Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Dublin Traffic: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
notes:— the increased investment in the Luas;
— the introduction of Luas Cross City;
— the extra carriages to meet demands on the Luas;
— the large number of suburbs, towns and villages in the Dublin region that do not have Luas, Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART), or dedicated public transport corridors;
— the recent National Planning Framework and National Development Plan which contains very long-term measures in public transport infrastructure;
— that Dublin is the fifteenth most congested city in the world;
— the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport’s analysis of the cost of congestion is now about €350 million per annum in terms of lost productivity and time;
— that, by 2033, this could reach €2 billion; and
— that cyclists, pedestrians, commercial traffic, private motorists and public transport users are all suffering as a consequence of city and suburban congestion; condemns:— the lack of forward planning to allow for the introduction of Luas Cross City;
— the latest traffic chaos in Dublin city centre and surrounding routes as a result of the above;
— the delays on the M50 at peak times, which is impacting negatively on commuters' quality of life;
— the backlogs of traffic on College Green and overall traffic in Dublin city centre, in particular the impact of the extra carriages;
— the lack of bus connections and adequate public transport corridors in large suburban areas in Dublin;
— the unnecessary bottlenecks caused on the quays due to lack of proper planning for the Luas extension;
— the negative impact on people’s lives this traffic chaos is causing;
— the delays it is having on buses bringing thousands to work on a daily basis;
— the lack of investment in extra buses to meet public demands;
— the lack of park and ride facilities on DART and Luas lines; and
— the complete lack of investment in park and rides for buses; andcalls for:— short to medium-term policy changes to get routes into and in Dublin moving again;
— the improvement of all public service routes into and in Dublin to increase usage;
— an increase to the number of feeder buses to the Luas and DART;
— an increase to the number of buses at peak times;
— quality bus corridors and bicycle routes to be increased;
— more buses to be supplied to access Dublin city centre and decrease the use of cars;
— more investment to supply more park and rides earlier on bus routes on the N11, N3, N7 and N4;
— the electrification of the Maynooth and M3 Parkway commuter service line;
— proper demographic planning to deliver efficient and independent public transport infrastructure into and in Dublin city centre;
— immediate investment to increase carpark facilities at train stations;
— the introduction of incentives for utilising park and rides further out on bus and rail routes; and
— the usage of the River Liffey to assist with inner city bottlenecks as is done in other European cities.
I am sharing time with colleagues. I will be taking five minutes.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. The Minister cuts a lonely, isolated, abandoned figure tonight. There are no Fine Gael Deputies to back him up on a pretty serious debate in Private Members' time about traffic congestion in Dublin. There is a memorable line in the movie "Lincoln", in which Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed the character of Abraham Lincoln. In his struggle to achieve the requisite critical votes required to outlaw slavery, he exhorts his colleagues to greater efforts on his behalf. He says, "I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power". The Minister has considerable powers and authority vested in him, although they may not be akin to those of the President of the United States. However, instead of using these powers to bring about change and to get things moving in our capital after an historic investment in its transport infrastructure, and instead of acting like the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, he has become the Minister for standstill.
We should not target the Minister exclusively however. This is a Government of standstill when it comes to traffic congestion and chaos. I warned the Minister about this the last time this topic was raised during a Topical Issues debate two months ago. The Minister ridiculed my prediction that the longer carriages would create traffic chaos on the quays. In retrospect the Minister was right and I was wrong because the longer trams have not just caused chaos on the quays, but have created traffic challenges across the city. It has created challenges for pedestrians, motorists, commercial vehicles and other modes of public transport.
In retrospect responsibility for the chaos being experienced in the city reflects on a number of Ministers and their Departments, not just on Deputy Ross. The Taoiseach and Minister for Finance were very eager to elbow Deputy Ross out of the picture and to ensure that the Taoiseach's media communications showed footage of the two of them which was copied onto the Fine Gael website and Twitter feed. Where are they now? Where have they been for the last few months? It also reflects on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government who has authority over the four Dublin local authorities that have a role in this matter. It reflects on the Minister for Justice and Equality who has responsibility for An Garda Síochána including the traffic corps, which has been overlooked in the present debacle and for which no role has been found. It is not just about the city, it is about the suburbs, the M50 and the commuter belt routes into the capital. Most of all it reflects on the entire Government collectively, which signed off on a national development plan that offers absolutely no solutions to the traffic congestion facing Dubliners in the here and now.
We on this side of the House are proud of the role we played in developing infrastructure in this city, from the port tunnel to the incredible roads infrastructure including the M50 and its extensions. The recovery has been based on this infrastructure. That is acknowledged in the introduction to the national development plan. The Government has set out some grand plans, many of which are rehashed, but none of them addresses the congestion that is growing in the city in the here and now. It is like being stranded on a desert island and the Government sending a supertanker for the rescue. Such a tanker gets stranded way out on the horizon, far from reach, when what is needed are some speed boats, sail boats or even canoes to help get us off the island. The national development plan offers nothing to commuters, cyclists, walkers, drivers or public transport users today, tomorrow or in the immediate future. A child born today will not use any of the proposed transport infrastructure until he or she is ready for post-primary school. They may be going to college before some of the projects are completed, if they ever are.
Congestion is costing €350 million annually. What plans does the Minister have to relieve congestion in Dublin in the short term? What plans does he have to relieve congestion on the M50? How does he propose to address the fact that Dublin Bus journey times have increased by 110% in the last three months? What steps has he and the Government taken to co-ordinate the work of the more than 40 traffic agencies which serve the city? What measures does he have in mind to fill the gap while we wait for the infrastructure on the horizon? The Luas account has tweeted 70 times since 1 February to apologise for various faults. Trams are overcrowded, sometimes dangerously so. People in my constituency are able to see the M50 but getting onto it is a completely different matter. What tangible proposals does the Minister have to address the fact that the majority of our quality bus corridors account for only 30% of their routes? Why has the Fine Gael-led Government abandoned large swathes of Dublin in its national development plan proposals?
Last year the Dáil unanimously approved my Private Members' motion for a traffic advisory council made up of all stakeholders. Why has nothing been done about that? Whose decision was it to allow 27 bus routes to be changed in a series of reactive measures and whose decision is it to emasculate Dublin Bus in the midst of the Luas cross city debacle? If the Minister is to avoid the title of "standstill" we need to hear how he and his Government colleagues intend to deal with the enormous gulf which has opened up between practical initiatives and measures which are needed now and the supertanker of infrastructure which is out on the horizon.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate. Anyone who travels around Dublin will be well aware of the gridlock that exists in our transportation system. To give an example, this evening I had to be in Killarney Street, which is 2 km away from here, for 5 p.m. I did not get there because I was offered a lift in a car. I should have gone on my bike, which is outside, but I foolishly accepted a lift in a car. It took me 30 minutes to get from Leinster House to Killarney Street, a journey which would have taken ten minutes on a bike. That is just one illustration of the gridlock which exists in the centre of the city. In addition, anyone who uses the Luas will know that if one wants to get on it in the Minister's constituency or mine, one has a very slim chance of getting on between 8 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. The Minister may be aware of this. There is simply not enough physical room to get onto the Luas.
I want to deal with one aspect of the transport system which has been ignored not just by the Minister, but by the Government. It is an area of transportation which has huge potential and which is used widely in the city at present but which the Government has not given the resources or attention it deserves. I want to refer to people in this city who cycle. There are a huge number of people in this city who cycle into work on a daily basis. I cannot claim to do it every day, but I do it most days. We have seen from research carried out that the number of people using bikes in this city has doubled in the past six years. In 2017 there were very nearly 95,000 people using bikes on a daily basis in the capital city. It is becoming an increasingly popular and effective form of transport and the statistics show that between 2015 and 2016 there was a rise of more than 17% in the number of persons using bikes in this city.
We have also seen the extraordinary success of the dublinbikes scheme. It started when I was a member of Dublin City Council. At that time I was told that it would be extended beyond the canals. To date, that has not happened. We need to ensure that happens promptly, but it will only happen if adequate funding is provided by the Minister and the Government to ensure that we can extend out this extremely successful and effective form of public transport. I had an opportunity to look at the national development plan, as did most Members of this House, in order to see what is provided in it for cycle ways. I wanted to find out what the Government's vision is not only for 2040, but for the near future in terms of providing cycle lanes throughout the country. Cycling is mentioned in the plan but only in a very general and limited way. It talks about the delivery of a comprehensive cycling and walking network for Ireland's cities. We need more specifics than that.
It is surprising that so many people are cycling as many threats are posed to cyclists. I regret to say it is extremely dangerous to cycle around this city. The Government needs to ensure greater protection for cyclists. Some 15 cyclists were killed in this city in 2017. I would like to hear the Minister talk about that and about measures that can be introduced to make cycling safer for people. One of the ways in which that can be done is by having designated cycling lanes. We have one or two of them in the city.
There is one that goes down by the canal in my own constituency. It is hugely popular. However, there is no vision or plan in place to ensure that this type of cycle path can be extended beyond that area and throughout the city to a further degree.
