Roads Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Debate Resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann believing—
(1) that the transport needs of the country require a co-ordinated national transport policy which would place greater emphasis on the development and promotion of public transport,
(2) that the priority should therefore be the establishment of a National Transport Authority rather than a simple Roads Authority,
(3) that the proposed National Roads Authority would severely diminish the capacity of elected local councillors and local communities to influence decisions regarding the development of roads, including decisions regarding tolling,
(4) that the proposed National Roads Authority will facilitate the privatisation of road maintenance with consequent job losses in Local Authorities,
declines to give a second reading to the Bill."
—(Deputy Gilmore.)

I would like to assure Deputy Garland that it is not my intention to prolong this debate but it is easy to understand the reason it has taken up so much time. Any Deputy on this side of the House who represents a rural constituency could talk for hours about the problems in regard to roads in their constituency. It is a major issue. Unfortunately, public transport is not as readily available in rural areas as it is in urban areas. Therefore I can understand the reason a Deputy representing a city constituency might become impatient with his rural colleagues.

Last night I was referring in a general way to section 67, to which I will return on Committee Stage. I queried whether lighting and lights were included in the definition of dangerous structures, trees and so on. It has been the practice for many years now when roads are being realigned and ditches removed to replace them with concrete posts and palings. Sadly, in my constituency those concrete structures have caused tragedies. In frosty or wet weather, accidents will happen and even a minor accidents where one skids into a concrete post or paling, can and unfortunately, usually does have tragic consequences. On each occasion a road has been realigned in the past 20 years or so soft ditches and hedges which at least held vehicles and lessened the impact, have been replaced with awful dangerous structures. I note this section calls on owners and occupiers to do something about them but there should also be a section which calls on the new National Roads Authority to ensure that no structures put the lives of people in danger.

Another shortcoming of the Bill, which I pointed out last night, is that it does not cover all aspects of road safety. For example, moving objects which pose a danger, such as dangerous vehicles, are not covered. Because of this division of responsibility, whatever good intentions there may be to make our roads safe will be weakened. Hand in hand with the building and provision of roads must be the safety of those who use those roads.

When travelling to the House yesterday on a busy road I suddenly came across a granite boulder, almost the size of the Ceann Comhairle's dais, which had obviously fallen off the back of a lorry. Luckily, there was no vehicle behind the lorry when the boulder fell off. If there had been the consequences would have been tragic. That is an example of the danger moving traffic can pose apart from the danger posed by fixed items as mentioned in the Bill. Little attention is paid to the need to ensure that loads on substandard vehicles are tied down and secure. More attention has to be paid to that and it is a pity the new National Roads Authority will not have the power to do something about it.

Under the Bill will uniform and effective measures be provided to deal with roads made dangerous by snow or frost? It is not unusual to find roads in one county in a satisfactory state and on reaching the next county to find that the conditions are different. While the roads in one county might be clear of snow, through the use of snow clearing equipment, they may not be clear in another. That causes many problems. I assume responsibility for ensuring that our national primary roads are attended to will pass on, following the passage of this Bill, to the new National Roads Authority. Will the Minister confirm this? Nothing serious happened this year but in previous years consequences were serious. Due to a lack of uniformity problems have been caused. Transport companies do not know whether they should permit their vehicles to travel because of a lack of information about road conditions in a neighbouring county.

The House will forgive me referring. once again, to my constituency, Carlow-Kilkenny, which has been referred to in this debate by a colleague. I would like to refer in particular to the magnificent new Euro-route which passes through Kilkenny between the county boundary at New Ross and the county boundary at Ferrybank in Waterford. This new route, which was long overdue and badly needed, has caused immense problems for the community in Glenmore. Kilkenny County Council have been doing their best and it appears that an obligation has been placed on owners and occupiers of land and structures along the route to ensure that they do not pose a danger. When I mentioned boundary fences I should also have said that they prevented animals from straying. However, there does not appear to be an obligation on the new roads authority to ensure the safety of people in small rural villages and that their livelihoods are not affected. In rural communities the livelihood of the farming community is being seriously disrupted and adversely affected; even the lives of school children are being put in danger and there is no effort to deal with the sense of unease which people feel.

I am aware that negotiations and meetings were held with previous holders of the office of the Minister for the Environment. Officials of Kilkenny County Council will have discussions with the new Minister to find a reasonable solution to the problem, because it is totally unreasonable to expect the local authority — Kilkenny County Council — from their own very limited and inadequate resources to fund the measures which will alleviate the anxieties of the local community in this area. The road has been described as the road from Moscow to Skibbereen. It is a major Euro-route designed to carry people to the west, south-west and north-west, which is very commendable, and a lot of Structural Funds were provided for this road. Nevertheless, why should a poverty stricken local authority be asked to remedy the dangers which have been thrown up? There is an obligation on the Department to provide additional funding to build the necessary bridges which will alleviate the worries of the local community.

I hope that the new Minister, Deputy Smith, will take a fresh look at this matter, because each case must be judged on its merits. I do not go along with the idea that precedents might be created. When this case is fully examined I believe that there will be a strong case for additional funding to the local authority to enable them to meet what is needed in this case. I hope the Minister will find time in his very busy schedule to meet a deputation in the near future, to examine the matter and to come to a reasonable solution.

I am also concerned about the proposal regarding tolls because it involves additional taxation. Many speakers referred to the already overburdened motorist in relation to tax. In the recent budget an increase in motor taxation was announced. Not only does a motorist pay a lot of money to drive a car, he also has to pay just to park his car. If the proceeds go to local authorities there should be relief of taxation in other ways, because our motorists are among the most highly taxed in the world. Extra tax affects commercial vehicles and cars which people need to drive to work.

I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the ideas put forward, not just by me but by Deputies representing rural areas. I look forward to the debate on Committee Stage when many of the matters raised here can be dealt with in more detail. Perhaps the Minister will then have a better chance to respond.

I join other Deputies in welcoming this opportunity to speak about national roads development as proposed by the Minister in this new Bill. When the former Minister for the Environment, Deputy O'Hanlon, spoke in this House on 3 December 1991 he went over what he had said on a previous occasion about the objectives of the Roads Bill. He said it was to establish a roads authority on a statutory basis and to update, strengthen and modernise the law relating to public roads.

I wish the Minister well in his new post. Since he comes from the mid-west region, as I do, I know he will take a keen interest in what is going on in the area. However, he has very difficult hurdles to cross because this is the fourth attempt by the Department of the Environment to bring our national primary roads into the modern world. In 1978 a national road development plan was published by the former Deputy Sylvester Barrett in which he set out the objectives strategy for a complete development plan. Many targets were set; but, 13 years later, as far as the mid-west region is concerned, fewer than one quarter of the objectives have been met.

It is not as if the people who drew up the plan were unaware of the difficulties. They set out clearly the problems in regard to financing. They said that there would be difficulties in implementing the plan, that it would have to have the goodwill of the people and that it would have to be pushed. In spite of this, people in the mid-west have a poorly serviced national primary route which limits access to the markets. It also limits access to the west by tourists. This is a major problem in view of the number of tourists from the United States who disembark at Shannon Airport.

I wish the Minister well in his efforts — I know he is a determined person. However, before the Bill is enacted the Minister has to set targets for his Department and the roads authority as to what is required for the people of the west and mid-west. As I said here last Tuesday week, the construction of a road from Dublin to the Shannon Estuary, which would cut the country in two, is urgently required before the completion of the Single Market. The Minister is in a position to ensure that this work is undertaken; he can give the instructions to his Department. The construction of such a road would have an invigorating impact on the country. It would provide plenty of employment for small builders along the route and for local authorities which have the capacity to take on the work.

In spite of all the objectives, strategies, plans and programmes on peripherality, transport and infrastructure which have been laid before Ministers, the only development envisaged is the extension of the national primary route to Portlaoise. The medium term objective set for the National Roads Authority is the completion of the motorway from Dublin to Portlaoise. The rest of the country is being ignored. As he knows, the Minister has to make a major gesture to the people of the west and mid-west. The development of a motorway which would enable people to travel from the extreme end of the Minister's constituency in Tipperary to Dublin in less than an hour would be a major advance. It does not matter what the speed limit is because people can travel at 100 miles per hour on roadways if they are properly constructed. Because of the way they have been constructed dual carriageways endanger lives every day. For example, outside Dublin there is not proper means by which big trucks can cross the dual carriageway. I often wonder how there are not more serious accidents on this road. When motorways are constructed to international standards there is no easy access to them. If the motorway goes through Tipperary the North Tipperary County Council will be able to construct proper access roads. This will lead to better planning.

This is my bugbear. This is why I came into the House to contribute to the debate. Like Deputy Garland, I believe there has been to much talk about the National Roads Authority, particularly as the Government have made up their mind on the Bill and will not change it. If any amendments are made to the Bill they will relate to minor issues which have been overlooked by the Department in the drafting of it. As Deputy Yates argued in his contribution, there may be a problem over the interpretation of the words "may", "shall" or some other small word.

I am interested in the action the Minister is going to take on foot of the powers he now has. He has an opportunity as Minister for the Environment to give a lift to the west and mid-west. He will not have the power to do this for too long and he should grasp the nettle now. He has an opportunity to do this if he takes into consideration the proposals in the Road Development Plan for the 1980s, the Operational Programme on Peripherality published in 1989 and the Ireland-Road Development Plan 1989 to 1993, which was introduced by Deputy Flynn when he was Minister for the Environment. The Minister represents a constituency in the mid-west and I am sure he can recall the great cry the then Minister made about this programme. However, the west got nothing from this programme, despite the fact that the then Minister came from the west. In view of the Minister's interest in the west and the mid west, I ask him to grasp the opportunity to do something for these areas.

The development plan introduced by the then Minister for the Environment contained much flowery language. I want to give the Minister a sample of this. Chapter 3 of the plan outlines the objectives and strategies and refers to the fundamental aim of road development policy. It then goes on to outline the economic and social objectives. These include: reduced transport costs, facilitate and promote industrial development, facilitate and promote the development of agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, facilitate and promote development of the tourism industry, promote regional development, promote the development of the Border areas, indirectly promote employment creation, promote economic and social cohesion, etc.

