Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 4 May 2022
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Region: Discussion
The purpose of the meeting today is to consider a draft Dublin area transport strategy. The meeting will be held in two sessions. To the first session, I welcome from the National Transport Authority, NTA, Ms Anne Graham, CEO, and Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO and director of transport planning and investment.
Our guests are welcome and I thank them for appearing before us.
All witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not criticise or make charges against a person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely from outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present does. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should be mindful of domestic law and how it may apply to the evidence they give.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House complex to participate in public meetings. Reluctantly, I will not permit a member to participate where he or she is not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts of Leinster House will be asked to leave the meeting. In this regard, I ask any member participating via MS Teams to confirm prior to making his or her contribution to the meeting that he or she is on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.
Members and all those in attendance in the committee room are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Deputy Higgins is substituting for Deputy Carey and Senator Seery Kearney is substituting for Senator Buttimer. I invite Ms Graham to make her opening statement.
Ms Anne Graham:
I thank members for the invitation to attend. I understand that the committee wishes to focus upon the draft transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, GDA. To assist me in dealing with members' subsequent questions I am joined by Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO with the authority. Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the NTA must review its transport strategy every six years. Arising from the review of the 2016 plan, an updated strategy has been developed which sets out the framework for investment in transport infrastructure and services over the next two decades to 2042. This Draft Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2022-2042 replaces the previous framework, titled the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, which was approved by the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in 2016.
That prior transport strategy set out to contribute to the economic, social and cultural progress of the GDA by providing for the efficient, effective and sustainable movement of people and goods. It did that by providing a framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure and services in the GDA. It has also provided a transport planning policy around which other agencies involved in land use planning, environmental protection, and delivery of other infrastructure could align their investment priorities. It has been an essential component, along with investment programmes in other sectors, for the development of the GDA, which covers the counties of Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. Major projects provided for in the original strategy, which are at different stages of delivery included: Luas cross city; the reopening of the Phoenix Park tunnel rail line; the ongoing roll-out of cycle tracks and greenways; Metrolink; the DART+ programme; and investment in bus priority and bus service improvements, BusConnects Dublin. Any transport strategy will always be part of a larger picture of overall national policies that work towards a single set of overall objectives. To a large extent, policies and objectives around issues such as land use, development, population distribution, investment, sustainability and climate action, for example, are determined by other State agencies and authorities, but must be fully reflected in any transport strategy. As such, this transport strategy has been developed to be consistent with the spatial planning policies and objectives set out in the regional spatial and economic strategy, RSES, as adopted by the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, and finalised in January 2020. These objectives, in turn, are consistent with the national planning framework and the national development plan, as set out in Project Ireland 2040.
In developing the draft strategy the NTA established a number of committees that guided us during the development. These included the public representatives’ advisory committee, which comprised 18 councillors across the region, including the mayor or chairperson of each of the seven county councils; the chairperson of each strategic policy committee for transport in each of the county councils; and four additional councillors representing the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly. Over 20 detailed studies were completed to support the development of the draft transport strategy, all of which were published as part of the public consultation. The draft transport strategy seeks to address all aspects of land-based transport within the greater Dublin area and sets out a variety of actions covering: planning for sustainable transport; integration and inclusion; walking, accessibility and public realm; cycling and personal mobility vehicles; public transport, including bus, Luas, metro and heavy rail; roads; traffic management and travel options; freight, delivery and servicing; and climate action management. The main changes in the current draft compared with the previous strategy are: the new rail line to Navan; additional rail stations; design of additional Luas lines if demand increases for delivery post-2042; and removal of the eastern bypass.
There is now a legislative requirement that public bodies must take account of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 in the performance of their functions. Specifically in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, the Act requires a total reduction of 51% in such emissions over the period to 2030, relative to a baseline of 2018. This is a significant and challenging target, which will require fundamental changes in transport over the next decade. Central to those changes will be the need to increase the proportion of travel by sustainable modes and reduce the level of usage of petrol and diesel powered vehicles. While in overall terms, meeting climate targets will be challenging for transport, the picture for urban public transport is different. The NTA and our contracted operators are already actively transitioning to low and zero emissions fleet with 280 plug-in battery electric hybrid double-decker buses now available for operation in Dublin, Limerick and Galway and the first plug-in battery electric zero emission double-decker bus is being delivered late this year. Bus Éireann is trialling three double deck hydrogen-fuelled zero emission buses on its Dublin commuter services. Iarnród Éireann has also placed the first order of battery electric DART fleet as part of the electrification of the commuter rail services under the DART+ programme.
While the provision of new and additional transport infrastructure and transport services will encourage and deliver increased movement by sustainable modes, such provision will be insufficient on its own to achieve the level of emissions reduction required by 2030. Accordingly, additional demand management measures will need to be put in place to complement the additional transport provision, which is likely to include parking restraint; zonal charging; additional tolling; and road pricing and further vehicle electrification, or both. The public consultation on the draft transport strategy has been completed. The NTA received over 1,000 submissions. This compares with a total of 155 submissions received during the preparation of the 2016 strategy. The authority has assessed those submissions and is finalising the revised draft to submit for approval to the Minister for Transport. That concludes my introductory statement. I trust that I can answer any queries that arise.
I thank Ms Graham for the update. I refer to her last point on submissions. Ms Graham said the NTA received 155 submissions in 2016 and it probably received in excess of that number on one issue in the current strategy that I will raise with her, namely fares along the east coast. This includes Balbriggan versus Gormanston, Laytown and Drogheda.
I have raised this issue with Ms Graham before, most recently on 3 November 2021. Could she give an update on the review of fares, which, as she stated at that time, was ongoing? Ms Graham referenced the NTA's obligations under the climate Act in terms of emissions. A practical effect of the decision to have such a discrepancy in terms of fares is that people get into their cars in Stamullen, a community I represent, and they drive to Balbriggan or Dublin. They just stay in the car. That is a real-life effect that can be measured. Is the NTA measuring that?
Could I get an update on what the NTA is seeking to do regarding the fare discrepancy between Balbriggan and Gormanston, Laytown and Drogheda? Does the NTA recognise it as an issue and is it assessing the impact of it in terms of the travel decisions of commuters?
Ms Anne Graham:
What the Deputy is referring to is the boundary between the different fare types, namely, short-hop fares, which are the fares that are covered by the Leap card, versus intercity fares. We inherited this more than ten years ago. We recognised initially that the boundary was not at the same distance across all the different lines going across the rail service, so we amended the boundary to be at a consistent distance from the city centre. The boundary is in or around 30 km from the city centre.
Ms Anne Graham:
Yes, but we recognise that there is a big jump up in fares when you move from what is a commuter-type fare into longer journeys where people are still commuting but the fare is based on an intercity rail structure. We are still doing a complete review of both rail and regional bus services to set out fairer, distance-based fares for rail and bus services. That work is ongoing. It is a complicated piece of work, but it is to be set out so that once we are working with Irish Rail, implementing the DART+ programme, that we will be able to provide much fairer commuter-based fares that go beyond what is the current boundary between the commuter zone and the intercity zone.
Has there been an impact assessment? This absolutely flies in the face of a written Government policy. I have constituents who talk about their children having freedom because they have their driving licences. They use the car because they do not have a bus service. I am talking about a community of 3,000 people that was built by previous Governments and planned by local authorities. They do not have a public bus service and the rail service is completely unaffordable. We are literally driving people into cars.
Ms Anne Graham:
There are two responses to that. It is work that we are undertaking. We are not assessing specifically whether people are driving from one station to another. We have not ascertained the extent of that, but we know anecdotally that it is happening. I am not sure which community Deputy O'Rourke is talking about, but Connecting Ireland-----
Ms Anne Graham:
Connecting Ireland is also the response to the delivery of public transport where there is not an adjacent rail service. As Deputy O'Rourke is aware, we have undertaken significant public consultation and significant proposals are being brought forward now for implementation, which will address the type of issues he is talking about in terms of areas that have been developed without public transport.
A lot of cars will be bought between now and when Connecting Ireland is introduced. Is it not the case that a reduction in the fare price structure could be introduced tomorrow morning? That is what happened when the 20% reduction in fares, which I welcomed, was introduced, and the 50% reduction relating to the youth travel card. How are those decisions made?
Ms Anne Graham:
That decision was made by the Government. It was not a decision the authority made. The Government decided to introduce those fare reductions of 20% and 50% for young adults to offset some of the cost-of-living increases. Funding has been provided to make up the fare forgone associated with those changes.
Ms Anne Graham:
Yes, the Government could give us additional funds for any reduction in fares, but our priority in terms of public service obligation, PSO, funding has been to provide additional frequency of services where possible because we know there is a huge deficit around the country. When we look at PSO funding, we try to make some changes to fares, but our priority has been to increase the frequency and to provide additional services. That is where our funds have been invested.
I will just come back on that point. Ms Graham is saying that they want, the Government or the Minister could say in the morning that the fares would be reduced at the stations in Stamullen, Gormanston, Laytown and Drogheda to bring them closer to the fares in Balbriggan. They could do that, but it does not look like they will. On behalf of my constituents and those of my colleague, Deputy Ó Murchú, in neighbouring Louth and east Meath, I call on the Government to do that. There has been a significant amount of submissions to the draft strategy to that effect, which is important to note. What approach will be taken now? When the NTA's review is complete, it will submit it to the Government and will it make a decision at that stage? How does it work if the NTA has proposals?
Ms Anne Graham:
The normal process is that every year we seek funding for the PSO, because we have an annual budget. There is no multi-annual funding associated with the PSO, which is looked at annually. We either put proposals forward on fare changes - that usually means fare reductions - which is fare forgone, and so we need additional funding to continue the operations, or we propose an increase in frequency or the provision of services. In recent years, because of the deficit in the amount of service available across cities, but also in rural Ireland, our focus and priority has been on additional services rather than necessarily fare reductions. That is what we have been doing year on year.
We want to make sure that if we are looking at any kind of fare proposals on the boundary, that we do it in a fair way and that we do not just push the problem further out. That is why the study is being done, so that if we, the Government or the Department want to make changes in those locations, that we do it in a structured way that does not impact on other communities and cause problems further down the line. That work will be done, and it will be our decision as an authority if we want to bring forward those proposals - if we feel that is our priority - versus looking at transport provision. The Government is also able to make a decision as well.
As I said at the outset, there are more submissions on this one issue than in the totality of 2016. In her initial response, Ms Graham acknowledged that these boundaries changed in the past up to approximately 30 km. There is a great opportunity not just to provide additional services but to increase the use of the existing service. Connecting Ireland is about the idea of promising services in the distant future. People are making decisions today in terms of mobility, movement and transport in that community - there are many like it - but in reality, the practical effect of Government policy is that the car is still the best option. That is a problem.
Ms Anne Graham:
We cannot do everything all at once. We have set out in all our strategies and in Connecting Ireland what we want to deliver. It does not happen overnight. We must deliver as best we can with the funding that is given to us by the Government.
Government can make different decisions related to funding. That is its prerogative. We implement those as we are implementing the reduction in fares. We, as an authority, have to examine what we can do with the funding that is available that to us to get the best return for that funding for the public. We have seen that where we provide services where there have not been services before or very poor services, the public responds and uses them. That is what we will be bringing forward with Connecting Ireland. We were already starting to deliver on those additional services across the country.
Ms Graham acknowledges that the NTA is not assessing the impact of these decisions in terms of the alternative modes of transport, whether it is bypassing Laytown and Gormanston and going to Balbriggan, which is a weakness. There could be a scenario where, with some movement in relation to price reductions, Irish Rail could break even or in fact make more because there would be more people on the service. However, we do not know because there is an information gap and it has not been tried.
Ms Anne Graham:
We will know because there is, I suppose, an experiment happening now where we are seeing a 20% reduction on all fares and a significant reduction in terms of young adult fares – a 50% reduction off the adult fare being introduced this weekend. That will show whether people respond to those kinds of significant fare reductions, so we will be able to assess in general terms whether public transport customers or non-public transport customers will respond and use public transport based on that level of fare reduction. That information can be used to see what the impact could be if we extended the commuter zone boundary further.
I welcome Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan back to the committee again. They are always very willing to come in and we appreciate it. I thank them for that.
I will go straight to some questions on my area, which I know best. I was very pleased to see that electrification to Wicklow was included as part of the rail strategy under the great Dublin area, GDA, strategy. I know the planning process on that will go to railway order next year. Would it be sensible to include in the design whatever provision might be needed for extending that rail system to Wicklow as part of that rail order, in terms of whether it will be battery electric or full overhead electric?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
The railway order going to An Bord Pleanála next year will be related to the coastal line. As the Deputy knows, that is looking at improvements as far as Greystones, in particular, to try to get a 20-minute DART service there. I would say it is not appropriate to amend that process at the moment. If the Deputy thinks about it in the following terms, we have to have a statutory basis to submit a plan to An Bord Pleanála and it is the new strategy that gives us that basis and it is not adopted yet. We are currently working off the old strategy. Having said that, putting in the extra infrastructure that is needed to run electric trains - if we can make it operationally work as far as Wicklow - is not a big task. In reality, it probably only requires a charging system at Wicklow station. There are operational challenges around making sure the train you want to extend to Wicklow is one with batteries on it as opposed to just pure electric. That is an operational challenge we will have to tease out with Irish Rail.
I would be reluctant to say it should be included in the railway order. I am much more comfortable in saying that it should be progressed as a parallel, separate project. It is a relatively small project that could be delivered in parallel. Therefore, including it or not does not necessarily impact the timeline.
Sure. If this strategy is approved by the Minister, and I would expect electrification to Wicklow will be included in an approved strategy, it would make sense at design stage to include whatever might be necessary, because there may be some requirement for some planning process to put in a charging system at Wicklow. I appreciate, and agree with Mr. Creegan, that it is a small enough task. Even full electrification to Wicklow, in terms of overhead, would be quite a small price tag compared to other transport projects. However, I would ask Mr. Creegan to consider whether it is sensible at this stage of going for design to include those aspects for Wicklow in it, because obviously the extension to Wicklow makes a lot of sense financially and environmentally and in serving an area that is identified on the regional spatial strategy.
I will move on to BusConnects. Obviously, that is a vital part of the transport strategy for Dublin. It is much needed and I very much support it and the very long public consultation over the past couple of years. It was very in depth and a good example of a public consultation process, where some of the considerations were taken on board and it was tweaked. I think most people are satisfied with many aspects of it.
One aspect for which I have looked for a long time are these circulatory bus services around towns. I noticed the NTA proposed a bus for Bray and for Greystones to circulate those towns. That is important as well, because we know many of these car journeys in towns are these short kind of shopping trips where a bus could provide that service. The last notification I got was that those two routes were to be delivered under phase 7, to be launched in 2023. Is that service just dependent on the new stock arriving? That new stock will be single-deck, I presume. Will it be electric or has that not been decided yet?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
On the phases, BusConnects is too big to deliver in one single phase, so it has to be staggered. There is an enormous amount of work being done by Dublin Bus and by our own teams to plan each phase appropriately. That is the real reason the addition of the circulatory services around Greystones and Bray are included in a phase. We will get to that phase as soon as we get the earlier ones completed. It is not necessarily that the stock is holding up or anything else. It is simply that the amount of work involved in timetabling and doing all the communications and everything else that needs to be done mean that it needs to be done incrementally. A plan was worked out and the phase, which is probably the one the Deputy mentioned, will be got to in sequence.
On the buses, I am not sure yet what the buses will be. There will have to a proofing exercise done on the route. It could be because they are relatively short routes that single deck will be sufficient, in which case, I suspect depending on where we are with the depot electrification, it could be electric vehicles. It just a little too early for us to be definitive on it yet. We have a policy in place and we are transitioning over to fully electric fleet. We have contracts in place to purchase single-deck electric and double-deck electric. All the urban buses coming in from now on will be fully electric buses. Depending on what the fleet needs are on the day in question, we will determine what the actual bus type will be. It is a little too early to be definitive.
