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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Apr 1983

Vol. 341 No. 8

Adjournment Debate . - Southern Cross Route .

: I regret having to hold up the House on this issue this evening. It may seem a parochial matter but it affects almost one million people. I raise it to express the sheer frustration of the people of south Dublin about the lack of progress which has been made. It may seem that I am just talking about another road which needs tarring or other work but I am not. This is a road which it is proposed will go across the whole southern section of Dublin city. According to the consultants it will carry up to 100,000 cars a day when it is finished in 1989. If the road is not finished Dublin city will grind to a halt. I say that without any exaggeration.

Anybody who has had the pleasure of driving anywhere between the Naas Road to Dún Laoghaire knows that the average speed a car travels at is 5 to 7 miles per hour. I ask the Government to cut through the red tape. I have no doubt the Minister will give me a long list of each section, junction, allocation and decisions taken by the council and changes of plans. I know all about these and about the rows between various golf clubs, colleges and so on. Deputy Shatter knows them as well as I do.

I plead with the Government to cut through the red tape and finish the road. The total funds which have been allocated so far amount to £2,500,000. Only a small fraction of the road has been built for that. If the jet which had to land at Mallow had known about this fraction of road it could safely have landed there. It runs from Greenhills to the Tallaght road. It starts nowhere and goes nowhere. It can best be described as one and a half miles of beautiful runway. It has been built with public money and is just lying idle. It is as big a scandal as the beautiful empty offices we have in town. The road must be connected up. It is no use the way it is.

This has been going on for ten years. The Minister of State is more familiar with the problem than I am. This is 1983 and I hope the three of us are not back here in 1993 trying to get the road completed. We had a debate earlier today about rail services needed for Dublin. The statement was made time and time again that this city is grinding to a halt. It transpired that there is no overall CIE plan to try to relieve the congestion.

Only a small section of the road has been built in ten years. That is not acceptable. What is the completion date for the road? I want the Minister to cut through the red tape and give me straight answers. When can we look forward to him or someone on this side of the House cutting the tape to open the southern cross route? There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for an answer to this question. I am as sensitive as anyone to the cost and it would be no harm to know the overall cost of the road. Will it be £20 million or £50 million? So far it seems that only £2,500,000 has been spent on it. Has all the land been purchased? This will cause problems if not. I want to be able to tell people when it will be finished and how much it will cost. If we get answers to these questions we need not bore people with a lot of detail.

On 1 May 1981 a letter was written to the southern cross study group by Deputy FitzGerald in which he said:

We consider the southern cross route as absolutely necessary to the proper development of south Dublin. It will play a vital role in the commercial development of that area as well as protect the quality of life of its inhabitants. We are convinced in Fine Gael that this project is essential and I hereby re-iterate Fine Gael's commitment to it.

I know the Minister of State is not Fine Gael but I know the Leader of the Government wishes to have the road built and I ask him to expedite the matter.

There are many other aspects one could go into. There are sections of the road for which money has been allocated but which have not been built. There has been disagreement about large sections of the road. The southern part of Dublin has the fastest growing population of any European city. It is an area which is fast becoming a concrete jungle and one where traffic stands still. If the Government do not have an integrated transport plan for this area combining road and rail things will come to a halt.

My colleague, Deputy Shatter, and I spend a lot of our time performing a sad duty and that is attending the funerals of nine-year-olds and ten-year-olds who have been viciously run down by motorists in this area. It is almost a daily task and not one which we relish. I attribute these problems to the difficulties in the area. I ask the Minister to cut through the red tape and try to devise a plan for the whole area south of the Liffey.

Any area, Rathfarnham, Dundrum, Ballinteer or Ballyboden, is bigger than Galway city and together they are bigger than Cork city. They are enormous cities and there seems to be no plan to try to sort out the difficulties in that area. I want to express the frustration of my constituents and to ask the Minister to carry out the commitment given by the Leader of the Government and to cut through the red tape so that I can report to the people of south Dublin that this commitment has been lived up to. I would ask the Minister to inform me of the timetable, costs and an opening date for the road.

: Is it in order for me to make a brief contribution?

: Yes, it is in accordance with the rules once the time has not been taken up.

