Wednesday, 11 June 2003
Dublin Traffic Congestion: Motion.
That Seanad Éireann recognises the severe social and economic problems caused by traffic congestion in Dublin and expresses its support for a range of measures to alleviate the problem, including
(i) the invitation of tenders as soon as possible for the construction of the first phase of a comprehensive metro system for the city,
(ii) the use of public private partnership as the most efficient and cost-effective mechanism for delivering the metro system,
(iii) the improvement of the bus service by developing more quality bus corridors and by enabling new operators to enter the market and invest in new bus fleets, and
(iv) the implementation of remedial measures to ensure that the Luas light rail line does not exacerbate traffic congestion at the Red Cow roundabout.
I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy McDaid, and hope he will find our contributions worthwhile to the debate on public transport in Dublin, as well as the resolutions we hope to offer.
In the mid-1990s we had a major debate about public transport in Dublin and came down in favour of light rail. The option of an underground metro system was rejected. Comparing the two at the time the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Lowry, said in the House: "Underground is less acceptable, less attractive, less safe, less clean and will cost more to build and operate." That was that.
At the same time a major debate was also raging in Madrid about public transport. The city had a metro system dating back to 1919 but traffic congestion was choking the life out of the Spanish capital and it was clear something had to be done. Major investment in public transport was required. The authorities again went for metro in a big way. In the intervening eight years over 110 kilometres of new lines, 75 new stations, and new interchanges with suburban rail have been built. Almost 90% of the new network is underground.
Here we are, almost a decade later, and a metro system in Dublin is back on the political agenda again. The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition agreed three years ago to build such a system but little progress has been made. The Government now has to decide whether it will give the go-ahead for the project. I strongly believe Dublin needs a metro system and do not think we will ever resolve our congestion problems until we have one. Every capital city in the European Union has an extensive metro system, with the exception of Dublin and Luxembourg. Luxembourg, a small city of less than 100,000 people, is hardly comparable to Dublin which has a population more than ten times greater, and growing. There are few who would argue against such a system for Dublin. Gone are the spurious arguments that an underground railway would not be safe for women, that houses and shops would fall into the tunnels, and that such a system is simply not affordable.
It is now widely recognised that a metro system is essential for the smooth running of our capital city. It alone offers the high-speed, high-capacity solution which works well in other major cities and which would work well in Dublin. It alone offers a real long-term solution to the transport problems of our capital city. People like Senator Norris saw the logic a decade ago. Everyone sees it now. If we accept that a metro system is needed, we must start putting in place as quickly as possible a system to develop it. Several questions have to be answered. These relate to the affordability of the project, its management and scale and design.
According to the Rail Procurement Agency, a metro link from Dublin Airport to St. Stephen's Green would cost almost €5 billion. For a rail link of just 10 kilometres, that figure seems off the scale in terms of affordability. We have never built a metro system in this country and have not built a major rail tunnel in almost 90 years. It is only natural, therefore, that we should approach the project in a cautious and conservative mood and seek to avoid underestimating costs and then running massively over budget but it is only natural, too, that in such circumstances we should seek to learn from others, above all our partners in the European Union. This is a particularly important point when it comes to a metro system.
The world leader in metro development is the regional government in Madrid where, as I said, a massive programme of metro development has just been completed. The project team is headed by Professor Manuel Melis. In an article published last month he wrote, "In Madrid we believe that any metro can be built and commissioned within 40 months at a cost of no more than €50 million per kilometre". He is coming to Dublin next week to address the Cabinet sub-committee on transport. I am sure its members will listen carefully to what he has to say. He has built more metro lines than anybody else in the world, and built them faster and cheaper than anybody else. We have a lot to learn from the Madrid experience.
It may be that costs in Dublin are higher than in Madrid. They may be 20% or 30% higher but they are certainly not ten times higher. It is vital that we look again at the costings for the Dublin project. Let us take Madrid as our benchmark and get as close as possible to its costings and timetable. Time is money in the management of major infrastructural projects. The most recent project in Madrid is Metrosur, a 41 kilometre metro system linking five satellite towns with 27 stations, all underground. The timetable is worth noting. The project was first floated during the regional elections of May 1999; planning began in September that year and the line was officially opened on 11 April 2003. It would be wonderful if we could emulate that kind of performance in Dublin.
The affordability of a metro system depends to a very large degree on how the project is managed. There are two main alternatives – conventional contract or public private partnership. Madrid has shown how such a system can be delivered quickly and efficiently by the conventional contract approach. The authorities in the city put in place a very small but very skilled and experienced team of engineers to manage their programme of metro development. They have stayed on schedule and within budget. It is fair to say they have mastered the art of metro building using the conventional contract. We could adopt such an approach in Dublin. If we do, it is imperative that we put in place the structures and personnel to ensure the overall project is delivered on time, within budget and in accordance with best practice elsewhere in Europe.
The alternative is to use the public private partnership – PPP – as the best way of delivering a Dublin metro system. Such an approach would transfer the bulk of the financial risk to the private sector, bring in substantial private funding and give the private sector a real incentive to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible. It would only make sense, however, if it enabled us to deliver the same project at a lower cost to the Exchequer than a conventional contract. The Exchequer's contribution to a metro system delivered by way of PPP should be no more than a fraction of the figures put forward by the RPA. As I stated, the costings put forward by it are not realistic and would impose a huge burden on the taxpayer for years to come.
The choice between conventional contract and PPP is a matter of efficiency, not ideology. We should pick whichever option represents best value for the taxpayer. My own view is that PPP is the best option. We do not have the structures in place to handle a project of this magnitude by conventional contract. The best way of advancing it is through the PPP route.
The scale and design of the metro project are also critical. Press reports suggest that what is envisaged is a short link from Dublin Airport to the city centre, not a line across the city. I do not think such a proposal would be right for Dublin as it would not offer a real solution to our traffic problems. There should be no half-measures. If we are to build a metro line, let us build a full line, not half a line. This means running a line straight from the airport to a destination on the south side of the city. Otherwise we would be unique in Europe in having a metro system which terminated in the city centre. It would be madness to have a metro line terminating underground at St. Stephen's Green. We would then have to return in four or five years and start the whole planning process all over again in order to complete the southern line. Surely it makes sense to save time and money by building the whole line as a single project. Piecemeal planning has made a mess of our road system. Let us not repeat the mistake with a Dublin metro system.
With regard to system design and route alignment, if we opt for PPP, we should allow as much discretion as possible to private sector bidders. If we are to going to use the PPP model, we should ensure that we secure the maximum benefits from the private sector in terms of smart design and smart routing. The metro saga has been running for a long period and decision time is approaching. We have received many reports, studies and evaluations. It is time now to decide whether we are going to proceed with this project.
The Government must address a number of major questions before it arrives at a decision on what is be biggest infrastructural investment project in the history of the State. Will it be possible to deliver the metro at an affordable price and in line with best European practice? Are the correct structures in place and do we have the right personnel to oversee the project? Will it be possible to limit the Exchequer's financial exposure and leverage the maximum level of private sector investment?
If the answer to each of these questions is yes, we should press ahead without further delay and the people of Dublin could be travelling on a metro system within five years. If the answer to any of the questions is no, we must think carefully about proceeding with the metro project. If we are confident that we have the capacity to deliver the project efficiently and effectively, we should press ahead without further delay. If not, it would be better to call a halt to the entire process.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleague, Senator Morrissey. It is obvious that Dublin needs a metro system, which would offer a fast, frequent and reliable service. Such a system is a key component of the transport infrastructure of any major modern city and, in particular, a capital city.
Dublin is a difficult city in which to run a bus service. We do not have a proper ringroad system to take through traffic out of the city and the M50 is far too congested to serve this function. This means that the streets in the city centre are constantly clogged with traffic. As a result bus speeds and reliability and public confidence in the system have declined. We tried to break out of this vicious circle by introducing quality bus corridors. The Stillorgan Road QBC has been an outstanding success. Bus speeds have improved significantly and the numbers using the service have shot up. People now leave their cars at home and use buses instead. The Stillorgan Road QBC worked because there was sufficient road space available to facilitate it. The corridor runs mainly on the hard shoulder of the dual carriageway and, apart from Donnybrook Village, it does not have a severe pinch point and has its own dedicated space along virtually the entire route.
