I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
This year will be a year of major overhaul and reform for transport in Ireland. We have four major Transport Bills before the Oireachtas at this moment: the Road Transport Bill, the Air Transport Bill, the Canals Bill and now the Dublin Transport Authority Bill.
Within a week I will be circulating the Free Ports Bill and during the course of the year we will have the CIE Restructuring Bill, the Sea Pollution Bill, the Shannon Port Authority Bill and the Rosslare Harbour Authority Bill. In addition, during the summer recess, a Green Paper on national transport policy will be published.
Therefore, this Bill is part of the most substantial overhaul of the transport scene in Ireland for many years, the intention of which is to give to transport a vibrance, vitality and efficiency which it has for too long lacked. I should say at the outset that this Bill is quite different from the draft heads of Bill prepared by my predecessor, Deputy Wilson, and I make no apologies for that. When I came into office, I examined Deputy Wilson's proposals and I felt that the net result of what he proposed would be to add greatly to bureaucracy and almost certainly reduce the vitality of transport. Therefore, what we are bringing before the Dáil in the present Bill is a set of proposals greatly revised, giving a much leaner and fitter structure to the Dublin Transport Authority — DTA for short. For example, under the previous proposals the DTA would have become a very substantial bureaucracy of road designers and planners, replicating what is already duplicated in the local authorities and the Department of the Environment. Moreover, final road plans would have fallen to be decided by the Cabinet which would have become a super-planning committee for Dublin city and county.
I say this not as a criticism of Deputy Wilson's proposals, but just to point out that I felt there was a better way, a more efficient way, a cheaper way of achieving the same objectives and these are the proposals I have now before the House. Moreover, there was a need to correlate this measure with local government reforms in Dublin. This has now been done.
The need for co-ordination of transport investment, traffic management and public transport services in the Dublin area is self-evident and the aim of this Bill is to give it that co-ordination so as to rid Dublin of traffic jams and to give it a reliable and cheap public transport system.
The Dublin Transport Authority will:
(1) be connected to the new local authority system for Dublin city and county;
(2) take over from the Garda Commissioner the role of road traffic authority in its functional area;
(3) assume responsibility for all traffic management schemes, i.e., traffic lights, road signs, etc.;
(4) take over responsibility for the taxi service from the Department of the Environment and the local authorities;
(5) have responsibility for the routing, pricing and licensing of all bus services;
(6) be the advisor to the Government on transport infrastructure investment in the Dublin area on road, rail and bus;
(7) have the right to make recommendations to the local authorities and to the Minister for the Environment about local authorities' development plans and road plans, and the right of consultation by the local authorities and An Bord Pleanála on all planning applications and appeals with significant implications for traffic management or provision of transport services;
(8) have the power to direct local authorities to bollard roads, to convert long roads into a number of cul-de-sacs to prevent joyriding;
(9) have power to direct local authorities to ramp roads to prevent speeding;
(10) have control over the provision of public car parks in the Dublin area;
(11) have control over the timing and co-ordination of road works.
As far as transport planning for the Dublin area is concerned, there is a clear need to ensure that public and private transport requirements are treated in an integrated and co-ordinated manner. In particular, the development plans and road proposals of the local authorities must take public transport needs fully into account.
Secondly, co-ordinated planning should in turn result in co-ordinated assessments being made of the requirements for annual Exchequer funding of public and private transport. This is vital if the limited Exchequer funds available are to yield the maximum benefits to the community.
Thirdly, as far as public transport services are concerned, monitoring of CIE's performance and regulation of such matters as taxi services and the provision of bus services by private operators should all be entrusted to a body whose functions relate to every major aspect of private and public transport in the Dublin area.
Finally, the regulation and management of traffic in the Dublin area needs to be put on a new statutory footing. The establishment of a Dublin Transport Authority was the principal recommendation of the Report on Passenger Transport Services in the Dublin Area, presented by the Transport Consultative Commission.
The Dublin Transportation Task Force, the non-statutory forerunner of the DTA, has achieved quite a lot. I wish to record my appreciation of its efforts. Comprising senior representatives of the Government Departments directly concerned, the Garda Commissioner and the Dublin City and County Manager, and with the assistance of CIE, the Task Force has achieved a number of important improvements in traffic management in the Dublin area.