I believe these objectives applied to the east cost only; they applied to the line which runs from Belfast to Rosslare. As Deputy Pattison said, the Euro-route to Rosslare is great, but the people in the west are being left to their own devices. The people on the east coast are the wealthy ones and they are able to carry out their own developments. If toll roads are to be constructed they should be on the east coast where there is plenty of employment. The west has suffered greatly from emigration. We do not have adequate main roads to facilitate and promote industrial development. In addition, transport costs are very high. We do not have the resources to develop agriculture and fisheries. None of the social and economic objectives set out in the plan introduced by the then Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, has been applied to the west. It would be ironic if the Minister made a major impact in this Department, if people were employed on the land, industries developed and tourism developed along Lough Derg, but because the roads have not been improved there is no access to these areas. The Minister should concentrate on improving roads.

One of the problems for short term development is that local authorities do not seem to have the expertise to put in place the necessary plans for road development. When the programme was submitted to Brussels on 30 March 1989 by the then Minister, Deputy Flynn, the necessary technical information required was not available from the mid-west — it certainly was not available from my constituency because cutbacks had been made and the Department would not agree to the employment of the necessary engineering staff. In order to overcome the problem of the non-availability of specialised engineering staff I suggest that the Minister consider a sharing of staff between, say, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council, or between north Tipperary County Council, Clare County Council, Limerick County Council and all the other county councils with responsibility for the Dublin-Shannon route. Perhaps the Department could consider that suggestion and ask the county engineers in the various county councils if they would be agreeable to it. I am quite certain that the county engineer in my constituency would agree to any proposal that would help to update the necessary documents for submission to Europe. I do not understand why the Department of the Environment will not agree to the employment of these people.

On the national primary route running from Limerick to Gort in County Galway one may encounter four major bottlenecks at Newmarket-on-Fergus, Clarecastle, Ennis and Crusheen. Plans were submitted by Clare County Council for a by-pass at Ennis but these plans have not been updated because the staff is not available in Clare County Council to do so. I understand that the National Roads Authority will liaise with local authorities on these matters. Will that Authority have the necessary staff to update these plans and to provide the necessary information that will enable development to be carried out? It is unacceptable to bring in legislation setting up a National Roads Authority without indicating how they will be financed. As we have the benefit of Structural Funds a target should be set for the carrying out of one major project.

Much research and development has been carried out by the Department of the Environment in the preparation of programmes, and that is commendable. They have overlooked nothing in this regard. They know what programmes should be put in place, but some initiative must be taken. If tolls are to be considered they should be proposed for areas where they will not be resisted. For instance, I do not understand why Kildare County Council, which was then dominated by Fianna Fáil, voted against the implementation of a toll on the Naas by-pass. It was the then Minister for the Environment, Sylvester Barrett, who in the road development plan for the eighties instituted the idea of toll roads. While there was an agreement between Kildare County Council and the developer in the case of the Naas by-pass it was an opportunity to set a headline. However, for some spurious political motives Kildare County Council voted against the implementation of tolls.

In this Bill the Minister is taking a different approach to the implementation of tolls. From speeches I have read, Deputies have reservations about the introduction of tolls because they believe the Minister has gone too far in the other direction. As a western Deputy I am not against a more rigid application of tolls provided they are introduced in areas where people can afford them and provided they will not be a total inhibition to people travelling to the west. In any event, it is unlikely that they would be utilised there. As far as the roads plan is concerned, this is a great opportunity for the Minister to take action.

Plans have been laid for a long number of years. In the roads plan of 1979 it was stated that the main objectives of the plan were to achieve, by 1990, a situation wherein the country's national roads network and our principal urban roads systems would have significantly improved. It stated that given full implementation of the plan the national primary roads and important sections of the national secondary roads would be brought up to two lane standards. I know that people will expect the National Roads Authority to adopt similar objectives. There will be competing demands and there will be a drip-feed application of funds from the Department of the Environment. I would ask the Minister to lay down the minimum requirement in this area. We realise that all the objectives cannot be achieved but achievable objectives should be set for the National Roads Authority.

In spite of the fact that one of the objectives in the 1979 plan was to bring national secondary routes up to two lane standards, national secondary routes in County Clare and, indeed, in County Tipperary, still have not been brought up to these standards. The other day our county engineer proposed that Clare County Council set by-passes along the scenic route of the national primary road at the northern end of County Clare because tourist buses and motor cars cannot pass in safety. I do not know why the Department of the Environment and the Minister were persuaded to say that such a plan was realisable. In 1978 the Minister wanted roads brought up to full two-lane standard. He planned that most intermediate towns on the national primary routes would have by-passes, that the principal access routes to Dublin and the other major urban centres, including air and sea ports, would be upgraded and that significant sections of the ring roads of Dublin, Cork and Limerick would be completed.

As far as I can see, the ring roads in Dublin are fairly complete. There are fairly extensive road developments on the route coming into Dublin. The people of Dublin are fairly wise. We do not have anything of that nature on our side of the Shannon. There is a small by-pass at Bunratty in County Clare, that is what we have in the way of development of national primary roads. I was grateful to the Minister for the Environment when he decided to put in the double bridge down there, and the plans were carried out well. However, whenever there is a financial crisis in the Department of the Environment the projects to be cut back or put to one side are ones planned for the remote west or the mid-west. The Clare County Council will proceed with the by-pass plan when the money is available.

The people of Chapelizod were not going to put up with their problems for too long. I recall the time that the former Taoiseach was berated about the Chapelizod bypass during the Dublin West by-election. It was not the width of the road that the people from that area were concerned about, it was the effects of noise and all of the other ancillary problems that arise from the development of a motorway. Did the people of Chapelizod get their way? They certainly did. And has the road been developed? It most certainly has. Down in County Clare we still have not opened the by-pass at Bunratty.

During the same period of time mountains have been moved between Ballyfermot and Lucan and all of that area. There is another ring road serving the western end of the city. The Euro-route referred to by Deputy Pattison has developed from Belfast down towards Rosslare. I am not sure how far the development has moved because I do not travel through the Wicklow mountains too often but I presume that satisfactory progress is being achieved. Perhaps the people of Dublin have large resources of expertise to implement their development plans. If we had engineers bringing up documents then I am sure the Minister would consider the Shannon development when the new operational programme is submitted to the Commission in the quest for additional Structural Funds and I know that proper acknowledgment of the needs of the people would be given in what was finally implemented.

Industrialists face difficulties as well. We in the west and the south really have no access to ports to enable quick delivery of manufactured goods to the Continent. There are always long queues and many complaints from those involved, especially from transport companies, about the long delays and the severe difficulties encountered in having goods transported. All of that is taking place at the time of the Single European Act. The Department of the Environment, successive Ministers and everyone else are well aware of what is happening in the Community. We all realise that the Germans and the Dutch have improved their roads to such a high standard that they will be able to compete with the British when the underground tunnel is completed. The only efforts made on this island, with the availability of massive funds, have concentrated on developments around the city of Dublin, which is already overcrowded. The Government keep on massaging this city. It seems to me that all of the money is spent in Dublin.

Many developments have taken place on the Continent. Euro trains, for example, have come into operation. One is now able to catch a fast train that will take one from the North Sea down to Rome in a faster time than that spent on an overflight. If one is on an overflight and wants to get off at Shannon but the Aer Lingus pilot decides that he wants an early breakfast in Dublin and will overfly Shannon, then it takes about nine and a half hours to get one's case and then go home. One faces traffic jams and bottlenecks on the road between Dublin and Shannon. One could travel from Berlin to Rome in the time that is spent on the famous overflight. I wonder whether the National Roads Authority will tackle that problem.

When the Minister is making appointments to the National Roads Authority he should ensure that the personnel have a bias towards the west. I do not mind from which political party those appointees come — I know that they will not be from my party, anyway. The Minister should ensure that he appoints people from the west who will see to it that the chief executive and those members establishing policy at least give people the opportunity to catch a breath of fresh air soon after leaving Dublin.

The Road Development Plan for the 1980s of Sylvester Barrett at item 10.2 states:

While the pattern of traffic growth and demand for movement and the removal of known deficiencies in the road system can be taken as generally satisfactory bases for the preparation of a ten-year plan such as this, unforeseen factors may require changes to be made at national, regional or local level.

There are unforeseen factors working against us. There are the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, there are the Aer Lingus pilots, and we have the Dublin lobby, all of whom want everything for Dublin and do not concern themselves much about national roads or whether we in the west have difficulties. If that is so, how can the west site major industrial undertaking? If there were a discovery of natural resources, how would there be access to the west? We have to make sure that there is major development in the west. The Minister should set a task for his officials so as to make sure that when the Minister goes to the electorate in the mid-west before the next General Election he will be able to tell them that a national motorway is being undertaken by the Department and the National Roads Authority to provide access from Shannon to Dublin, that people will be able to go from Shannon to Dublin in a little over one hour, that our industries will have full opportunity to develop, that the people of the west will be equal to the people of Dublin and that everyone will be treated properly with good facilities. I know that is a major task but I know also that the Minister has the determination to see it achieved.

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. I have no doubt that he will do as good a job here as he did in other Ministries if he gets the financial support from the Government. I look forward to working with the Minister over the next while.

I welcome this Bill which will have immense implications for the development of our road network and this in turn will have major consequences for our economic future. As a peripheral EC country we need a good roads system in order to have cheap, efficient transportation so that we can compete in business and in exports and survive in the Single Europe which will come onstream at the end of this year.

It is stated Fine Gael policy to develop a national road and rail authority. We have experienced difficulty with various branches of transport working in competition rather than in tandem. We need a cohesive transport system. Rail and road networks should not be in competition. Deputy McGrath yesterday said that more should have been spent on the rail network. The Sligo/Dublin rail line has been underfunded. We should not allow the rail line to deteriorate. We should fund the rail network so that it can complement the road network. That is a viable proposition the Minister should take up.

In order to develop tourism we need a good roads network. We also need good signposting. Unfortunately, signposting here leaves a lot to be desired, although things have improved in the last year or so. I hope the National Roads Authority will take that job on board. There is nothing worse than being confronted in unfamiliar country with inadequate road signs. During a Seanad campaign some years ago I intended to travel from Castletownbere to Killarney, but because of inadequate signposting I ended up back in Cork. Fortunately, it did not affect the Seanad results. Another problem is the fact that the older signposts can be easily turned around to point in the wrong direction and some people think it is great fun to turn them round. Local authorities should prosecute people caught doing that.

