to wash its face. We cannot subvent it or use any public funds for it. We are starting to look at freight. The board has given us the task of determining the potential for freight, what should we be targeting in the future and how should we get there, as well as examining what the capital cost of doing that would be and what capital infrastructure would be needed. It is work in progress for us. There are no real plans beyond that.
The Taoiseach spoke only a couple of weeks ago about the Atlantic corridor almost needing to grow at double the rate of Dublin if we are to be sustainable, as Deputy Martin Kenny mentioned. All we want to do, with increased services with hourly services into the regions, is to assist that and to make all that connectivity work. It is very much our plan to continue the infrastructure investment programme and to continue, as I referenced earlier to other Deputies, reducing journeying times and improving the fleet. That is the first step for us. That is the big issue at present. We need more carrying capacity and to reduce journey times but it aligns with the aspiration to develop the Atlantic corridor.
We are looking at Brexit. The Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service is important to us. That service is probably symbolic, as much as anything else, of what has happened in our country for decades. A hard Brexit would be traumatic for the service as all the drivers would lose their licences, the safety certifications for Northern Ireland Railways to operate in the Republic would be an issue and the fleet itself would be an issue. We have a working party, together with Translink, of which Northern Ireland Railways is a subset, examining how we would manage a hard Brexit. We are working on the basis of a worst-case scenario. If there is a step back from that, all the better. We have a team examining how we would manage next April if there was a hard Brexit. The focus of the team is normal service from the customers' point of view. Our plan is very much about whatever arrangements we need to put in place in the background so that the service is not disrupted.
The Chairman asked about the upgrade of Ennis station. I mentioned to one of the other Deputies that we have put in place a seven-year plan to start reinvesting in the stations.
Ennis will be part of that, as will all stations. Through-ticketing is part of our Customer First programme. If members use the website, they will probably see that it has changed. It is much better and a much more user-friendly environment. Through-ticketing will be part of the roll-out of phases 2 and 3 of that programme.
When Mr. Meade is putting together any plans in respect of the Kingscourt line, I ask him to look at the possibility of connecting the Drogheda line, which exists and is very busy, with Navan and then, progressing from that, with Kingscourt. I ask him to feed back into the committee in respect of the plans he will be putting together to submit to the national development plan.