Thursday, 1 December 2005
Transport Policy: Statements.
This is the first substantive debate by either House concerning Transport 21 and it is entirely appropriate that it should take place in Seanad Éireann, many of whose Members have taken an active interest in national transport issues during the past decade in particular. No one will know that better than the distinguished Leader of the House and former Minister with responsibility in this area.
I will begin by recalling that the decision taken in last year's budget to implement an extended ten-year capital envelope for transport investment was the starting point for the preparation of Transport 21. That important decision was a recognition of the reality of the long timeframes involved in planning, designing and completing large transport infrastructure programmes. The period between budget 2005 and the announcement of Transport 21 in Dublin Castle on 1 November was used by my Department to develop what is without doubt the most detailed and comprehensive transport plan ever devised here. However, the reality is that the roots of Transport 21 extend back to June 2002 and the far-sighted decision by this Government to establish, for the first time in the history of the State, a single Department with responsibility for national roads, aviation and public transport. The clear, and clearly stated, reason for doing so at that time was to further the development of an integrated transport system nationally.
The specific mandate given to the Department of Transport by Government was to implement an integrated transport policy designed as far as possible to overcome existing delays, bottlenecks and congestion and to provide the consumer with greater choice by offering alternative modes of transport. In addition, through the integrated approach the Department was expected to develop and implement policies designed to improve regional balance and reduce rural isolation and social exclusion. Since 2002 the Department has undertaken substantial work on integration in consultation with other Departments and State agencies. This work takes account of Government policy documents, particularly the national spatial strategy and the regional planning guidelines. The result is a set of guiding principles for integrated transport policy which is published in the Department of Transport's current statement of strategy. These principles provided an important policy backdrop for the preparation of the integrated investment strategy contained in Transport 21.
In addition, in preparing Transport 21 my Department took account of the work already done on investment priorities under the existing capital envelope to the end of 2009 and of the various strategic studies already completed by my Department and its agencies, including A Platform for Change, the strategic rail review and the national road needs study. The Department also engaged with Córas Iompair Éireann, the Railway Procurement Agency, the National Roads Authority, the Dublin Transportation Office, relevant Departments and local authorities in order to identify the broad direction and priorities of the investment framework. The result of all this detailed and painstaking work is a transport investment strategy that for the first time allocates funding for a ten-year period to develop an integrated transport network that substantially enhances connectivity and provides for the development of an integrated transport network in the greater Dublin area.
All Members will be familiar with the details of the projects at this stage and, therefore, I will not waste their time by restating them. However, the main elements of Transport 21 can be summarised as follows: completion of the major interurban motorways by 2010 and the commencement of the substantial development of the remainder of the national primary road network; transformation of the transport system in the greater Dublin area, with a particular focus of the public transport network; completion of the renewal of the national rail network, with a major focus on the provision of enhanced services; and upgrading of the public transport provincial cities and in the regions.
While some of the reaction to Transport 21 has naturally and understandably focused on whether enough is being done for particular counties or towns, it is important that everyone considers not only the individual elements of Transport 21 but the manner in which those individual elements are integrated in order to provide a highly efficient national transport network that maximises the benefit of the investment for the population at large. This bigger picture is a key aspect of Transport 21 that should not be overlooked.
At this point it is relevant to point out that Transport 21 has been specifically developed with a view to supporting the Government's National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020, which seeks to promote more balanced regional development. This was an important issue for me in the preparation of Transport 21 as I was also responsible for bringing the national spatial strategy to fruition during my time as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am satisfied that, when taken together, Transport 21 and the national spatial strategy clearly demonstrate the joined-up thinking of the Government in the areas of transportation and spatial planning. These Government initiatives will contribute to sustainable development in all its dimensions — economic, social and environmental.
I now turn to the important issues of costs and value for money. The first point that needs to be made is that Transport 21 is a fully costed programme. The €34.4 billion cost is based on the aggregate costs of the constituent projects and these are in turn primarily based on costs provided by the transport agencies. The agencies have confirmed that the costs and underlying assumptions are as rigorous as possible taking account of the various stages of development, design and implementation of the projects. A greater degree of certainty can be attached to those projects that are already at an advanced stage of development. The difficulty in making accurate assumptions on final outtum costs for later projects has been addressed by providing contingency within individual projects where appropriate.
On this basis I am satisfied that the total funding of €34.4 billion is sufficient for the full implementation of Transport 21. There has been some criticism on the basis that the costs of the individual projects in Transport 21 are not known. However, I have indicated that I do not consider it prudent to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement processes for the individual projects are completed. In addition, some elements of Transport 21, such as traffic management, have global financial provisions rather than individual project allocations.
In recent times the majority of transport projects have been coming in on budget, with many ahead of schedule. For example, 20 of the 23 national road projects currently in construction are within budget. This augurs well for the successful implementation of Transport 21. Nevertheless, significant safeguards will be implemented to ensure that Transport 21 is delivered within budget. In the first instance projects within Transport 21 will be subject to normal statutory procedures, where required; capital appraisal in line with the Department of Finance guidelines; and the value for money initiatives recently announced by the Minister for Finance.
My Department will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of Transport 21 by the various transport agencies and local authorities. A monitoring group is being established which will be chaired by my Department. The group will include representatives of the Departments of the Taoiseach, Finance and other relevant Departments and State agencies. It will be responsible for the high-level monitoring of Transport 21 and reporting annually to Government on issues such as financial and physical progress.
Transport 21 addresses the important issue of the capital investment framework for transport for the next ten years. However, capital investment is only one element, albeit a critical one, in the delivery of an integrated transport system. At the launch of Transport 21 I said I was convinced, and still am, that we also need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, delivered through a single authority, with real powers to ensure joined up thinking and delivery across all the transport modes.
A high-level four-member team, chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony and reporting directly to me, has since been appointed and charged with finalising a structure for the new transport authority, detailing its remit and responsibilities as well as identifying the human resources which are critical to the success of the body taking into account best practice and best experience internationally. The new authority will have responsibility for transport in the greater Dublin area. I have not set any restrictions or limitations on the team in relation to any considerations it may have regarding the role of the new authority vis-À-vis the future role of other transport bodies in the greater Dublin area.
The team has already commenced its work and I look forward to receiving its report at an early stage. I intend to bring proposals to the Government for decision as soon as I have considered the report of the team. The establishment of the Dublin transport authority will be another crucial step in ensuring the full and timely delivery of Transport 21.
Delivery is a critical aspect of Transport 21. In this regard we have set out clearly the completion dates of key projects and my primary focus is on ensuring that those completion deadlines are fully met. On the basis of the preparatory work that has been undertaken, I am satisfied that the completion dates are both realistic and achievable. It is the responsibility of the relevant implementing agencies to identify the project milestones necessary to achieve these completion deadlines. The structures that I am putting in place — the new transport authority for Dublin and the high-level monitoring group — will assist in ensuring that projects are delivered in the published timeframes.
During recent times we have seen the beginning of a new transport dawn with high quality roads being opened and enhanced public transport services, such as Luas, coming on stream providing more comfortable, efficient and safer services.
Before coming to the House today, I looked at my diary entries for the past few months and they made interesting reading. Last month, a new bypass was opened around Loughrea, a consultation was launched on route options for the Luas cross-city link, the business case for increasing the capacity of the Tallaght Luas line by 40% was approved, a fully accessible bus service was launched on the 20B route in Dublin, the statutory process for the extension of the Sandyford Luas line to Cherrywood was commenced and the Kinsalebeg road project on the Cork-Waterford border was commenced.
New rail services are also being introduced by Irish Rail. From 11 December next, new and increased commuter rail services will be introduced on the Maynooth and Drogheda lines, Cork-Cobh and Cork-Mallow lines and the Athlone-Dublin commuter route. Mainline rail services are also being upgraded with additional services on the Sligo-Dublin, Cork-Dublin and Tralee-Dublin lines. Improved Sunday services are also being introduced on a number of lines, including the Galway-Dublin and Limerick-Dublin lines. Fleets will also be modernised on a number of services and 30 and 40 year old carriages will be replaced with modern railcars. In the weeks leading up to the launch of Transport 21, the Dundalk western bypass and theWaterford outer ring road were opened, new eight-car DART services were launched and the Arklow to Gorey bypass was commenced.
This is an amazing amount of progress in a few short weeks and does not include the many other road and public transport projects that are also in construction across the country. Transport 21 will not only maintain this level of activity but accelerate the pace of commencements and the pace of delivery.
There has been no shortage of public debate over the past few months and years about the future direction of transport investment policy. This debate has been informed by numerous studies, including the strategic studies mentioned earlier and other studies, such as the one on the western rail corridor. Much informed debate has also taken place in this House and the Dáil. I have listened carefully and with interest to the views of Senators and Deputies in these debates.
I took account of all these inputs in developing Transport 21. The Government has now decided the future direction of transport investment for the next ten years. My focus and that of the Government is on implementation and delivery, rather than on further debate. I took the proposal for the railway order for the extension of the Luas from Connolly Station to the Point Theatre this morning. This project is a very important aspect of the development of the Luas, given the number of people who work and live in this area, and will be another significant addition. There has been good progress on the western rail corridor and we hope to make further progress in 2006. It is important that all parts of the country believe that the provision of major projects is an inclusive process and I am committed to delivering this on behalf of the Government.
The implementation of Transport 21 will give Ireland a first-class transport system that will connect all regions to each other and to our main seaports and airports, and will provide greatly enhanced public transport alternatives to the private car in cities. From 1 January 2006, major commercial ports and related safety issues will come under the aegis of the Department of Transport as a result of negotiations between myself, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resource, the Taoiseach and the Government. This area had previously been a missing link with regard to the cohesiveness of the overall delivery of transport services, given that road, rail and air transport are the responsibility of the Department of Transport and the key role played by our major ports in economic competitiveness and growth and job creation. This move demonstrates that the Government can think on cross-departmental lines and make significant decisions to ensure its policies deliver. Fianna Fáil Governments have always attempted to do this in a cohesive way that delivers for the Irish people.
We aim to improve the quality of life of people in Ireland and create economic regions throughout the country to allow people to live and work in different regions rather than being forced to come to Dublin. This will improve considerably the quality of life of both adults and children and the ability of people to progress smoothly and easily through the education system and own houses. It is about looking into the regions, rather than Dublin, for solutions, which is very significant.
The considerable investment in Dublin is not simply for the benefit of the people living there. Every country must have a thriving capital city which leads economic activity and remains competitive. If Dublin does not maintain this focus and position, the rest of the country will suffer. The investment in Dublin benefits everyone in the country, not merely in transport terms, and we must focus on maintaining the city's position as the country's key successful economic driver, as all capital cities are in successful countries. I am delighted that the Seanad organised this debate, in which I was pleased to participate.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I was unaware that the other House had not debated Transport 21 in full so it is important that we have a worthwhile and informed debate on the matter. I take on board the Minister's comments about the breadth and aims of this plan. In his concluding remarks, the Minister stated that a new transport dawn has recently come about with the opening of high-quality roads and the introduction of enhanced public transport services, such as Luas. This is true but, simultaneously, we have never before experienced so many problems with transport as more motorists face queues and more of our constituents complain about road problems. We are a long way from having the road, rail and general transport infrastructure that we need.