Numerous requests have been made to the Department of the Environment to upgrade the R202 which is a direct link between Northern Ireland and the midlands. It runs from Enniskillen to County Cavan and up through Leitrim, Ballinamore and Mohill to Longford and into the midlands. Will the Department of the Environment still have a say in upgrading these roads or will that be done by the National Roads Authority? There have also been requests to upgrade the road which goes from Carrick-on-Shannon right down to north Leitrim through Manorhamilton and as far as the Fermanagh border. These requests have been on the table for the last number of years but we have not been successful. The volume of traffic, particularly business traffic, on both of those roads has increased substantially over the last number of years. That should be taken into consideration. I hope these roads will be upgraded sooner rather than later.

Local authorities have carried out a lot of the design work on national primary routes and nine times out of ten they have done an excellent job. Will the design work stay with the local authorities or will it be taken over by the National Roads Authority? There is concern, certainly in the counties I represent, that design teams will be moved out. I spoke to some concerned members of the staff of local authorities who, I suppose, are trying to look after their own interests. In County Leitrim, where there is a small population, a number of people have worked in the county doing excellent work on the design of national primary routes. It would be unfortunate if we were to lose these people to the National Roads Authority.

The planning authority within each county has the power to allow or disallow planning permission for developments along national primary routes. Following the establishment of the National Roads Authority, if somebody wants to build a house and the county council refuse permission, will an appeal against that decision be made to Bord Pleanála or to the National Roads Authority? Will the National Roads Authority have any say in the matter of planning appeals?

All county councils have drawn up their estimates and are still awaiting allocations from the Department of the Environment for roadworks. This matter must be given serious consideration. It is farcical that local authorities complete their estimates in November and may have to wait until the middle of March for their road grants. That was the experience last year of Leitrim County Council. The delay in payment prevents necessary works from being carried out. The local authorities cannot plan any works in the months of January, February or March because they will not have received their allocations. The Minister might try to make those payments at the beginning of each year.

I refer to section 12 and the abandonment of public roads. This will be a task taken on by the National Roads Authority and I hope the process will be speeded up. Because of the shortfall in cash for county roads, local improvement schemes are being brought in and people are asking that roads which have been declared public should be abandoned so that they will be able to reapply. It is the only chance that these roads will be surfaced in 20 years. Perhaps that section would be taken on board and the whole process speeded up dramatically. For many people in rural areas it is the only chance to get a decent road to their house and it is the only service of which they avail. The speeding up of the process would be advantageous for rural development.

The setting up of the National Roads Authority is a good idea, but only if it is provided with adequate finance. I hope the Government will indicate their willingness to make sufficient funds available for the construction of national primary routes. This work has far reaching consequences for the economy. If the transport system and road network were improved, thereby enabling export business to convey their goods quickly and efficiently to the ports, it would be of great advantage to the country generally. Road transport costs have increased under the budget and it is essential that special incentives be given to the National Roads Authority to carry out work on national primary routes. The Minister might consider a single authority to deal with road and rail transport in a co-ordinated rather than competitive way. This could dramatically increase business and thereby generate employment.

I join my colleagues in congratulating the Minister on his appointment. I hope he will have a more enlightened approach to the need for an integrated transport policy. The proposal before us is too narrow and should be widened to deal with many problems in the transport area. A national road and public transport authority should be formed.

I take issue with Deputy Garland who this morning gave the impression that he wished to stifle discussion by public representatives on this issue. He got in on two occasions and made a valuable contribution. Given the problems with regard to roads and public transport, I regret that he tried to deprive other public representatives from all parties of an opportunity to put forward their views.

The National Roads Authority will have overall responsibility for planning and supervising the construction, improvement and maintenance of the network of national roads, including access roads to the airports. This represents about 6 per cent of all roads. What about the other 94 per cent of roads throughout the country which are in such a deplorable condition? The secondary and county roads are falling into disrepair through lack of finance from this Government and previous Governments. As a consequence of this neglect we have seen single issue groups being formed and, in the case of County Cavan, councillors elected to do something about the lack of finance for roads.

I hope that the 94 per cent of roads not referred to in this Bill will not be put on the back burner. In my constituency in recent years residents took to the streets, for the first time in my experience, because of the condition of the roads. The new Minister will have to tackle this problem. The Government must also acknowledge this problem and endeavour to make our roads generally safe.

We are told that the National Roads Authority will be an independent body, with which the provisions of section 28 deal. But one might well pose the question: in practice how independent will they be? We note that between ten and 14 members of the Authority will be nominated by the Minister. Although there may be an opportunity for various interest groups to advance nominations, at the end of the day, their membership will be appointed by the Minister. It is my firm belief that vested interests in our roads sector will comprise the majority of their membership, which would not be in the overall interest of proper planning or indeed a proper transport policy. The implementation of the provisions of this Bill will lead to a certain lack of democracy and accountability. I hope I will be proved wrong in that prediction but, at the end of the day, it is my firm belief that the roads lobby will have a majority representation on the Authority.

The policy adopted to date, of pumping ever increasing amounts of EC Structural Funds — and hopefully in the future, Cohesion Funds — into our roads has been at the expense of a proper public transport system and is a disaster. When one examines the funding of our transport system it is not unreasonable to expect or demand a level playing pitch.

It is a scandal that there is not a common policy of funding and investment in transport infrastructures. To take the example of investment in railway infrastructure, maintenance and other costs there are borne directly by Irish Rail. That investment is treated in a commercial fashion while investment in our roads infrastructure is grant-assisted by the State 100 per cent, with maintenance costs being provided by the State also, without there being any accountability in respect of individual schemes.

The proposed rapid rail transport system is enormously attractive. Indeed it should be noted that the EC recently advocated that the State should assume responsibility for railway infrastructures. That is not an unreasonable proposal when one bears in mind the number of passengers and volume of freight at present transported by our rail sector and in particular the lack of adequate infrastructures occasioning major problems. The implementation of that proposal would go some way to improving the overall position. I hope that aspect can be dealt with in the overall review of general transport policy.

I should like to refer briefly to the Dublin transport scene where traffic congestion has reached crisis proportions not alone in the city centre but into the suburbs. Over many decades the Government appear to have been preoccupied almost exclusively with making provision for private cars and trucks, which, combined with a failure to develop public transport alternatives, has led to serious economic, social and environmental consequences in the general Dublin area. This is very evident, particularly with the prevailing unemployment figures in the greater Dublin area. It is my party's belief that all of these problems are interlinked because, if there is not proper access, with a proper transport system, investment will not be attracted into suburban areas. The Labour Party believe there is urgent need to develop our public transport infrastructure, with urgent action being taken to rectify the capital's many transport problems.

We strongly support also investment in and the urgent development of a light rail transport system for Dublin with its obvious advantages, in that it would be user/environmentally friendly, the proposed vehicles being quieter and more comfortable. Indeed it has been demonstrated in the past that, where alternative transport systems have been provided, people have tended to leave their cars at home and use such public transport facilities. This has been graphically demonstrated in the use of the DART. It is generally acknowledged that cars, vans and buses are much noisier.

This takes one to the question of how that position can be improved. In our view, and that of Labour Party councillors, the proposals for the Eastern by-pass motorway should be deleted from the agenda in that they would be environmentally disastrous for the areas through which that proposed motorway would be routed. I blame the planners/engineers of Dublin Corporation who have devoted their attention solely to that solution while other options should be urgently considered, particularly the need to improve access to Dublin port, so vital to the economic development of the area. This is all the more important, particularly when one observes hauliers being attracted to ports in Northern Ireland, such as Larne, leading to even greater unemployment in the Dublin port area.

There is need also to drastically improve overall industrial relations in the Dublin port area. I hope employers and trade unions seriously examine this aspect, which examination is long overdue. I hope that sanity will prevail, leading to a better climate there in industrial relations along with a commitment on the part of the relevant authorities to improve the position generally thereby generating new life in the inner city of long term benefit to its citizens.

Notwithstanding the imbalance between investment in our roads as compared with our rail system we must acknowledge that the development of our roads forms a vital part of our overall integrated transport system. I hope that imbalance can be redressed in future applications for EC Structural Funds. The completion of the Western Parkway, progressing to the northern and southern cross routes, will provide Dublin with an effective ring road, something I have and will continue to support. If this is linked into an efficient public transport system it should begin to resolve our problems.

The side note to section 48 reads: "Environmental impact statement". The section ensures that environmental impact statements will be prepared. Who are the independent group who will carry out the environmental impact assessment? Will it be the Authority themselves or will the task be designated to the local authority? I am aware that the Minister's predecessors were well versed in this major problem — Ballymun Road to the Northern Cross motorway, with particular reference to the Ballymun interchange. My understanding is that the local residents and the local public representatives were not consulted about the linkage to Ballymun Road and its implications for the area. The effect of the proposed interchange at Ballymun Road will be to substantially increase traffic using this road which already constitutes a major hazard in a highly populated area. A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are well aware of that area. The residents have said that the proposed roundabout at Santry Avenue-Ballymun Road will take over a significant area of open space adjacent to the towers in Ballymun. There is a major problem affecting some 80,000 people who are voting and residing in the corporation area, but responsibility was given to Dublin County Council to advertise and carry out the environmental impact assessment.

Representations have been made to me and other public representatives by Glasnevin North Community Association, An Taisce and Ballymun Environmental Task Force. Representations have also been made by all the schools in the area, where there are 8,000 school-going children, the boys' comprehensive in Ballymun, the senior comprehensive in Ballymun, St. Aidan's and so on, as well as the various school principals and boards of management, who are deeply concerned at the effects of this proposal to provide this interchange at Ballymun. Every effort is being made by all public representatives. It is not as if it is a single group or a single politician or a political party who is making the case. I would like to put on the record this brief statement:

We the undersigned public representatives are gravely concerned about Dublin County Council's plans to link Ballymun Road to the Northern Cross Motorway. This link would lead to seriously increased levels of traffic and would have a devastating effect on the communities of Ballymun...and also of Santry and Glasnevin.

Dublin County Council conducted an Environmental Impact Study on this scheme but failed to consider the impact of this Motorway on residents in the area. Local people were not consulted and local councillors were unaware of the proposal.

We support the many residents' groups, school principals and environmentalists in their opposition to this proposal. We call on the Minister for the Environment and Dublin County Council to act on the expressed wishes of Dublin City Council by deleting this link road and to come forward with more acceptable proposals...

The above statement was signed by Councillor Roisín Shortall, Labour; Councillor Eamonn O'Brien, The Workers' Party; Councillor Brendan Brady, Fine Gael; Deputy Mary Flaherty, Fine Gael; Alderman Noel Ahern, Fianna Fáil; Deputy Michael Barrett, Fianna Fáil; Deputy Proinsias De Rossa, The Workers' Party; Barry Desmond, MEP and Mary Banotti, MEP.