Other QBCs have been less successful. The Tallaght and Whitehall corridors, for example, offer a poor service compared with that offered on the Stillorgan route. On these routes, the QBCs are incomplete and there are long sections without any bus lane which are often heavily congested. The investment made in the QBCs has not delivered many of the hoped for improvements in terms of shorter journey times for passengers. We must reconsider the issue of QBCs in terms of what can be done to improve existing corridors, which routes offer the best prospects for new QBCs and how we can make better use of road space by giving high-occupancy vehicles access to QBCs. We must also consider whether we can secure better value for money by opening up new QBCs to competition.
The Progressive Democrats Party is a strong advocate of competition, which could work just as well in the bus industry as in other areas. I believe in competition for the ground and not on the ground. In other words, there should be a system of route franchising by competitive tender, not a free-for-all with half a dozen operators running on the same route. It is important to get new blood into the business. The Aircoach service to the Dublin Airport has been a great success and more new operators are needed in the market. The possibility of buses using the new Luas lines as QBCs was raised recently. Street space is scarce in Dublin, which does not have the wide boulevards found in many continental cities. Street space for buses will become more scarce when the Luas lines are complete. It would be very good for bus users if buses could travel on sections of the Luas system.
Over 130 buses carrying 8,000 passengers travel along the North Quays route into the city centre per hour at peak times. Luas, running parallel to the quays, will carry about 3,000 passengers per hour along the same route. Luas will have its own dedicated track, while the buses – which carry almost three times more people – will have to battle it out with competing traffic. Sadly, it seems that buses will not have access to the Luas lines. The RPA has responded to queries from Senator Morrissey about this and he has been informed that it will not be possible to run buses on the Luas lines, which is a pity. Much road space has been taken away from motorists and given over to public transport. However, the vast majority of public transport users – those who travel on the buses – will not have access to it.
There is also the case of the Luas level crossings at the Red Cow roundabout, about which there has been much discussion and criticism in recent weeks. As often happens in Ireland, the decision was made several years before the debate really started. Approval for the Red Cow level crossings was given after an inquiry into Line A – Tallaght to Abbey Street – headed by Judge Sean O'Leary. Judge O'Leary based his findings on a report produced to the inquiry by the Dublin Transportation Office. Judge O'Leary stated:
Traffic counts carried out by the NRA in 2000 showed that up to 75,000 vehicles per day use the Red Cow roundabout. That figure is probably well over 80,000 vehicles per day by now. Next year, trams will start running across two slip roads on the roundabout at a frequency of one every 150 seconds. This surely is a recipe for chaos on a grand scale. Motorists will suffer from increased congestion, while Luas users will suffer as trams are stalled in the heavy traffic. Clearly, the two traffic streams must be separated. I urge the Minister for Transport to examine the possibility of building a bridge, which would cost approximately €20 million, to take Luas over the roundabout. If the Empire State Building could be built in 14 months, I do not understand how it could take longer to build a small bridge over the Red Cow roundabout.
The Red Cow was a problem before Luas came on the scene. All of the interchanges on the M50 were under-engineered from the start. Instead of cloverleaf junctions, we have roundabouts. The net result is gridlock and the motorway is unable to fulfil the function for which it was built, namely, to carry traffic around Dublin. Every major city in continental Europe has a motorway system around it, taking heavy traffic off its city streets. This is one of the reasons buses and trams work so successfully on other cities. We need a similar motorway system for Dublin and it is clear that the M50, as it currently stands, is not able to fulfil that role.
There are only two basic options. We can upgrade the existing M50, re-engineering the junctions and widening the road to three lanes, which would cost approximately €800 million to €900 million. The disruption caused by four years of continuous road works would be pretty horrific. The other option would be to build a new motorway further to the west of the city, an M60 so to speak. The cost would be great and the planning difficulties would be greater still. It might take a decade to get to the point where construction could start.
Neither option is easy nor cheap. However, we are going to have to face up to one or the other if we are serious about solving Dublin's traffic problems. We cannot say that we want European quality public transport, if we are not prepared to invest in European quality urban roads. Providing a proper motorway system for Dublin is going to be expensive no matter which option we take and will probably cost in the order of €1 billion. That amount is much money in anybody's book and not easy to come by.
If we adopt a sensible approach to our road development policy, we could find the money to which I refer. One of the priority projects in the national road development programme is the construction of a motorway from Dublin to Waterford. The estimated cost of this project is around €1 billion. I am in favour of people from Waterford having good access to Dublin. Good road links are essential if the city, the county and the region are to develop to their full potential. However, I question the need for a motorway. The NRA has published traffic counts for all the national primary routes. In 2002, some sections of the N9 Dublin to Waterford route were carrying as few as 6,000 vehicles per day. Back roads in County Kildare carry more traffic than that. A motorway is not justified for a road as lightly trafficked as that. If it was, virtually every national route in the country would have to be upgraded to motorway. A motorway on the N9 road would be a waste of taxpayers' money on a grand scale. That is not to say that towns should be bypassed along the route.
There is a simple and easy solution to the Waterford road problem. We have just spent a fortune upgrading the route in County Kildare near Moone and a new N9 now runs through the south of the county not very far from the existing motorway down to Castledermot. This new route runs parallel to the old route. Surely everybody realises that would be madness. An excellent road to Waterford can be provided at a fraction of the proposed cost. A standard, single carriageway route is all that is required to provide a proper, speedy and safe link to Dublin. Much of the existing link between Waterford and the Carlow border is inadequate and a new road would have to be built on an entirely new alignment but that could be done relatively quickly at a relatively modest cost. A motorway will not be open for business until well into the next decade and the timeframe for delivery of the project has been slipping all the time. The people of Waterford would much rather see work getting under way quickly on an affordable option than having to wait anything up to ten years for a motorway. Good government is all about making the best use of available resources. Building a motorway between Dublin and Waterford does not seem like good value for money or good government.
I am baffled by this motion and the latter comments of the Senator opposite. Is he in government or is he not? I raised the point this morning on the Order of Business that he had made a commitment prior to the last general election which he had failed to honour and was now calling for the project to be scrapped.
It concerned the motorway, which he has said now should not go ahead. On a point of information, I do not consider that issue is relevant to this debate, although I would be glad to debate it with the Senator at a future date. If I was to do so now, I could spend the time I have to make my contribution debating that issue alone.
I did not bother tabling an amendment to the motion because I thought there was no need to do so. Progressive Democrats Senators were so critical of the Government I could not possibly criticise it anymore. It is amazing for the Progressive Democrats who have been in government with Fianna Fáil for the past six years to frame this type of motion.
The transport system, especially in Dublin, is a mess. I will concentrate on Dublin to which the motion relates. The DTO predicted levels of traffic in Dublin in 2016, which have now been reached, 13 years ahead of schedule. Some 23 agencies are involved in traffic management in Dublin, as opposed to a single transport authority, of which Fine Gael would be in favour.
We have had the Luas debacle, the cost of which is spiralling out of control. There was the famous advertisement for Luas which indicated that the first tram was due in 2003 and every five minutes after that – how words can haunt. When the rainbow coalition Government was in office—
—Luas was to be built by 2001 at a cost of €279 million, then the cost increased to €635 million. Will the Minister of State clarify what is the final projected cost at this stage? We are being told that it will not be ready until 2004. The French put in place a similar system in Montpellier which is up and running while ours is still in the process of being constructed.
Traffic congestion in Dublin alone is costing businesses in the region of €600 million per year. The average journey time in Dublin is 57 minutes; it has increased 25% since the parties in government came to power in 1997. People are wasting their lives stuck in traffic jams when they could be spending it otherwise. The Government failed to plan ahead and distribute the fruits of the economic boom and match it with quick, effective infrastructural projects, which has left us with the disaster we have in the transport system.
The motion refers to changing the bus system, of which Fine Gael is in favour. However, we are nervous when we hear the Government talk about deregulation after the fiasco created by the former Progressive Democrats Minister of State, Bobby Molloy, with the deregulation of the taxi industry overnight, which has now resulted in one in five taxi drivers having a criminal record and people not being safe travelling by taxi. The advice given by the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip in the Dáil to women in Dublin was not to get a taxi.
She later clarified the point. This is ludicrous. Fine Gael is in favour of shaking up the bus system but only in consultation with the unions which have not been consulted. The Minister is fantastic when it comes to making announcements, although he does so without checking the position fully with all concerned, but is bad on delivering them. I hold the Department of Transport and the team of Ministers guilty in that regard.
Fine Gael would be in favour of having a bus competition immediately under an interim regulator who would offer for tender 20% of public routes and allow any private or public service provider to propose a new service specifying route and frequency. Service provision for such routes would be open for tender if such a regulator was satisfied there was sufficient demand. He or she would require bus companies in receipt of subvention to publish full route performances. We also need to establish a new traffic corps for the four Dublin local authorities and the DTA.
