Seanad debates

Tuesday, 15 April 2003

Adjournment Matters. - Light Rail Project.


2:30 pm

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
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My Adjournment Matter concerns recent media speculation about the Luas flyover facility at the Red Cow roundabout. It was originally proposed that a flyover for motorists to gain access to the park and ride facility on the Naas Road would be provided as part of the programme. Recent media speculation seems to suggest that the planned flyover will not now be built and that in its place there will be a filter traffic light to divert traffic across three lanes of the Naas Road into the park and ride facility.

Those who are familiar with this junction will be aware of how chaotic it is at the best of times. It is probably the busiest junction in the country. In many respects it is unfortunate that the Luas line is crossing the Naas Road and not part of a flyover. The possible decision not to provide the planned traffic flyover for the park and ride facility would make what is a bad situation much worse. I tabled this matter to inquire from the Department the exact position regarding the provision of the park and ride facility on the Naas Road.

Photo of Jim McDaidJim McDaid (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister wishes to thank Senator John Phelan for raising this important issue and for providing me an opportunity to advise the Seanad on the progress on the Luas to date and in regard to the facility at the Red Cow roundabout.

Since its establishment at the end of 2001, the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has taken over statutory responsibility from CIE for the Luas project, which involves the provision of a light rail system on lines from Tallaght to Connolly State and from Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green. The development of light rail schemes is currently undergoing a rejuvenation with the construction of a number of schemes underway in mainland Europe and in a number of UK cities. In Dublin, major progress is being made on the construction of Luas and at this stage we are confident that it will compare very favourably with the rest of the current systems.

Luas is the first light rail system to be constructed in Ireland. It is also the first major public transport infrastructure to be constructed in Dublin since the DART some 20 years ago. The Minister has no doubt that it will prove as popular and attractive to Dubliners as has the DART. It will also reintroduce the people of Dublin to a tram network that was so familiar to many generations.

The introduction of Luas alone will not solve all our congestion problems, but it is an integral part of the plans to revitalise Dublin's public transport system. Other initiatives under the national development plan such as the DTO's Platform for Change and the recently published strategic rail review have been and will continue to be put in place in our efforts to attract more people to the public transport system.

Significant progress has been made on the construction of both Luas lines. First, the depot at the Red Cow is complete and has been fitted out. Second, the 26 trams for the Tallaght line have been delivered and are being tested and commissioned at present. Third, construction of the depot at Sandyford is also complete and fitting out is taking place. Fourth, the first four 40 metre trams for the Sandyford line have been delivered and the ten remaining trams will be delivered during the coming months. Almost all the utilities and enabling works have been completed and the RPA's property acquisition programme is at an advanced stage. Over 50% of track work has been completed to date and the test tracks at the Red Cow and Sandyford are in place. Structures such as bridges are in the course of construction on the Sandyford line, in particular, and evidence of progress is to be seen right along the line.

Unfortunately, there has been some slippage in the projected completion times for Luas. The Minister has urged all the companies involved, in both the public and private sectors, to do all in their power to ensure there are no further delays in order that the earliest commencement date is achieved.

The RPA has projected commencement dates of August 2004 for the Tallaght to Connolly Station line and June 2004 for the Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green line. These dates allow for a period for trial running, testing, commissioning and staff training. The Minister has asked the agency to provide detailed monthly briefings on the timetable and the implications for the overall budget as the project progresses.

When operational, Luas will form part of an integrated public transport system for Dublin. Provision of suitable park and ride facilities is an essential feature of the success of the light rail project. Parking for approximately 2,400 cars will be provided at five locations at strategic points on both lines. A major park and ride and bus interchange facility will be provided adjacent to the Red Cow stop.

The application for the light rail order for the Tallaght to Abbey Street line envisaged that the entrance to the Red Cow park and ride facility would be from the existing road network. The matter was discussed at the public inquiry and the findings recommended that the access arrangements should be agreed between the body responsible for Luas, then CIE but now the Railway Procurement Agency, and the local authorities. Failing agreement between the bodies, the matter was to be determined by the Minister.

Subsequent to the grant of the light rail order, studies were carried out by the State agencies involved to consider options for access to the park and ride facility. Consideration was given also to the National Roads Authority plans to upgrade the M50-Naas Road junction and all the bodies involved agreed that the solution arrived at should both minimise the impact on traffic at an already busy stretch of road, as the Senator pointed out, and facilitate bus interchange as well as park and ride facility access. Without compromising these objectives, the bodies have also been examining the solution that provides best value for money.

The Minister is conscious of the need to put in place as a matter of urgency a cost-effective structure that provides easy access to cars and buses without adversely impacting on traffic in the Red Cow area. Therefore, he has appointed an independent adviser to work with the State bodies involved, the RPA, the NRA, the Dublin Transportation Office and South Dublin County Council, and to report to the Department with options for progress within a number of weeks. The Minister is confident that the proper approach will be taken to providing access to the Red Cow park and ride facility and that this will contribute to making Luas the success we all expect it to be.

Once again, I thank the Senator for raising this issue. Luas will make a positive impression on the lives of those who use it and contribute towards solving the traffic problems we are now experiencing. We are confident that the RPA and all the relevant State bodies will take all necessary steps, in conjunction with its contractors, to ensure the Luas services are up and running at the earliest possible date in 2004.

The Seanad adjourned at 7.55 p.m. until 10.30a.m. on Wednesday, 16 April 2003.