Thursday, 30 November 2006
Light Rail Project.
I welcome the opportunity to raise this matter, which is extremely important for the people of my constituency of Dublin South.
The Minister of State may be aware that before the last election, the Dublin Transportation Office published A Platform for Change, which was adopted by the Government as the proposed rail plan for the Dublin area. Under that plan, it was proposed to develop two further light rail lines between the green and red Luas lines. It was proposed to develop a metro line serving west Rathfarnham and Templeogue, as well as another Luas line serving east Rathfarnham and Churchtown. However, the two lines had disappeared from the Government's plans by the time Transport 21 was published. They represent a gaping hole in the transport plans for the Dublin area and for my constituency in particular. I recognise that significant investment in public transport is planned. I accept that a great deal of construction will be taking place in the next few years — it is not possible to do everything at the same time — but the removal of the two routes in question from the overall plan jeopardises them in the longer term.
As there has been no further strategic planning in respect of these projects since the publication of Transport 21, no attempt is being made to protect the alignments. I ask the Minister of State to arrange for the two lines to be restored to the strategic plans so that their alignments can be protected in the various local authority areas. The lines will run through at least two such areas.
The lines must be included in the development plans so that the relevant lands can be developed. As they are not included in any plans — they simply have no status — there is no impetus to create or protect a reserved area. The failure to take action in this regard is also resulting in the loss of the potential contributions which would be made by developers who would be building along the routes. The Minister of State is aware that planning permissions for housing and other developments are being granted daily in this area, as in all of Dublin. That pattern will continue in the years to come, at least until the end of the timeframe of the Transport 21 plan. Every time a planning permission is granted, it limits and eventually precludes future route options.
The Minister of State should instruct the Railway Procurement Agency, or any other body with the relevant authority, to define for the local authorities the broad paths which will be taken by the two light rail lines I have mentioned. I am not sure if the RPA has any status at the moment, as it may be about to be absorbed into the new Dublin Transportation Authority. If the paths of the lines were outlined within approximately 500m of how it is envisaged they will be developed, the relevant land could be reserved, rather than built on. The likelihood of developing a public transport corridor in an area decreases as the land in the locality is built on. It also becomes far more expensive to engage in such development in such circumstances.
Significant development is taking place in the Dublin South area. The radial roads in the area are little more than country lanes. I refer to roads like Stocking Lane, Whitechurch Road, Ballyboden Road, Edmondstown Road and Scholarstown Road, which were never designed to carry the volumes of traffic they now have. Much more will be expected of such roads in the years to come when the housing developments which are in the pipeline come to fruition.
The failure to provide for the two light rail projects in question is short-sighted in the extreme. I am not asking for money to be spent now, but for the two projects to be restored to the strategic plan. The local authorities should be asked to reserve the lines so that we can proceed to develop them in the future, when some of the development that is taking place or planned has been completed. If the level of building work in the area continues as it is at present, the land will be gone. We will look back on the decisions which are being taken at present as short-sighted.
It is almost impossible to put buses on some of the roads I have mentioned because they are so narrow. The quantum of public transport that is required is not being provided. The area I am talking about is in the lee of the M50. There is housing on both sides of the M50 in the locality. The transport system in the area is making it hell to live there at the moment. If no hope for the future is offered to the people living in a swathe of south County Dublin — I refer to places like Knocklyon, Rathfarnham, Templeogue, Whitechurch and Ballyboden — it will be the final insult to them. Huge developments are being pursued on the far side of the motorway. Even though thousands of houses are being built in places like the Ballycullen Road, no public transport provision is being made. The authorities have not even drawn a line on a map that would allow the relevant land to be preserved. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that a strategic plan is drawn up, with the greatest urgency, to allow these lands to be preserved by the local authorities. I am probably the only Deputy speaking on the Adjournment who is not looking for money.
I thank Deputy Olivia Mitchell for raising this matter and giving me an opportunity to respond. While Transport 21 involves a large commitment of financial resources, those resources are finite. Transport 21 provides funding for the delivery of an extensive rail-based network between 2006 and 2015. The network is based on the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy document, A Platform for Change. The Railway Procurement Agency is responsible for the delivery of the Luas and metro elements of Transport 21. In the short to medium term, the agency is focusing on delivering all the Luas and metro projects for which financial support is provided in Transport 21. The Dublin Transportation Office's strategy remains the longer-term strategic framework for transport in the greater Dublin area.
Funding is provided for feasibility studies on the elements of the A Platform for Change which are not included in Transport 21, including a metro line from Tallaght via Kimmage to the city centre and the proposed Luas line from the city centre to Dundrum via Terenure. The RPA will investigate the feasibility of these suggested projects during the timescale of Transport 21. This work will help to define in more detail the corridors to be used for the projects.
The areas referred to by the Deputy are served by two quality bus corridors — the Rathfarnham and Tallaght corridors — and a significant number of bus services. As well as providing for a major expansion of the Luas network and the new metro routes, Transport 21 makes a substantial financial provision for the development of bus services and the doubling of the quality bus network over the lifetime of the programme.
The Government has taken decisions on Transport 21, particularly on the key elements of an integrated transport network for the greater Dublin area, based on a robust professional analysis by the Dublin Transportation Office and the relevant transport delivery agencies. We have developed a growing momentum over the last 12 months on the delivery of this large investment programme. As we cannot do everything at once, we have to prioritise. That does not mean that projects which are not scheduled for construction during Transport 21 are off the agenda. Our intention is that feasibility and planning work should proceed on the projects so they are ready for a future investment programme.