It is fair to say, whether one is a Government or an Opposition Senator, that the State did not require considerable transport planning up to 1980 because its level of economic growth was so slow. The country has experienced record economic growth over the past 15 to 20 years and while it is good news for every Irish citizen, it is accompanied by problems, one of the most visible of which concerns transport. We are now playing catch-up with regard to developing a transport infrastructure.
The only transport policy decision ever taken in this State until recently was the decision to shut down the railway system. This decision affected places like west Clare, about which the Minister and the Leas-Chathaoirleach are aware, and west Cork. Substitute services were to have been put in place following this decision. It is ironic that shutting down rail services to rural Ireland was probably the only major transport decision made in the past 50 years.
Letters praising and criticising Transport 21 were written to newspapers in the aftermath of the publication of the plan a few weeks ago. A short letter from an individual who is now based in Dublin told of how, as a young man living in west Cork, he could travel to Skibbereen at10 a.m., get the train to Cork and another train to Dublin, take a tram to the desired address in Dublin and eat his tea there at 4 p.m. It would be impossible for him to do so today due to transport problems.
If this plan was implemented, it would be welcomed and worthwhile. We could have a debate about the philosophy behind investing in roads rather than rail. I am happy to see proposals for the investment of significant moneys in our road network but insufficient attention is being paid to the rail network. Even if the proposals contained in Transport 21 are implemented, the rail system must be returned to the core of public transport. Córas Iompair Éireann recently decided to practically exit the freight section of the haulage business, a disappointing decision which has increased pressure on our road network. The Minister should insist on increased funding for the rail network.
Transport 21 is a shiny new plan which is possibly a breath of fresh air but the Government is tarnished, rather than bright and shiny, after almost a decade in office. The public is concerned this plan will not be implemented. When plans are brought forward, every party and politician has credibility problems in that the public does not believe they will be implemented. When the Minister and his colleagues state what will happen in regard to Transport 21, the fact there was a health strategy to wipe out waiting lists which did not happen, a spatial strategy, to which the Minister referred earlier, and which is not being implemented, a decentralisation plan which is not being implemented and numerous other plans, all of which were laudable, well put together and welcome, will be thrown back at them not only by us but by the people. It is an issue we must address politically, namely, how we fail so miserably to act on policies produced.
If, as the Minister said, this plan is implemented on time, it would be a major step forward for the further economic and social growth of this country. Our fear must be that it will not be implemented. I am sure when this plan was launched my colleagues opposite expected the public not only to respond warmly and to welcome it but to give them a political clap on the back. However, that did not happen. The reason the media, commentators and the public were so cynical is that, unfortunately, over the past five or six years, there have been many Government plans which have not worked out as envisaged. The challenge facing those opposite in the remaining 12 or 18 months of this Government, and all of us politically, is to ensure that when we put such plans on paper, we implement them. It is a significant task and I wish the Minister well in that regard. However, the Government's promises to date in regard to health, education and the 2,000 extra gardaí, which were much less expensive and less complicated than this plan, have not been kept.
The Minister is putting in place a monitoring group and an authority for Dublin appears to be up and running. I wish it well. However, I have the gravest doubts about this plan sticking to the timetable and being implemented as stated by the Minister because the record to date would suggest it is a little like pie in the sky.
Much of what is contained in the plan, including the maps, graphs and charts, and much of what the Minister said has been announced previously. The metro to Dublin Airport was announced in the programme for Government. The Luas extensions were apparently unveiled in 2001. According to the national development plan, the interurban motorways were to be completed by 2006. The rail interconnector was included in the 2001 Platform for Change. The suburban rail proposals, which were debated today, were announced as part of the Irish Rail programme of capital investment and funding for 2003 to 2008. This plan is not as shiny and new as would appear. Unfortunately, those proposals which have been included in it, and which were announced previously, are not up and running, as planned.
We must accept there will be little stumbling blocks along the way but the planning and infrastructural systems need to be upgraded and re-examined. Even accounting for those delays, the political will does not appear to have existed over the past five or six years. Money has not been the cause of the problem since it has been available. It appears we are not able to sort out the timeframe.
At the launch of Transport 21, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, also spoke. The media reported that he took charge of the presentation and made it abundantly clear that as far as he was concerned, the plan was very much in his hands and that he would look extremely closely at the value for money issue, which is important. We have seen the waste of public money, which has been debated in this House and elsewhere in recent months. This plan will cost over €30 billion, so we must ensure the various parts are implemented at the suggested costs because it is not the Government's money but that of taxpayers. The Minister for Finance said the principle of value for money for every euro of taxpayers' money spent is paramount, with which I agree. It is important taxpayers get value for money.
For the first time in the history of the State, a Government has had considerable resources to spend, yet the record of spending shows there has been much waste. We cannot afford to waste anymore money and we must ensure this plan is implemented at the suggested costs.
I would like to see all of this plan implemented. What is proposed in respect of the Atlantic corridor from Letterkenny to Limerick to Cork to Waterford is a laudable project but no start-up date has been provided. There are no indications as to how much of that network will be motorway or the new two-by-one system being developed in parts of the country and on which I would like some information.
I would like to be slightly parochial for a moment. Although over €30 billion is being made available for this plan, I was very disappointed that two of the very important trunk roads in the north Cork area — the Mallow to Mitchelstown road, which is in appalling condition for a national secondary road and which carries thousands of vehicles each day, and the Mallow to Fermoy road, which is a very important tourist route from Rosslare to Killarney — were not earmarked for particular attention. The Atlantic corridor and other key national primary routes were included but it was disappointing those two roads were not included. I am sure other roads throughout the country were not included but I know those two roads well and was disappointed specific investment was not set aside for them. They are important from a tourism perspective not only for the north Cork region but also for County Kerry, the Blackwater Valley and further westwards. Perhaps that issue might be brought to the Minister's attention.
The extra money being allocated is impressive, as is the figure of 175 million extra public transport users, including the additional bus and Luas passengers, and the extra trains on the Cork to Dublin, Dublin to Galway and Dublin to Limerick routes, etc., which we must welcome. However, I go back to my central point of the ability of the Government to deliver on these proposals. That is what the debate must be about. Nobody could object to implementing any of the proposals. We need them all and perhaps more, particularly from the perspective of railway investment. The political challenge the Government faces will be to get the work done on time. That will become an issue on which the Government's lack of credibility over the past two or three years will cause difficulty. It is the reason the launch of the plan was not met with a fanfare of trumpets by the public. It does not believe the Government's promises that the work will be done on time. I stress there must be detailed planning and regular debates at Oireachtas level to assess progress and identify what delays have occurred and what must be dealt with. There must also be dialogue between all the partners.
In two to four years' time, we do not want a new Minister in a new Government re-announcing the plan. We want to see it implemented, or at least for a start to be made. That is a big challenge for everybody because in this new Ireland with its strong economy, we need road, rail and other infrastructural improvements which this plan suggests will be implemented. We must ensure they are implemented but I have the most profound doubts about the ability of the Government to deliver its plan because sadly, its record to date on major projects across a broad spectrum is one of delay, waste of money and failure. I hope this plan will not join that unenviable list.
I, too, welcome the Minister of State to the House to listen to this important debate. Based on her experience of politics in County Clare she will not hear anything new about the transport issues there. I recognise the tremendous work of the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, and the Acting Chairman, Senator Daly, in terms of the many major infrastructural projects they have been successful in achieving for County Clare.
This is a welcome opportunity to discuss the Government's transport initiative. It is a very imaginative plan. As Senator Bradford said, it is not surprising that some people may not yet have recognised its potential benefits because the plan is spread over ten years. Everybody is looking for where his or her piece of infrastructure fits in within that ten-year timeframe. As a nation, we are very good at demanding things but when we have got them we forget about them. We are also very slow to accept that things take time. It can take a year or two years for projects to even get off the ground.
The Ennis bypass was on the agenda for a particular date but there was an expectation in some quarters that it would be brought forward by a year because an election was due. The Government stood by its original commitment and did not bring the project forward. The original timeframe was followed by the Government which did not try to buy the election yet people tried to make political capital out of it. I am delighted the approach of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government has been to map out a future for the infrastructural development of the country rather than decide, as was the practice of all Governments in the past, to hold back on projects, announce them in advance of a local or general election and buy favour with voters. I am glad that day is gone. I hope the Opposition recognises this too. I am sure Senator Bradford does so.
By mapping out a ten-year plan the Government did not set out to bring the electorate onside. The Government has made a clear statement about infrastructure so as to ensure the continuation of economic development and growth. Identifying individual projects is not what it is about. For instance, a plan to extend the Luas line to Sandyford is no guarantee that the people of the area would necessarily vote for the Government at the next election. What is important is to ensure that at the next election, and in successive elections, people in Sandyford and beyond have jobs that require them to use the Luas or other public transport and that there is a need for infrastructure such as an interurban route between Dublin and Waterford, Limerick, Galway or wherever else. Infrastructure must be in place to deal with the transport of goods and passengers. We must create an environment in which there is job creation and an infrastructure that allows people to go about their business.
We must move away from the approach of putting a road through somebody's back yard just to keep him or her happy. The Government has moved away from this approach and I hope the Opposition will follow in this regard. It really is about taking a strategic approach. We have heard all the buzz words. The approach must be connected and co-ordinated to produce a strategic plan that involves all the different elements of transport. I am delighted to hear the Minister has announced the Department of Transport will take responsibility for ports because they are an integral part of the transport infrastructure for the movement of goods in and out of the country. We export the vast majority of what we produce. The shipping industry is in difficulty at the moment and that will impact on the economy. For some time the Government strategy has been about joining up all the disparate elements under the remit of the Department of Transport.
The Government has come forward with a carefully thought out plan that has the capacity to continue the current level of economic growth. This plan will create a comprehensive transport infrastructure that will facilitate the continued economic growth that is necessary to sustain our present strength. The vast majority of people in this country want to work but we must also recognise there are people caught in the middle. We are now at a point where we are dependent on migrant workers — which is also the subject of debate — to help us in the growth of our economy and we must continue with that approach. It is vital that this policy works.
In developing a strong economy and infrastructure we must address the deficiencies in that regard. In many respects we have outgrown our infrastructure. Those of us who travel on the N7 on a weekly basis see the difficulties between Naas and Dublin. We regularly have discussions in the Seanad about the West Link toll bridge. These problems have come about because there was no strategic plan setting out a ten-year framework based on the best statistics available in terms of projected growth, etc. We now find ourselves playing catch-up. The approach in the past was piecemeal. Things were done on a project-by-project basis.
