Wednesday, 7 June 2006
Dublin Transport Authority.
Question 56: To ask the Minister for Transport when he intends to establish the proposed new Dublin transport authority; the powers the authority will have to direct other local authorities and transport bodies; and the changes that will be required to the regulation of other agencies as a result of the introduction of the new authority. [21898/06]
Question 57: To ask the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the progress made to date in establishing the Dublin transport authority since its announcement in 2005; the work carried out by the informal authority to date; when the enabling legislation will be published to allow for its formal establishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21901/06]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 57 together.
In November 2005 I appointed a Dublin transport authority establishment team to make recommendations on the establishment of a transport authority for the greater Dublin area, addressing the remit of the authority, its powers, structure, organisation and human and other resource requirements and such other matters as the team considered appropriate; advise on the content of legislation required to establish the proposed authority on a statutory basis; and make recommendations on the interim arrangements that should be put in place pending the enactment of the legislation.
I received the report of the Dublin transport authority establishment team on 28 March last. Significant progress has been made since then. My officials circulated to relevant Departments on 27 April a draft memorandum for Government and the draft general scheme of a Bill to establish the new authority on a statutory basis. Several meetings have subsequently taken place between my officials and officials of the Departments of Finance and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to clarify certain issues.
I will shortly submit the matter to Government for decision and I expect to be in a position to publish legislation as soon as is practicable following such decision. It would not be appropriate to outline details of my proposals for the new authority pending consideration of the matter by the Government. The Government will also consider the establishment of an interim authority to put in place the organisational structure of the new authority, such as the recruitment of senior management, pending the passage of legislation.
Given that there is a Railway Procurement Agency for railway infrastructure and a planning body in the Dublin Transportation Office telling us what sort of public transport we need and where the rail lines should be, does the Minister agree the principal role of this new authority will be regulatory? This is crucial and if it is to work it must have real power over other agencies. We must have an agency that tells Dublin Bus, CIE, the RPA, the DTO and local authorities what to do. Will the Minister give the authority absolute powers over such agencies to direct them in their work?
How does the Minister propose to set up a regulatory agency that will tell transport companies what public transport services we should have — in terms of timetables, routes etc. — if he has not solved the issue of what to do with the bus service in Dublin? How can we have a regulatory agency if the authority cannot state at the outset to Dublin Bus and whatever companies work in the area that it is the new regulatory regime, that it will put a franchise in place, set up a bidding system and explain how it will work? Surely a regulatory agency without such authority will not have a real role. Will the authority have those powers and how long will it take to set it up?
The Deputy is right in principle. The Dublin transport authority must have substantial legal powers to be able to pull together all the elements, whether fixed rail, light rail, commuter or bus traffic etc., to develop a general public transport network in Dublin and regulate the entire market. There are good examples from other capital cities as to how a regulatory authority works and it is feasible to do the same in Dublin, particularly in the greater Dublin area.
The Deputy raised issues I am dealing with in parallel but which impinge on the legislation for the Dublin transport authority and the reform of the market. There is an interrelationship between the two issues. I have kept the stakeholders on every side fully involved and have asked them to work through the issues with me. I appreciate the efforts they are making. We are at a crunch time. I have circulated the DTA memorandum for Government to the other Departments and hope to bring my proposals to Government shortly.
The legislation will take account of a number of the issues the Deputy has raised. Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann and private sector companies are all operating companies. There is a difference between how they operate and how we manage and regulate the market. The DTA will play a key role in that area. Currently the local authorities, the DTO and many other bodies have an input, but we need to centre authority in one body to have a clear vision of how we should go forward in terms of the best outcome for the paying customer, the public.
The Minister says we are at a crunch time with regard to, for example, dealing with Dublin Bus and setting out the franchising system for buses. We have been at that crunch time for the past three years, but when push came to shove, the Taoiseach shoved the previous Minister out of office because he did not want to make a decision on it. Given that the Government has been sitting on the issue for the past three years, how can we expect the Minister to get Cabinet approval for radical changes in the transport system?
