Tuesday, 3 February 2015
128. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expected timeframe for the completion of each stage of the north Dublin transport study; when a decision will be made on the optimum transport solution to serve Dublin north; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4291/15]
My question, although largely covered by the previous two, is about the timeline for the transport options for the north Dublin transport corridor. The Minister is only too aware of this, given that his constituency is covered by the area in question. I am heartened by Deputy Timmy Dooley's recognition of the failure of successive Governments, not just Fianna Fáil Governments but also ones partnered by Fine Gael, to adequately invest to meet northside Dublin's transport requirements.
The National Transport Authority, NTA, has commissioned the Fingal-north Dublin transport study to examine all existing proposals, namely, heavy rail, metro, Luas extensions, as well as other options for a rail-based transport solution to meet the needs of the Swords-Dublin Airport to city centre corridor in the long term. Phase one of the study was launched on 8 December and six short-listed project options were proposed for further detailed evaluation. A public consultation process was also announced at the time. In the next stage the six short-listed projects will be subject to further detailed analysis.
The NTA has indicated that it expects to have the output of its study available to me at the end of March. That output will then require careful consideration. I anticipate I will finalise the review by mid-year, in conjunction with the development of the transport strategy for the region.
I welcome the opportunity to hear the Minister's views on the proposals put forward by the NTA on the six options. In 2008, when a local authority councillor, I was involved in the Your Swords plan which set out a strategic vision for the growth of Swords. One of the major transport options for Swords we pushed for at the time was metro north. That has been my priority for a number of years as I am sure it has been for every northside Deputy, most likely including the Minister.
Alternatives are being put forward such as heavy rail links or BRT. While BRT is a good solution, it would only be short term. What are the Minister's views on ensuring there will not be inertia in the next five months until the decision is made on the transport corridor? Will he give it the proper consideration it is due? It is estimated that the population of Swords will hit 100,000 people by 2035 and it is an emerging city.
I cannot see an option like the heavy rail link connection from the northern commuter line or bus rapid transit, BRT being a solution. The heavy rail link is not actually serving any communities, and BRT is insufficient.
To answer the Deputy's specific question, I do not believe that BRT on its own would replace a long-term rail or public transport option for the north side of the city. At the moment, we are exploring what role it can play in the medium term. As the Deputy is aware, and as I have said in response to other Deputies earlier on, we will be getting back a business case which will allow me to make an evaluation and understand what role it could play. I accept that for the reasons to which Deputy Farrell has referred, a higher-capacity solution is needed for that part of the city and beyond in the long term. That is why we have put in place a process to look at all of the different options. I am aware one of the options would involve a combination of BRTs and I will look at that. The single BRT route would not take the place of a longer-term public transport option for that part of the city.
I thank the Minister for his response. There is a requirement for a long-term solution, not just for my constituency but for the entire north inner city all the way out to the airport and beyond, the 15 km or so to the centre of Swords. The projected growth of that town has been highlighted on a number of occasions through the local authority and through previous studies. While I accept that BRT is a short-term solution, and I know the Minister has made that comment on a number of occasions, it continues to raise its head nonetheless in my constituency as some kind of "one or other" situation. Of course that is not the case. I appreciate the Minister's comments in that regard, however, if we are really planning for the future growth of the community in and around Swords, the only viable solution for serving that community is a rail connection or a rail-based mass transit service.
As the Deputy can well understand, I am not going to pre-judge a process that is weighing up all these different factors. I understand he has participated in it and has made his views known. The reason we have the National Transport Authority doing this work is so that it can evaluate all the different options and make a recommendation to me.
BRT could play a role in the future. I do not believe I said and if I did, I want to clarify, that it is only a short-term solution. BRT in the future could play a role. That is why we have a business case being prepared for it, to allow me to understand what is involved. As the Deputy is aware, there are three different BRT or Swiftway routes being looked at across the city. They are all in different stages of evaluation and analysis at the moment. What I am clear on is that, particularly for the Deputy's own part of the city, BRT on its own would not take the place of a longer-term public transport option. That is why we have this process in place to look at what those long-term options could be.