The motion also refers to PPPs. Two buzz terms in the Department of Finance are "PPPs" and "value for money", the latter term having been totally abused by the Government given that it would not know anything about value for money. The jury is still out regarding PPPs. It has not been proven that they will lead to faster project completion compared to traditional public procurement. Whether they can deliver value for money depends on a number of factors, including the extent to which contracts can be specified, agreed and monitored in order to achieve efficiencies that outweigh the higher cost of private capital. The PPP system in England, called the PFI, is slightly different from ours but there are also difficulties with it. The experience is that PFIs seem to be more suitable for road building than hospital building. Our experience of PPPs has been bad. In the case of the toll bridge on the M50, the private operator has gained far more than the taxpayer or the public element. It was one of the first PPP projects from which we can learn lessons.
The construction of the National Sports Campus and Aquatic Centre was a fiasco. The PPP involved has been the most controversial to date. On 7 March 2002 Waterworld (UK), part of a successful private consortium, was dormant when it signed the heads of an agreement to operate the centre. This experience raises questions about the conduct of the procurement process. One wonders how much the Government has learned from those debacles and how much it can be trusted to deliver.
With the planned Luas line at the Red Cow roundabout, perhaps the roundabout should be renamed the "mad cow roundabout". Like Senator Dardis and many other Members, I use it regularly and I am sure it will be chaotic when the line is operating. We are blessed that we start work on Tuesdays at 2.30 p.m., thereby avoiding all the heavy traffic in the morning. Given the times at which we finish, we also avoid it in the evenings.
We have not examined the issues involved. I agree with Senator Dardis regarding the idea of an overpass, the provision of which would cost only €20 million. However, we have been told that there is no money available, yet some €30 million was spent in removing a ramp at Connolly Station. It was later admitted that there was no need to remove it, even though the line is being continued to Spencer Dock. This shows the level of mismanagement of the transport system.
We have not examined the Newlands Cross scenario where a park and ride facility will need be provided. I ask the Minister of State to clarify how it is intended to address this problem. If some 80,000 vehicles use the Red Cow roundabout daily, one can only imagine the congestion when Luas trams will traverse it every few minutes.
We also need to examine the level of arbitration, a matter on which I have spoken on numerous occasions and about which Mr. Padraic White of the Rail Procurement Agency expressed grave concern lately. There was a recent case where the cost of acquiring half an acre of land in Dundrum cost €3.5 million in terms of compensation. People are allowed to overestimate the value of their land by saying they could build a hotel on it when the reality is different. They also receive a 9% levy on top of its value for investment. We must get real. In Spain, apparently, everything up to ten foot underground is owned by the State, therefore, it costs the state nothing to build underground. Perhaps we could learn from this.
It was stated in The Irish Times last year that the cost of building a metro system would be €20 million, lately we were told it would cost €40 million and at a recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport we were told by Mr. Cormac Rabbitte from a different agency that it would cost far less. There is great confusion. The Government has led by bad example and mismanaged the budgets for key infrastructural projects and the times in which they were supposed to have been delivered. It is difficult for the public to believe in it. I hope the Minister will learn from previous mistakes and begin delivering projects on time and within budget.
I am disturbed that Senator Browne has accepted defeat in terms of the ability of Fine Gael to offer some level of opposition. It is not surprising that this side of the House, as well as governing, will also have to provide a credible Opposition from within. There is a wide diversity of views, as there always would be with parties such as Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. However, there is no doubt about the ability of the two parties to work together cohesively, as we have done for the past six years and will continue to do for the next four—
—to ensure delivery in the areas to which the Senator referred.
I welcome the Minister of State and recognise that both he and the Minister, Deputy Séamus Brennan, have been present for debates in the House on many occasions. Both he and the Minister are responsible for a job of work that is fundamental to the development of the State.
Much of the motion is concerned with congestion which has real implications for the capacity of people to live a normal life. Certainly, in the east and especially in Dublin it has led to a certain level of stress for those stuck in their cars all day. That said, we should not lose sight of the origins of this congestion. It is the result of an increase in the population of cities as people have moved from the country because of the decline of agriculture.
The Tallaght strategy was useful but it was a recognition of the difficulties of Fine Gael as it brought the country almost to the verge of bankruptcy. The economic policy pursued since 1987 has caused some of the problems with congestion. It is not the fault of the Government but one of the teething problems associated with repositioning the economy and creating development.
The measures set out and clearly identified in the motion, such as Luas, the metro, the M50 and quality bus corridors, will certainly have a major impact going forward but such infrastructural projects take time. Much of the work is under way. We are aware of the problems. The construction of Luas has daily implications for congestion. We should not take the short-term approach as a number of politicians would have done at the time Luas was first envisaged. They would have taken the easy option because they were not prepared to subject the people to the current level of congestion to achieve a simpler solution. Ultimately, however, they would not have put in place the infrastructure and capacity to manage going forward.
A more fundamental and wider issue related to congestion is what we can do to address it. If we are to look towards Government policy and the concept of balanced regional development, we need to look at the national spatial strategy and its aims, the national development plan and other Government initiatives. It is incumbent on all Departments to try to give effect to these and assist in removing some of the congestion from Dublin city by locating development in the areas that need it more.
Infrastructure along the western corridor from Cork to Donegal, be it rail, improved roads like the Ennis bypass or the continued growth and development of Shannon Airport, is crucial in terms of ensuring balanced regional development. The programme of decentralisation the House discussed last week can assist in moving people out of the city who do not need to be there in the first place. The Minister has obtained some views, such as the strategic rail review, to assist in the overall alleviation of traffic congestion.
I agree fundamentally with the motion. The metro is certainly a useful and valid project going forward. We must be careful about the associated cost and need to get the fundamentals right rather than proceeding hastily just because it is needed. The cost is the major issue. We have discussed changes needed in land ownership, fixed price contracts, public private partnership, certainly a useful system going forward in terms of reducing the risk to the State, and the capacity for the design, build, finance and operate option. As there is some concern about the charges that might be levied at a later stage, we must put in place the necessary controls in this regard.
There has been considerable debate about Copenhagen and Madrid and how they managed to deal with their metro issues. I know the Minister, the Tánaiste and others have had review groups visit these sites and much consideration has been given towards identifying the differences in our legislation and constitutional issues to try to reach a point where we can do what those cities have done at a similar cost.
The bus service has certainly improved greatly in recent years, mainly through the use of quality bus corridors and the replacement of the fleet. That is welcome. I agree with the sentiment of the motion that some competition needs to be introduced into the sector. I know there are union difficulties and problems that obviously must be dealt with but I have no doubt the Minister, his team of advisers and civil servants will be well capable of this. In terms of competition in the market, the franchise approach rather than the possibility of two operators on the one route would be the best model with which to proceed. We need to be careful how we monitor the service and the pricing controls or monitoring of pricing we put in place. If something is priced out of the market, it is no longer useful in terms of what is ultimately to be achieved. In this case it is to get better service while trying to resolve the congestion issue.
I agree with the concerns about the M50 roundabout which I use regularly. There is considerable congestion on the ramp onto the Kildare road, no matter whether it is a Monday or Friday evening. I am not convinced by the argument of the Rail Procurement Agency that the timings and light sequences it has in place are enough. Only five cars can get onto the roundabout at any one time. Given the novelty factor of the Luas, drivers on the ramp will be looking at it only to discover that the lights have already gone green for three seconds, which will result in probably only two cars getting onto the roundabout. That will be a huge problem and needs to be resolved.
I do not know if it is a ministerial issue. I know the Minister has been brought in at this late stage to try to resolve an issue in which he should not be involved. It baffles me why no one within the three agencies involved, the National Roads Authority, the Dublin Transportation Office and the RPA, has been able to take a leadership role in recognising the problem. It should not be for the Minister to resolve these squabbles. It is an engineering problem.
I am disturbed by comments of the Institute of Engineers expressing concern about the delivery of the NDP and some major infrastructural projects. Obviously, they are concerned about future work for themselves. I would be more interested in seeing them do a good job with what is in place and work with it rather than looking to the future. They should resolve whatever it is they are working on. We can then look towards future projects and let the Government worry about the funding.
As somebody who lives in Dublin, I am very aware of the congestion problems. Everybody in the House who travels to Dublin is also aware of them. The current conditions are absolutely unacceptable. We have listened to the Government and its predecessor talking about the various measures to be put in place to relieve the traffic problems in Dublin, but we have seen no improvement.
