Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
I remind members and those in the Public Gallery to switch off their mobile phones as they interfere with the recording and broadcasting systems. I apologise on behalf of our Chairman, Deputy O'Dowd, and Deputy Jonathan O'Brien who are unavoidably absent. We are here to discuss BusConnects. I welcome Ms Anne Graham, Mr. Hugh Creegan and Mr. Tim Gaston from the National Transport Authority, NTA.
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.
I call Ms Graham to make her opening statement.
Ms Anne Graham:
I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation to attend. I understand that the committee wishes to focus upon the current situation pertaining to BusConnects and vehicle clamping regulations. To assist me in dealing with any subsequent questions I am joined by Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO of the NTA, and Mr. Tim Gaston, director of public transport services.
The BusConnects programme of works consists of many strands, all combining to provide a more efficient and attractive bus service in our cities and towns. Last year, we started the work on BusConnects Dublin and carried out a major public consultation on a revised network for Dublin’s bus services. We also carried out a public consultation on the BusConnects core bus corridor project to provide 230 km of dedicated bus lanes and 200 km of cycle lanes on 16 of the busiest bus corridors in and out of the city centre. The consultation period ended with the submission date for phase 3 on 31 May 2019.
We also carried out a public consultation on the BusConnects core bus corridor project providing 230 km of dedicated bus lanes and 200 km of cycle lanes on 16 of the busiest bus corridors in and out of the city centre. It ended with a submission date for phase 3 on 31 May 2019.
Community fora have been set up for each of the corridors and there continues to be extensive consultation with those fora and with residents' associations and other key stakeholders to examine any possible mitigation measures to reduce the impact on trees and gardens, together with any village improvement schemes that could be considered as part of the project. The NTA and the design teams appointed for the BusConnects corridor projects are also examining the 10,000 submissions received and are finalising amended proposals that will be the subject of a further public consultation commencing in the first quarter of 2020.
I will now speak to the BusConnects Dublin network redesign. In July 2018, the NTA published the initial proposals for the redesign of the Dublin area bus network and by the end of the consultation period, approximately 50,000 people had provided their feedback on the proposed network changes. The NTA has used the time since then to conduct a detailed review of the submissions received and prepare revised proposals taking account of that feedback. On 22 October, the NTA published revised proposals for the redesign of the Dublin area bus network, which will be the subject of a public consultation process until 3 December 2019. To facilitate consideration of the revised proposals, a local area booklet is being delivered to every home and commercial business in the greater Dublin area detailing the network redesign proposals in their local area and explaining the ways in which people can provide feedback. In addition, extensive supporting material has been made available online at www.busconnects.ie. The website incorporates a route mapping tool to assist people in understanding how they will be able to get to the places they need to go under the revised network.
Local information sessions will also be held during November. The dates and locations of these local information sessions are now available on our website and will be advertised locally. The redesign of the bus network is a key measure of the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area for 2016 to 2035. It is among the measures in Project Ireland 2040 and is included as one of the actions set out in the Climate Action Plan published earlier this year.
I will now speak to the main features of the revised network compared with the existing network. The level of bus services in the Dublin network will increase by approximately 22%. The redesigned bus network will provide a more coherently planned, higher capacity, more understandable network, delivering a better overall bus system for the Dublin region. Under the plan, the network will now be arranged on the basis of eight spines radiating from the city centre. An additional spine has been included in this plan to serve Howth and parts of the north-east city. Spines are very frequent routes made up of individual bus services timetabled to work together along a corridor. At the end of the spine, the individual services branch off to serve different areas.
The plan also includes ten orbital routes that will reduce significantly the need for passengers to travel into the city centre. Orbital services operate around the city, providing connections between suburbs and town centres, along with connections to rail, Luas and other bus routes. The inner orbital, the O, for example, will operate two-way on the North Circular and South Circular Roads at a frequency of every eight minutes all day. Northern orbitals, including the N2, N4 and N8, will serve key locations such as Beaumont Hospital, Dublin City University, Charlestown and Blanchardstown, while southern orbitals, including S2, S4, S6 and S8, will serve Ballsbridge, Rathmines, Heuston, University College Dublin, Crumlin hospital, Liffey Valley, Dundrum and Tallaght. Orbitals W2, W4 and W8 will serve key locations like Liffey Valley, Clondalkin village and Tallaght to the west.
In addition, a number of city-bound services operating into Dublin city centre are included in the plan. These are services that are not part of any spine and operate on their own timetable as part of the network. There will also be significant additions to evening and weekend services, with most frequent routes operating every 15 minutes or better between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays. Saturdays and Sundays will also have higher levels of service and longer operating hours than under the current network. There is also provision for local services providing important connections within local areas linking to local retail centres and to onward transport connections. Additional peak time services are included in the plan, operating during the busiest time of the day, generally weekday mornings and evenings.
A key challenge in many areas was to increase the level of direct service without undermining the integrity of the new network. In many cases, this was achieved by reconfiguring the branches at the end of the spines to provide more direct routes to the city centre. Concerns relating to particular linkages to schools, hospitals or shops have been addressed through various route adjustments and additional radial routes have been added to address particular issues. Detailed supporting information is available on the BusConnects website and that information includes the report on the outcome of the initial public consultation.
With regard to vehicle clamping regulation, the functions of the National Transport Authority were extended in 2015 to include the regulation of the vehicle clamping industry in accordance with the Vehicle Clamping Act 2015. Section 12 of the Vehicle Clamping Act 2015 states that the NTA is empowered to establish a code of practice to provide practical guidance to parking controllers and clamping operators regarding compliance with the Act and regulations made under it and establish standards relating to the general behaviour, performance of duties and conduct of parking controllers in supervising the operations of clamping operators carrying out clamping activities. A draft code of practice has now been prepared and this code is intended to supplement the Vehicle Clamping Act 2015 and the vehicle clamping and signage regulations 2017 and provide additional guidance in specific areas. A public consultation is under way on the draft code and submissions can be made to the authority up to 5 p.m. on Monday, 11 November 2019. That concludes my statement and I am happy to respond with my colleagues to any questions the committee might have.
I am very good at giving everybody a chance. I usually go in order of party. There is nobody from Fianna Fáil to ask questions so it will go from Fine Gael to Sinn Féin before getting to Deputies Catherine Murphy, Ruth Coppinger and Joan Collins.
I thank the witness for the presentation. Mr. Creegan will know that I and my Dublin colleagues have been engaging very closely with the NTA on the first draft of the plan and in the consultation process. We engage in that process in good faith and are hoping to see significant change. For the part of the city I know best, there have been very substantial and some positive changes in the second draft, although we need further change. That is certainly the view of my colleagues.
I have some questions pertaining to the city network and then a couple relating specifically to my constituency. Notwithstanding whether the redesign on paper meets the needs of communities, there is the parallel issue of whether it will be fully supported with adequate resources for the infrastructure, interchanges and stock. Some of that is ultimately the responsibility of the Minister but can the witnesses give us any clarity on the financial envelope for the implementation of the redesign, separate from the bus corridors and the compulsory purchase orders? Every time I am given a figure, it has both of the other elements added to it. We are keen to see the funding available for the network redesign and particularly the interchanges etc.
Will the witnesses give us any update on fares? There were some positive sounds that the combined fare, and particularly the 90-minute fare, would possibly be higher than the bus fare but lower than the Luas fare. I would greatly welcome any information on that.
I get the sense from speaking to people that there is much resistance, particularly from some commercial interests in the city centre, to bus flow and efficiency in the core area around O'Connell Street, the quays and Dame Street etc. Am I correct in saying that? Are the witnesses satisfied the level of bus congestion we are currently getting at peak times at College Green, for example, or around the O'Connell Bridge interchanges, will be alleviated by what is there or is there still some commercial resistance, particularly from some of the larger retailers that have large car parks and which would like to see car dominance continue?
There are smaller populations at the city fringes and those counties just outside the city boundary who are dependent on these services. What kind of assurances can be given that those isolated communities will not see a real reduction in service? I know they have seen some of the direct routes returned but there is still some concern about frequency. Likewise, one of the great strengths of the plan is the orbital route idea. Will the orbital routes as proposed meet the very real demand that already exists for those services?
I have three constituency-specific questions, although I will make a detailed submission to the NTA on my own local concerns. D3 is not yet right and there is a very large catchment area on Monastery Road and Dutch Village. There are over 2,000 houses there and they will not have the direct high-frequency service that they currently have with the combined routes 13, 68 and 69.