Senator Bradford appears to think we are an exceptionally wealthy nation. People think there is money for just about everything. We cannot be critical of the approach taken in the past because if we go back to 1997 or further there was not enough money to be able to make commitments on a ten-year basis. A peak and trough approach was evident in the growth of the economy. No Minister for Finance could be certain that the necessary resources would be there or that one could commit to such resources to develop a ten-year envelope. The approach was to take things on a project-by-project, year-on-year basis. The squeaky wheel was the first to get the oil. The result was a situation where one did not have a controlled approach to development. We can now see difficulties with that approach. This plan must work and any difficulties that may arise must be addressed.
Senator Bradford referred to some of the other policy platforms proposed by the Government. I am not sure they have failed to the extent he suggested. A strategic approach has been taken to the resolution of difficulties within the health service. Most people would accept there have been significant improvements in the health service in the past ten years. I accept there are difficulties in accident and emergency services and elderly care units but some fantastic facilities have been put in place and a greater number of procedures are being carried out on a daily basis. More people are now having a positive experience in a hospital environment. The Acting Chairman and the Minister of State will be aware of that fact. We must give credit where it is due.
I accept problems will be encountered. If the publication of a ten-year strategy could resolve issues in every Department, there would not be a need for Government because one could set out the strategy and hope that it would work. That is not the way things work. It is important to set out this strategy but it is also important to recognise there will be difficulties along the way. We must grapple with the strategic infrastructure Bill that has been talked about in terms of ownership of land and rights to object, especially in regard to tunnelling for a future metro project. We must come to terms with that in the same way as the Spanish authorities have done. Senator Norris has extensive experience of the metro project in Madrid. He visited Madrid and had discussions with Dr. Melis on how that city handled ownership rights to land underneath people's properties. If we do not address this matter it could impact on the delivery of projects like the metro. We must grapple with the issue of people who object to infrastructural projects. We have seen the delays experienced in Carrickmines in regard to the completion of the M50.
The difficulties we encounter along the way may result in a change to the schedule but that should not represent failure. It is a recognition that in moving to the kind of infrastructure we need, we are prepared to tackle problems as they arise, as any good Government would do. I accept we have experienced difficulties with the toll bridge. I welcome the upgrading of the M50 as part of the Transport 21 plan. I am pleased that work is well advanced in introducing three lanes in both directions between Naas and Dublin which has become a bugbear for anybody that travels on that road. Delivery of this plan is vital for economic growth through commercial activity and guaranteeing the transportation and movement of goods. The commuter belt is moving outside of Dublin. The Minister mentioned the importance of a vibrant capital city and he is correct to state that free movement of traffic and commuters through the capital city is of immense benefit to all of us, regardless of where we live. It acts as the economic engine.
The Government has not only taken that as a stated position, it has developed policies within this plan to create a counterbalance for those who want to live and work in the west of Ireland. I am happy to see the Atlantic corridor connecting Donegal and Waterford, taking in places such as Galway, Clare and Limerick where many of us spend our time, and creating economic activity. I would like to see a timetable for that. Hopefully, it can be expedited without delay. I know some sections of that road are already well under way. The Minister of State is familiar with the Ennis bypass and championed the case to ensure it was put in place. That will form part of the link as will the fourth river crossing in Limerick.
Also included in the plan is the western rail corridor, which will of immense benefit to the entire country, particularly the west. As Senator Bradford stated, it is recognition that the policy of closing down railroads many years ago was not good and we need to address it. The Leader of this House was instrumental in achieving investment at a time when money was not as available to ensure we are now in a position to upgrade the western rail corridor on a phased basis. That has been discussed previously in this and the other House.
It would have been nice if this could have been done all in one strip but that was not to be. The timetable has been set out and it is welcome. The first section links Limerick to Ennis and onwards to Galway and will show that strong demand exists. The traffic between Limerick and Ennis is phenomenal. I have no doubt including a population centre such as Galway will mean a considerable number of extra passengers.
As part of that I would like to see the rail spur to Shannon developed. It is not in the plan but I know it is part of an economic impact assessment done by Iarnród Éireann. It would be helpful. As an interim measure, the Government and the Department of Transport might give consideration to opening the station at Sixmilebridge. The Minister of State well knows it is a short distance from Shannon Airport. A short taxi ride from the airport would allow people to access the rail network and facilitate their onward journey. It would also be of benefit to the growing population along the rail line at Sixmilebridge. Perhaps an opportunity to open the station at Newmarket-on-Fergus is also provided. People who live in these areas are more likely to use the rail line if they do not have to take their cars to either end in order to use it. The Minister of State has supported that in the past and I hope the Government will address the issue.
The critical important element is that a demand and need for these rail services exists. Objections have been raised from some quarters on the metro and why the airport should only have a metro link. Some airline operators indicated there is no need for it and it is a phenomenal waste of money. I do not agree. It provides a rail link between the airport and our capital city. It will also provide direct access to the city for people living in Swords and beyond. We must encourage people to use public transport, considering such a good level of public transport exists by rail and bus.
Similarly to what was stated yesterday on road safety, this is a cultural and educational issue. It is a chicken and egg situation. The only way to get people to think about using public transport is if they know a quality regular service exists with capacity and gets them from A to B in a safe and efficient manner. It must also be value for money. It provides a viable alternative to the use of cars considering the increasing oil prices and the increasing cost of cars and insurance.
The amount of street and road space available is a limited resource. Our population is growing and this is the only way to progress. I commend the Government, the Minister for Transport and also all of the people involved within the Government and those who identified projects for inclusion. I compliment them on a job well done.
My colleague, Senator Quinn, has requested to share my time. He is at a committee meeting and may not return to the House. However, I would like to make provision for it in case he does manage to come to the House. He is interested in this project.
In fact, I may not use all of the time allotted.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am rather sorry she indicated she will not continue in public life after the next election. Her absence will be a great loss to Irish public life. I have happy memories of serving with her, going back to my first term on the Oireachtas joint committee dealing with women's rights. I am sure she will find many other ways of contributing to Irish public life but she certainly will be a loss to political life in the general sense.
I welcomed the Transport 21 initiative. I almost fully welcomed it and I still welcome it in outline but I was disappointed with the Minister's speech because it was so generalised. It contained no particular detail. Reference was made to the €34.4 billion cost. It contains evasions and excuses. Some of them are credible enough, such as not wanting to give away commercially sensitive information. It also contains generalised comments on the need to update urban transport.
One aspect I find extremely sinister is the lack of any mention of the metro from beginning to end. I campaigned on this for 20 years. I amended a bill concerning Dublin transport seven or eight years ago when, through an accident of politics, this side of the House was in the majority. The Independents held the balance of power. It was discussed by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport. I will return to that point because it seems the recommendations of that committee are being subverted in some way by what one could describe as the permanent Government which has always been against the metro.
I must pay tribute to the Leader of this House, Senator O'Rourke, because she had the backbone and gumption to run with the metro proposal where her two male predecessors were frightened off by the gurus. I am not a partisan person. I am genuinely independent. I praise the Government when I believe it is right and I look to the work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport because it is non-partisan and we all unite. I am concerned that some of our recommendations are being ignored. People on the Government side pointed out the lack of a timetable. Let us not be sold a pup. I did not join in the chorus of condemnation from this side of the House. I welcomed it but we need specifics. Budget figures have been revealed and now is the time to come clean and make it clear and targeted.
This morning I received an e-mail from the Meath on Track campaign as I am sure did many other people. Its members seek support in calling for funding to be made available for the complete outline design scheme for the 26 miles to Navan next year. That seems to be an ideal project. Navan is one of our growing dormitory towns with a large and increasing number of people who need to get in and out of the greater Dublin area using public transport. The e-mail states that once the design scheme is completed it will be possible to ascertain the costs involved in reinstating the Navan line and the issues of levies, funding and delivery timescales can be addressed based on factual information. Without this information, the proposal for Navan contained in Transport 21 will leave the people of Meath no closer to the reintroduction of rail services than prior to the announcement. There is no provision for a detailed examination of the situation, which must be done prior to the commencement of the project, and this concerns me.
Senator Dooley referred to Professor Melis but unfortunately I was unable to visit Madrid. I have met Professor Melis and I was responsible for bringing him here through the agency of Cormac Rabbitt and Rudi Monaghan, transport engineers who have been very helpful to the Joint Committee on Transport. Rumours were spread around the committee that Professor Melis had been unhelpful in some way and had not maintained contact. That is not true and the reverse is the case. Professor Melis offered to train Irish personnel in Madrid and he has yet to receive an acknowledgement of the offer. I ask if we are serious and suggest we examine this situation.
We were told building costs in Ireland were 2.4 times the costs in Madrid but this is not correct. I have been provided with factual information that suggests costs are directly comparable to the point of being almost in line. We can scotch that excuse. Disadvantageous comparisons were made between tunnelling schemes such as the Dublin Port tunnel and the Madrid technology. The machines used in Madrid were of a substantially different design. The boring machines used in the port tunnel had to be stopped for 20 minutes at 45 minute intervals to replace side panels. Machines used by Professor Melis in Madrid go straight through, non-stop, and this represents a saving.
The Minister was somewhat coy about costs in his speech and perhaps there is a reason for this. The figure of €34.4 billion over ten years announced in Transport 21 must be considered in light of recently published pre-budget Estimates. These figures add another piece to the puzzle. The Department of Transport has €2.28 billion, of which €1.6 billion appears to be for capital expenditure. On this basis even someone as innumerate as myself, who failed arithmetic in the leaving certificate, can calculate that it will take 21.5 years to complete the project, finishing in 2027. In these Estimates, the total spending for the whole country, €48.5 billion, of which €34.4 billion is capital expenditure, means that Government spending on transport over the next ten years must be 10% of total Government spending, a considerable sum of money.
External agencies have commented on this and I refer to one A&L Goodbody report which suggests there is a missing figure of €1.5 billion for the aviation sector. Where is this in the Government's calculations? Examining the situation further, the 39 selected projects include six Luas, comprising five Luas extensions and one new Luas line to Lucan and two metro lines, one running north to Swords via the airport and one running west to Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan, Blanchardstown and Ballymun. There was a lovely map at Dublin Castle showing the routing of the Luas and one aspect is curious and troubling to me. The deficiency that is the absence of a link between the two metro lines will be supplied twice. A Luas line will run on the surface, which will be problematical in terms of street arrangements and building structures, as well as a metro line.
This is the most expensive section for either rail system and raises the question of why the Government is duplicating it. One is driven to the conclusion that the Government will build the Luas and hump the metro. This concerns me and if this is the position of the Government let us be open about it. Let us not pretend we are going to build a metro if it is not going to happen. Those of us in all parties and members of the transport committee who believe a metro is essential can then make the argument. At present we are firing into cotton wool. We need a clear commitment from the Government.
