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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Mar 1998

Vol. 488 No. 2

Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." The primary purpose of this Bill is to clarify the power of local authorities, as road authorities, to compulsorily acquire a substratum, underground slice of land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993. The Bill also proposes to amend the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, to provide a similar power in that legislation to authorise the compulsory acquisition of a substratum of land for the construction and maintenance of a tunnel in connection with light rail development should this be necessary. In addition, the Bill deals with two other matters, namely, the judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and road related environmental impact statements and confirmation of the status as motorways of a number of proposed public roads.

The Roads Act, 1993, was enacted by the Oireachtas to provide a comprehensive and modern legislative framework for road development. Preparation of the legislation, which comprised 85 sections and three Schedules, involved considerable work in research and drafting. Prior to enactment there was extensive scrutiny of the Bill by both Houses of the Oireachtas. For these reasons, the Roads Act, 1993, will stand the test of time as the main legislative basis for the development of Ireland's road network. However, in this important and complex area of Government activity it was probably inevitable that, in the course of experience with the operation of the legislation, matters would come to attention which either could with benefit be added to the legislation or in relation to which clarification of the law would be desirable. Three such matters have arisen in relation to the Roads Act, 1993, and are the subject of this Bill.

Deputies will be aware that the proposed Dublin Port tunnel project is one element of the Dublin Transportation Initiative for the city. In the course of the planning of the project by Dublin Corporation, legal doubt has arisen over the powers of the corporation as a road authority to compulsorily acquire land required for the tunnel.

The corporation proposes that the land to be acquired for the project should consist of the underground section, or substratum necessary for the tunnel and should not involve the compulsory acquisition of all the land above or below it or of any buildings located on the land. The essence of the legal issue which arose was whether the land acquisition powers contained in the Roads Act, 1993 would allow the corporation to acquire only the necessary substratum of land, as it proposes. Differing views were expressed on this issue.

Having considered the matter, the Government came to the conclusion that it was desirable to ensure there was no legal uncertainty over the powers of local authorities generally, within the framework of the motorway scheme and environmental impact assessment procedures of the Roads Act, 1993, to compulsorily acquire substrata of land necessary for road tunnels.

Accordingly, section 3 amends section 47 of the Roads Act, 1993, in a number of places to provide that a motorway scheme made by a road authority may specify any substratum of land which it is proposed to compulsorily acquire for the purposes of the scheme.

Section 4 amends section 52 of the 1993 Act to provide that, when the Minister approves a motorway scheme, the road authority will there-upon be authorised, under section 52(1), to compulsorily acquire any substratum of land specified in the scheme and that the general law on compulsory purchase will also apply to the acquisition of a substratum of land. Similarly, the new subsection (7) to be inserted in section 52 confirms that any reference to land in the compulsory purchase code includes a reference to a substratum of land.

It is not the intention, nor will it be the effect of this new legislation, to take away from the statutory procedures which must be followed before any project could proceed which involved the provision of a road tunnel along the lines set out in the Bill. This Bill does not authorise the construction of the Dublin Port tunnel.

I am aware that the port tunnel is the subject of continuing public debate. Whether the project goes ahead, and in what form, will be decided through the statutory motorway scheme and environmental impact assessment procedures set out in the Roads Act, 1993. A full motorway scheme and a comprehensive environmental impact statement will have to be prepared by the corporation and submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government; the public will have to be given an adequate opportunity to make submissions on the project and on its environmental impact; a public inquiry will have to be held at which all views can be heard; and a report on the inquiry will have to be prepared and submitted for decision.

The final decision on the port tunnel will therefore be made another day and as part of a different process. For that reason, the debate in this House should not be a forum for discussion of the merits and demerits of the port tunnel project. In any event, it will not be possible for me to enter into any such discussion in the course of the debate or elsewhere in view of the quasi-judicial functions which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is likely to be called upon to exercise in the project at a later stage.

I will now deal with the proposed amendment to the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, which is contained in section 6. The 1996 Act is similar to, and based to a large extent on, the Roads Act, 1993. Amendment of the 1996 Act is therefore also required in so far as it relates to compulsory acquisition of a substratum of land and the opportunity is being taken to provide for this in the current Bill.