The reason the NTA wants to reroute that is so as not to duplicate the Luas. It wants to move the D3 onto the New Nangor Road and I accept the logic of that. However, it can achieve that by running the D3 up the Monastery Road, down Woodford Hill and onto the New Nangor Road. The NTA would maintain the integrity of the change it wishes to make but would capture 2,000 houses that have a high frequency of bus usage at present, which they will not get under the current plan. In addition, there is no connecting bus service into the train station in Clondalkin. There is no immediate residential development around it, but that will change not only for Clondalkin but also for Kishoge railway station in Adamstown as part of the 11,000 new houses in the Clonburris strategic development zone. Given that many of those houses will be built by the time the NTA implements this plan in the new timescale, the NTA must revisit that to assess how to connect people from the surrounding residential areas to the two key transport hubs of Clondalkin and Kishoge railway stations.
The other issue, and Mr. Creegan knows about this because I have pressed him about it regularly, is that there is a problem with the frequency of the main Lucan and Clondalkin peak time services, the 25 and 13 routes. That will continue to grow both for the existing population and additional growth in other residential developments. What reassurance can the NTA give that it is building into this plan sufficient additional capacity for the growing demand that will exist by the time the plan is implemented?
Ms Anne Graham:
I will start with the question of adequate resources in terms of the resources required to implement the redesign. The first cost is the additional operating cost of operating 22% additional vehicle kilometres. We hope we will get additional PSO budget to fund that. As our budgets are only prepared annually and we only get our PSO budget annually, we do not know whether it is available to us two years hence but we would expect that funding to be put in place. It is in the order of €30 million to €40 million additional PSO funding just to fund the operational costs associated with that increase. There will be additional resources through the capital funding to put in place the additional bus shelters and bus stops and any infrastructure required at the interchange points. That is already built into the BusConnects capital funding.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
It is still our plan to move ahead with the fare the Deputy mentioned, the 90-minute fare. That will cover all of Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead Ireland, Luas and DART. It will be pitched between the current mid-distance and the longer distance fare. Those are €2.25 and €2.60, so it is somewhere in there. We will set it not to raise revenue, but based on our modelling to show a revenue neutral position. To remind people, with that fare one has 90 minutes to start one's first journey from where one starts to when one starts the last leg of one's through journey. We think that covers the entire city area. That fare will come in as we start the roll-out of the new network.
Ms Anne Graham:
In terms of the city centre and the business community, we have not felt any resistance from city centre commercial businesses to our plans relating to BusConnects, either the network or the bus corridors. Naturally, we must ensure there is space in the city centre for the bus movements. What has been provided, particularly on the north quays, has certainly improved the movement of buses through the city centre. The network is designed on the basis that College Green would still retain east-west movements through the city centre, although they are reduced from the current level. If Dublin City Council proceeds with its plans for College Green, we will be able to reorganise those services.
Regarding the small population on the city fringes and isolated communities, we assure those communities that we will not be reducing the frequency of the direct services. In fact, we want to improve the frequency of the direct services at peak times into the city centre. We want to ensure that service is improved for all those communities.
As regards demand on the orbital services, we have done a great deal of work on ensuring that the frequency that is proposed will meet the demand. However, as we implement those services if we find that the demand has increased from what we had designed for, it is very easy to put in additional services and frequency, subject to funding. Given the success of the 175, we can see those services being very popular and we expect them to be well used.
Hugh Creegan will comment on the local issues.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
On the D3, we made some changes from the last design. The Deputy spoke to us previously on it. We will have to look at that again and see if we can make some other adjustments to cover the other areas the Deputy mentioned.
On connecting to the train stations, we have reasonable connections to Adamstown train station and to Kishoge when it opens next year. On Clondalkin-Fonthill, we may have to revisit that and add something else. However, the other two are quite well covered. We possibly need to do more on Clondalkin-Fonthill.
Regarding the frequency of the existing routes from the Lucan area, that is largely-----
Ms Anne Graham:
I will answer that. We have provided additional frequency at peak times. In recent weeks Dublin Bus put in additional frequency, and we will continue to provide frequency as required. We know that the demand is increasing and we want to respond with Dublin Bus to ensure that people are not left behind at peak times.
I, Deputy Shortall and a number of Social Democrat councillors met the NTA last week to exchange views. When I asked the representatives of the NTA where they got the information to inform the decision, they told me it was the census. I appreciate that the census is very general and there is a large volume of information. However, look at the questions on the census. They are not very granular. One question asks how the respondent usually travels to work, school or college. It gives the options of on foot, bicycle, train, motor car and so forth. It then goes on to ask the person what time he or she usually leaves. One can see how that would determine the peak times. It also asks how long the journey to work, school or college usually takes. That is the extent of the information sought in the census. I cannot see how that would be sufficient information. I presume the NTA has other information as well, including from the existing services. However, I cannot see how that would give the NTA the type of information that would make it absolutely certain about some of the big alterations and changes.
In the first instance, am I right about the additional information on current usage and the like? What surveying was carried out aside from that? I am aware that people were asked, in a general way before this was presented, if they would be willing to connect as opposed to using direct routes. It was only when it went on public display that people realised what that meant. Can the witnesses give us an overview on that aspect?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I did not mean to mislead the Deputy that the census was the only source of information we use. We have anonymised data from the census which gives travel patterns across the city and is very useful for various matters, but we have a great deal of data on top of that. We have the boarding information at all the bus stops across the Dublin region. Other information includes the density levels of population in various locations and that is mapped out in the main report.
Equally the employment distribution across the whole Dublin region is mapped out in the report. There is no single source of information that says that is the only thing needed to design this. We need to touch on all of them. We have a treasure trove of information. Part of the problem is getting to the core of the issue and trying to deal with it.
I represent an area on the periphery of the network. Leixlip, Celbridge and Maynooth between them have a population of in excess of 50,000, which will have sizeable new communities as new estates are under construction and there are much more to come. We are in what is described as the commuter belt. We want to keep people in the commuter belt out of their cars and provide them with opportunities to get on public transport, whether bus or rail. We would all be on the same page on that. That would be there and also on the fringe of Dublin. They must have a service that meets their needs.
I have had a very strong and direct involvement with public transport activism over a long time. This included conducting a very major survey in the Leixlip area during the 1980s. That was a one in three origin and destination survey which was undertaken with CIÉ. I had a strong record in campaigning for the doubling of the Maynooth line. I am very pro-public transport and I want public transport that works. However, there are things about this that I cannot see working. I am encouraging people to make submissions. I see a loss of services and new services being provided, but not necessarily to locations that people will find attractive or will want. I am receiving considerable concern and some anger.
There have been changes to the plan since last year, for example, the 67 is now the C4 was originally to be routed through Leixlip village. I can understand why there would have been a clamour against that because it would add to journey times. There was a decision on that and in this plan it is routed down the Celbridge Road and in through Lucan. That is the logical response to an understandable concern. However, I have counted the number of buses currently available on the 66X, 67X, 66A, 66B, 66E and 67, and I cannot see how there is not a loss of direct service in the proposals. I ask again that the NTA go back and count that. For example, in the off peak time, five buses an hour go through Leixlip village. What is being provided under this plan is two buses an hour. The problem people will encounter is that if they do not have a terminus bus and there is a bus that comes from further away, say from Maynooth, they will not see an increase in the number of buses and the bus will arrive full. People have a real fear that the bus will arrive full and they will have to wait half an hour for the next bus. These people will stop using the bus and get back into their cars. The loss of some of those buses at terminus is a real issue. The experience is that services were never provided to us without our lobbying for them. If this opportunity is not used to get those changes, then they are unlikely to happen.
Another issue that arises throughout the C corridor is the definition of peak time. Will the NTA address this specifically? If the peak time were to be expanded, this would have implications in that the buses that now come in by Merrion Square now will go to Ringsend. This is being raised as an issue as this is not in proximity to where people wish to go, unlike the current route which is heavily used. There is also a capacity issue on the outward journey in the evening, which applies to the 25 route as much as the 66 and 67 routes. Will the number of buses be addressed? The plan we have been presented with does not read as though it will. Let us assume the peak is from 5 p.m. Someone who gets on a bus to go to Palmerstown on the C route might get on one of the C buses that goes to Maynooth. That bus will empty half way, yet there will be people who have been left at stops. This is a real fear people have.
Having spoken to colleagues, the same kinds of issues are being raised in relation to Wicklow, around Bray and the 145, and in other areas on the fringe. Is it a trade-off for greater capacity closer to the city centre?
The proposed W8 orbital route is certainly an improvement and will be well supported. That is likely to be used as a feeder between Celbridge and Maynooth, for example, as much as an origin and destination with Tallaght, for instance.