That is good. The last word I got was that it would be launched in 2023, so we will hold you to that.
I will move on now to the N11 and the express bus routes. Can the NTA representatives give us an update of where that is at the moment? Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, was in last week and I understand this project is in co-operation with TII, NTA and Wicklow County Council. My view on it is that the express bus routes need to go much deeper south than they are at the moment. From what I know of it at the moment, it will not make an impact. It will not draw people onto them, which is exactly what we want to do with public transport. We want to make sure it matches or beats the car on times. If you stray into areas where your public transport route is not as comfortable, frequent, reliable, affordable and takes more time, then we will really have a battle to get people on public transport. What is the update on the express bus routes on the N11?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I suppose there is a difference between the services and the infrastructure. The services can run as far as we need them to run. We certainly see ourselves putting a park and ride site in Wicklow and picking up people from there and another park and ride site around Fassaroe. I believe there is a third one planned along the corridor, but I have forgotten exactly where.
In terms of infrastructure, the section of the N11-M11 corridor that is being looked at in terms of providing bus priorities is from its junction with the M50, or the Loughlinstown roundabout, down as far as Kilmacanogue or the junction south of Kilmacanogue.
After that, you are into Glen of the Downs, which has designations and everything else. It would phenomenally challenging to go further than that. We would be delighted to get bus priority all the way from north of Glen of the Downs to the Loughlinstown roundabout. Services could then gain benefit from that section while running as far south as we need them to run, certainly to Wicklow. Services coming from Gorey or further south could also use those sites.
The infrastructure needs to go further south than Glen of the Downs. It is achievable and doable. The NTA has responsibility for services and for making them attractive to encourage people onto them. If we do not have the infrastructure in place to make them run in a timely manner, however, it will not work. Is TII solely responsible for ensuring that infrastructure is in place while the NTA just provides the services that run on that infrastructure?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Yes. TII is the lead authority on this. We are working in collaboration with TII, but the Deputy is right; responsibility lies with the local authority and TII while we provide the services afterwards. Deputy Matthews will be aware of the history of Glen of the Downs. It is a challenging area in which to carry out any infrastructure works. Perhaps it could be part of a second phase but the last thing we want is for potentially nothing to be done on the N11 because we were tackling a really challenging section and dealing with all sorts of issues. It could potentially represent a second phase to be done afterwards.
I thank Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan for coming in once again. Without meaning to take anything away from my colleagues from the greater Dublin area, as the first Dublin person to contribute, I have quite a few things to say if I can manage to squeeze them all into my six or seven minutes, or whatever the Cathaoirleach allows me.
I thank the Cathaoirleach very much. I should stop now.
There is a lot of confusion and angst with regard to where we are with MetroLink and the Luas upgrade, both from people in places that have services and who want them to be better and from people in places that do not have services but who would like them. People almost seem to be competing with each other for funds, which they see as a scarce resource. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion and a lack of clarity with regard to the metro. The Dublin Commuter Coalition has said that the southbound Luas upgrade should never have been abandoned and should continue at least as far as Sandyford, if not Cherrywood. The Metro South West action group, which our witnesses will be very familiar with, are also campaigning. I do not like to see this as an either-or scenario. Both areas deserve public transport capacity. If the Luas has shown us anything - and I was lucky enough to have been a councillor at the time and to have been on the very first Luas service from Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green on the day of its launch in 2004 - it is that, if you build it, they will come. The modal shift has taken place in Dundrum to such a degree that many of the bus routes that went through Dundrum, such as the 48A, were abandoned and scrapped because they were no longer necessary. The Luas line acts as a magnet. People are willing to walk those ten, 12 or 15 minutes because they know what awaits them once they get there. It is an absolute credit to everybody involved with the Luas, including the Railway Procurement Agency, which has since been absorbed into TII, the NTA and so on. Everybody else now wants a Luas, which is a challenge. There are not necessarily corridors available for a Luas everywhere but that is where metro and underground services come in.
I am often asked why the upgrade is to stop at Charlemont rather than at Stephen's Green. Why bring it that far and stop rather than going to a more central location in the city? I am sure some of my colleagues will come in on this as well. I am looking at a live application for permission to build 881 apartments on a single site at the old Dundrum Village Centre. There is an endless amount of development happening at Cherrywood and very significant development in Sandyford. That is before considering the mental hospital site, 700 student apartments to be built on the Goatstown Road and other developments. There is an enormous amount of development happening on the existing Luas green line.
There is also an enormous amount of development happening in Terenure, Harold's Cross and out towards Knocklyon and Firhouse. People there have the red line far away from them on one side and the green line far away on the other but there is very little between outside of BusConnects. BusConnects has a place but it does not have the same reliability of journey time and never can unless there are dedicated bus corridors. The 46A, which has the best bus corridor in the country - I was lucky enough to be a councillor representing an area covering a long stretch of that corridor from Cabinteely as far as Belfield - is a very good service but fares must be taken and other things happen on roads that do not generally happen on railway lines.
The Dublin Commuter Coalition's opening statement, which is to be delivered later and which the witnesses may or may not have seen, indicates that this plan is less ambitious than the last plan. It has played down what was being offered under the last plan. We are talking about Luas upgrades in 2042. Before the pandemic, the green line was full. If it was full before all of this development in Sandyford, Cherrywood and Dundrum is done, it will be much worse when those developments are complete if people are willing to use public transport. People want to use public transport but, if it is not available or if it is full, they will get back in their cars. What is happening with regard to Charlemont and why? Why is there less ambition now that before?
Ms Anne Graham:
The metro station is proposed for the east side of St. Stephen's Green as opposed to the west side, which is where the green line operates. We can all agree that the metro should be connected to the green line because we want to avoid the problems we had in terms of lines not being connected. That is what Luas cross city solved. It made sure that there were connections between the lines. The alignment that has been chosen runs alongside the east side of St. Stephen's Green because that it allows for an easier connection to Charlemont.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
There are three reasons why Charlemont is a better termination point for MetroLink that St. Stephen's Green. As has just been said, it is a much better interchange between the green line and the metro system. At Charlemont, the separation will be vertical rather than horizontal. In the case of St. Stephen's Green, a 500 m walk would be involved.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
No. The curves involved in coming through Tara Street Station, which was a critical connection for us, and then getting down to Charlemont would not allow us to go to the other side of St. Stephen's Green. The previously proposed metro north was to terminate at St. Stephen's Green and did not connect at Tara Street Station. Different options were available, but the decision to connect the DART system to the metro system and the consequent need to run the line close to Tara Street Station dictated an alignment and pushed us out----
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
The Senator could be right, but that is the case. You would be left with a long walk between the metro station and the Luas green line so it would be a very poor interchange. We cannot tell elderly people that it is a good interchange because it is not. That is the first reason. The second is that the termination point at Charlemont in the current design allows for three things. The first is it allows for a connection to the green line in the future at the point when that is required. It could also be extended out to the south west of Dublin in the Rathfarnham, Terenure, Tallaght and Knocklyon direction. The line would also be capable of going to the south east of Dublin, towards UCD, if required.
They are decisions that can be made in the future but the termination-----
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Yes. That termination point is set up in a manner that allows all of that do be done. It is the easiest place for us to set it up. The third reason is that between Charlemont and St. Stephen's Green the trams are run on-street. It comes up Harcourt Street and crosses St. Stephen's Green south, which limits the number of trams. It limits the number of passengers we can bring into St. Stephen's Green to connect to the metro even if we are willing to accept that 500 m walk. We can bring many more trams to Charlemont than we can to St. Stephen's Green. Therefore, in terms of feeding the metro, Charlemont is much better. As you can see, we have thought it through quite a bit and for those three reasons, the Charlemont location is the better of the two locations.
That explains some of the logic as to why Charlemont, as opposed to why not Charlemont, which comprised much of the narrative. What are the possibilities of a south-west metro delivering for an area that is relatively bereft of good, high-quality public transport, which does not have any quality bus corridors that are of the quality you might see on the Stillorgan Road and which does not have the DART or the Luas?
Ms Anne Graham:
BusConnects is a key part of the strategy. That is about delivering bus priority on a significant proportion of those key radial corridors into and across the city. What you see in terms of bus priority on the Stillorgan Road, which is one of the primary bus priority bus corridors, is to be replicated right across on the key corridors. With that level of priority, which moves the priority from the current 30% of its journey to up to 70% of its journey being on a high quality corridor, it improves the punctuality of those services and that makes them much more attractive for users.
I do not know what the percentage is on the Stillorgan Road but I would argue that there is bus priority almost the entire way from Cabinteely church into Leeson Street. There are tiny stretches of Donnybrook where it disappears but not really. Ms Graham is saying that the best Bus Connect can do in the general area between the red and the green Luas lines is about 70%, is that right?
Obviously, BusConnects is not just a south-west Dublin thing, it is an everywhere in Dublin thing. I have had representations from certain councillors in regard to negotiating compulsory purchase orders, CPOs. Does the NTA do the CPOs?
It does the CPOs for the BusConnects project. Is the NTA willing to facilitate meetings with councillors who are representing residents in regard to CPOs? They say they are finding it difficult to get meetings with the NTA in regard to how the process is being delivered. They are generally supportive of BusConnects but there are issues on which they need to make those connections with the NTA.
Taxis are a huge issue at the moment. I know the credit card side of it is being dealt with at the moment but the lack of taxis is a real concern. In regard to a 24-hour bus service, the NTA needs to work with Dublin Bus and Go Ahead on the routes provided to have far more 24-7 routes because the more 24-hour buses we have that are safe, the less requirement there will be for taxis. At the moment taxis are the only show in town past a certain hour of the night, almost everywhere. I hope there is scope to use and protect a significant part of the eastern bypass corridor. Once you take away the eastern bypass corridor, it vanishes from development plan maps and then people can build all over it. There is a route there, whether for a Luas or a bus rapid transit, BRT. There were plans as far back as 2005 and 2006. A blue line plan was presented when I was a councillor in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and even before I was chair of the transport strategic policy committee, SPC, we were talking about using a route that connected RTÉ, St. Vincent's hospital and University College Dublin to Sandyford, connecting with the Luas and Kilmacud to get to Dundrum. That corridor must be protected. I ask the NTA to make sure it protects that for future generations, whether it be a cycle lane, a bus lane or Luas line. Once it is built on, we will never get it back. Can I get a response to that?
Ms Anne Graham:
We will consider that.
On the 24-hour bus service, there are proposals and we fund them. We have proposals in BusConnects to deliver additional 24-hour bus services. We are delivering them through the C1. The C route on the Lucan Road has additional 24-hour services, so we now have five services. We will be extending those as we go through-----
I thank Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan for coming before us. To follow on from Deputy O’Rourke, he put very clearly the issue of the unfair fares, as people see it, in such areas as Laytown, Bettystown, Gormanstown and Drogheda. If we want a fit-for-purpose system, as both Deputies O’Rourke and Matthews said, we have to make sure we have the pricing and infrastructure correct and that it is a system that works for people. Otherwise we will never get a bang for our buck. We will not get those climate action wins that are relatively easy and that we need to ensure.
The NTA spoke about how this review of fares is still ongoing. I assume that is not going to finish any time soon. The NTA is going to put proposals to Government at the end of this review, which I imagine will be dealt with in the budgetary cycle. It is unlikely we will be finished for this year’s budget.
Ms Anne Graham:
I do not know that because that work is still ongoing. It is up to the NTA to decide on what proposals are brought forward. There is a very long list of transport proposals that we want to bring forward in terms of additional services as well as possibly future changes to fares. We have to go through those proposals and see what we think is a priority and what money is available. Ultimately, Government decides the funding that is available to provide for the continuation of the services we currently have as well as to provide for additional services. Given that the number of people travelling is still stabilising post-Covid-19, there is also a big ask of Government in terms of the fare forgone associated with the post-Covid-19 journeys. All of that has to be considered as part of the budgetary process by the Department and by the Minister.
I accept that. Without funding or Government putting those moneys in, the NTA cannot delivery. None of these proposals that relate to this will happen until this review process is over. The NTA will not be putting any proposals, let us say, to Government this year.
Ms Anne Graham:
We are currently implementing the Government's proposal in regard to the 20% reduction in fares as well as the young adult fare which is 50%. The Government has provided more than €50 million this year to enable those fare proposals to be put in place. That is a significant increase in funding in order to deliver for everyone across the country and not just for certain parts.
I accept that. Obviously the more affordable we can make it, the more people will make the decision but we have a particular quandary here. I imagine we have the same quandary elsewhere. I get that we want a solution that works across the board but we cannot wait forever or we will miss the boat, or miss the train.
Ms Anne Graham:
Not necessarily. From the reductions proposed, or which will be put in place over the next week, we will see, as I said earlier, what the increase in journeys associated with that will be.
There is always a question over how people will respond. Will they get out of their cars and use public transport when a reduction of this scale is put in place? This is something that we will now be able to test with the fare proposals.
I accept that. It will probably take a while to see exactly how it goes. We need a solution, and the sooner, the better.
My next question is on an across-the-board issue, and it is not the first time I have raised it, namely, the commuter Taxsaver ticket. It would suit someone who, like many others, is now remote working. It has gone over and back from Minister to Department to the NTA. We are being told that there is a technological issue with ticketing. An element of this issue probably lies at the NTA's door. How does the NTA propose to fix the issue and how quickly can that be done? In the short term and for want of a better term, can we not find a prehistoric solution – punching tickets – until a technical solution is applied? We are trying to facilitate people in using public transport, particularly those who are remote working and removing themselves from commuting for a significant time. That is welcome from an environmental and societal point of view, but the system is not keeping up with them.
Ms Anne Graham:
The system does not help us in providing that. The technology is extremely old. Unfortunately, when we tried to impose the type of ticket that the Deputy is referring to, that being, a two-day or three-day Taxsaver ticket over the course of a year, we found that the current infrastructure was not set up to facilitate it. That a solution has not been found is not for want of trying on our part. We have not given up on the idea, though, and we are still working to see whether we can find a way of doing it. The difficulty is-----
Ms Anne Graham:
The overall solution, which is next generation ticketing and is now under procurement, is an account-based system. Under that, it will be much easier to set up accounts and track people's movements via their cards, mobile phones or other means, for example, barcodes. This will require upgrading gates to ensure that we record people going in and out of the system. However, this is a longer term solution. The procurement process has only just commenced and delivery will take a number of years. It will not provide an immediate solution to the issue in question.
Ms Anne Graham:
Not that I am aware of at this time, but I am not giving up on trying to find one in the interim to see whether we can address this issue. The immediate response was the 20% reduction on Taxsaver tickets from 1 April. All existing Taxsaver tickets have also been extended by three months, which equates to a 25% reduction.
I understand, but people will decide that, for a one-off journey or a journey once or twice per week, it might be worth their while getting in the car, and we will once again have failed to do what we wanted to do.
Ms Anne Graham:
-----and what costs that person could incur by using the car versus using public transport. Even if people were only using public transport two days per week, that could be cheaper. The 90-minute fare proposed for Dublin after this weekend – €2 for adults for over 90 minutes of travel, multimodal and right across Dublin – offers significant value for money.
Might I request a submission from the NTA detailing why this cannot be done, where the difficulties lie and what possibilities it is looking into? Perhaps our committee could perform due diligence on this matter. I assume that the NTA has looked for fixes internationally. This issue needs to be moved on, given how constant it is. We cannot keep asking the same questions.