: If there is agreement on any single issue among all Deputies who represent Dublin South in all the parties, it is the urgent necessity to build the southern cross route. I have heard Deputy Brennan's speech repeated time and time again in the council chamber of Dublin County Council. It is no harm to bring home to central Government the urgent necessity to build this road. In my time as a member of Dublin County Council I felt continuously frustrated at the length of time it seemed to take to bring matters to any sort of conclusion. There have been endless deliberations and waiting for reports from engineers commissioned to examine and re-examine the route and to advise council officials as to where the appropriate route should be. Some of the delays are not the fault of the officials; they are the fault of councillors, including myself, who have sought to ensure that the route takes the most practical course to cause the minimum damage to the general area. However, the stage has now been reached where there is need for urgent progress in the building of this road. Indeed that stage was reached many years ago and Deputy Brennan is right in saying that there does not seem to have been any overall plan for the provision of roads in the Dublin south area.

South Dublin is the fastest growing area in the whole country and the existing road structure is incapable of taking the traffic passing through it at present. It is getting steadily worse. There have been a number of road accidents and the blockage of traffic at rush hours is creating enormous problems for the people living in the area. Central Government have a very distinct role to play in cutting through some of the red tape and procedures in ensuring that this road is built very rapidly. There can be no dispute about the need for the road. It is fully supported by everybody who lives in the area. It is needed not merely in the context of road safety, which is one of the most important aspects of it, but also in the interests of a proper traffic flow system. There are also sound economic reasons for building this road quickly because in Dublin South there are a number of industrial estates either built or about to be built which will require this type of road structure to service them. If we do not provide that road structure, we will have an increasing number of juggernaut lorries trailing through residential areas and demolishing garden walls and cars in their path.

It sounds very parochial to talk about individual roads but on Ballyroan road, every second or third week, some individual's garden wall has been demolished by a juggernaut or other vehicle going along a road which was originally built for residential purposes and was never envisaged as a main thoroughfare. It has now become one of the busiest roads in Dublin South and there is an urgent need to divert this type of traffic out of built-up residential areas populated by a large number of young children. There have been a number of very tragic accidents in the last 18 months in this area. Many of these accidents would never have taken place if this route had been built years ago. When the massive number of housing estates were being planned for Dublin South, the road should have been built then.

I do not see at present any time scale and I agree with Deputy Brennan when he says it is very difficult to know when this road will be built. I greatly fear that in five ot ten years time we may still be debating the need for the road and asking the Government to provide the funds. I understand — I am sure the Minister will correct me if I am wrong — that all funding which has been sought by Dublin County Council over recent years has been made available by different Governments formed by different parties. It is not a party political issue. There is no outstanding request at present from Dublin County Council for funding and I hope that, as the council require funds, they will be made available. The Minister should confirm that. In election campaigns, some people in political parties suggested that Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael were not going to provide funds if they were elected. My experience has been that each party, during successive Governments in recent years, have always provided the funds as they have been sought.

In accepting the urgent necessity to build this road, I ask the Minister to enter into urgent discussions with the officials of Dublin County Council to ascertain what steps can now be taken to hurry the procedures required to bring this road into being without it dragging on for many years. The Minister has a role in this and I would like to see him taking up that role in conjunction with council officials and with elected councillors on Dublin County Council, to see it there is some way in which the present procedures can be speeded up.

I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to refer to all the points made by Deputy Brennan. Perhaps he will say that the matter should be referred back to Dublin County Council officials by way of questions to them. If that is the case I would ask the Minister to take today's discussion as an opportunity to take an initiative and to talk directly with officials and councillors to see what we can do to speed up the process and provide this road for the people who badly need it.

: The estimated cost of the precise southern cross section, the one over which there is an alignment dispute, not the portion which is built, in other words, from Firhouse to just below Wesley College, is £20 million. The Firhouse to Naas connection, some of which is already built, will cost £10 million. That forms part of a western by-pass around Dublin city known as the western parkway, linking up with the southern cross and the total combined estimated cost on today's prices is £61 million. Does the Deputy want to hear the rest of the bad news?

: I want to get the money.

: Exactly. That is the first reply to the Deputy's question. The second is that the estimated timetable as set out in the roads development plan — the Deputy should sit comfortably to hear this — is between 1986 and 1992. That is the estimated completion date for the entire project.

Finally, I accept fully with little or no reservation the degree of frustration and anger in the area and the necessity for this road. I know the area and I know the problem. However, how are we to schedule its funding to shorten the time set out in the roads development programme? I accept the suggestion made and the invitation from Deputy Shatter supported by Deputy Brennan to meet officials of Dublin County Council to talk about this issue. The county council for a variety of reasons have not themselves progressed this thing as quickly as they could. I take full responsibility for the red tape over which I have control but I will not take it for organisations over which I have no control. Maybe between the two the thing can be speeded up.