That outlines the extent of the problem in that area. Given the concern expressed, while I support the concept of a ring road, which is an urgent requirement for north County Dublin, I would ask the Minister to re-examine the situation to see whether there is a mechanism that could improve the situation and by which these people would have a say in their future and where they will live. I am not suggesting in this proposal that we would delay the provision of the interlink road and the interchange.

The problem of heavy vehicle parking, referred to in the Bill, is an ongoing one and needs to be addressed seriously. I hope the Authority will give it the priority it needs. All of us, as public representatives, will be aware of the concerns of parents and the dangers caused by the parking of trucks and heavy vehicles in our villages and towns and within housing estates. It is evident from discussions held with interested groups that two types of heavy vehicles parks are required urgently. The first type would be used by long distance or overseas hauliers. In conjunction with this, facilities such as rest rooms, cafeterias, washing facilities, etc. would be desirable. The most suitable and desirable location for this type of facility would be on the main routes to and from our major cities. The cost of providing such facilities is very high and, accordingly, there is no obvious desire from hauliers, notwithstanding their perceived need, to invest the necessary finance. Would it be possible to incorporate such a scheme into our national roads programme? These facilities could, in turn, be leased to hauliers and thus improve the position and hopefully also the financial position of local authorities.

The second type of facility would be used by local hauliers who at present park near their homes overnight and in many cases within housing estates. This creates a major problem for residents. These large vehicles are very attractive for young children and regrettably a number of accidents have taken place adjacent to them. The demand is to have them removed from the estates and towns. This matter could be addressed by providing secure facilities in industrial estates in the ownership of the various county councils throughout the country.

I have been informed by the Garda that they are considering making regulations barring the parking of heavy vehicles within housing estates. However, apart from the willingness of the Garda to recommend such action, it would require the consent of the Minister for the Environment and I would like to hear his views on this matter.

I would like to address also the position of petrol stations on our motorways and what will be the attitude of the Authority to them. Given the length of the roads concerned and the size of the population, I do not believe there is a need to provide these facilities on our motorways.

The Balbriggan bypass, which will run from the five roads to Gormanstown, County Meath, will be about 11.5 kilometres in length and is long overdue. While I acknowledge it has been included in the Government's operational programme on peripherality, 1989-93, given the proposed timescale, the problem is that it will not be completed before 1996 at the earliest. I understand that it will cost approximately £30 million. The delay in the provision of this by-pass has had a detrimental effect on the town of Balbriggan and its hinterland. This town was once the industrial capital of north County Dublin, Fingal, but it has now the highest rate of unemployment in 1991. area. Indeed, there was a 16 per cent increase in unemployment in 1992.

Each of the public representatives for the area has made its case with the Industrial Development Authority but they have informed us that traffic snarls and the lack of an adequate road infrastructure has in the past and is working against the town as an attractive industrial base. The people of the town, on whose behalf I am speaking this afternoon, both employed and unemployed, demand to know the reason this by-pass has not been given the priority it deserves. Dublin County Council have allocated a small amount of money for this development this year and their officials are working on it but I suggest that a letter or telephone call from the Minister's office would put further pressure on the officials concerned to process it much more quickly. While they were only given the go-ahead in recent times, if the Minister indicated that he would like to see the completion date brought forward the position might improve.

As I have mentioned, this by-pass will cost £30 million. When completed, it will provide a great boost for the town. However, if the town is to develop to its full potential — I hope the new National Roads Authority will deal with this problem — we need to provide an inner by-pass. This should go hand in hand with the construction of the main by-pass. The cost of such an inner by-pass would be £1.2 million. My view, that this should go hand in hand with the construction of the main by-pass, is shared by the local chamber of commerce. The Minister should take this opportunity to sanction the additional funding to meet the needs of the town and thus enable both proposals to proceed at the same time.

We may not have this opportunity again. At the end of the day the funding required for this by-pass would have to come from the Minister's Department, given the inadequate allocation provided for roads to Dublin County Council. It is imperative that it be constructed to offer a lifeline to that town. By constructing the two at the one time the State would ultimately make a saving. I ask the Minister to consider this request favourably. I have no doubt that the public representatives of his own party have also made this case. I hope therefore he will consider this request more favourably than his predecessors.

The Bill refers to public lighting on our national roads. The lack of adequate lighting is the source of grave concern for many communities throughout the length and breadth of the country, in particular for those communities in towns and villages which have been cut in half by new roads and motorways. I have attended a number of funerals in my constituency of people killed in accidents on the N1. Indeed, there have been six night time fatalities during the past year on the stretch of road between Blake's Cross and the Meath border. While I acknowledge that speed is a factor in many accidents it has been acknowledged by the Garda and other groups that the lack of public lighting is another factor. I appeal to the Minister, in setting up the new National Roads Authority, to provide for the inclusion of public lighting, where required, in the overall cost of motorway schemes at the time of construction. This is imperative. We should learn from the mistakes made in the past. In the long term, the Exchequer will make a saving.

In relation to motorways, I ask the Minister and his officials to note the need to provide proper boundaries on our motorways. I am talking here in particular about the necessity to provide proper walls at the point where estates come in contact with motorways. These are not always provided. As a result, local public representatives have to take up the case with the local council and the Department. Ultimately, the walls will have to be constructed. I ask the Minister to ensure that these are provided in all cases.

In relation to over-bridges, when officials are considering plans they should seriously ask themselves if there is a demand for such a bridge at a particular location so that residents do not have to take to the streets or make a strong case to their public representative and the Department for an over-bridge. In many cases these new roads cut estates in half. There is need there to provide over-bridges and they should be provided from the outset.

I would like to mention once again the need for a proper public transport system, something which is not properly addressed in the Bill. People want and will use public transport; they want to travel in comfort, safety and quickly by train. Above all else, they want a reliable service. If we can provide this pressure will be taken off the roads. As I said, we need look no further than the DART which is now carrying twice the number of passengers it carried when it first went into operation.

The railways have an enormous social and environmental benefit by way of reduced usage of roads. They cause less pollution and make less noise. In view of their social importance to urban and rural communities would the Minister state the reason the railways received only £30 million as compared with an allocation of £600 million for road infrastructure from the current EC Structural Fund? The case has been made time and again that there is a need for investment in this area.

Our national roads network mirrors our railway system. Yet, as I say, EC Structural Funds for our roads vastly outweigh those which have been made available for our railways. The fact that one-quarter of all passengers travel by rail and that one-fifth of freight tonnage is carried by rail should merit a balanced share of EC Structural Funds. The imbalance can be seen in £30 million against £600 million. Major decisions are required in this area and I ask the Government to follow the line taken by other European countries in giving equality to public transport and roads.

Having listened attentively to contributions by members of all political parties I hope the Minister realises the deep concern of the people for an improvement in our roads and public transport. On the basis of the contributions, I hope some ideas will come forward which will ensure that the people whom we represent can look forward to a system which will bring improvements. I hope that, in the long term, we will have an integrated transport system which will incorporate roads and rail, one Authority to deal with them and no duplication.

I welcome the new Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith. It has been quite a while since he and I played on the same team; one of the first attempts to foster good relations between ourselves and parliamentarians on the other side of the water involved playing a tennis match against the British team. I remember the late Robert Bradford saying to me about Deputy Smith, "Blimey, he's a big lad, isn't he?".

I am quite sure the Minister woke up this morning saying: "My God, have I to go through all this today: county roads, potholes, ditches, drains, walls, cars, traffic lights, signposts and all the rest of it?". I wish to refer to a few important matters. There seems to be a perception that County Mayo, which I represent, was given untold millions by the previous Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, from my constituency. I do not make any apologies for the allocations made by Deputy Flynn in regard to road improvements in the county and, indeed, if he responded to my consistent and constructive claims in this matter, I thank him for it. I should like to point out that the major works leading into County Mayo at present in terms of a new, national N5 route are part of a programme which was originally designed quite a number of years ago and approved by his predecessor, Deputy Kavanagh, when he turned down the existing primary route because of the number of new accesses being created in relation to it, particularly through the use of section 4 notices of motion for the creation of extra access.

I wish the new Minister, Deputy Smith, the best of luck in what obviously is a complex issue and one in which I fear he will not find great joy in 1992 because, when the warning bells rang last week, the files were brought in to the former Minister, Deputy O'Hanlon, who obviously signed whatever he could. I am sure he was not slow in taking to Cavan-Monaghan, or anywhere else in that region, as many funds as he could from this year's Estimates.

I do not know whether the Minister, Deputy Smith, shares the opinions of his colleague, the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, who said that all proposals of the previous Government had fallen with that Government. However, the Minister, Deputy Smith, may take a different view in this regard and perhaps he will continue with plans his predecessor had in place.

Many speakers on all sides of the House referred to the imbalance between the national primary motorway system and the funding of rail authorities. It is a question which should be examined because, from any common sense point of view, it is easier to move more people per hour by rail than by any other system. As a frequent user of the rail system from the west it is obvious that when Iarnród Éireann offer their special fares for one or three day excursions the number of people who use the service in preference to buses or coaches is phenomenal. The Minister should certainly look at the concept of a road and rail authority, funded by the Authority, so that the company involved would at least be in a position to deal with the proper provision and maintenance of a rail system and provide sufficient coaches, or rolling stock as they are now called. Obviously, this will not happen as a result of the Bill.

The Minister will probably reply by referring to the independence of the National Roads Authority. If they are to be as independent as the Bill states, what will be the future role of local authorities, because it appears to be in direct contradition of what the junior partners in Government feel should be in operation? The progressive Democrats apparently want district councils to be put into operation, in other words, a further dissemination of local authority rule and at the same time they are in partnership with the Government in implementing a National Roads Authority which takes from those same local authorities the powers to deal with a national roads network. Is this an indication that existing local authorities do not have the ability — or are unable — to deal with the national roads system as it stands? Is the Bill saying that every county council and local authority who have, to date, dealt with the design and proposals for national primary routes and secondary systems are inadequate, or that the staff working in local authorities do not have a sufficient level of competency to deal with the standard required here? If this Authority is to be withdrawn from the county council and given back to them only in certain circumstances by the national Authority, is that not an indication of a lack of confidence and faith in the ability of the existing staff of county councils to deal with the problems facing them?