There is also a curious reversal of priorities, with the completion of certain projects now deemed essential before work commences on the metro. These include the three extensions to the Luas and the metro between Tallaght, Clondalkin and Lucan. The Joint Committee on Transport unanimously adopted a report prepared by O'Reilly Consultants that contains nothing partisan. That report indicated the metro was advantageous to the citizens of Dublin and Ireland but also that there would be a substantial cost, albeit partially concealed, in not building the metro. This does not seem to have been taken on board.
What is the standing of the Joint Committee on Transport in the eyes of the Minister and his advisors? Do they take the extensive work done on the metro seriously or is the committee a decoration while decisions are made behind the scenes by people not accountable to citizens? I do not mean any disrespect to our Civil Service, for which I have high respect. It is not the fault of civil servants if they get their way, we need politicians who will stand up to them and continue to tell the truth.
Yesterday, an important meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport coincided with the Order of Business in this House. That shows complete contempt for Seanad Éireann as meetings never coincide with the Order of Business in the Dáil. I have drawn this to the attention of the Chairman, the staff and leaders of different parties. I have asked them not to allow Senators attend such meetings just once, so that there will be an insufficient number for a quorum. If we do this once we will put manners on those arranging the meetings. There is always someone who slithers in at the last minute and saves the bacon. This House should agree not to attend the next meeting that clashes with the Order of Business.
I have been advised over a number of years by two remarkable people, one of whom, Rudi Monaghan, is dead. The other, Cormac Rabbitt, is a significant traffic engineer. He made connections with Professor Melis, spoke to the committee on transport and has the necessary facts and figures. His Dargan proposal, named in memory of William Dargan who built so many railways, concerns a circle line.
Dublin, as a city with a bay, is ideally constituted for this suggestion. There would be a 12.2 km circle line, the loop line would be upgraded and extended by the construction of a 5.9 km tunnel, located mostly south of the Liffey, with interchange stations to the existing six rail and nine road spokes. It is planned to locate stations approximately 0.8 km to 1.2 km apart. The tunnel could be built on wayleave land, 80% of which is publicly owned. We will not have problems with land if we follow this plan. The wayleave allows tunnel construction and maintenance and does not imply land purchase. The circle line profitably provides a rail hub by its utilisation of existing infrastructure. Simply said, it benefits from extensive working infrastructure to maximise the number of fares. In addition, the project capitalises on currently available low interest finance. The foregoing helps to contribute to a minimum investment return in year one of 5.2%.
I will be happy to make this information available to the Minister. I have detailed figures here and have requested that Mr. Rabbitt be allowed to make a submission to the Joint Committee on Transport. A colleague from one of the Opposition parties poured scorn on this and spoke about self-appointed experts but Mr. Rabbitt is an internationally acclaimed expert, while my colleague is a self-appointed expert herself. When we have talent in this country, recognised by the O'Reilly report, we should call it in. We do not have to take the advice given, but we should add it to the mix.
This project is based on public private partnerships and is an innovative plan. It is based on the type of model that gave us the International Financial Services Centre, which, I admit, I mocked in the beginning. That is the kind of entrepreneurship we need.
Are we serious about the metro or is Transport 21 just a lot of camouflage? I suggest it is the latter, based on the Minister's speech and the lack of figures, timetabling and public commitment.
I welcome the Minister and am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion on the historic transformation of transport in this country.
Much time was invested in this plan. The consultation process began in 2000. It involved consideration of the reports, A Platform for Change and the strategic rail review, as well as consultation with the National Roads Authority, the Railway Procurement Agency, the Dublin Transport Office, Córas Iompair Éireann and Bus Éireann. While I compliment those organisations, I am not sure that we need their input now. Great work has gone into this plan over the last few years and the various interest groups had to be involved in the process, in order to bring about this new transport initiative, Transport 21.
The main issue of concern now is accountability. I wonder about the future role of all of the parties that were involved. We need one umbrella organisation or agency to implement and oversee Transport 21. Otherwise, we could get bogged down on the question of who is responsible for various aspects of the plan. Now that the plan has been launched, the Minister and one agency should take control. It might then be possible to set up links with the various bodies dealing with roads, rail and transport in the greater Dublin area.
The Minister stated earlier that prior to the publication of Transport 21, the Dundalk western bypass and the Waterford outer ring road were opened and the new eight-car DART service was launched. In that context, let us not be too cynical. Work is being done and Senators should acknowledge that, rather than always concentrating on the negative — asserting that the plan is nothing but promises and that nothing will happen. I believe it will happen because it must.
We must have an integrated transport solution. We cannot take a piecemeal approach any longer. I am delighted to see that Dublin will be linked, via motorways, with all of the main cities in the country. I regularly travel on the Naas dual carriageway and I welcome the infrastructural developments that have taken place along that road. The movement of traffic is excellent on the route.
I am pleased that we are going to revitalise the railways by upgrading stations and funding the urban and regional fleets. It is estimated that over 20 million passengers will travel on the Luas this year. Since its introduction, more people are choosing public transport, as is evident in Tallaght, Sandyford and other areas. Crowds of people use the Luas every day, including at weekends. It is a great achievement and I compliment the Government on executing the plan for Luas in good time, despite various obstacles. We must now undertake more developments of a similar kind.
In this Celtic tiger era there is not one family in the country that does not have two or three cars. Therefore, the road infrastructure must be improved. People's lifestyles are changing, as are their careers. Nowadays, it is not an issue for people to commute every day from Kildare, Portlaoise or Waterford to work in Dublin. The road network must be improved to facilitate that.
Transport 21 aims to increase the number of rail carriages and cars by 187 between 2005 and 2008. That is a specific target and I hope the Government will stick to it. It is stated explicitly in the plan and will happen. The renewal of the mainline rail rolling stock will take place in the aforementioned timeframe. In addition, 36 railcars will be provided for the Dublin suburban and Sligo rail services. There will be services every hour from Dublin to Cork, Galway and Limerick and every two hours from Dublin to Sligo. There will be improvements in the Westport, Ballina and Rosslare areas, with four services per day. This will open up the regions. These are specific plans. Senator Norris asserted that there was a lack of specifics in the plan, but I have just outlined some specific targets to which we must adhere.
I welcome the commitment by the Government to the concept of interconnection, which will relieve severe bottlenecks in Dublin city centre. That must be welcomed by all. I look forward to seeing the connection of the Luas and DART services, making travel between Heuston Station, Connolly Station, Tallaght, Sandyford and Bray possible. Integrated ticketing will be a part of that development. Again, this is a specific aim, outlined clearly in the plan, which I welcome.
There are plans to further upgrade the Luas. The Tallaght line is to extend to the docklands, there will be a spur to the CityWest, and the Sandyford line will extend to Cherrywood and Bray, to link in with the DART and suburban rail network. In view of all this I compliment the Government for creating one single authority. It will be of great benefit to the greater Dublin area and represents the joined up thinking to which the Minister referred. However, one area not adequately catered for is park and ride facilities. Some of the park and ride areas are becoming expensive and deter people from using them, so I ask the Minister to address that issue.
I welcome moves regarding the Dublin-Waterford connection. I am aware the Minister has already opened the outer ring road and there will be possibilities in 2009 to upgrade the roads to Waterford. The people in Waterford will welcome that and I am delighted the Minister has made a commitment in that area. It is well overdue because Waterford city is choc-a-bloc and nobody can get in or out of it. The quicker that job is done the better.
This is a great initiative. Lifestyles are changing and we need to get people out of the big cities to relieve the bottlenecks. We must improve services so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. It is necessary to decentralise automatically because more and more young people do not stay in Dublin after they leave college but look for jobs in other major cities. I welcome that the focus is no longer on Dublin alone. This transport initiative has started the process of moving people to other areas as they enjoy greater development and prosperity, which will rejuvenate rural life. Facilitating third level education in major cities is welcome, as is upgrading our universities and schools, all of which will result from this initiative.
I welcome the launch of Transport 21. The specifics are there but we must have implementation. If we act on what the Minister has said we will have a first class transport system in this country, with railways, roads and bus services all interconnected and with integrated ticketing and park and ride facilities, so that greater Dublin can be relieved as people to move out to achieve a greater quality of life.
I was interested in the comments of Senator Norris to the effect that, unlike the Opposition parties, he did not condemn Transport 21. Nor do we. I certainly have not condemned it, nor was I aware that my party had. The problem is not the content or any lack of specifics, because, as Senator Ormonde rightly said, there are specifics. The problem is we have heard it all before, not once or twice but many times since this Government came into power in 1997.
This morning I read a speech that the then Minister for Public Enterprise, now Leader of the House, Senator O'Rourke, made on 4 March 1999, the better part of seven years ago. I will not take it out of context but will list the six or seven points she made, in the order that she made them. She said the Government was looking at a possible inland rail link to Navan, the possible separation of long distance and commuter rail traffic through the construction of bypass rail lines, a new rail link from Belfast through Swords and Dublin Airport, a new rail loop east of the current loop line in Dublin, quadrupling existing double lines where feasible, the enhancement of rail services in a series of towns, which she listed, and more sophisticated signalling technology to increase track capacity.
Of those seven initiatives, two appear to have been ditched, because they have not happened, and the remaining five are repeated in Transport 21. Senator O'Rourke, who was Minister for Public Enterprise at the time, contemplated those options fully seven years ago, virtually the full term of this Government. It is truly remarkable that so little has happened in the intervening period.
I will deal with a few of the issues on which Senator Ormonde touched. The national development plan stated in 2000 that the four main priority roads would be completed by the end of the plan in 2006. We were told by the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, in December 2003 that he was determined, as was the Government, that they would be completed by the end of 2007. Transport 21 states they will be completed in 2010. In fairness, the timetable had already begun to shift when the NRA stated they would be only substantially completed by 2007, which then became 2008 and 2009 and is now 2010.
I acknowledge there were problems with capacity in the late 1990s. The construction industry was not up to speed and was not accustomed to dealing with the scale of budget suddenly available to it. The Department of Transport and the NRA did not have the capacity or experience, so many projects slipped in terms of timing and budget. That is no longer the case because when builders arrive on site things now move very satisfactorily. As the Minister indicated, the Loughrea bypass was opened ahead of schedule and the Kilcock-Kinnegad stretch of motorway, as well as others, will also be ahead of schedule.
While these projects are completed on budget and ahead of schedule not much is happening with regard to the main four main pivotal routes. Some projects are under way but there are not many. Many are at planning stage, at the stage of land acquisition or at the drawing board. It means there will be a hiatus on the ground for a year or two.
I accept that is a factor. The Minister promised he would have the critical infrastructure Bill in place to fast-track the decision making process so that people would be allowed a substantive objection but would not be allowed seven, eight or nine attempts, as is the case now. The port tunnel in my own constituency is such an example. First we had to change the development plan in Dublin. Then we lobbied for a change in the project to extend the northern portals. When we unexpectedly got that change we had to start the project all over again. We had to go back to the consultation process and deal with the same objections even though they did not relate specifically to the changes that had been made.
