Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Question 108: To ask the Minister for Transport the reason for his failure to sign the Kildare rail order; when this will happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41766/06]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 108 together.
I signed the railway order for the Kildare route project on 5 December 2006. I announced my decision to grant the railway order for the Kildare route project on 13 August 2006 in line with the recommendations of the inspector to the public inquiry into the project. The drafting of the order, however, has taken longer than anticipated to complete due to the need to take formal legal advice on several issues. This has now been done and both the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have signed the order.
I understand Iarnród Éireann has commenced enabling works and is proceeding with detailed design and procurement with a view to commencing the main works early next year. The project involves doubling the number of tracks to four, with two dedicated lines for commuter services and two dedicated lines for intercity and regional services. This will allow for more frequent running of commuter, regional and Intercity trains which compete for busy limited slots into Heuston Station. It will double peak service frequency from Hazelhatch to Dublin, serving all stations. It will also double peak service frequency between Dublin and Sallins, Newbridge and Kildare, and will continue to serve outer commuter towns, including Portlaoise, Athlone and Carlow. Overall the project will facilitate an increase in capacity on the line from approximately 11,000 to more than 36,000 passengers per day in each direction.
I welcome the fact that the Minister has finally signed the railway order for the Kildare route project. For the benefit of the gallery of Members behind the Minister, this project was to be completed by 2006 as part of the 2000-06 development plan. That deadline was announced before the last election, which makes me nervous. After the 2002 budget, the money for this project was pulled and frozen for two years. Will the Minister explain that this is not another election gimmick? On the eve of the next election, the Minister informs the House he has signed the railway order again. How many elections will we have to wait for before the Kildare-Hazelhatch to Heuston rail tracks are doubled?
I am delighted Deputy Stagg welcomes the impact the four-tracking of the railway line will have for his constituents. The railway order was applied for by CIE in October 2005 and the public inquiry ran from 24 January to February. The inspector's report was received in May and subsequently published and I announced the decision to grant the order in August. The enabling works and physical construction of the route have begun.
This is a key part of Transport 21 integration where the Dublin station interconnector will come into its own. The interconnector will allow electrified rail systems to run from north and south of Dublin. This will allow seamless running from the Kildare line from Heuston through to St. Stephen's Green and on to the new Docklands station. The four-tracking is a crucial part of bringing that capacity to reality.
Has provision been made for park-and-ride facilities so that the housing estates in the towns served by the line will not be full of commuter cars? How much money has been assigned for each year of the project? What is the completion date for it?
I do not have the figures with me but I am happy to forward them to the Deputy later. The enabling works have started and it is hoped to have the project completed in three years. Park-and-ride facilities will be made available with this project. I confirmed today that I made €5 million available last year for park-and-ride facilities in Dublin, but not one euro was drawn down by any of the local authorities, which is greatly regretted by me and everybody in Dublin.
Since the delay to the Kildare project was caused by the lack of staff in the Attorney General's office to draft the rail order, will the Minister outline the measures he has taken to ensure staff is available to avoid delays to other rail projects that have to go to the Attorney General's office for redrafting?
Deputy Olivia Mitchell is correct that there is great pressure on the Attorney General's office and the legal system to deliver all that this great Government is implementing around the country. We try to keep up with all the needs.
I welcome the fact that the order has been signed and the enabling works are under way. There is already a car parking problem at Sallins and Hazelhatch stations. The car parking is insufficient and the overflows are out on the road. Is it possible to consider front-loading the car parking arrangements? The land take will happen anyway. Rather than have it as the last part of the project, would it be possible to make it one of the early parts of the project? It would make the current services more attractive to people. There is a serious problem.
As the Deputy knows, I have visited the areas along the route, including Hazelhatch. There is no consensus locally about the park-and-ride facilities. I am not expected to make a diktat from here. I urge that the local authorities and local communities agree where the park-and-ride facilities should be. If they do that, we can build it.
The local authorities must do the job they are mandated to do in their local areas and not pretend it is my decision. I have funding, which I am willing to provide if the local authorities will make decisions instead of coming here and disingenuously passing the buck about projects the Government is willing to fund.