Deputy Ulick Burke will resume the debate.
Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997: Second Stage (Resumed).
I thank my colleague Deputy Bradford for sharing his time with me. I welcome this opportunity to compliment the Minister for continuing the policy of his predecessor to provide adequate funding, particularly for non-national roads. It was a welcome development initiated by the former Minister which is being carried on by this Minister.
I welcome this Bill which enables local authorities to compulsorily acquire land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993, and similar powers under the Dublin Light Rail Act, 1996. While the 1993 Bill was introduced to comprehensively deal with the future development of our roads network, one could say it was short-sighted because it does not have a definite provision for the necessity of tunnelling as part of modern transport construction development.
The three items highlighted in this Bill are important safeguards in response to the changing conditions and methods of road construction. Throughout this short Bill and in the Minister's Second Stage speech there is a reference to the power of local councils as road authorities. I draw attention to a third layer involved in the administration of our roads, the National Roads Authority. The other two layers are the Minister and the Department and the local authorities. I am disappointed with the activities of the National Roads Authority. Some would classify it as a monster because it is practically inaccessible. I am not sure if it accepts recommendations from outside local authorities, the Department or the Minister, but it is inaccessible to local authority members. As an important agency dealing with the development of our roads network, which is closely related to the activities of local authority members, it is essential the Minister should in the near future make that Authority accessible to public representatives, local authority members and other members of the public.
The National Roads Authority must be blamed for delaying certain projects. I particularly highlight the position with regard to two instances concerning the N6 in County Galway. One involves the bypass in Loughrea. Galway County Council, its design team and the county engineer have repeatedly put forward excellent plans for that project. It has reviewed and made changes to it on the recommendations of the Minister, the Department and the National Roads Authority, but that Authority, through its indecision and indecisiveness, has failed to clarify a matter, which, if dealt with, would allow the project to continue. It has failed to decide whether it will be a dual or a single carriageway. I have repeatedly contacted the authority since last July to ascertain its final decision but as yet, it has not said which it will be. As a result, the congestion along the N6 at Loughrea is no different from that which occurs in Dublin, particularly on a Friday evening. It has caused delays and has cost money to suppliers travelling east and west. It has also caused disruption to local people who must pass through Loughrea.
The National Roads Authority must take the blame for the notoriously dangerous stretch of the N6 from Aughrim to Cappataggle. That road has taken 32 lives in recent years. Because of the indecisiveness of the National Roads Authority, work has been stalled on that stretch of road. Galway County Council started work last year but was stopped this year and told to begin work on the other end of the road. It has now started work on the eastern end of the road. This highlights the indecision of the National Roads Authority which cannot decide whether to realign the current route or create a new carriageway. Will the Minister intervene as a matter of urgency and ensure finances are available to prevent further delay in the completion of this stretch of road to make it safe for road users?
Land acquisition has rarely been a problem in rural areas. It is inevitable that land acquisition powers will have to be available to local authorities in Dublin for the Luas project which is important not only to Dublin commuters, but will be a national asset which will alleviate much congestion. Today I saw a report in the media that the junior partners in Government have introduced a new study or plan for Dublin city traffic and for Luas. It has suggested that tunnelling from St. Stephen's Green to the Broadstone station would cost an additional £50 million. Not only will it involve additional cost, but it will also cause delay. I am not sure if a precedent is being set in that the Progressive Democrats, the junior partners in Government, are producing a plan at this stage. Is it a tactic to delay further the Government's decision to provide funding for this project which is important not only for Dublin, but for the country?
We are approaching the date when the Minister will decide on allocations for LIS programmes and will indicate to the various local authorities their allocations for the coming year. I highlight this issue so the Minister will see the seriousness of the situation in County Galway where there is a five year backlog and delay in processing LIS schemes because of inadequate finances. The benefits of the schemes are most notable in counties like Galway which has so many non-national and secondary roads. There is no chance of improvements being carried out under regular road maintenance by local authorities because they cannot be financed to any great extent. This scheme has been very valuable to counties like Galway so that people can improve to a reasonable standard access to their land and holdings and improve roads which would not be taken in charge by local authorities. It is important that a once-off substantial additional allocation is made available to County Galway to alleviate the serious backlog.