We also need a vision for cycling. In other cities in Europe, where there are successful cycle paths and where people engage in cycling happily and safely, there have been government plans behind it. In Amsterdam and Berlin, where proposals were announced recently, there is a vision to encourage and protect cyclists. Many people want to see their children cycling to school but they are concerned that they will not be safe. Regrettably, we do not have a vision for protecting cyclists at present. We do not have a vision as to how we can promote cycling to increase its use. People want to cycle. We have seen it from the use of dublinbikes that people are prepared to use it. More people want to avail of it. It really is for the Minister and the Government to drive this mode of safe transport that can be of such benefit to society as a whole.
I welcome the motion that has been tabled by our spokesperson on Dublin, Deputy Lahart. It is a sad and sorry coincidence that on the evening we are debating this motion, a further 17 bus routes have been redirected out of the centre of Dublin. Some 27 routes have now been moved away from College Green, while 30% of the total buses that serve the centre of Dublin have now been moved out of the city. It is basically down to very bad forward planning. It is an indictment of what should be an integrated public transport system. We are simply replacing one mode of transport with another.
I do not lay the blame for that solely at the Minister's door but I lay the responsibility for it at his door. Genuinely, it is a really sad indictment of the Government and how it feels about Dublin, Dublin commuters and those who are living and working in Dublin that there is not one Government Deputy here with the exception of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. There is not one Fine Gael Member in the Chamber, nor are Deputies from any of the other parties here at present. I am consistently hearing about there being this lurch towards Dublin, about overdevelopment in Dublin and the need for regionalisation. That need absolutely exists but who suffers in the meantime? It is not just the regions but also Dublin.
The Minister and his Government colleagues, particularly the Taoiseach, do not understand what it is like to be a commuter or what it is like to spend one and a half hours in a car to travel ten miles in this city. They do not understand what it is like to queue up for half an hour to try and get on a train that only goes every half hour from the commuter belt into Dublin.
This is a great county and a great city to live and work in. I am a very proud Dub myself. However, it is being choked at the moment. The city is choked and the county is at an absolute crawl. We can do a lot better but we need to get real about our issues and who the decision makers are. The city manager, the chief executive of Dublin City Council and the councillors in Dublin city, and particularly the executive branch of the city council need to be brought under the control of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. We need an integrated approach between the four local authorities. It is giving rise not only to a loss of investment and potential, but also to a serious loss of quality of life and people are turning away from the city and the county.
One example given this evening was the 17 additional bus routes that have been diverted to make way for the longer Luas cross city. It should not be one or the other. I will get another opportunity as we discuss the national development plan to talk about other failures like metro north, DART underground, the airport and all the other developments that we so badly need. This evening I am talking about the short-term measures, what we are doing to improve the situation but also what we are doing to make it worse.
I received a letter yesterday from the National Transport Authority on foot of a parliamentary question I put to the Minister. It is about Fairview, an area outside my constituency. It is one of only two arterial routes into the city from the north city and county. Everyone from Howth Head right through to Bayside, Baldoyle, Sutton and Clontarf, and everyone as far north as Donabate, Portrane, Rush, Lusk and Skerries right down through Malahide and up through Darndale and Coolock uses Fairview to access the city. What did our city councillors and city manager do? Before Christmas, they decided without debate in the city council to close one of those vehicular routes into the city on Fairview Strand. That is a decision that affects the whole city and county. I put it to the Minister that it is not a decision the city council should have taken without debate in its chamber, as it affects the whole the city and county. That is just one example.
There has got to be an integrated approach to public transport and commuting, for those who use the car, those who cycle as Deputy O'Callaghan has mentioned, and those who use the train like I do every day. I commute to this House on the DART. Without planning, we will not get an integrated approach. Journey times are being extended, businesses are losing money and commuters are leaving Dublin. We can decide to have a modern city that actually works or we can be happy with a city that is choked and is choking to death. That is what is happening to Dublin, a city I am very proud to represent. The Minister and his Government unfortunately are letting Dublin down.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this motion proposed by my colleague, Deputy Lahart. In the two years since the Minister, Deputy Ross, was appointed, he has seen significant increases in the volume of traffic in the greater Dublin area. That has resulted also in an increase in passengers on all forms of public transport. The Minister will quite rightly say it is a result of economic activity and I acknowledge that. However, as the increase has occurred, journey times have lengthened, congestion has increased and there is an economic cost to the city.
This is not an issue that is new to the Minister. We have raised it before in different ways. What I would like to get from tonight's debate is a change in tack. I know the Minister has a prepared answer from the Department that will probably make reference to what has been done in the last years and will refer to the mid-term capital review, the €2.6 billion or €2.7 billion over the four-year period, the €770 million for BusConnects and so forth. That is all fine but we have heard it before. I ask the Minister to park it for a moment and to engage constructively with us. The long-term projects to which the Minister refers will be needed but we also need a strategy to deal with short-term issues. We cannot condemn communities right across Dublin and the suburbs to increased congestion for the next five and ten years as these major capital projects are delivered.
I want the Minister to listen to a couple of different issues that affect my area. We hear regularly on the radio that traffic is backed up on the N7 as far as Citywest and Rathcoole. It used to be the Red Cow roundabout; it is back that far now. Those living in Rathcoole only have one exit if they are city bound, out at Avoca and across the bridge onto the N7. That whole community is in a bottleneck in the mornings because the congestion from Dublin is that far back.
Clondalkin village is served by public transport but while there is mainline rail and the Luas, there is no joined-up thinking. For the vast majority of people, the bus is the only option because the Luas and the mainline rail are too far away. There is no bus service linking all of those as hubs. We need to look at how that might be done ahead of some of the increased infrastructure to which the Minister refers.
The national development plan was published recently and for many people living in the Lucan area, it was the final nail in the coffin. For years, they were promised there would be a Luas line to Lucan. The line is still on the map but on page 55 of the national development plan as published, it is clearly indicated that it is a post-2027 development. For the next ten years there will be no Luas line servicing the greater Lucan area. While that is bad enough in itself, it impacts on other decisions; the bus rapid transit corridors will not be provided because it is deemed that they would be running in parallel with the Luas. These issues are not going to affect this generation, it is the next generation.
I have indicated to the Minister on several occasions that the number of passengers on public transport has increased. I have asked him again and again how many additional buses we will see in Dublin next year. What was the Minister's reply? That it is a matter for the NTA.
We got in touch with the National Transport Authority and it said it depends on how much money it receives. The final reply, which was the best of all, was when the NTA wrote back to say:
We now have the budget allocation for 2018. It was confirmed to us in recent weeks. Fleet acquisitions for next year are currently under discussion.
The problem I have with this is that the solution is not designed around the demand of the market. We are doing things without the evidence base that should be in place.
When we consider the congestion on the arterial routes approaching Dublin, bus-based park and ride facilities should be available. One year ago the NTA said that it was assessing a number of bus-based park and ride facilities and that it expected to make a determination on whether or not to proceed with them in the coming months. It said that the decision would be contingent upon funding availability and that it had to wait on the outcome of the Government's capital plan review. In the year since there has been little or no progress. There should be a sense of urgency in terms of delivering short-term solutions for the chronic situation that exists in many parts of the city centre, the suburbs and arterial routes. The Minister will know the times that his colleagues are arriving at and leaving the Houses of the Oireachtas in order to miss the congestion in the greater Dublin area. I would like the Minister, in line with the stated objectives of his own Department's plan and the strategy for Dublin, to look at a policy to provide effective short-term solutions as the capital programme and associated projects are built out.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:"recognises:— that there is evidence of increasing levels of traffic congestion across the Dublin region; andacknowledges:
— the short, medium and long-term public transport investment priorities identified in Project Ireland 2040 encompassing the National Planning Framework to 2040 and the National Development Plan 2018-2027, will address congestion in the Dublin region and deliver real change on the ground and network-wide benefits across the region;— the 2015 Dublin City Centre Transport Study, jointly published by the National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council, which sets out the various measures proposed for Dublin’s city centre to ensure the efficient functioning of transport within the city centre;calls on the Government to:
— the important role of the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035 which sets out a clear vision for transport planning in the Dublin region;
— the Government’s investment in recent public transport projects and initiatives across the Dublin region including Luas Cross City, the upgrade to the Phoenix Park Tunnel, bus fleet replacement, sustainable transport projects, improvements to rail and bus station facilities and integration projects to increase public transport use and improve customer experiences through the use of responsive and passenger-friendly smarter technologies;
— the major integrated public transport projects identified as investment priorities in the recently published National Development Plan 2018-2027 which will address growing congestion in the city and capacity constraints on the existing public transport network, including:— BusConnects (inclusive of ticketing systems, bus corridors, additional capacity, new bus stops and bus shelters);— the planned investment in park and ride facilities at rail, Luas and bus locations and the continued investment in sustainable transport projects including traffic management and other smarter travel projects along with new urban and cycling routes in Dublin to allow transport infrastructure to function more effectively and relieve congestion; and
— Metro Link (a full north-south high-capacity, high-frequency, integrated rail corridor through the central spine of the metropolitan area); and
— Priority elements of the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) Expansion Programme (including investment in new train fleet, new infrastructure and electrification of existing lines);
— the important role of both the new National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan in the development of an efficient, integrated and sustainable public transport system across the Dublin region; and— commit to achieving a modern, efficient and effective public transport system at a national and regional level including the Dublin region, in line with the commitments in the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework; and
— request that the National Transport Authority, together with other key stakeholders, continue to pursue strategies for alleviation of congestion in the Dublin region."