During the passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas of the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, the then Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications stressed that the Act was enabling legislation which did not seek to dictate the detail of how light rail is to be implemented and in no way excluded the possibility of any section of the light rail system being provided underground. Concern was expressed by many Deputies and Senators at the time that the underground option was being excluded because the legislation as drafted did not refer to it explicitly. To allay those concerns, the Minister of State agreed to amend the Bill to make it explicit that the underground option was not being ruled out. It now appears, however, in light of the position as it has emerged with regard to the roads legislation, that these amendments may not have been sufficient to achieve their intended purpose.

Section 6, therefore, provides that under section 10(2) of the 1996 Act, a light railway order may specify any substratum of land the acquisition of which is necessary to give effect to the order. Section 6 goes on to provide for the compulsory acquisition of substrata of land under section 13(1) and (2) of the 1996 Act. The new subsection (3) in section 13 of the 1996 Act confirms that any reference to land in the compulsory purchase code, which is to be used for light rail land acquisition, includes a reference to a substratum of land.

These provisions are all the more important now that the underground option for light rail in the city centre is being evaluated. Deputies will be aware that the Minister for Public Enterprise has appointed consultants to carry out a study based on a comparative evaluation of two broad options. These comprise the on-street Tallaght-City Centre-Dundrum line proposed by CIE in its formal application for a light railway order, and the same line with an underground section in the city centre. This will permit a thorough evaluation of the on-street and underground options for the city centre in the context of ClE's concrete proposals for a Tallaght-City Centre-Dundrum route. The underground study was commissioned because the Government was concerned about the absence of a detailed and satisfactory response to concerns expressed by organisations and individuals about the light rail project and the ability of an on-street system to meet passenger demand in the long term. The Government felt it could not take a decision to proceed with a project of this importance in the absence of a fully independent analysis of those concerns.

It was always intended that the 1996 Act would confer the necessary rights to proceed with an underground option should that option be decided upon and this Bill is intended to restore that position. As with the port tunnel, a process entirely separate from this Bill will determine which option is to be chosen.

The second issue relating to the Roads Act, 1993, concerns judicial review. The 1993 Act contains no specific provisions relating to judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes or roads-related environmental impact statements. This is in marked contrast to other legislative codes. For example, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1992; the Waste Management Act, 1996; and indeed the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, all contain specific provisions governing judicial review of decisions under those codes.

It is desirable that there should be clear provisions applying to judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and roads-related environmental impact statements and that these should be framed in a way which is broadly similar to provisions in other comparable legislation. Accordingly, section 5 introduces three new provisions. First, an action challenging the validity of a decision of the Minister on a motorway scheme or on a roads-related environmental impact statement will have to be by way of an application for judicial review. Proceedings will have to be instituted within two months by motion on notice to interested persons. Second, the High Court will not grant leave to apply for review unless it is satisfied there are substantial grounds for contending that the decision challenged is invalid or ought to be quashed. Third, the High Court's decision will be final unless it certifies that its decision involves a point of law of exceptional public importance, in which case appeal may be made to the Supreme Court.

It is important to emphasise that these new provisions will not restrict the right to institute proceedings challenging these decisions. They are intended merely to ensure that any such proceedings can be brought to finality as expeditiously as possible, bearing in mind the importance of having final and conclusive decisions on major road development proposals within a reasonable timescale.

The final provision relating to the Roads Act, 1993, is intended to put beyond doubt the status as motorways of a limited number of proposed public roads.

The Roads Act, 1993, substituted new motorway scheme procedures for those in the Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974, the repeal of which was provided for by the 1993 Act. The procedures under the 1974 Act had two elements. First, a motorway scheme was prepared by a local authority, then a public inquiry was held and finally a ministerial decision was made on the scheme. Second, where a motorway scheme was approved by the Minister another separate ministerial order was required declaring the road the subject of the approved scheme to be a motorway.

By contrast, the 1993 Act provides for a single motorway scheme procedure which involves only one formal decision by the Minister. That Act also contained transitional provisions aimed at catering for situations where motorway schemes had been made by local authorities under the 1974 Act but the procedures under that Act had not been completed at the point when the Act was repealed.

Subsequent experience with these transitional provisions suggests that they may not be sufficient to make good the absence from the 1993 Act of the previous power of formally declaring to be a motorway a road which had been the subject of an approved motorway scheme under the 1974 Act. Three approved motorway schemes are involved: the Southern Cross Route, Dunleer/Dundalk and the Kildare Town Bypass.