The funding of major roads such as this and other roads is something that we need to get cash into now rather than wait for the normal time span in terms of capital allocation. There is no point in condemning the sins of the past at this stage. We all know that it should have been done better and it is no pleasure for me as an advocate of it being done ten or 12 years ago to stand here now and say, "I told you so". The political question is how to get from here to the resolution of the problem quickly. We will have to raise additional funds and we are actively pursuing ways in which additional funds can be made available for the road network and we hope to be in a position to give details of that to the House. Legislation may be involved in the process, but in the interim we could not advance the work much faster if we were to write a cheque for £20 million for Dublin County Council now because they are not in a position to proceed with putting cement on to the ground or clearing the site.

I say to Deputy Shatter as a member of Dublin County Council and to Deputy Brennan as a representative of the area that the county council themselves with their consultants must bring forward the final detailed proposals for the alignment of the land. As the Deputies know, they have made a number of changes and I will not try to repeat what has been said, but we need to have the details finalised so that tender documentation can be prepared and work can commence on site. There is no constraint from us in relation to that. The engineering section have approved in principle the major proposals at this stage but the consultants have to come back.

Both Deputies will be aware that there has been a dispute going back for a long time about the alignment of the Southern Cross. It was included in the final stages of the ratification of the development plan for Dublin County Council on 31 March this year, but even within doing so the point was made that the alignment per se is merely that and not the final fixed location route of the road. Therefore, we have ambiguity in this.

I recognise and share the concern of the Deputies. There is a critical national need to build this entire road system and because of that we must look again at the priorities for capital roads allocation. If that means cutting back on the allocation for Galway then I am sure Deputy Brennan will explain in his sweet and soft tones to his senior colleague and front bench spokesman, Deputy Molloy, why it is so necessary. That is part of the hard choice that we must make. The southern cross road which affects the entire region of Dublin and all traffic coming into and around the city must be seen in the context of a national road of maximum priority. In that context we can bring forward the timetable, but at present the official timetable set out four administrations ago in the roads plan for the eighties is 1986-92. I do not find that acceptable and we are currently revising and reviewing that roads development plan.

I suggest to the Deputies that we take note of the debate that has taken place today and regard this motion on the Adjournment as representations in relation to looking at that timetable. This was raised on the Adjournment in 1981 in a similar vein. Money is a problem but not the immediate problem. It is easy for me to say that, but really I am saying to both the Deputies and to the public representatives in the area that they must come forward with an agreed proposal on the grounds as to how this is to be built and where, and we will come forward with proposals as to how it can be funded.

: May I make a statement?

: Yes, indeed.

: I gather that the Minister will have discussions with Dublin County Council officials pretty soon to see what he can do to improve the speed at which this thing is being progressed. Am I correct in that?

: Also do I understand him to hint that he may have to look at some radical approaches to cutting through the red tape? May I make this comment? With the level of unemployment in the country at the moment and the economic desperation which seems to be about in the one hand and this massive amount of work to be done on the other hand, between us as a society we cannot seem to lock one into the other.

: A second long speech would not be in order, Deputy. A few questions are all right.

: This is just a long question. The Minister would be the first perhaps to open up his mind to have more radical answers to old problems. To join in Deputy Shatter's request, this might be a very good experiment for the Minister. There may be more radical and quicker ways to provide the employment and at the same time provide a road. The date of 1992 is a depressing prospect for the people of south Dublin.

: Let me suggest to Deputy Brennan and also to Deputy Shatter in his county councillor capacity that they consider one of the things we will discuss with the officials is how we could make one CPO for the entire alignment of the route and have one public hearing. A great deal of legal work would be involved in that in terms of referencing; there are staffing implications and undoubtedly we will be hit with the embargo etc., but we can sit down and talk about these things and see if we can combine resources. That is the first way we can cut through the red tape of the CPO acquisition. It is really focusing resources on the task and getting one CPO hearing, one process. There will be objections to the CPO because somebody's back garden, front garden, or favourite view of the western world will be affected by this road, as both Deputies are better aware than I am. My first immediate suggestion is let us try as hard as we can — there may be suggestions as to why it cannot be done — to short-circuit that. There is no point in the engineering department bursting their guts to get the thing up to the law department and for the law section then to sit on it and not make the resources available. If we are to run it through the system, each section of the county council must give it priority. We must also look at the construction aspects and bring forward the design and tender documents simultaneously in advance of the programme so that there is no reason for delay other than the availability of money. As a socialist and a member of the Labour Party I have always had radical ideas about how you get money. "Watch this space" is what I would say.

: I look forward to hearing about those ideas on this project.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 26 April 1983.