I welcome the fact that Deputy Lahart and the other Fianna Fáil Deputies produced this as a topic for debate. It is a bit of an old story now. I seem to be meeting Deputy Lahart on the same subject at the same time, either on Topical Issues or on motions of this sort. If I thought that what he is doing is correct I would say that he is doing his constituents a great favour. However, I do not believe what he is doing is correct. He is persuading them that they are victims of something that has happened because of Government neglect and the fact that Government does not care.
Deputy Lahart said various things about standstills with a great deal of alacrity and pleasure, obviously optimistic that the standstill would continue so that he can make political capital out of it. However, he will not be able to come into this House for much longer and lament in this way. What was so fascinating about what the Deputy said was not the words spoken but rather the omissions. It was extraordinary. He strikes me as someone who is in total and utter denial about what has been happening in transport and about the immediate transport developments in the last week. He was very strong on congestion in Dublin in the last few weeks, and he is correct that the congestion problem in the city has been unacceptable. It has been addressed. What was missing from his speech was acknowledgement of what is going on.
Deputy Lahart is in denial. He reminds me of a polar bear in the desert looking for pickings, and the only pickings he can find are his own entrails. He spoke about the lack of investment. The reason for the lack of investment is that we have been going through a recession and there has been no money to invest. I would remind him that that is not the exclusive responsibility of people on this side of the House. If the Deputy is going to come in here and lament the entrails which the Deputy's party have left-----
A few weeks ago a man from the Green Party was here. He is not here tonight. He does not care as much about public transport as the Fianna Fáil Deputies do. He came in here and lost his memory. He is in denial about what his party did to the country.
The Deputy is complaining about the Luas. He is making legitimate complaints. I am not saying his complaints are not legitimate, but rather that he is committing sins of omission which distort the argument. Does the Deputy know what the percentage increase in passenger numbers has been since Luas cross city was introduced? I bet he does not. He has provided no evidence that he knows about things like that. There has been a 24% passenger increase since then. That is an extraordinary piece of good news.
I thank the Deputy. If there had been no increase the Deputy would be crying about it being a white elephant, lamenting that hundreds of millions of euro were spent on this particular project and nobody is using it.
I reject the Fianna Fáil motion, and on behalf of the Government I have proposed a counter motion. We all know that congestion has a negative impact on the quality of people’s lives and on the economy. The Government is continuing to take steps to address the prolonged underinvestment in integrated public transport of the last decade. This will not only provide an alternative to private car use and ease congestion but also move us towards our climate change objectives. Project 2040 rightly recognises that significant investment in public transport will be required to accommodate change and growth, while also providing more choice for the travelling public and improving quality of life. Together with the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016-2035, Project 2040 provides for the planning and delivery of public transport infrastructure and services over the short, medium and long term.
My investment priorities identified will build on recent Government investment in public transport projects in the Dublin region, including the Luas cross city, the upgrade to the Phoenix Park tunnel, bus fleet replacement, sustainable transport projects, improvements to rail and bus station facilities, and the introduction of passenger-friendly smart technologies.
The Fianna Fáil motion states that there was no forward planning to allow for the introduction of Luas cross city. This is simply nonsense. The House may be aware that Dublin City Council and the NTA jointly published the Dublin city centre transport study in 2015 which sets out the various measures proposed for Dublin’s city centre to ensure the efficient functioning of transport within the city centre. In preparing the 2015 study, Dublin City Council and the NTA reviewed the current and future transportation needs of the city.
Yesterday, I held a meeting with the chief executive of the National Transport Authority, NTA, Anne Graham. She is well aware of my concerns, those of the Deputies opposite and other colleagues in this House. Today, the NTA announced additional changes to further reduce bus numbers in the area of the plaza.
I have been advised by the NTA that passenger numbers on the Luas green line have increased, as I said, by over 24%. That is a huge, sudden increase in the number of people using our public transport system.
One could say that the Luas has been a temporary victim of its own success, but while it is welcomed that so many new customers are using the extended green line, this success, as I and the Deputies fully recognise, presents new challenges and difficulties. It has meant that, at certain times of the day, some trams are operating at above or below capacity. However, that is actively and robustly being addressed. As part of the Luas cross city project, we have purchased seven additional new, long 55 m trams. These have a higher passenger capacity than existing trams and thereby significantly increase overall capacity on the green Line. The first of these additional trams recently came into service. Two more are currently in Ireland undergoing final testing and commissioning. One of these is expected to go into passenger service by the end of this week with the second to operate about a week or so later, at the start of March. The remaining four trams, following the necessary final testing and commissioning, will be put into service progressively over the following ten weeks. Coupled with increasing capacity, the NTA has also advised me of planned changes to the Luas green and red line timetables to improve the frequency of service, particularly in the morning and evening peak periods.
In addition, we have ordered more trams. Late last year, I asked Cabinet to approve the green line capacity enhancement project. This project includes the lengthening of existing green line trams to 55 m and the purchase of a further eight new longer trams. Again, this will greatly increase the capacity of the fleet to meet future passenger demand and, as the Deputies know, we have recently completed a project to lengthen the platforms at the existing Green line stations to enable the use of these new, longer trams so the stations are ready and waiting to be of use.
The Minister described the problems experienced by the Luas since last month as teething problems. That is an incredibly flippant remark from someone in charge of public transport because from the first day until today, there has been no sign of those teething problems abating. The new line has caused severe traffic congestion and lengthy delays in the College Green area of the city. The problem was compounded when tram frequency was reduced to try to deal with the problem. That has left passengers waiting for longer and regularly being unable to board a tram as they are too crowded at peak times. That has been happening every morning and every evening since then.
What the Minister considers to be teething problems are causing huge stress to commuters every morning and evening as they worry, first, whether the Luas will turn up on time and, second, if there will be room on it for them. People are late for work and they are having to endure long, overcrowded journeys on the tram packed like sardines.
Is it the case that, having repeated the mantra that the Luas cross city will be delivered on time and on budget ad nauseam, that the line had to be opened regardless of the fact that sufficient planning had not been carried out regarding capacity and the required frequency of services? It was the Taoiseach's project, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and he had reminded us on many occasions that it had to be delivered on time. Now, because of that, we have chaos in the city centre and huge problems with overcrowding in the suburbs.
The Government recently published the national planning framework. A substantial number of transport infrastructural projects have been listed in that document, but people may well be justified in having serious concerns about the Government's ability to deliver those projects given what has happened with the Luas cross city because it appears that the small existing rail infrastructure in the city cannot be managed without the entire place grinding to a halt.
Since the launch of the new Luas line, has the Minister been liaising with the NTA and with Dublin City Council with regard to finding a speedy solution to this problem? What role did the NTA and the city council have, and what discussions were had prior to this in an effort to avoid this and what has happened since this chaos started?
If the message the Minister is trying to send out to the capital city is that we need to take people out of their cars and into public transport, how will that happen if it is the case that we cannot rely on public transport? If people do not know whether the Luas will come on time, if they are afraid they will be late for work, if they do not know whether they will get on the tram or be crushed like a sardine on it, how can the Minister instill confidence in the public that public transport is the way forward for our city because it will ease congestion when there are mess-ups like the ones we currently see?
We need reliable, affordable and accessible public transport if people are to be convinced of the merits of using it in the first place. If we do not get this problem corrected at the earliest date, the Minister will have a hell of a job convincing people to leave their cars at home and use public transport throughout the city.
Before I address the issue directly, I have to say I am loving the letting on rows between the Government Members and the "boyos" opposite who are backing them so completely and wholeheartedly. Most of it is pure comedy gold. I do not know if it amuses them or if they are getting any value out of it, but it certainly brings a smile to my face from time to time. When they come in hear with a Private Members' motion and decry the actions of the Government but then make sure the Government stays in power, one has to ask why none of this came up during the negotiations on the confidence and supply agreement. I am sure it came up but perhaps it was dismissed, they did not push it or they only care about it now. I do not know, but it is possible for those of us who are watching it to knock a bit of sport out of it and it brings smiles to our faces.
There is an issue with regard to transport in Dublin, and I say this as someone who has worked in the city centre for about 16 years. In my previous job I had to bring my car into town, which was an absolute nightmare. I would look at the Luas and think that it would be marvellous if I could get onto it but now, as we see, people are struggling to get onto the Luas. I heard a man say on radio the other day that it was quicker to get off and walk. That is not acceptable, and everybody is asking why it was not joined up in the first instance. It is that kind of lack of foresight that has characterised much of the transport policy. The failure to join up the Luas line is a kind of microcosm of successive policies on transport and the lack of planning. For a city that is growing, there does not seem to be enough foresight and planning.
In my constituency of Fingal, one can see writ large the problems with regard to commuting and congestion. If one gets on the DART coming from Malahide or Portmarnock, one can see that people love the DART. I remember going on the first DART journey and we were all terribly excited. Everybody likes the DART. Everybody like to take public transport unless they have to use it at peak times, in which case they are wedged onto it.