Section 7, therefore, provides for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government making orders in these specified circumstances, to declare these roads to be motorways.

I will be happy to elaborate on the provisions of the Bill in the course of its consideration by the House. I emphasise that we are fortunate to have in the Roads Act, 1993, a modern legislative framework for road development. The Bill now before the House further enhances the capacity of that Act to serve as an instrument to realise the road network that we all want. I commend the Bill to the House.

I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Olivia Mitchell.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Bill. Any measure that facilitates the alleviation of traffic problems is welcome. We will not object to the provision of power to local authorities to acquire a substratum of land for the construction of a road tunnel. This will have a bearing on the construction of a Dublin Port tunnel. Given the increased use of the port for freight — there has been a huge increase in the number of heavy goods vehicles using Dublin city roads — there must be a quality link from Dublin Port, which has been described as one of our national assets, to a motorway system on the outskirts of the city. The proposed motorway scheme for the Dublin Port tunnel must address the problem of heavy goods traffic associated with Dublin Port with a view to relieving traffic congestion.

The benefits of the proposed scheme will extend beyond the immediate vicinity of the scheme. They include the redistribution of traffic, increased accessibility and attractiveness of areas for development and improvement to pedestrian and residential amenities. Not only are there traffic problems resulting from the large number of cars on our roads, with commuters in and out of the city at peak hours creating huge traffic volumes, but because of our increased economic activity and the subsequent increased use of Dublin Port, a greater number of heavy goods vehicles choke the city, causing increased traffic congestion. They also have a deteriorating effect on the condition of our roads.

Heavy goods vehicles are becoming bigger and heavier as technology advances and consumer demand dictates. The axle loads of those vehicles reach levels that were unknown 20 years ago. That is one of the main reasons for the deteriorating quality of roadways in our cities. Many city roads were built for a different era, not for the constant trundle of heavy goods vehicles which use them today. I am aware from speaking to the city engineer in Cork that there is a great problem in that city because the substratum is soft and marshy and the road pavement collapses under the weight of large articulated lorries.

Many of the problems with poor road surfaces in our cities could be avoided if heavy goods vehicles were kept off our city roads and moved on to roads designed to accommodate them. Not only do those vehicles damage the road surface but they contribute to a reduction in air quality and, therefore, they should not be allowed in city centres where there is a large concentration of people. Large vehicles are unattractive and they obstruct one's line of vision. They are very slow moving and cumbersome, thus contributing greatly to traffic congestion.

It makes sense to develop a scheme to move those vehicles from the city centre to a road network linked to the rest of the country. The operators of heavy vehicles have no interest in sitting for hours in Dublin traffic when with increased efficiency they could be half way to their destination, whether it be Cork, Limerick, Galway or Waterford. The scheme will bring about significant benefits in terms of improvements in trade with other countries and facilitating increased trade through Dublin port without restrictions created by traffic congestion.

The construction of a tunnel will undoubtedly be of concern for the residents and commercial interests in the area. The Minister should ensure lines of communication are kept open with residents of the area. None of us wants to stand in the way of development, but the needs and concerns of residential areas should not be ignored.

The Bill provides for the acquisition of a substratum of land, should that be necessary — I hope it will not be necessary — for the Luas system. Fine Gael favours the construction of an overground system and hopes it will not be delayed further. The proposed Dublin light rail system is in grave danger of being lost to the communities of Dublin because of what appears to be deliberate delaying tactics of the Minister.

The new study of the underground option ordered by the Minister has long-fingered the project. I cannot understand why it is necessary to re-examine a system that has been already fully examined. That decision is unacceptable from the point of view of cost and for many other reasons. The option of an underground system in Dublin has been examined and eliminated. The cost of the underground system was estimated at approximately £495 million for almost 18 kilometres of track. That compares to £224 million for 22 kilometres of on-street light rail transport. The construction timetable for the underground system is at least two years longer than for the LRT system. That is best estimate as ground works can be notoriously slow and unpredictable. Delays could seriously jeopardise the possibility of securing EU funding for the project.

