Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 June 2007

3:00 pm

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he is satisfied with the progress made to date in joining up the existing two Luas lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18285/07]

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Transport 21 includes a Luas line connecting St. Stephen's Green with Liffey junction on the Maynooth suburban railway line. This project is being considered in two phases — one connecting the two existing Luas lines in the city centre; and the other extending the line northwards via Broadstone and Grangegorman to Liffey junction.

In November 2005, the Railway Procurement Agency began a public consultation on five potential routes, A to E, for connecting the two existing Luas lines. During public consultation a new option, F, was identified. Options A and F emerged as the better options and the RPA launched a second phase of public consultation in January this year, focusing on the selection of the best of these two route options.

I also understand the RPA engaged in dialogue with Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus and the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, on the implications of the potential routes for bus services and other road users. Arising from these discussions, Dublin City Council and the DTO recommended a traffic management plan for the city centre be initiated to facilitate light rail, bus and metro development. I understand Dublin City Council is currently undertaking the necessary traffic modelling and is committed to delivery of early results from this work.

In March this year the RPA decided that its preferred route option for the cross-city Luas line is option F. The RPA's detailed design work will take account of the results of the city council's traffic modelling exercise, the preliminary results of which are expected in the autumn. Following completion of this design work, and subject to a satisfactory outcome to the city centre traffic management planning work, the RPA will submit a railway order application to An Bord Pleanála. The construction timescale will be dependent on the outcome of the city council's work and the statutory approval process.

The selection of an emerging preferred route for the cross-city link will facilitate the advancement of work on the route selection for the onward extension to Liffey junction via Grangegorman and Broadstone. Subject to an enforceable railway order, the scheduled completion date for the overall project is 2012.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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This relatively simple project to join the red and the green Luas lines, never mind going on to Liffey junction, highlights the difficulties in making any sort of progress with this particular route. It demonstrates the lack of any kind of a body in Dublin to co-ordinate decisions and ensure they are made.

The urgency of this cannot be overstated. Earlier, my colleague spoke about people coming in from the west of Ireland. The Luas red line serves not just the Tallaght area but significant numbers of people from mainline rail at Heuston Station who are coming from the west and all the commuter counties around Dublin. It is absolutely essential that the trams can bring people right into the city centre and on to the south side. It will create many more trips.

I am sure the Minister would agree the absence of this join-up is dividing the city, along with a River Liffey which does not have half enough bridges across it. In Transport 21, the completion date for joining of the two Luas lines is next year, yet a route has not even been selected yet. The chances of finishing it by next year are zero, so even as we start Transport 21 we are already way behind.

Will the Minister give us any firm date for the completion of the joining of the two lines? I will come to Liffey junction in another question but when is it likely that the red and green Luas lines will be joined? Is there any chance that the DTA will push this ahead?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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The answer to the question posed by the Deputy is that I do not know. It is not completely in my hands nor those of the RPA. There are outside agencies, such as the city council, which must be consulted, as it is doing a study on transport in the city centre area. The overall finishing date for the project is 2012, as I indicated earlier.

I do not disagree with the Deputy in that there is a need for greater co-ordination, and that is the reason one of my first actions in this Department was to ask about the DTA legislation. I have indicated my wish to have it brought to Government as a matter of urgency and I hope we will have it in the House in the early stages of the autumn session. It has been sought by all sides and I hope we will get it through the House in the autumn session if possible with the co-operation of everybody. As the Deputy has indicated, that would help expedite projects such as this.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I would very much welcome it if we could get that legislation enacted and make the DTA a body with teeth. As the Minister correctly states, we are consulting outside agencies. There should be no outside agencies, rather a single agency to drive this ahead. The consultation must take place but it has been ongoing since 2005. It is time for it to stop.