Everybody acknowledges the process is too slow and complex. A combination of parallel and consecutive processes delays the implementation of a project for years. There is a need to fast-forward projects to complete them in one process, which respects people's right to object but ensures we get the job done as quickly as possible if plans are approved.
With regard to mainline rail, Senator Ormonde expressed her delight that we will have over 100 more carriages on the tracks in the next two or three years. That is fine but again, we have been told this three or four times. There has not been an Estimates process in the past three or four years when we have not been told there would be several dozen additional items of rolling stock available the following year. I have lost track of this. I do not know whether they were made available or whether they are the same carriages that were double counted and announced time and time again. With the exception of the Belfast and Cork lines most of the rolling stock, as the Minister acknowledges, dates from the 1960s. It is cold, dilapidated, frequently full and sometimes dangerous.
It is beyond me how, after years of investment, it takes over three hours to get from Rosslare Harbour to Dublin. How can this be? How can it take three hours for a train to travel the 150 km from Rosslare Harbour to Dublin? In other European countries they have invested in fast trains, the TGV in France being the flagship, but there are others in Germany, Spain and Italy which cover 150 km in a half an hour. Nobody in Ireland is ambitious enough to argue for a TGV or anything remotely comparable, but it is not unreasonable to expect to get from Rosslare to Dublin in, for example, two hours. As it is, the rolling stock is terrible and the tracks are not up to speed, if Members will excuse the phrase. When the Leader was Minister, she secured quite a bit of investment in rail safety at the turn of the century. Much of that work was important and had to be done. It involved the underpinning of bridges, infrastructure along the line and the upgrading of tracks but, unfortunately, it did not lead to an improved service for commuters who use rail services. The fact is that the mainline rail service in 2005 is much the same as it was in 1997 when the Government took up office. We are now asked to believe that there will be a substantial jump in the next two years or three years. Let us hope that is the case because history does not give us great grounds for hoping it will be the case.
I would like to talk briefly about Dublin. A major element which can be criticised in the Transport 21 plan is the lack of any semi-interest in bus transport in Dublin. The Minister has responded to this since the publication of Transport 21 by saying he is waiting for Dublin Bus to come back to him with its various plans. Unfortunately, I do not believe this is the case. The Government announced in 2000 that it would examine the whole issue of bus regulation. We understood from the Minister of the day that what was in mind was some measure of competition between Dublin Bus and private operators in Dublin. Some of us were sceptical about it, and still are. Having said that, we do not object to it in principle if it makes sense on a particular route to put Dublin Bus up against a private operator. I certainly do not have a problem with franchising out new routes to private operators or getting Dublin Bus to compete with private operators for the tender.
However, the problem is that the Minister appears to have very little idea of what he wants to do. If ever there was a case of a Minister being ideologically driven, it was the way the former Minister, Deputy Brennan, dealt with this issue. He appeared in principle to want competition, but he had no idea how he would introduce it. The result is that we got nothing for a period of years and the current Minister is now giving us the same excuse that he cannot do anything until the bus market in Dublin is regulated. I do not believe the Government will introduce regulation of the bus market in Dublin. The bottom line is that had we acknowledged that five, six or seven years ago and decided to just invest in Dublin Bus and improve the QBC network and so on, we would be much better off now. If the Minister is going to do something about bus regulation, will he please get on with it? If he is going to opt out, then fine, let him say so and get on with the business of investing in Dublin Bus as things stand.
Much has been said about the west and the Atlantic corridor. Senator Dooley will be aware that I have an interest in this matter because my wife is from Clare and we visit the area on a regular basis. We vary our journey between the Limerick and Galway road, depending on which one happens to be getting any better at a given time. I think we will travel via Galway this year, given that by then the Kinnegad stretch will presumably be open, notwithstanding the toll. Anyone who examines the plan for the west would have to be more than a little cynical. On the face of it, the Atlantic corridor is a fine idea. However, if one examines the proposed route for the Atlantic corridor, very little of it has received serious investment over the past ten years. There has been no indication from the Government that it was a long-term plan. It is true that sections, such as the N18 between Ennis and Limerick, have received investment, but it has never been part of an overall plan. It lacks credibility for the Government to say, without any serious prior discussion, that it will carry out this work. It lacks much more credibility when one looks behind the plan and realises it is nothing more than a broad notion. There are no timeframes and very little serious intent to do anything about the issue.
Something similar must be said about the western rail corridor about which perhaps the Minister of State knows more. The interest groups that have been lobbying on the issue have been looking somewhat askance at the timeframes and asking how can it take up to 2015 to put in place a railway line, some of which already exists albeit in a relatively dilapidated form. The first element to be put in place is not, strictly speaking, part of the corridor at all. It is the improved commuter route from Athenry to Galway, which is needed. When talking about these commuter routes, it is worth saying that this is not just about Dublin. I freely acknowledge that Cork, Limerick and Galway have serious traffic difficulties which could be alleviated by a serious commuter rail system.
There has been talk for approximately ten years about improving the Midleton route in Cork, but precious little has been done about it. There has been some improvement on the line to Mallow but virtually none to Midleton. There has been talk about connecting Shannon Airport to Limerick for as long as I can remember and it still has not happened. The one improvement that has been carried out is the route between Ennis and Limerick. It was put in place hesitantly in that the services in place at the beginning were few and far between. There were three or four services a day, but that has now increased to eight. The standard of the rolling stock initially was terrible. The carriages used were the ones that were no longer deemed good enough to connect Limerick with Limerick Junction. They were suddenly shunted onto the route between Ennis and Limerick. There has been an improvement in the service but it has been very slow. It has taken approximately 15 years to get to a situation where there is a half decent service. Senator Dooley was correct when he said that there is a point when a service is thought to be sufficiently reliable and people will use the rail rather than the car. I am not sure we have reached that stage on the Limerick to Ennis route.
Transport 21 is full of plans about Luas. I would like to express a note of caution about Luas. A few weeks ago, I travelled for the first time on the Sandyford line, and there is no doubt it works exceptionally well. It works effectively as a railway line because it is a dedicated track. The tram moves very quickly between stations once it gets off-street in Charlemont Street. I travelled on part of the Tallaght line which works less well. I passed it mid-morning the other day around the Four Courts when it was full and moving very slowly. There is a real problem with on-street trams in Dublin because we are not used to them. They are potentially dangerous and travel far short of their capacity in terms of speed. I am not sure this will improve. Given our experience of the first year of operation of Luas, if it is to be taken seriously and used well, we must examine a service that has a dedicated track. This is why I agree with what Senator Norris said earlier that a metro is needed.
The economists have said the footprint of Dublin is not suitable for metro. These are the same people who told us, and still tell us, that one could not possibly justify a motorway from, for example, Dublin to Dundalk because sufficient cars would not use it. Admittedly there are times when the Dublin to Dundalk motorway is sparsely used. However, I do not think anyone in this House seriously believes that in ten years time we will be saying it is a pity we built that motorway because of all the open spaces. I suspect something similar is true of metro. Perhaps the footprint of the city does not stack up to keep all the economists happy just yet, but I believe, as does Senator Norris, that it is the way of the future, not just because it is my intuition, but because it is the experience everywhere else. It is the experience in cities that are far more diverse and have a bigger footprint than Dublin. We must learn from this. The quicker we do so, the cheaper it will be and the quicker we can get the work done. I would like to think I will still be alive when there is a metro line in Dublin, but I do not have great confidence that will be the case. That plan was also announced by the former Minister, Senator O'Rourke, approximately five years ago.
I do not want to sound entirely negative about the transport system. There have been significant improvements in recent years in terms of infrastructure but they have been desperately slow. Some have been inexcusably slow. I get no sense from the gestation of the plan or the way the current Minister and, more important, the Minister for Finance is dealing with the issue that there is a sense of urgency or ambition which will allow us, within a reasonable time, to transform our infrastructure. Roads, mainline rail and public transport in Dublin have improved since 1997 but they have not improved to the level people are entitled to expect.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House for this timely debate on Transport 21. It is timely because the €34 billion or so that will be spent over the next ten years must be debated. The timeframe must also be debated. I say this because the Dublin Transportation Office has stated that traffic levels in 2003 reached the levels projected for 2016, demonstrating how far behind we are and the need for investment on a speedy basis. The Department's strategy statement for 2005-07 provides for links between provincial cities, local towns, villages and rural areas. Local access is to be facilitated by effective local transport networks, principally non-national roads and bus-based public transport services. The Department's guiding principle reflects the critical importance of bus-based public transport linking cities, towns and villages.
The question must be asked, however, if we are meeting that objective. For the last ten years we have consistently and successfully developed the QBC network. In last year's budget, a further €35 million was allowed for expenditure in the course of this year on the further rolling out of QBCs across Dublin. When I was on Fingal County Council and we were putting in place a QBC to Blanchardstown, we were told by officials from the DTO that buses would be so frequent and fast that a passenger boarding a bus would see another bus coming down the road. At that time, why would anyone not have voted to hand over 50% of a road into Dublin? We reduced three lanes to two and two lanes to one on the basis that there would be frequent, reliable bus services. That has not happened, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of euro in national development plan money has been given to Dublin Bus, solely to the disadvantage of every other provider of bus services in the country.
In Transport 21, 20 replacement buses were to be given to Dublin Bus. We have since been told that Dublin Bus has been asked to look at its route network across Dublin and then come back to the Minister. That is not the way to go. For too long we have allowed the operator to also be the route regulator and provider. It is time for a body, such as that being established under Dr. O'Mahony in Transport 21, to have responsibility for the working of the systems, independently and on an integrated basis, across Dublin. The operators should not be doing this.
I say that for two reasons. Dublin Bus has been responsible for this service since 1932 but delivered very few new routes as suburbs grew, lengthening journey routes instead, leading to journey times in excess of two hours to the city centre. We should start with a blank canvas, asking how we should go about this; it should not be left up to Dublin Bus to provide it. Lately the company stated it needs another 120 buses in Dublin. Who should provide those buses? The taxpayer, at a cost of €300,000 per bus and €150,000 per bus per year for maintenance? There is an alternative which would bring competition and cost the taxpayer nothing — the independent operator.
In the independent sector, 5,000 buses are in operation. Not a cent of national development plan money has gone towards their purchase or operation. Why have they been completely excluded from Transport 21? They cost the taxpayer nothing. Why do we not introduce a model where those operators provide the capital using their own buses and let the passenger provide the revenue, not the taxpayer who at present is paying a subvention?