Public opinion strongly favours an overground light rail system. Extensive research by MRBI shows that 64 per cent of the public favours the light rail option while only 20 per cent favours the underground option. That finding should not be ignored. People prefer to use overground systems, whether because of a fear of being trapped or being more vulnerable underground. Women in particular do not tend to use the underground system at night for safety reasons. Consideration must be given to those matters as well as to an analysis undertaken by the light rail office which indicates that the on-street option would result in a greater reduction in the number of people using car transport and existing public transport modes. The on-street option offers greater park and ride opportunities as well as providing more stations than the underground option.

The original proposal for a light rail network came from a need to provide, on a relatively low cost basis, a quality public transport service which would be adequate to cater for anticipated demand on selected corridors and would have the capacity to attract car commuters on to public transport by providing fast, reliable and frequent services on key routes to the city centre. Light rail transport offers the best opportunity to meet those policy aims and to help promote wider objectives such as urban regeneration and protection of the urban environment.

Light rail transport is the most cost effective where urban traffic levels are in the intermediate capacity range, between the upper levels of high density bus service and the lower levels of a full metro or heavy suburban railway line. Transport demand patterns in Dublin are considered to be ideally suited to the selective application of light rail technology. The key feature of the light rail system is its flexibility. It can meet a wide range of passenger demands both off peak and at peak times. It appeals to various sectors, particularly car users who do not consider Dublin Bus as an attractive alternative.

I watched with interest a recent "Prime Time" programme on RTE where 20 commuters were interviewed. All those people, who leave their homes at about 7 a.m. to get into the city, said they would not use Dublin Bus because of delays, unreliability and inflexibility. Dublin Bus has a negative public image. There has been a decline in bus usage from a maximum of 220 million passengers in 1973. This is because the service is perceived as unreliable, not very clean and inefficient. I have no doubt Dublin Bus has gone a long way to improve its customer service, but it is shackled by the gridlock on the streets. It is in a Catch 22 situation. It cannot appeal to the commuters to leave their cars at home and it cannot increase efficiency because it is unable to demonstrate how it will improve its services.

Dublin's traffic problems will not be solved unless there is an effective, reliable and frequent transport service, such as light rail, which is especially attractive to car users probably because it is clean and quiet. By contrast, buses are dirty from an air quality point of view. The Government should not subsidise diesel for use in public transport. I ask the Minister to look at ways to encourage Dublin Bus and taxis to use alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas, which is cleaner and quieter. Buses have not improved their exterior image of being noisy and coughing clouds of black fumes into the atmosphere. By contrast, a light rail system is noiseless and much kinder to the environment.

The light rail will be able to ensure its own right of way on the street and avoid getting bogged down in traffic and commuters will be able to depend on the system to always get to their destinations on time. The predictability of the system will generate confidence. LRT has a proven ability worldwide to attract car users, reduce traffic and the pressure for car parking spaces in the city centre. Given that it is a rail based system it also has the attraction of permanence and can make an important contribution to urban regeneration in Dublin.

The construction of the light rail system will involve substantial disruption due to the laying of track, the installation of overhead wires and the relocation of underground services, such as gas, electricity, water, sewerage and telecom lines. However, once the system is in operation the streets will benefit from reduced congestion and improvement to the environment, thus contributing to a better climate for economic activity. Market research has shown that there is widespread public support for a light rail system. Some 78 per cent of those interviewed said the introduction of light rail would be justified notwithstanding the disruption caused during construction.

The Minster should take action and recognise that since 1990 travelling times in the Dublin area have doubled. Some 60,000 of the 130,000 new cars last year were registered in Dublin. Traffic has become the greatest problem for Dubliners and for those working in the city and using it for economic gain. We need to see that something positive is being done to invest in the future of public transport. However, the Minister for Public Enterprise has not given this impression. I hope this Bill will facilitate the speedy introduction of the light rail system and Dublin Port when it gets the go ahead.

I welcome this Bill, which empowers local authorities as road authorities to compulsorily acquire land and substrata of land for tunnelling purposes. I also welcome its speedy introduction to the House and applaud Dublin City Council for accepting the recommendation of a port access tunnel and for grasping the nettle on what cannot have been an easy political decision. Tunnelling may not be at the cutting edge of technology. However, it is new to this country and there are understandable concerns. In view of this, Dublin City Council showed great determination.