Deputies on all sides, particularly those from rural areas, referred to the county road system. When the Minister looks at the figures for the various county councils throughout the country he will be well aware of the serious problem in regard to the discretionary grants system because local authorities have to labour under the yoke of being told that the discretionary grants system will cater for the county roads system. It is not happening because the discretionary grants, under the hand of the Minister, were to be topped up by the supplementary funds from the rates collected in each county. The Minister will have at his disposal the figures which indicate that countries with a weaker economic base are not in a position to provide from the rates the necessary funding which, together with the discretionary grant which the Minister gives them would enable them to provide a proper county roads system.

We are storing up trouble for ourselves in this area because many county councils now have a 25-year return cycle before they can black top a county road for a second time. This means that many existing county roads have deteriorated to the extent that they are returning to ash and sand roads. This has been caused by the lack of funding through the discretionary grant from the Minister and the non-availability of rates money in counties with a poor economic base. The Minister will have to face up to this problem. All the Minister's predecessors have tried to rectify the problem but have failed. The Minister now has a tremendous opportunity to make a name for himself well into the next century. However, I do not know how he will deal with the problem, as 96 per cent of passengers and 90 per cent of freight use the national primary system, which accounts for only 3 per cent of the national roads network but which has 62 per cent of the funding spent on it. Obviously this is a problem which has to be met head on. Local authorities and county councils will have to examine the powers given to them by the Minister and their ability to raise money to provide the services in their counties.

It is also fair to say that the inadequacy of the general county roads system in many counties has been highlighted by the continuing decline in the quality of rural life, as outlined at several conferences hosted by the bishops of the west recently. One of the threads running through all of those conferences was the continuing decline and inadequacy of the county roads system.

As the Minister will be aware, I served on the British-Irish Inteparliamentary Body together with the chairman, Deputy Stafford and other Members. One of the most interesting reports produced by parliamentarians from Britain, Ireland and the Six Counties relates to transport and freight costs. It is perfectly obvious that if the will is there nationally, and the Government of the day so decide, a certain proportion of Euro funding can be made available for purposes other than motorways or national primary routes at the discretion of the Government. Without attempting to raise expectations in any way in this regard, this is an issue the Minister might look at. Elected MPs to the House of Commons have consistently stressed that their Commissioner Millan and others have repeated that apparently there is a method within the existing European regulations whereby, if the Government of the day so decide, moneys can be filtered down to supplement the efforts being made to maintain the county roads system. Obviously this is a matter for ministerial perusal and Government decision, and I trust the Minister will look at it.

I remember hearing the then Minister for Economic Planning and Development, the former Deputy O'Donoghue, in his contribution on employment creation say that if it was necessary to dig holes in the roads to create employment the Government would see to it that that was done. This has happened without, I might add, any assistance from the Minister. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Smith, who represents a rural constituency which probably has a better soil base than my county, is only too well aware of the community and voluntary efforts now being made by villagers to keep the roads intact. A consistent and strong thread at community council and political meetings attended by representatives from all sides of the House has been the question of our roads — all Deputies and councillors are asked what they are doing about the roads. It is fair to say that communities have now banded together and are paying money on an increasing scale to have hedges cut, bushes trimmed back and water tables opened on county roads because of a lack of funding for local authorities. Obviously the Minister will have to look at these matters. There is also the question of public liability for accidents which might occur from this kind of work. Communities which spend their money on hiring private contractors, who may also be on county council tendering lists, to carry out this work should be commended and assisted in whatever way possible in respect of the very good work they do.

I wish to raise a purely technical point. Bush cutting appears to be a very confusing legal concept at a local authority level. This issue needs to be cleared up and a clear statement made as to who is responsible for cutting back trees, bushes, shrubs and grasses which grow on roadsides. Children who walk or cycle to school on narrow country roads which have a heavy growth are forced to walk or cycle further out on the road than they normally would. This can lead to the danger that somebody speeding on a narrow road will cause an accident with very serious consequences. As I understand it, local authorities will state that under the law farmers are responsible for the cutting back of hedges. However, there appears to be a grey area in regard to the height of such growth and whether it is inside or outside the fence. After looking at this matter the Minister might issue clear directions to local authorities so that people will know whose responsibility it is to cut back hedges, etc.

A subcommittee of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body met with Minister Needham in London on Tuesday to discuss tourism development, access routes etc. He concurred with the findings in the report of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in regard to transport: that Ireland should be treated as a single entity for the purposes of major Euro funding. I suppose that applies to the Euro route, etc. Deputies from Border constituencies have spoken about Border crossings and roads and the need for proper access.

I wish to refer to some sections of the Bill. The Lucan bypass can save motorists 15 or 20 minutes on a journey, depending on the time they leave Dublin. However, logic then dictates that, if you move more traffic over a longer section of road at a faster speed than normal, that traffic tends to pile up to an even greater extent at the far end. People who drive from Dublin to areas in the west in the evening will encounter a back-up of traffic in Leixlip for almost two miles. While traffic is able to move faster on the bypass it tends to pile up to an even greater extent at the far end. That is a mathematical problem as much as an engineering one. I know that the Leixlip bypass is about to be approved so this problem will probably be sorted out in time.

Section 19 refers to the powers of the Authority. I would like to know what is intended with regard to the design staff of existing local authorities. In many county councils there are 50 or 60 engineers employed at present in various areas of responsibility. The road design teams appear to do a very good job. Will these people be seconded to the National Roads Authority or will the chief executive and his staff designate the work to them? Will the design team of the National Roads Authority carry out work in Tipperary, Mayo or Galway with no regard for local knowledge or information? While it is extremely difficult to have major roadworks carried out in any part of the country at present at least local authorities have at their disposal the experience and understanding of local history and information, and that is very important. While people have the right to object, and certainly use it very frequently, many difficulties can be avoided by having access to information before a project commences.

Section 43 refers to protected roads. This is a new and interesting concept which will apply to new or existing roads. The explanatory memorandum states that the protected road is a new concept which must be distinguished from a motorway. Does that mean that roads adjoining motorways can be described as national primary roads and that a new national primary road will be a protected road? For instance, the N5 leading into Castlebar is a newly created road. The former Minister refused to develop the old N5 to a proper standard and a new road was built, either side of which no development has taken place.

With no potholes.

It is guaranteed that there will be no potholes in it. I would like to know whether this new road will be protected road. Section 52 provides for service facilities on motorways. If these facilities are to be provided we should ensure it is done in a proper fashion rather than relying on the use of section 4 provisions under the new Act. Perhaps on Committee Stage we will deal in further detail with protected roads and their definition, taking into account county development plans, service sites and so on.

Sections 66 and 68 give power to the National Roads Authority to remove temporary dwellings such as caravans and so on from the roadsides. One draw-back as far as the thousands of people who visit this country every year are concerned, or indeed the people who travel from one part of Ireland to another, is the sight of caravans and travellers' vans alongside the roads leading to towns and villages. These people have no regard whatever for the normal rules of litter disposal. It is a disgrace that where new roads are created local authorities have to build isolated islands at cutaway bends, with boulders and so on to prevent the roads being clogged up by travellers who park in an area for a week or ten days and leave it in a disgraceful condition.

I have no objection to people availing of lay-bys or parking areas for an overnight stay, but I certainly object to people using these facilities with no regard for the litter laws. Litter is an eyesore in many parts of the country. I am sure that under the existing litter Acts local authorities are enabled to take action in these cases. When building new roads we should consider creating up-to-date lay-bys for caravans and people who wish to stop for a snack. These lay-bys should be kept in good condition, unlike at present whereby many of them are strewn with litter.

I am not sure whether each local authority should be required to take a stand against travellers. In many areas they put up signs prohibiting temporary dwellings and overnight parking but travellers ignore these signs, claiming illiteracy. They move from one point on the road to another and the local authorities and Garda seem powerless to remove them. Even though the Department provide 100 per cent funding for this purpose, it is obviously a matter of great sensitivity for many county councils. I would like the Minister to consider the matter of temporary dwellings because it takes away from the attractiveness of the countryside.

Section 67 deals with the removal of trees and dangerous buildings. This is a very important provision. Obviously, many farmers are not in a position to avail of the services of tree surgeons and may not be aware that older trees may fall in the event of storms. Every year a number of deaths are caused by falling trees. Under existing law if the local authority believe that damage may be caused by falling trees they are empowered to instruct the landowner to have the trees removed. If the landowner is not in a position or fails to do so the local authority may remove them.

I would like to refer to another minor point but one of some significance. People such as public representatives in particular have to do quite an amount of night driving. There seems to have been an increase in the erection of spot lights, principally on buildings throughout the country. A condition should be laid down that bright lights be angled in such a way as not to interfere with the vision of drivers. Most of these lights which are used to light up buildings and stores are very bright, and they can be quite off-putting and dangerous for drivers. In many cases all that is required is that the angle of the light be altered slightly, making it safer as far as the driver is concerned.

Section 13 concerns the responsibility for roads between the 27 county councils and the urban district councils. I am not at all clear about what is intended. On the one hand, the Minister has responsibility to implement the draft, nonsensical concept of district councils — which appear to be jumping up from the minor party in Government, with no money, no teeth, no financial clout and no authority at all — and on the other hand he is taking the responsibility for roads from the county councils and giving it to the National Roads Authority. At the same time, urban councils are to have responsibility for local roads. The whole issue comes down to one of funding, the thread of money runs through it all. It is obvious that in 1992 the Minister will not be able to lash out money in order to cater for that problem. Perhaps the concept of urban district councils should be dropped and the new Minister should take a different course. I believe that the principal development authority is the county council, and if that structure has the necessary political clout nationally then it is quite capable of dealing with county development on a proper scale.

Having had the opportunity to travel in some other continental countries to a limited extent, I believe that Ireland should seriously consider road expansion in terms of tourist development. I should not like our countryside to be destroyed, but it is evident that continental countries that have used Euro-funding to construct new roadways on coastal fringes have given access to a new kind of scenic tourism to thousands of tourists.

Dr. Séamus Caulfield, the archaeologist who has done trojan work on the Céide Fields Project in north Mayo, and a former winner of the Mayoman of the Year award, recently said that the development of a mile or a mile-and-a-half of new road north from Belderrig along the coast would create one of the finest routes of cliff scenery in all Europe and would have the potential impact of attracting thousands of extra tourists to that part of the country.

The National Roads Authority should be able to consider expenditure on the creation of new routes, roads that obviously would not be of national primary standard, that would open up areas of the coastline in particular. I am not suggesting that a road should run around the edge of our coastline — that would destroy many of the attractions that we should be promoting — but in certain locations the creation of new short routes would open up access.