Anybody who looks at my record since I came into the Department of Transport will see that decisions have been taken on many of the issues that were around for many years. As far as I am concerned, the Deputy may take it for certain that the decisions on the Dublin bus market will be taken also.
The Dublin transport authority has been promised for almost ten years in some form. Therefore, the Minister's record is not so tremendous. When the Minister announced Transport 21, it was only the next day he remembered the need for some sort of body to pull it all together.
The Minister gave the chairperson an extraordinary brief — to go away and find out what her job was and to come back then and tell him. This does not inspire confidence that the setting up of the body has been given great thought. When will we get the legislation that will give this body teeth? Transport 21 is just drifting along in the meantime. All the individual projects are either progressing or not progressing, depending on the various agencies involved. There is downright inter-agency rivalry where there should be co-operation, co-ordination and integration. It is totally destructive and contrary to the public interest that some agencies are denigrating the work of other agencies. It is up to the Minister to get someone to knock some heads together to ensure that all the bodies act in the public interest. I could give a dozen examples of circumstances in which that is simply not happening at present. No progress has been made on integrated ticketing, for example. There is an ongoing row between Dublin Bus and Luas about the use of O'Connell Bridge. Why has the second bridge, which has been promised in Dublin for ten years, not been finished? I refer to the Macken Street bridge, for which the Department of Transport and Dublin City Council are responsible. No co-ordination is taking place in respect of many such projects, all of which will perish on the same rock of indecision because the agencies cannot decide which of them is right. The proposed new Dublin transport authority must be established and allowed to make decisions in the public interest. When will the legislation be brought before the House?
I disagree with much of what the Deputy has said. I am pleased that we are ahead of schedule, according to the timeframe I set out under Transport 21, particularly in Dublin but also in the rest of the country. The four Luas——
I suppose the Deputy has a magic wand to sort that out. The reality is that any fair assessment of Transport 21, including the assessment of the Deputy's colleagues on all sides of the House who tend to want to meet me every time we are out, which is about twice a week, opening or starting new projects——
——highlights the fact that it is going extremely well. As Deputies have rightly stated, a body like the proposed Dublin transport authority is needed to oversee transport matters in Dublin. Of course there is rivalry between the different agencies which are responsible for their own modes of transport — there is no doubt about that. The integrated ticketing project has not been as much of a success, for all sorts of reasons, as people on both sides of the argument would have wanted. That is a true statement. I have probably devoted more time to trying to sort out that issue than to anything else since I started to work in the Department of Transport. I hope we are about to reach a conclusion in that regard.
The functions of the proposed Dublin transport authority are not preventing the quick delivery of many projects, including the new railway station in the docklands area of Dublin, four Luas projects, metro north and all the different roads projects which are being started and opened on a weekly basis. Approximately two new roads are being opened each week throughout the country, including Dublin. There has not been any slow-down. I agree with Deputy Mitchell that the long-term view is that an independent regulatory body is needed to deal with a range of issues relating to the greater Dublin area. The proposed Dublin transport authority is that body.
Should I understand from the Minister's answer that the establishment of the proposed Dublin transport authority is a long-term project? Is it the case that the period of time covered by Transport 21 will have elapsed, in effect, by the time the authority is established? Can the Minister tell the House when the relevant legislation will be before it? Is it a long-term prospect?
I said ten minutes ago that I have received the report. I have already circulated a memorandum for Government, with the heads of the Bill. There is a procedural timeframe in that regard. It is due back to me shortly. I expect to take it to the Cabinet in the next few weeks. That is what I have said.
I said that the legislation will be drafted as quickly as possible and that I expect to publish it in the autumn. In the meantime, I will establish the body in shadow form, as I did in the case of the Railway Safety Authority, which had a huge impact long before any legislation was in place.