These improvements have been secured as a result of the development by the Task Force of a strategy aimed at reducing traffic congestion at peak hours by getting commuters to switch from cars to buses. The strategy has involved a combination of improvements to the bus services and a parking policy which discourages all-day parking in the city centre. Among the measures implemented have been the following:
— over 600 new or re-engined buses are now in service in CIE's Dublin fleet, which numbers about 840 buses in all;
— buslanes have been successfully implemented at 65 locations, covering virtually all of the main arterial routes into the city centre;
— the traffic warden service has grown from a small number working on a part-time basis to 109 full-time and 16 part-time wardens;
— 1,700 on-street car parking spaces formerly available for all-day parking have been converted to short-stay use by the provision of parking meters.
Notwithstanding these improvements traffic congestion persists as a very pressing problem. The continuing lack of a single statutory body with responsibility, and the necessary powers, for traffic management in the Dublin area and the consequential complexity of arrangements has meant that traffic problems could not be tackled with sufficient speed, vigour or thoroughness. A non-statutory grouping such as the Task Force, which is dependent on the combined efforts of its member-agencies, each of which has its own priorities and concerns, is not equal to the task except on an interim basis.
It would be appropriate at this juncture for me to indicate in detail how the Dublin Transport Authority proposed in this Bill compared with what was proposed by the Transport Consultative Commission. As regards functions, as recommended by the Commission the DTA will have functions in the areas of transport planning and funding and public transport services, in addition to traffic management. However, the Authority's planning functions exclude a substantial element recommended by the Commission, namely, that the authority itself would draw up a comprehensive Dublin Transport Plan. Such a plan, when approved by the Government, would be binding on all concerned. This recommendation was not accepted because of the risk of duplicating the on-going planning work of the local authorities and CIE.
Instead, the Bill required the Authority to assess the plans of those bodies and make recommendations to the Ministers for Communications and the Environment, as appropriate. Any recommendations to Ministers by the Authority in relation to local authority functions will also be submitted to the Dublin Metropolitan Council when that is established in due course. In these ways the integration of transport planning recommended by the commission will be achieved.
In practice, the Dublin Transport Authority would have to operate having regard to the settled general planning strategy adopted for its functional area by the local authorities in question. It will input into that strategy. The Authority's planning functions will be reviewed in the light of how the authority is operating. Additional functions in that particular matter, or in other matters within its remit, may be given by ministerial order under section 9 of the Bill, subject to Oireachtas control.
As regards the structure of the Authority, the commission recommended an executive board below the Authority itself. The Authority would have 15 members, including elected representatives of the Dublin local authorities and other relevant interests. This would be too unwieldly an organisation and could not therefore be accepted. Instead, the Bill provides for a more concise and unified Authority, with a maximum of 12 members, to be appointed by the Minister for Communications on the basis of appropriate experience and expertise in transport and other relevant matters. Four members of the Authority will be members of the four proposed main Dublin local authorities who are nominated by them for membership of the Authority.
Under section 10 of the Bill, the DTA's functional area will generally cover all of the areas of the three existing Dublin local authorities, Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation. It may be desirable, however, that for the purposes of specific functions, for example, in relation to public transport services, the Authority's area should be somewhat greater than that. Section 10 provides the necessary flexibility in that the authority's functional area may be varied in respect of all or any of its functions by ministerial order, subject to Oireachtas control.
Since the Bill is accompanied by Explanatory Memorandum, it is not necessary for me to go through it in any detailed way. I have already referred briefly to the planning functions of the Authority, which are set out in Part III of Bill. I indicated how the DTA will integrate the roads and land use planning of the Dublin local authorities and the public transport planning of CIE. It will also have an advisory role in relation to planning applications and appeals which have major implications for traffic management or the provision of transport services.
Over the past few years, major road works in the Dublin area have included the Clontarf Embankment Road, development of the Airport road, the construction of Templeogue Bridge and by-passes at Swords, Palmerstown, Cabinteely and Santry. In recent years, three new bridges have been erected over the River Liffey — the Frank Sherwin Bridge at Heuston Station, the Matt Talbot Bridge at the Custom House, and the East Link Bridge which has facilitated some through traffic in avoiding the city centre and a substantial time saving is being achieved by users.