The NTA opening statement referred to a 22% increase in services. Some of those will be routes such as the 258, the 259, the bus from Adamstown, the 251 and the 252. While there will be some use of those, some replace existing terminus services. Those new routes are not necessarily going where people want to go. There is one route that I cannot for the life of me figure out who will use it. I can see a scenario where it is not used then and a service will be lost because there was a conclusion that no one wanted to use it. The loss of that route would be understandable, but that would be on top of the loss of a direct route.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
When reviewing the network design, it might be helpful to look at it at two levels. One is the network and the other is the level of service on the network. If the frequency of some of the services needs adjusting, that can be done easily, but we want to be certain that we have the right network, that we do not need to amend routes in the future, and that the network will serve for the long term.
When we were redesigning that area, we had load surveys carried out on the services in the area last November. We took those into account in trying to match the services in the new network where we are trying to ensure that we have sufficient service in the revised network. Our sums suggest there will be at least the same amount of peak hour service as exists now. However, as we have told the Deputy previously, if that is wrong it can be adjusted. Maybe we will share figures after the meeting but we have added them up and we think we have the same level of service overall. We accept that the service going through Leixlip village with the C3 will be less. This was higher last year when the C4 was brought through the village and there was a 15 minute service, but people wanted the quicker route to Celbridge so we made the adjustments accordingly.
I am not sure what else to add. This is a consultation and if there are other changes we need to make, we can make them, but on the frequency side, we will review it again to see if our figures can gel together on that. It is not a matter of right or wrong but it is something we will keep under review. After we make this big change to a whole network, there are bound to be some changes in travel pattern. We have to keep it under review and recalibrate and adjust as we need to.
To come back to a couple of points, would Mr. Creegan address the issue of the peak hours? What if the witnesses are wrong? Where is the capacity and what is the speed of capacity to amend? I am a great believer in people being pretty decent at deciding what is good for them and I tend to listen to people, because they are full of sense. When one hears a whole bunch of people telling one the same thing, I tend not to ignore it. I tend not to wait and to tell people that we will see how it goes and that if it does not work out, we will do something about it. I understand this is about planning, and this a very general point and not specifically related to this, but we have a national characteristic of creating problems and then resolving them in reverse. One can see it right across the spectrum, and we have an opportunity here to anticipate and plan and make sure the problem will not exist.
Given what I am hearing and the strength of it, I am not going to ignore it. What was really disappointing was that when we looked for a public meeting in north Kildare, we were told there was no capacity. There are 50,000 people there, many of whom we do not want in cars. It does not show respect for the fact that there are people on the edge of very major changes who will travel to a public meeting if they can get to one. The edge communities like Wicklow, where I know there have been a number of meetings, are going to have a very different service from the one that they are used to. They need to be listened to and to be provided with every opportunity to be listened to, because it is going to be awful if it is badly run in one location and one has to do a quick retrofit.
Ms Anne Graham:
In general terms, what we are presenting here today is a major change from what initially went out in terms of public consultation, so what we have presented and what we are saying is that we have listened to the submissions and we have taken them on board and made many amendments to the network that we are presenting today. This is another consultation. It is another opportunity for people to comment on the services. What we are trying to achieve is the right network of services. We hope that we have the frequency level at the right level, based on what we want to deliver in the next number of years, but the frequency level is a relatively easy thing to change. It requires funding of course, but that is something that can be changed. We want to make sure that we are delivering the right network for the city of Dublin, as it is, for the next ten years at least. They are the kind of tweaks that we need to ensure we have right, that is, that we have the buses travelling on the right roads and in the right locations. Frequency can be moved up if needed, based on the submissions we get back, based on operating the services in the new network and based on getting feedback from customers, which is very important for us because we definitely would want to respond to that. We want to be able to respond to the consultations and submissions that we get as a result of this public consultation as well. We hope that we have most of it right, but the committee has already indicated there are a few areas that we need to look at and we have indicated that we will look at those again.
We are listening, we want submissions from the public on this new network and we hope we have met many of the concerns that were raised the last time, but we would like to make sure that people feel they can make more submissions to us and then we can finalise the network. Mr. Creegan might respond to the specifics.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
In terms of the peak hour times, they vary a little bit depending on which route it is. The departure times in most cases will be 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. In some cases, it will be 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. while in other cases, it will be 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. because they are farther out. Evening peaks, in terms of departures from the city centre or the UCD area, would be between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The last time the witnesses were in here, I think we were talking about the metro. Many members from the vastly growing areas of Dublin, Kildare, Meath, etc., all made the point that we need a huge investment in public transport for such areas and that we need things like light rail and not over-reliance or pure reliance on buses. In the case of the Blanchardstown area, which I am sure the witnesses accept is one of those huge, vastly growing areas over the last ten to 15 years, I am hugely disappointed in what they have brought back. There is no way they have listened. I am guessing that the biggest single issue - the witnesses can tell me how many submissions they received - would have been to retain the 70 bus service from Dunboyne. That serves Littlepace and then goes directly into town all day. People think it is a great service. It is not often that one hears people saying that is a great bus service but what do the witnesses do? They get rid of it. As a result of all the submissions, the witnesses will say that they listened and introduced a peak hour-only service. From what I have read, it is an hour, because everyone only needs a bus from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., which is ridiculous because not everyone goes to work at those times. Shift workers, weekend workers and night workers have lost their direct route into town.
I compared this with what the witnesses are proposing, even for the peak hour, and what is currently provided. Between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. the 70 bus service provides seven buses, a bus every ten minutes. The witnesses are proposing four buses and then two buses, so even taking the proposed peak hour, people are losing out and it is also farther away. They have nothing for the rest of the day. It is because the witnesses are absolutely fixated on this idea of creating a hub and an interchange. I am disappointed, and it is not just me. I know many people are having public meetings.
The witnesses have not listened to people say that making Blanchardstown shopping centre the hub for every bus in the area is not a good idea. It seems the witnesses are in cahoots with the centre management on this, because there is no way the centre is currently set up to cater for that in terms of getting in and out of there in the evening. I have talked to people who work with people from Blanchardstown. Some of them come in crying to work because of how long it takes them. I refer to the idea of women workers trying to get home in the evening and stopping over in Blanchardstown shopping centre. They do not want to do that, but the witnesses are insisting that they have to. It is very obvious that the centre is going to become a park-and-ride. Those who are lucky to have a car are going to have to drive there and it is going to be paid parking. One of the witnesses' consultants basically told me that when I talked to him. The idea of paying for parking in the centre while one is at work is not right. What we need is to keep the buses that we have. We are happy to take the new local services the witnesses are introducing, but we must keep the direct routes into the city for people. It seems like the witnesses are hell-bent on an idea and will not listen to the people who live there and endure the journeys from the city every day and who do not think it will work.
There is no question but that the witnesses received hundreds of submissions on the 70 bus service. They did not really listen because a peak hour is not an all-day service. Mulhuddart, where I live, is so badly served by public transport, but what do the witnesses do? They take away the 38 bus service, which goes directly into the city, and they want people to make another forced stopover in Blanchardstown centre.
It is bad enough trying to get into town on the 38; nobody is saying that bus service is God's gift, but people do not want to lose it. Will the NTA listen to a second round of consultations or are we just wasting our time here?
My third issue is a small issue but important for the people who live there. For one of the buses, the 264 from Littlepace, the NTA is proposing opening up a private open space to create a bus route. This has been proposed twice previously and on both occasions the residents refused. They did not want buses coming through their estate because they had had enough. The NTA needs to listen to that and stop trying something for a third time. I was on the council when this happened before. It was tried in Rusheeny and then in Huntstown Wood. I do not know why it is now being brought back onto the table; it is not necessary.
I was in TU Dublin Blanchardstown campus the other day and the students are very poorly served by the current service. They were not jumping with joy at what is proposed. The current private shuttle service is unreliable and does not run after 6 p.m. How can students staying on to study get home? There are no bus shelters, security, lighting etc. I have asked the students to make a submission without me giving every detail at this meeting. I implore the NTA to listen to that. The 4,000 students there are suffering badly with the service they have.
On the Blanchardstown town centre interchange, the idea of an interchange may work in other areas I am not familiar with. From talking to people, they tell me that once they are on a bus, they generally like to stay on that bus. They do not like the idea of getting off and waiting for another bus. It would be different for people getting off to get on a Luas or a train because they would know exactly when it will arrive because it will not get snarled up in traffic. The NTA claims that the buses on the spine routes will come more frequently, but how many additional people will be competing to get on them? How many additional buses will there be? People are just not convinced and are really disappointed. I know meetings have taken place. I know there will be consultation and I am sure further meetings will be held. For working-class communities in the west and north-west of Dublin, what we need in terms of climate change is a massive boost of public transport and we do not see it here.
I have a general question. While the witnesses may not have the answer to hand, they might send it on to the committee. I noticed a considerable amount of advertising by BusConnects over the summer. As this was post the consultation period, it was not money being spent telling people about the system. I am talking about propaganda for BusConnects which seems like an awful waste of public money. Why does the NTA need to advertise the term "BusConnects" and get people into the idea? How much was spent on advertising nationally? I saw it on bus shelters and elsewhere.
