Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
53. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the considerable overcrowding across the public transport system; and the steps he is taking to address same. [7061/19]
We are all aware that there is serious overcrowding on practically all modes of public transport. I acknowledge that Project Ireland 2040 allocates certain funding for BusConnects, metro north and other public transport projects but I ask the Minister specifically - and if he answers the question he may be able to state the time - the measures he intends to take here and now to address that chronic overcrowding.
I thank Deputy Troy. All of us are aware that increasing numbers of people are choosing to use public transport and all of us will, I am sure, welcome that fact. The Deputy is right to say that these increases can cause pressures at certain times and in certain places on the capacity of the public transport system. I hope he will acknowledge that there are short, medium and longer-term responses required to deal with those pressures.
My priority over the next few years is to increase investment in public transport infrastructure and services across the country. That is why I have provided funding to the National Transport Authority, NTA, to introduce measures such as expanding the public service obligation, PSO, bus fleets across the country; increasing and improving PSO bus services; introducing ten-minute DART services; increasing usage of the Phoenix Park tunnel for Kildare line commuters; expanding off-peak services generally across the rail network; increasing funding of the heavy rail network to steady state levels; and introducing longer trams on the newly extended Luas Green Line.
In the medium term I am providing increased funding to the NTA to continue to: expand PSO bus fleets, which will increase again this year; deliver new and improved cycling and walking infrastructure, with a number of important projects starting construction this year; complete the city centre resignalling project, which will benefit rail services; explore, and secure, medium-term solutions to capacity constraints on the rail network; and extend all trams on the Luas green line and purchase eight additional trams, which we expect to begin to arrive by quarter 4 this year.
In the longer term, I am working with my Government colleagues in delivering upon the ambition of Project Ireland 2040 and its national strategic objectives. This involves major transformative projects such as BusConnects in all the major cities, DART expansion, MetroLink, the national train control centre and the development of strategic cycling networks. Together these will have a significant and positive impact for people in using our public transport system.
I assure the Deputy that this Government is committed to achieving a modern, efficient and effective integrated public transport system across the country and the measures I have outlined above will support the shift toward sustainable transport.
If some of the commuters who were standing at a bus stop this morning as multiple buses passed them by or those who were taking the DART or commuter rail to work or to study and who were packed like sardines in a tin were listening to the Minister, they would not be overly relieved by his answer. There are reports this morning that €30 million in savings are to come from his Department in respect of the overspend on the national children's hospital project. Can the Minister confirm on the record of the Dáil that this will not have any impact on our public transport network or our roads budget? Can he also confirm when the tender for new train carriages will be issued and when we can expect delivery of new train carriages? In respect of the new buses the Minister said are coming on-stream, I understand 150 buses are to be delivered to Dublin Bus before July. How many of those buses have been delivered to date and how many will be additional and not simply replacement buses?
I thank the Deputy for his question. The issue of the cuts because of the national children's hospital overrun is something I am very happy to address. I can confirm categorically that there will not be any cuts in any projects or any roads as a result of that. It is important that the Deputy should know that. It will not have any impact on our public transport projects. The Deputy will have seen the figure of €27 million. It is the result of a decision in Northern Ireland about the A5. Said decision will mean that the project payment will not have to be made until 2020.
That is important because it means that €27 million is a saving made by my Department and it will not in any way affect a project such as a road, BusConnects or any of the projects which I know are so dear to the Deputy's heart.
That is €27 million out of €30 million in cuts to the Minister's Department as I understand it. On the A5, I have to ask why the Department had ring-fenced €27 million towards this project at a time when the Department would have been well aware that this money would not have been necessary for 2019. I am putting the Minister on notice that we will be keeping a close eye to ensure his commitment that there will be no cuts and no prioritisation of schemes, as the Government likes to describe it, going forward.
On the roll-out of additional services here and now, of the 150 busses that were due to be delivered before July 2019 to Dublin Bus, I ask again how many of those busses will be replacement busses. How many have been delivered to date?
On additional rail carriages, when will the tender be issued and when can we expect delivery of the much needed additional rail carriages? In the interim, while we are waiting on rail carriages, will the Minister look at putting in bus services to supplement the chronic overcrowding that currently exists on our rail network?
I will always urge the National Transport Authority, NTA, to look at anything which might be a solution but I am sure it is looking at it already. It regularly looks at alternative suggestions if there is overcrowding in various areas and the overcrowding which the Deputy has spoken about certainly applies sometimes to various services. Alternatives are looked at and produced when that happens. On the Luas, there are promises that there will be alternative busses if there is overcrowding or if there are delays or disruptions during the building of the MetroLink.
On the issue of the ring fencing, the money is there for the A5. It is a North-South deal as the Deputy will be fully aware and that project will go ahead as planned. It is simply a timing difference as a result of a decision which was made outside the jurisdiction and there is no threat to that project or to any other project as a result of what happened with the new national children's hospital.
On an overall timeframe for double decker busses, they have an optimal life of about 12 years and the NTA's current fleet strategy envisages a continual fleet replacement programme of about one twelfth of the fleet each year-----
I am the Acting Chairman so the Deputy will have to take that up the Ceann Comhairle or whoever else. I appreciate the Deputy's frustration but he will have to make his complaints somewhere else. I am here to chair the meeting.