In the major road plans already approved by the Government, the road situation in Dublin will be completely transformed by the end of this decade. The motorway box around the city from Stillorgan to Swords will be completed in three parts, the Southern Cross Route at one end, the Northern Cross Route at the other end and, in the middle, the Western Parkway, which only in the past few days has got the go-ahead from Dublin County Council. This will include a high-level toll bridge over the River Liffey at Strawberry Beds. In addition, the Airport by-pass, already well advanced, will be completed; the Chapelizod, Lucan and the Bray/Shankill by-passes, together with the new Navan Road, will be completed. So, too, will the inner tangent route.
This massive infrastructural investment has been accompanied by a huge public transport investment in the electrified rail services on the Howth-Bray line, or DART as it has become known. The DART services commenced in July of last year and the public's response so far has been encouraging. However, even to cover its operational costs, it would require twice as many passengers per day as have now been achieved and it is CIE's aim to achieve this by 1987.
I must express grave disappointment at the failure of CIE and the unions to agree so far on the provision of feeder services for the DART. If the huge public investment in the DART is to be even half justified, it is absolutely imperative that these feeder services commence without further delay. CIE and the unions should know that if they are not prepared to provide the feeder services, there are many private operators who would be so prepared; and I am under some considerable pressure to consider this option.
The Dublin Rail Rapid Transit Study of 1975 saw the electrification of the Howth-Bray line as the first phase in a city-wide electrified rail system. The next phase recommended was the provision of electrified services between Tallaght and Heuston Station. Discussions have taken place between CIE and the Department of Communications in recent years about the question of providing electrified services between Tallaght-Clondalkin and Heuston Station with, initially, a feeder bus service to the city centre. The cost of that proposal could be in excess of £100 million. The possibility of various cheaper alteratives such as a busway to Tallaght, or diesel rather than electrified rail services, has been discussed with CIE but no definite proposals have yet emerged.
The question of what public transport services are to be provided for Tallaght-Clondalkin and other developing areas west of the city, and whether such services should be provided by rail, road or busway, will require priority consideration by the DTA. Consultation will be necessary with the local authorities and CIE. Given the constraints on resources, the high cost of rail projects will require that cheaper bus-based alternatives are brought to the forefront in the DTA's consideration of these questions.
As far as funding of transport is concerned, the authority will make recommendations as to the priorities in annual Exchequer allocations, both capital and current, for roads and public transport to the Ministers for the Environment and Communications, respectively, to which section 21 refers. The importance of striking the best balance between the transport modes is readily apparent. In 1984, Exchequer grants to the Dublin local authorities for road maintenance and improvement works totalled £25 million, while CIE's Dublin services were subvented by the Exchequer in the amount of £34 million.
Section 21 should provide the Authority with an effective budgetary role to complement its planning role, without the additional procedures which would be necessary if the relevant funds were to flow through the DTA to the local authorities and CIE. Again, however, the budgetary functions of the Authority merit reconsideration when experience of the working of the Authority is gained. The ministerial order mechanism under section 9 of the Bill provides the necessary flexibility. In the area of traffic management, where a more direct regulatory role is proposed for the Authority, the DTA will disburse Exchequer funds under section 42 of the Bill to the local authorities to have specific schemes implemented.
In the area of public transport services, which is dealt with in Part IV of the Bill, the Authority will set objectives in relation to the extent and standard of bus and suburban rail services to be provided in the Authority's functional area by CIE, within their Exchequer subvention. The Authority will also monitor CIE's progress on meeting such objectives. This will impose a healthy discipline on CIE, and will enable value for money to be assessed as far as Exchequer subvention is concerned.
The Bill also provides that CIE will not vary their fares for Dublin bus and suburban rail services without the approval of the Authority, given with the consent of the Minister for Communications. The DTA will also take over responsibility from the Minister for Communications for the licensing of private bus operators to provide public transport services in Dublin, if thought necessary, and for the control of taxi services in the area.
The restructuring of CIE will involve the separate administration by subsidiaries of Dublin city services, provincial bus services and the railway. Links will, therefore, have to be established between the DTA and the new CIE subsidiaries with responsibility for Dublin city services and for the railway — which is likely to retain responsibility for DART — or directly with CIE itself.