That subvention is abused by the Government. If we look at the routes from Cork or Galway to Dublin, taxpayers are subventing Bus Éireann to compete on routes for €12 against Aircoach to Cork or Nestor's to Galway. Is that how taxpayers' money should be thrown away? No. The Cork and Galway routes have shown us that once competition is introduced, the level of service on the routes improves and the numbers using public transport increase. The market grows. I cannot see what Dublin Bus has to fear from competition with the size of its fleet.
I agree with Senator McDowell, we have lost our way on this issue for the last seven years. We have seen, however, what competition did for Aer Lingus. Without competition, it would not have survived. It has survived without Government hand-outs in the recent difficult years and is now thriving. To continue as we are to the exclusion of the private bus operators is wrong.
The previous Minister for Transport examined the franchising model, with up to 20% to go the private sector initially. That model is being reviewed to such an extent that I would find it hard to agree with the model that may be proposed. Any model that might say that Dublin Bus would franchise the next 15% of growth to the private sector would mean that the current operator in a monopoly would be the regulator and provider of a franchise to private operators who have not received any State hand-out for either their purchases or operations. Surely that is not what we are proposing.
This debate must take place if we are serious about competition. The bus infrastructure, including routes and bus stops, must be handed over to an independent body such as that over which Margaret O'Mahony will have control. All the providers should then outline what they can do on various routes. The proposed change in this regard is a retrograde step, which will be challenged in the courts.
QBCs are restricted to public transport but not enough vehicles use them. At off-peak times, QBCs should be available to commercial transport users. These people are trying to distribute goods throughout the city and they are prevented from using QBCs, particularly during off-peak times when few buses use the corridors. For example, a bus corridor is in place between the end of the end of M50 and Malahide along the N32 but no buses are scheduled to run on it. It is scandalous that such a corridor is not in use. The existing infrastructure should be used to the maximum but that is not happening.
Every day hundreds of thousands of people try to travel into Dublin city from the suburbs. Proper stations, proper access to them and park and ride facilities are not provided. Dublin Bus says it is not responsible for providing a feeder service at train stations while Irish Rail says its business is to transport people when they board its trains. Despite this, €34 billion will be spent on public transport over the next ten years as the Government tries to encourage people to avail of the various services. However, in many areas, commuters must drive to train stations at which parking is not provided. They get drenched waiting for trains in weather such as that we experienced this morning and when they board trains, they are packed. I have experienced this and I have been forced to stop using the train to Pearse Street from Castleknock Station, which is three minutes from my house, because of the sheer inconvenience involved. Driving a car in Dublin is stressful but for many people, using public transport, particularly train services, is as stressful.
Integrated ticketing would encourage people to use public transport. It will come under the remit of the new body led by Margaret O'Mahony. A single provider should not be in charge of integrated ticketing because the problem will be the disbursement of the revenue generated at the end of the day. If an independent referee is in place, at least there might be a level playing pitch. I hope there will be progress in this area as a result.
I share the Minister's enthusiasm and I hope the plan will be implemented but much of it will not be in place for between five and seven years. Dublin continues to expand and a solution for the city's future transport needs is required. The Minister states in Transport 21 that the bus will remain the best option. Bottlenecks must be addressed and it must become easier for commuters to use buses. Our bus shelters are a disgrace and they are only provided if they generate advertising revenue. That should not be the basis for providing them. The bus infrastructure should come under the remit of an independent body so that people are encouraged to use public transport and are not forced to stand in the rain, as happened this morning.
Radical change is needed. A feeder bus service to and from train stations, proper access to stations and proper footpaths and bus shelters must be provided. I refer to the Travelsaver ticket, which is a great secret in Dublin because it is not advertised. I do not see why individuals cannot purchase this ticket and must go through their employers before claiming tax back. Individual ticket purchases would be a cheaper option. The Department of Finance states that if tickets are bought individually, the workload in local Revenue officers would increase. People can claim back tax against their medical and refuse bills on an individual basis and I do not see how claiming tax back on commuter tickets would increase the workload of such offices. The thinking within the Department must change significantly. It will be interesting to see if this will be addressed in the budget. The Minister for Transport must ensure access to public transport is more convenient if he is to encourage the public to avail of it.
Senator Morrissey made a number of comments about the rail service. However, in the north west, we would do anything for a poor train station or poor access to rail lines. We do not have access to train lines, never mind trains. The only sign of a train in Donegal is at Christmas time when small choo choo trains appear on Christmas boxes. That is the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves.
I welcome the provision of a new body with responsibility for national roads, aviation and public transportation. That is a sensible starting point and it will be significant in the provision of a more integrated transport policy. However, that was the only noteworthy comment in the Minister's contribution. It has come to my party's attention through parliamentary questions tabled by my colleagues that City of Derry Airport has received upwards of €12 million from the Exchequer over the past six years. The airport has been part of Donegal County Council's plans because it has a strategic value to the county and Donegal people use it. However, what return is generated by this investment? What is the Government's long-term plan regarding the use of City of Derry Airport? Will the State continue to invest in it? What is the long-term plan for transport links between Derry and Donegal?
The 2002 national spatial strategy was an aspirational document and it highlighted Derry and Letterkenny as gateway hubs. This was broadly welcomed in Donegal, as it was proposed to create a significant link that crossed the political divide. However, we hoped there would be further exploration of the Derry-Letterkenny link in the Transport 21 proposals but that did not happen. There was no specific mention of the co-operation, engagement or communication undertaken by the Northern and Southern authorities. As far as the people in the north west are concerned the title "Transport 21" is a misnomer, the document a non-runner and there is no cross-departmental co-operation between North and South. I can put this on the record because when, following publication of Transport 21, I asked my colleague, Deputy Mitchell, to ask where this communication was, there was no response. Bypasses for Monaghan and Castleblaney have been discussed, as has the Lifford-Letterkenny road but there is no integrated foresight or vision for the north west's transportation needs in that document or in policy. This point is critical and something needs to be done about it in the short term.
I met members of Dungannon local authority last Monday in Letterkenny. Public representatives in the North are frustrated at the lack of coherent vision on a transport strategy. They are frustrated that Northern authorities do not know what is being done in the South and vice versa. There is no political will to bring the responsible people together to create joint policy and Transport 21 does not cater for it.
Transport 21 contains a one-line mention of the Derry-Letterkenny road. There are no deliverables or timelines. Where are the solutions for accessing Derry city airport from Letterkenny? Where are the options on a dual carriageway from Derry city to Letterkenny? We have invested exchequer funding of over €12 million in the past six years in an airport that we use but which we have problems accessing. Where is the discussion on having a single line railway from Letterkenny to Derry city airport? There has been no Government thinking on this topic although it has happened at a local authority level. Donegal County Council and the authority members there have talked about this and made recommendations and representations for years but it has not been brought into national policy. It has been talked about at a north west cross-Border group and there has been co-operation at local authority level but nothing in this document gives me confidence.
Transport 21 claims to be an integrated transport policy. It is no more integrated than it was 50 years ago for somebody travelling from Letterkenny to Dublin. The document also claims it will offer the commuter choice in terms of alternative, upgraded or faster routes. A person living in Letterkenny could choose to drive an hour and ten minutes north to Carrickfin and fly to Dublin. That option can take as much time as it would to drive at midnight when there is no traffic. The other choice is to fly from Derry city airport. To drive to Dublin one choice is to go via Belfast. Some people in Inishowen access the M1 through Belfast because the A5 is a joke. When I travel up at 3 p.m. today my average speed will be between 35 and 40 mph. I had intended to help turn on the Christmas lights at 6.30 tonight in Letterkenny.
If I leave at 2.30 p.m. I have no hope because my average speed will be 40 mph all the way to Donegal.
Another choice is to go as far as Ballygawley roundabout and access the M1 via Armagh and Newry. Some people bypass Monaghan while others go via Enniskillen and Cavan. There is too much choice but because we use too many alternative routes not enough people travel on one road for it to be identified. That is a wrong system for the people of the north west.
The M1 from Belfast to Dublin is very good. Donegal people use the Ballygawley to Armagh route. According to Dungannon councillors, the Armagh to Newry route is a low-priority route in the North. We are pushing all our motorists onto these routes and the M1, which will be upgraded while we lose out. The system is wrong in terms of identifying one route. The only route that will satisfy the people of Donegal is not a two-plus-one route but a dual carriageway from Letterkenny to Dublin through Aughnacloy. We need to co-operate with the Northern authorities on the A5. It is fundamental to the needs of the people of Donegal including daily and weekly commuters, and cancer sufferers who travel by ambulance. Two weeks ago it was reported that a cancer sufferer took nearly seven hours to travel from Letterkenny to Dublin by ambulance——
I think I have missed it, although they might be able to delay it for me. According to the IDA one of the reasons people do not invest in businesses in the north west is because it is too far away and it takes too long. Donegal is not too far away. When there is no traffic one can drive from Letterkenny to Dublin Airport without breaking the speed limit in two hours and ten minutes. That is not far; it is further to Kerry although Dubliners invest in holiday homes in Galway, Wexford and Kerry because they think Donegal is too far away.
The problem is the road infrastructure that dictates average speeds of 35 mph and leaving Dublin on a Friday evening gives a negative perception of the journey, which at that time could take seven hours. We must engage with the Northern authorities. There will be a significant meeting in Enniskillen on Monday between the Irish Central Border Area Network, ICBAN, to discuss a joint integrated transport initiative North and South. Let us get the homework done and meet with our Northern counterparts. We must discuss political matters with them but let us also discuss economic and social needs.
There is a fine ferry service across Lough Foyle which has shortened many journeys to the airport and to Dublin. One can travel to Dublin using the motorway without going through hardly any town or city. I accept Senator McHugh's remarks on the N2-A5. Part of the problem is that the North has not received the same level of funding for infrastructure as we have and it might have more financial latitude if and when it agrees to form an executive.
I travelled by road to launch a book in Thurles last night and returned by rail this morning. Leaving Dublin at 4.30 p.m. it took almost two hours to reach Naas. I was a little late because of the roadworks which reduced the road to a single lane. That is part of the plan which will, when finished, improve the situation. Unfortunately one tends to get pain before gain.
On the main train to Dublin from Limerick Junction this morning, one might have thought that Transport 21 meant an addition of 21 minutes to the average journey. Apologies were made for the delay which we were told was due to signalling problems. It was not actually due to signalling but to congestion on the line. I am glad that part of the plan is to make four tracks available. There is a major problem coming into the city where commuter trains mingle with long distance trains, but this will be sorted out under the plan.
There is a further problem when one arrives at Heuston Station and wishes to make one's way to O'Connell Street or, in my case because I was going to the Forum on Europe, to Connolly Station to get the DART. I know the Minister of State has a particular interest in Dublin transport. I impress upon him that it is essential there is a third track available at Heuston Station. Instead of Luas trams every six minutes from Tallaght they should be every three minutes at peak times and every other one should just shuttle back and forward between Connolly and Heuston stations. So many people come out of Heuston Station that there is only standing room on the trams. The RPA should be pressed to introduce such a shuttle service.
