Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
63. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent of proposed augmentation and investment in rail services over the next five years with particular reference to the extent that services can be tailored to meet the ongoing travel requirements of commuters, such as identifying the way in which rail services in general can meet the demands of medium to middle distance commuters from towns and villages outside the greater Dublin area, thereby alleviating road traffic congestion and reducing travel times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6718/19]
660. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for investment in the rail services over the next five years, including extensions to services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7091/19]
663. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he plans to meet or exceed expectations in relation to the extension of commuter and intercity rail services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7094/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 660 and 663 together.
Project Ireland 2040states that the priority funding objective in relation to mainline rail is the maintenance and renewal of the existing network so that it continues to provide a safe and reliable infrastructure that enables the provision of quality rail services for passengers across the country. This means ensuring steady state levels of investment in our rail infrastructure each year for the foreseeable future and requires a significant and recurring capital investment of around €200 million from the taxpayer every year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the funding I have secured under Project Ireland 2040 means that we are in a position to provide this steady state level of funding. This is significant and very welcome progress.
In addition to this significant increase in funding to support the infrastructure, we have also been increasing the funding available to support expanded services across the country through the public service obligation, PSO, subsidy. That subsidy amounts to around €140 million each year and is paid in accordance with the public services contract that Iarnród Éireann has entered into with the National Transport Authority, NTA. We have improved the funding framework which, in turn, has allowed the NTA and Iarnród Éireann to deliver an improved passenger experience. Improvements to date include the introduction of ten minute DART services, peak-time DART services operated by six or eight car train sets only, additional off-peak capacity on the Kildare, Maynooth and Northern line services, increased usage of the Phoenix Park tunnel for Kildare line services, improved journey times on a number of key intercity routes and the roll-out of the city centre re-signalling project, which will improve train movements, thereby providing improved passenger capacity across the network. These are all immediate measures but there are other medium-term and longer-term measures required and key to these is the provision of additional rail fleet. DART expansion will transform the rail fleet in the greater Dublin area in the coming years but prior to that, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann are exploring ways to secure additional fleet. The NTA has recently advertised for second-hand rail fleet, either through lease or purchase. If this process proves successful, it could provide a quick win boost to rail capacity on key commuter routes. In addition, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann are also exploring options to place an order for additional intermediate carriages for the existing rail fleet which would be of benefit to the middle-distance commuters to whom the Deputy refers in his question.
In addition to all the aforementioned, Project Ireland 2040 also provides for the construction of a new national train control centre which will greatly improve the overall management of train services across the network. I hope the Deputy will acknowledge that there are a number of short-term, medium-term and longer-term measures under way which are designed to deal with the very welcome increase in the number of passengers availing of our rail network.
Yes. I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. I ask that every effort is made to invest in our rail infrastructure to enable the greatest number of commuters to be catered for on a daily basis, particularly those in towns and villages outside the greater Dublin area. Enhanced services in both directions should result in the alleviation of road congestion.
That is our target and the basic aim of the commitments we have made for the expansion of both Luas and DART services. The increased use of the Phoenix Park tunnel for Kildare line services must be dear to Deputy Durkan's heart and we will certainly pursue that further in the years to come. We will try to meet the requirement to reduce congestion, to which many Deputies have referred this afternoon. We want to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, including the Luas, DART and mainline trains.