Is the NTA committed to working with trade unions in the transport sector to maintaining the bus service in public ownership? The idea of Go-Ahead seems to be to not go ahead. It is the worst service anybody has endured. The workers are on worse terms and conditions, with some of them eating their lunch on the side of the road, which is going backwards in society. There are constant complaints about the service.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I suppose we are disappointed with that feedback because we think considerable effort went into the Blanchardstown area which we recognise as a growing area. We recognise it is not as well served by bus transport as it should be. Considerable effort went in to try to put in what we think is a good future network to serve the various needs. As the Deputy knows Blanchardstown town centre is the heart of many things there. Taking the example she gave of Dunboyne, the 270 is an hourly service from Dunboyne into Blanchardstown. That is the hub, the key town connection, from Dunboyne.
We may need to make other changes and we will certainly get feedback from people. Some of the feedback we got from the Dunboyne area encouraged us to go at least for peak-hour services. It was not all coming from us; there were submissions proposing that.
To touch on some of the more direct-----
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We got a good many submissions. I do not have an exact number. We dealt with 30,000 submissions overall. I do not have all the numbers here. It is fair to say it was one of the key areas of concern that was raised in the pre-design stage. However, some of those submissions told us that we need at least a commuter peak service. Not all submissions suggested having an all-day service. Many of them recognised that there is a very poor connection at Blanchardstown town centre at the moment. It is literally an hourly connection and yet that is only 2 km or 3 km down the road. That is the thinking that went into what we proposed. Considerable thought went into this. If it needs further amendment, we will listen to the submissions and see what it is.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We are not denying the importance of this issue. That is why we put in the peak-hour service to deal with those working commuters. However, the point is that many people work in Blanchardstown town centre and they have a very poor connection there at the moment.
On the 264 route the Deputy mentioned, we put that forward because Littlepace is the biggest cul-de-sac we have in Dublin. The bus has to drive in, go down 500 m and come back out again to the main road. There is the possibility of connection going across, which we would be for buses only and not for any other form of transport. It would give a very quick connection from Dunboyne into Blanchardstown and onward services if they want it. We are proposing a 15-minute frequency all day which is a really good level of frequency for that service. We understand there are concerns about that and we will need to see if we get acceptance for this or not. It was put forward knowing there was resistance to it previously, but it was also put forward believing that from a bus transport design it is the right thing to do even if there are concerns about it locally.
The Deputy spoke about advertising of BusConnects on shelters. As we own the shelters, she may have seen some filler signs we put up because the advertising had not been sold. It depends on which month she was talking about. If it was over the summer, that is probably what she saw.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Around May, we did some advertising while the bus corridors consultation was going on, directing people to the BusConnects website for all the details on those corridors. We certainly did paid advertising before the end of May. After that we probably just took up some free space we have at bus shelters.
The Deputy and many others have asked how Blanchardstown town centre will function. She will be aware that we have proposals for bus lanes into and out of Blanchardstown town centre so that the bus system will operate effectively. We have had discussions with the town centre management there and it is fair to say that they are fairly supportive of that.
Not every service will be stopping. The B1, B2 and B3 services will go through the interchange, but the people on the bus will remain on the bus. Some people still misunderstand it and believe that everybody has to change at Blanchardstown. A large number of the services pass through the town centre picking up further people at the town centre and then continuing with their onward journeys. We are putting it forward believing it is the right thing to do.
It is hard to convince people who are concerned about it that it will function as intended, and perhaps they will only be convinced when they see it in operation.
What is the point in having a public consultation? The spine services are fine but I am talking about people who are not served by them, the thousands of people who live in Littlepace, Castaheany, Mulhuddart and Corduff. They are now getting a worse service if they want to get into town to work in the morning or throughout the day. The authority needs to listen to this. Can it not save the 70 and 38 bus routes by keeping the existing plan with those direct routes into the city?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
There may be other direct routes which we can add in if the need to do so becomes evident at the end of this consultation. In most cases where a direct route has been changed to a local service, the local service becomes much more frequent, such as is the case with Dunboyne. Instead of an hourly connection to Blanchardstown centre, it is now a 15-minute connection. That gives a lot more opportunities that people do not currently have.
Ms Anne Graham:
No. There are designs and we know what the demand for those services is. We are trying to design a better service for those people. That involves some interchange, in which we will be providing a better service because it will be more frequent. If the people in those areas are not happy with that, they can make a submission in the public consultation and we will consider it in the final design of the network. We are making a second proposal for the network and we are willing to listen to what people are saying so we want to get submissions.
Maybe Ms Graham needs to go out and take a journey on these buses to see what additional time will be added on by having to get off the bus, which the people about whom I am talking will have to do, and wait for another to get into or out of Blanchardstown centre.
Ms Anne Graham:
The Deputy is trying to compare it to the existing service but we are talking about a whole new network of services, which are not currently operating. It is about ensuring connection between the frequent local services and the spine services and that the time between them is reduced as much as possible. We think the design provides for shorter waiting times and journey times into the city centre, particularly at off-peak times. It will also retain peak services for those who want a direct service at peak times.
The authority should publish its plans because it if has plans for Blanchardstown interchange, people need to see them. The witnesses are convinced that it is going to be quicker for those of us who go into and out of the town centre every day. There is a bus lane in and out and, if the authority is proposing more, can we see the plans? The bus lanes are, by the way, regularly used by cars.
All of us, as well as the workers and trade unions in Dublin Bus, are working to get a public transport system that has the right network and frequency. I am concerned about people having to walk distances to get to spine services, particularly people with a disability or who have lung illnesses, problems with walking or issues with their hips or backs. At 50,000 people, this must be the biggest consultation we have had in this city for a long time and it shows that the people want to have a part in this process of change. I believe the National Transport Authority has responded in certain areas and has looked at the communities that used to only have spine services and nothing else. There are problems, of which I am not aware, with the outer areas but we are generally pleased with the changes in the Crumlin area, though we would like a few tweaks which will be the subject of submissions.
There was a big issue with the 122 and 123 services in Drimnagh and one wonders why changes are made when they are not necessary. There is a proposal that the 123 service become the 23 service and take a different route, down Mourne Road where previously it went down Galtymore Road. We are very pleased that it will still go to the hospital because the original idea was that it would no longer do so. The 122 service will become the 22 service and will go down Galtymore Road, Keeper Road, Herberton Road through Rialto and on to Donore Avenue. Mr. Creegan will tell me that anybody who wants to go to George's Street from there will just jump on another bus and change at the interchange. We set up WhatsApp groups about this and a lot of people are annoyed because the 122 link to George's Street was invaluable for those going to work and to schools. They are now being advised to get off and get on the old link to get where they need to be. They are pleased with the proposed 23 route but there is confusion.
Frequency is also an issue. The 123 service operates every ten minutes at peak time at the moment, after which it goes to 12 minutes, and it returns to a frequency of ten minutes in the afternoon peak. Now, however, the 23 will be run every 15 minutes off-peak and every ten minutes at peak times. The 22 service will run every half hour, having been more frequent previously, and we would like it to be more frequent. We will have a public meeting with the residents' associations in Drimnagh on this with a view to getting feedback.
I am concerned about the 68, 69 and 13 routes because I live on that stretch. They come from Rathcoole, Griffeen Avenue and run all the way down to Dutch Village and the Naas Road. It runs with the Luas line to Tyrconnell Road, into Inchicore and into town.
People on that line, particularly those in the Bluebell, Dutch Village, Ring Street and Tyrconnell Park areas, have had a frequent bus service, between the 68 and 69 services which generally run every hour, and the 13 route, which has a very good frequency. They have been served very well. Then there is the Luas stop at Blackhorse, which people use for various purposes. I have often used both services for different reasons, as have people in the community. People are very annoyed, however, that we will be given a 93 service along that stretch, which will run once per hour. We have had three bus routes with good frequency. I was advised by the person who gave the presentation we heard in the Alex Hotel that elderly people would be able to work around that hour because they know when the bus will come and can get it down to Thomas Street or the post office. The post office in Bluebell - these are small things - recently closed down, so if an elderly person needs to get down to the post office in Inchicore, he or she must walk down from Bluebell to Inchicore. That is an issue in itself. There is huge disquiet about this. There will be a public meeting next week on the line. I was advised that people could walk down to the workman's club, which would probably take ten or 12 minutes. It would take long enough for anyone with any kind of ailment or disability to get down there. People have to get off at St. Michael's and, if they are coming home and getting the G spine coming from Liffey Valley, they then have to walk for probably another 20 minutes to get up to the top. That must be reviewed. We will submit proposals, and the NTA will get people in the area to make proposals on that.