The same is the case with services in my town of Skerries. I was on it this morning. As I knew I would speaking on this motion I thought I would chat to the people beside me to guage their opinions - I often have to bring my car into town but did not this morning, which was welcome - and I got the same answer from all of them. They said it is a good service and one they value but the trains are not long enough, there is not sufficient capacity and they are squashed onto them like sardines. They are worried that when the weather is warmer they will be left in a situation whereby people on the trains will be fainting once again.
I live in the constituency with the fastest growing population so we need to see what is there in terms of forward planning, extending the rail line, extending the carriages and making sure that people who need to can get onto public transport. As someone who has to take my car into town on quite a number of occasions, it is no picnic to be sitting on the M1, which is effectively like a car park, for most of the morning.
It is stressful and a rotten way to start the week or day at work. It stresses everyone out. One looks to the left and right and sees cars containing people who are stressed to bits. There is a case to be made for a lot more forward planning as we are all living with the consequences of the complete failure to plan for the future. The failure to link the Luas lines is a very good example.
It was interesting to see the fake outrage of Fianna Fáil Deputies when they were reminded of the past and their absolute failure to roll out a proper transport strategy for this city. I am with the Minister on that, which is not to say he has a proper strategy in Project Ireland 2040. I have my own Project Ireland which should be delivered before 2040. However, the one being discussed this week is comical. Some of the projects announced under a Fianna Fáil Government many years ago before it crashed the economy are still being announced today but with no urgency. This city is being crippled because of the failure to invest properly in the transport system and have a proper vision. Why are we going to wait until 2027 for the DART underground project? Why are we going to wait for other projects like a Luas extension to Lucan? Why do we hear to this day talk of park and ride facilities at Luas stations? That should have happened when the Luas rail system was planned in the first place, not as an afterthought. Others have mentioned the lack of interconnectivity between the Luas lines.
Life in this city is being squeezed because of the failure to plan the transport system. Turning the quays into a single car lane does not solve the problem for the ordinary Dubliner, those who are visiting the city or current and future businesses. Unless we get this right and the Government starts to plan the transport system properly, we will miss economic opportunities. This is not just to do with transport. We also have a housing crisis with which to contend. If it does not happen, the lifeblood will be sucked out of the city. I urge the large parties which have been in government to stop having the silly spats they have had for many decades and get on with proper planning and investment. Public transport pays for itself as it has shown at every step. The Government should get on with the job now.
Traffic congestion in Dublin, in particular in the city centre, has become a major problem for commuters, businesses and residents. It has impacted on the city by increasing travel times and imposes a negative cost on job growth and productivity. It may also result in increased carbon dioxide emissions. Restricting the use of private cars at College Green at peak times has resulted in minor improvements in traffic flow in the area, as did the new traffic arrangements on the north and south city centre quays. Commuting across the city has proved to be a nightmare for commuters who have to cross it to travel to work. There seems to have been very disjointed thinking in the delivery of public transport services in the city centre. Dublin Bus has greater capacity, but the Luas has dominance when it comes to infrastructure. Congestion in the city centre, even on a normal day, can cause the traffic to back up as far away as Finglas, Ballymun, Santry and Drumcondra. Traffic in Dublin can come to a virtual standstill if there is an unplanned incident such as a breakdown or a collision or as a consequence of harsh weather conditions.
There are plans to alleviate the congestion. Metro north was originally part of Transport 2021 which was announced in 2005. It was expected to carry roughly 35 million passengers a year and take 120 million km of car journeys off the roads. It was also intended to supply a vital link to the main airport from across the city. However, the Taoiseach suspended the plan in 2011 when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. At that stage, €200 million had already been spent without a single passenger having been moved or a single track laid. Metro north is now part of the national planning framework and the national development plan with a new completion date of 2027. That will not solve the current congestion problem, although it might go towards doing so in the future.
It seems to be a question of nothing being done now and it all being left to the future. What we really need is an effort to tackle the obvious problems facing commuters. They include park and ride and set-down facilities at stations such as Broombridge and the provision of feeder buses to and from the surrounding areas.
Another obvious issue is the M50 which resembles a car park at peak hours. Previously, there were plans to build an outer ring road to take traffic off the M50 at an earlier stage. This project must be reconsidered.
Traffic in Dublin will not improve; it will only get worse. What is needed is a fit-for-purpose traffic management plan to remove cars from the roads and that will concentrate on developing our public transport services. I remember the rolling out of BusConnect with great fanfare. Three routes had been identified and bendy buses were going to be used. The Minister might remember that we talked about this in the past. Bus services must be enhanced. Buses have been taken out of areas in which a lot of senior citizens live. They are not profitable routes, but we cannot simply walk away from people in that way. We must enhance services in these areas. There is a level crossing in Ashtown which is mechanically driven. That makes no sense and holds up traffic heading out into the country. We must look at cycle ways to a greater extent. The Minister has talked about the route along the Royal Canal, the likes of which will help to bring more traffic into the city on bicycles or even on foot. These are some of the ideas that could help address the traffic issue.
Another week sees another Fianna Fáil motion filled with lots of good stuff, including more bus lanes, feeder buses and buses in general, cycle lanes, park and ride facilities, the electrification of the Maynooth and M3 Parkway suburban line, and car parks at train stations. Who could disagree with this? Before Fianna Fáil tries to convince the House of its bona fides on the provision of greener and more sustainable transport services, however, it should probably begin to look closer to home. It was only in December that Fianna Fáil councillors on Fingal County Council tabled a motion to protect the existing lane structure in Fairview to benefit car drivers. A Dublin City Council proposal for an extra bus lane at this critical pinch point is secondary to local Fianna Fáil councillors' concerns for drivers. We must get people out of cars. The disconnect between what is said in local government and in the Dáil in the full glare of the national media is what erodes trust in a political party's commitment to political change. Is it acceptable to say one thing in the Dáil and another in local government chambers? I do not believe it is, but that is what is happening in Fianna Fáil-land. While the Labour Party will support the motion, that is why one must question Fianna Fáil's bona fides. How committed is the party to seeking proper and sustainable transport solutions in Dublin?
I notice that there is no mention in the motion of metro north, or metro link as it is now called. I hope Fianna Fáil remains committed to the provision of this important infrastructure. Despite the changed name and the extension of the route announced by the Government, the target date for delivery remains the same. I hope to see all political parties and none support the project and work to ensure it will remain on course for delivery by 2027. However, we cannot continue to allow towns such as Swords and Balbriggan to grow as commuter towns without, as we see happening in Swords, providing a high speed light rail link to provide residents with a fast and comfortable commute to the city centre. Congestion is now the big issue and it is simply not good enough to describe it as a by-product of a recovering economy.
That is like saying we would rather go back to the dark old days of the recession, when unemployment was sky high but traffic volumes were low. This congestion problem is worse now than ever. The motion notes that Dublin is the 15th most congested major city in the world. That is a league table for a league we would like to be relegated from, I am sure.
The cross city Luas has caused bedlam in Dame Street, College Green and through to O'Connell Bridge, and buses have been the victims. I understand the NTA is due to announce changes today to 11 bus routes to help tackle this congestion. It is simply not good enough that the planning for this project was not sufficient to identify the impact on traffic in the College Green corridor and the impact it was going to have on Dublin bus services. After all, Dublin Bus carries more commuters than any other public service carrier in the entire State. Dublin Bus has had to suffer from not being as attractive as Luas, rail or metro north, and it has always had to compete with private car use while sharing its bus corridors with other forms of transport, such as taxis and even competitor bus companies.
The motion calls for more buses, which we need, but these buses need every chance to make their journeys as quickly and as comfortably as possible. This means supporting the provision of quality bus corridors. The low-hanging fruit in terms of providing quality bus corridors has been plucked and the NTA now needs to make the more difficult choices - difficult choices such as whether to remove trees in Fairview Park to allow space to develop cycle lanes and bus lanes, for example. We cannot be afraid of making these decisions. Trees, as historic and beautiful as they may be, can be replaced and replanted in other areas in close proximity, in my view. Protecting our environment includes moving people to public transport options and taking cars off the road. We will not be able to convince people to leave their cars at home unless they have confidence in the reliability and speed of the public transport options, be it bus, rail or Luas.
Investment in parking at stations is a must. We need more spaces and, more importantly, these spaces need to be affordable. The cost of parking at train stations should be set at the most nominal level. We also need to provide more bicycle lockers at train stations. We have had problems in Fingal, with bicycle theft at train stations, which understandably discourages people from taking their bicycles to the train station. This forces them into cars to commute to the train station, or even all the way to work. This type of investment is relatively cheap but its value is immeasurable.
Overcrowding on trains and buses is a problem and we support the call in the motion to increase capacity on both. A bus journey on the 33 service from Balbriggan or Skerries, or the 41 from Swords and across Fingal can be a long journey, and can be made quite uncomfortable if one has to stand for the entire journey, which has been the experience for many people - people even have to stand on the first train from Donabate at 6 a.m.