Having made those few points, I should like to say to the Minister, Deputy Smith, that there are few pleasures in life that equal travelling on a good road on a summer's morning with the wind in one's face. I wish the Minister well in his endeavours in the Department of the Environment, which is a huge and complex Ministry that demands a great deal of concentrated work. Any constructive achievement made by the Minister will certainly have the support of this side of the House. I wish Deputy Smith every success with his responsibilities.

I should first like to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Smith, on taking up his new appointment. I wish him well in his role as Minister for the Environment. Coming as I do from County Longford, I have a particular interest in the county roads system there. I do not know whether the Minister has already been informed of the issue, but I know that the former Minister was approached by groups of very frustrated people who have to live with an outrageous county roads system. Many of them have to travel, day in and day out, over potholed roads and families with small children have to negotiate flooded roads in order to avail of the school bus service.

Potholes have been at the butt end of many jokes in the news media down through the years. At this stage they may not be a very popular issue to talk about and when people talk about potholes they are inclined to say, "Not again"— an attitude which is all very well for those who do not have to suffer that affliction, and it is an affliction.

We ask people to pay car tax, and, by the way, that is to increase by 20 per cent. In a fair society when one is asked to pay car tax one would expect fair play. I am glad to have the opportunity to tell the new Minister for the Environment that the people of the northern part of County Longford in particular are not getting fair play. That is not to say that any part of the county roads system in County Longford is good, but those in rural areas are particularly disadvantaged. Longford County Council have not as yet received their budgetary allocation. I ask the new Minister to seriously consider making an extra allocation to that county.

The former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Pádraig Flynn, announced to the nation that the end of the day of the pothole was in sight. He must be very long-sighted because the day of the pothole is far from over. If the new Minister for the Environment wishes to do something that will be remembered by the rural community of Ireland then he could do no better than improve the road system. He should be particularly interested in that idea as he comes from a rural part of Ireland himself. For example, the Minister could leave the revenue received from car tax with each local authority. I know that it can be argued that that revenue has to go into central funds and that a balance has to be struck on the amount that goes back to each county. However, I propose that for two years the Minister should leave the car tax revenue with each local authority and tell the local authorities to spend the money as they see fit on their county road system. Such a step would be a good start.

People talk about the development of tourism. In the northern part of my county there are several rivers and lakes that have absolutely no access routes. In the summertime, many English fishermen who come here find it extremely difficult to find a way to get to those lakes. The social employment scheme has enabled useful work to be done in conjunction with the local authority but they cannot go as far as improving the roads.

I take the opportunity today to tell the Minister that the county roads system in my county is in a very serious position. County councillors are being blamed for the state of the roads at public meetings, meetings which TDs are also asked to attend. People are at last beginning to realise, though, that the funds to carry out the necessary work simply are not available to local authorities from the Department. I look forward to the Minister making an extra allocation to Longford County Council. Some counties are not so affected but counties such as Longford definitely need extra funding.

While one has to welcome the National Roads Authority and one has to keep an open mind, to a certain extent I am disappointed that an overall approach to transport was not taken. The railways should have come under this Authority. Mr. David Waters, the head of Iarnród Éireann, at a meeting in Longford recently quite rightly pointed out that they have to fund and maintain the railways and provide a public service.

When funds were available from Europe it was a great pity that we did not see the railways as a vital part of communications. A lot of money which has been lost could have been put into the railways. The railways are an asset which we did not appreciate. That is why they were run down and why there is now grave concern about the Dublin/Sligo line. It is estimated that a sum of £20 million could modernise that line to give an efficient service. A sum of £20 million would not go very far in building some of the bypasses planned. I know that people welcome the by-passes and the progress they represent, but the railways and the roads should both be seen as a necessary part of our infrastructure and we should spend the money on both systems of transport. If we had done that over the years we would be in a better position today and there would not be any anxiety about the Dublin/Sligo line. The railways might not overly concern the Minister in this Bill, but in the overall context of transport infrastructure the railways have not been seen as a priority.

The Longford by-pass is now going ahead and I expect that it will be going for tender this year. This is a welcome development. There is no doubt that there have been traffic problems in the town of Longford. Business people expressed anxiety about by-passes and how they would affect the life of the towns, but experience has shown that they do not really affect business in towns and that as a matter of fact they add to the general accessibility of the town.

I would draw the Minister's attention to some roads in my county. The Mullingar-Roscommon road goes through County Longford from Ballymahon to Lanesboro. This road carries a huge amount of traffic to the west. Part of the road goes through the Bord na Móna bog so it is accepted that extra funding is needed for the road. Will the Minister consider upgrading that road to national secondary status? The Longford-Arva road is a route that should be upgraded also. In dealing with the county roads I would ask the Minister to give consideration to that proposition. The roads action committee have requested a meeting with the Minister and I hope the Minister will be able to meet them. As a member of Longford County Council, I know that councillors there are extremely concerned that we should get extra funding. I hope the Minister will not let us down.

In this debate a colleague referred to dangerous trees and to the fact that new legislation would be introduced to deal with that problem. Trees in certain areas have been the cause of serious accidents and the councils and landowners always seem to be at sixes and sevens as to how they should be dealt with.

There is no doubt that temporary dwellings along our roads have created a lot of hassle and that they are highly dangerous in some cases. When people move from these temporary dwellings they often leave a lot of refuse behind and the area becomes unsightly.

I wish the Minister well in his new job and I look forward to the Minister being regarded as the Minister who seriously tried to deal with our county roads system.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Tuigim go bhfuil an tAire bréan den méid atá ráite le cúpla lá agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil daoine eile lag freisin, agus ní bheidh mise ach cúpla nóiméad mar tuigim go maith go bhfuil gach rud ráite cheana.

I will emphasise a few things, but I will not repeat many of the points I would have made had I been in earlier. I support the concept of advancing our roads structure; that is asine qua non. I would emphasise that every person counts. It is a motto about which the Minister will hear more. Where people are being completely inconvenienced by roads, I wonder at times is the balance right? A new roadway can cut through virgin territory and farms can be split and then we will have regulations saying that nobody can cross at a certain point and a bridge will not be provided. I am talking about Glenmore at the end of my constituency where there is a beautiful roadway and where farms have been split. People are supposed to bring cattle down a sideroad and come on to the main roads In this day and age it is criminal to ask farmers to do that because cattle cannot be controlled on a main road like that. They want a bridge. In their case they deserve the bridge for the sake of safety. They need another one further on where there is a huge slope coming into Glenmore and where young people have to cross the road to get to the hurling pitch. This practice is highly dangerous for young people coming and going there. A pedestrian bridge should be provided here.

There seems to be strong resistance to pedestrian bridges once one moves out of Dublin. Travelling towards Dublin Airport one will see bridges across the main road and the same applies on the main road down to Bray; but when one mentions putting a footbridge across a road in the country we get all kinds of arguments about the aesthetic appearance of it and so on. I am all for aesthetic values, but if people have to cross very busy roads they must be able to do so in safety. A new motorway must not be an inconvenience to the people living in the area.

I would welcome the upgrading of the road from Rosslare to the west which goes through Carlow and carries much traffic in the summer. While there has been improvement of that road, especially on the Carlow side, the road from Carlow to Portlaoise is not as it should be. I would be very happy if the National Roads Authority would look at that section of road. I suggest that Carlow is the ideal location for the headquarters of the new Authority. They would be in an area where the importance of roads would be recognised. The city does not give a proper perspective to anybody.

About 80 per cent of our people depend on county roads which have been neglected for many years. EC funding has enabled works to be carried out on national primary routes, but we must look after the county roads which are used by the majority of people. Our engineers have built up expertise, as have road workers, in the building of bridges and so on. I hope the National Roads Authority will not take up all the money, leaving nothing for county roads.

I welcome the power in the Bill to grant permission to councils to shift caravans etc. off the roads. This has become an increasing problem. The legal process is almost as slow as a funeral in that it takes 12 months to get anybody moved. The Authority must be able to act quickly to move people in Hiace vans who set up shop at the roadside. The normal legal process is a waste of time.

I condemn the concept of district councils. I have been a member of a county council for 11 years and during that time money has become scarcer and scarcer. It is questionable whether county councils can be justified in view of the cutback in finance. If district councils are introduced they cannot be given money which councils could use. They might simply become expensive talking shops. I hope the Minister's views on this matter differ from those of his predecessor.

I welcome the establishment of the National Roads Authority and I hope they will competently discharge the functions designated to them. As we become part of a more integrated Europe and a Single Market and begin to feel the effects of peripherality, the case for the development of our infrastructure comes into focus. In terms of the degree of infrastructural development currently taking place, we are light years away from achieving anything like the development necessary to compensate for the cold winds of peripherality.

Last Sunday I was in Ballina at one of a series of meetings convened by the western conference of bishops in regard to the death, decay and very visible decline of the west. The population graphs show starkly that, except for a very brief period in the mid-seventies following access to the EC, there has been a downward spiral in population statistics. There were only two minor growth areas, one around Galway city and the other around Sligo. County Leitrim has a population of 15,000 and is over-represented in the Dáil. The population of Mayo is only enough to sustain five Deputies. Were it not that Deputy Flynn happened to be Minister for the Environment when the constituencies were redrawn Mayo would be a five-seat constituency. Thanks to the inclusion of parts of Galway east and Galway west we have managed to retain two three-seat constituencies.

Fundamental to the development of the west is the construction of roads. Recently I asked the Minister's predecessor to give a county-by-county breakdown of grants allocated in 1991 for national primary and national secondary roads. Let us take the five Connacht counties in comparison with two eastern counties. Last year Mayo received £4,172,000 for national primary roads; Galway received £3,100,000; Roscommon received £510,000; Leitrim £1,205,000 and Sligo £1,735,000. More than £10 million was paid to the five western counties. Dublin received £31,567,000 and Kildare received £15,869,000. Those two eastern counties got £47 million as against £10 million for five western counties. The point is well made by the statistics. The west is not getting the necessary infrastructural development to sustain its population. Unless ease of access is provided we will not attract tourists or industrialists and it will be impossible to keep people here.