Section 5 limits the time in which judicial reviews can be sought after CPOs have been signed by the Minister on this or on any infrastructural project under the Act. The second part of the section restricts the circumstances in which such reviews can be entertained. While I welcome the inclusion of these provisions, which I long called for and which are overdue, I have reservations about the efficacy of the legislation in achieving what is hoped for.

Resorting to the courts and engaging in deliberate delaying tactics is a feature of an increasingly litigious society. It is increasingly associated with public projects often for selfish, self interested or vexatious reasons. These are contrary to the common good and work against the interest of the silent majority which is increasingly perplexed by our inability to move projects on which there is common agreement and for which every right thinking person sees the need from decision stage to implementation or construction stage. In consequence, the EU, which funds many of these projects, has commented on more than one occasion on our apparent willingness to lose funding.

The interests of the individual, however he or she may object to proposals, are well protected under the Constitution and legislation. We have a fair and independent system of arbitration and compensation. Once a project has moved from planning and consultation stage we must call a halt to the consultation process once there has been a public inquiry and recommendations to the Minister who, having examined them, makes an order. The common good must then be allowed to prevail.

As legislators we have the duty to uphold the rights of the majority while protecting the rights of individuals and in a democracy a balance must be struck between the rights of the individual and the rights of the majority. In addition, the individual's entitlement to appeal a decision should not be limited. However, time limits must be placed on that entitlement if there is to be any certainty. In increasing numbers of cases individuals get their day in court at the cost of the many where infrastructural projects have been delayed almost indefinitely.

This Bill brings legislation into line with the Planning Acts, which are ineffective. Increasingly, we are losing important investment opportunities and EU funding and are delaying infrastructural projects because of the failure of the system to place a time limit on judicial reviews and access to the courts. If this legislation is not strong enough it must be revisited for the sake of the country, including its economic future.

Section 6 extends the right to acquire a substratum of land which may be required in the context of a light rail order. I welcome this prudent provision but it is my devout wish that such a right will not be required in the context of at least the first two planned lines of the light rail system. If it is required we will be back to the drawing board. EU funding will be lost and the scheme will be postponed almost indefinitely. I hope the Minister is aware there cannot be any face saving or compromise solutions to appease a few objectors by, for example, allowing for a partial underground solution. Even the smallest portion of undergrounding, such as under the canal, would require major design work and set back the entire project with indefinite consequential delays.

I do not accept the Minister's comment that no independent analysis of the light rail project was carried out. There was such an analysis; I was part of it and I recall the public consultation that took place over many years. The original Steer Davies Gleave analysis cost the State several million pounds. It is wrong, after a decision was made, to jeopardise all the work put into the project, particularly when there is an obvious need to proceed with improvement of the public transportation system in Dublin.

The Minister said there was a worry about the ability of Luas to cope with passenger demand in the long term. This would ring a little more true if any concern was shown for the ability to cope with passenger demand in the short term by providing a subvention to Dublin Bus to allow it to increase its capacity and provide some form of a service.

The Bill is primarily designed to facilitate the port tunnel, which is an essential part of the jigsaw of Dublin transportation initiatives. Its purpose is to move goods in and out of the port to and from the M50 motorway. It is also an important part of the national network in terms of moving goods to the rest of the country. As the Minister said, the details of the port tunnel are a matter for another day. It may be a matter for another year or even the next millennium. It will not be constructed quickly. At best, given the history of such projects, it is five years away and there be will a major problem in terms of dealing with freight traffic at the port unless interim solutions are introduced. The port tunnel probably will not be the solution because there will be a completely different set of circumstances which will require a completely different set of solutions. Therefore, provision must be made for freight traffic from the port pending the construction of the tunnel.

A city is a living, changing and multi-purpose organism. It requires two things in terms of transport to function efficiently. It needs to move people and goods. This may appear a simple demand but successive Governments have failed to organise either of these tasks efficiently. The infrastructural projects which are part of the Dublin Transportation Initiative will, when completed, form part of the solution. They will make a difference. However, they will not make anything like the difference envisaged when the initiative was first put in place. All the projections for 2011 on which the strategy was based in terms of job creation, employment figures, population figures, household numbers, freight movements and car ownership have already been achieved. Yet, all the projects that were designed to cope with that demand are running five years late.