In the first instance the Minister needs to fix the problems in Dublin city centre caused by Luas cross city, and this is an immediate concern. Second, congestion needs to be tackled and investment in bus, rail and cycle lanes is the way forward. Third, although it is not mentioned in this motion, a real commitment to metro link is required and we need to be counting down over a short period until the shovels are in the ground. I believe that once this thing is started, it will never stop, so the sooner we get it going, the better. If the Minister provides the infrastructure, the people will change their behaviour. As I said to him before, the Minister needs to be a champion of public transport.
This is a critical issue because the capital city is obviously completely congested at key times. It was interesting that the Taoiseach got caught in a traffic jam a couple of weeks back and spoke about it taking 70 minutes from Castleknock into the city centre. God love the poor souls who live beyond Castleknock because the Taoiseach's experience would not have been as severe as theirs. It is interesting what happens when people who are high profile and in government have problems. John Bruton experienced a traffic jam some years back and, all of a sudden, an operation was introduced to clear traffic.
Dublin is not only facing major traffic congestion that impacts on the quality of people's lives but it also has a huge environmental impact, with the car still the dominant mode of transport. Some 43% of Dublin's commuters use the car to get to work, school or college, which is a huge figure. The limitations of the transport system are down to one reason only, and that is the ongoing lack of public investment in public transport. The motion mentions how Dublin is the 15th most congested city in the world yet there was a cut of €58 million in public subvention of public transport to the CIÉ group of companies since 2010, so it involves this Government, the previous Government and the Government before that. There is also the wider context of the lack of longer-term planning because economic development is driven by profits rather than by what is needed by regions and communities. Census 2016 showed that some 43% of Dublin commuters said they use the car. In Dublin West, to give an example of a suburb the Taoiseach and I both represent, the figure is even higher at 51%, so more than half the people are using cars to get to where they need to get to. This is simply unsustainable.
I want to mention some of the problems faced by commuters in Dublin West. Yes, there has been a recovery and an improvement in economic fortunes in the sense that factories and pharmaceutical companies are opening up but there has not been any attempt to increase public transport to go with those openings and the area has no Luas or metro, despite it being the fastest growing area of population in western Europe in the last 15 years. One constituent who commutes in and out of town each day said that the service on the 39 bus route is inadequate and that the wait for a 39 bus can be up to an hour on most weekday evenings. The 39A stops approximately a half an hour walk from the area where this person lives so the person now has to think about getting up at 6 a.m. in order to be able to get to work without any hassle.
We have had representations from the Hansfield secondary school parents association. Many of the students have to commute from different parts of the constituency and beyond, particularly as it is an Educate Together school and people want school diversity. They made the point that the starting time of the school is 8.50 a.m. but the bus service does not correlate with when the school starts or ends, and there is no match or tie-in whatsoever. We all know the lack of school transport adds significantly to congestion and when the schools are off, we can see the difference. Even in parts of the US, where neoliberalism is at its height, there are school transport systems, but in this county it is seen as unnecessary. There is a particular problem in suburban areas where students and children are criss-crossing each other, with some going to one school and some to another because of the lack of school places.
There are frustrations with Dublin Bus due to the lack of investment. As I said, this is a busy urban area with many young people who need to get to work and college. The 39, 38 and 38A are the three bus routes that provide the main public service from Dublin West into the city centre. The common experience cited by users is that they wait for a bus and then two or three buses may arrive full because they do not have the capacity to deal with the demand caused by the population. People are left waiting for the next bus an hour later, and this is during the day, not at unusual times at night. We need a massive expansion of the bus service. We need public investment to increase the number of buses and their frequency, and we need to employ more drivers.
Obviously, cycling has increased massively in popularity in recent years and this has been reflected in Dublin West.
There could be a great expansion in cycling routes which could link in with the transport system.
There is a problem with the quality of trains. Dublin West has a train line that serves 6% of people commuting daily. Today, the Taoiseach put out a press release for constituents regarding a Luas service on the train lines. Commuters need to live very near the line to access it. Most people rely wholly on buses. Among those who do use the train, there are often complaints. People write to me saying that the train stations are extremely cold, and then when commuters manage to get on the train, they are extremely overcrowded and they cannot get seats. This is because there has not been enough investment. One commuter, originally from France and now living in my constituency, wrote asking why we cannot have double decker trains, for example. He contrasted the service that he had experienced in France with what he experiences in Ireland.
When companies set up in suburban areas of cities, is there any demand that they contribute towards extra public transport? One noticeable feature of the industrial areas in Dublin West, and I am sure it is the same in many other places, is that most of the people who work there drive in and out of the constituency daily. They do not live there. It adds significantly to the transport problems and congestion which people face. It is often assumed that when a Minister comes from a constituency, it enjoys a huge upgrade in services. In Dublin West, we had the Minister of Finance, the late Deputy Brian Lenihan, then the Tánaiste, Deputy Joan Burton and now we have the Taoiseach. We have not had an extra scrap of public transport in Dublin West and all the testimonies from people about waiting for buses and overcrowded trains testify to that. We need massive investment in public transport. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a commitment in this Government to provide it, and there has been no empathy with Irish Rail or Dublin Bus workers recently. That is the only way that we can get people from A to B and make a positive impact on the environment and on climate change.
I am happy to have the opportunity to speak on this motion tonight. Last week I spoke on transport and road networks throughout the country and highlighted the investment inequality in transport between the greater Dublin area and rural Ireland, making particular reference to the N71 in my constituency of Cork South-West, the unfinished Bandon bypass, congestion in Innishannon on the main Clonakilty to Skibbereen road, and the Ballydehob to Bantry road which is in scandalous condition. These are only some of the roads in Cork South-West that receive little to no money for development or repairs each year. A small amount of funding can go a long way to improving our road network. In contrast, millions of euros have been spent on the Luas cross city project which opened last December. Despite the huge investment and years of development in building the new lines, there has been nothing but bad news. Yesterday, and the five days before that, the only Luas updates have been continuous warnings about service delays and technical faults. We have seen the Luas carriage that is too long for O'Connell bridge and blocks off the yellow box, restricting buses, taxis and private cars from moving, which results in hours of delays.
The motion proposes to build and incentivise commuters on the N11, N7, N4 and N3 to use park-and-ride facilities. I believe it is absolutely necessary. I travel the N7 each week to and from the Dáil. At times, it can be compared to nothing but a car park. Commuters from the greater Dublin area can spend hours in their cars each morning and evening. This is not efficient and it is totally unfair to workers. It is embarrassing that despite the huge investment into the roads and transport network in Dublin, we still experience such traffic problems. Obviously, proper plans were not made or perhaps not followed. How much money has been spent or wasted on building this inefficient Luas service? Had just a fraction of that money been invested into the roads in my own constituency instead we would be in a much better position.
It is and I have dedicated most of this speech to Dublin but I need to keep reminding the Minister that there is a west Cork there. I need him to look further at it.
I am calling on the Minister and the National Roads Authority to re-evaluate their priorities and focus investment into Dublin traffic issues more, so we do not see further waste of resources, but also to get over the anti-rural agenda by this Government and ensure that all Irish citizens can experience a good road and transport network. I am not in denial. West Cork roads are in an appalling state. The Minister travelled on them himself during the summer and seen it at first hand. It looks as though the people of Cork South-West will have to wait beyond 2040 as no Minister has had any vision for our roads in the national planning framework. This Government's solution to west Cork roads is to keep filling away the potholes with watered-down tar or, in some areas of west Cork, only with sand. It costs west Cork motorists tens of thousands of euro. That will be the legacy of this Government of Fine Gael and its partners. It is time to take off the veil and be honest with the people. Rural Ireland is nowhere near the Government's agenda. It squanders money in Dublin bringing further traffic chaos to the capital. Who is accountable for the money being wasted on the capital's roads? A recent television programme had three people use three means of transport to get around Dublin, bus, Luas and car, with the car getting there first. I rest my case. Millions were squandered. There is no accountability. The Government should stop the waste and spare the money for rural Ireland.
Dublin traffic is a serious problem. I have long asked the cause. The obvious cause is continuous policies by this Government, by past Governments, and if the 2040 plan materialises, it will also be by future Governments. It is because everything revolves around Dublin. Continuous policies have directed investment to ensure that industry and business continue to come to this city. Most likely, when one listens to Kerry radio each morning, the first news headlines at 7 a.m. will announce another hundred jobs or 500 jobs for Dublin, but it is very rare when there is a job directed towards Kerry or the west. Then the story is how we get the traffic into Dublin and out of it.
Deputy Cowen spoke about the midlands. We know that the whole midlands are travelling into Dublin each morning because they have to because no jobs at all have been directed towards the midlands. The further west a person goes, the worse the story is. We cannot attract business into our counties because we do not have the infrastructure. We have been fighting for 22 years for the Macroom bypass. It is to be hoped it will materialise. Most of the county still does not have broadband. There is plenty of broadband here. It could be in Kerry, west Cork, or Clare if the people in power were minded to do that. They are hell-bent on doing things for Dublin. Everything has to be Dublin. I do not begrudge the people who live and work here in Dublin but we are asking for fair play down the country. That is all we want. There is to be another runway built for Dublin Airport while at the same time our fine Shannon international airport has been downgraded. It is half empty most times one goes there because the policy of making planes stop there ended. Now it is all Dublin. They can build another runway, it does not matter what it costs. They should build it anyway and bring more people in. The 2040 plan says it will build a metro, extend the Luas, and have more DARTs.