More generally, another issue I wish to raise is car parking and park-and-ride facilities. Is the NTA looking to some of the big shopping centres to provide park-and-ride services? Is that part of the strategy? The NTA should look at buying land and getting people to use such services because private parking will cost people a lot of money. They will then have to pay to use the public transport system.
I must delve a little more into the map because it represents a big change from the previous one and I am looking at different areas and routes and so on, but I give it a cautious welcome at this stage. The National Bus and Rail Union, NBRU, and the other transport workers' unions were hugely concerned about privatisation in the future. I get the impression that they cautiously welcome the newer proposals because there is a smaller chance of the service being privatised in this way and a greater chance of the old services being maintained in the current areas.
The only other question I wish to ask is whether 3 December is the final day for submissions. Could that date be put back a week or so? Would that be a major problem for the NTA? People are organising in their communities, having public meetings and trying to get organised and galvanised. They want to get those submissions into the NTA, so it would be appreciated if the date could be put back even a week.
Ms Anne Graham:
We will consider an extension and get back to the Deputy. Obviously, we would have to publicise that because we would have to make it publicly known.
We have met the unions and they have indicated they cautiously welcome this proposal because it provides for growth. It represents 22% more services. More buses and drivers are required to operate these services, so there will be a lot more available for both Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead to operate through this new network.
Regarding car parking, we do not propose to provide or manage any park-and-ride services at the shopping centres. We have our own strategy on park-and-ride. It is more about ensuring that people are captured in the outer parts of the city region and then that there is frequency. It would therefore be more at the ends of the spines that car parking for park-and-ride would be provided in order that people could then make very short journeys into the city centre. Does Mr. Creegan wish to add anything on park-and-ride?
Is Mr. Creegan saying the NTA is looking at providing park-and-ride services at the outer end of spines? Is he saying there will be park-and-ride services but that the NTA will not run them, that they will be contracted out or-----
Ms Anne Graham:
We would locate the park-and-ride services further out from the city, not necessarily close to the city centre, so it would generally be better for the car park itself to be located towards the end of a frequent service, which is usually the spine. The services would be located in those general areas. We have not identified where those sites will be, but that will be part of the work a new park-and-ride office will do. That office will be based in our office to try to develop those proposals.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
To respond to the Deputy's other points, the frequency of the 93 service has been mentioned to us. It is worth saying that the 68 and the 69 are hourly services which are not timed to run at regular half-hourly intervals. If we are wrong on the frequency there, that is another one that could be adjusted. We did not put more bus services in that corridor for the reason the Deputy touched on earlier, namely, that it duplicates the Luas red line to some degree along parts of it. If we have a high-capacity rail service, we do not want to put in too many bus services which would duplicate or take away from it, but we need to get that right. The 93 was put in to deal with a number of things. If its frequency needs adjusting, that can be done.
The Deputy mentioned the 22, which is a half-hourly service. From all the information we had, we thought that was right but we will await the feedback. We know that changing the names can cause confusion. In fact, we are sorry we did not use numbers that are not close to the current numbers. Having, say, the 22 and the 23 instead of the 123 causes some confusion. It is surprising how quickly people adjust to a new numbering system, but for now I can appreciate it may cause some confusion.
In the revised network the bus stops are broadly in the same places as before and we do not see any major negativity regarding walking distances. With additional services put in, walking distances for most people should be broadly what they are now. We do not see that as a big problem.
I thank Deputy MacSharry for allowing me to go ahead of him, even though he has been for the whole meeting. I welcome Martin Hoey and his colleague in the Gallery. Mr. Hoey is an advocate of good public transport, much like Mr. Creegan and Ms Graham. I am sure they have been very familiar with his work for many years at this stage.
Has the NTA ever sought automatic number plate recognition, ANPR, from the Minister? Has the NTA ever recommended it to him? It would make the existing bus lanes much more useful. I think Deputy Joan Collins was hitting on this point earlier, or perhaps it was Deputy Coppinger.
The map shows the 262 route and the N2 crossing the bridge at Broombridge hill, effectively on a two-way system. That is currently a one-way street. The witnesses might bring some clarity to bear on how the NTA intends to change that to facilitate the route shown on the map.
Regarding the routes in version 2 of the route proposal, the NTA is getting there. The proposal is to be cautiously welcomed, much like what the unions have said. I have a few questions, however. Regarding the new service in Beaumont going down Lorcan Avenue, where is it proposed to locate the bus stops? It would be useful if a few more details were put on this - a little meat on the bones - because people are coming to me seeking clarity, and if I do not have clarity, I cannot give it. It would be appreciated if the witnesses could put a little more detail on that. I acknowledge again that the NTA has done a great deal of work on the replacement for the existing 11 bus service in iterating from the first version to the second version of the route map. I imagine that the circa 1,000 submissions my office processed for the NTA played some role in this. Nevertheless, it is felt the replacement 11 service is still not quite there, particularly in respect of the termination of the route on Parnell Square.
People have expressed their concerns about that to me. It is a focal point for the NTA to possibly reconsider.
The replacement of the No. 1 route in Santry is a broadly welcome move. It is one of the positive things in this iteration. There are some improvements. What timeline does the NTA expect? Our guests informed Deputy Coppinger about taking some considerations on board in Blanchardstown, for example. I presume they will come back with a third iteration of a draft map for us. Will they provide an indicative breadcrumb trail regarding the intended timeline? There are 22% more routes and services. Any increase in routes and services is welcome. Why could that not be the case with the first version? Was it indicated that more resources would be available, which then allowed our guests to provide a more complete second version and indicate an increase of services? It seems that much heartache, anxiety and angst were caused by the first iteration of the BusConnects network redesign. Why could these resources not have been allocated in the first instance? Did the Minister or Government set a limit?
I presume that a 24-hour airport route will be part of this. As matter stand, our transport network is sorely lacking such a service. That takes me on to a related question on the current network and the mooted 24-hour bus service that would involve expanding the No. 41 route, which serves my constituency, the airport and Swords. Where does that proposal stand? It has been promised throughout this year. It was to start early in the year but it is now November.
I ask the Chairman to indulge me on two related questions that I suspect our guests have the answers to, so I do not think I will be straying too far from the subject matter of the meeting. When will further consultation on the metro begin and end? I know it is a small consultation compared to the others. Now that there is a new iteration of BusConnects, can we say that the bus rapid transit project, BRT, is officially dead? Can we put a lid on it and get rid of that uncertainty? It still technically exists and Dublin City Council still refers to it in some of its planning documents, for example with regard to the Laurence Lands in my constituency. Could we bring clarity to bear on that matter? I presume this supersedes that plan.
Ms Anne Graham:
BusConnects supersedes BRT. We have said that BusConnects and the bus corridors will bring BRT-level service to 16 corridors rather than the three that were originally proposed. We have been trying to push Dublin Bus to get the 24-hour service up and running. The latest date I have is 1 December. We would have preferred an earlier date. We hope that Dublin Bus will be in a position to operate a 24-hour service on the No. 41 and No. 15 routes from 1 December.
Ms Anne Graham:
Exactly. With regard to what is proposed for the network, if 24-hour services are implemented along corridors in the next years, they will be retained. We are planning more all-day services with further peak commuter services. Any additional services and running times that are currently operated or that will come into operation in the coming years will continue in the revised network, though the alignment might be different based on the new spines.
The design brief for the original plan was to look at the network afresh and maybe provide a new network based on the resources available rather than increasing the resources. It became clear that, even when we started to look at that, there would still be a requirement for phase 1 of the network, which we consulted on last year, of approximately 10% more resources. This proposal represents a 22% increase on what is currently operated, having improved and increased the services over the last years. It is a significant increase.
Ms Graham might forgive me for interrupting her. I was asking that to see if we could get more. If we managed to grow from 10% more to 22% more, could the third iteration give us more again? This seems like the opportunity to ask for that.