I thank Ms Graham for her opening statement and for the NTA's engagement in recent years, particularly by her.
Before I come to my list of complaints, which Ms Graham can probably predict, I wish to state my support. We need to change modalities and ensure that this works and that we have an efficient public transport system, especially in Dublin city.
I come from an older residential area with a particular need. According to the opening statement, the NTA is charged with four actions: the efficient, effective and sustainable movement of people and goods; ensuring sustainability under our climate commitments; considering all methods of transport; and engaging in public consultation. The draft transport strategy was published on 9 November 2021. Its executive summary consists of 46 pages, the strategy itself is 224 pages long and there are 25 supporting documents, not counting the three impact assessments. The portal for consultation opened on 9 November, ran over Christmas and closed on 10 January. This was during Covid and times of restrictions on public meetings. It was available online and presupposed that everyone had access to a computer and was literate enough to navigate his or her way through all of that documentation.
Of the 25 documents, the Dublin South-West study is 64 pages long. It notes low bus speeds and proposes a solution to that issue. I wish to address the area comprising Fortfield Park and Fortfield Road. The recommendation for this area is that parking on the road be restricted as a solution to low bus speeds. This is understood to mean that there will be a ban on parking. The 54A bus route travels along both roads and runs twice per hour. That will increase to four services per hour at normal times – with inward and outward journeys, this means eight journeys – and six services per hour at peak times, or 12 journeys. The report does not take cognisance of the four schools in the immediate vicinity – they have a much wider catchment area – that do not have direct bus connectivity or that the combined number of students and staff is 2,500. There was a failure to notify residents, shops and schools of the fact that their lives would change if these traffic restrictions were imposed. The report failed to take cognisance of the health and safety of the children and the parents and guardians accompanying younger children to school. The residents' quality of life will be undermined, but they are blissfully unaware of it. The consultation period closed without many of them being aware because there was such a drowning of documentation. In a document like this one, the same thing is repeated four times. I have marked it.
Finding the level of detail for their road took a forensic mind, and some of us were fortunate to have access to such a resource in Mr. Brendan Heneghan.
There is another aspect to climate consciousness. In the Dublin South-Central constituency, we also have Ceannt Fort, a residential area that is one of the oldest estates in the city. There are 202 houses on the estate. As a consequence of the bus gate on the Old Kilmainham Road, when they drive out of their estate, people will not be able to turn left. They will be obliged to turn right or else detour through the new children's hospital or St. James's Hospital. There is no accommodation for local access proposals, such as an exemption or a sticker or something. The bus gate is proposed to operate 24-7 but that will not happen in practice. As it is in other areas, the 24-7 provision is an excessive response.
Chapelizod is a community without a secondary school. People there commute to schools in Lucan and Leixlip. Many of the residents rely on the post office and banks in Ballyfermot. There are a number of disability residential providers within Chapelizod. There is significant inward and outward traffic. Last November, when the C spine came into being, the connectivity between Chapelizod and Lucan and Leixlip was removed and people now have to take two buses. The consequence of that, as estimated by some of the local residents, is that car journeys have increased by 170 per week.
There was no entertainment of metro south-west; it was dismissed out of hand. There are areas of Terenure and Templeogue that are caught between three bus corridors and all traffic will be driven down very narrow residential areas. Unlike the experience of my colleague, public consultation in the area has been woefully absent. I accept that there have been meetings with some public representatives, but measures to ensure that the public can realise the sheer impact of the change in their lives are woefully absent. If we are talking about ensuring efficient, effective and sustainable movement of people and goods, the result of what will happen at Ceannt Fort, and that has already happened in Chapelizod, will be an increase in the number of car journeys rather than a reduction.
I would like the response of the witnesses to this. Will there still be an opportunity to have an impact or see change in this? There is much disillusionment in the area because people want to support these measures but they are unable to because their voices are not necessarily being heard.
Ms Anne Graham:
I will distinguish between the draft transport strategy we are talking about here, which is a very high-level document setting out the proposals at a very high level with regard to delivery of sustainable transport infrastructure to improve people's movements and reduce carbon emissions. The Senator's comments relate to BusConnects, which is the detailed programme.
Ms Anne Graham:
Apologies. With BusConnects, usually we have done a significant amount of consultation on those proposals alone. When we look at consultation around a strategy, it is usually at the level we have carried out. Granted, it was done during the Covid-19 period, and it was unusual. We had to provide much of our consultation online as a result of the restrictions but it was of the standard associated with the strategy. We would move into a different type of consultation, as was carried out as part of BusConnects, both in terms of network and infrastructure.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I will answer some of the points made by the Senator in turn. Fortfield Park and Fortfield Road are mentioned in a background report. It was called the Dublin south-west study. They are not in the strategy itself and we did not carry them forward to the strategy. I am pretty certain I am correct in that. If I am not, the Senator will correct me.
Could Mr. Creegan go through that? Many queries have come in on it. Will he go through the process so we get to a point where we know, without fear of contradiction, that it will not be in the final strategy to be published?
I thank the Chairman for the clarification. A layperson may look at this and consider how it impacts an area and it is quite like drowning in documentation. There is mention of it being a high-level strategy. People in the area might say there are 2,500 students and teachers coming into the area and there will be additional bus routes. If they are mentioned, should it be very clear that the proposals will not be applied? There is, I suppose, a level of distrust arising because three corridors are going to drive traffic down the likes of Stannaway Road, a narrow road that will become a main route to the city for non-public transport. People and businesses do not feel they are being listened to in that regard. I appreciate that there has been engagement, but there are businesses on the likes of Sundrive Road. People on Greenlea Road fear that everything will be driven down there when these are very quiet residential areas.
The traffic modelling of the impact of those three corridors - or five in a very tight area - has not been forthcoming. That was a time when we could not have public meetings and we could not call in an engineer to dispel myths and inform people so they can make their own submissions in a public consultation.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We are now at the stage of submitting proposals to An Bord Pleanála. That will trigger a statutory consultation process and a full review by An Bord Pleanála. The first corridor, on the northside, was submitted last month. The next one, which is on the southside but not one referred to by the Senator, will go in this week. We are on a timeline for all the rest to be submitted over the coming months. Each of those has its own comprehensive traffic assessment as part of the environmental impact assessment report.
That is made fully public and I have no doubt but there will be lots of debate on it. That is the process we have been following for a long time. We assemble the final design, we do the final set of modelling on the final design, we put that into an environmental impact assessment, EIA, report, it goes for statutory public consultation and then review by-----
Senator Horkan might step into the Chair for the vote in the Dáil because there are Senators here who can continue. Is there a way Senator Seery Kearney can get written clarification on the points she has raised from the NTA for the people she represents?
What time do we need to be gone? Do we need to be gone now? I suggest that Senator Horkan takes the Chair. I will let Deputy Higgins in now if she wants to risk putting her questions before the vote and we will conclude on our return. It may be 3.05 p.m.; it is just the way it has fallen.
I thank Senator Buttimer. It is nice to meet Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan again in person. I am looking at the strategy and I will start with chapter 13 on roads, which outlines the strategic importance of the M50 and M50 resilience and it identifies the lack of adequate resilience between junctions 6 and 7, which is the location of the M50 toll bridge from Lucan to Blanchardstown, in the event of accidents. The objective in the strategy document states, "The NTA, in collaboration with TII and the relevant local authorities, will seek the development and construction of an appropriate road link between the N3 and N4 national roads, which can provide a satisfactory alternative in the event of incidents arising on the M50 between Junctions 6 and 7, in addition to providing potential additional public transport linkages." I would like to know where that project is and what local authorities are involved. TII has already identified 11 possible routes and those are the routes the NTA will make a decision on when identifying a preferred route. Are the witnesses aware that eight of those routes go through the special amenity area of the Liffey Valley and that they would devastate green spaces, protected areas and heritage sites such as Porterstown Park in Dublin 15, Shackleton Mill, St. Catherine's Park in Lucan and Leixlip and the St. Edmundsbury lands? Will that be taken into consideration in the decision on an emerging preferred route? The objective relates to M50 resilience only and it says nothing about the unsafe and unsustainable traffic that rolls through Lucan village every day from 4 p.m. and from 12 noon at the weekends. Will this process of identifying a route take on board issues other than M50 resilience, such as the fact that eight of those routes would be completely unacceptable? Will the process form part of a transport strategy for Lucan village?
I refer to public transport and orbital transport in this area, which are not effective. We are talking about an hourly bus. There was the 239 route, which used to go from Blanchardstown Centre to Liffey Valley Shopping Centre but that has been cut in two. The bus only comes every hour now and BusConnects means that to get a bus into town people from my area of Lucan north have to walk kilometres to get to Lucan Road because they cannot rely on that hourly bus down Laraghcon Hill and they have to walk further as the 25 is not coming from Main St. in Lucan. The new pedestrian and cycleway bridge as part of the canal loop project is on hold so pedestrians do not have safe passage or cycling over Lucan bridge.
The GDA cycle network was part of the strategy. Did it get enough feedback through the consultation and did enough people know about it? Part of the Liffey Valley greenway was dropped as a specific objective. There are elements of routes still in place but they are pared back and there is a reduction in bridges crossing the Liffey. As a greenway on the Liffey Valley would be an exceptional amenity for Dublin, I am suggesting that it be reinstated and it could potentially be a spur on the canal loop greenway.
I know; I will be quick. I refer to the DART+ West consultation process for Ashtown. As part of public consultation 2, 6,340 out of 8,000 submissions related to Ashtown Stables because the proposals in public consultation 2 would have devastated Ashtown Stables. There has been another consultation and the document for it states: "This revised preferred option largely avoids Ashtown Stables, which was identified as an important local community amenity". On page 60 the public consultation report states:
By relocating the roadway to the west of the mill much of the impact on the stables is removed. There will be some impact at the southern extremity of the site ...
On the indicative drawings it looked acceptable and we were saying it was a victory for community consultation but the drawings for Ashtown Stables arrived fewer than 24 hours before the end of the consultation. Ashtown Stables says that those drawings render the business unviable, that there is a significant contradiction, that there are no measurements, that it impacts Mill Lane and Ashtown Road and that it conflates permanent and temporary land takes. This is a real worry for us. The community came together to support this family business and now it tells us when the consultation is finished that the solutions we thought we had found were not there. The owners of Ashtown Stables are incredibly upset about this. Is this how Irish Rail treats family businesses? Are the witnesses aware of this? What consultation is happening with this family business?
My last question is on a direct bus to Dublin Airport from Dublin 15. We have seen the increase in parking at the airport and that there could be a toll introduced for set-down charges there. It will be 2024 by the time BusConnects will have a link from Dublin 15 to the airport. Will we prioritise airport connections in public transport?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
To start with the N3 to N4 link project, the Senator is quite right that it is called up mainly as a resilience project for the M50. Of all the sections of the M50, if there is an incident or breakdown in that section, the alternatives are very unattractive in terms of how one would deal with traffic.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Yes, which is not an attractive way to route the traffic. With regard to where the project sits now, a feasibility study was done by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and we were involved with that some three years ago. I had thought it was 12 routes that were identified as possibilities, but perhaps the Senator is correct that it is 11. The project has not gone any further yet. At a point in time, if this strategy is adopted, the project needs to be developed as a stand-alone project. It needs to evaluate all of those options and maybe others. It needs to consider all of the things the Senator has mentioned such as environmental impacts, the impacts on the various parks and so on. I have heard from lots of the people out there about some of the options. Out of that, it has to come up with a preferred option as part of the project itself. That is the project as opposed to the strategy. As of now, nothing is currently happening on it. I believe it should happen in the next year or two, but nothing is currently happening. It would need to be done in conjunction with South Dublin County Council and Fingal County Council. I believe that some of the options go out into Kildare also so a number of local authorities will be involved in it. That is the status now. The feasibility study was done a number of years ago, there is a statement in the transport strategy, and currently nothing else is happening on it, to the best of my knowledge.
I will jump now to the greater Dublin area cycle network. We got plenty of feedback on the cycle network. It is fair to say that we had errors in our network. We had not brought in some of the key things from the previous version of the network that we had. That is being corrected now. I do not recall what it is we have done on the Liffey Valley greenway. I am not sure, but I believe we have actually revisited that and put back in things that we had planned previously. We certainly got plenty of feedback and, hands up, we had some of the details wrong. The final network will be much more comprehensive and will pick up a lot of the faults that people have identified.
On the DART+ West and Ashtown Stables, I am reluctant to go too deep into that here because it is Irish Rail that is running the project. We are very familiar with this and very aware of the issues. A lot of effort was put into the final option that came forward to try to mitigate the impacts on Ashtown Stables. It does affect another property there, as members may be aware. The drawings, maps and various brochures that are produced are accurate drawings of the routes. I do not know what was issued on the day before. It may have been that the actual engineering drawings were issued. I would be highly surprised if they were any different from the drawings that were published, and I do not believe they were. Obviously, they would provide more detail about the exact measurements. I am speculating that this is what was issued. The norm would be to issue a simpler version of the drawings. Most people do not want to get a bundle of engineering drawings to deal with. They receive a much simpler version of the drawings so that people can understand the impact. In my view, a lot of effort was made to mitigate the impact on Ashtown Stables. I understand that they are not happy with it. The feedback is now being reviewed by Irish Rail and final decisions still have to be made on it.
Ms Anne Graham:
On the orbital transport route 239 and the different issues around the Lucan services, the committee is aware that we implemented the C spine with all the other services associated with that. That still needs to be bedded down. There are still some aspects of it that need to be altered that are associated with road improvements in that area. We have engaged locally and quite significantly on that and we continue to engage to ensure that we get the best outcome to deliver the BusConnects network, on which we undertook such a lot of public consultation. There is still a little bit of work to do but we expect that once the whole network is put in place, people will see a very much improved service that will allow them to get to more places quicker.
----- and Ms Graham will understand fully where I am coming from. This morning I received my copy of the BusConnects Cork - Sustainable Transport Corridors Report. I appeal to Ms Graham today, in the context of the Dublin transport plan - and I have had extensive engagement with many councillors and was quite happy to have Senator Seery Kearney attend the committee today - that we would look at the submissions made by people on the ground regarding the Dublin bus plan. It is about ensuring that we have a sustainable public transport system and that the final plan, subject to recommendations, should reflect on what the public consultation is about in terms of submissions made by people. If one looks at what has been said already today, genuine concerns have been expressed. I am aware that Mr. Brendan Heneghan has been in contact with the committee and I propose that we submit Mr. Heneghan's document, which he gave to me and to others on the committee, to Ms Graham for her consideration as part of the submission and as part of the public consultation. I hope that the plan will look at the whole issue of fair discrepancies and at what the public consultation throws up. The submissions made are done in the best way by members of the public, and by elected representatives, to ensure that we have a transport plan that is viable in our capital city. From talking to many of my local authority members I am aware that they have concerns regarding parts of what is proposed. I hope that this can be taken on board by Ms Graham and by others involved. I thank the Acting Chairperson for the opportunity to speak today. I hope that as part of the Cork BusConnects, we can have learnings from what is happening in Dublin, to facilitate and help the sustainable transport plan for Cork as well.
I thank Senator Buttimer. Other members want to come back from the Dáil, and I have a couple more points to make - I will also allow other members in - as the only Dublin member on the committee who is actually here.
I wish to turn to the safety aspect of public transport, but first it is very important for us all to acknowledge the work that has been done on greenways and cycling. It is to be commended. I appreciate it and I use it myself. The work being done there is great but there is a lot more potential. There are plenty of people out there. I did not cycle for years and years, and then I went back to it. Now I use it more often that I use my car. While not millions, there are certainly tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Dublin who have not cycled a bike since they were in school, if even then. If they were encouraged to borrow a bike or had the use of a bike to start using these facilities they would be better off.