I believe the Government gave €135 million for a glorified footpath in Dublin. That is more than we would get for the roads programme for the year in the county of Kerry. God Almighty, is anyone going to stand up and say, "Stop"? If the Government keeps putting people into this side of the country it will topple into the Irish Sea. It will have to happen.
We are depending on the local industries the indigenous people set up. We cannot attract investment into our county. We have failed because we do not have the infrastructure. I am looking at the Minister, Deputy Ross. I am saying I believe we are not getting a fair crack of the whip. Where would we be without Liebherr that has been in Kerry for 60 years, FEXCO in Killorglin, Munster Joinery on the Cork-Kerry border, Michael Cronin Readymix, Seán Murphy KWD, Tricel, O'Carroll Engineering, Walsh Colour Print and Dairymaster?
We have a Sneem community group voluntarily fundraising to try to get infrastructure into an old hall in Sneem so that it can provide a few jobs. We are not getting a fair crack of the whip at all. They have to buy this broadband dearly so that they can employ people in that place.
I heard one Deputy mention here that there should be more investment in transport to take children to school. Our trouble is we cannot keep the rural schools open because we cannot keep the people at home. This new plan will invest in Cork city and Limerick. There is not one word about Kerry and that is what is wrong. That is why Dublin is chocked.
Everything is directed at Dublin. Whether it is Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Sinn Féin, they are all so much more interested in Dublin than they are in the rural part of this country and that is what is wrong. We will have to change tack.
I am happy to be living in Dublin for the last 25 years.
Tá an Comhaontas Glas fíor-shásta tacaíocht a thabhairt don rún seo.
In recent months, commuters in the constituency of Dublin Rathdown, a constituency the Minister represents too, have been continually frustrated by the Luas green line which has overnight gone from a consistent, reliable service into one which commuters can no longer currently depend on. In recent days and weeks, I have been flooded with complaints from constituents who are exasperated with the current quality of the Luas service. I can only assume the Minister is receiving similar emails and phone calls.
Commuting at peak times is a nightmare for Luas passengers due to overcrowding resulting from inappropriate capacities, delays and the repeated failures and malfunctioning of the real-time information displays and debit card machines. Some of the technical failures have been resolved today but the substantive problem persists, namely, there are not enough trams and for the pressing demand, the trams simply do not arrive frequently enough. This is not to mention accessibility issues for commuters, with the lifts at Dundrum and Connolly stations consistently out of service in recent weeks.
We have also witnessed an entirely unacceptable lack of communication between the Luas operators and passengers. Passengers are the lifeblood of the service and should be treated with an appropriate level of professionalism and courtesy. They should not be taken for granted. At the weekend, I was contacted by constituents who told me of an instance on Sunday where passengers on the Luas green line travelling into the city centre were given no advance warning of having to disembark at the Luas stop at Cowper. That problem at Cowper did not occur suddenly and the authorities had adequate time to warn passengers travelling on that line, but failed to do so. Cowper is not an isolated example. This caused distress for many of the passengers, particularly several elderly and less mobile passengers, who were stranded halfway between their starting point and their destination. This simply is not good enough. The Minister referenced these issues in the House as "teething problems", but the problems grow day by day. When will this teething period end?
Yesterday I called for Transdev to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport to explain the poor service in recent weeks and to find out what is needed to restore the reliability of Luas services. I welcome the fact that the Chair of the committee has indicated that he would be happy with this suggestion. I would also call on the committee to consider calling other stakeholders in, including the Minister, officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Dublin City Council officials to outline the measures being taken to ease the current pressures on the Luas lines.
The problems faced by commuters on a daily basis have shown an unacceptable lack of preparation on the part of the Government in the roll-out of the Luas cross city. It has shown a distinct lack of proper and thorough forward planning and joined-up thinking.
While I welcome the publication of the Project Ireland 2040 plan, and its commitment to planning ahead, there are real concerns about where the emphasis is placed in terms of transport investment and the lack of detail in the document. The bulk of planned transport investment is still set to go on interurban roads and by doing so, the Government is committing a generation to longer commute times and urban sprawl. While the long-delayed Dublin metro and light-rail plans for Cork are to be warmly welcomed, they will not be enough on their own and the details for public transport in Cork city are non-existent.
Dublin needs the DART underground, real investment in cycling infrastructure and an upgraded bus network to avoid being crippled by traffic gridlock. Galway, Limerick and Waterford need similar radical transport plans if they are to be able to grow. However, in the here and now, and into the medium term and long term, the capacity issues with the Luas green line will not go away. With the Cherrywood development bringing at least 3,000 new homes at the end of the current line, and further developments along the Ballyogan Road, we need to be planning now for an increase in Luas capacity which will be needed not too far into the future. There is no evidence of this planning. I emphasise that the Luas service is vital to the daily life of so many.
Commuters do not want an analysis of recent Irish political history, especially not a jaundiced one, on so many occasions when the Minister is asked in this House to respond to and account for many transport concerns. With respect, all commuters care about is tomorrow and the next day and they would really appreciate knowing how reliable the service will be. As a new Deputy to this Dáil, I want the same. Commuters do not want what they perceive as evasive comments or party political distractions. I repeat it is about how reliable the service will be tomorrow and into the future, what is being done and what precise concrete assurances and detail the Minister can give commuters tonight that they can rely on the Luas to get to their job on time and home to their families in the evening on time. As it stands, the faith and confidence of commuters needs to be immediately restored as a matter of priority, and I call on Deputy Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, to deal with this.
Working, efficient, reliable public transport lines are essential to our working and functioning properly and effectively as a city. This is an essential part of reducing our carbon emissions and making Dublin a more liveable city and these issues need to be sorted out as soon as possible.
That is correct.
I welcome the motion brought forward by my colleague, Deputy Lahart.
The Minister has delivered for the people of south Dublin in the recent Transport 2040. They will have another mode of transport with the metro being extended, in addition to their Luas and DART lines and their quality bus corridors. However, in north Dublin, we are still faced with congestion, with chaos and with a lack of options for suburban sprawl on a broad scale. While house building is welcome, we are not seeing the delivery and the transport connectivity that people on the southside of this city have on a constant basis. It is surprising that a northside Taoiseach did not include that in his plan.
We are crippled by traffic congestion across the city and the Minister's hope and strategy of just wishing things will get better will not work. He needs to implement necessary changes. He is supposed to be the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, but with the gridlock we are seeing in the city, he is fast becoming the Minister for red lights because under his watch nothing is happening, nothing is moving and the city is at a standstill. Congestion in the capital is now costing the taxpayer €358 million per year and according to analysis made by his own Department that figure is set to rise to €2 billion by 2033. Since the introduction of the Luas cross-city line which my party and I welcome, bus journey times have increased by 110% and there have been extensive knock-on impacts, with bus services rerouted, cycle tracks cut off and chaos across the city. While Deputy Shane Ross was not the Minister at the time, there was no traffic plan for the delivery of the Luas and its haphazard management by the city council, the NTA and his Department. There is a lack of leadership in that regard. No one person is driving the changes in order that we see improved bus times.
Regrettably, the problems are not limited to roads and traffic congestion. A major factor contributing is the ailing and failing public transport system. There are more cars on the road, due in part to the fact that bus, train and other transport services are totally inefficient. For example, my office is contacted regularly by commuters on the Docklands-Maynooth rail line who describe the daily chaos experienced in trying to get to and from work due to overcrowding on the service. It is a sardine service on which they are packed in to a dangerous extent. I have raised this issue directly with the Minister through parliamentary questions. Train carriages are full to the brim and packed to capacity day in, day out, so much so that commuters often cannot physically board the trains. People trying to get to work or school must instead wait for the next service, whenever it comes, and it does not come with the same frequency as on the DART and the Luas. This is now a major health and safety problem. The problem is so dire that people regularly faint because of the congestion on carriages. We are not talking about rush hour at Grand Central Station in New York. People have reported fainting on services on the Docklands-Maynooth line on winter evenings in January and February. Irish Rail's Twitter account constantly deals with passenger concerns in that regard. I have printed off page after page of complaints which I can show to the Minister from disgruntled passengers who have witnessed this happening on trains. It cannot go on. People are being forced into their cars and how could anyone blame them? As the line serves the Docklands which is set to boom in the coming years as the economy grows, the problem will only get worse.