The third provision in the Bill is particularly welcome in that it allows for a judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and road related environmental impact statements. It also declares certain roads to be motorways. I welcome the Bill and have no hesitation in supporting its contents.
I welcome this important enabling and amending legislation. For us in Dublin, it is a significant and welcome step forward because it removes a number of uncertainties and ambiguities. There was a question mark over the port tunnel and the light rail projects, in relation to tunnelling and so on. I am glad the Bill addresses that issue. The port tunnel and the light rail projects should be expedited on the enactment of this Bill. Everybody knows the streets of Dublin are clogged with traffic. The other morning I listened to AA Roadwatch and noted the M50 has become clogged many years ahead of projections. That puts a question mark over our ability in the past to plan strategically for major projects.
There is a proven need for the tunnel and I welcome the opportunity to address the issue. The Minister suggested we should not debate the rights or wrongs of the tunnel and I do not propose to do so. I suggest the tunnel is vital if we are to remove much of the port related traffic from the streets of Dublin. Those who live on the northside, in particular, will be aware there is almost nose to tail truck traffic on the Belfast and Derry roads at every hour of the day and night. The city is clogged with trucks and port related traffic. We need to remove that traffic which is using up scarce road space. Dublin Port is thriving and there has been a huge increase in employment there. However, there is a limit to how much it can thrive unless we engage in the strategic planning, about which we are talking.
It is important to endorse what the Minister said in that this Bill does not authorise the construction of the port tunnel. Some people may be of the view that this amending legislation means the construction of the tunnel is inevitable and the authorities will ride roughshod over the wishes of communities on the northside and in Marino. It is important we get the tunnel and the light rail projects right. While I know it will involve additional expenditure, if we do not locate the portals of the tunnel as close as possible to the M50 interchange, we will do a grave disservice to the city and will make the lives of communities in the Santry area unbearable. I have never understood why in the initial stages of planning, the portals of the tunnel were to be located beside Whitehall church. I could never see the logic in bringing traffic as far as Whitehall. If I were a truck driver, I would not see why I should enter a tolled tunnel to get to the port when I could continue from Whitehall, down Clonliffe Road as far as the port. It is important the issue of the tunnel portals be addressed with a view to having traffic enter near the M50. People living beside the proposed site for the portals, be they in Whitehall or Santry, will inevitably have poorer air quality. Another good reason for locating the portals of the tunnel further out is that the level of noise emanating from the tunnel is bound to be unsatisfactory.
As regards the ventilation of the tunnel, I fail to understand why, in this age of high technology, a dreadful chimney stack type ventilation is proposed. From my limited knowledge of tunnels on the Continent, it seems it must be possible to ventilate the tunnel through its length. It would make the proposal more welcome to the communities affected and it would certainly be more environmentally suitable and acceptable. I ask for these ideas to be taken on board.
I was involved in the Finglas North Road by-pass project which cost £10.6 million. It was the first major road project where Dublin Corporation had to prepare an environmental impact statement. It represented the first faltering steps towards consultation with local communities. They were faltering because none of us knew the parameters of the consultation process. Some of the issues were dealt with successfully, but not all were addressed.
The next major project was the construction of the M50. I witnessed affected local communities trying to come to terms with a major road construction project without any major assistance of an independent nature. Environmental impact statements were prepared and there was a certain level of consultation. However, I remember my colleagues and I attending endless meetings with engineers where we questioned traffic counts and projections. All we ever received were spreadsheets of numbers which were difficult to interpret. This resulted in an alarming level of concern about the impact of the M50 on places such as Santry and Ballymun. As it turned out, there were both positives and negatives. The expedition of the M50 resulted in smoother traffic flows through Collins Avenue and Ballymun. The downside has been that a traffic calming scheme, the negotiations for which started prior to the construction of the M50, has still not been completed. This is because no clear mechanism is available to take account of the concerns of local groups.