Interim arrangements are urgently required if the city is to survive as a functioning economic unit or even as a tolerable place in which to live. This is of great concern to the third of the population which lives in the Dublin area. I dealt previously with how people should be moved in the meantime, but I stress the need for measures to deal with port traffic in the interim. The importance of the port and its traffic cannot be over-emphasised. Every item used in the State from the time people get up in the morning until they go to bed at night must be moved by road. Ireland is a small and open economy that is completely dependent for its survival on its ability to import and export goods efficiently and economically.

Ireland markets itself to businesses considering locating here as the ideal launching point for speedy and efficient access to the European market. Dublin is the prime port through which the majority of our imports and exports pass at some stage. The port is the country's lifeline to Europe and the rest of the world and it is being choked by our failure to address even in the simplest and easiest ways the issue of maintaining access to it.

However, it is not only the country's economic lifeline that is being choked; the people and city are also being choked by our inability to deal with freight movement. There are up to 8,000 truck movements in and out of the port daily. The trucks are enormous, and getting larger. They are up to 60 feet in length and weigh up to 38 tonnes. They are conflicting on the streets with pedestrian and other traffic movement every day. No other capital city would allow such a position. The freight volume to the port has more than doubled in the last five years and the forecast is that it will continue to grow at the staggering rate of 25 per cent a year. We should consider what that means in terms of truck movements conflicting with all the other uses the city must fulfil.

Immediate solutions can be provided in terms of the three ferries which arrive at the port between 7 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. carrying up to 520 trucks. They queue for up to an hour to get out of the port and then emerge into rush hour traffic. They are conflicting with everybody trying to get to work on foot, on bicycles, on buses or in cars. Nothing can be done about changing the time of arrival of the ferries because they are synchronised with English Channel crossings. However, something can be done about managing access to and from the port. We must consider the suggestion of a clearway for trucks, even during that critical hour in the morning, to ensure that they get out of the city on a designated and obligatory route to the M50 motorway.

CIE made a number of proposals but I have reservations about them as an economically viable solution. However, some form of bulk breaking facility is required at the M50 motorway and none of the 60 foot containers should be allowed back on the C ring of the motorway during the day. They may be allowed on it at night, but only if it is necessary for special deliveries and by special permit. It should be the exception rather than the norm. Changes also need to be made to the operation of the port so that "lo-lo" traffic, which involves domestically based operators, does not arrive at the port at exactly the same time as the "ro-ro" traffic is leaving. At present the container depots do not open until 8 a.m. and there is inevitable conflict. It is causing a huge reduction in productivity at the port and ultimately affecting the cost of all goods and the economy.

Interim measures should be taken while we await the construction of the port tunnel. I welcome the legislation and I hope it will have a speedy passage through the House. There are few issues of greater importance to the economy at present. The tunnel will be redundant by the time it is completed unless interim measures are taken. The port, the city and the economy will be in rapid decline by the time it is built unless such measures are taken.

The purpose of the Bill is to clarify the power of local authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum, which is a horizontal slice of land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel or a tunnel associated with a light rail development. The Bill is general and from the point of view of road tunnels, it applies to all road authorities. Regarding the Luas project, I favour the underground option for the city centre area and I am happy to support the Bill to facilitate such a move. I am satisfied that a vote for the Bill is not a vote for the A6 route proposed by the National Roads Authority and Dublin Corporation as their preferred option for a port access route.

I voted against a proposed variation of the Dublin City Development Plan, 1991, relating to the Dublin Port tunnel at Dublin City Council in September 1997. That proposal made specific mention of the A6 route, which proposes a tunnel under the heavily populated residential area of Marino.

The motion passed by Dublin City Council reads:

That this City Council resolves to vary the Dublin City Development Plan, 1991, to include the Dublin Port Tunnel along the A6 route, with the deeper vertical alignment with the southern portals located as described in the July 1996 environmental impact statement, and with the northern portals located on the south side of the Coolock lane interchange.

I voted against that motion because the correct route for the tunnel was not selected, as I said at that Dublin City Council meeting. I note the Minister's assurances that this legislation does not take away from the statutory procedures that must be followed before any project can proceed which involves the provision of a road tunnel. The Bill does not authorise the construction of the Dublin Port tunnel.