The Chairman is now back. I will call on Deputy Higgins next and then bring the Chairman back in.
I thank the Chairman for letting me join the meeting today. I have a couple of comments and questions around commuter fares, BusConnects, and trains in my constituency. I absolutely welcome the new fare structure and how seamless the new 90-minute fare has been between the different transport modes. It is hugely progressive and hugely positive. It is great to see further reductions now coming down the tracks, if you will excuse the pun, this month. I believe they are due to happen in May. My concern is that commuters are not necessarily seeing this fare reduction. At the moment one can buy a TaxSaver ticket for €1,150. If one was using public transport to get to and from work five days per week every working day, this would equate to €23.96 per week. This is 20% more than if one was using the TFI Leap card for two trips five days per week under the new 90-minute fare option. While the TFI Leap card is going to be more suitable for people who are still returning to the office on a phased basis or for those who are working hybrid, it means they are not getting that tax efficiency that is baked into the TaxSaver ticket policy, and which is Government policy to provide. Is this an anomaly that might be rectified or are there any plans from this perspective?
As for BusConnects, the C spine is up and running in Lucan and it was a big change for all of us there. While there are a number of areas where there have been concerns, by and large the routes are working quite well, especially the late-night route given there is a taxi shortage. However, there are underserved areas and that is a fundamental concern of mine. There is no direct link to the city centre from areas that had one prior to BusConnects. Hillcrest and Doddsborough are two such areas. That is not progressive but regressive as they used to have a service but it is now gone. Senator Currie and I had a number of meetings with representatives from the NTA and while they were very welcome it was not really meaningful engagement because nothing has changed as a result of them. People in those areas still are not served properly by a bus service. Neither are people who were promised the W8 this year, which I understand has been further delayed. That would be hugely welcome to people working in areas like Greenogue or Citywest or people from Saggart, Newcastle or Rathcoole intending to go to college in Maynooth.
On the trains, I am looking for a quick update on when the trains through Adamstown-Hazelhatch will be electrified. I am aware the NTA and the Minister are sick to their back teeth of answering this question from me but why is Kishoge train station still not open? It is there, it is built and it is working. It even has a car park. It could be used to serve people in what is a growing area but it is still not open. My final question on trains is on Hazelhatch train station which is not walking distance for many commuters, unfortunately. Most people must drive to get there or perhaps cycle. Could we look at making it a bit more of a cycle-friendly station?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
On when the electric train service to Adamstown will be provided, it is a few years away yet. We have to buy fleet, do various resignalling works on those lines and four-track the line for a section of it. I suspect will be around 2027 or 2028 before that happens. It may be possible to do something with battery-electric fleet earlier but I am not too sure.
Kishoge station is a long-running saga. We thought it would be open by now, to be fully transparent with the Deputy, but a survey showed because it was built almost 12 years ago major remedial works turned out to be required. Irish Rail is organising those remedial works to the building structure. It does not meet current accessibility codes and things like that. That work must be done and is going to be done this year and I think it runs into next year. At that stage we can open it. It was news to us such an amount of upgrading was required but it genuinely was. It is now being funded and is happening. When it is complete we have to open that station.
On Hazelhatch station, it is worth knowing that on the C spine there are a number of services we put in that actually connect to that to make it more useful. On providing a cycling connection from there into Celbridge, I suspect that is on our cycle network. I would have to pick it up with Kildare County Council to see where it fits in its plans for delivery.
Ms Anne Graham:
I am going to respond to the Deputy on that if it is okay.
On the commuter fares, the 90-minute fare was introduced at the end of last year. It was a very significant change in the Dublin fares. It was pitched at €2.30 at that time as a reduction. It will be €2.50 normally. However, with the Government's introduction of the 20% reduction that is now going to be €2 from this weekend. That represents really good value. It calls into question whether there is value associated with taxsaver in some cases, depending on what number of journeys you are now doing as a commuter. The value is in that 90-minute ticket and would allow you to use all modes for that price. Beside that, the taxsaver tickets have also been subject to the 20% reduction in fares introduced on 1 April. Existing taxsaver users have an extension if they bought their ticket earlier this year. They get a three-month extension. As I said earlier, that is to allow us a bit of time to see if we can find a solution, which is not easily done on the infrastructure we have, that allows for a two-day or three-day type taxsaver ticket. That is not available at the moment and we are finding it difficult to be able to provide that, especially on the rail services where we need a facility to be able to decrement a day's travel on an annual ticket. It is difficult to do with technology we have.
Very briefly, my concern is even if the NTA comes back with a two-day or three-day option it is not going to be economically viable for anybody. From this weekend it will be 20% cheaper to not avail of the taxsaver, which seems contrary to Government policy.
On Kishoge station, "next year" has been said for about a decade at this stage. I really hope it will be next year because commuters in my constituency deserve that.
Ms Anne Graham:
As a final response on the bus service around Lucan, we have done a significant amount of engagement around that. On the proposals in BusConnects, some of the areas the Deputy was talking about only had an hourly service. They have now got a much more regular service, even if passengers need to transfer to go into town. They do that at no additional cost. They got a frequent local service that then gets them to an even more frequent radial service to get them into town. In addition, at peak times there is a direct service as well. We felt that was the appropriate network to provide in that area and we would like to see it bedded down and how people use it. We will always refine if we find there are issues associated with a particular service change.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I have two questions. One is around modal share and the other is on climate targets within the strategy. On the first question, the Cathaoirleach and myself are familiar with coming from Heuston Station on a Tuesday morning and going back there on a Thursday evening, generally. We have seen huge improvements along the quays in the form of reallocation of road space and provision of segregated cycle lanes. Anecdotally, that has led to much increased cycling along the quays and is certainly a success story for Dublin City Council and the NTA in the last two years. If we provide this infrastructure we will easily reach the modal shift targets in the strategy. We should therefore be pushing way beyond the targets that are there. I think we are going to go from 4% in 2016 to 12% in 2042. That is a very modest increase given we know when segregated infrastructure is provided everybody aged between eight years and 80 years is inclined to cycle more.
The current approach seems to be to develop our networks in quite a piecemeal way rather than in a more aggressive and radical way. It seems to me the strategy should have an approach of developing much more than is currently there. Nationwide, we are looking at about 1,000 km in the next five years but we could do much more than that given the approach we have seen during Covid. I would like the NTA officials to comment on that. I certainly urge them to review the modal share for cycling in particular and to address road space reallocation. There are very few references to that in the 250 or so pages of the strategy. If we are to get people onto buses, bikes and get them walking as well we must get serious about it and the strategy must be serious about it. I acknowledge it is a high-level document but if we are putting in those targets they need to be ambitious ones. There is reference in the strategy to demand-management measures but the officials have said a few times it is a high-level document so those measures are not in the strategy. Does the authority propose to develop those, put them into the strategy and put them out to public consultation? What kind of demand-management measures should we be expecting to see?
My second question relates to the carbon emission reduction targets. The strategy concedes they do not align with the national goal of reducing emissions by 51% by 2030.
In 2018 there were 3.2 mega tonnes. With this strategy, we will get to approximately 2 mega tonnes by 2030. This is not quite 51%. That is the nationwide target. Is it the case that the NTA sees that there is less room for cutting emissions in Dublin and therefore more emissions will have be reduced outside of Dublin, to align with the 51% target in the transport sector nationwide?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
Just to clarify, we do not set targets within the strategy. We try to assess at the end of all of the strategy interventions what the likely outcomes will be. That is the mode share that one is seeing there. When it came to the cycling mode share, we developed sophisticated transport models. However, the transport models that we use are based upon existing developed practice. When it comes to cycling here in Ireland, we do not have great networks. Therefore, the existing practice does not fully reflect the potential, as the Deputy said. Over the last few months since the strategy was published, we have refined our models to try to take account of that potential that safe segregated facilities will give. We will see in the final strategy that the mode share for cycling is much higher. From memory, beside the canals it is about 20%. It is well into the teens across the Dublin region. That is much higher than it is now. That reflects a refinement of our modelling processes.
In terms of developing the cycling network, we entirely agree with the Deputy. Piecemeal development and unconnected cycling routes do not deliver anything. It needs to be a coherent network. We have developed plans that are subsets of overall strategies for what needs to be put in place over the next number of years. This is where the 1,000 km figure, which the Deputy mentioned, comes from. We will be working with the local authorities to be sure that they are focused on doing those parts, so that we end up with an integrated network in a number of years, and not just with isolated pieces of infrastructure-----
I apologise for briefly interrupting Mr. Creegan. It does seem to be the case that approach is to carefully roll out these networks. However, given the challenge that we are in, and the urgency of that challenge and crisis, a different approach is to do what has been seen during the pandemic. That is the quick road space reallocation. We would win the space and then at some future point we would come back and do the more permanent infrastructure and networks. Can Mr. Creegan comment on that? There are two ways of looking at this. One is cheap, quick and imperfect. The other is more thought through, more designed, will have more consultation, is certainly more expensive and will take much longer.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
In both cases, we would try to aim for the same network. There has been much road space reallocation done. I think it is fair to say that. There is no doubt that the Deputy and other representatives will be aware that it has become more controversial, difficult and challenging. We have plenty of locations around the country where road space reallocation has been proposed. There is a tremendous level of opposition to that. The local authorities concerned who are progressing these have to carefully work their way through those-----
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
I do not think that it is policy that is needed. We collectively have to do more to educate people about the benefits of road space reallocation, particularly in urban areas. We must dismiss some of the myths that have developed, such as, “My business is going to be ruined if you take away these three parking spaces”. This is the case in various places. This is a matter of an education and a communication campaign that shows that we have done a lot, but we have to do more.
Quickly, I will answer on the carbon emissions. The draft strategy identifies that we reduce the emissions by a certain amount. There is a gap to the target that we want to achieve. We have committed then that we want to do a further demand management assessment study. The legislation that governs our operation and provides for demand management scheme, which is a very formal document, is to be prepared. Our intention is to commit to prepare that over the next 18 months or two years. That will bridge the gap between what is currently stated to the full 51% target.
I thank the Chair. First, I welcome the witnesses who are before the committee. Although I am a Deputy from Cork East, I am also our party spokesperson on transport. The importance that Dublin and the region around Dublin has for our entire economy must be recognised.
In the Dublin area, the huge dependency on cars sticks out to me as someone who commutes in and out of Dublin twice a week. Somebody like me, for example, wants to get in and out of Dublin swiftly. That is also the case for anybody who has normal working hours. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of people who are working in the greater Dublin area, a car is the only way to get in and out of work. There is no real alternative when it comes to time saving. That is predominantly to do with the fact that the inter-city speed on train lines is too slow. Another issue is the capacity of the rate system. There is much work ongoing on that at the moment.
When one looks at the road infrastructure around Dublin, such as at the M1, M2, the N7 and the arterial roads coming up from Wicklow, I want to make the point that we have to do a huge body of work to reduce the dependency and to create proper alternatives for people who do not want to drive into the city centre in their car. If I was using the N7, just like commuters coming in from the direction of Limerick, Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Waterford and Carlow, and felt I was able to park my car and get into Heuston Station in a relatively decent amount of time, I and many other people would do so. I would openly question whether there is enough joined-up thinking happening. This is the case in other parts of the country with metropolitan strategies that have been put in place. I promise that there is a question coming. Is enough being done to provide park-and-ride capacity to get cars off the motorway for those of us who are not going to be able to hop on a bus outside of our door, so that we can get to Dublin? Is enough being done to have that modal shift in journeys, so that people can park their car outside the city centres, effectively freeing up streets in places like Dublin for further work to be done on mobility, walking and cycling infrastructure? This is being done really successfully in some other European cities. Paris, for example, is fantastic in the work that it is continuing to do. Although it is quite painful for people who are driving cars and even buses now in the city, it is becoming a really friendly city for pedestrians and for cycling. I put that to the NTA.
Ms Anne Graham:
That is a feature of the greater Dublin area transport strategy. It sets out that we have a park-and-ride strategy that is both bus and rail based for the greater Dublin area. Mr. Creegan might speak about some work that we are doing on specific sites that are to be associated with park and ride.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
We expect four planning consents to be sought this year for bus-based park-and-ride on the N11, M11 and also on the M1, which will hopefully be north of Swords.
The Deputy mentioned the M7 and N7. Long term, we would like to put a large park-and-ride site at Sallins Naas train station. We may have to move the station or put a second station slightly south of it to make it all work seamlessly. That seems to be the right thing to do there. In the interim, there is the Red Cow park-and-ride, where additional bus services have been put in and various other changes are occurring there. There is therefore a coherent park-and-ride programme. Like everything else, it takes time. however, there is a coherent park-and-ride plan in place.
How long will it take for the N7 park-and-ride? Mr. Creegan said it would be long term, but what are the timelines that are involved in the construction of that project in particular? Does he have any rough estimate available to the committee?
It is okay, this is interesting. This is part and parcel of the lack of joined-up thinking between the Department of Transport and the independent State agencies working with it that is making it really hard for all of the bodies involved to get the work done. The simple exercise of connecting Dublin Airport via the DART such that we would have a rail connection to Dublin Airport could be done by way of railway order within a relatively short space of time. This is not being looked at despite that it is glaringly obvious how useful that could be for people across the country. For example, the Chairman and I could board the train at Limerick Junction and on arrival at Dublin Heuston we would be able to connect via the Luas to the DART at Connolly Station, which would then take us to Dublin Airport.
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
That has been considered extensively. Dublin Airport will be served by MetroLink, when built. People do not realise that one of the consequences of connecting the DART service into Dublin Airport would be a loss of capacity on the line to run services north of that point. There is enormous growth in Fingal, north of the airport, which we need to serve. This idea has been looked at extensively. It is not the right solution. The MetroLink is the right solution to serve Dublin Airport.
I refer Mr. Creegan to Beijing, which is a good example of where a person can access a solely airport tram service from the gate of the airport which links up with a rail connection. That could be done here by way of the installation of a new platform at, for example, Donaghmede, where there is an existing rail line. It would be a floor platform in the sense that people would be able to walk to, perhaps, a new station that could be built and would not impact necessarily on the line capacity as much as a direct rail connection. It is really difficult for me to see how all of these services are going to be delivered. In all of my engagements with the NTA, TII, the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform I have found it extraordinarily frustrating to get an accurate picture of what is going on. We need to tidy up in that regard if we are serious about increasing the number of people using public transport in this country and about increasing mobility of our streets, on which good work has been done by the NTA. Despite that all I have asked for in regard to my own constituency has been rejected by the NTA, I want to recognise that it is doing a lot of good work but an awful lot more needs to be done.
We are here discussing the transport strategy for the greater Dublin region. The interlinking of policy here is very difficult. It is also not very efficient, which makes it very difficult to get an accurate picture of when projects are going to be undertaken. I am concerned. As a Deputy for the south of the country, the lack of a response in regard to what is being done in regard to the N7 troubles me. With all of the houses being built there, in the next five years there will be an enormous number of vehicles travelling on the N7 right down to where it splits and meets with the M9. The NTA and Iarnród Éireann should single out that project in an effort to get cars off the road in Dublin. People using that road infrastructure would be delighted if they had a proper public transport option to get in and out of the city.
Could we take it that before the NTA finalises the document it will take one further look at the Sallins project, which is what Deputy O'Connor is speaking about? I take the point that that is a number of years away, but it makes sense. It is the route we would travel from Limerick to Dublin. I see a lot of merit in the Sallins project. It is a little bit outside the city. The Red Cow stop is further into the city. It is an issue the witnesses might take under advisement prior to finalising the document. Would that be a reasonable request?