I strongly support the construction of the port tunnel as I believe it is the only way forward for the north side of the city. We will have to examine how we deal with the southern leg sooner rather than later, but that is another day's work. Considerable consultation has taken place between the communities in Marino, Santry, Whitehall, Glasnevin and surrounding areas and the engineers and consultants in Dublin Corporation. Despite that, there are still great suspicions about what is intended. Despite any assurances we give them, some people believe the tunnel project will be foisted on them whether they like it or not. There is no clear mechanism by which these fears can be assuaged. Members of Dublin City Council attempted to assist local communities concerned about the construction of the tunnel to carry out their own independent assessment of its impact. I will speak about that later. The ability of those in power to address the fears of local communities has improved but we are still substantially deficient in our ability to deal with them.
The light rail project is a huge one. Regardless of whether it goes underground or is entirely overground, it will be very beneficial to Dublin. There are compelling reasons for having part of it underground. It will also have disturbing effects on residential areas, such as Inchicore, and on business. I am concerned about the impact on business during the construction phase, and I am not certain we have come to terms with the concerns of local business. I would prefer if the construction of the overground areas of the light rail project were proceeded with as soon as possible. In that regard, I welcome the discussion document published this morning by the junior partner in Government. It gives an opportunity to discuss the light rail project again. There are aspects of the project which could be proceeded with without much difficulty.
I am one of those who cannot understand why our capital city does not have a rail link to Dublin Airport. I am aware there is a great deal of pressure for the rail link to the airport to be a DART link from Malahide. I would prefer a light rail link going through Ballymun or Finglas to the airport. The construction costs would not be as significant as building the link from Malahide to the airport. Given that a major regeneration of Ballymun is being undertaken, that the master plan is being exhibited this weekend and that it will take the next eight to ten years to complete a project which I am sure will be one of the most widely welcomed in the history of the State, it would be opportune to examine the desirability of having the Luas line running through the new town of Ballymun and serving Finglas and surrounding areas. It would do a great deal for the economy of the north Dublin region and would enhance the north-south corridor.
As regards the consultation required for major projects, I still believe we have not reached the optimum level in winning the hearts and minds of people concerned about the implications for them of these major projects. I hear it from people in Santry when canvassing for my colleague, Michael Kennedy, in the Dublin North by-election and in the Whitehall area. There is something unsatisfactory about the consultation process which is alienating people who would otherwise be very supportive of the project. The process has to be transparent and seen to be so. The promoters of the project, whether the National Roads Authority, Iarnród Éireann or major conglomerates, must learn to listen to the objections of communities who are asking serious, well thought out questions and seeking honest answers. There is a worrying level of suspicion which should be addressed. We must address the need to win public confidence.
I spoke earlier about the inability of local communities to muster sufficient resources to prepare a counter case against local authorities or the National Roads Authority. One cannot prepare a good case on money raised from raffles and coffee mornings. We must attempt to create a level playing pitch for local communities. The Minister should consider a mechanism whereby local communities are grant-aided to engage consultants and to draw up independent advice relating to the law, planning and traffic management. There are eminent consultants whose integrity is beyond question whom many local communities would like to engage.
Universities have a significant role to play in enabling communities to prepare cases. I greatly value the support given to local communities by Trinity College and DCU but this is done on an informal basis and I am not sure of its standing. Much good would come from a mechanism through which the Department of the Environment and Local Government provided grants to local communities as there would be a greater degree of confidence that the final product would be what everyone wished for. There must always be compromise and I compliment the City Manager and his engineers for their attempts to engage communities in the hinterland of the proposed tunnel project in meaningful consultations. People are confident that, within the limited constraints, their concerns are being taken on board. The City Manager was more than willing to assist these groups. However, he felt that existing legislation prevented him from making financial support available to them.