Under the 2040 plan it is promised to electrify the Maynooth line which I welcome, but in replies to parliamentary questions I have tabled to the Minister there is no set plan for when this project will be delivered for the people of Dublin West. I also point to Ballycoolin Industrial Estate in Dublin 15. It is one of the most developed and fastest growing industrial estates, employing thousands of people, yet there are no public transport services to the site. People living in Sandyford are looking for additional public transport options - I stress the word "options". In Ballycoolin, without a car, one has no option; one cannot get to work. It seems Dublin West has been forgotten. As I said, a new metro system in north Dublin is very welcome - the announcement of more Luas lines for south Dublin was surprising - but there is absolutely nothing for those living in Dublin West, except a light rail project for which we have no timeframe. Simple practical measures can and will make a big difference. There is little point in building train stations or Luas stops to serve a high volume of people spread over a large area if we do not have adequate car parking facilities adjacent to the stations. The Luas is connected to Broombridge station, for example, without car parking spaces, as the residents are very much at pains to point out to the Minister and everyone else. There are practical and sensible solutions that would result in more people using public transport and their cars being taken off the road if the Minister was to address the issue of congestion. Addressing safety matters and other issues for cyclists is also extremely important in increasing capacity across the city.
I come to the Chamber as living proof of the failures in the transport system, as someone who came into politics through public transport campaigns and who still commutes daily into the city centre from north Kildare, specifically Sallins. People often ask me whether I still commute by public transport now that I am a Member of the Dáil. I say I would love to but very often cannot do so, one of the simple reasons being I very often have commitments in the evening in other parts of the constituency. In cities such as London or Paris one might be able to get on a tram or a train, travel into the city centre, go from A to B, B to C and C and D and eventually get home, D to E, by connecting lines. Unfortunately, in my constituency and anywhere in Dublin, that is very difficult to do.
Not so long ago I repeatedly asked questions in this Chamber about public transport issues. I have received some bizarre replies. I asked questions about the industrial relations disputes at Bus Éireann and Irish Rail, to which the Taoiseach gave me a very nostalgic, self-congratulatory answer about how he had launched the Luas cross-city line with great fanfare a number of years previously. It was slightly bizarre. I am not sure whether he would take ownership of the planning fiasco that has erupted around it. The Minister told me in response to another question I had asked that he could not possibly be responsible for operational issues. I remind him that those operational issues were the ten-minute DART and the Phoenix Park tunnel - hardly, I would have thought, operational issues with which a Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport would be unfamiliar. These are the flagship projects in the greater Dublin area.
Going back to my experience, in the morning I can travel into Dublin city through the Phoenix Park tunnel, which is a fantastic facility which I use regularly. I travel from Sallins through the Phoenix Park tunnel, disembark at Pearse Station and walk around the corner. Unfortunately, in the evening I must walk, hop, skip or jump across to Heuston Station to get home because the Phoenix Park tunnel has a one-way system. It is not used at rush hour, off-peak or at weekends; therefore, it is essentially halfway there. Like the curate's egg, it is good in parts but spoiled on the whole. I am not sure whether the interconnector is included in the 2040 plan launched with great fanfare in Sligo last week.
I heard Deputy Micheál Martin talk about the DART underground project. It is the missing link in the Dublin transport system. It is what would enable us all to make the connected journeys. I was in London recently where I marvelled at the transport system in place. The Minister often criticises my party, but Fianna Fáil, when it was in Government, spent €500 million on feasibility studies of boring, drill holes and very advanced planning for the DART underground project, all of which was abandoned when the Government came to office. We are still not quite sure whether it is in or out of the current system. I recently submitted parliamentary questions about rolling stock and we have heard Deputy Jack Chambers talk about capacity on many lines such as those serving Maynooth and Sallins. According to the responses given to my parliamentary questions, we know that the Minister has not spent a single cent on rolling stock in the time he has been in office or for the past three years. We need to tackle this problem which we need to take seriously and we need to do so rapidly.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion. As the Minister is aware, there is major traffic congestion in Dublin which is having a massive negative impact on people who are trying to commute into the city on public transport or in their cars to attend work, college, etc. The current problems in the city centre have led to many others in the constituency I represent, Kildare North, with which I know the Minister is very familiar. I refer to people travelling from Celbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth, etc. Their travel times have increased by perhaps 15 to 20 minutes because of the current rerouting, whereby buses can no longer travel where they used to travel, and the negative impact this is having. There is a problem in that, on the one hand, we are advocating the use of public transport, while, on the other, it has become less attractive in recent weeks because of the issues I have highlighted. As a result, people have stopped using public transport in the hope this issue can be resolved as a matter of urgency and tjat they can then re-engage with the transport system again.
The M50 which was upgraded is at congestion point. This all leads into part of the problem. Will the Minister consider implementing the following? BusConnects is a great service. A park and ride facility could be introduced at Yunction 5 on the M4 to capture traffic from the towns of Leixlip, Celbridge and Maynooth, with a bus rapid transit service into the city. Continuous bus corridors should be introduced where they are not in place. The problems I have outlined are a negative for public transport. There is also a problem with reduced capacity and the frequency of services on train lines such as the Kildare line to Hazelhatch and Sallins and the rail line to Kilcock and Maynooth, which is compounding the problem. Perhaps the Minister might consider these measures. I have engaged with him directly and the NTA, etc., to try to deliver results to help and encourage people to continue to use public transport, deal with the extra demand and free up the city, as the Minister wishes and in line with the introduction of no-car zones. Some time ago I also mentioned the possible consideration of an outer orbital route connecting the M4 and the M7. It would reduce congestion on the M50.
According to the traffic counts done on the M50, a large volume of traffic exits and enters between those interchanges. This could be quite productive and very helpful in alleviating the congestion. These are just some measures the Minister and the Department might consider examining. They are implementable and it just needs funding to improve the service. If we look at the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann routes servicing my constituency and the greater outer Dublin area into the city, they are all at congestion and people at bus stops are being passed because the buses cannot pick them up. The Minister might say this is a result of the times we are in with low unemployment, and that is acknowledged, but now we must improve services to match it and ensure we can give the people the service and delivery they require.
I am glad to see the House taking an interest in this issue. As a councillor and then Deputy for Dublin city, I have been raising this issue for some years. As a councillor I raised this issue many times with the city manager, the city manager being the relevant authority for traffic and traffic management in the city. The Government is certainly not to blame for the situation we have now. There are three chief architects behind traffic issues in Dublin. One is the economy, the next is the Luas cross city and the third is the Dublin city manager.
Starting with the Dublin city manager, the chief executive of Dublin City Council as he is known, was the manager in 2014 when my questions first emerged about how the city was equipped to handle the Luas cross city. I was the one asking these questions, therefore I should know his position on it at the time. It is clear that when it came to traffic management, the Dublin City Council body tasked with traffic management, the traffic advisory group, has somewhat failed in its duties. This is one element of the issue. The second is the Luas cross city, and that is self-explanatory for many people traversing from south to north and north to south, and I will return to this in due course. The third issue, as Deputy O'Rourke acknowledged, is the recovering and recovered economy. There has been no question that over the past two years we have seen more and more people commuting into the city, be it by private vehicle, by train from outer suburbs, by bus from inner and outer suburbs and by light rail, as we see with the Luas issues at present. Quite simply, this is a consequence of the recovering economy, and it is fair to say the recovered economy is one of the main drivers of congestion in our city.
The question now is how we manage it from here and how we balance the competing resources of private vehicles, private service vehicle such as taxis, buses, coaches, trains and light rail systems. Make no mistake, there is an issue coming which everyone hopes will resolve itself, but it will not. This is one of deploying limited resources and making tough choices. There can be no way the workhorse of public transport, the Dublin Bus network, with more than 50 routes traversing north to south through College Green, serving the entirety of my constituency and the north side beyond it, as far as number 33 to Balbriggan in my case, should be forsaken for one line serving one narrow portion of the north side of the city. It is clear when we make considerations and choices, and when we impress upon the city manager and the NTA the need to make these choices, we need to be canny and cognisant of the number of people that use each mode of transport.
It is quite clear that transport is always an issue in times of an improving and improved economy. Deputy Róisín Shortall distributed, and continues to distribute to this day, leaflets on traffic issues. They were distributed between 2005 and 2008 and they are being distributed again today. The reason for this is that traffic, transport and the built environment are becoming the predominant issues in Dublin city. It is no longer necessarily an issue simply of jobs and employment, which was the predominant issue from 2011 to 2016. Rather it is an issue of getting to and from work and getting one's own house. In my constituency of Dublin North-West, which is also Deputy Shortall's constituency, it is a relevant consideration because, as we have spoken about previously in the House, we are dependent on one mode of public transport. It is not the case like other constituencies that we have a light rail system as a secondary backup or a DART that can get us into the city centre. We are entirely dependent on the bus. I appeal to all who are listening, be it the National Transport Authority, NTA, the Minister, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, or the city manager, that due consideration must be given to these areas and constituencies when we are considering the main artery through the city. The north-west of the city must not be forsaken in this regard.
Regardless of the solution we chose to this issue, the issue itself is certainly not one of Government creation and we have certainly put a great deal of finance and resources into the transport network. I have full confidence and full faith that the Minister and his predecessors at the Department were and are fully committed to giving the public transport network the resources it needs to undo some of the congestion we see in Dublin city at present, which is a consequence of the improved economy we are in today.
Absolutely. Last Friday saw the launch of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040, which included investment priorities for public transport over the next ten years under the national development plan. Project Ireland 2040 reinforces the Government’s commitment to tackling congestion in Dublin and all our cities, and to improving public transport services for all.