The Luas project has been the subject of discussion for many years. Other countries have put similar systems in place, but we are still progressing very slowly with this project, which will ultimately do very little to relieve the traffic problems in Dublin. It is costing double what we first thought it would and may end up costing even more. In August 2002 the projected cost was €20 million; now we are talking about €40 million. It is absolutely outrageous that this system is not in place.
The trains in operation at present are totally inadequate. We are trying to encourage people to use public transport, and they do want to, but the service and the facilities on offer cannot cater for all those who wish to use them. Senator Morrissey and I represent the same area in Dublin west, so he will be aware of the problems of which I speak. The area is served by the Connolly-Maynooth train, but, with the exception of Coolmine station, there are no parking facilities available. People have to drive their cars to the train station because there is no feeder bus service. The latter is essential if we are to make adequate use of our train service. People park all over the place. It is a source of great annoyance to residents to have cars parked outside their homes all day long. I ask the Minister of State to travel on that train some morning. Like others, he will be obliged to squeeze on to the train and stand in the aisle.
It is well known that this train is overcrowded and extremely dangerous. Most mornings during the week one will find people, if not getting sick, feeling very ill at the end of that journey, which is quite short. I do not think Senator Morrisey would disagree with me on this.
We need park and ride facilities for trains and buses. We have successfully put a number of bus lanes in place throughout Dublin – although there are not enough of them – and they work very well, but in order to get more people to avail of these services, we need park and ride facilities. I have been seeing documents about park and ride for years, but there is not one such facility in Dublin. If the Government is serious about tackling the problem of the transport system in Dublin, it will put a simple park and ride system in place. I guarantee that it will be used. People will drive to the car park, leave their cars, get on the bus and arrive in town far more quickly than would be the case if they drove to their destination.
The other simple measure I would like to see put in place is the traffic corps about which we have heard. The system works well at Christmas, so why can we not have it all year round? We need a dedicated traffic corps working throughout the city because we do not want to impose further on the Garda. I do not understand why the system could not work on a year-round basis.
Another matter about which we dream – I hope it will soon become a reality – is the provision of a metro system. People in west Dublin were told that if the stadium was built at Abbotstown, a metro would be provided. That is not the way to deal with transportation. The greater Blanchardstown area, which has a population of more than 70,000 – this is expected to increase to 110,000 in the coming years – needs a metro system. Dublin needs such a system. Let us stop talking about it and get on with it. The cost is obviously of serious concern, but it would pay for itself in time.
We must tackle the problem of providing infrastructure. There are Third World countries that have the infrastructure we need here. The Minister should take on the problem, or else the city will choke. It is choking now and we are losing out economically as a result. The Dublin Chamber of Commerce has indicated that we are losing millions as a result of the time people spend stuck in traffic. I recently spoke to someone who had recently retired from Fingal County Council, of which I am a member, and asked him whether he missed it. He replied that he did not miss the three and a half hours he spent travelling every day. He was talking about three and a half hours travelling within the city. It is one thing to drive from Carlow or Longford to Dublin, but it is another to spend three and a half hours a day in one's car driving from one part of Dublin city to another.
Americans and other foreign investors who come to the city will not accept this for much longer. We want this to be an attractive city for our citizens and for those who come here to work or visit. We will lose out if we do not tackle this problem. I cannot support the motion because it is a sham. Those on the other side of the House are in Government, but that Government is not delivering.
I welcome the Minister of State and congratulate him and the Minister, Deputy Brennan, on the excellent work they are doing in the Department of Transport. I congratulate my colleague, Senator Morrisey, and his colleagues in the Progressive Democrats for putting down this motion, with which I fully agree.
As a Cavan man working in Dublin for the past year, I have been struck by the enormity of the transport problems in this city. I also see the blood pressure levels of my friends and colleagues in Leinster House rocketing through the roof every morning. They complain regularly about being late for work or being stuck in traffic. Eliminating the unacceptable level of traffic congestion is essential for effective and efficient public transport and this must be at the centre of public transport policy.
Last year, IBEC issued a report which indicates that the economy is being crippled by traffic congestion. The survey dealt with the impact of traffic congestion carried out by the employer body's transport and logistics council. Responses were received from 580 companies nationwide, employing 67,000 people, 50% of whom are located in Dublin where, not unexpectedly, the impact of congestion is particularly severe. Nationally, the survey found that 85% to 91% in Dublin blamed the demon traffic for an adverse impact on business.
Rail, in one form or another, was once Dublin's main form of public transport. Unfortunately, the last trams were scrapped half a century ago. If we scratch the surface, however, we will find that the old lines are still there. Light rail is back. The Sandyford and Tallaght Luas routes are due to open in summer 2004. There is more disruption on the way – will it be worth it? In time, Luas will change the landscape of Dublin. The first routes from Tallaght to Connolly Station and from Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green are a taste of what is to come. By 2007, the system could extend to Lucan, the Point Depot and the north city.
The great advantages of light rail are that it is electrically powered, pollution free and has its own right of way. As a result, one can predict the journey time very accurately, which is very important to transport users today. They wish to know that if they go to a Luas stop, they will get into town in 20 minutes or so. They also wish to know that the frequency will be reliable and that if the frequency is every five minutes, as is planned during peak hours, the tram will actually turn up within five minutes.
Like Paris, London and Copenhagen, which have been mentioned earlier, Dublin is to have its own metro system which, together with Luas, is being developed by the Railway Procurement Agency. In one hour of the morning rush, the metro could handle around 48,000 passengers. That is five times as many as Luas and the buses combined.
The Railway Procurement Agency is in the process of developing an integrated ticketing system. In two years' time, the present bus, train and DART tickets could be replaced by a single smart card, covering all types of public transport.
How will the system work? In one short walk from one's house, one will take, say, the metro into town, switch to the Luas, stop for a cup of coffee or a pint, switch to the bus and so on to the end of one's journey – all on one ticket. If the system takes off, Dublin should become a lot safer, cleaner and less congested. We will then have a fully integrated city, with a fully mobile population. Compact, people-friendly suburbs will be orbitally linked to one another. A newly decongested city centre will have radiating, super-efficient transport corridors. Public transport will be no more than ten minutes walk from wherever one may live in this city. This is the theory. I invite Senators to imagine this development, which will be the reality in Dublin in 2016. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats will still be in Government then.
Will the country's prosperity and the Government's commitment last another fourteen years? Yes, it will. That, in short, is the answer to the €22 billion question. By 2016, there could be 1.75 million people using Dublin's roads. With any luck, most of them will not be driving cars.
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, for coming to the House. I congratulate him and his colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Séamus Brennan, on their hard work in the Department. I thank my colleagues for bringing forward this motion, with which I fully agree.
I will be very brief. Thank God this motion has been brought forward. Thank God there is some sense, at last. I recall being practically the only person arguing precisely this case and being hammered for it – except for one good person, Senator O'Rourke. When she had responsibility as Minister for Public Enterprise, she ran with the idea and that was great. I did not realise she was coming into the Chamber as I spoke just now.
What I said is absolutely true. However, I now propose to take both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael apart on this issue. Fine Gael Senators are engaging in a continual carping exercise. They did not have the balls to put down an amendment, if the House will excuse the expression.
I withdraw that. They did not have the courage to do it but still they carp.
We are being told from the Government side of the House that the project will be delivered in 2016. That is hopeless. That is an utter waste and it is the reason it will run into hugely excessive cost. When I heard an individual from the Railway Procurement Agency being interviewed on a radio programme, I laughed. When questioned as to how long the project would take to complete, he was not sure or did not know. In reply to a further question, he said it would cost €4.8 billion. When it was pointed out that he had only accounted for €1.2 billion in construction costs and was asked the purpose of the remaining expenditure, he said it was to cover administration, insurance and contingency.
Let us adopt a realistic approach to this issue. The relevant agency in Madrid can do the job for one tenth of the cost because it knows what it is doing and does not accept this kind of nonsense. It also runs parallel contracts. A much more extensive project than the Dublin metro was completed in 18 months but we are expected to sit up and cheer because we are told the Dublin service will be delivered in 2016. Late delivery is the worst thing we can possibly have. The Government should have the project properly costed, proceed with a sense of urgency and get it completed efficiently. Without question, that can be done. I am glad the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, went to Madrid to investigate the situation there. That is a type of blueprint.
However, we do not have to rely on Madrid. There are people in Ireland perfectly capable of costing, managing and running the whole operation. I refer to people such as Cormac Rabbitte, who was initially involved with an integrated proposal and is now with another group. Those people have the necessary business expertise and information, having pioneered the whole idea. They produced the arithmetic I used in this House to demonstrate that the Luas, as Senator Wilson has said, could not move a significant number of passengers in the manner which an underground service could achieve, having regard to the variable length of carriages and the potential to increase the frequency of service.