While the preparation of the new CIE legislation is in hands, the restructuring of CIE will take some time to effect. The Government are anxious to get the DTA working as soon as possible. The interface between the DTA and the new CIE subsidiaries with responsibility for Dublin bus and suburban railway services will broadly follow the lines of the interface between the Authority and the present CIE provided for in this Bill.
I must now refer to the continuing industrial relations difficulties in CIE's Dublin bus services which have contributed to a continuing decline in bus usage in the city. The number of man days lost through industrial action averaged over 12,000 per annum from 1980 to 1984, compared with approximately 4,000 per annum in the preceding five years. In 1984, 25, 181 man days were lost. These stoppages have adversely affected public confidence in the reliability of the service, despite the real improvements brought about by investment in new buses and bus priority measures.
The new organisational structure for CIE will enable any management defects in the industrial relations area to be remedied. The DTA will be intensifying the pro-public transport traffic management strategy begun by the task force, so that the operating environment for buses and trains will be further improved. It is not too much to ask that the unions and management resolve the various defects on their sides, particularly that of unofficial or unalloted industrial action on the union side. The Government and the general public are entitled to demand good industrial relations in order to aid the major efforts that are being made to help CIE.
The DTA is being given the function, now the prerogative of the Minister for Communications, of licensing private bus operators to provide public transport services, subject to the Minister for Communications having an appellate function in the matter. The licensing question will, therefore, be one for the Authority in the first instance. While there may well be scope for the provision by licensed private operators of limited or specialised bus services in the Dublin area, it is not possible at this stage to indicate the likely extent of such provision.
As I have said, the establishment of the DTA and the reorganisation of CIE will provide the environment in which CIE management and staff should be able to deliver an efficient and reliable service. It would be inconsistent at the same time to permit private operators to provide scheduled services on any extensive basis, even if they were in a position to do so. CIE must avail of the opportunity being provided for them, however, and no doubt the DTA will keep the licensing question under continuous review.
The DTA will be the regulatory body for taxi services in the Dublin area. Matters such as the licensing of vehicles and drivers and the approval of maximum fares will be controlled by the Authority. Taxi services are part of the public transport system and should be consciously developed as such. They should be an element in the overall traffic and transport strategy for Dublin. Taxis should provide a flexible service to complement the bus services, for example, in the city centre areas to meet the needs of business people and shoppers particularly. Such a service, particularly if attractively priced, would make it easier for people to leave their cars at home.
I have mentioned that the Authority will approve maximum taxi fares and also any change in CIE fares. This Bill also provides that the authority will control charges for public car parking, both on street and off street, in the Dublin area. The involvement of the National Prices Commission in settling these various transport related charges and fares will cease. This is not a removal of price control, of course, but a transfer of that function to the Authority from the NPC. This is in view of the overall nature of the Authority's role in transport matters and in the interest of minimising the number of agencies required to be involved in those matters.
Part V of the Bill sets out the traffic management functions of the Dublin Transport Authority. The Authority will both devise traffic and parking measures and make by-laws to give effect to them. These functions have, heretofore, rested with the Garda Commissioner acting either on his own initiative or at the request of the local authority. The consent of the Minister for the Environment will be required for the Authority by-laws. This will ensure the necessary degree of compatibility with the national "rules of the road" regulations made by that Minister, and with other local traffic and parking by-laws throughout the country which will continue to be made by the Garda Commissioner.
The Authority will also regulate public car parks and roadworks under powers being provided in legislation for the first time. The other important new power which is being provided in section 32 will enable the Authority, by means of bollards, to restrict, wholly or partly, the use of public roads by vehicles and, by means of road ramps, to restrict vehicle speeds on public roads. This power will have particular relevance for controlling traffic in built-up areas and housing estates.
This new power will be an extremely important one. Unfortunately, due to the alarming growth of what has become known as joyriding, many residential roads have become dangerous racetracks where life, limb and property are constantly endangered. Moreover, with the growth of vehicular traffic, many motorists use residential roads as "rat runs" or short-cuts from one arterial road to another. It will now be possible for the Dublin Transport Authority to decide, where appropriate and suitable, to make existing residential roads in whole or in part, into cul-de-sacs, by means of bollards. I have no doubt that this power will be warmly welcomed by many communities throughout the city as a means of making their roadways safe once again. We are also providing power for the Authority to arrange, where suitable, for ramps on Dublin roads in order to inhibit joyriding or excessive speeds.