Ms Anne Graham:
It is demand-led. We are planning a network based on the demand over the next ten to 15 years. The service frequency and number of services operated on each route is demand-led. We want to meet that demand, which will grow at a certain pace, and we will respond by increasing bus service frequency. If we find that with such a good network of services, there are more people wanting to use it beyond what we have predicted, we will provide additional services. Mr. Creegan will provide more details.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
On the question about the automatic number plate recognition system, we have commenced dialogue with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport about implementing such a system here. It is common abroad. The Department is considering that, since it will require legislation. With regard to the No. 262 route at Broombridge, and the N2 route which goes through there, we intend to get a two-way service for buses across the bridge. Only the buses will be allowed to cross northbound. We will have to control it with signals on either side. We will have to speak with Dublin City Council on that to work it out.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
No, it has to be signal-controlled. Only buses would go contra-flow, not cars. We have not decided the location of the bus stops on Lorcan Avenue. We have to do this consultation first. We do not have that information from the residents yet. I do not have an answer regarding the replacement No. 11 and the issue of where it ends up in Parnell Square. Let us see what the submissions contain. If some adjustment is needed, we can look at that.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
On the timeline, once we get feedback from this, there will be a final iteration of the network. Given the scale of the change, I suspect that will be the network that we will then start to implement. It will take a year to arrange all of the details involved, given the scale of change that we are bringing in. All of the scheduling of vehicles and drivers, and of which depots and routes are running, will be done with Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead. We anticipate that we will roll out the first spine in early 2021. We are doing it in a phased manner, with one or two spines together. We will wait for a time to see those bed in and then will do further work. We anticipate that it will take two to two and a half years to complete the roll-out.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
We have started work on that but we really need to see the final network before we can finalise it. There is no point in going too far down the line on implementation plans if the network is going to be tweaked again. We have not decided on that just yet. We may do one, learn from that and build on it on that basis. We have talked about other cities, and that is how these things are generally done.
I am conscious that members from Dublin and the greater Dublin area might want to speak. I will be quick and then get off the stage in order to facilitate them.
Fianna Fáil Deputies in Dublin and the greater Dublin area will be engaging in the consultation process, as I have no doubt they have been. I will make some general points. I would hate to be in charge of this because I am sure no two members here would agree on a perfect route. I wish to ask about demographics, age, disability, where we are now and where we are heading. The witnesses indicated that the census was one element. Has any specific research been done? Have firms been retained to carry out research on where the biggest concentrations of elderly people, the ageing population and young children are located so that the network is future-proofed as much as possible? Would the witnesses prefer me to bank all the questions?
Mr. Tim Gaston:
It is. We have started a piece of work on the areas with a particular predominance of older people. We looked at their current network and the changes that will be brought about by the new network. We are focusing in particular on interchange. We ran a workshop with older people's councils last week to discuss the important features at the points where people have to interchange. We are open to dialogue on that. We are using that analysis to determine the areas with a predominance of older people and the journeys those people need to make to access shops, healthcare and the city centre.
Can that be overlaid on other calculations or estimates? Are today's older people tomorrow's young families? We are doing this for the here and now, but will we need to change it again in two, three, five or ten years?
Mr. Tim Gaston:
That is true, but Age Friendly Ireland reports that the percentage of the population aged over 80 will grow dramatically while the percentage aged over 65 will grow significantly. With improved healthcare these people have become more active. We anticipate that the number of older people travelling will continue to increase.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
We are trying to avoid having to come back and carry out changes on this scale again. During this network redevelopment, we are putting processes in place to make reviewing the network's performance part of business as usual. The new contract we are signing with Dublin Bus next month and the contract we already have with Go-Ahead Ireland include route-by-route analysis. We will be looking at every route every month to see how it performs in terms of reliability, punctuality, passenger numbers, revenue, old people and so on. If performance changes, we will change the route. This will become a rolling process, rather than one where nothing is done for several years and then massive change is needed.
This will affect the four Dublin local authorities and, to a lesser extent, the local authorities in counties Kildare, Meath and Louth. Is the National Transport Authority cognisant of the plans of these local authorities for building and development?
That is good. The timelines the witnesses have just outlined refer to 2021. Does the NTA have the required money now? How does the budgeting for this work? Does the NTA have just enough for consultation and further design? Are we dependent on the Government in place in 2020 or early 2021 and its budgetary position or is the money already banked?
Ms Anne Graham:We are always dependent on the Government and the budget because-----
Let us say that I am the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and I lose the run of myself and decide the National Transport Authority is not getting any more money. Is the €2 billion in the can?
Ms Anne Graham:
No, that concerns the bus corridors. We hope to have a final network of services, which is what the ongoing consultation is about, in the first quarter of next year. Next year, we will start a second phase of consultation on the bus corridors, concerning the infrastructure and the bus priority measures. Then we will need planning permission and consent for the bus corridor infrastructure. That process will hopefully commence in the third quarter of next year.
I wish to make a couple of points about the consultations. The starting point for the first consultation was a view that change would not really be possible without abolishing the whole plan. The second round has proved that in fact it was possible. We can all acknowledge some improvement though there may be some anomalies. The National Transport Authority has kept an open mind on making improvements.
The timing of consultations has been raised. Even though I am Sligo-based, I am my party's transport spokesman so people contact my office. The consultations conclude at 5 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. The two examples that were mentioned took place at Liffey Valley, with an alternative held in Castleknock. The times did not suit people, particularly working people. One consultation finished at 5 p.m. and one finished at 7.30 p.m., or perhaps those were the start times.
Suppose someone who is trying to attend is working in Sandyford and living in Lucan, and has to collect one child and drop off another, cook dinner and all the rest. Perhaps the NTA would consider holding the consultations later for the sake of the public. That leads to another point that has reached my office, although Deputies from Dublin and the greater Dublin area will have much better local knowledge. It concerns the Dodsboro area in the west of the city, where the 25 and 25X routes ran. Those routes will be gone. Elderly and disabled members of the community there have expressed concern at the distance they will have to travel to get to the bus and the fact that they will have to go to Blanchardstown rather than going directly into town. I wish to pass on that concern. Dublin Deputies will no doubt be more familiar with the details of that.
My next query is more operational, so if the witnesses do not have a view they can tell me. Does the National Transport Authority liaise with local authorities on traffic light sequencing?
Very well. Members of the public have raised two junctions with me. I do not want what I am about to say to be misinterpreted as being against pedestrians. They are obviously a priority. I am told that at the junction at College Green and at the Stephen's Green end of Baggot Street the period of time given for people to cross is very generous. A review of those junctions could benefit the traffic flow.
None of us wants it cut such that pedestrians cannot get across the road. Perhaps it could be looked at. It may be the case that it cannot be shortened, but it has been raised so therefore I have raised it with the witnesses.
While it is not directly connected to BusConnects, we have read a lot about transport police. It predominantly concerns rail services, although incidents happen on the Luas and buses as well. There seems to be pushback from the Garda and everybody else to say this is not a problem, there is a text service and this, that and the other, and there is regular contact with the police. From a budgetary perspective it is unlikely that we will get a dedicated transport police no matter who is in government. Have the witnesses spoken to the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Harris, or would they consider speaking to him to ask if we could build in to one of every three shifts of beat cops that as part of their working day they would include specific bus routes or travel on an intercity train line, which I accept is not the bus service? That could act as a deterrent. Such a presence, rather than having a dedicated transport police, could give people peace of mind and give confidence to vulnerable commuters It would also act as a deterrent to those people causing the problems in the first place. Could the witnesses have an exploratory conversation with Commissioner Harris along those lines? I am sorry for delaying proceedings.
Ms Anne Graham:
To respond to the comments on the transport police, we know the operators have ongoing engagement with community police in particular about monitoring during operations and they have ongoing meetings on anti-social behaviour on public transport. Irish Rail in particular is very focused on this area and is carrying out some research on what is done in other countries and what is appropriate.
I most respectfully suggest that Ms Graham might ask whether it is possible for normal beat cops, as part of their shift, as opposed to the dedicated traffic corps or homicide police, to extend their focus to transport. I refer to the visible police we see, whether they are community police or police walking the beat. Is it possible to factor in as part of their normal working day that they would take a certain bus journey twice during a shift and expand that out to intercity trains? A garda might go on one train trip during his or her shift.
I am sorry for interrupting, but my only fear on that is we will end up with a patchy service where one superintendent thinks it is a great idea and he is doing it while another superintendent does not. It is important to agree a national policy, although it is clear that it is more of an issue in urban areas on the Luas and Dublin Bus and on intercity rail lines. We have all heard about Westport and Sligo at different times where flashpoints develop at various times during the summer and in connection with stag and hen weekends. I most respectfully ask the NTA to ask Commissioner Harris if this is something that could be considered and fed down from the top rather than depending on local management being favourably disposed, which can happen in one area but not in another.
I have a few additional questions. I would encourage everyone to use the route planning tool on the NTA's website, which is very good. If people are not sure about the maps, it is very useful to use the route planner. It is important that people use it, even if they are critical of it.
The 67 and 66X currently terminate in UCD. Is the reason the terminus is no longer going to be in UCD for the additional peak time services based on the thinking that people will connect? I also wish to speak about the numbers, which to me do not add up. If the UCD bus on the C routes went directly to UCD, that would benefit the entire route. I presume people have to get off and connect.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
It is based on counting the number of people boarding and alighting from the existing services. I forget exactly why we reached the decision but we thought it was the right one. There are a number of direct services and we needed to route some of them to UCD instead of stopping in the city centre.
