Dáil debates

Thursday, 5 November 2009

9:00 am

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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Question 7: To ask the Minister for Transport if he will publish a full report on every Transport 21 project including each current estimated commencement date, date of conclusion, the estimated cost of each project and the likely outcomes down to 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39546/09]

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Question 23: To ask the Minister for Transport his views on whether all aspects of the Transport 21 plan will be completed by the 2015 deadline; his further views on capital transport investment projects as a means to restore lost economic competitiveness and provide much needed short term employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39609/09]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 42: To ask the Minister for Transport the degree to which the objectives set out in Transport 21 have so far been achieved; the full extent of changes made to the original proposals; the extent to which these targets have been affected by the Revised Programme for Government, the economic situation or other factors such as the proposed carbon tax; the extent to which calculation in respect of costs and completion dates have been revised arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39684/09]

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 23 and 42 together.

Information on the completion dates, projected outcomes and costs of major Transport 21 projects that have been completed or are at an advanced stage of construction is contained on my Department's Transport 21 website.

This is the fourth year of Transport 21 and significant progress has been made. To date, more than 66% of the major inter urban roads programme, linking Dublin with Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and the Border with Northern Ireland, has been completed and the remainder is under construction and on target for completion in 2010. Upgrade of the M50 motorway is also on target for completion in 2010. The Waterford city bypass and Tullamore bypass were recently opened.

On public transport, Irish Rail has completely modernised its intercity rolling stock. I opened the Cork commuter rail line from Glounthaune to Midleton earlier this year and phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor and the Luas line to Docklands are scheduled to be completed by year end. Construction continues on other projects, including the Luas lines to Cherrywood and Citywest, the first phase of the Navan rail line between Clonsilla and Pace and the Kildare rail project.

The start and completion dates for Transport 21 projects that have not yet commenced will be subject to the relevant statutory and procurement and contract award processes and will also be determined by the funding allocation available during the current difficult economic climate. I do not propose to release the cost of these projects until the relevant procurement processes have been completed and all contracts have been awarded. This is standard practice at this stage.

It is unlikely that all of the projects originally identified in Transport 21 will be completed by 2015. However, no projects have been cancelled and Transport 21 continues to provide the strategic framework for capital spending on transport infrastructure into the future.

The priorities for investment are set out in the renewed programme for Government.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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It has been reported that expenditure on metro north to end September was approximately €134 million, including legal fees. Is that the position? Is the Government wobbling on metro north, one of the flagships, after the inter-urban routes, of Transport 21? The process is well under way in terms of the railway procurement order and there remains only two bidders involved, Celtic Metro and Metro Express. What level of funding to progress this development would be required in the forthcoming budget and the next three or four budgets? Will such funding be relatively small? Also, is funding for metro north ringfenced?

Can the Minister tell us, as we head into 2010 and on towards the 2015 deadline, which projects are or might be postponed? For example, what will happen in respect of the electrification of the Maynooth line, Kilbarry Station on the Cork-Blarney line, the Luas power upgrades and the upgrade of the Dublin-Maynooth and Cherry Orchard-Inchicore lines? There are a range of projects across the country about which people are now concerned given the fiscal crisis. These projects which would greatly enhance public transport are now in doubt.

The Minister recently opened the first phase of the Navan line. However, the Navan line needs to go to Navan. Is there widespread belief within Government that it is not going to be able to deliver on many projects, including metro north?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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It is no secret that the current economic circumstances will make it difficult to deliver on all projects. The renewed programme for Government, published a couple of weeks ago, specifically states, in respect of priorities for capital investment in transport, that work will continue on the subsequent phases of the Western rail corridor and Navan projects for earliest possible delivery; planning and design in respect of metro west, the Bray-Lucan and cross-city Luas lines with a view to earliest possible delivery; metro north and the DART underground, including associated projects such as electrification and rolling stock will be fast-tracked and prioritised so that they are completed by 2016, real time passenger information will be introduced at more than 500 bus stops in Dublin and Cork by the end of 2010 and will be extended to bus stops in Limerick, Galway and Waterford in 2011; an integrated ticketing system will be introduced for all modes of transport; the smart card will be rolled out for testing next year and the major inter-urban roads programme will be completed in 2010; investment in enhancement and maintenance of regional and local roads will continue and a significant portion of the budget will be allocated to road improvement projects; and the Bray to Balbriggan cycle-pedestrian route and other similar routes will be developed as major tourism and commuter facilities. While that list does not include all projects in Transport 21, they are the priorities.

The Government is not wobbling on metro north. The process has ceased because the oral hearing was stopped. Further information was sought from the RPA and this was provided on 1 October. While I understand the intention was that the oral hearing would recommence before the end of this month, this has not been confirmed. This is a good example of the futility of my trying to predict in this House when projects will commence or finish. I cannot do so until the contractors are on site. The planning and procurement process is lengthy and difficulties often arise. Metro north and the DART underground are the two major priorities in the public transport area. While other projects in the list are priorities, I have no control over the planning process. If all goes according to plan, we should have the railway order for metro north by the middle of next year.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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We all support the metro north project. I appreciate it is a battle in difficult times. However, it is important we are ready when the economy turns around.

We are spending so much money on all of these projects. Will the Minister request CIE to provide us with a list of the ten top procurement projects for each of its companies during the past two years? While I welcome the list of projects announced by the Minister, an important project not listed is the Leinster outer orbital route which I know the Minister will favour given its potential to assist economic development in the Louth-Meath and general north county Dublin areas. I accept the Government is not committed to this project in this cycle but perhaps the Minister will outline his views in this regard.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I presume what the Deputy is seeking from CIE is information on the top ten tenders?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I will ask CIE to provide that information for each of the three companies.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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On the Leinster outer orbital route, this project is not included in this phase of the national development plan or Transport 21. It will be considered in the context of renewal of the programme post-2011. The Deputy and I are at ad idem that this project will be hugely important for the north east region in general and further afield. It is a project that will have to come into the reckoning post-2011.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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The Minister omitted from his list the Kinnegad to Rooskey and on to Sligo motorway project, which is an important east-west link.

What is the status of that motorway now as a result of the downturn in the economy? We have a Minister responsible for transport, we have the NRA and we have the National Transport Authority. We also have a new position for the capital city, the position of a directly elected Lord Mayor. The Green Party is insisting that this position will be created by next year. Will there be a role for the newly directed Lord Mayor with regard to Dublin transport?

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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If the Deputy puts down separate questions on the individual projects, I will try and be as helpful as I possibly can be. The issues he has raised are included in the planning and design process. Money is provided each year as it is needed to advance those projects. As I have said on a number of occasions, as far as I am concerned, the planning and design of the projects is extremely important. We may not have the money to go ahead with as many of them as we had hoped over the next two or three years, but I am convinced the right thing to do is to continue with planning and to bring projects to a stage where they are ready to go to tender. Then in 2011 or 2012 when the economy picks up and money becomes available again, we will have the projects ready on the shelf.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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After the general election.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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We will try and get some of them in before the election. That would be more beneficial. With regard to the question on the mayor, it is envisaged that the directly elected mayor of Dublin will have transport functions.