Mr. Creegan said he is aware of what is happening with Ashtown Stables. What are the next steps? In terms of the picture arising from the consultation versus the detailed picture, there could potentially be a greater impact on Ashtown Stables than either they or the community were expecting. Insofar as Mr. Creegan is aware, what are the next steps?
Mr. Hugh Creegan:
The next step is to review the feedback from the mini consultation. That is happening. The project board will make the final decision on the option to take forward to railway order. That will happen, probably, next month. The intention then is to bring it forward to a railway order planning application to An Bord Pleanála within a couple of months. I forget the exact date. I think it is September, but I may be wrong in that.
The purpose of these proceedings is to consider a draft Dublin area transport strategy. I welcome Mr. Ray Coyne, CEO of Dublin Bus, and Mr. Feljin Jose and Ms Janis Morrissey from the Dublin Commuter Coalition. I thank the witnesses for their forbearance. A vote in the Dáil interrupted proceedings.
Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not criticise or make charges against a person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. If their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely from outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present does. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should be mindful of domestic law and how it may apply to the evidence they give.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House complex to participate in public meetings. Reluctantly, I will not permit a member to participate where he or she is not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts of Leinster House will be asked to leave the meeting. In this regard, I ask any member participating via MS Teams to confirm prior to making his or her contribution to the meeting that he or she is on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.
Members and all those in attendance in the committee room are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
I thank the committee for the invitation to speak today about the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, GDA. The 3,600 strong team in Dublin Bus and I are in the business of contributing to evidence-informed policy-making. That is important because we are ambitious to have integrated public policy and better outcomes for the people of Dublin. This means we need to start thinking now about Dublin’s transport future. The prospects are good but only if we plan ahead. At the heart of this, for us in public transport, is the vitally important greater Dublin area transport strategy.
Public transport, as we all know, is key to the sustainable development of Ireland and the continued economic prosperity of our people. Our buses are more than just a means of transporting people across the capital; they are vital to creating connected communities with good amenities and good jobs. The centrality of public transport to our lives and the success of our country means we need to broaden the conversation on transport policy so I welcome the opportunity to appear today.
Before casting an eye to the future, it is important to highlight the progress made in recent years. Over the past seven years, we have reinvented, strengthened, and modernised our services, and our company. We have been independently recognised as Ireland’s best indigenous employer. Customer numbers have gone from 122 million to a pre-pandemic high of 139 million in 2019. Today, the company is Ireland’s largest public transport provider. We carried 70 million customers in 2021, and we hope to get back to more than 150 million customers travelling per year as our society recovers from the pandemic.
With the introduction of five new 24-7 routes alongside our Nitelink services, we have begun the process of introducing all-day and all-night services across the capital. We have done all this while facing the most difficult of headwinds in the form of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and the challenges posed by Brexit. I take this opportunity to recognise the commitment and skill of the Dublin Bus team, which is vital to our success. Whether they work maintaining, driving or cleaning our buses or working on our customer support teams, we would not be able to run high-quality bus services without them. This progress has, of course, been achieved in co-operation with the NTA and Government. In our submission to the NTA, we focused on: the full delivery of the BusConnects project; the delivery of sustainable bus services which meets climate change requirements; the future when it comes to technology and new customer offerings; and short- to medium-term improvements to bus services and the broader operating environment. Focusing on these goals provides the opportunity for us all to pull together and play our part so that we can secure the gains which have been the achievement of thousands of workers across the public transport industry.
Key to building on our recent progress is the BusConnects project. It is a key part of the GDA transport strategy to improve public transport and address climate change in Dublin and other cities. Dublin Bus is assisting the NTA with the implementation of the BusConnects Dublin area network redesign. We have successfully implemented phases 1 and 2 of the network redesign. We look forward to assisting the NTA with phase 3 in the coming weeks and with phases 4 and 5 in the second half of 2022.
The successful delivery of BusConnects is vital to the future of Dublin Bus and is also critical to the achieving the company’s goal of being the State’s delivery partner of choice. The bus is the largest mode, and will remain so. It is vital, therefore, that BusConnects is fully implemented during the 2022-2030 period.
On immediate measures to build support for public transport, our view is that a number of solutions could be put in place for the short to medium term which would improve urban bus public transport, the public realm, enhance the customer experience and increase the use of sustainable transport. These measures will provide mobility to the many, for the benefit of all and will help build support for the GDA transport strategy. They include: exploring additional bus-based projects; additional 24-7 services; and strengthening and protecting bus lane priority.
On exploring additional bus based projects, many of the service initiatives and infrastructure projects as part of the ambitious transport strategy for the GDA will take time to deliver. The bus is the most cost-effective and flexible mass public transit service offering. Encouraging customers to use public transport is a key requirement for a sustainable future. In advance of new fixed rail lines or metro, investment should be focused on building public transport patronage on identified corridors and then migrating customers to the fixed rail or metro services. Buses with high levels of service and demand-responsive transport, DRT, have a role to play and can be introduced in advance of rail-metro construction and realigned subsequently. This will give significant benefits to communities long before the introduction of rail-based services.
On additional 24-7 services, there is a strong need for stakeholders from across society to work together.
Whether it is public health, climate change, economic modernisation or public transport, there is a growing expectation that businesses have a role to play in addressing broader economic and societal issues. At the heart of this must be all partners working together to deliver a truly 24-hour Dublin. High-quality 24-hour bus services are needed to deliver an all-day and all-night city. It is our view, as stated in our report, that the broader economic needs of the city justify accelerating the introduction of 24-hour services on routes such as the 46A, 155 and many others. This will allow operators and customers to build on the success of the existing 24-hour services 15, 39A, 41, C1 and C2, plus C5 and C6.
Over 30 years ago we introduced our first bus lane on Parliament Street. That transformed bus services across the capital. Those bus lanes need to be protected and improved. When it comes to bus lane enhancement, we believe it is appropriate to move away from time-specific bus lanes and towards a 24-hour designation for all bus lanes on all days of the week.
Over the past two years there has been a significant increase in the number of people cycling. This is good for Dublin. Cycling makes our city quieter, more efficient and a nicer place to live. People must be able to cycle safely in the capital. Public transport companies like Dublin Bus and cyclists are natural allies in the fight for a more sustainable Dublin. We have supported, and will continue to support, the introduction of appropriate cycling infrastructure across the GDA.
The pandemic period was a particularly tough one for businesses across the GDA. A key question for Dublin Bus now is how we can help support economic recovery as normal activity levels resume. We have a key role to play in public transport and bringing people into the city centre and other urban hubs across the GDA but we can also use our size and scale to make the GDA a nicer place to live, work and visit. Over the last few months we have seen increasing pedestrianisation of streets, with Merrion Row and Capel Street being the most recent examples, and other public realms being changed or reclaimed for people and businesses. Dublin Bus is supportive of this emerging trend. We hope consensus is reached between all partners regarding the increased pedestrianisation of Capel Street and South William Street. I think Capel Street has now been agreed. These are just some short-term measures that could be used to help improve the customer experience and increase public transport usage, which we all know is vital to building a more sustainable Dublin. If we do not take these steps, congestion will inevitably get worse, commute times will get longer and emissions will rise in line with population growth.
Over many years we have seen the benefits of embracing technology in our lives and businesses. In its purest form, technology makes things easier to use and by design, better. We have seen the benefits of technology in the transport industry over many years, leading to greater accessibility of our buses through access ramps, induction loops, audio announcements and colour contrasting interiors, as well as through the zero tailpipe emissions buses that are on order, traffic light priority for public transport and timely information for customers. We are now at a point where the technology and transport industries are significantly integrating. If we plan together and capture the benefits technology and transport can offer, we can facilitate modal shift and achieve our climate targets.
Short-term initiatives include the use of account-based ticketing using a token, which can be a smartphone, smart watch, debit card or QR code. In March, the Government agreed funding to progress this under the next generation ticketing project as part of BusConnects. Account-based ticketing will provide faster journey times and allows for dynamic pricing and demand management. It will also provide a single payment system for the whole transport network and can give people the cheapest fare for the journey undertaken in real time. Account-based ticketing can significantly simplify and enhance the customer experience and provides significant insights through data that can further benefit our customers. It is also part of an emerging ecosystem called MaaS or mobility as a service. This is next level integration, where a single payment system will allow multiple transport options to be selected on demand by use. This would include bike shares, car shares, e-bikes, e-scooters, micro-mobility, taxis and public and private operators.
Technology will also provide a platform for enhanced reliability and efficiency of service provision through greater use of data, analytics and artificial intelligence. Historically, traditional companies have not been imaginative enough with their assets and the benefits technology can bring. There is an opportunity for Dublin Bus to further build on its reputation through the early adoption of new technology to create and capture value for our customers and the State. Examples include the use of predictive maintenance to increase reliability and real-time capacity deployment to meet customer needs as they arise.
Technology is also an enabler for the sustainable development of our city by assisting with increased movements by way of an integrated multimodal transport system. Many public transport users are also car users and there will always be a need for public and private modes in our cities. We must ensure priority is given to high-capacity transport modes but that they work in harmony. We need to achieve modal shift in an appropriately managed fashion. This will require a consensus on the introduction of demand management principles in our city, which technology can facilitate. Examples include fixed automatic number plate recognition; kerbside management services; bus-only roads, which would be time bound or congestion dependent as needed; dynamic road speeds for all vehicles; end-to-end priority for public transport modes; congestion charging; and the introduction of demand-responsive transit. Many of these opportunities will require us to be both learners and leaders but I am confident that we are ready. Dublin Bus is accelerating plans and working with partners to harness the potential of demand-responsive transit and other transport innovations. It is my firm belief that the technology and innovations are there to deliver during the lifetime of the strategy, but only if consensus can be reached.
In a world that is changing before our very eyes, it is right that we think about and plan for the long term. Dublin Bus believes that the NTA’s ambitious GDA transport strategy will make a significant contribution to the economic, mobility and sustainability needs of a thriving, ambitious and progressive city. The years up to 2042 will see us operate in an environment where economic and social development has a significant impact on the role of public transport. Investing in transport is key to our continued economic growth and to delivering sustainable jobs now and in the future. This means we, as advocates for a public transport and a better GDA, must be proactive in providing the city with modern, dynamic mobility solutions. Dublin Bus is a solutions provider and it is in this spirit that we engaged with the strategy. While there is no doubt that external factors will reshape our region, the GDA that emerges over the lifetime of this strategy must be more liveable and more sustainable. To do this we must develop more liveable communities where businesses can flourish and people can use buses, bikes, e-scooters and their own feet to get around.
In the more immediate term, we must look at bus-based measures that will help the GDA recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and ward off the growing threat of congestion. Now is not the time to place a limit on our ambition for transport in the GDA. We must embrace technology as the means to removing the barriers to public transport. The ability to easily pay for and use public transport will be essential if we are to attract people back to our services. Beyond this, Dublin Bus believes that continued investment in public transport through BusConnects, combined with an increased willingness to accelerate many of the measures set out in the 2022-42 strategy, will transform the GDA. That is the ultimate prize for investment in public transport and the creation of a successful GDA, which will be a better place to live, visit and work, not just a better public transport system. I thank the committee for taking the time to listen and I am happy to take any questions members may have.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for the invitation to speak today on what we regard as a great opportunity to improve the lives of those in the greater Dublin area. I am chairperson of Dublin Commuter Coalition and I am joined today by Ms Janis Morrissey from our committee.
Dublin Commuter Coalition is a voluntary advocacy group established in 2018 to act as a unifying voice for sustainable transport users in the greater Dublin area. Despite our name, we do not advocate just for commuters, but for everyone in the GDA who walks, cycles, scoots or uses public transport. We represent the lived experiences of our members, from parents who want their children to walk or cycle to school independently to people who cross the city each day for work or college, and older citizens who need reliable and accessible connections to their local shops and to their friends and family. Our vision is for Dublin to have a transport network that is safe, accessible, connected and sustainable. We work to realise our vision through meetings with policymakers and engaging with public bodies, as well as by being a voice for sustainable transport in social and traditional media.
When we were founded, the future of transport in Dublin looked bleak. There were very few public transport or active travel projects in progress and we spent most of our time countering objections and misinformation about what little was proposed. In just over three years, this has changed dramatically. The calls to strengthen public transport infrastructure have only grown louder as the climate crisis has become more urgent and the many benefits of sustainable transport are becoming more widely recognised. We are pleased to see the roll-out of the new BusConnects network and the submission of planning applications for BusConnects core bus corridors. For us, this is the culmination of over three years of advocacy on different strands of BusConnects. The introduction of the new 90-minute fare, which enables free transfer between buses and rail services, maximises the utility of the existing network by making multistage journeys easier and significantly cheaper. We are getting very positive feedback on this and we hope to see it expanded to more areas around Dublin.
We are also seeing a much greater appetite for safe active travel infrastructure and are pleased with the substantial increase in the planning and delivery of pedestrianised streets and segregated cycle routes.
On the GDA transport strategy, we have submitted our response to the public consultation on the draft transport strategy for the greater Dublin area as a briefing document for members of this committee. During the initial public consultation, 90% of respondents stated the transport strategy should seek to reduce the reliance on private cars for travel in the GDA. While the draft transport strategy gets a lot of things right, it is less progressive than the previous strategies at a time when Dublin people, and indeed our planet, demand the greatest ambition. Our main concerns relate to the slow and vague timelines provided and the removal of two vital projects. People in Dublin are increasingly frustrated with how long it takes to design, plan and build transport projects. We believe the timelines for the delivery of projects in the draft transport strategy are far too slow. Given Ireland's climate commitments and the growing demands to decrease air pollution, travel times and costly car dependency, we had hoped the NTA would seek to accelerate some of these projects. However, we have seen no evidence of any accelerated delivery in the draft transport strategy. For example, the sum total of the Luas lines proposed to have been built by 2042 in the draft transport strategy is the same as what was proposed to have been built by 2035 in the previous transport strategy, namely, a new line to Lucan and small extensions to Finglas, Poolbeg and Bray.
While we are concerned with how slow the projects are and the general lack of urgency, we are also concerned with the vague timelines given. The draft transport strategy divides projects into two groups depending on when they are due to be finished, that is, whether from 2022 to 2030 or from 2031 to 2042. Beyond this, it is not clear when the projects listed will be completed. For example, the people of Navan were told their rail line would be finally built, but they do not know if that will be ten or 20 years from now. It is difficult to bring communities along on these large projects with such vague timelines. They do not instil any confidence in the projects themselves and people find it hard to believe they will ever be built. A notable omission from the draft transport strategy is the DART+ tunnel, which was previously known as DART underground. This project would completely transform the eastern rail network by connecting the Cork and Kildare line to the northern line, which stops in the heart of Dublin. The previous transport strategy planned to have completed this crucial infrastructure before 2035, but the draft transport strategy postpones it for at least 20 years. The delay exemplifies the lack of urgency and leadership evident throughout the document. This year marks 50 years since the tunnel was first proposed.
The Luas green line between Charlemont and Sandyford was built with the intention it would be eventually upgraded from a tram to a metro. The previous transport strategy proposed to link this high-capacity section of the Luas green line to the new high-capacity metro at Charlemont to create one long metro corridor from Swords to Sandyford, as originally intended, for relatively little additional cost. Housing developments along this corridor already have been built on the promise this line will be upgraded, but this essential upgrade is now notably absent from the draft transport strategy.
We believe it is important to acknowledge the strategy is better than the previous one in some areas. We welcome changes such as the extension of the DART to Sallins, Wicklow and Kilcock, the inclusion of the Navan rail line and the removal of the eastern bypass.