I am glad to note the reference to the Red Cow roundabout in the motion before the House. That is already subject to traffic jams and running trams across it will make it a million times worse. The case of Abbey Street, Nassau Street and Dawson Street is similar – absolute traffic chaos will be created. However, we are stuck with it now. It is a waste of money. I hope it will be "pretty", to quote Mr. Frank McDonald of The Irish Times. I hope we will enjoy its prettiness, but it will not be practical. However, let us get on with the Luas project.
I will be very brief and I hope the Chair will be flexible. I will deal with just one point. If the same costings were used for the Dublin Airport metro tunnel as for the Dublin Port tunnel, the latter could be extended from Dublin to Belfast. That shows how unrealistic are the costings given by the Railway Procurement Agency for the Dublin metro. Let us get real. Let us involve people such as Cormac Rabbitte. Let us manage the project, using the Madrid experience. We can have a metro within two or three years. I will not wait until 2016.
In relation to the motion before the House, there should be significant investment in Dublin Bus. I note the reference to investment in a new bus fleet, but that follows a reference to enabling new operators to enter the market. I wonder what is meant by that. Investment in Dublin Bus is very important. The current policy in relation to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann seems to be to make them unviable, blame them for the problem and then seek privatisation, when the real problem is the Government's lack of investment and support for the two public bus services.
There have been many good initiatives by Dublin Bus. At a time of much trumpeting about taxi deregulation, Dublin Bus was introducing very well regarded additional Nitelink services. That is the type of development which should be supported. In my area, Dublin Bus has tried to introduce additional Cityspeed routes but this has been turned down. Recently, at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, it was stated that Bus Éireann had been asked to discontinue a very successful bus service from Cavan to facilitate a private company running a service at a much less convenient time for the public. That is just not acceptable. I am not saying that Dublin Bus is guilt-free, but most of the blame lies with the Government for any failure on the company's part to provide services.
The notion that public private partnerships are the most cost-effective mechanism is absurd. Everybody knows that PPPs are the most expensive option for the State. Sometimes there is no option but to have PPPs. However, the reason there are no other options in such cases is due to lack of investment and delay by the Government. Due to Government dithering over the Luas/metro, we will not, as Senator Wilson stated, see these services in my area of Dublin until 2015 or even later, and it is sad to boast about that.
The bottom line in public transport should not be about balancing the books for the public transport providers, but about the quality of the service for the consumer and the economic benefits achieved in terms of addressing congestion, pollution and people's quality of life when they are getting to work, etc. There is so much more the Government can do to invest in the existing infrastructure of Irish Rail. This is an aspect which has not been mentioned at all and it is important in terms of immediate measures which can be taken to improve public transport. It is important that measures such the doubling of the capacity on the Dublin-Kildare route go ahead as soon as possible and that there are more stations opened along the route in areas like where I live in Lucan.
I welcome the Minister of State and congratulate him and the Minister, Deputy Brennan, for their excellent work to date.
Ten to 15 years ago, nobody could have envisaged in their wildest dreams the dramatic increase in the number of cars on our roads today. Any car salesman or garage owner will tell one that the past number of years have been the most lucrative they have ever experienced. Everybody accepts that the traffic volume in Dublin city is a problem, but it is a one which has to be managed.
Fundamentally, the economy of this country is strong and sound and, despite the doom and gloom merchants, we should have aspirations to improve and enhance our infrastructure. We need to invest further in our transport system and the Government will continue to do so. We must continue to look to the future and factor into our planning the further expansion of our economy and, therefore, our infrastructure requirements. It is my contention that even now we should be looking at the provision of other Luas lines throughout the city and beyond. It makes economic sense to avail of the expertise that is available now as a result of the work that has been done to date and the further integration of services is essential to any attempts at improving transport in the city.
Like many other vibrant capital cities, Dublin has become congested. Much planning and investment has been put in place and we are in the middle of what are indeed massive works, which will only enhance and improve the living environment in the city. Almost 80% of the work on Luas has been completed and 99% of the removal and replacement of services and utilities has been completed. There has been disruption but it certainly was not as drastic as some commentators were predicting. No buildings have fallen into holes. If we were to listen to some of the predictions, we would never do anything.
The junction is already the busiest in the country and any improvement would be welcome. There is a new Luas bridge over the M50 already in place and there is a new slip road onto the M50 on the city side of the roundabout. These can only improve the situation. The traffic light system will determine the flow of traffic. These changes should improve the flow of traffic in this area.
For many years there have been people complaining that the Harcourt Street line was closed down. Now we are opening it up again and people are complaining.
Luas is not the only game in town. It is probably the most visible project, but there are a number of other important developments which will go a long way to improving things for everybody. For example, it is planned to increase DART capacity by up to 100% and funding is in place for most of this. Major developments such as the port tunnel and the motorways at Glen of the Downs and to Dundalk are well underway or completed.
There has been major expansion of the rail services from Dublin. Senator Terry mentioned the Maynooth line. There is an expansion plan for that line and for the Drogheda line, and 76 new rail cars are being delivered to Irish Rail. This is all progress which involves huge investment but which will pay dividends for the city and indeed for the country as a whole.
The Minister is considering the possibility of the metro to the airport. I agree with Senator Norris that the suggestion about the metro should probably have been looked at more closely in the initial stages, but the reality is that we now have Luas. We are looking at the route to the airport and in my opinion this would provide a properly integrated solution to providing a modern efficient service to the hugely increasing numbers using Dublin Airport. It is estimated that by 2015 up to 30 million passengers per year will use Dublin Airport. By using a public private partnership to implement this and with proper forward planning, there is no doubt that such a service will add to the overall improvement in the transport system for the city. As other Senators pointed out, the example of the metro in Madrid is evidence that it is possible to provide such a service at reasonable cost and within a reasonable timeframe.
When the first QBCs were introduced, there was huge scepticism. Some commentators dismissed their effectiveness out of hand, but they have been proven wrong. Dublin Bus has proven their effectiveness, with an increase of up to 40% in passenger numbers since their introduction in 1997. This Minister has committed himself to enhancing the QBC system and has called for greater co-operation between the various agencies in order to maximise the impact of these corridors and other measures. I also warmly welcome the setting up of the QBC office as a specific section in Dublin City Council.
Huge progress has been made in this area. The city has never seen investment on this scale before. With the various projects underway there is bound to be disruption and inconvenience, and that is understandable. However, we are building for our future and for that of our children. There is no doubt that as we progress we will be successful and that this city will be a better place in which to live and work. I congratulate the Minister and I also congratulate Senator Morrissey on his motion.
I have a habit of taking exception to the metropolitan focus of what is meant to be a national House of the Oireachtas. It is not only in Dublin but in every city in Ireland that severe social and economic problems are caused by traffic congestion. The greater Cork area in which I live will have a population of about 500,000 in ten years. It will have traffic problems by then which are similar to those currently experienced in Dublin. With current public policy, we will then have to take on the job of retrospectively fitting an appropriate system of public transport when it will be at its most costly to do so because those in Cork and nationally who have a say about Cork refuse to consider the idea of planning now for a 20-year timescale in terms of at least making land and other services available for future developments.
Essentially, we are building a roads service in Cork. There is no room anywhere for a light rail service. There would be great difficulty in providing QBCs in Cork without hopelessly disrupting existing traffic routes. If Dublin has learned anything about quality bus corridors it is that if they are really to make a difference they must be located on new land and should not squeeze the space available on existing roads. While it is wonderful, it is not so wonderful for the jammed up cars on the restricted road surface which was designed for perhaps one quarter of the number of cars that this city and region now has.
People should be persuaded to move from private to public transport. There is a need to provide public transport that is fast, frequent and affordable. We have the least subsidised public transport system in western Europe and expect it to meet contradictory objectives of profitability – confused with efficiency – and social and environmental service. It is easy to forget that one of the biggest arguments in favour of public transport is that per user it dramatically reduces the environmental impact.
As I agree with the motion, I did not table an amendment. I wonder where people have been for the past six years and whether they have looked at the website of the National Roads Authority. It lists six or eight major road projects which were ready to begin and where all legal, planning and other requirements had been met. The only reason they could not proceed was because there was no money available.