I will give Mr. Creegan an example of what I mean. Somebody from my office was going out to Lucan last week. The bus driver said that anyone not going to Celbridge should not get on the bus as there would be another one in few minutes. It was said that they would take up space and some passengers for Celbridge would be left waiting an hour. That is what I mean. It is the kind of thing that people see every day. There is a practical work knowledge. It is more than a paper-based exercise. Drivers have a resource that is not available to everyone. They are aware of pinch points that they encounter every day. They are a resource that should be understood and used.
Okay. Deputy MacSharry made a point about transport police. I attended the NBRU conference in August or September and what came up most strongly was the risk. I heard about criminal behaviour rather than anti-social behaviour. I accept that is a policing issue, but it does put people off using public transport if they feel they are mixing with people engaged in criminal behaviour. I endorse the argument that has been made, although I believe we need a dedicated transport police. It is not a case of silence and consensus and only one person raising it. There is a significant issue involved.
I wish to raise a couple of other issues. I will use my own constituency as an example although it is not the only area affected. I refer to the use of the Leap card and Bus Éireann services that are within the commuter belt. Perhaps what I call the commuter belt and what the NTA defines as the commuter belt are two different things. I refer to the Leap card discount on the 139 and 126 services. Is the NTA involved in that regard? Does it seek to include people in the 90 minutes journey time, for example, if they are using a Leap card? Are there plans to expand the Leap card in the future beyond this network to sizeable functional areas going towards the city centre?
Will the witnesses give the headline figures for BusConnects or forward them to the committee?
What is the capital investment side? In terms of widening pavements, transfers, new bus stops and all of that, what is the capital side in totality or the estimated amount? Is it fully funded? What is the cost of BusConnects in its totality? I would like a headline figure.
The point has been made that the money is not in the bag. I remember when the strategic development zone, SDZ, in Adamstown was being designed. A selling point for it was that the zone would not increase congestion in Lucan because there were going be a train station and dedicated bus services. Schools were going to be put in before the houses and all of that. The economy then got into very significant difficulty and a lot of the project did not happen. It is absolutely the right thing to plan something on a presumption. However, I am sure one can understand when there are examples why people will not entirely take it at face value that the money will be forthcoming. What commitments are being made or sought into the future that can strengthen the situation? Do the witnesses have ideas on how this could be assisted?
Ms Anne Graham:
What we have not got a commitment for in the future is the operational funding. As I have said before, we oavailable it would enable us to plan better in terms of the delivery of services, and that is someperate off an annual budget. In our world we would love to see multi-annual funding on the operational side but it is not available to us at the moment. If that were made thing we would like to see. We operate within the budgets that we are given and we plan as best we can within those budgets.
In terms of the budgetary process, we will be putting in our application for additional funding associated with whatever additional services we want to put in, and whatever fare proposals we want to make as well. For anything that increases the operational cost, we go through the annual process with our Departments and try to make the best case for the funding that we need to deliver services. That is the situation that we operate in now. In an ideal world, multi-annual funding for subsidy would be very helpful.
My colleague, Mr. Creegan, will talk about the capital side of BusConnects.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
In the National Development Plan €2 billion has been allocated to BusConnects Dublin and €400 million has been allocated to the regional cities. We have to finish the design of the core bus corridors before we can finalise an estimate for them because they are changing and evolving. Next year, we will put in a more exact number against it but that number is about right. We are comfortable that the funding is available under the National Development Plan to do what needs to be done in the BusConnects programme.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
Right across the entire Bus Éireann network nationally, and particularly for the commuter services, there would be a very high uptake of Leap cards. The scheme has worked well. There is about a 30% discount between cash fares and Leap fares already so that is a well established discount. In the greater Dublin area, Bus Éireann put in a number of zones depending on how far out one lives. The zonal prices were there for other discounted product for a day, a week, a month and annual tickets.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
That was Bus Éireann, yes. We probably would not extend the 90-minute range beyond the immediate zone that is there because that really is a metropolitan area fare. One could argue about where the boundary ends for the metropolitan area of Dublin.
What we are looking at, and when we are technically able to do it, we would like to put in a heavily discounted add-on ticket, particularly for people who come to Dublin on a very regular basis. For example, if one buys a Taxsaver ticket on a monthly or annual basis one could buy a cheap add-on that allows one to travel anywhere within the city area. Typically, that is what we have seen done by other fare structures. The option would give the person travelling in an opportunity to buy a ticket that would give him or her a very low discount rate. We thought of a price of maybe between €500 and €600 for somebody who is doing it for a full year and that would be less for shorter periods.
I thank Deputy Rock and the Vice Chairman. I thank the NTA delegation for coming before us. I spoke to some of them at the launch and I would like to give some feedback on the NTA's most recent announcement.
There is still a lot of concern in west Dublin about the hub at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre and its capacity to manage the current proposal, and the number of buses going through it based on the traffic concerns. Also, there are serious concerns again about the removal of connectivity for many of the suburban communities in west Dublin. Clonee is an example and the removal of the 70 bus route, which also affects Dunboyne. Some of my Meath colleagues have concerns there as well. The 264, as has been proposed, would travel via a new gate at Huntstown Wood, which is right beside a school in a residential cul-de-sac. The proposal to provide a bus every 15 minutes in each direction will create serious safety issues and undermine the existing pedestrian permeability. That whole proposal has received significant criticism. Last month, I held a public meeting on the issue where I presented the factual basis of the plan as per the BusConnects documentation and maps. On that occasion a significant level of concern was expressed.
Similarly, the 39 bus has been removed. The whole Clonsilla Road area is very much a retired demographic who need and use the bus. The fact that we would be mandating them to switch if they wished to go to town has received a lot of negative feedback.
The business community in Blanchardstown village is very concerned. Fingal County Council is trying to enhance a lot of its own planning of urban villages and towns. The fact that the village will have no direct route to the city centre is a serious concern for businesses that are struggling at present even with the level of demand in the Blanchardstown centre. That Blanchardstown village has been left isolated in the plan is a serious concern.
There are concerns about the new 34 route that replaces the 37. People will lose connectivity with Stoneybatter, Skreen Road and the quays. Many people use the service to access the Luas and switch services.
The Hollystown area has been completely cut off in the latest proposal. There is a growing number of residential units in the area and people must walk a significant distance. At present, the 40E bus service provides some level of service to Hollystown. The fact that the service will be completely removed is of concern to the local community.
On the Navan Road, people are concerned about overall capacity. Many buses pass people by because they are full. The people who live at the bottom of Ashington and Riverston Abbey and that area, and on the Navan Road are concerned about the 220 bus being replaced with a much more infrequent service, which has been proposed.
There are issues with the peak services. Some of the replacement services are peak only. They are less frequent than the present service such as the 39X and other buses. People are concerned about the capacity of peak services. While the documentation states that the increased capacity of the spinal network will replace the peak level of demand, there is a concern that with the growing population demographic the matter will not resolve itself.
Again, there is no connection with the airport. We think that would be a viable route for the NTA to explore via BusConnects as an urban route. The current proposal is to have an urban route and to have a switch further away from the airport.
I have listed some of the feedback that I have received because I want to flag these issues with the NTA.
I am encouraging people to make submissions. My colleague, Deputy Rock, informed me that another map will be drawn up after this consultation. Is that correct? Will there be another public consultation about that map? Will its manifestation be based on the feedback received?
While there has been some wriggling of certain elements of the previous plan, the proposals for west Dublin have not adequately changed compared with other areas. That has been negatively received by the local community. Many of them have received the leaflet and are attending meetings. I am also trying to facilitate them with additional information.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Is that the Educate Together school?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We have already heard some of these concerns. We will see what changes ultimately get incorporated.
We looked at whether the connection to the airport should be provided. It was tried several years ago without great success. Our view was that it would be a low-frequency service. We do not think it was the right route to put in. It was felt it was quicker to take other routes rather than this type of one.
The intention is to take the feedback from this consultation, make the final changes to the network and publish it early next year as the final network for implementation. In terms of consultation, our intention is that this would be the opportunity for people to give their final comments on the proposals. It is for us to work away through them and publish a final plan early next year.
Ms Anne Graham:
Feedback can be given, but at that stage, we are in the implementation stage. This is the last major consultation. As I said, when one makes a new network, there is always a requirement to tweak elements of it as one goes through the implementation of it. In terms of having a plan, we need to start operating from a plan and finalise it. That is what we intend to do in the first quarter of next year.
Community buy-in is important with this. Other parts of Dublin have had some level of change. For example, if a person were to drive a car through a cul-de-sac and create difficulties for residents and a school community, that person would have issues with the council, the Part 8 process and councillors rejecting it, which would undermine the route proposals. The NTA has to work in partnership with local authorities, councillors and public representatives to ensure such a problem is mitigated.