Whether the tunnel goes ahead and in what form will be decided by the statutory motorways scheme and the environmental impact assessment procedures set out in the Roads Act, 1993. I am happy that the final decision will be made as part of a different process. This Bill allows for debate on the tunnel as proposed by the National Roads Authority and Dublin Corporation. I am disappointed that I first heard of this Bill when it was published on 16 December 1997, despite the fact that I am an elected member of Dublin City Council. In spite of both formal and informal discussions, Dublin Corporation decided its elected members did not need to know of the necessity for this Bill. It seems that the engineers were engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to suppress this information. So much for the concept of partnership in local government between corporation, management, public representatives and citizens. Despite all the consultations and meetings, no official of the National Roads Authority or Dublin Corporation said that there was a legal doubt about the process which would need legislation. I feel badly let down by this as I represent many people who will be affected by the Dublin Port tunnel.

I favour port access, which is vital to Dublin's economy and the port's viability. A road tunnel may be the answer, but the A6 route is unacceptable for reasons I will outline later. I do not believe that the Dublin Transportation Initiative gave sufficient consideration to the other options available. The DTI came to the wrong conclusion. Alternatives that are still available include a dedicated truckway, rail alternatives such as the rail centre proposed for Clondalkin and an east-west tunnel. The Liffey tunnel would cost the taxpayer nothing because the private sector has proposed it. If that tunnel goes ahead, and it is being encouraged at Government level, we could have two port tunnels. Where is the wisdom in that?

Prior to the election, Fianna Fáil stated that it favoured an agreed port access route. It is not clear who will give that agreement. Perhaps it is to come from Dublin City Council. The Minister should note that 2,400 households in Marino are not in favour of the A6 route. I pay tribute to the Marino Development Action Group. This is a voluntary organisation established to highlight the problems of the A6 route. They have many legitimate concerns. As Deputy Olivia Mitchell said, this is a new concept for Ireland and it is only fair to hear the concerns of residents who will be affected by it.

The Marino Development Action Group are concerned by adverse environmental impact, incorrect route selection, incorrect and unfair procedures, economic unsustainability, insufficient consideration for alternative traffic models, unsafe geological and hydrogeological conditions, the possible adverse sociological impact and incorrect criteria for determining route selection. That is a long list of concerns which has not been adequately addressed. In relation to tunnel depth, residents continue to be concerned about building damage due to tunnel collapse and settlement as well as noise and vibration during construction. This is serious if one's house is above the proposed tunnel route.

In response, Dublin Corporation has agreed to a deeper alignment. The new tunnel would be 5 to 9.5 metres lower than the original and houses would have a depth of cover of 19 to 24 metres to the tunnel crown. Dublin Corporation stated that the deeper alignment would significantly reduce construction vibrations. Time will tell if this route will go ahead.

Another major worry for residents who will be affected is building protection and guarantees for householders. Dublin Corporation claims that householders would have a system of guarantees overseen by the corporation to protect their property interests. They have promised that a structural condition survey will be carried out on the houses over the tunnels and within a corridor extending 30 metres beyond the tunnel sides.

A survey will be carried out by independent engineers, a householder will be free to choose an engineer from the panel of three independent firms, the survey will be carried out in advance of construction and a copy of the survey report will be given to the householder. During the construction work, comprehensive measurements of surface levels and vibrations will be carried out to ensure protection of properties, a second survey will be carried out after construction and the householder will be given the report. In the event of any damage to buildings due to the tunnel, Dublin Corporation will arrange immediate repairs.

The legal status of Dublin Corporation's information leaflet needs to be thoroughly examined. If the Minister gives the go-ahead to the A6 route those issues need to put beyond doubt. One's home is one's castle. People spend many years saving to buy a home in which to raise their families and developments such as this are bound to concern them. Therefore, the legal position needs to be clarified beyond doubt.

The question of vibrations during construction is another legitimate concern for residents. Dublin Corporation states that, for each tube of tunnel, the effect of the vibrations will vary over a four week period. The human perception of the vibrations will range from being barely perceptible at the start and end at a four week period, increasing to being more perceptible during the middle period while the tunnel tube passes beneath a given property. That is not a very scientific measurement of the vibrations. I do not know what it means by the vibrations becoming "more perceptible". Vibrations underneath one's home would certainly be a cause of grave concern. Damage was done to property, presumably by vibrations, when boreholes were being drilled by the engineers during tests to select the route. I saw the cracks that appeared in the walls of a home as a result.