There has been criticism in the House of the Luas cross city project and the traffic issues around the College Green area. The Minister, Deputy Ross, outlined the range of measures that have been put in place to accommodate the operation of the new Luas line. The 2015 Dublin city transport study sets out measures for Dublin’s city centre to ensure the efficient functioning of transport in the city centre. The National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council are working closely with Dublin Bus, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and other key stakeholders to implement measures progressively to keep the city centre moving.
As the Minister stated, the decision on the College Green plaza proposals, inclusive of the associated traffic arrangements, is the subject of an independent process and we must await the outcome of the process. However, in the interim, the NTA, in collaboration with Dublin Bus, Dublin City Council and other key stakeholders, has proceeded to reduce bus vehicle volumes passing through the area, which allow the junctions and signals to function more effectively. Further changes have been announced today, and all of the parties continue to keep the situation under review. Changes were needed throughout the city centre to accommodate the operation of the new Luas line. Changes have been made and, if necessary, further changes will be introduced.
The Government’s national development plan launched last week includes five-year multi-annual capital envelopes for the period 2018 to 2022 for all Departments. The five-year capital envelope for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is almost €10 billion. Investment in public transport will be accelerated under the national development plan to support the development of an integrated and sustainable national public transport system in the Dublin region and across the country as a whole.
It will be a priority to reverse escalating congestion problems to secure a significant improvement in public transport services. As the Minister outlined, the BusConnects programme will be delivered across Dublin. This will include enhanced integrated ticketing systems, bus corridors, additional capacity, new bus stops and bus shelters. BusConnects can deliver network-wide benefits across the Dublin region quickly and is the appropriate scale of approach for the level of congestion we face.
There will also be investment in priority elements of the DART expansion programme, including investment in a new train fleet, new infrastructure and the electrification of existing lines. This will enable additional passenger services to be put in place much earlier using existing infrastructure with some enhancements. Over the period of the national development plan, metro link will also be developed, which will deliver a full north-south high-capacity, high-frequency, integrated rail corridor through the central spine of the metropolitan area. These major new public transport projects will provide interchange between bus and rail services, offering a more integrated public transport network across the capital.
There is also a commitment for investment in an extensive park-and-ride programme, with strategic park-and-ride facilities at rail, Luas and bus locations and continued investment in sustainable transport projects. These will include traffic management and other smarter travel projects along with new urban and cycling routes in Dublin to allow transport infrastructure to function more effectively and relieve congestion. As Deputy Rock pointed out, this is as a result of the growing economy. The Government recognises there is increasing traffic congestion across the Dublin region. The short, medium and long-term public transport investment priorities identified in Project Ireland 2040 will address congestion in the city and capacity constraints on the existing public transport network. The new national planning framework and the national development plan will deliver an efficient, integrated and sustainable public transport system across Dublin.
The public transport priorities in these two overarching policy documents include a range of measures across bus, rail, cycling, walking and traffic management that will provide viable alternatives to private car use in the city, which is what everybody desires. I, therefore, commend the counter-motion to the House and urge Members to give their support.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate and thank my colleagues on this side of the House, who have ensured that the issue of congestion is kept high on the political agenda. It is not solely a result of the Luas cross city. Certainly, it has been a major contributing factor in recent months but congestion in the capital city has been getting progressively worse over the past number of years.
Listening to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, not only this evening, but when I raised the issue on Priority Questions last week and when Deputy Lahart raised it during the Topical Issue debate, it is obvious that he simply does not grasp the severity of the congestion. The Taoiseach takes great credit for the Luas cross city, something he claimed to have spearheaded, and he relegated the Minister on the day of its opening. What Deputy Rock said about the NTA and Dublin City Council having a role to play is correct.
However, the Minister has been in situfor two years. He should have ensured adequate preparatory work was completed in advance of the opening of the Luas cross city. It is worth remembering that planning permission for this project was submitted in 2010. Even at the height of our economic crisis, the then Fianna Fáil Government laid the foundation and had the foresight to carry out the preparatory work and invest in public transport.
There were seven years to plan for this. Some €360 million was a very significant and welcome investment of taxpayers' money. It was great for the infrastructure of our capital city and has contributed to a welcome 24% increase in people using the Luas. However, not every section of society or every geographical area in Dublin and the greater Dublin area has access to the Luas.
We heard earlier about the financial impact of congestion. It runs to €350 million per annum in lost productivity, a figure which could rise to €2 billion in 2033. My colleagues have spoken of the impact on their constituents, but this has a much wider impact. Talk to my constituents in Athlone, Longford and Mullingar. It is having a detrimental effect on them. I attended a public meeting with Bus Éireann in Mullingar a number of weeks ago and we heard stories of people getting up before 6 a.m. and not getting home until after 7 p.m. That is partly a consequence of job strategies by this Government and previous Governments, where there was an over-concentration on creating jobs in the capital city.
We are robbing people of their lives. The quality of life is compromised. We are forcing people to commute, and we have a finite amount of road space. We want to get people out of private cars, but the journey times on public transport are increasing. The Minister talks about preparatory work, such as the second bus lane on the quays. It takes 40 minutes to get from Heuston Station to O'Connell Bridge. How would that encourage anyone to get out of his or her car and take the bus?
The lack of preparedness is simply appalling. This was preventable. Who is answerable for the fact that the necessary work was not done? The failures of the State are hijacking people's lives. The quality of people's lives is eroded more and more. As congestion is getting worse, not better, people are leaving their homes earlier and are arriving home later. Mothers and fathers are missing the chance to put their kids to bed, and they are not there in the mornings when the kids get up. That is morally wrong. That is the impact that congestion is having on people's lives.
Tomorrow, at my suggestion, some of the key stakeholders will appear before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Reading some of their pre-prepared opening statements, I can see they are already blaming each other. Dublin City Council blames the National Transport Authority, NTA, that is, it is up to it to reroute bus routes. Dublin City Council did not want to move in advance of An Bord Pleanála making its decision on College Green. It hoped that the decision on College Green would be made before the Luas cross city opened. Why did the council not submit the application on time? Why was it left to the eleventh hour to submit the application? It knew the opening date of the Luas cross city, and yet it left it to the eleventh hour.
The Minister spoke about the positive aspects of the Luas cross city, and they are welcome. However, he seemed to forget that not every area in Dublin is served by the Luas. He spoke about the new buses that are coming on stream. The Minister has never actually answered the following question, and will not have an opportunity today. I will submit a written question, although I know I will not get an answer. How many additional buses will be introduced? New buses are coming on stream but the majority of them are replacement buses. New buses have been ordered, but we recently learned that many of them have diesel engines. Where is the joined-up thinking?
Dublin Bus accounts for 140 million passengers a year, and a third of its bus routes go through College Green. Why were those responsible not more in tune? Why were they not better prepared for the Luas cross city? We know that 17 bus routes changed in January, and tonight we have been told that a further ten routes will change in March. Only two days ago, when Dublin Bus's opening statement was prepared, only eight routes were to be changed in March but now it is ten. This is being made up as we go along, and the Minister is saying that it is all part of a plan. That is rubbish.
The frequency of the trams, the time it takes them to get from one area to another and the time it takes for the tram to clear O'Connell Bridge were all known. Therefore, the length of time available to the buses would have been known. However, there was no preparation by the Minister, the Government or, quite frankly, many of the stakeholders.
The Minister talks about Bus Connects and last week he spoke about Ireland 2040. The Ireland 2040 plan failed to identify any key investments in rail infrastructure for the commuter towns. If we were serious about getting people off our roads and onto trains, where was the investment to show it? Yes, the Phoenix Park tunnel opened, and it is welcome, but it only operates at peak times. The Phoenix Park tunnel is evidence that when connectivity and an alternative to car use is provided, people will use it. However, we are not putting an alternative in place. There is no rail line to Navan. There are no increased services to Mullingar or Maynooth. There are no expanded park-and-ride facilities.
Earlier, my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, spoke about cycling and how it can help alleviate congestion. I must comment on the Minister's management of the cycling budget. In 2015, there was a cycling budget of almost €19 million. In 2016, when the Minister came into office, it fell to €10.5 million. In 2017, it fell to €6.9 million. That is at a time when the Minster could take policy decisions and when the number of people cycling in our capital city has doubled but he has almost halved the budget in those two years. That does not show any commitment to getting people out of their motor cars or using bikes. Why is that?
Last week, presentations were made at the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on traffic congestion in Galway. We heard from a witness who spoke about how real data can be used to make decisions. The possibility of adopting new technologies, such as Waze, was outlined. Waze was adopted in Boston.
Standardised internationally accepted metrics such as journey time should be used. AA Roadwatch reports every morning that traffic is slow or heavy. I never hear that it takes five or six minutes to get from one location to another. The technology that was introduced in Boston a number of years ago reduced congestion by 18%. Why are we not looking at that in Ireland for the here and now? Why are deliveries allowed to take place during peak hour traffic? Why can one see cars and skips parked in bus lanes when driving through Dublin city centre? Why is there no sense of free flow in the city centre?
Decisions can be taken here and now that will help those who rely on public transport. People are being robbed and their lives are being hijacked as they are forced to spend unnecessarily long periods in traffic and, frankly, the Minister does not get it.