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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 Jun 1991

Vol. 409 No. 9

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Dublin Light Rail System.

Eric J. Byrne


13 Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications when the blueprint for a light rail system for Dublin, which he told a newspaper (details supplied) of 3 June 1991 would be going before the Cabinet, will be ready; if he will outline its main points; the way in which the system will be financed; if any timetable has been set for its commencement or completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Proinsias De Rossa


21 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if he has considered the papers presented at the seminar on the Manchester Metrolink held in Trinity College on 8 March 1991 organised by the Irish Universities Transport Study Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 21 together.

The papers presented at the seminar held in Trinity College on 8 March last, at which my Department were represented, are being considered in the context of possible future strategies for the development of public transport infrastructure in Dublin. In this regard, I have extended the remit of the high level working group, which was originally established to assess and report on the most suitable transport option for the Harcourt Street line and the Tallaght area, to enable the group to examine the possibility of developing a light rail system for Dublin and to devise a blueprint for such a system. I have requested the working group to submit their report to me as a matter of urgency.

In addition, I have extended an invitation to the private sector to submit proposals to me for the development of a modern public transport system for Dublin. Already considerable interest is being shown by a number of international transport companies in association with local, private and public interests for the development of an integrated light rail system for Dublin. However, a number of issues must be evaluated comprehensively, including the possible network of operations and the financing of the investment involved. These matters will be examined in detail by the working group.

Finally, I can assure the House that I am determined to encourage the development of innovative solutions to Dublin's public transport problems.

As we are all aware, the local government elections will be held on 27 June. Will the Minister agree that over the past number of years he has been playing politics with the issue of public transportation, that he has jumped on a bandwagon in calling for the introduction of a light rapid rail system and has no commitment whatsoever to the reopening of the Harcourt Street line or to the establishment of an integrated public transport system? I want to ask the Minister two simple questions. First, how does he equate his proposals in regard to transportation with his self-acclaimed statement that he has cut the annual subsidy to CIE by 15 per cent in real terms? How will the Minister explain the lack of service on the 19, 20, 22 and 50 bus routes to the travelling public? Second, would he agree——

I have to dissuade the Deputy from embarking on what is clearly a speech. Brief, relevant and succinct questions, please.

Will the Minister agree that in the establishment of a light rapid rail system he is looking at two distinct options, first, the involvement of the Mercedes Benz group in the O-Bohn system——

Deputy Byrne, a display of that kind and quotations from documents are out of order.

The Minister is basing the prospect of the provision of a light rail system on two experiences, one of which relates to the Docklands area of London where the massive development attracted private investment. We do not have a comparable situation in Ireland and his search for private investment——

That should be adequate, Deputy Byrne.

I want to strongly reject the suggestion that I am jumping on a bandwagon, particularly in regard to the Harcourt Street line. I should like to remind the House, and in particular, Deputy Byrne, that during my first election campaign for this House in 1981 I put forward a proposal in a formal report which I commissioned — I can make this available — in regard to the Harcourt Street line. To my knowledge, I was the first public representative to do so. I put forward this proposal in 1981, long before anything was heard from the parties on the other side of the House——

The Workers' Party had put forward proposals six years before that.

That was when they were Official Sinn Féin.

The Minister has the power——

A very brief question from Deputy McCartan.

If the Minister is serious in his pursuit of the establishment of a rapid rail system for the greater Dublin area, may I ask him if he has addressed the decision made by the Government in 1987 to abandon the extension of the DART line?

I am happy to answer these questions but if I am interrupted I do not see any point in doing so. In regard to the reduction in the CIE subsidy, the CIE subsidy is £109 million, over £2 million per week. When one considers that a reduction in income tax by 1 per cent costs between £27 million and £30 million, one has to be very careful in demanding increases in subsidies across the board for CIE or any other group. With regard to private sector involvement, for example, the private sector are heavily involved in the West Link and East Link bridges. Ten years ago no one would have foreseen private investment in roads. I see no reason there cannot be some private investment in public transport. I renew again my invitation to the private sector to consider entering into joint ventures with me and, possibly, with CIE in developing a public transport system for the city. I am not averse to private investment. Perhaps the Deputy has an ideological problem with it.

Deputy Byrne and Deputy McCartan rose.

Order, I want to deal with other questions also.

May I ask the Minister in respect of 1987——

Please, Deputy McCartan, I have allowed Deputy Byrne to go on at some length on this question.

May I ask the Minister——

Deputy Byrne, this has to be a very brief question.

Would the Minister consider asking the ESB to become involved given that they are the main agency in the State generating electricity and would be a natural partner? Second, would he agree that there is no interest in encouraging competition on the railways given that the major subsidy is given to the railways and not to Dublin Bus and he is encouraging the private sector to compete with them.

I had not considered the ESB but I will raise the matter with them to see if they have any interest in it.