I do not know whether the Government believes it is the fault of the Opposition that there is no money available. As it becomes desperate, it begins to hark back to the period prior to 1997 as the cause of all its problems. At what stage do Governments stop blaming the previous regime? I suppose at this stage the British Labour Party has probably stopped or perhaps Fianna Fáil in 1973 stopped blaming the 1954 to 1957 coalition Government for the country's problems. Given the economic transformation caused by the good economic policies of the coalition Government from 1994 to 1997, from which the present Government and its predecessor benefited, it is interesting that the first Labour Party Minister for Finance in the history of the State left the economy in better shape than any other Minister for Finance ever did.
The issue is one of funding needed in Dublin and the rest of the country. In the national development plan the figure for investment in public transport in Limerick, Cork and Waterford was £50 million at a time when the best part of £10 billion was being committed to the greater Dublin area. I do not begrudge one penny of that £10 billion to the greater Dublin area but it was an illusion to imagine that £50 million divided into three cities would be anything more than the metaphorical drop in the ocean.
I do not understand – perhaps I do but politically one says one does not – how we waited so long to notice. How many billions did the 1997 to 2002 Government use on reducing an already low national debt? The Tánaiste plaintively told us we under-borrowed. The reason we under-borrowed was the Government decided – apart from outrageous tax cuts for the rich – to reduce the national debt instead of using some of the surplus funds generated by the extraordinary economic efficiency of the previous Government. It decided that cutting the national debt was more important. That is the reason we are now short of money. Eight projects in the National Roads Authority were ready to roll but cannot begin because the Government states it does not have the resources to fund them.
If we are to have a suitable transport system for this large urban area, we must recognise that it cannot be done on the basis of market forces. Nobody has produced a public transport system based exclusively on such forces. I am fully in favour of market testing to ensure value for money is available. The idea that one can run a public transport system which is profitable according to the normal measurement of profitability is nonsense. Until we overcome this ideological obstacle we will never have a proper public transport system in Dublin.
I am pleased that our companions and colleagues in the Progressive Democrats have tabled this motion which has enabled us to have a good debate on the matter. I have listened to all the contributions. In a debate such as this there must be some allowance for inaccurate statements. I welcome the Minister of State and his esteemed public servants. I know both very well. They are people of the highest integrity, as are all civil servants dealing with public transport.
I draw the attention of the House to a newspaper editorial published on Monday, 2 June 2003. The headline is, "Paying for our transport woes". It states that I pressed ahead on my own and went underground. It also states that I pressed ahead with the Red Cow roundabout and so on. I must have marvellous prowess, not alone physical prowess but also prowess in making judgments and decisions. The editorial is, in all respects, a fabrication. It will be necessary for me – I do not blame anyone – to refute the fabrication within the confines of the House.
The Irish Times, which I know I am allowed to say.
I will confine my remarks to Luas on which we had the enthusiastic backing of our colleagues in the Progressive Democrats. Their esteemed spokesperson was an adviser on transport to the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney. I do not wish to name him because that would not be fair but Members know the person to whom I am referring. When the matter went to Cabinet on 5 May 1998, there were no more enthusiastic contributors to the debate than the Tánaiste and her colleagues in the Progressive Democrats. They underpinned the programme from then on and were involved in the decision making process. They believed in the project and put forward their ideas, so much so that the adviser on transport to the Tánaiste came forward with papers and constantly came to my Department with suggestions on how he thought the matter should advance. The matter was advanced as the Progressive Democrats Party wished it to advance.
As I know the import of the editorial in question and the agenda that is being mapped out in it, I want to make it very clear that my comments in this House are completely true. All Government decisions can be examined and cleared. On 25 July 2000, there were further extensive negotiations between the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, officials from my Department and officials from her Department and an equitable and proper decision was again reached on a cross-party basis. Rather than having mysterious powers that enabled me to do all these nefarious things, the truth is that the Government made decisions with the enthusiastic backing of the Progressive Democrats. I will be able to refer to what I have said in this House when another such editorial appears.
When I departed the Department on 6 June 2002, the Luas project was on budget and on time. I wish to make it quite clear that I am not responsible for what has happened in the meantime.
I will praise the Minister, Deputy Brennan, who has made a correct decision. The editorial contains a large broadside against him too – it says that one should not hold one's breath while waiting for him to do anything. The Minister has given great energy and commitment to pushing forward the agenda for the Luas and metro projects.
I agree with what my colleagues in Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have said about building the metro. I doubt if Madrid represents the magic lamp that we can rub to make everything clear. When one examines these matters one finds that they are different from what one thought they would be. There is no doubt that the metro is needed. Prices have gone up because construction inflation is absolutely enormous, as anyone who examines the roads, the port tunnel, Luas or the metro will know. I support fully the idea of a metro for Dublin, which was put forward in the programme for Government.
I take Senator Ryan's point about the railways in various parts of the country. I do not wish to praise myself, but I had better do so because nobody else is praising me.
The quality bus corridor programme was implemented during my time in office, when between 300 and 400 new buses were purchased. New buses had not been acquired for Dublin for 20 years and those in place were belching out noxious fumes. I remember saying to the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, that I would not leave his Department until I had been given funds for new buses.
The money was provided year after year after that meeting. The traffic in Dublin will improve as part of an evolving process. The improvements which have started will be added to and implemented, but there will be pain before there is gain. There is no doubt about that because it is the way advances are made in any transport system.
It is interesting to read through the debates in these Houses when the DART system was being introduced. Senators should go to the Library to read what was said then. Woe was predicted in the 1970s by those who said that the DART would ruin the country. Similarly, we will look back one day on the opposition to the Luas and metro projects, expressed for example in an editorial in The Irish Times on Monday, 2 June 2003. Those who are wailing about what is happening at present must know that one cannot rub a magic lamp to produce a metro or a Luas system and to make everyone happy. All these things take time.
—I hope he has taken note of the very good proposal that has been put forward by my colleague, Senator Joe McHugh, for a rail link between Letterkenny and Derry. I support my colleague's campaign for this important project to be pursued. As a good and true Donegalman, I trust that the Minister of State will take his colleague's proposal on board.
Transport involves not only much movement but also much chaos. There is traffic congestion in most cities of the world, but the congestion in Dublin is reaching a crisis level. The motion put down by Senator Morrissey and his Progressive Democrats colleagues expresses a fear that the Red Cow roundabout will become a mad cow roundabout if remedial measures are not taken by the Minister for Transport.
The fact that an all-encompassing and organised system needs to be put in place to create order from chaos is what brings us here this evening to discuss Senator Morrissey's motion. The concept of order implies a totality, an overview and an effort to co-ordinate initiatives so that the traffic problem in Dublin can be addressed. The transport system allows the economy to work, for better or for worse in terms of traffic problems, and without it our economic viability would be at risk. As it stands, transport inefficiencies reduce the attractiveness of our capital city as a location for industry, commerce and tourism. More than €3 billion a year is lost to the Irish economy as a result of Government inaction and bad management of the transport infrastructure. Since last year's general election and budget, several transport infrastructure projects, such as bypasses to eliminate bottlenecks—
The international research institutes which benchmark the competitiveness of countries have recently downgraded Ireland's competitiveness ranking because of what is perceived as its poor infrastructure. Ireland dropped from fifth to tenth place in the world competitiveness ranking between 2000 and 2002, according to a World Economic Forum report earlier this year.
The traffic congestion charge in London has worked far better than expected and has reduced the volume of traffic on the streets of London by between 18 and 20%. Surely this initiative should be examined here and I hope the Government does so.
We have all learned from experience and Governments can do likewise. The Government should examine the changes that have been made in London. The statistics I have mentioned are well known and are in the public domain. Traffic is responsible for the loss of millions of hours and countless millions of euro each year as people and goods sit in traffic gridlock, particularly on the outskirts of Dublin. While it takes me an hour to travel from Longford to Lucan, it can take me two hours or more to travel from Lucan to Leinster House.
In a recent Small Firms Association survey of manufacturing, distribution, retail and services companies in Dublin, 93% of respondents stated that they were dissatisfied with the Government's handling of the traffic situation. The motion put down by Senator Morrissey this evening is a damning indictment of the Government's ability to deal with the problem of traffic chaos in and around this city. The survey points to the lack of confidence in the Government's capacity to deal with the traffic problems.
Taken in isolation, the quality bus corridors and long overdue Luas system do not go anywhere near giving commuters a viable alternative to their cars. Senator O'Rourke made the point that more people should stop using their cars but it is impossible for them to do so because there is not a proper transport system in place. The provision of a comprehensive metro system, park and ride sites, integrated tickets, proper shelters and up-to-date information on bus and train services – which must run to schedule – is imperative.