In conclusion, we believe the draft transport strategy falls well short of what is needed to facilitate the radical shift away from private cars to sustainable modes that is required to meet our climate commitments and reduce congestion, air pollution and inactivity. We are seeking substantial changes to the plan before it has been finalised and approved by the Minister. With greater ambition, the transport strategy can be a catalyst for change and Dublin can be a leader in the provision of safe, accessible and sustainable transport for all. The people of the greater Dublin area demand and deserve it.
My first questions are for Mr. Coyne. He stated he hopes Dublin Bus will soon be back more than 150 million customers per year. What sort of timeline does he expect for that and what kinds of numbers is he seeing in that context? On the 90-minute fare, I understand the reduced fares have not yet been introduced but will be soon. What is his sense of the impact they will have, if that is not an unfair question?
Mr. Coyne went on to speak about the need for achieving consensus. Will he expand on that? Looking to the future, in the context of mobility as a service and demand-responsive transport, that will a departure for Dublin Bus. We are quite familiar with it in the form of Local Link and other services. How does he foresee that playing a role in a Dublin context?
Mr. Ray Coyne:
On the timeline for the target of 150 million customers, we are back to having just shy of 80% of the customers we had pre-Covid, but as we are increasing the service levels significantly under BusConnects, we anticipate reaching the target within the next two years. The travel demands within that, however, will be significantly different from those pre-Covid, in light of hybrid working, so we will have to see how that will play out in the long term. The numbers are increasing but the travel patterns are likely to shift, so that will be a learning exercise over the next year. I hope we can achieve the target within the next two years, although that will be subject to continued funding in public transport. One of the key elements within that is multi-year funding, which allows us to plan many years in advance with security of funding to execute those plans-----
Mr. Ray Coyne:
No, it is an annual cash cycle, so we cannot commit to what services we will introduce next year until we see what value is there. Multi-year funding is important because it allows the State, the operators, the NTA and the Government to tell a long-term story and give people certainty, when they are making decisions to buy private cars and so on, that they will have certain services for a given number of years, and that is important. I hope that in two years, we will be back to 150 million.
The 90-minute fare has been welcomed. We can never give enough information to customers, so we will continue with the NTA to advise customers of the change, but it has been broadly welcomed. It will assist with changing habits, particularly in the younger generation, and with trying to get them to continue using the bus. It is easier to get a customer to stay with the bus than it is to attract a customer onto public transport, from a cost point of view, which is true of any business in any industry. That will help us hold on to customers and the change has been welcomed.
On the new fares, the Minister will make an announcement on that and, therefore, I am not at liberty to comment on when it is coming in, although it is imminent. Dublin Bus will give a significant reduction of 20% on our machines. We are ready and waiting to implement it and will do so overnight. Once we have been advised, it will be done through a wireless system on our buses. Despite reports in the media, that is how these changes are made.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
It is an interesting one. The elasticity of price relative to the number of passengers used to be around 0.3. There will be an increase in passenger numbers, but what we are really targeting is modal shift and cheaper fares do not necessarily lead to modal shift. They will lead to more journeys but, instead of walking 500 m, a person might jump onto the bus if it costs only 60 cent or €1. That is what happens. If we want modal shift-----
Mr. Ray Coyne:
We carry out surveys of people who have moved out of cars and we can track the length of the journeys people make. In Dublin, for example, we will track how many increased journeys are undertaken in a small, confined space within the city centre. If there have been more journeys within 1 km of the GPO, they will not generally be car users, assuming there has been no subsequent increase coming in from the suburbs, and we are able to find that out at a micro level and dig down into it. There is an expectation that the fares reductions will lead to an increase in the number of journeys but globally, fare reduction on its own does not result in modal shift, which is what we really want to achieve, rather than people using the bus more often in a way that will just take away from the Government’s strategy to promote walking and healthy travel at the top of the pyramid. It could counteract that, although there is no question the reductions will be welcome.
On the need to achieve consensus, this goes back to what I mentioned earlier in regard to multi-year funding. If all parties - business, the Government and operators - are in agreement and the funding is there to underpin what we are trying to aspire to and move towards, it will be far easier than if all the disparate parts have different views.
It is public transport, private transport and business. There will be different views but there needs to be some kind of view that this is what is best for the vast majority and does not really impact negatively on other people. That is what I mean by consensus. At least if we have a fair wind behind us, everyone can make a significant beneficial impact. We do not want to do that to the detriment of a large proportion of society. That is not useful.
On mobility as a service and demand responsive transport, DRT, mobility as a service, this is essentially a technology platform for all public transport and private modes, which a person would use through one app. If I want to rent a car or use six bus journeys, two train journeys, four e-scooters and seven bikes this week, I can plug that in and go. I do not have to buy a monthly or weekly ticket for this or that; I kind of pick and choose. The technology system is the enabler for that. Then, the National Transport Authority, NTA, or somebody else would be asked to implement it. The Government would be the keeper of the brand so it would only let really good operators that are investing in their own service into that system. There is a big spectrum within that. Account-based ticketing is part of that but there is a big spectrum. There is a choice to make for Government on what policy it wants to pursue within that area. Some areas are pursuing it quite aggressively.
Again, however, this will be around modal shift and giving people alternative options that are better than private mode. It is also about recognising that not all but many of us will still need a private car for some element. We are not going to do away with that but we can minimise the journey and make the alternative journey as attractive as the car. Mobility as a service will help to do that as well.
DRT, again, is around technology and transport merging. In an urban environment, one could have a localised service so, again, the DRT piece involves a person having the app. It is not door-to-door; it is a kind of corner-to-corner dynamic bus route. It is not a fixed route. It depends on how much resource people want to put into it. It could be set so that when a person requests a bus, it will be there guaranteed within 20, 30 or 40 minutes. It depends on how many buses are put into it. The algorithm will say here is the best route and here is how we can pick the people up. We can have smaller buses. We can have driverless buses, which they have in Europe. They have dynamic routes so money can be saved on that. That would generally feed into a hub and spoke system. If a person was out in Stamullen, therefore, he or she might have that sort of system into the rail station or into Swords or somewhere like that. That will connect that person in with a bigger transport network. It is dynamic, however.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
The integrated piece will take legislation change, for sure. That could take anywhere between three to five years but then to get the entire system fully operational on everything, including attracting operators and the innovation, we could be looking at a decade until it is all settled down. Again, that is the aspiration of the city. Finland would be an example people use but the Government there, to be fair, puts an awful lot of investment into it. The Finnish Government was looking for its new Nokia. It was trying to do this and then sell that to other cities. I think we are on the road to that now but a full integration will need a Government decision on how far it wants to go. The ultimate aspiration is that these cities then sell the knowledge to implement that to other cities. That is how they fund it ultimately.
I thank Mr. Coyne very much. I thank Mr. Jose for his presentation and for his activism. It is a really important piece because there are literally contested spaces. It is important that we have the opportunity to hear and deliver on the vision he has set out for the city. It is one that many people would share. It is, effectively, Government and Opposition policy but delivering it seems to be a particular challenge. Could Mr. Jose maybe give some experience in terms of the barriers? He pointed towards the planning system, for example, but also the opportunities that are there.
I might have a chance to come back in on the second round of questions.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
The biggest barrier really are the timelines involved in delivering them. Like the Deputy said, we all agree that we need this. We all agree on what the final vision should look like but getting there seems to be an issue. I think much of it is to do with the number of resources that are available at State body level.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
Funding is also an issue but even for many of the projects that are funded, we are still seeing issues in delivering that. MetroLink has been four years in design and planning now. I think that is a function of the resources that are allocated to it. There is scope to speed up things there but I know at the same time it is really difficult to hire engineers and designers right now as well.
Does Mr. Jose think there are opportunities for quick wins? Obviously, there are super projects that are literally in the category of mega projects. There is transformational change that could potentially be delivered for far less of a budget, however. In fairness to the Government, it is committing funding. Where does Mr. Jose think the barriers are in terms of delivering on the ground, whether it be in terms of cycle paths, shared spaces or greenways?
Mr. Feljin Jose:
Mr. Coyne touched on this in terms of 24-7 bus lanes. Many bus lanes operate between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock and then turn into a car-parking space, which does not work because buses run all day. Trying to get through the city centre at 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock is difficult. It is not so much a problem in the city centre but even on the radial routes in terms of bus lane enforcement, the bus lanes are there but they are being abused. It is well past the time that we rely on a garda being on every street corner. We must move on to camera enforcement. The buses are already equipped with cameras. There are cities in which they simply just automatically prosecute or issue a fine. It is a fixed-charge penalty of €80. It is not a big deal; it can be done automatically. The evidence can be collected automatically and then sent to the Garda or someone else to prosecute - I should not say to prosecute but to issue the fines. It is something that can be implemented in maybe a year, which could dramatically speed up bus journeys.
Ms Janis Morrissey:
I will briefly add to that point. Another potential area for a quick win would be the introduction of a 30 km per hour zone in urban areas. Coming from an inclusivity and equity point of view, as we illustrated with the scenarios at the start of our statement, we represent children as much as older people. It is important that the voices of children and young people are included in our conversation today. There is a real opportunity to create more liveable and appropriate spaces for young people to enjoy their local communities with recreational opportunities as well as travelling to school. I would propose that as another option.
I thank both contributors from the Dublin Commuter Coalition and Dublin Bus. It is interesting to get their perspectives on what they feel could be done. I certainly want to agree with some of the points that were made by the Dublin Commuter Coalition with regard to the longevity around the delivery of public transport projects, whether that is the Luas or other projects. The point is that we have to put our hands up and say that Ireland is an unmitigated disaster when it comes to delivering infrastructure for public transport in our city centres in particular. Obviously, Dublin as a primate city certainly suffers heavily from congestion in comparison to many other countries within the European Union.
I am not sure if Mr. Jose from the Dublin Commuter Coalition has seen my previous contribution but I am guilty as charged, as are many others who live in rural Ireland, as I commute to Dublin city, and I commute twice a week for work, but public transport is not an option for me. What practical steps can the Dublin Commuter Coalition recommend to reduce the volume of traffic on the M1, M2, M3, N4, N7 and M11? Can it suggest transit facilities? Unfortunately, much of the traffic in Dublin city centre is the result of people commuting from radial towns around the capital city, while the provision of bus lanes, space for segregated cycleways and an increased footpath infrastructure are badly needed. Finally, I compliment Mr. Jose on his contribution to the committee.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
The draft transport strategy contains a proposal for regional bus corridors along the M50 for a few kilometres. They are bus lanes on motorways that will give bus priority. When one goes further out, however, one encounters very sparsely populated areas with loads of different towns and buses will be a key part of the solution. We must make sure that there is adequate bus priority that will allow buses to get through junctions, on the dual carriageways coming in and through the M50, to reach the city. BusConnects mostly concerns the area inside the M50 and, therefore, it is important to look at regional bus corridors outside of that as well. We must build long-term projects now. We must start the design and planning now in order that we will have a pipeline of projects to keep funding and building when resources are favourable.
That is great. I have noticed that the Dublin Commuter Coalition has run a strong social media operation and it is brilliant to see the engagement the coalition has on it. I follow it and am a big fan. I would love to meet representatives of the coalition privately after this meeting or at some stage if they have time available.
There is a huge problem in Dublin if you want to get to and from your place of work or go to Dublin to shop. When it comes to deciding whether to drive or avail of public transport, the existing palette of options either takes significantly longer or are not a nice user experience. Obviously it is grand if one lives in a town that has good infrastructure such as rail infrastructure. Recently I talked to a colleague of mine, the Minister of State, Deputy Thomas Byrne, from County Meath and learned that the Government is looking to significantly invest in rail infrastructure in that part of Ireland and he is working quite hard on that. However, there are parts of counties Kildare and Wicklow that are not serviced by current rail lines so many commuters must choose the car. We need to see proactive action to address the situation and the coalition is key in that work.
We, from a cross-political point of view, must support a really exciting piece of legislative work that will tidy up the planning process related to the development of infrastructure. For example, for new rail infrastructure we rely on old legislation such as the rail order. There are also significant issues with longevity and how long the process will take. Will the Dublin Commuter Coalition seek a hearing with the Minister for Transport on the review being done by the Attorney General through the Department of Transport and the Minister? I encourage the coalition to meet the Minister, as it would help the process.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
We have followed the news on the review but have not directly engaged. A lot of the work is quite technical and beyond our reach. We would love to learn more about the review because it directly applies to a lot of what we do and we are waiting to hear more details. We have not directly engaged but we would like to.
That is interesting and the same could be said to Dublin Bus, the NTA and other State agencies that are involved in this work. The review will be a huge determining factor in the development of all new infrastructure so we can get away from the situations like the metro projects in Dublin. I mean the DART interconnector and other projects had many false starts that were never developed in the original time lengths that had been set out for construction. The review is an important process for any body that genuinely wants to make a positive impact on how quickly we can build climate-friendly infrastructure and put it in place. Given the situation that we are in today, speeding up the process is crucial. Therefore, we must get rid of some of the roadblocks that have impinged for decades on the development of new public transport infrastructure in this State.
I have a question for Dublin Bus on the development of arterial infrastructure, which is a point that I am focusing on throughout today's committee. How does Dublin Bus plan to take cars off the arterial routes and on to its services, once one goes beyond the M50? That is an important aspect and is so often missed.
Ms Anne Graham, CEO of the NTA, mentioned at our previous session that the NTA will develop new park-and-ride facilities. Quite frankly, it is an easy opportunity to procure ground on a lot of the arterial routes so that those who do not have the luxury of living in places like Dublin and, indeed, in Cork, which is my own area and is not under the remit of Dublin Bus, will be able to leave their cars outside of the city centres and board public transport that will bring them into places of work and retail within Dublin, and particularly to sporting venues. We have a really good opportunity to utilise that. Has Dublin Bus anything to say on this matter?
Mr. Ray Coyne:
Ultimately, the NTA decides where park-and-ride facilities are located, their scale and whether they will be introduced as fully private operations or as State-owned and State-managed operations. The view of Dublin Bus is that park-and-ride facilities have a role to play. We would welcome an opportunity to use our experience to deliver them. Primarily, in terms of what is required to provide park-and-ride facilities, and in all of the suburbs for the areas that come into the city, our customers want frequent, reliable and punctual services that give them a better alternative than a car. Dublin Bus seeks to increase the frequency of services, and ensure that they are very punctual and reliable. One also needs to have a journey time that is at a minimum equal to a private mode. One must set the fare correctly. Finally, to get people out of their cars, the park-and-ride facility must be sited at a good and secure location and be a welcoming environment.
Dublin Bus believes that well positioned and fully funded park-and-ride facilities would form a great part of the integrated transport system that will also have to penalise private mode use because we all battle for the same road space. Our view is that one could have a park-and-ride facility for 1,000 vehicles somewhere in County Meath but if one needs two hours on a bus and can do the journey in an hour in a car, then one will choose to drive.
We believe that these facilities can be very successful if they form part of an integrated transport system. Dublin Bus operated them many years ago. I am sure that people will remember Operation Freeflow where one could avail of a park-and-ride facility at the Spa in Lucan, Stillorgan and Whitehall. These facilities were very successful because they were faster than the private car mode and were extremely cheap. Dublin Bus would like to play a role in these facilities and look forward to the NTA making provision for them within its transport ecosystem.
That is fascinating to hear. I feel these facilities would make a huge difference to the lives of people who live in rural Ireland.
While we have been here, a couple of people have tweeted to ask me why I do not use public transport to get to and from Dublin. The answer is that doing so adds an hour and a half to my journey. I have to go to a train station, park my car, get the train to Dublin and then commute from the train station in Dublin to my place of work. In a job like this, I cannot afford to lose three hours in a working day. That is the case for many others who have to come to Dublin for work, even if they are only doing it once or twice a week. There are thousands upon thousands of people like me who have to come to the city as part of their role or job.
