Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

National Transport Authority

3:30 pm

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue. Having had the pleasure of sitting through the earlier Topical Issue debates, I often think this portion of the week better reflects the work I do in my clinic every week and probably the work every other Deputy in this House does.

We are all committed to active travel. The Government has invested more in this area than any other Government. We are doing so to deal with climate change. Across Dublin, I see examples of how that investment is being turned into more cycle lanes and better access for people with disabilities and pedestrians. However, in one location, the interchange at the M1-R104, better known as the Oscar Traynor roundabout, we are not seeing those improvements. It is a classic tale of two local authorities and a transport authority not coming together to service the needs of a community that is divided as a result of an outdated form of roads engineering project that did not take account of cycling and walking.

Children living in Oak Park, Royal Oak, Santry Villas or any other part of Santry who attend Gaelscoil Cholmcille must effectively cross a motorway interchange to get to school. One traffic survey in 2017 found there were more than 3,000 traffic movements between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at that junction. As Members can imagine, this makes it impossible for a child on a bike. We can imagine a young mother or father taking young children to school and trying to negotiate what is effectively a motorway interchange.

I would not normally bring an issue such as this to the House but in this case, the north side of the roundabout is dealt with by Fingal County Council, the south side is dealt with by Dublin City Council, and the National Transport Authority, through Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, manages the roundabout. Nobody seems to be availing of the considerable resources the Government has put in place to ensure there is proper cycling and pedestrian facilities at this interchange. I ask the Department of Transport to take an active interest in this issue to ensure that one of the local authorities takes the lead on it and that it is supported by the TII. In all of that, we must ensure there are better facilities on the ground for the people who need them.

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy McAuliffe for raising this important issue in his constituency. I am responding to this Topical Issue on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan.

As the Deputy will be aware, the programme for Government sets out an ambitious and wide-ranging set of commitments in relation to walking and cycling, supported by an increased multi-annual budgetary allocation amounting to some €1.8 billion over the lifetime of the Government. From 2021 to 2025, we will see 20% of our total transport budget, approximately €360 million per annum, invested in Ireland's walking and cycling infrastructure to provide a safe and connected network for those who commute, walk or cycle to work or school and those who walk and cycle on our more recreation-focused greenway network.

The Minister was recently delighted to recently announce an allocation of €289 million to local authorities to fund active travel infrastructure in 2022. This funding will support approximately 1,200 projects throughout the length and breadth of the country to make walking and cycling in our villages, towns and cities safe and sustainable.

Coolock Lane junction, which the Deputy highlighted, is located at the intersection of the R104 regional road and the M50. A section of motorway previously designated as the M1 was redesignated as part of the M50. The current arrangements at this location, as the Deputy rightly highlighted, are not pedestrian- or cycle-friendly. Similar to other projects developed in the same timeframe, this junction was designed as part of a motorway, with the objective of maximising vehicular traffic movement.

As the boundary between Fingal and Dublin City Council areas runs through this junction, any proposal for development of pedestrian and cycling facilities would involve a number of parties, namely, Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland given the proximity of the Dublin Port tunnel and the national road status of the corridor. I have no doubt the Deputy has raised this matter with officials in the local authorities as well.

The National Transport Authority is fully supportive of improving the pedestrian and cycling facilities at this location and has had discussions with some of the relevant parties on the potential for such enhancements. It is a matter for one or other of the local authorities to develop proposals to address the deficiencies at this location. In such circumstances, the National Transport Authority is prepared to fund either Fingal County Council or Dublin City Council to undertake the design and planning phase for a scheme to enhance the pedestrian and cycle movement at this junction and to obtain planning consent for the proposal. That is positive news. As regards any subsequent construction, the National Transport Authority expects to be able to fully fund such implementation. However, this is subject to confirmation of the final design and can only be confirmed at that stage.

The current framework for road safety is set out in the Government's fifth road safety strategy. The Road Safety Authority has overall responsibility for overseeing implementation. On 15 December 2021, the Government and the Road Safety Authority launched Ireland's Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030, along with an associated action plan for the first phase of the strategy running from 2021-2024. The programme for Government 2020 commits to the introduction of "an ambitious road safety strategy targeting the vision zero principle" and "a new road safety strategy focused on reducing death and injuries of vulnerable road users, pedestrians, and cyclists". The new strategy meets these objectives. The strategy aims to deliver a 50% reduction in road deaths and serious injuries by 2030. The phase 1 targets are a 15% reduction in deaths in the period and a reduction of 10% in serious injuries. This will be a major step on the way to the EU vision zero target of zero deaths or serious injuries by 2050.

The strategy adopts a safe systems approach.

This is recommended as best practice by the UN, the EU and the WHO. It is a holistic approach that takes into account all factors, including allowing for the fact that even with the best systems, people will make mistakes, and so such areas as road design and emergency response need to be tailored to this reality.

I say all that in the context of the junction on Coolock Lane highlighted by Deputy McAuliffe. It is an area that fits with the type of improvement that is supported by the State agencies in conjunction with the local authorities.

3:40 pm

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is very welcome to hear the news that the National Transport Authority, NTA, is prepared to fund either Fingal County Council of Dublin City Council, subject to the details of an application. Oscar Traynor Road has been in the news for many other reasons, not least because of the new housing project that Dublin City Council will construct on the site for affordable, social and cost-rental housing involving up to 800 homes. Those homes, and additional new homes built in Santry village, put extra demand on the area. There is real frustration that the infrastructure is not keeping up with the homes are coming on stream. This roundabout is a classic example of how we can easily demonstrate how we are going to invest in infrastructure as much as in housing.

We have heard in the news about lots of controversial cycling projects. They often involve politicians being climate-brave and communities being climate-brave as well and rewarding people who are willing to take difficult decisions and compromises to tackle climate action. This roundabout does not involve us being climate-brave. This interchange involves applying a bit of logic. No one is objecting to the facilities here. I encourage the chief executives of the two local authorities involved to take up the offer outlined by the Minister of State that the NTA will fund a project of this nature and that it will have a real benefit for the residents I spoke about in Santry, in Oak Park and Royal Oak, and in the Coolock area. I thank the Minister of State. I very much appreciate his response.

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Deputy McAuliffe has an offer to bring back to the chief executives. It is on the record of the House that the offer of support is there and we need them to drive on the project now. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter and making his contribution to the discussion today. It is great to see investment in active travel starting to bear fruit.

The Government is keen to accelerate the delivery of sustainable transport modes as we come out of the majority of Covid restrictions. It is vital that we do not allow a return to gridlock as we come out of the pandemic.

Deputy McAuliffe referred to politicians needing to be climate-brave. This is a quality-of-life issue. It is about us making a modal shift. According to the Central Statistics Office, CSO, 29% of trips currently are less than 2 km, and 57% of those are made by car. Moreover, of trips up to 6 km, 79% are made by car. Local authorities and the NTA have been provided with an unprecedented increase in funding for additional staff for active travel to help deliver all the necessary infrastructure to enable more of the longer journeys to be made by walking and cycling, in particular in heavily populated urban areas such as the one highlighted by Deputy McAuliffe today.

The increase in the number of people opting to make journeys by walking or cycling during the period of Covid-19 restrictions shows the potential to make real strides in a modal shift away from fossil-fuelled vehicles and towards more sustainable modes of transport. The funding committed to in budget 2022 for investment in sustainable transport projects is proof of the Government’s commitment to active travel. I look forward to the development of active travel plans that will promote sustainable transport options for people across the country and in the area of Coolock Lane highlighted by the Deputy today.