The Bill makes provision for a judicial review process. I am not a legal expert but I welcome the inclusion in the Bill of another mechanism by which bona fide concerns can be addressed in a straightforward manner. It became apparent early on to those of us living with the tunnel project that the M50, even when finished, will provide only limited relief to commuters. I am not suggesting we should build wider roads but it seems that the M50 is a telling example of us not building enough roads. The fact that the approaches to the west link toll bridge and the roundabouts are constantly backed up with traffic indicates that we failed to accurately project traffic levels or that there were unnecessary and unwise cutbacks in expenditure on the road. I am not a proponent of roads as the only component of traffic policy. However, the huge increase in the numbers of cars highlights the need for us to plan more strategically.
I wish to comment on the welcome consultation process for quality bus corridors in Dublin. Public transport must flow more freely in the city. However, for whatever reason, there seems to be a crude approach to introducing these corridors against the wishes of residents and the business community. Deputy Callely and I are engaged in consultation processes concerning these corridors. The Department of the Environment and Local Government should encourage local authorities to think more of the sensitivities of businesses and residents affected by these corridors. I welcome the Bill and I compliment the Minister on its introduction.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Boylan.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I am from the west but I love Dublin city. However, it has major traffic problems which must be addressed. Local authorities should discuss their needs before serving compulsory purchase orders. There is an opportunity for them to buy land if they offer the right price. However, they pay engineers, lawyers and valuers. If this money was paid to land owners many deals could be concluded more speedily. The authorities offer small amounts of money instead of the market price. If land prices are increasing so too should the prices offered by local authorities. Given some of the prices offered to land owners, it appears that some of those negotiating on behalf of authorities are living in the 1930s.
The Minister should introduce an amendment to the Bill dealing with the issue of why Dublin city is allowed to be used by every protest organisation. Why can we not stop protests taking place every day? Two weeks ago I was travelling down the quays when I came across a protest by people with horses and traps which were blocking the street. I saw a lady crying in a taxi because she had missed her train as a result of being stuck in traffic for over an hour. The Government and the local authorities in Dublin should stipulate that protests are only allowed on Sundays. A couple of acres should be set aside in the Phoenix Park for those who wish to protest during the week. People are entitled to protest but they are not entitled to block the roads. During that protest traffic as far as Heuston Station was unable to move. This cannot continue and it is time the powers that be did something about it.
This week's newspapers carried reports of interviews with undertakers who want funerals to be held later in the evening. I support this proposal. A few days ago I had a 6.30 p.m. appointment in Beaumont Hospital which is only four or five miles from Leinster House. I left at 6 p.m. but did not arrive at the hospital until 7.25 p.m. The current traffic problems cannot be allowed to continue.
I wish the airport was located on the western side of Dublin as the road to Westport would be improved. Complaints have been made that areas of Dublin have received funding under the second round of Structural Funds, yet areas in the west have not received their allocations under round one. I am glad the powers under the Bill will rest with local authorities, not the National Roads Authority. We should not have given away our powers in relation to roads to the National Roads Authority. It is wrong that we can no longer debate with the Minister the position in regard to national primary roads. If we want to ask questions about these roads we must go to the National Roads Authority. Why do we have to raise these questions with an authority which has no representation in the House? It is only recently that it has started to reply to correspondence. Consideration should be given to restoring these powers to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.
The road between Westport and Castlebar is 11 miles long. In the past one could travel this distance in seven or eight minutes. However, as the Minister of State, Deputy Moffatt knows, this journey can now take up to 30 minutes if the traffic is slow. The National Roads Authority does not regard this road as a priority. The Minister of State will also be aware that the condition of the Swinford to Ballina road has been a cause of much aggravation for many years. We hoped the authority would allocate funding to the road this year.
The greatest scandal of all is the Claremorris by-pass which was supposed to be constructed in 1996-97 but which we are now told will not be built until 1999. I do not understand the reasons for this given that some parts of Dublin have received funding under the second round of Structural Funds. I ask the Minister of State to raise the matter with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. It is time the west got its fair share of funding.
I support the development of the Luas and port tunnel projects in Dublin as it is right that a capital city should have a proper transport system. However, people in the west are also entitled to a proper rail service and good roads. If journey times to the west were shorter more investors would set up their businesses there. Investment in Dublin leads to an increase in traffic. It is possible to walk from Leinster House to the Pearse Street Garda Station in three or four minutes. However, on a Thursday evening or Friday morning this journey can take almost an hour by car. This cannot be allowed to continue. I welcome the powers being given to local authorities to buy land which will be used to alleviate the traffic problems in Dublin.