With regard to the integration of the bus routes operated by Dublin Bus, it is an excellent service but there is obviously scope for improvement. I compliment Dublin Bus. When it comes to taking cars off the road outside of the city limits and beyond M50, there is great scope to totally change the interaction between transport inside Dublin and outside of it, thereby taking more and more cars off the road that would otherwise come into the city centre, effectively blocking up space needed for the introduction of mobility infrastructure for cycling and walking. I referenced Paris. I have been there and using public transport there is a really enjoyable experience. Fantastic work has been done under the current mayor to improve cycling and mobility infrastructure. We can do that in Ireland but we have to address the issue of the traffic coming in and out of Dublin city on the arterial routes. That could be done through investment in park-and-ride infrastructure. There is some disagreement on that. Some feel that this solution is only half thought-out because the car is not ruled out completely. However, if you are living in a rural house or a small town or village, you will just not have the same level of services as someone living in a major town. I am trying to think of a town outside of Dublin that does not have rail infrastructure in place. If you live in a town of 5,000 or 6,000 people that does not have rail infrastructure, as many people in the arterial towns around Dublin do, you will want a relatively decent bus service. That will not be available in rural areas, and particularly smaller towns and villages, however. I would love to see more work being done on that.
I will make an observation on a bugbear of mine. I am talking about always being referred back to the National Transport Authority, NTA, in respect of policy. That is quite interesting because, when you put those questions to the NTA, it cannot give you a straight answer. That is absolutely unacceptable. It is something we have to deal with effectively. We need a strategy in place to allow us to put questions to civil servants and to be given answers when a point is to be made.
I welcome Mr. Coyne, Mr. Jose and Ms Morrissey. I thank them for their attendance and their opening statements. I have two questions for Mr. Coyne and two questions for the Dublin Commuter Coalition, DCC. It was interesting to hear Mr. Coyne talking about the first bus lane coming into operation 30 years ago. I was working in Donnybrook bus garage 30 years ago. I was putting in the first electronic ticketing machines. We are still talking-----
I believe there is a statute of limitations on possible interests, is there not? We were putting in the first electronic ticketing machines at that stage. I compliment Dublin Bus on the advancement in the fleet and the service over the last 30 years. I recommend that anyone who has not travelled on a bus in quite a while to try out the services. On the routes I use, the services are very frequent and the level of service is very good. Things change. The population has grown and we are now running into commuter chaos and congested roads. The new routes brought in under BusConnects will result in some people having to change buses when they were used to getting on a bus, finding a seat and ending up at their destination. In a number of cases, it will be a two-stage journey. People will have to get off and changes buses. My understanding is that services will be more frequent and more reliable under BusConnects. It will also lead to greater flexibility as regards places to go. What do we need to do to convince people that this is how a modern bus service works? If you got a train to another city and realised that you had to take two buses to a destination, you would not think twice about it if the journey time was good. How do we make that transition to people taking two journeys, which is much quicker and more direct, when they are used to taking one bus on a route that meandered all around the houses? What can we do to ease that transition? I have a second question. When can I expect the 155 service to operate 24 hours?
I am sorry. I have a third question for Dublin Bus. We had a really good session in here a while ago based on a TII report, Travelling in a Woman's Shoes. It is about vulnerable users on public transport. On the location of bus shelters, does Dublin Bus work with local authorities or others who have input into the landscape when bus stops create security issues as a result of being in dark areas that are not well-lit or where there is overgrowth or other landscape issues? Does Dublin Bus work with such people to make sure that those destinations are safe for people? There are examples in that report of women saying that they do not get off at their closest bus stop but at the next one because it is safer and that they then walk a greater distance. Does Dublin Bus actively look at security for users? I will come back to the Dublin Commuter Coalition with further questions after Dublin Bus responds.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
While I have been here, I was reminded that it was actually 42 years ago, in 1980, that we had our first bus lane. The years pass me by. I probably bumped into the Deputy at some point because I was in Donnybrook 33 years ago. We probably crossed paths back then.
On the network design, while we assisted with it, the redesign of the network is led by the NTA. It is statutorily in charge of that. We worked with it on the interchange. There were many queries on that at the start. Through the public consultation process, some of the initial proposals were adjusted, particularly with regard to peak times, recognising that people are in a hurry during the morning and evening peaks and want to travel more directly. Where the first couple of spines have been introduced, there are significant peak time-only end-to-end services. With regard to convincing people that getting two buses instead of one to a destination is a better alternative, it is very hard to convince somebody who had one direct bus route. I will go back to the three points. The Deputy mentioned two of them. They are frequency, reliability and punctuality. Everything else after those three is just nice for a public transport user to have. If you have those three, you have a good service. There will be higher frequency for more customers. On the spines, which are essentially on the main roads inside the M50, there will be more frequent services on the corridors. Many of our customers are within that area so they will not have to interchange anyway.
The other part of this is making the whole system better than the one individual journey users may have had. Part of that is a significant increase in the number of orbital and localised services. There will be customers who will now have to take two buses instead of one but we are also offering them increased orbital movement so they will not have to go into the city if they do not want to. If people want to go from Blanchardstown to Tallaght, they can jump on a frequent bus between the two. There are similar routes to the south and north of the city. We are trying to broaden it out and provide a greater total package of public transport options for the vast majority of people. When a bus network is changed, some people are going to be disaffected. There is no question about that. We are trying to minimise that. The NTA has done a public consultation. The first couple of corridors it has introduced have been broadly welcomed. In time, some of those issues may have to be looked at again if the interchange penalty is too significant. This may be remediated by providing for peak-only services or making other adjustments. The networks in some cities have this kind of system while others have what we traditionally had here, a system that tries to minimise interchanges. With increased frequency and increased orbital options, we can now say that, while a given journey might be a bit sticky for some, they will have additional services that can take them to more places for education, school or work. That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to sell it as a whole package.
On the 155, unfortunately I do not have a date for the Deputy. Investment and the NTA will determine when the 24-hour service on the 155 route comes in. It is ultimately the NTA's decision. From our point of view, no additional buses are required because there are buses parked up in the garage after midnight anyway. Additional drivers are required. We have a good campaign under way with the tagline "Get thanked for a living". It is going well and attracting employees. That is part of the investment piece and, as I touched on earlier, it has multiyear funding. I cannot tell the Deputy which services we will be introducing next year. I can tell him what aspirations are there but I could not tell him definitively what services will be introduced. It is planned to introduce 24-hour service on the 155 and 46A routes at an early phase. We believe that should be done as soon as the required resources are available. I would caution against holding everything off until the bus routes are changed under BusConnects.
BusConnects will take two to three years, so we could introduce measures in advance and then make adjustments in two or three years. It is a route that we think would be a success to operate 24 hours.
On the TII report, the NTA has responsibility for bus shelters on the bus network. Dublin Bus used to have it but that responsibility was transferred to the NTA. Nevertheless, we feed in our views on safe public transport. Generally, they are in well-lit areas where there is high footfall. The Deputy's question was a good one because it contained an insight into the complexity of the bus network in the context of stop locations and how moving one stop will have a significant implication for stops around it. There are areas where we have removed bus stops because some dynamic has changed, such as the lighting or the infrastructure around it. A road may be built, for example, and all of a sudden a bus stop may be isolated. We take that into account. The NTA is the authority on the matter but it asks us for advice on the relocation of certain stops. When we are planning routes and implementing bus stops, we are conscious of the surrounding environment. It is our service for our customers, so we would like it to be a pleasant experience everywhere.
Mr. Coyne is correct. Liability, frequency and punctuality are all important aspects, to which I might add security, affordability and comfort.
Turning to our guests from the DCC, we talked about road space allocation in the earlier session with representatives of the NTA, which they may or may not have heard. This issue creates some of the strongest conflicts in communities when there is an attempt to remove a few parking spaces, for example, with a benefit for all by having a little road space allocated for cycle lanes as well as all the other benefits such as those relating to the environment, health and permeability for everybody involved. How can we ensure the positive voices will be heard as well? These campaigns can spiral and take off with negativity and it can seem as though everybody is against the idea, and the people who are positive about and in favour of these campaigns are the silent majority who know it is the correct step to take but do not want to get dragged into Twitter or Facebook rows. How can we include people from the start in that process? What happened in Lucan, for example, epitomised the problem, while similar issues arose in Salthill and Bray. We try to take these steps for the greater good but the discussions seem to get out of hand. From the DCC's perspective, how can we get more positive voices involved in these campaigns?
Ms Janis Morrissey:
There is work to be done to win hearts and minds at both a national level and a local community level, and there are certainly divisive examples, as the Deputy outlined. It is about illustrating case studies where there are positives when these changes have been made, highlighting the benefits to a broad spectrum of members of the community and demonstrating how it could work well in other community settings. We need to pre-empt the concerns and fears and address them. There has been a challenge in the context of consultation with a vocal minority of more car-centric members of the community but there is an opportunity to engage with a broader range of community members proactively from the outset. Rather than having a passive open consultation and expecting time-poor members of the community to take part, there might be an opportunity to conduct more outreach work to understand where people are coming from and to pre-empt their concerns before they escalate.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
The Deputy is correct that sometimes, a silent majority want the changes but do not speak out because most people will not speak out about issues they approve of, which is kind of why we were set up during the MetroLink and BusConnects consultations. We believed a lot of people wanted the projects to be built as soon as possible. There were many valid concerns that needed to be fixed and most of them have been addressed, but a silent majority wanted the projects to be built as soon as possible and there was no voice for them to express that. That is kind of why we formed. The more community advocacy groups there are and the more that people engage in local communities throughout Dublin in regard to how to deliver these projects, the better off we will be.
I fail to see how we will tackle climate emissions when that is the reaction we get. If the people who have to make the decisions, who are often local councillors, knew they had more support for these projects from those people who see the benefit in them, that might assist them in trying to make a difficult decision.
Mr. Jose talked about the ambition in the greater Dublin area strategy, and we all have a higher ambition for public transport such that we would all like to see more rail lines, Luas lines and bus lines, but certain structural projects take a lot of time and money. They also span cross-governmental periods, with consistent support and funding needed. While I agree we should have higher targets and ambition to deliver these projects more quickly, we will lose faith in all systems if somebody says a project will be complete within five years knowing that it will not happen in that timeframe. We have to run the risk of putting a date on a project against the capacity constraints that exist within its planning, design and construction, with consultants to be engaged and so on. All these factors take time. I think Mr. Jose is correct that we should have greater ambition to do things faster and in greater volumes, given we know we have to move even though transport feeds in to our climate chaos, but we have to balance that against being realistic about the timeline for a project.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
The DART+ tunnel, for example, was supposed to have been constructed before 2035, but now it is due to have been designed by 2042. If we are kicking projects that are 15 years away down the line now, it is not going to happen. We need to build up the pipeline and to start designing projects now to be constructed in the 2030s, when it looks as though, in the second half of the decade at least, it will be a fairly quiet time, according to the strategy. I agree it is not good if strategies are announced and then not delivered on, but it looks as though we are taking away some projects that could have been delivered, or could have been designed now to be delivered, at a later stage, which is not helpful either.
DART underground is an omission, in my opinion. There was a €3 billion price tag on the project at the time and there was a really good benefit-to-cost ratio but it was shelved. For me, the party that shelved it had no interest in railways. I will leave it at that.
I accept that, but I will nonetheless try to be brief. As the only member of the committee who lives in Dublin, this topic is close to my heart. I acknowledge the greater Dublin area is larger than just the county, but these issues certainly affect Dublin people disproportionately.
We will discuss all that next week.
I thank Dublin Bus, that is, not just Mr. Coyne but all his 3,600 staff members, who do so much. It is only the problems that we hear about and it is only when something goes wrong that I end up calling him or one of his team. When things are going well, which is 99.9% of the time, we take the service for granted. It is only when a bus goes missing on the real-time passenger information, RTPI, or when something else goes wrong that issues are highlighted, and while that is rare, it does happen from time to time.
Mr. Coyne referred to the Brexit challenge. I am not sure what the Brexit challenge is for his company, so he might elaborate on it. Fuel costs are increasing significantly. Mr. Coyne might address how Dublin Bus is dealing with that situation. I am raising with him some issues to which he might reply, as I do not wish to make too much of a speech. How is Dublin Bus dealing with antisocial behaviour and how much of a problem is it? I was in London three or four years ago and I could tap my credit card on the Underground. I did not need the equivalent of a Leap card. I was amazed that the Underground knew when I tapped on and off and that it took the right fare without having any idea of who I was, given that I had not registered for anything. Is that what the MaaS system is about or are we anywhere near that? As users of Dublin Bus services, what technological upgrades will we see? The Leap card is great, but what percentage of fares are collected in cash? I am sure it is falling to a low percentage. There will always have to be cash. I remember campaigning for every second or third 46A service being cashless and Dublin Bus claiming that it would lose money. The world has moved on. What do we need to do to ensure a modal shift and get more people out of their cars and onto bikes, footpaths and scooters as much as onto buses? When will the Dublin Bus fleet be a more electric and hydrogen one than it is a fossil fuel one? What is the fleet's age? I used to be on a bus route that had the oldest buses because it had the least gradient, so they broke down less on our routes than on any other. That was 20 or 30 years ago when Deputy Matthews was installing electronic machines on them. We see brand new buses, but we also see buses that are a little older than we might at first think.
I just threw a load of questions at Mr. Coyne instead of making a long speech. He might touch on them.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
I thank the Senator for his kind comments on the team at Dublin Bus. I will ensure that they are fed back.
Regarding Brexit, the main issue is with the supply chain. We have more than 1,000 vehicles and they have many parts. During Covid, we needed to reroute the parts away from the land bridge.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
Yes. There are also rules around components. It was a significant challenge, but our procurement department and finance team met it head on and there was no impact on service delivery. Our cost base did increase, though, because parts were more expensive and our lead-in times were longer. We needed to engage with the NTA on managing that. Money that goes into our supply chain is money that is no longer available for additional services. These were the main issues.
Since we are part of the CIÉ group, we have a hedging policy on fuel. As a State organisation, we are risk averse when it comes to predicting the prices of fuel. We are not in the business of making profit on fuel margins. Rather, we are in the business of trying to minimise the cost to the Exchequer and maintaining continuity of supply. Our contract with the NTA recognises our fuel requirements. We used less fuel during Covid because there were fewer services and fewer people on them, so we were able to discount back to the NTA what would have been the cost of additional fuel. It goes back to the State when we are efficient.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
There is engagement with the NTA under the contract. The NTA accepts that fuel hedging is something that we should do with it and it has accepted that in the contract. However, there has been a significant increase and we will have to see where the situation goes.
Dublin Bus has a long track record of tackling antisocial behaviour. We are proud of the work we have been doing in this regard for more than 35 years. We undertake a great deal of engagement with young kids in school. We have dedicated school co-ordinators. They are drivers, but their full-time roles see them going out to schools with buses, the Dublin Fire Brigade and the Garda and talking to schoolchildren at a young age. Generally, that type of antisocial behaviour involves kids throwing stones, chucking tennis balls, etc. There are some incidents that are a little more serious. Thank God, those are few and far between. There is great engagement with local communities in those areas where we particularly engage and there has been a significant reduction in antisocial behaviour. We also have CCTV on our buses, with 12 or 13 cameras on every bus. We promote our services and work with local elected officials. Over the past 30 years, there has been a minor number of incidents on our buses.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
The number of incidents on the buses is extremely low. There was one a couple of weeks ago that made news on social media. That it made news is telling because such incidents are rare, which is probably the best thing that can be said about that terrible incident. Such incidents are very rare. People might point to services late at night. I have taken the Nitelink for years and people are happy going home on a Nitelink bus.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
Every customer who gets on an urban bus, particularly a Dublin Bus bus, has to pass a bus driver. The customer will say "Hello", or the driver will, and the customer knows that the driver is there. We have great engagement with the Garda. There is an emergency pedal on the bus if gardaí are required, but it is rare that they are. The bus is a calm environment and customers get comfort from a driver being physically present. Great strides have been made. CCTV has played a part in that, as has our work through the school co-ordinators in particular. We are nudging behaviour from a young age, which filters up through the system. That work is strong.