Currently, 23 Departments, Government agencies and non-govemmental organisations are involved in traffic management – or mismanagement. The continuing and escalating problem of traffic gridlock and inadequate public transport would lead one to believe this is perhaps a case of too many cooks.
Given that Dublin's commuter belt extends from Dundalk to Gorey and as far inland as Longford, Dublin is set to occupy a land area as large as Los Angeles. Where is the national spatial strategy document that promised city status for Mullingar, Tullamore and Athlone to draw traffic from the capital? Is it dead because of a shortage of funding?
The spread of development generating a significant level of car commuting is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable. Ireland is now the most car-dependent society in the world, despite insurance costs that have more than doubled in the past two years. The key elements in the efficiency of cities are: size; the speed at which people and goods are moved; the sprawl or relative location of jobs to homes. Achieving efficiency is these three categories determines the efficiency of the city's productivity and competitiveness. Dublin, unfortunately, displays signs of critical inefficiency in all three areas. If this is not rectified, it faces economic strangulation. The motion tabled by the Progressive Democrats does not go any way towards alleviating the serious traffic problems in the city. I understand the Progressive Democrats have a plan B, to use the Luas line for buses. Perhaps we will hear an elaboration on this.
I thank our colleagues in government, the Progressive Democrats, for tabling this appropriate motion. We agree entirely with them. As they are so enthusiastic about it and as I am in the Department of Transport, I hope that when the Estimates are considered, we will find them equally supportive at Cabinet in order that we can gather all the funding earmarked by Members on both sides of this House.
Senator Browne used the adjective "debacle" in regard to Luas while Senator Terry went as far as to say traffic conditions in Dublin were "absolutely unacceptable". I was in the Seanad on at least three or four previous occasions to debate various aspects of transport and I am delighted to have the opportunity to do so again this evening. However, the Opposition should stop trying to flog a dead horse. Huge gains have been made in the area of transport. Members have been elected to deal with issues other than transport. The Opposition should concentrate on something more relevant because, as I said, progress is being made on transport and it takes time for this to become manifest. Given time and the necessary funding, we will continue to make improvements.
It seems that if the Fine Gael Party was in government, Senator Terry would put all her eggs into the transport basket, perhaps leaving nothing for health, the environment or anything else. I am all for the maximum amount going on transport. It is a pity that she was not over here to persuade us, and others in the transport area, that—
—we would be able to manage this because we certainly require funding to implement our strategy which I accept will require time. The economy has been growing at an average of 8-9% per year under the combined Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Government. Granted, it has recently taken a dip.
I recently attended a Council of Ministers meeting in Athens where the Greek Minister for Transport pointed out that the number of cars in Greece had doubled since 1990 due to the strong economy. I said we had the same type of problem. The same is true of other cities throughout Europe but we are progressing. The coalition Government has a great sense of pride in regard to its achievements in the area of transport.
I have a speech which consists of innumerable pages into which I will delve from time to time. I hope one can take it as read. I made notes as the debate progressed and the areas touched on are: Dublin Bus, suburban rail, taxis, roads, the metro, Luas, public private partnerships, the Red Cow roundabout, newspapers and even an epilogue from Senator Ryan which I can only describe as revisionism and parochialism. If he wants to go down the road of revisionism and ask when Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats will stop blaming previous Governments, I remind him that during the period 1983-87 the national debt doubled from £13 billion to £26 billion. Is it any wonder that we go back and say this?
The Government has been proactive in its response to the challenge of traffic congestion in Dublin and shown its continued commitment to enhancing transport infrastructure in Dublin through unprecedented levels of investment. Under the national development plan, a wide range of initiatives have been taken to upgrade our transport infrastructure and services and reduce congestion.
Among the topics referred to by Senators was that of quality bus corridors. Nine quality bus corridors are now operational in Dublin and we plan to significantly increase this number. The Stillorgan QBC, which I have used, gets people out of private cars. Peak period passenger numbers are up by 150% which proves that if used properly, they will work. In some cases bus journey times have been cut by up to 40%.
Dublin Bus has embarked on a major fleet replacement and expansion programme. By the end of 2002, its fleet capacity had been increased by 23% compared with 1999. As a consequence, more than one third of the fleet now consists of low floor and fully accessible buses. Bus Éireann has significantly increased its capacity on all commuter routes.
With regard to suburban rail services, there has been a 50% increase in the number of DART cars since the year 2000. A further 40 cars will be delivered next year. Later this year, as Senator Brady pointed out, Irish Rail will bring into service 76 additional rail cars for operation on Dublin suburban rail services, while next year Luas will become operational. In 2005 a further 40 DART cars will be put into service.
The Dublin Transportation Office traffic management grants are funding measures such as the strategic cycle network, pedestrian routes, computerised traffic signal control systems, travel and parking information systems and the development of integrated land use and transport network plans. The number of taxis in the Dublin area has also been referred to. Taxi numbers have increased by 200%.
The motion is about congestion. I am informing the House of what is planned to counteract this, not as Senator Norris indicated by 2016 but by 2005. The provisions that will be implemented will go a long way towards easing the congestion problems in Dublin. In addition, some €1.4 billion is being spent on the infrastructure for major road projects in the Dublin city area, which includes the Dublin Port tunnel, the south-eastern motorway and the second Westlink bridge. I hope that all these projects will ease Dublin's traffic congestion.
Senator Morrissey raised the metro issue vis-à-vis public private partnerships. To my knowledge, the Government has decided that the metro project should be undertaken by a public private partnership operation. Public private partnerships represent a growing trend that has been developing in free market economies. Critically, such partnerships can allow a faster delivery of individual projects by linking the provision of an asset or service to payments, particularly in relation to complex capital projects such as these. As a number of Senators have pointed out, this is the largest single infrastructural project undertaken in the history of the State.
The RPA sometimes comes in for criticism but it has developed the first phase of the metro, centred on the line between Dublin Airport and the city centre. A preliminary public consultation has taken place on the metro and a pre-qualification exercise for potential bidders has been put in the place by the RPA. We are going about this in a professional way, having inserted a pre-qualification clause. Believe it or not, some 18 bidders were subsequently deemed to be pre-qualified for the metro project by the Railway Procurement Agency, when the Government takes that decision. There is no lack of professional people available.
In November 2002, our Department received the outline business case for phase one of the metro from the agency and, as I have said, it is the largest proposed infrastructural project in the history of the State. Additional matters will have to be taken into account, including legal aspects, planning and technical considerations based on practice elsewhere, particularly in Madrid.
I draw Senators' attention to a headline in The Sunday Business Post of 1 June 2003, which read "Revealed: full scale of looming Luas chaos". Senator Brady has pointed out that, to date, the project is 80% complete, yet here a journalist has written a front page article in a Sunday newspaper which contradicts that. The article stated, "Dublin's Luas system is set to produce traffic chaos in the capital, with at least seven new commuter blackspots at city centre junctions."
The report continues:
The Luas trams. will have priority over all other traffic . an average of 124 buses pass up and down O'Connell Street every hour. Taxis, cyclists, private motorists and even pedestrians are facing similar delays at the city centre's busiest junction. All traffic will have to give way to trams.
That is all factual. One has to show the Luas positive discrimination, otherwise it will not work. The same reporter never got in contact with our Department for a view on the issue. There seems to be an agenda in the newspapers to hammer the Luas project without asking anybody about their opinions.
We have been to Vienna, Amsterdam, Lyons and Grenoble. In all these places, light rail systems are working perfectly because they have been given priority. If the Luas is not given priority we will not succeed in what we have set out to do, which is making Dublin a place where people are able to walk freely around the city centre. If such positive discrimination is not shown to the Luas we cannot achieve that. Currently, there are buses and cars in the city centre but we are trying to get people out of their cars and on to public transport. It works in Madrid, Vienna and Amsterdam and we have taken all those issues into account. It is an insult to the intelligence of the Irish people to claim, as some newspapers have done, that we do not have people in this country who are capable of doing exactly what has been done in those foreign cities. The only two EU capitals that do not have a metro system are Luxembourg and Dublin, which has a population of 1.2 million. That leaves much to be desired.
While it is impossible to say precisely, the overall cost of the metro to the Exchequer will be largely dependent on what the private sector is prepared to put into it. Following consideration of the Railway Procurement Agency's proposals by the Department, it is intended to being proposals to Government in the coming weeks. Arguments have been made about the costings of all these projects and proposals for legislative change are also being considered. I have heard the argument made this evening that it can be done for one tenth of the cost in Madrid. Unfortunately, that is a reflection of the psyche in this country. Legislative changes, whether they are to be constitutional or otherwise, will have to be introduced to see whether we can make progress on the cost issue.