At times local authorities have a bad habit of not telling people what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with telling people what is being done and the reasons for it. Local authorities employ many people and they should be able to employ a PR person who will inform the public of what is being done. When people are not aware what is being done they get suspicious. Local authorities do a good and honest job with the funding they receive.
Deputy Burke referred to LIS roads in the west. These roads are used by the occupants of two or three houses but they are not taken over by the county council. However, councillors can secure funding for such roads in the estimates. For example, Mayo County Council allocates £5,000 or £6,000 for these roads each year, while other councils select two or three roads for repair. I favour the system operated by other councils as it is not possible to complete work on all roads with an allocation of £5,000 or £6,000. If the funding was allocated to five or six roads all the necessary work could be carried out and the council could take responsibility for them. The people who live on these roads also make a contribution based on the rateable valuation. However, if one person decides not to make a contribution then the work cannot proceed. This is wrong. There are many of these roads in the Ballycroy and Erris areas of north Mayo.
I have raised on many occasions the damage caused to roads by coastal erosion. It is not fair to expect land owners to repair the damage caused to roads by coastal erosion. This is a major issue in coastal areas and it will not go away. The previous Government allocated much funding for county roads. I compliment the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, for continuing this trend, which was begun by the previous Minister, Deputy Howlin.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on a topic close to my heart. I am proud to have been suspended from the House on three occasions for trying to draw the attention of the then Government to the problems caused by bad roads. We got the message across and there have been improvements, although they are not sufficient.
The Bill includes powers to acquire land, including substratum, for the purpose of improving road structures and the construction of underground tunnels for roads or railways. This relates in particular to Dublin city which has a major problem of which I am fully aware as I stay midweek in the north of the city. It is a nightmare driving to the House at 9 a.m. We have problems in Cavan, but at least the traffic is kept moving. It takes three quarters of an hour to get from Collins Avenue to Leinster House at 9 a.m., most of which is spent sitting stationary in one's car. On occasion it is impossible to move even when the lights are green because the box is not clear, something which can be very frustrating.
I have not taken part in the debate and would not be critical of anybody, but it must be acknowledged that there has been much discussion and apparently little action and no solution to the problem which has been ongoing for the past decade. I am not faulting planners, but obviously they have been unable to keep abreast of the major development of the motor industry and the fact that households which had one car now have up to four. Last night I was canvassing in Malahide and I noticed towards the end of the canvass when people were at home that up to four cars were parked in driveways. All these cars come into the city in the morning and I began to realise why I am held up when driving to Leinster House. I do not know whether the provision of a better bus service or taking cars off the road would solve the problem. People like the comfort of their cars. The problem must be tackled immediately and an underground rail service and improved bus service, including feeder services to the DART, must be examined. People will respond when they see action being taken but become frustrated when they only see plans and discussions.
I thank the officials for the excellent plan which has been drawn up for the by-pass of Cavan town, a nine mile stretch of roadway through green land. It will cost £12 million and will be completed by the end of 1999. The by-pass will facilitate a major improvement to the movement of traffic from north of Cavan town to Navan or Dublin. Another major development is the opening of Aghalane bridge to Northern Ireland which will improve contact between the North and the Republic, particularly between Enniskillen and Cavan town. I understand the costs involved, but the by-pass will be short in comparison to that of other large towns and the bottleneck in Cavan town was not acceptable, particularly to hauliers who experienced delays of up to half an hour in getting goods from the town, or north of it, to Navan, Dublin or Dublin Port. There were similar delays for hauliers bringing goods to south County Cavan, including Ballyconnell and Swanlinbar. It could take between half an hour or an hour to get goods from one end of Cavan town to the other, a distance of half a mile. In this context, I understand the good work being done.