Paying with a debit card in London is account-based ticketing, which the NTA is introducing as part of the next generation ticketing project. That is in the zone of MaaS, but it is being done in its own right. Depending on what the NTA requests, someone could pay with a bank card, Garmin Pay, Apple Watch, a phone or anything.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
Yes. It could be any token. Someone would get on the bus and make his or her journeys through the day or week, and the system will dynamically update. If a person makes just one journey and the fare is €1, it will charge €1. If that person did 20 journeys at €2 apiece or whatever, it will charge him or her after the event. It will also charge the cheapest fare.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
No. The NTA has started the tendering process, so we will see it being rolled out on buses in 2023 or 2024.
Regarding technological upgrades, we have undertaken those in respect of ticketing. We also have USB charging points. The main technological piece will be electrification. Ticketing and electrification will provide significant benefits for the customer. Our next aspiration is to see customers being able to put their phones on the back of their seats to watch Netflix or whatever they want on their very fast journeys home.
On cash versus cashless, we are tipping towards 90% cashless. That is great. Going cashless will be a Government decision, though. It is what we have seen happening in other jurisdictions. We might get the percentage of cash transactions down to 2% through heavily discounting cashless, but it will be a political decision. Some people do not have the money to have credit on a Leap card or might only want to make a journey twice per year. If going cashless is the aspiration, we are essentially now in the zone where the decision will need to be made.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
Not significant costs. It would save money, but we would still have to give every customer on the bus a ticket, which is proof of travel, and we would still need to know what our loading is. We would not have to collect cash, bring it to a bank or incur bank charges. There would also be some staffing matters. However, I would not approach the Government and say that we would save a whole chunk of change by going cashless. The social aspect-----
With all due respect, I am trying to accommodate everyone. The problem is that our meeting was supposed to finish at 4.30 p.m. I let it go on, but I am coming under pressure from the clerk. We have to finish at 5.15 p.m.
I accept that. I am conscious of it. I have been here since 1.30 p.m. I was actually here at 1 p.m. for the private meeting. The topic is particularly relevant for me. I thank the Dublin Commuter Coalition. I could engage with it for 20 minutes and maybe I will do that but not here.
I just want to make a couple of points. I would love to come back on where DRT is going. There is scope for park and ride in places such as the racecourses in Leopardstown and Punchestown. The car parks are already there. Except for the odd day when there is racing there is much scope to use existing park-and-ride spaces, including in built-up urban areas and outside them.
I am delighted with the Dublin Commuter Coalition. I thought that I was fighting a lone battle regarding the upgrade of the metro to Sandyford. Thankfully, I have found others who have not decided that that would be a terrible thing but it is positive. As someone who lives very close to the Dundrum stop, I know that the amount of development in Dundrum, Sandyford and even out to Cherrywood is enormous, and an upgrade is really needed.
I had a point about network design, but that is not something that Dublin Bus does. The NTA does the network design and it operates the network designed by them.
Ms Anne Graham from the NTA was before the committee earlier. She spoke about the account-based ticketing system. She said that tendering has begun but that the project will take a couple of years. I assume it will be closer to 2024 as opposed to early in 2023. I ask because we had hoped that there would be short-term fix about the TaxSaver ticketing system that would suit someone working, say, two or three days a week. We are being told that it cannot be done until this account-based ticketing system comes in. What is Mr. Coyne's view on that timeline? Is there any way of speeding it up or looking at a simplified solution, even if it is using something prehistoric? What technological improvements are possible, especially in the context of artificial intelligence, AI, and data analytics? I assume based on what was said about bus drivers that Dublin Bus will not be going for self-driving vehicles in the near future.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
We can send on the data relating to procurement. The NTA runs that process. It has commenced. I imagine it will be at the latter end of 2023 but the NTA will be able to give the guidelines for its projected planning. As a state body, much of that is related to what comes back from the tendering competition.
I was here for the earlier conversation about the TaxSaver ticket. That is solely in the NTA's remit. On the prehistoric part, yes, everything can be done. Where there is a will.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
On AI and data analytics, there is always a place for innovation. We will always have bus drivers. There are certain areas where you would trial the new technology such as areas where they would be localised and in the confines of depots etc. That would not be unusual in emerging technologies. You would see them in ports and things like that. Buses are parking up.
I am going to push on because I will get into trouble otherwise. I am expecting people to adhere to their time. I have lost time myself. On many occasions, people have eaten into time. There are five minutes each. I will ask the three remaining members to stick rigidly to that. We are going to 5.20 p.m. Another committee meeting is starting here at 5.30 p.m. Deputy Higgins is first and then Senators Seery Kearney and Currie.
I will ask two questions of Mr. Coyne and make one comment about the Dublin Commuter Coalition. I also want to put on the record a very important point in response to a total misrepresentation of my community in Lucan. More than 7,000 people in the community did exactly what was asked of them and engaged in a public consultation on the redesign of Lucan village green. Just because they did not give the views that the previous speaker wanted to hear, does not mean that their views are not valid. I for one am proud that Fine Gael stood beside the people of Lucan, listened to them and came up with a solution whereby the village green will be redeveloped in an appropriate way that does not have a negative impact on businesses or those driving to enjoy the village.
I thank Mr. Coyne for his statement. It is great to see that there is such a modern, dynamic and solutions-oriented team of 3,600 people. I thank all of them for everything they do daily and, in particular, for what was done during the pandemic, which was a very scary time for everybody. Dublin Bus continued to provide an essential service and that should be noted.
My background is in the corporate world so I am very familiar with workforce planning, retention and recruitment strategies. I know that Dublin Bus is embarking on quite a high-profile aggressive hiring campaign at the moment. I would love to hear a bit about Dublin Bus's hiring plans and its retention strategies particularly for maintenance technicians and also drivers who I am sure are often targeted by the private sector because they have been so well trained.
This session and the previous one discussed climate change. Are there further plans for the electrification of the fleet? I raised this on a visit to Donnybrook Garage when I spoke to some of Mr. Coyne's colleagues. I think there is huge opportunity for a new depot on the outskirts of Dublin that would provide that level of turning power or being able to charge which would take longer in somewhere such as Grange Castle.
The main message I have taken from Dublin Commuter Coalition is around timing and that it has been lagging. I totally understand where they are coming from and share their views. As a Government Deputy, it is something I will continue to advocate for and am happy to work with the coalition. Mr. Coyne has two and a half minutes.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
I will be brief. I thank the Deputy for her kind words for our employees. I will feed that back. They were exceptional during the pandemic, and continue to be. That brings me on to our retention strategy. The main aspects we focus on with our employees is that we have a purpose that is very well respected in the organisation, namely, serving the public. We advise our employees of that and remind them of it. We are very proud of that as are our employees. We respect all our employees. We do offer them good pay and conditions and reward them with that. We also offer them a career. I have been in Dublin Bus since I was 18. I have been there for 33 years. It is a great organisation. We offer significant opportunity for employees. However, we are like an commercial state body. We do have market forces that dictate what is and is not acceptable. We do have challenges particularly at our maintenance grade from other organisations which pay significantly more. We have apprenticeship schemes in place and we continue to provide the best terms and conditions that we can and we think are market leading that and respecting the excellent work they do. As the Deputy said, people are coming after our employees because they are the best in the business. It is our job to retain them and we do a good job on that. Our campaign, Get Thanked for a Living, built upon that. We have had some great feedback on that. It has been really positive.
On climate and electrification, we will have some new buses coming in this year. The NTA will purchase those. All our depots will go full electrification over a planned time line. We are out to tender on the first phase of that. We are also exploring new deports. There is a depot strategy around existing depots and future depots. We had a site in Grange Castle 15 or 20 years ago. We will be looking at south west Dublin because there are some attractive areas there with regard to new depots. They would be built for full electrification and hydrogen. We will see where the market goes. I hope that answers the Deputy's questions.
I also congratulate the staff of Dublin Bus. They have been extraordinary through all of this time. I have a sister-in-law who was a driver and inspector, so I have heard all the stories over the years.
To what extent does Dublin Bus have an input into the network redesign?
Mr. Ray Coyne:
I thank the Senator for her kind words again for the employees and I will make sure it is fed back. It is most welcome.
The NTA has statutory responsibility for the network redesign. It employed a consulting house to assist it with that. Dublin Bus fed into, advised and guided the NTA on what our views would have been around the changes. We did a network redesign in 2010, 2011 and 2012, so we have expertise in that area. We assisted the NTA with the public consultation and went out with the NTA because they are our customers, but at the same time, the NTA is responsible for it. We advised on changes and much of that advice was taken on board, as was much of the public’s advice. The network that is being implemented is quite significantly different than the original one. In fairness, the public consultation changed it. We will continue to advise the NTA, but we are not the decision makers.
In the context of, let us say, the change on the C spine and the effect that has had on the community in Chapelizod, I would be very disappointed that the community in Chapelizod has not been heard on that. Consequently, there are up to 170 extra car journeys a week because they were denied their connectivity with their schools.
Can Mr. Coyne give me an idea on a timeline for the implementation of the A, D, F and G spines? Are they dependent on BusConnects? The C spine has gone ahead without the infrastructure, crucially, and the Part 8 that is needed for the bus stops for Chapelizod. Roughly speaking, I am asking about A, D, F and G, which would particularly directly impact the constituency of Dublin South Central.
I really appreciate that and I will engage with Mr. Coyne outside of this meeting.
There are a number of 24-7 bus gates being implemented. Does Dublin Bus get an input into that or the criteria for saying what should be a 24-7 bus gate?
Okay. I understand. I thank Mr. Coyne and I will engage with him.
I have two points. One is on Metro South West. Obviously, the leaders in that are Pauline Foster and Séan Ward. Many of the residents associations are within my home constituency of Dublin South Central. It is a very supportive and huge population being left without adequate public transport, even with BusConnects as it falls. I am in full support of that. I note that Mr. Coyne is as well, so I would welcome his comments on that.
Lastly, a little bit aligned to what Deputy Higgins said, people articulating their real concerns that their quality of life will be seriously diminished does not mean they are not very supportive of public transport. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is very important. I think the wrong message could have come out of this meeting, to be perfectly honest and I would be disappointed in that. People are entitled to this. In my area, there are three corridors that will absolutely cripple what are now strictly residential areas and their voices are not being heard. If they raise their voices or express themselves, they are actually jumped on by many of the lobbyists out there. It does not mean they are anti-cycling or anti any of those things. They are very much in favour of public transport, but they also need their quality of life. That point needs to be made. Not everybody is in opposition, but they have a right to lobby for their own quality of life.
I just wish to address that because that particular point is coming up generally. I think everyone is pro-public transport. However, there are people who may have lived in an area for their entire lives and there needs to be that engagement. It is coming into public discourse. Polarisation is a major problem. There has been a change in the political landscape in the past couple of years that is not making for good decision-making around policy. Everyone is entitled to their view. Senator Seery Kearney made the valid point that we have to see each other's point so we get to something that is workable. With respect to Mr. Coyne, in my dealings with the NTA, it makes the decisions on the routes. I would like to see Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus having much more engagement on it and the routes coming down. If we can just go back. I just want to support-----
I am just saying there is not enough. People take up fixed positions and when they do, in my experience, it often makes for poor decision-making because might wins out. That is not necessarily the best way to get to something that works. Can Mr. Jose address the Senator's point?
Mr. Feljin Jose:
We have engaged with many communities on a number of issues and we have engaged in many consultations on this. We are not happy with these plans most of the time either. We get changes as well. It is good to have the public consultations because we are also the people who benefit from it as we are always looking for changes to these plans. That is why I am here. I am looking to get more plans included in the transport strategy.
On Metro South West, we are not against it. We would support it.
Mr. Feljin Jose:
We need both of them. They are two very different projects with two very different complexities and budgets and so on. We regret that for the metro upgrade of the Luas green line we got to a public consultation in 2018 and now it is postponed to 2042, which is a very big change.
On BusConnects, I have up-to-date implementation timelines from last week from the NTA that I can send on to the Senator.
If we are going to encourage people out of their cars we have to make sure that we are giving them viable alternatives. On Dublin Airport, we have seen recently the possible introduction of set-down charges. There have been spiralling car parking charges as well. We know the timeline for MetroLink. In the area of Dublin 15, there is no direct bus link to the airport and there will not be one until 2024. That is a big issue for the people in my area who really want a bus route. Can those links be prioritised sooner than 2024? We have a real issue about people having options about how they get to the airport. That is my first question.
Mr. Ray Coyne:
It is a fair comment. Again, the priority is laid out by the NTA. It determines which phases of BusConnects come in, so the routes will be part of BusConnects. It is then on the investment that is available to the NTA from Government. I live in Dublin 15 and I would love a direct public transport service to the airport. However, unfortunately, I am not now in a position to be able to tell the Senator we can readjust timelines. That is a matter for the NTA. It is good that there is recognition of those orbital routes. We are implementing orbital routes now and I think the success of the early ones may be an opportunity to show people that where there are new routes involved, additional passenger transport comes.
That is all modal shift and that could be a point there to expedite orbital services.
Okay. I mentioned it to the NTA officials earlier but they did not get a chance to respond. I agree about the importance of orbital routes. The orbital Luas was mentioned as well. That is a lost opportunity.
I mentioned Lucan north earlier. Deputy Higgins looks after Lucan village and then when you go over the Liffey it is Lucan north. There is a pocket of Lucan there and it is being left behind when it comes to bus services because the bus services are now going down the Lucan Road in the village and to get to the Lucan Road it is a fair few kilometres' walk from, say, the back of the estates in Lucan north. The only option is a bus that comes once per hour, so it is not a viable route. It is not an improvement for the community of Lucan north.
On Mill Road in Blanchardstown as well, I ask Mr. Coyne to clarify whether the bus for the B spine will be connecting up with Connolly Hospital such that it will be a viable route for people who work in the hospital, the children's hospital there, as well as the hospice. It is very important to the staff that they have better links from the hospital. Will Mr. Coyne also clarify if it is actually going under the underpass on Mill Road into Blanchardstown village?
Mr. Ray Coyne:
I will come back to the Senator on the Mill Road piece because there is a low bridge there and that would have been a consideration. There are new orbitals in there so I will come back on the exact detail around what the final plans are, because there are a lot of new services going into Blanchardstown. There is also some infrastructure change down at Westend that may facilitate access into the village in a different way. I will come back to the Senator about that.
Yes it is. I read Mr. Coyne's submission. I have mentioned the Liffey Valley greenway and that that was lost as an objective. I am not sure if Mr. Coyne is aware but as part of the canal loop project there was to be a new bridge at Lucan Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. Understandably, people do not want it on the view side of the weir. They want it on the other side but for some reason that feedback has not been taken on board and the project has been dropped for the foreseeable future, as opposed to there being engagement on a bridge on the other side. These issues are soluble so let us solve them.
If any members wish to communicate with either of our guests to follow up on details that could be arranged. We will bring in the chair designate. I think he was missing in action for a short period on the day due to technology issues. We will look to bring him in as quickly as we can.
I thank Mr. Coyne, Mr. Jose and Ms Morrissey for attending. I am sorry about the timeframe. It is just the dynamics of the timing of the committees.
Next week's public meeting will be with the Irish Coast Guard.