Residents are also concerned about the new Austrian tunnelling method, NATM, about which very little is known. We know that on 21 October 1994 a tunnel collapsed at Heathrow Airport in London where rail tunnels were being constructed using NATM. The engineers claim this is not possible in the case of Marino but that because of the particular geological conditions it is most likely the NATM method will be used. The residents need to know much more about the geological conditions. Local anecdotal evidence on underground streams and rivers is at variance with data produced by the road engineers on the locality. The people's legitimate concerns about this development cannot be ignored when discussing the current statutory procedures.

How much will the tunnel cost? Newspaper reports have stated that the costs are escalating. The taxpayers deserve to know the exact cost. They should know if the costs are escalating out of control. For the reasons I outlined, I appeal to the Minister, having regard to all the statutory procedures, not to sanction a tunnel under MariNo. There are alternatives in terms of tunnels and port access.

Like previous speakers, I appeal to Dublin Bus to provide a proper service during all hours of the day and night. Last Sunday Dublin Corporation introduced restricted measures for parking in the city centre and substantially increased parking costs. At the stroke of a pen it wiped out several places where people can park their cars. Some people must drive into town to work because they work very late at night or have to be at work very early in the morning when there is no public transport available. Female employees, who are terrified to walk the streets at night or early in the morning, must drive a car to their places of employment. It is unacceptable that there is no public transport service available at such times. The DTI put the cart before the horse and is penalising the motorist without putting sufficient alternatives in place. We are on the verge of a revolution in so far as motorists are concerned. The way to modify them is to provide sufficient public transport and I hope that will be done.

I wish to share time with Deputy Burke.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, to the House. We have no difficulty with this legislation which I am sure has all-party support and will be passed in the near future. The Minister of State and I can note with satisfaction that construction is well advanced on the Lee tunnel without the benefit of this legislation. However, from a procedural and clarification point of view I realise it is necessary.

Deputy Haughey referred to the problems associated with transport in Dublin. Even though I drive through the streets of Dublin only two or three days per week, I am aware of the transport crisis. Plans are needed to deal with the problem. The proposed new roads and motorways must be built as soon as possible and if this legislation assists in any way, it must be supported.

I note what the Minister said on Second Stage particularly about the two minor matters being dealt with in the Bill, namely, the judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and confirmation of the status of motorways. Judicial reviews of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes apply not only to the main schemes under construction in the Dublin area but to schemes throughout the country.

Transport difficulties are being experienced in the capital city and elsewhere. All local authorities have major proposals for the construction of bigger and better roads. While the construction of these roads are welcome and necessary, environmental difficulties may arise and many people who are affected by such proposals seek redress, legal or otherwise. It is important that every avenue of appeal is open to those who have objections to the development of motorways and main routes. As a result of the clarification offered in the Bill we can assure our constituents and the public that where genuine concerns have to be addressed, debated and adjudicated on, the ministerial avenue is still available and this legislation secures it.

On the issue of the status of motorways and the clarification which the Bill provides, three routes are involved — the Southern Cross route, the Dunleer-Dundalk route and the Kildare Town bypass. When is a motorway not a motorway? I presume what we are doing here is clarifying matters from a legal perspective. Having travelled on all these routes I believe they come under the category of motorway. I understand the Minister had to introduce this Bill to clarify matters from a legal perspective and we will support his efforts.

This legislation grants powers to provide for tunnelling, if necessary, for the Dublin light rail development. We have had a number of debates—

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

I was making the point that on a number of occasions we had lengthy debates and discussion on the proposed Luas system of transport. I realise the Minister has ordered further studies but I hope they will be concluded and a final decision will be taken in the near future. The transport problem in the city is so grave that the light rail option must be implemented at the earliest date.

The Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, indicated earlier that as certain tunnelling works may be necessary it is imperative that the Bill is enacted. That is another reason Fine Gael will raise no objection to this legislation.

I welcome this legislation which is necessary to streamline matters from a legal perspective. It is not party political and I am sure it will have the support of all Members on Committee Stage.

Debate adjourned.