I accept that we must give priority to the capital city and I accept that ease of access to the port of Dublin is vital. If we are to stop the irreparable damage being done to the west we must secure EC funding. I would make the point that if, as a result of our membership of the EC, we now suffer the cold winds of the joint pressures of the Common Agricultural Policy and GATT, if our traditional industries are going to the wall, if Europe has not been able to compensate us by way of jobs, then they have a moral, social and political obligation to develop our infrastructure to enable us to put in place our integrated plans, to use our energies and latent resources in an endeavour to develop our potential, realising the internal dynamic within each region.

If one examines the map of Europe in terms of ascertaining where are their priorities in terms of spending, one sees that there is a Euro-route running from Dublin to Dundalk to the Border, from Dublin to Kildare town, from Dublin to Rosslare, while the remainder of the country does not appear on that map. I am making a special plea to the new Minister to put a very strong case in Brussels for additional funding for infrastructure for the regions.

I welcome and congratulate the Minister to his new portfolio. I know he is a man of considerable skill and ability. I have no doubt that he will undertake his task in the Department of the Environment with considerable aplomb.

Again I make a special plea on behalf of the regions for additional resources. As a Mayoman once said: "They are going, going, going and no one bid then stop", which is very much the case in the west at present. We look to the new National Roads Authority but unless that body discharge the functions allotted to them, they will not be able to work effectively. Indeed, unless the National Roads Authority are given the requisite money they will be unable to fulfil their functions. Perhaps the Minister would clarify whether the National Roads Authority have power to take certain decisions about changing the status of roads. I might give one good example. There is an office of the Department of the Environment located in Ballina, County Mayo dealing with all the grants administered by the Minister's Department, employing in the region of 400 people, a welcome development in the Government's decentralisation programme. Yet this office of the Department of the Environment, based in the town of Ballina, is served by one of the worst regional roads nationwide, one that carries the highest statistical volume of traffic in terms of heavy and ordinary domestic traffic. Yet we have repeatedly made unavailing attempts and pleas to the former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, to have that road upgraded. I accept that it is extremely difficult to expect a Minister from Tipperary North to see the merits of the argument when a Minister from our county could not see them. Unfortunately, there has obtained within the county of Mayo a terrible parochialism between the two county towns of Castlebar and Ballina. It would appear that the former Minister was unable to break his way out of that cast to enable that road to be upgraded to at least national secondary status.

Furthermore, there are two very noble precedents within the county of Mayo for changing roads' status. The two last roads nationwide to be upgraded were the N83 and N84; they had been omitted from the original maps in 1989. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to take a fresh look at this. If it is not possible for him to do so, perhaps he would clarify whether the National Roads Authority will be in a position to accept representations from local authorities in relation to the upgrading of various roads from regional to either national secondary or national primary status.

I wish the Bill, the Minister and the Authority well, particularly the Minister, in the discharging of his functions.

Is mian liom, ar an gcéad dul síos, mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí uilig a labhair i bhfábhar an Bhille seo agus leofasan a labhair ina choinne, agus focal buíochais a rá freisin leis na Teachtaí a rinne comhghairdeas liom as ucht gur toghadh mé mar Aire Comhshaoil. Bhí caoi ag an iar-Aire, agus agam féin, éisteacht leis an díospóireacht ina hiomlán agus déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall anois chun na prionsabail go ginearálta a léiriú agus na ceisteanna a bhfuil baint dhíreach acu leis an mBille a fhreagairt.

I want to thank Members from all sides of the House who contributed to this debate and indeed for their words of congratulation on my appointment as Minister for the Environment.

Both myself and my predecessor, Deputy O'Hanlon, listened with great care to what was said. I will endeavour to respond as positively and constructively as possible. In replying, I will endeavour to deal with the main themes running through the debate and answer as many of the specific issues raised as I can. Needless to say, in the journey we have travelled over the past couple of days, it would be impossible to get down to the specifics of the various matters raised by all Deputies. I hope to go as far as I possibly can down that road and, in the context of Committee Stage, tease out the finer points in a manner which will enable Members on all sides of the House to do the very best job we can in ensuring that the provisions of this Bill will withstand the test of time.

A number of contributors to the debate called for an integrated transport policy. Some sought a single Department of Transport. Fine Gael speakers proposed a national roads and rail authority while The Workers' Party suggested a national transport authority. I might make a number of brief comments in response to those suggestions. It is my belief that, in large measure, we have an integrated transport policy. The Operational Programme on Peripherality covering the years 1989 to 1993, in which my Department act as the lead Department, is an integrated medium-term investment programme dealing with roads, rail, ports and airports.

The main emphasis in phase 2 of the Dublin transportation initiative, announced recently, is on an integrated approach to ongoing transport planning in the greater Dublin area. I would argue that the place to take strategic decisions on issues which go to make up an integrated transport policy — such as the distribution of scarce resources and selection of priorities — is around the Cabinet table. There is merit in a number of Departments and Ministers having transport responsibilities, as this encourages a greater degree of informed debate on relative priorities and allocation of resources, whereas a single Department, with a corporate view, might not facilitate the same level or quality of debate.

Indeed, whatever Government structures we adopt it will be possible for somebody to point to problems. There had long been calls for a single Department of the Marine. Now that we have one, Members want to strip it of its transport responsibilities. It has been argued that land use and transportation planning should be integrated, something which would be directly contradicted by the allocation of roads functions to a new Department of Transport. What about the synergy between tourism and transport? The only solution to all these organisational problems would be one, massive Government Department, something which even the most corporate-minded among us would not support. There would appear to me to be also a curious contradiction between The Workers' Party proposal for a national transport authority and their criticisms of the proposals for the National Roads Authority as being anti-democratic.

During the debate, there has been criticism of the funding of road improvement and maintenance ranging, from allegations that net State spending on national roads has decreased with the advent of 75 per cent EC grants to calls for increased assistance for county roads. Total Exchequer expenditure on improvement works on national primary roads in the period 1984-88 was £369 million with EC aid commitments of £173 million, giving an average annual State expenditure, net of the EC aid, of just over £39 million. Equivalent figures for the period 1989-93, including projected expenditure for 1992 and 1993 in the Operational Programme on Peripherality, are total Exchequer expenditure of £646 million with EC aid commitments of £411 million, giving an average annual expenditure, net of EC aid, of £47 million. Therefore, not only has total expenditure increased by three-quarters but net State expenditure has also increased significantly.

In passing, I want to comment on a suggestion by Deputy Yates that the Government had reduced the 1989 to 1993 expenditure commitment for national roads from an original figure of £687 million to £511 million. In fact he is not comparing like with like. The £687 million is the total planned improvement expenditure for national roads in the period 1989 to 1993 while the £511 million is the figure included in the Operational Programme on Peripherality for national primary roads only. The £511 million figure excludes all 1989 expenditure on national roads which was included in the national programme of Community interest on road development rather than the operational programme and also excludes expenditure over the five year period on national secondary roads which is dealt with elsewhere in the operational programme. I also want to make it clear that, contrary to suggestions from some quarters, expenditure to date on national roads is exactly in line with the commitments in the operational programme and it is my intention to continue to meet those commitments.

In addition to increased funding for national roads, the Government have also provided substantial extra funding for non-national roads. Since 1986 the discretionary grants paid to county councils for county and regional roads has trebled. A Government commitment to a £150 million three year investment programme for the years 1989 to 1991 has been more than fulfilled, with a total of £182 million provided. These substantial increases have been provided during a period of financial restraint and are a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to an improved road network.

In his contribution Deputy Yates proposed the establishment of a local roads fund to be financed from motor tax receipts and which would replace the present State road grants for non-national roads. If we accept the figures put forward by Deputy Yates, for the purposes of debate at least, Fine Gael are proposing to give £160 million in motor tax revenue to local authorities for non-national roads and to abolish the £80 million State road grant. In simple arithmetic this would mean a nett revenue loss to the Exchequer of £80 million and I have to ask the Opposition how they would propose to make up this loss. Indeed, this is a general point I want to make about extra road funding. It is easy for people to call for more finance while at the same time looking for lower levels of taxation. Government have to deal with the real world and the figures show that, even in difficult financial circumstances, we have in recent years provided significant additional funding for roads from the Exchequer.

Before I leave the question of funding, some Deputies commented on the availability of EC assistance for non-national roads. Under the Operational Programme on Peripherality just over £50 million in EC grants was made available in the period 1989 to 1993 for roads other than national primary roads, that is national secondary, regional, county and urban roads. That assistance is being used to support improvement works which contribute to economic development, particularly industry and tourism. About £6 million in EC aid is also available under the rural development operational programme and the Interreg cross-Border initiative. I want to stress the importance of local authorities carrying out high quality works which satisfy the relevant EC criteria and which will strengthen our case for additional aid when we begin negotiations for the next Community Support Framework, 1994 to 1998.

There were a number of references to the need for rail development which I will bring to the attention of the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications. My only comment at this point is that roads are, and will continue to be, the predominant national mode of surface transport, carrying 96 per cent of passenger traffic and 90 per cent of freight and requiring long term investment of £9 billion.

I now want to turn to some of the specific issues raised in relation to the Bill. References were made to the need to have a genuinely independent National Roads Authority. Concern was expressed that it should not just be another arm of my Department and that it would adopt a more coherent approach to the development of the national network. There was also a concern as to the impact of the National Roads Authority on local democracy and criticisms of its powers to override local authorities, as some Deputies saw it.

The Authority will take over all the functions exercised by my Department in relation to the development of the national roads system and my Department will no longer have any function in this area. As Minister, I will of course continue to exercise overall policy supervision and certain quasi judicial functions. I am happy to assure the House that the Authority will be a statutory body which will be genuinely independent in the exercise of its functions. I am also happy to confirm that Exchequer funding for it will be in the form of a block grant, the allocation of which will be entirely the business of the National Roads Authority.

I am satisfied that the Authority will provide a renewed emphasis on the improvement of the national roads and that it will carry out its task in a coherent and co-ordinated fashion. It is only in recent years that we have started to make a major investment in the national network. Before that successive Governments gave investment priority to other areas of our economic and social infrastructure — housing, telecommunications, energy and so on — achievements, which as Deputy Quinn acknowledged, we can be proud of. Another problem in addition to low levels of funding was the absence of a firm medium-term planning and investment framework. Now that we have a national consensus on the importance of investment in the network, a single-minded Authority with the power to do an effective job and firm medium-term framework through the Operational Programme on Peripherality and its successors, we will very quickly put in place another vital element of our national economic infrastructure of which we can be justifiably proud.