I wish to raise an issue with officials which impinges indirectly on my land in the context of by-passes. Officials should realise they are cutting through virgin land and that landowners should be approached. It is not good enough for engineers to start taking levels and embarking upon developments for site viewing purposes without firstly speaking to landowners, advising them what is taking place and getting their goodwill. This has not happened. Temporary fences are suddenly erected without approaching or making an offer to the landowners whose land is to be acquired. It is reasonable that somebody from the Department should meet the landowner, who is generally a farmer, advise him what is taking place, take him into the confidence of the Department, advise him that he will be compensated and ask him about the level of compensation desired. To take over without contacting the owner is not a good practice and causes much annoyance, the result of which is that good will ebbs and people become difficult and awkward, something I fully understand. The matter has been overlooked, probably due to a lack of thought and foresight. If the approach I suggest is taken people will be happy and will understand what is happening.
There was much difficulty about land being taken over and fences constructed in the case of the short by-pass from north of Belturbet to Aghalane. The impression was given that more land was being taken than would be acquired when the final fencing was erected and the road completed. People were annoyed.
There is still a huge problem with county roads. People are entitled to a road to their home. I understand and support the need for highways. However, there is a huge problem with the funding of county roads. We have not yet received notification of local improvement or pilot schemes. The situation is so desperate that people are prepared to make their own local contribution. The time to start a job is early in the year in order that the work can be completed. I appeal to the Minister to make more funding available for local improvement and pilot schemes. It affects only one or two households, but families are being deprived of the basic right of a road to their houses. I know the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will fully support my appeal.
Deputy Boylan's speech brought back many happy memories of Virginia, Cavan, Swanlinbar, Ballinagh, etc. I am envious of this beautiful area of County Cavan.
I give a cautious welcome to the Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997. I understand the primary purpose of the Bill is to clarify the power of local authorities as road authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of its powers under the Roads Act, 1993. The Bill also amends the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, to provide a similar power in that legislation for light rail development and other matters. Why is this being embarked upon now, particularly in light of the Lee tunnel project in Cork? Suddenly there is a need to clarify powers. Perhaps the Minister will respond to this question by way of letter.
This is a new area of exploration, particularly the power to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land. I have had discussions with the Minister and have asked for clarification regarding the level, depth and distance from the foundation of a house where a substratum of land could be acquired. I hope we will receive clarification on this matter before Committee Stage. This is a very important issue and I am disappointed that such information is not available at present. I hope the horse will be put before the cart prior to Committee Stage.
The overall proposal to develop underground can be viewed as imaginative with exciting prospects for future transport needs. It is essential that our transport systems meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond, particularly in light of the unique economic development this country has enjoyed over the past decade. We no longer talk of lack of investment, closures and crises. It is clear we are emerging from a period of doubt. We now talk about the roar of the Celtic tiger, the growing economy and the need for further investment.
We have seen the benefits of the growth in our economy in communities and society in general. People are spending money and we have seen additional cars on our roads. The Fianna Fáil pledge on the economy is to have tighter management to maximise the long-term potential thereby ensuring improved living standards for all.
In addition to the two primary issues the Bill deals with other issues. It brings into line planning and other legislative rules in relation to legal challenges to decisions of the Minister on schemes for motorways, busways and protected roads and on roads-related environmental impact statements. It also includes an enabling provision to formally declare a number of proposed public roads as motorways. The roads concerned have already been approved under statutory motorway procedures but the provision is required to rectify legal difficulties which have arisen.
In relation to the busways, public transport services are improving. We have witnessed the success of the Dublin Area Rapid Transport, which has greatly benefited communities. I had an input into the opening of the new Clontarf DART station and the benefits that has provided for the greater Dublin 3 area.
I welcome the development of Bus Atha Cliath but some mechanism must be put in place to accommodate people's concerns about the alterations to bus routes and services. There is a great deal of mutual benefit to be gained from such a mechanism.
A large number of hackney licences were recently issued and there has been a massive 20 per cent increase in taxi licences in recent months.