I am not sure this is the appropriate forum to make suggestions. There was an advertisement last week on the link up between the two Luas lines, which would be beneficial. This plan is a clear winner. For integrated planning reasons, the link should go via Pearse Street and Westland Row as this would avoid clogging up Dawson Street and Kildare Street. It would also link up with the DART and we would not just have the one link at Connolly Station. As somebody who goes occasionally to the Gaiety Theatre, I would not like to hear tram bells interrupt performances as they pass the theatre.
An Opposition Member said Transport 21 does nothing for south Tipperary and we have just heard that it does nothing for Donegal. I am sure there are enough Fine Gael and Labour Party Members to say this plan does nothing for any number of areas. In a statement to my local newspaper in reply to the chairman of a Fine Gael constituency party, I pointed out that the Dublin-Cork motorway goes right through the centre of Tipperary, joining Cashel, Cahir and on to Mitchelstown, which will make south Tipperary more accessible to both Dublin and Cork. If people avoid the rush hour, there are significant time savings as a result. It is also easier in terms of driving as people do not have to stop and start at traffic lights.
I draw the Minister's attention to the cross link between motorways. There was some surprise that the Atlantic corridor went via Cork to Waterford. Obviously, anybody travelling from Limerick to Waterford would not travel via Cork, however good the road, because of the greater distance to be travelled. The N24 is included in the map. My town of Tipperary is probably the most congested town along the route. Progress is necessary on the link routes without waiting for the completion of the motorways. There will be further work required when the major motorways are complete to link up major and medium-sized provincial towns. I am referring to, for example, the road from Tipperary to Thurles on which there is quite a lot of traffic. That road is in an appalling condition, particularly at the Thurles end.
I look forward to the proposed hourly rail service from Dublin to Cork. I assume this will mean an expanded service to Limerick Junction, the main mainline station in south Tipperary. That will stimulate much development. The Minister should ensure that next week's budget provides for the maintenance of park and ride facilities. There is no point in phasing them out when a very ambitious transport plan is in the pipeline.
The Opposition made reference to the Limerick-Waterford railway. The reason it was not included in the plan is because the work has been done. The bridge was rebuilt when it collapsed, at a cost of €3 million, and the line is being upgraded as part of the rail safety programme. For the first time in 30 or 40 years, there is a thrice daily passenger service on this line, rather than a service just connecting to the port of Rosslare. The line is being used and connects to Clonmel. Some refinements are required on the timetable and I believe they will come later this month.
While I accept south Tipperary is just one vantage point, there is much good news in this plan. Last year I travelled to the Galway races and faced various logistical problems en route. I took the train from Limerick Junction to Ennis. The bus for Galway was due to leave Ennis at the same time the train arrived but I took a chance on it not going on time and was lucky to catch it as they were not connected. There is an unwillingness on the part of those who run Bus Éireann to co-ordinate its timetables with Irish Rail, which is a pity.
The western rail corridor will be a benefit when it is in place and when the country is connected through the various links of this plan. The whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. The co-ordinated plan will mean we will be able to travel around the country in whatever direction we want to take by rail. We will have a connected system. If people want to visit places such as Dingle or Westport, they may have to travel by bus also, but the connected system will be a significant benefit.
It is important politically that when so much needed money is being spent on the greater Dublin area, the relatively modest projects being carried out in other parts of the country are progressed speedily. If the modest projects such as the Midleton line, due to be completed by 2008, are completed speedily, this will greatly diminish any resentment there is in the country at the amount of money being spent in and around the greater Dublin area, which from the point of view of commuting now extends to a radius of 50 or 60 miles. I may not be as sensitive a soul as Senator Morrissey ——
I will not delay. If necessary, people must stand. I have no problem standing and have even sat in corridors in my time as a Senator and not just as a young man. I look forward to increased capacity as this will make standing less likely.
I have faith in this plan. The country is producing the resources to fund it and the Government is committed to it. If it was suggested 20 years ago that there should have been a single Department of Transport, I would have been frightened that roads would eat up the budget, but there is a different attitude nowadays and there is a balance between roads and public transport. We need both, and other modes of travel. I wish the Minister well with the implementation of the plan. The more he can get done quickly, the better.
I enjoyed Senator Mansergh's contribution. He made a reference to when he was a young man, but I consider he is still a young man.
If this were ten years ago rather than now, we would criticise the Government for its lack of planning. We stumbled into the Celtic tiger era without much planning or foresight and we are lucky that matters turned out as they did. Ten years ago the position was different. The Government seems to have contracted a planning disease, with plans coming out of its ears on even the slightest provocation. What is nasty about this planning disease is not that it involves making plans but that it does not involve carrying them through. A symptom of this disease is that the Government fools itself into believing there is a special virtue in making a plan even if it never implements it. Making a plan that is not implemented is not a virtue but a vice. While I accept the Minister's heart is in the right place, this is a vice to which the Government seems particularly prone.
Only yesterday we had a good debate on road safety. It focused attention on the fact that the Government's national road safety plan has been largely unimplemented. Yet the Government seems to believe it can continue trumpeting the fact that it conceived the first ever national road safety plan. That was eight years ago, yet much of it remains on the shelf.
Another casualty of the planning process was the national spatial strategy. It was a long time in gestation and no sooner was it born than the Government turned its back on it. The final nail in that coffin was the Government's decentralisation plan, which disregarded the spatial strategy, turning it on its head. I cite those plans as examples and I could continue.
We have had plans to roll out broadband, which I raised on the Order of Business some time ago, but they have not worked. We are still at the bottom of the European and OECD leagues in terms of broadband penetration. We have also had the mother and father of all plans, the national health strategy, which was announced approximately four years ago and its implementation is no closer to reality now than when it was first drawn up.
I spell out this sorry litany of plans that did not come to fruition to make the point, if it needs making, that any new Government plan has a difficulty in terms of being credible. That is the challenge the Minister faces on this occasion. It is especially the case with this transport plan because we have all been here before in terms of this debate. Transport 21 has already been described as a slimmed-down version of previous transport plans that were left on the shelf for various reasons. The plan gets whittled down but the hype about it does not.
Notwithstanding that, there are aspects of this plan that are worth welcoming. One of them is the new emphasis on public transport — I welcome the Minister's input in this respect — rather than providing more roads. For more than ten years I have pleaded for public transport to be at the centre of our transport strategy, rather than our approach to it being a futile attempt to keep ahead of the growth in road traffic, which is what happened in the past. By concentrating almost exclusively on our road system, we have denied people the means to exercise a meaningful choice. People cannot use public transport if it is not available. Indeed, they will not use public transport even if it is available unless it is quality public transport, a system that offers people a real alternative to travelling by car.
During the past ten years our transport policy has been like a cat chasing its own tail. We have constructed a road system that has facilitated the massive urban sprawl that has taken place around our cities. As people have been driven out of the cities by high house prices — we have made it easy for that to happen — it has made the problem worse, to say nothing of the congestion it has caused. The result is that hardly has a motorway been built but it is declared out of date and there is a call for plans to widen it, as is the case with the M50.
The only sensible place to begin planning a national transport system is with public transport, not the road system. We acted back to front in the past, starting with the road system and later developing a transport policy. As a result of not doing the right thing, Dublin has ended up looking a bit like Los Angeles, a city to which there is no centre. The only difference is that people in Dublin do not have as many cars as the people in Los Angeles. If Transport 21 results in a different approach that gives priority to public transport for the first time, I welcome it, although it is a little late in the day to do so.
However, I stress that I do not welcome the plan as such but the intention to put it into place. I presume that intention is real. It is real in terms of the commitment of the individuals involved, but the implementation of such plans does not seem to happen. I propose to give the Government the benefit of the doubt on this plan.
I wish to make a criticism of the plan. If I understand it correctly, the intention is to create a single authority that will bring together all Dublin's transport development, whether that takes place by road or by the various means of public transport. We must welcome that, but it does not go far enough. To bring all the transport planning together while omitting consideration of land-use planning makes no sense. There is no point in joining-up part of the picture and leaving out one of the most important parts of it. I am at one with the Dublin city manager, Mr. John Fitzgerald, who expressed himself forcefully on this point.
For the past ten years we have made a dog's dinner of our transport planning. I had hoped to be able to welcome Transport 21 as a turn in a new direction, but unless we revisit the functions of the proposed Dublin Transportation Authority I fear this new effort will be as inappropriate to the real needs of the country as all previous attempts have been. The Minister will appreciate this is not a criticism of the plan but of our inability to put plans into effect. I wish the Minister well in doing that but I want to see determination on his part rather than simply being satisfied with the drawing up of the plan.
I thank Senator Quinn for sharing his time with me. We under-invested in public transport in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and we are now playing catch up, although in the late 1990s we corrected that. We have come a long way but we have a long way to go. We have begun to learn from some of our past mistakes. I notice when I travel to Dublin every week that on the road from Carlow to Castledermot the ditches of the new motorway route have been removed as it is planned to commence such work next March or April. With this action the authorities have ensured that birds will not nest in the shrubbery and thereby cause a delay in the carrying out of the proposed work. I am encouraged when I see such activities and forward thinking.
More road projects are coming in on time or ahead of schedule and on budget, which was not the case when I was member of the Joint Committee on Transport committee two years ago. That is encouraging and long may it continue. There are two ways to view projects that come in under budget. One is that it is good news and the other is to ask if those engaged in the project were wrong in their initial projections.
I am cynical about this plan. The reaction of members of public to it was amazing. I listened to reaction to it in the form of text messages and e-mails on the "Five Seven Live" radio programme. Members of the public are cynical about it and no one can blame them for that. They hear of a ten year plan, a period that could span the life of three Governments and six Ministers having responsibility for this area with the added factor that we do not know what will happen over a period as long as ten years. A week is a long time in politics, therefore, ten years is an eternity. We do ourselves a disservice when we introduce a plan covering too long a period. We must prove to the electorate that politics is worth investing in and that politicians can deliver. We need to ensure we can deliver on projects. The challenge facing the Government is for it to deliver on the projects covered by this plan.
I have received many complaints from landowners in counties Carlow and Kilkenny affected by the planned new motorway in term of CPOs to the effect that the NRA is difficult to deal with. The Minister should endeavour to ensure that the NRA deals sympathetically with landowners whose land is taken from them against their wishes. Everyone involved has complained that the landowners' plight is not dealt with sympathetically at the moment.
Which sector is Waterford Regional Airport geared towards? It is on the wrong side of the city and does not serve the south east. I have grave reservations about further State investment in this airport because it does not represent value for money and is not being used by sufficient numbers of people. I previously raised the issue of the poor condition of approaches into train stations around the country, even from the perspective of tourism. Could the Minister discover how much land around train stations is owned by Iarnród Éireann and whether it can be redeveloped and cleaned up? The poor state of this land creates an adverse first impression for people arriving in towns.