The Bill is structured so as to foster a spirit of common purpose and co-operation between the NRA and local authorities, to make continued use of the skills and expertise of the local authorities and to avoid overlap or duplication of effort. Local authorities will continue to acquire land and carry out a range of functions under the supervision of the NRA. However, at the end of the day the buck has to stop somewhere and it seems logical that the NRA, which is being given the overall responsibility for national road development, should have the reserve — and I stress the word "reserve"— powers necessary to implement its mandate from the Oireachtas. I would be surprised if the NRA will have to use these powers often, if at all; but it is essential that they have them. My Department have had few problems with local authorities when exercising their supervisory role in relation to national roads and the Minister has not to date had recourse to his directive powers under the Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974. I would add at this point that there are no plans for a mass relocation of local authority design staff, through the NRA will, no doubt, want to examine how expertise in one area can be made available more effectively to others.

I also reject the criticism about so-called democratic deficit. The NRA will, I hope, be set up by the Oireachtas, acting as the elected representatives of the people. There are ample powers in the Bill for public consultation and for consultation with local authorities — for example, in relation to a draft plan under section 18; before issuing a direction under section 18; under section 20 before carrying out works which would materially contravene a development plan. I am prepared to look constructively at suggestions as to how these consultative provisions might be strengthened, but to give local authorities a veto would be contrary to the whole intent of Part III of the Bill.

The National Roads Authority are not being given a totally free hand however. They will be obliged to consider what is said to them during consultation and to have regard to the relevant local development plan and to the possible environmental impact of proposed road projects. In carrying out their mandate they will also have regard to the wider public good and will have to weigh in the balance local and national impacts. At the end of the day the Authority will have to live in the real world like the rest of us and be sensitive to genuine public concerns. In reality they will no more be able to ride roughshod over such concerns, as some contributors seemed to suggest, than would any local authority.

Some Deputies suggested that this Bill was a road builders' charter and that the Authority would be used to push a policy of road building to the exclusion of other areas of transport. That is simply not true. Successive speakers have acknowledged the deficient state of our national road network and the need for a co-ordinated and concentrated programme to remedy these deficiencies. This programme is vital to our economic wellbeing, especially since these roads carry more than one third of all road traffic. As Minister for the Environment with responsibility for the built infrastructure, environmental protection and physical planning, I am well aware that road construction does not in itself solve traffic and transport problems in major urban areas, and I can assure the House that the establishment of the Authority does not imply a roads-only policy for cities, such as Dublin. The Dublin Transportation Initiative demonstrates my commitment to a balanced and integrated transportation strategy for the metropolitan area. They will look in an integrated way at all transport modes — road, rail, bus, cycling and walking. They will examine all the options — new road construction, light rail, busways and the better use of our existing infrastructure and facilities. The Eastern By-Pass, to which a number of Deputies referred, will be among a range of options to facilitate north-south movement and port access which will be evaluated by the initiative.

During the debate Authority membership was sought for representatives of various organisations and I have taken note of these suggestions. My concern is to ensure that the members of the Authority will be of high calibre who will bring a wide range of relevant expertise and experience to bear on their activities. I do not want an authority comparised of mandated representatives of various interest groups pursuing their own sectoral agendas, though I will of course be happy to listen to suggestions from such groups as to persons suitable for appointment.

Suggestions were made that staff transfers to the Authority should be subject to the consent of the individuals concerned. While I am prepared to consider an amendment to provide for prior consultation with staff interests, I do not think it would be practical or appropriate to give individuals a veto. This certainly has not been the approach adopted in the case of a range of State bodies established by the Oireachtas such as An Post, Telecom Éireann, Coillte and the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. A criticism was made of the provision for the secondment of employees of the Authority once they were nominated as candidates in local authority elections. I am prepared to look again at this, but in fairness I should point out that the Minister can designate grades of employment to which this restriction would not apply. I am also prepared to look at section 33 again in so far as it applies to candidates for election as distinct from those already elected.

I have taken note of and will review the various suggestions made regarding the specific functions of the National Roads Authority, including proposals to give it powers relating to improved design, road safety, training of local authority staff, harmonisation of standards and so on. Some of these are already covered in the existing text. The general obligation to provide a safe and efficient network of national roads encompasses road safety, while road design and the setting of standards are specifically mentioned in section 19. Section 19 (3) gives the Authority wide ancillary powers to do things connected with their overall functions. My only reservation is that the Authority should avoid overlap and duplication with bodies such as the National Safety Council, the Environmental Research Unit and the Institute of Public Administration — all of which have functions in the areas referred to. I also want to assure Deputy Yates that any assignment of additional functions to the Authority would, under section 7 (3), require the approval of the Oireachtas. In response to Deputy Howlin's and others' concern about signposting, section 19 (1) (c) empowers the Authority to prepare co-ordinated schemes for traffic signs, while section 68 prohibits unauthorised signs and gives local authorities enforcement powers.

A number of Deputies expressed reservations about the proposed assignment to the Authority of tolling powers in respect of national roads. I want to begin my response by emphatically rejecting the allegation that tolling represents extra or double taxation. Tolling is nothing of the kind; instead it is a method of raising additional funds for the development of the road network. It has been the policy of successive Governments, including those with Fine Gael and Labour representation, to seek toll-based investment in roads and it has been the consistent policy of successive Governments that revenue obtained through tolling should be used to accelerate road development. In my view logic dictates that tolling powers should be available to the Authority as part of their overall financial responsibilities, which include the powers to allocate State grants, borrow money and promote EC investment in national roads. I would remind the House that this is not an unfettered power. The Authority are obliged to consult with the appropriate local authority. There is a public consultation process. The Minister must hold a public local inquiry into any objections and tolls cannot be levied without ministerial approval. Members should also note that the scope for tolling here is very limited and that there are no projects on national roads which could be fully funded by toll-based private investment — all would need a contribution from public funds. I also want to assure Deputies that the Authority's borrowing power is not a backdoor method of Government borrowing; it is a genuine part of the authority's financial armoury.

Deputy Dukes asked about Government tolling policy. Broad statements of policy are to be found in the 1985 road plan and in the 1989 roads operational programme. I assure the Deputy that toll agreements are public documents.

I now want to turn briefly to the remaining Parts of the Bill which concern the general law on public roads. First, I want to try to clear up some confusion about the classification of public roads. Public roads will be of three classes — national, regional and local — and the purpose of this is to allow for the assignment of responsibility to various categories of local authorities. In addition to the road classification, there are also roads with special characteristics — motorways, busways and protected roads. These are two entirely separate issues. For example, a motorway will also have to be classified as a national, regional or local road. Designation as a motorway only ensures that frontage development is prohibited and that it is restricted to certain types of traffic. It does not determine which category of local authority is responsible for it — this is decided by its classification.

As is the case at present, the Minister will classify national and regional roads, while all other roads in the charge of local authorities will be automatically classified as local roads. The existing national primary and national secondary roads will continue in large measure to be designated as such under the new Act. An administrative classification of regional roads carried out by my Department has existed for many years. The new Act will give a legal basis to the Rnumbers we are all familiar with and have been using on our signposts for some time.

Before formally establishing the Authority, I will complete a review of the national road classification. Roads serving the State airports and the key commercial seaports will be classified as nationals, if they are not classified as such already. I will also be looking at what other changes are required to take account of new construction, changed traffic management arrangements and changed traffic patterns. I regularly receive requests for reclassification and some suggestions as to correction have also been made in this debate. I want to urge caution. We already have a very extensive network of national primary and secondary roads, over 5,600 km in length. It was selected after a long period of study and is intended to meet our strategic transport needs. Reclassification as a means of getting funding for a particular road is, ultimately, self-defeating. Resources are allocated on the basis of priorities and newly classified roads would simply join the end of the line for funding. Adding roads willy nilly would also dilute the available funding for the network — if we spread our money too thinly we will end up with an extensive but mediocre network of strategic roads.

There also seems to be some confusion about the declaration of public roads or their abandonment. Both functions will be the responsibility of the elected members of local authorities, with provision being made for prior public consultation. The only restriction is that the abandonment by a local authority of a national road or regional road will require ministerial approval, since the Minister would have been originally responsible for their classification as such.

A question was raised about roads improved under the local improvements scheme. These must be non-public roads when assisted under the LIS. These roads could in principle subsequently be declared to be public roads provided they satisfied the criteria in section 11, which include the general public utility of the road and the financial implications for the local authority.

I have taken note of Deputy Howlin's comments on local authorities as custodians of public rights on way and I hope to be able to respond in an appropriate way on Committee Stage.

The concept of a protected road presented difficulties for Deputy Dukes. It is designed to be a much more flexible instrument than a motorway in its control of access. Controls will be tailored to suit the particular road and may apply to a new or existing road.

Deputies referred to the need for improved co-ordination of road openings. Statutory undertakers such as ESB, Telecom Éireann and Bord Gáis have statutory powers to open public roads and, unlike other persons, do not require a licence from a local authority to do so.

There are controls of their activities however. Section 101 (d) of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, as inserted by the Dublin Transport Authority (Dissolution) Act, 1987, enables prescribed local authorities to issue directions to statutory undertakers and others for the purposes of co-ordinating road openings and minimising traffic disruption. In September 1988 the Minister made regulations prescribing Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation as authorities who could exercise these directive powers and my Department have recently written to local authorities asking if any more of them wish to avail of these powers. Arrangements are also in place in Dublin to ensure the advance notification of planned works to enable them to be co-ordinated as far as possible. Section 71 of this Bill updates and strengthens the powers of local authorities to temporarily close roads. They will be able to impose conditions when closing a road to facilitate works and will also be able to recover the cost of any damage done to the road arising from the works.

Suggestions were made that the seasonal sale of fruit and vegetables should not be prohibited under section 68. In fact, under the section as it is drafted at present, they are not. Trading of this type is permitted under the Casual Trading Act, 1980, which is the primary legislation in this area. Trading with such lawful authority is not affected by the new provisions in section 68. Under the section it is also possible for the local authority to consent to trading activities which would then not be affected by the section. I have received a large volume of representations on this section and I will be looking at it again before Committee Stage.

I hope that my response has been of assistance to Deputies. I have tried to deal as comprehensively as possible with the main issues raised and to touch on as many as possible of the less important points. Any points I have neglected to mention will no doubt be raised on Committee Stage and I will respond to them then. My thanks to Deputies for their contributions and their attention to my response. I hope we will have an opportunity over the next few few weeks to complete the final Stages of this important Bill.

Question put and a division being demanded, it was postponed in accordance with the Order of the Dáil of 20 February 1992 until 6.45 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 February 1992.