I regard 20 per cent as a massive increase, particularly when it occurs in a matter of weeks. It is important that we ensure the PSV services that are available meet the demands of the general public. My understanding, and I am open to challenge on this, is that they are not servicing the demands of the public in the city of Dublin, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the city of Dublin between the hours of 11.30 p.m. and 3 or 4 a.m. We should have State-sponsored, subsidised public service transport systems — I acknowledge the Nightlink service but that is inadequate — to meet public demand at this time of the day. Late night bus services and the DART were operated on one occasion in the past. People may say that running the DART late at night would pose security problems but the precedent exists and it proved to be successful. We must develop these services to ensure they meet public demand.
People know my position on the taxi industry. We have approximately 2,500 taxis to service the city of Dublin but even the taxi industry will acknowledge that is not a sufficient number to service peak demand on Friday and Saturday night around 12.30 a.m. when delays occur. Equally the industry will acknowledge that during the valley period, which is all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, problems can arise in relation to the number of taxis. We have all witnessed taxis queuing to get a stop on the rank. Other taxi drivers go home because there are not any fares. A happy medium must be struck to ensure demand is met during peak periods at the weekend and during the other weekday periods.
I welcome the setting up by the Taoiseach of the transport forum bringing together, for the first time, people involved in the delivery of services and Departments such as the Environment and Local Government and Public Enterprise as well as other authorities such as the local county boroughs. This forum will try to bring together the providers of public service vehicles in an effort to put in place a satisfactory service to meet the required demands. I am optimistic progress will be made.
It is vital that the right course is taken in relation to the quality bus corridors and the required infrastructure. Quality bus corridors are a step in the right direction. However, we must move to protect business houses and residential homes that require to use the areas identified as most suitable for quality bus corridors. Equally, if we are to put quality bus corridors in place and spend a great deal of money in the process we must ensure that the buses provide the services demanded, particularly in the city of Dublin during the late night period. A reply from the City Manager to a question on expenditure in relation to traffic matters revealed a figure of nearly £3.5 million, including more than £1.3 million in 1997 on quality bus corridors.
We must have continued investment in our economy and the development of Dublin Port. Indeed, most people acknowledge the benefit of the principle of a port access route taking heavy goods vehicles from our residential roads to a dedicated port access for HGVs which merely want access to and from the port. In striking the right balance we must take on board the concern for the environment which is central to all policy decisions of this Government. I understand proposals of this nature will be eco-audited.
We talk also of the importance of partnership, consensus and participation which Fianna Fáil has always favoured and which has proven to be the best way of mobilising the energies of the people in the pursuit of common objectives. To this end, I look forward to the approach and philosophy Fianna Fáil guards as the correct formula, being put in place.
An integral part of our political philosophy is the right of men, women and children to live in peace, protected by law, in their own homes. The new power to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land for tunnel projects has and will continue to cause grave concern to the people who reside in areas where such projects are under consideration. I have first hand experience of this and while I welcome some of the reassurances given by the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, in his opening statement on the Roads (Amendment) Bill with regard to the proposed Dublin Port tunnel, I must emphasise the genuine concerns of residents along the line of the proposed port tunnel route from East Wall, Fairview, Marino, Whitehall, Beaumont and Santry, including Clontarf. Individual residents and the residents' associations representing those areas have endeavoured to put forward their case. I pay special tribute to all who have aired their views for and against the proposal, particularly Marino Development Action Group, Clontarf Residents' Association, Drumcondra and District and the Combined Residents' Association. I acknowledge the attempt by Dublin Corporation at discussions with residents and the consultative group meetings, which are regarded as a failed attempt.
I wish to refer to one point which I have raised before. Taking into account the funds, support and research available to the Dublin Port Project Team, Geoconsult-Arup, Ove-Arup, Dublin Corporation and the other authorities which have demand-led funds available to put forward their case, there is an uphill battle for residents' associations or individual residents who wish to put forward their case, particularly if they are dependent on small voluntary subscriptions from a membership that may be on restricted income or pension.