I congratulate the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department on the production of Transport 21. The next ten years will be the most crucial in this country's infrastructural development. We have almost reached saturation point with regard to the number of cars on roads in Dublin. Certain Senators spoke about their own experience with Dublin traffic. It took me an hour and a half to travel the four and a half miles from Donaghmede to Drumcondra this morning. This morning was exceptional for no obvious reason.
Transport 21 is farsighted, well planned and well researched. I remember the Dublin transportation initiative which led to the creation of the Dublin Transportation Office. At that time, I disagreed with the policy of excluding cars from the city centre. We now have long traffic queues, cars parked in streets around the city and a concomitant increase in vehicle emissions. Transport 21 is a holistic and comprehensive look at how we can tackle these problems. I welcome the commitments given regarding value for money in this initiative. These include various guides and fixed-price contracts which have been cost reviewed at the beginning and include inflation and risks.
The plan contains provisions for more buses and quality bus corridors for Dublin. A total of 170 bus routes cater for over 500,000 people per day in Dublin. A Senator commented that Dublin Bus has not improved but I believe it has improved immensely. It has increased its transportation of commuters by 25% over the past six years. The Luas and DART systems are considerable successes. I welcome the news that the RPA has called on the Minister to introduce the railway order which will permit the extension of the Luas line to the Point Theatre. The extension of this line is crucial to this area of the city and will link with the proposed new train station there which will be part of the Navan line.
The provision of park and ride facilities around Dublin city was part of the original plan, which would enable people living on the outskirts to park their cars and use public transport. I listened to Senator Norris's comments regarding the metro system. The late Rudi Monaghan, whom I knew very well, pushed for the creation of a metro system for a long time. A metro system is essential, particularly when one considers that such systems are the main form of transport in most capital cities in Europe and the rest of the world.
The need for connectivity throughout the country comes across in the plan. A Senator commented that there was no timing or detail in the plan but it contains a considerable amount of detail regarding what will happen between 2006 and 2015. The plan also contains an element relating to the upgrading of roads between this country and Northern Ireland. It also provides for the upgrading of provisional bus services, roads and the rail network.
Traffic problems in Dublin must be tackled. The Minister and the Minister of State have demonstrated great initiative in attempting to tackle some of the problems facing Dublin. The Clare Street initiative was one such project. I congratulate the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department on producing Transport 21.
I welcome Transport 21 and reiterate a point made by the Minister about its implementation. It was the most important sentence in his speech. He stated that his Department would establish a monitoring committee to oversee Transport 21 and ensure it was implemented. There are many ideas and concepts in this plan but it is important to see that it is implemented. The Minister indicated that the monitoring committee would be chaired by his Department but I am not sure if this is the best course of action. The monitoring committee should be independent and involve representatives from the general public. There is no mention of any public user participation in the committee but I am sure there are organisations representing the general public, aside from Departments and State agencies, that could take part in it.
I see Senator Coghlan wishes to speak. There is great affinity between Kerry and Clare so I will conclude and allow him to contribute.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House, as well as the opportunity to speak about Transport 21. I welcome this plan, which has variously been described as a rehash or, as Senator Quinn commented, a scaled-down version of previous plans. Senator Quinn was correct in calling for a total emphasis on public transport. This is particularly apt in Dublin because, as Senator Brady noted, the traffic situation here has reached saturation point. I welcome future developments regarding the Luas and the proposed metro system.
My own county of Kerry is on the periphery and its residents are treated as second-class citizens with regard to transport. Both Senator Daly and I have a regard for the jewel in the crown of Kerry but trying to get tourists down to see it is difficult because they must frequently change trains at Mallow and board pre-war carriages. Could the Minister of State reveal when new and proper rolling stock will be introduced on the Cork-Tralee line?
The so-called Atlantic corridor veers off at Limerick for Cork and does not go near Kerry or through Limerick. The worst national primary road in the country is that running from Ballyvorney to Macroom.
I thank the Senators for their contributions to a very interesting and useful debate on Transport 21. I do not doubt that it is the first of many debates we will have on this important initiative and the major projects included therein over the next ten years. The recurring message from many speakers related to implementation. Practically everyone welcomed the plan but asked about its implementation. I note Senator Quinn's comment about determination. Some speakers have alluded to the reaction that followed the announcement of Transport 21, some of which, disappointingly, was negative.
In the days following the launch, and after the political points-scoring, I was proud to hear the political parties say that if in Government, they would implement the plan. When one studies Transport 21, one can see the amount of detail in it, the costings and the different approach in this plan as opposed to previous ones. My colleague, the Minister, the Government and myself assure Senators that we are determined to address one of the more serious issues in our community. We have addressed many other issues. When we took office, there were problems with high unemployment, housing, education and many other such issues. The majority of people will agree most of those issues have been addressed. However, the one issue on which we need to focus is transport and it is our intention to do so.
Two key strategies underpin Transport 21, namely, the development of a high-quality national transport network with improved regional and local public transport networks and services, and the transformation of the transport network in the greater Dublin area. Senator Brady referred to integration and the need for particular programmes, such as the metro. I am particularly pleased of my role as Minister of State in regard to the projects for the greater Dublin area and, of course, nationally.
As Senators will be aware, part of my delegated responsibilities as Minister of State in the Department include responsibility for traffic management in the greater Dublin area as well as in the provincial cities of Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. In this regard, I am pleased to say Transport 21 makes substantial provision for investment in traffic management, such as quality bus corridors, green routes, park and ride, etc. A key objective of these measures is to help reduce congestion in the city of Dublin and the provisional cities through bus priority, car control and other traffic management measures. In turn, this will create improvements in the quality of public transport services with a view to creating the conditions for a modal shift from the private car to public transport. That modal shift can only occur if we have reliable, efficient and regular public service transport.
In the greater Dublin area, Transport 21 will fund the construction of many new quality bus corridors, cycle paths, improved pedestrian facilities and traffic management support systems. The bulk of expenditure on traffic management measures in the greater Dublin area is earmarked for the delivery of QBCs designed to reduce the travel time for passengers, improved bus performance and improved quality of the bus transport experience. We want shorter commuting times. I was delighted Senator Brady had a 4.5 minute commute this morning. That is type of time within which I would like people to be able to commute.
Since 1994, the Exchequer has funded bus priority and car control measures in the greater Dublin area. The timely and successful implementation of the quality bus network programme between 2006 and 2016 will result in a doubling of the length of the bus priority schemes throughout the region and will lead to further improvements in the quality, reliability and efficiency of the bus service.
The provision of bus and rail-based park and ride facilities will make an important contribution to improved traffic management in Dublin. In this regard, I approved the DTO's strategy for rail-based park and ride facilities in the greater Dublin area. I also indicated that I wanted to ensure we considered bus-based park and ride facilities and that capital funding would be available for suitable projects, subject to compliance with the normal requirements for a business-based capital appraisal. Arrangements for park and ride funding will also extend to public transport interchange projects. However, revenue support to subsidised park and ride is not available at this stage.
Two types of park and ride are envisaged, namely, strategic and local. A number of larger strategic sites will be identified close to or on the strategic rail corridors where longer distance commuters can transfer to public transport. Local park and ride sites will be smaller in scale and located along all the public transport corridors. Good examples of these types of sites are in the existing facilities with which I presume the Senators can identify.
I turn to the provincial cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford where my Department has also funded the implementation of a range of traffic management, bus priority and car restraint measures since 2002. These include measures such as quality bus corridors, green routes, park and ride facilities, cycle paths and improved pedestrian facilities. I congratulate those cities for their work in this regard, in particular my colleague, Mr. Tim O'Sullivan, and his team in the traffic office.
Cork is making significant improvements with the implementation of traffic management and bus priority measures under its Cork area strategic plan. A Senator asked why implementation of Transport 21 will take so long. Cork's plan will take 20 years to implement while Transport 21 will take ten. Cork's plan is tremendous and it has made considerable progress. The welcome aspect is that it will snowball and be even better as it rolls out because much thought and effort has gone into it. It has also already drawn down €20 million from my Department. We can learn from the success in Cork.
Limerick, Galway and Waterford have also made significant progress and they have many good plans. I would say to those representing any of the cities mentioned or any of the provincial towns that if I can assist in any way to roll out plans, I would be happy to do so. I have met a number of city managers, directors of services for traffic and public representatives on these issues.
I thank Senator Brady for mentioning my initiative, the Clare Street initiative. Following my appointment to the Department of Transport, I met a range of organisations and groups with a common interest in achieving improvements in traffic management in the capital. As a result of those discussions as well as my determination to make improvements, I actively explored the scope to progress the effective implementation of traffic management and related measures in Dublin in order to bring added value to major transport investments which are under way and planned. It culminated in the establishment of the CSI at the start of October. The initiative brings together all the relevant players in the greater Dublin area to consider how we can make things better in Dublin. In particular, the initiative will focus on the following: measures which have the capacity to make a material difference, whether large or small; measures which are capable of delivering rapid results; and measures which might not otherwise attract high priority in terms of implementation.
Some 37 projects were tabled by members of the Clare Street initiative at its initial meeting held in Clontarf Castle on 5 October last. Workshops were held to consider the projects in detail and a short-list of projects was identified. This was real work in progress. Announcement of a final project list requires that the bodies identified as implementing agencies for individual projects confirm they are prepared to carry forward the projects. The process is currently in hand. When the implementing agencies have decided on the individual projects, the list will be formally announced. I am confident, based on the quality of people on board and on the initial work to date, that the Clare Street initiative can and will make a material difference to the way traffic flows in the Dublin area. I hope I will be able to roll out this model in the other provincial cities when we see it has worked well.
Today is 1 December and the countdown to Christmas has well and truly started. Accordingly, I should mention Operation Freeflow, the purpose of which is to manage the increase in traffic flows in the capital which occur each year in the run up to Christmas and into the new year. I am pleased to indicate that all the agencies have come together for the first time this year. I have brought in players, including the car parks, transport providers, local authorities and State agencies such as the Garda Síochána, and asked that they give additional value this year. It is the first year in which all public transport services are running late night services. There is late night car parking and no charge for overnight car parking. There is a host of measures under Operation Freeflow and I encourage people to log onto the website at www.freeflow.ie.
I take the opportunity to congratulate all those who have made a significant effort to ensure that people who wish to come to Dublin to visit friends, relatives, Santa Claus, go shopping or whatever else will have an enjoyable and pleasurable experience and that any traffic disruption to their journeys will be minimised to the benefit of everybody.
I thank all speakers for their very kind and positive contributions on the bigger picture of Transport 21. I again invite Members to feel free to contact me or my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, or our Department at any time on any one of the issues.
On a final note, I am pleased to say we will be able to give Members regular briefings as to progress. An interdepartmental monitoring committee will track progress in our long-term investment strategy in Transport 21.