The traffic warden service will be transferred to the Authority under section 15, but otherwise the Garda will continue to be responsible for traffic law enforcement. The traffic and parking schemes will be implemented by the local authorities on behalf of the Authority with funds provided for by the latter.
The objective of traffic management is to make the optimum use of the existing roads network for the movement of people and goods. Traffic management is vitally important. Traffic management works can yield significant returns, in terms of alleviating congestion, from relatively low levels of expenditure. In 1985 £2.7 million approximately will be made available by the Exchequer for such works in the Dublin area.
I will be looking to the Dublin Transport Authority to revamp and intensify the traffic management efforts of the Task Force, and to examine afresh existing traffic arrangement. In particular, I wish to see the Authority develop a comprehensive parking strategy in favour of the short-stay parker, as against the all-day parker. Such a strategy would embrace off-street and on-street spaces, charges, parking periods and types of parking controls and, in particular, effective measures against illegal parking.
No traffic management strategy can succeed without proper enforcement. The transfer of the traffic warden service to the DTA should result in a more effective and professional service. The provisions of the Bill dealing with the transfer include guarantees against any worsening of the wardens' pre-transfer pay, conditions of service and superannuation entitlements. I would like to see the development of a supervisory structure for the Dublin traffic warden service which would improve efficiency and, also, provide incentives for advancement for the traffic wardens. The Garda too, I feel, could step up their traffic law enforcement efforts considerably, notwithstanding the many higher priority demands that are made upon them.
In addition to the specific functions I have outlined, the DTA will have the general functions under section 8 of the Bill of ensuring, in so far as they can, the proper planning and efficient operation of road and rail transport in their functional area and of promoting and engaging in public education and research related to road and rail transport. There should be no overlap or duplication between the education and research functions of the Authority and functions of An Foras Forbartha and the National Road Safety Association, and vice versa.
The maximum penalties for offences under the Bill when enacted are set out in section 52. The actual penalty imposed in any case will, of course, be a matter for the court. Maximum penalties of £1,000 and/or one year's imprisonment on summary conviction, or £50,000 and/or five years' imprisonment on conviction on indictment, are provided for in respect of three types of offence. These are unauthorised disclosure of information by a member or employee of the Authority, failure of an Authority member or employee to disclose a beneficial interest in matters being dealt with by the Authority, and unauthorised roadworks. The maximum penalties provided for in these cases are high, but rightly so I believe, in view of the potentially very serious nature of the offences.
Section 52 also provides that the same penalties as apply under the Road Traffic Acts for the country as a whole will apply to other offences under the Bill, namely breaches of the Authority's by-laws under sections 31 and 36. Under section 43 the levels of the fines-on-the-spot imposed for parking offences will continue to be set in regulations made by the Minister for the Environment. He is currently reviewing the levels of these fines.
As far as the Authority's running costs are concerned, the Bill provides for financing of the Authority by the Exchequer, and that staff numbers and salary levels will be subject to ministerial control, in the interests of economy and efficiency. I can, if necessary, avail of the flexibility provided by the commencement provisions of the Bill to assign functions to the Authority on a phased basis. I can assure the House that the Authority will be a lean and fit body.
With this approach, the running costs of the DTA will not be permitted to exceed £400,000 in their first full year of operation. This figure is net of the costs of the traffic warden service, the transfer of which will merely result in a re-allocation of Exchequer funds between the Vote of the Garda Commissioner and that of my Department.
The terms and conditions of the staff of the Authority will be analogous to the terms and conditions of staff in the local authority service. I am hopeful that the Authority will be able to select staff among existing competent and experienced public service personel. This should enable some offsetting staff savings in other bodies, but, at this stage, it is not possible to quantify the likely level of such savings.
After their first year of operation, the staffing of the Authority will be reviewed in the light of experience, and in the light of any additional functions which might be given to them and of their capacity to bring about worthwhile savings to the Exchequer or to the community.
It is very clear now that traffic and transport problems in Dublin are currently imposing massive hidden costs on industry, public transport and private motorists and will continue to do so until the problems are properly tackled. I am convinced that the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority, with the comprehensive range of functions and powers contained in this Bill, is the way in which to tackle those problems. I am confident that the benefits which will accrue to the Exchequer and to the community from the establishment of the Authority will greatly exceed its costs.
Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House.