Dáil debates

Thursday, 2 November 2006

3:00 pm

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Question 4: To ask the Minister for Transport the work that has been undertaken to conduct cost-benefit analyses on all transport projects proposed under Transport 21; when such will be completed and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36004/06]

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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All projects provided for in Transport 21 will be required to comply with the Department of Finance guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure and the Department of Finance circular of 25 January 2006 on value for money. The guidelines require that capital appraisals, including cost-benefit analysis, are carried out for all projects costing over €30 million. The implementing agencies are responsible for carrying out the required appraisals.

A significant amount of economic analysis has already taken place on various aspects of Transport 21. The Dublin Transportation Office's A Platform for Change provides the basis for the proposed investment in Dublin and this was subject to an independent economic evaluation, which is reported in the document itself. Iarnród Éireann carried out an appraisal of its greater Dublin integrated rail network plan. This was reviewed by independent consultants and found to be robust. A full appraisal was also undertaken of the strategic rail review by the independent consultants who prepared it.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Transport 21 is a big issue and the more proper transport systems we put into the country, the better off we will be. We know there is €70 billion, a significant amount of money, for 40 projects, but the costs of the projects have not been indicated. I listened when my party leader asked the question and we could not get an answer on the reason we are not being given an actual price for these individual projects.

Everything can be brought back to a small issue rather than talking about €70 billion. If a person builds a house, a set of plans is submitted to a surveyor and the amount of doors, windows and slates is indicated, and the surveyor comes back with a price. There is no issue that could prevent the Minister telling the House or public how much it will cost to complete each of the 40 individual projects it is intended to carry out.

Thinking politically, the Government may feel it has €70 billion for 40 projects, but it does not know which to carry out because it does not know which will be most effective with regard to elections. That is not the way for any Government to carry on. Everyone agrees the metro and the other systems should be completed, but it is a total abuse of taxpayers' money, particularly with an amount of €70 billion, not to tell the taxpayer what each project will cost.

I listened to the Minister speaking on the issue that day. Thinking about it for a day or two, his excuses were not good enough. To build a railway from Navan to Dunboyne, it would be known how many tracks, sleepers and land is required. It all adds up. It is not a big secret. It is totally contrary to the way we bought lands for a jail. We told the person in that instance that the price should not be in excess of €200,000 per acre.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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The Deputy should confine himself to the question.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Yes, but that is a comparison. In this case we are doing the opposite. This has been politicised for the wrong reasons, particularly as we are dealing with taxpayers' money.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has made the case for us. Whether the figure is €34.1 billion, €70 billion or €1 million, the principle is the same. The Deputy referred to the building of a house. Of course a person would have an estimated price from a surveyor, but the person would not indicate to all those invited to tender the price suggested by the surveyor. It is the same here. It is not a question of defending the Minister, the Department or the Government. It is prudent.

With regard to any of the projects in Transport 21, a project is first identified by one of the agencies. It will carry out a preliminary appraisal of the project. This would be a study of feasibility as to whether it is a runner, the funds required, the number of passengers, if the project would be a relief on roads and if it would be economically viable. If that passes the litmus test, a full cost analysis is carried out, with a full appraisal of projects over €30 million. The project would be totally scrutinised.

When we are aware of the estimated costs, I genuinely believe it would not be prudent or in the best interests of the Irish taxpayer to flag, for all and sundry interested in submitting a tender, a benchmark. We are out there to get the best value for money. That is the way forward.

I can confirm that we must work under the Department of Finance guidelines for the appraisal and management of the capital expenditure and the Department of Finance circular of January 2006 on value for money. We are going about it in the right way. Transport 21 is not in itself a project for which we can have a cost benefit analysis. Transport 21 is the financial framework, as opposed to a strategy. It represents the Government's decision on the amount of resources to be invested in development. It is a forward-thinking ten-year plan, in sharp contrast to yearly plans we all pursued in the past.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath, Fine Gael)
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Why does the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform act differently from the Department of Transport? One contradicts the other.

Séamus Pattison (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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We must proceed to Question No. 5.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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I do not expect to get an answer. We are all wasting our time.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Question 5: To ask the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the public concern regarding the proposal to run metro north above ground along Ballymun Road; his views on whether such a proposal will be injurious to the local environment; his views on whether this proposal will prevent the metro running at full capacity at any point in view of its interaction with road traffic and pedestrians; and if he will therefore request the RPA to revise their proposals in order to keep the metro underground until it has passed Ballymun estate. [36053/06]

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I understand from the RPA that concerns were expressed, during the public consultation process, regarding plans to run the metro on elevated structures in Ballymun. These concerns were taken into account when deciding on the selected route. The RPA is working closely with Dublin City Council and Ballymun Regeneration Limited to ensure the design of metro complements the new townscape. There will be no elevated structures south of Ballymun town centre. A final decision on whether the station in Ballymun is elevated or at grade is yet to be made. Any potential impacts on traffic and pedestrian movements are being considered as part of this ongoing work. An environmental impact statement is currently being prepared for metro north and the findings will be published as part of the application for a railway order.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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I asked if the Minister of State is aware of widespread concern about the proposal to run metro overground from DCU to Ballymun. Is he aware of these concerns? Does he accept that they are valid? There are three heavily congested major junctions on Ballymun Road. It defies logic to consider the metro on the surface through three busy junctions. Does the Minister of State accept that such a proposal will split Ballymun in two?

Does the Minister of State accept that if the project proceeds, there will be major investment in a metro that will never realise its capacity because it will be running at surface? It will never be able to run at a frequency of 90 seconds. Does the Minister of State accept that running it on the surface will inhibit the project? Will the Government review this aspect of the proposal and ensure the metro is kept underground until it passes north of the Ballymun estate?

4:00 pm

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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There is congestion at the three road junctions. This has been considered by the RPA. Many would prefer if the line was underground but we must consider the cost of stations being underground as well as the line. The World Bank tells us that an underground metro costs five to six times the cost of a metro at grade. The cost is affected less by tunnelling than by the construction of underground stations.

Discussions and consultation between the RPA and Ballymun Regeneration Limited are ongoing. The design and plan of the metro will ensure it has little impact on residents and that it will complement the townscape. There are opportunities for discussions and I expect no intrusion into the lives of those living in the vicinity if it is overground.

I accept Deputy Shortall's point that it will result in longer journey times but believe this will not be an issue. The at grade station will be adjacent to the road junction. The metro will accelerate or slow down and the timing of the traffic signals can be synchronised with the departure of the metro. The RPA has estimated that a stop at grade would add less than a minute to journey times. The RPA does not believe that less people will use the service because it is at grade. I will bring the Deputy's views to the attention of the RPA and the Minister, even though I am sure she is in contact with them.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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What is the cost difference between running the project at grade and underground?

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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The cost could be five to six times greater not just because of tunnelling costs, but because stations would have to be built underground.