Those matters, including the EU's 24-hour working rule directive, are determining the cost of these projects and we cannot proceed with the current system. All these things have to be taken into consideration because the directive introduces a 40-hour working week. We will have to examine where flexibility can be allowed so that projects can be completed in a shorter time. We will be examining all these issues.
The quality bus corridors have been hugely successful, although I accept that some of them leave a little bit to be desired. However, when we compared the statistics for November 2002 with the previous year, the QBC network showed a 16% increase. Over the same period, there was a reduction in car traffic on the QBC routes of 7%. On the Stillorgan route, the average bus journey time was roughly half that of the average car journey.
Plans to accelerate the provision of quality bus corridors in Dublin and other urban areas around the country were recently announced. The relevant planning authorities, including the Dublin Transportation Office, Dublin City Council's director of traffic, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, have been asked to bring forward an enhanced traffic plan for the city and to engage in discussions on how to accelerate the role of the bus in Dublin. With regard to other aspects of the bus service, the Government recognises that the private sector has a key role to play in bringing about improvements in the supply and standard of public transport. In respect of bus transport, we are examining privatisation as a means of creating competition, not alone on routes but also in the quality and standards of vehicles used.
The delivery of improved public transport to passengers requires a combination of investment and organisational and structural reform. It is important that the significant investment made in recent years – which all sides have acknowledged – and continued under this Government, is supplemented by the necessary reforms to ensure services are delivered in a more effective and efficient way to customers. The Minister, Deputy Brennan, has already indicated his intention to reform CIE and to provide for the introduction of competition for the provision of bus services into the greater Dublin area initially and, at a later stage, in rural areas. Discussions have taken place with the social partners in recent months regarding the Minister's proposals and this process is continuing.
The introduction of light rail systems in a number of European cities in recent years has demonstrated, contrary to what the Sunday Business Post stated, that they have the capacity to improve the quality of urban life. Light rail achieves this by reducing congestion on the streets. As I said, one will not manage this unless one gives the system priority over other forms of transport such as private cars and buses. It contributes to a more pleasant and accessible urban environment, making the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The Minister made the point during his last contribution in the Seanad that one third of people killed on the roads are killed within the 30 mile limit. Dublin can look forward to reaping the benefits of the intensive light rail construction works under way in different parts of the city.
The trams will bring major benefits to Dublin. I am confident, as stated by Senators, that with integration with the bus network, the Luas will attract many new commuters onto public transport. It will not just facilitate transport from the suburbs to the city, it will also facilitate travel to areas important to the economy of Dublin city and county such as the Sandyford and Naas Road areas. When it is operational, the journey time from Sandyford to Dublin city centre will be approximately 20 minutes.
The 26 30 metre trams for the Luas Tallaght line have all been delivered while eight of the 14 40 metre trams for the Sandyford line have been delivered to date. The trams are being tested with a view to full commissioning for commencement of services as early as possible. Connex, operator of the Luas, is engaged in preparations towards commencement of services next year and has begun to recruit train drivers as well as setting up operations and management structures.
The two Luas lines under construction form part of the DTO strategy to 2016. The metro will not take until 2016, it is Platform for Change, the official strategy document, which extends to 2016. In this context, proposals are awaited from the RPA for extensions of the Sandyford line to Cherrywood and the Tallaght line to the Docklands area. It is very important in all major projects such as the Dublin Port tunnel to have public consultation which is already under way in these areas.
It is not because of a lack of funding. I believe in the intelligence of our engineers. I come from a medical background. The Senators come from different backgrounds.
I believe in the intelligence of the people. The Senator is ensuring he will show himself up once again because, as I pointed out, the Dublin Port tunnel caters for 99.2% of all vehicles. I would like the Senator to come back here in five years and consider what he said in this House. I doubt if he will say, "I told you so."
Let me explain the position about the Red Cow roundabout. It is not because of a lack of finance because we have €20 million to spend. The NRA has come up with €10 million and we have the extra €10 million, if necessary. We have put in place someone who has experience in this area. I believe in the intelligence of our civil servants and engineers who say the filter system at the roundabout is worth a try in the taxpayer's interest, that we should try it out rather than spend €20 million on it at this point. We will, however, build the overpass, if necessary. I would prefer to leave it to the people concerned rather than listen to quotes from unqualified people here—
They have been largely positive, with the exception of those who are ill-informed in the matter.
The site at the Red Cow roundabout will be able to accommodate up to 750 cars. The current difficulty is how to achieve agreement between all the appropriate agencies on the technical questions of entry to and exit from the site. It is not a matter of funding or anything else but of giving the system a chance. If it works, €20 million of taxpayer's money will be saved; if not, we will have the €20 million for the overpass.
I ask Members to leave the matter to the experts. Perhaps they should visit the port tunnel, see it in a three dimensional way, not look at it through abstract pages supplied by those who object to it. They should look at it for themselves, put their hands on it, feel the three dimensional aspect and the whole area and then come back and have a relevant debate in the Seanad.
Senator Dardis referred to the Waterford road. I am not specifically familiar with it but will ask my officials to raise the issue. Current projects include the upgrade of the M1 between Dublin Airport and Balbriggan and the M50 south eastern motorway which are due for completion. The Dublin Port tunnel is due for completion by 2005. The Glen of the Downs project on the N11 is also due for completion. The Westlink Bridge on the M50 will open in August this year. In addition, planning and design of the upgrade of the N2 between Kill and Naas are at a very advanced stage. There are many other initiatives into which I will not go.
Another matter referred to on radio recently was the setting up of a traffic corps on which the Minister and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, are working. There seems to be an argument about enforcement. I was on a radio programme recently when someone said one had a one in 1,500 chance of being caught on the roads. I want to state the facts which back up what the Garda has been doing. In 1999 the number of speeding offences was 130,000. In 2002 the number of prosecutions brought by the enforcement agencies for speeding offences had increased to 350,000. A further 100,000 prosecutions could be added for drink driving, driving without insurance and other offences. More than 450,000 offences have been detected.
There are in the region of 1.2 million cars on our roads. A recent report stated there was a one in 1,500 chance of being caught for a driving offence. Given that more than 400,000 detections were made in 2002 by the enforcement agencies and that there are 1.2 million cars on the roads, there is a one in four chance of being detected if there is a fault with an individual or a mechanical component. Naturally, we all want to have a dedicated traffic corps. However, I pay tribute to the enforcement agencies because there is a one in four chance of being detected if one has taken drugs, drink or there is a fault with the vehicle.
I thank the Minister of State for his summary of the debate.
In tabling this motion, the Progressive Democrats sought to have the Minister of State come before the House to put on record the route it is intended to take in respect of transport. We are endeavouring to adopt European models of best practise and value for money. We know that traffic congestion is costing us money. We also know that investment will be required and we need to select our options.
In the case of the metro, we favoured the PPP model. I am delighted with the very positive progress report the Minister of State provided. He certainly has a supporter in the Progressive Democrats Party in terms of the way the metro issue is being addressed.
I ask the Minister of State to look at the quality bus corridors. I know that there will be a roll-out of additional QBCs in the future and, in that regard, we should adopt the Stillorgan route as our model, particularly in light of the difficulties experienced on other routes. Before we extend the system further, we must remove the glitches from it.
With regard to putting 20% of Dublin Bus services out to franchise, Members on this side of the House are not talking about dismantling Dublin Bus; we are concerned with competition and value. During the past four years, Dublin Bus increased the service on the No. 37 route from ten to 18 buses but, because of infrastructural problems, it is still carrying the same number of people. The time spent making journeys on that route has increased from 50 to 70 minutes. On one hand, there is a fantastic system, such as that which operates on the Stillorgan QBC, in place but there are hold-ups on other routes. These problems should be addressed in conjunction with local authorities in order that we can achieve what was envisaged with the existing QBCs.
My party supports the proposed break-up of CIE and the concept of competition. We thank our partners in Government for the way they have dealt with this debate and for the contributions they made to it. We are anxious to see a Dublin metro system introduced because we believe Luas may not do everything that it was intended to do. It will only be one piece of the entire jigsaw.
We want Dublin Bus to perform; we do not want to see it dismantled. One way in which it can perform is by the roll-out of proper QBCs. To have proper route evaluation and performance criteria, we need competition in the system. I ask that we progress along that route and I do not foresee any major problems. We have seen what competition has done in the area of air transport and such competition should be encouraged in respect of ground transport. I thank the Minister of State and I look forward to his returning to the House to provide a further progress report.
Question put and agreed to.