Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
5. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the rationale for no longer progressing with the DART underground project; and his plans for improving Dublin transport links with commuter towns and the airport through a further Luas extension. [32200/15]
What is the rationale for no longer progressing with the DART underground project? I know the Minister has made some comments on this matter, but this question predates that. What are the Minister's plans for improving Dublin transport links with commuter towns and the airport through a further Luas extension and what are the reasons for these?
As I have covered this matter already, I will just reiterate two points so that we will have more time to deal with any further points the Deputy wishes to make.
On the second question, there has been some speculation that I recommended the extension of the Luas and a particular route. I have not brought any recommendation to Cabinet on this matter, but I will do so soon. When I have brought that recommendation to Cabinet, and hopefully gained Cabinet approval, I will make the recommendation clear and public, as I did with my decision yesterday, and will then come to the House and answer questions on the matter.
In regard to DART underground, I have covered the matter already. However, I reiterate that we have not cancelled the project. What we have sought to do is to find a way for the tunnel to be redesigned at a more affordable cost for the taxpayer and in a way that more realistically meets the demands we expect in the future. As I said, this project was conceived, developed and designed over a decade ago. Our country has changed significantly since then and in ten or 20 years time will look very different to how people thought it would look in 2003 and 2004.
I understand from what the Minister has said that the DART underground project is being shelved for the moment. I know there were six projects under consideration originally, one of which was metro north. Has the bus rapid transit, BRT, plan been shelved because metro north is being considered? There are figures and speculation in the newspapers on this issue. Both the Minister and I know that there were three different options for metro north and that some €150 million was spent. Now we are being told the project will cost far less. The original figure was €2.5 billion, but now the newspapers suggest it will be €1.9 billion and that this can be achieved by reducing the number of stations and considering other options. The Minister has not given a straight answer in regard to what option he would prefer.
He says he has to bring it to his colleagues but there is a big case to be made for the metro north, in particular, and the effect it would have in terms of the amount of traffic it would take off the streets, the amount of employment it would create and the connectivity it would bring to the airport. Further, is it the Drumcondra route up through Ballymun to the airport that we are still talking about or is the Cabra option, cutting across Glasnevin and going underground, still being explored?
I thank Deputy Ellis. I reiterate that we are not talking about the cancellation of DART underground in the future. However, the tunnel, as designed more than a decade ago, is no longer appropriate or proportionate to what we believe our country is going to look like in the coming decades. The tunnel alone would cost €3 billion, which means that there are many other projects in Dublin that we would not be able to do, not to mention all of the other transport needs that have to be met across the entire country, a matter on which I will be answering questions later.
On the north Dublin transport study and where it stands at present, it is not really a case - and I say this respectfully - of me not giving Deputy Ellis a straight answer. I am telling him exactly where the process stands, which is that when I have made a final decision on the project and obtain the approval of Government, I will announce the decision and answer his questions on it. As the Deputy knows, the metro route and the Luas route to which he has referred were in the final six options the National Transport Authority recommended for further evaluation. Those are the matters that are being considered.
We have spoken about metro north so many times. We have one of the fastest-growing suburbs, Swords, and, on the face of it, that option seems to be one of the ones we would get most return out of at this stage. If the metro or one of the other options is being considered, is the bus rapid transit, BRT, system off the table altogether now? I know the Minister is probably obliged to discuss it with his colleagues, but I am sure the NTA has given him an opinion on whether there is any point in proceeding with the BRT if we are still considering the metro north option.
I apologise to Deputy Ellis because I did not answer his question on the BRT and the specific point he put to me earlier. We need to find new ways to increase the capacity of our bus network. No matter what changes we make in the future, the form of public transport most likely to carry most people across our country is bus and this will be done by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. Hence, there is a need to find out how we can increase the capacity of our bus network. BRT offers the best way of doing that. As Deputy Ellis knows, there are there different options for bus rapid transit that are being considered across the city. I guess the Deputy is referring to the Swords BRT, given his interest in the area and that part of the city. I will be deciding the case in relation to Swords BRT when I am clear on the longer-term transport option for the north side of the city and when it would be open.