Similarly, I am not sure how workable the Blanchardstown Centre hub will be. It could be the great white elephant of this plan. When one considers the present gridlock and the displacement of traffic across the Blanchardstown Centre, channelling so many buses through the shopping centre could collapse the hub proposal.
We will see what is proposed in the next phase. The marketing documentation states the NTA has listened. I hope it will continue to listen and respond to communities.
I have a few final questions now that I finally have got the witnesses all to myself. I am fond of the 40E bus service which brings people from Finglas to the Luas. Under a freedom of information request, I got the details that in and around 5,000 passengers use it every week. There has been a little bit of chatter locally about it being discontinued and I wanted to put an end to it here. I assume that is not the case. I assume it will be continuing until the BusConnects plan is implemented, when it will be effectively superseded by the proposed 262 service. Will the NTA confirm the service will continue? One can see passenger numbers are increasing and it is a good story.
In addition, I have been campaigning for a real-time sign to be placed at Broombridge station to allow passengers know when buses are coming. It is in the spirit of BusConnects that somebody gets off a Luas to get on a bus but needs to know when the bus is coming. Sometimes the service there can be half hourly or thereabouts. If a person has just missed it, putting a bit of certainty would be useful. Will the NTA confirm if that real-time sign is coming? If so, when?
Cycling is a significant component of the plan. I do not know if it came up at the start of the meeting but since I have been here there has been no mention of it which is regrettable. The 200 km of dedicated cycle track infrastructure is one of the better elements of the plan. It is a point to which we should be giving due consideration. Perhaps we can meet separately on this to go through some of the pinch points in the cycle network.
No consultations are held locally in our area. Castleknock is the nearest one, if I am not mistaken. That is quite far to go from my area. Those who want to attend the consultations are the very people who use public transport. Getting to Castleknock on public transport for the majority of my constituents is difficult. It is perhaps a roundabout way of the NTA illustrating the deficiencies of the current network. If it is, it is quite clever. However, I do not think it is. Will the NTA look at putting one more consultation locally for my area? For people in Finglas, Santry and Beaumont, it is difficult to get to a consultation in Castleknock.
Transport police is a great idea. The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, dedicated a special one-off to it back in September. I happened to be on an intercity service from Cork to Dublin and there was a garda for the duration of the journey. While it might be a bit unsettling, it is a good thing to see and we should see more of it. It would be useful for Dublin Bus and particularly the Luas. They should be encouraged to reach out to the Garda Commissioner about this.
Will the NTA confirm the dates on smaller consultation on the metro? Is it still the case that the design team will be transferred to other projects such as the Luas to Finglas?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
The metro consultation is a mini-consultation process just to do with one or two issues, in particular the Albert College intervention shaft. It will be within the next two weeks but I do not have the exact date. Our intention is to email all the public representatives just in that area to say it will be starting on whatever date.
There was a circular which came to my attention yesterday from the residents’ association there. It seems it is not aware of the consultation happening either. It would be good to put a bit of meat on those bones.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
On the consultation locations, what we wanted to do differently this time was to focus on putting together understandable brochures that people could read and get information out of and then put them into every letter box across the city. It was then intended to supplement that with a more limited number of longer and more resourced information days. It is because of that we have gone for 16 information days at eight locations. We appreciate it is not in every area. However, the theory behind it is that we put a map and brochure into everybody’s house.
Most of last year was spent explaining the network to people. Now it is much more understandable and, hopefully, the need for the same level of explanation is not there. Swords would probably be one of the locations in the Deputy's general area. I know it is north of Clongriffin and the city centre and that they are not as close as the Bonnington Hotel but we are doing this for the whole of November. We made the decision regarding a smaller number of key locations where we could put more resources and then supplement it with individual brochures. Real-time passenger information is going in at Broombridge station.
Mr. Tim Gaston:
There is a plan to put real-time sign there. It seems to make a lot of sense as there are many services coming together there. We hope to pilot a battery-driven sign that will not need an outside power source. It is taking a bit longer getting the sim cards to connect into the network because a different supplier is providing them but we hope to get that up and running within weeks. All things being equal, that may be before the end of the year.
Ms Anne Graham:
We did not really focus on the cycling component of the plan for today; it is more about the bus corridors. Our focus for today was really on the network of services. Cycling is obviously still an important feature of BusConnects, as is the delivery of new infrastructure. Our dedicated cycling design office is now up and running. We want to improve our delivery rate with our local authorities for segregated cycling infrastructure.
Brilliant. This is not a criticism of the NTA at all. It is more about how cycling can sometimes inadvertently end up not being on the agenda. Other issues often end up dominating meetings. I would love to meet the cycling design team. I would really appreciate the opportunity to do so in the weeks and months ahead if that is at all possible.
Before we conclude, I have two questions to put. I am not from a city but a lot of what has been said applies to other places with regard to buses anyway. We know where the pinch points are. Is some of the change, for example, increased DART frequency to Greystones and train services to Maynooth and Kildare, on schedule to tie in with the changes to bus services? Will these changes be in a position to kick in straight away? Is the NTA working in conjunction with other operators?
Ms Anne Graham:
Due to the fact that we are constrained with regard to the fleet, we do not have any engines to operate additional services on any of our rail lines - either DART or commuter lines. The Government approved the purchase of 14 diesel cars for intercity services last week so they will go into service and, hopefully, start delivery in two years time. We are also procuring additional DART fleet and that procurement will be completed next year for additional rail fleet. The purpose is to increase the amount and frequency of services to build capacity on the rail lines and then carry out the electrification as part of the DART expansion programme at a later date but all that work, including the design and procurement work, is ongoing.
What about commuter areas like Greystones, Rush or Blessington outside the city of Dublin? The NTA is providing a limited number of peak-only services but these are fast-growing areas. When will they get a proper regular bus service?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Blessington has the No. 68 bus. We are still proposing to provide services under the network. I cannot recall the exact frequency but we certainly match the frequency of the existing service. A lot of extra services are going into Greystones, some of which are local connecting to the train station. As part of the DART expansion programme, it will take a number of years. Our intention is to change the track between Bray and Greystones to be able to get to 20-minute frequency from Greystones. Currently, it is every half an hour. There are different proposals in place to deal with those areas.
Deputy Rock touched on the core bus corridor project. Obviously, it is running simultaneously with the revised bus network design. Who wins here? Is it the corridor or the bus network design with regard to determining the routes? Will they eventually tie in?
Ms Anne Graham:
They tie in. The corridors will be located primarily on the spines. We want to provide the highest level of bus priority where the frequent services will operate. They are two separate projects but they all work together in terms of trying to provide a better and more frequent and reliable public transport service. The network design is a separate project and can be implemented separately with the existing infrastructure. The improved bus corridors and bus priority will further improve the network. They all work together.
Regarding the implementation of the overall project, our guests mentioned that the NTA has selected so many spines each time to be delivered but success at this point is also dependent on the orbitals otherwise everybody will still be going to the city centre. How does the NTA go about delivering this project?
Ms Anne Graham:
It is not going to be easy to split this up in terms of implementation. That is the work that will be ongoing next year. How do we implement a phased implementation of the spines and the orbitals so that people are not left without a service while we are implementing the new service? That is quite a complicated implementation plan that must be put together. It will take at least a year to put it in place.
Regarding the advertising of BusConnects, when I was coming down Wexford Street I wondered whether the NTA has purchased some rickshaws. I see a few people driving around in such vehicles with the BusConnects hoarding attached. I asked myself whether the Minister authorised rickshaws being purchased by the NTA.
They were three-wheelers. If I was driving, I would have got a picture for Ms Graham. I am going outside the remit of today's meeting. Perhaps we should bring our guests back before the committee to discuss bus fares. There is a massive discrepancy when it comes to bus fares from Dungarvan to Cork and Youghal to Cork. Dungarvan is further away.
One can get from Cork more cheaply than one can travel from Youghal. Could the witnesses come back with more information on that?
Ms Anne Graham:
We do not regulate the Expressway service's fares. They are set by Bus Éireann, which has chosen to discount the longer journey. We levy and regulate fares on the PSO service, which runs from Youghal to Cork. Changing the Youghal service fares would have an impact throughout the network. That is the situation. We can only regulate-----
Ms Anne Graham:
We cannot answer for the decisions Bus Éireann has made about its Expressway. Our fare is distance-based. It costs the same to travel the same distance on other stage carriage services. If it is amended in one location it must be amended in many parts of the country. We regulate a distance-based fare on regional services. It is the same no matter where the service is operating. Unfortunately Bus Éireann has made a decision to discount an Expressway service that travels a further distance. We have no way of changing that.
I thank the witnesses for their patience, especially Mr. Tim Gaston, Ms Anne Graham and Mr. Hugh Creegan of the National Transport Authority, NTA. I thank them for their time and for an informative afternoon. I also thank the staff and those in the Visitors Gallery.