I wish to refer to questions I asked over a prolonged period about funds. A letter dated February 1996 from Dublin Corporation states: "If, however, Residents' Associations wish to employ their own consultants or other professional assistance, that decision and the cost of engagement are a matter for themselves". A reply from the Minister to a parliamentary question on 3 February 1998 states:
The Minister is also empowered to certify that a contribution be made by a local authority towards costs and expenses reasonably incurred by any person in relation to an inquiry. This power is exercisable after the inquiry has been held and a decision reached on the scheme.
I have a letter from the Minister which refers to payment of costs to persons represented at a public inquiry into the motorway scheme for the Dublin port tunnel. It states: "Any person or group represented at the inquiry may apply for costs and I may certify that Dublin Corporation makes a contribution towards costs and expenses reasonably incurred". This power may be exercised only after the inquiry has been held and a decision reached on the scheme. Does anybody think that is fair? If so, I would like to hear the reasons. I ask the Minister and the Department to immediately review that aspect.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from the manner in which the Dublin port tunnel project has been managed to date. It certainly has not done much for public confidence in bureaucratic authority procedures. While a number of people with whom I have been in contact on this issue are satisfied with the procedures, the vast majority are disenfranchised, disappointed and feel let down. I am led to believe that the method used for test boring in Marino caused structural damage to some houses. At a public meeting of the Marino Action Development Group held on 26 March 1996 two resolutions were passed: "That this meeting deplores the action of Dublin Corporation in contemplating running traffic tunnels through the densely populated area of Marino and under their houses", and "The meeting also deplores the ways and methods used in borings and site testings in our area without prior consultation with the residents involved". I took the opportunity on that occasion to view the alleged damage caused and I was struck by the amount of damage to one or two of the houses I visited. There is a better way to address this matter.
This proposal goes back over a prolonged period of time. I was happy to circulate to residents' associations a letter I received from Dublin Corporation outlining the proposal. The route was indicated in bold print, from Whitehall to Booterstown via Dublin port, mainly through open lands. It stated that tunnels would be used where houses obstruct the line of the road, deep cuttings would minimise environmental impact and, it stressed, there would be no community severance. The bottom line from Dublin Corporation was that there was no alternative practical route available, but a new route was later found. The cost was estimated at £130 million. I would like to know what the cost would be today and the likely estimated cost of the current proposal for the A6 route which has been chosen by various authorities which do not represent the public.
Why, when institutional lands are available, are they not used? More money may be required to do that, but surely the Minister will provide that money. I asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government his views on access and transport routes available to the port and whether people's health and well being should take precedence over economic gain.
I have received many letters from people along the proposed route who have indicated their concern, and the Minister is aware of them. Various Ministers, including the then Minister, Deputy Howlin, and the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, wrote to me indicating that the Minister has a quasi-judicial function in this matter and cannot afford to enter into discussions on it. I call on the Minister to review the project and to show initiative. The common objective of the general public and the authorities should be taken into account in putting in place an appropriate port access. I have no doubt if we do so our efforts will be applauded.
I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I do not intend to use all my time because I am required to attend the committee dealing with the Finance Bill. As a Deputy representing the constituency of Dublin North-Central I wish to put some of my views on record. This Bill is primarily intended to facilitate construction of the Dublin port tunnel and I will address some of the issues that affect that project.
First I wish to address one or two general issues which have been referred to by Deputy Callely and others. The most important is the David and Goliath issue, funding for people who object to projects promoted by local authorities. Before a motorway order can be made, a public inquiry must be held, at which it can be reasonably anticipated that a number of expert witnesses will be called and expert evidence given.
Dublin Corporation and the consultants it has employed have expended several million pounds of taxpayers' money over several years in preparing this scheme. It is right that the scheme should be properly prepared and planned even when it costs money and requires expert assistance. However, people living in areas such as Marino, East Wall and Whitehall who have consistently objected to this project are placed in an impossible position. These are old areas of Dublin and many of the individuals concerned are elderly. The residents' associations which have been rejuvenated by this issue have not been as active as they might have been in the past. They do not have the funds to maintain meaningful opposition. They have made serious and consistent efforts to raise money because they are rightly seeking expert evidence and advice, but they should not be placed in a position where they are required to do that.
The Dublin city manager and other local authorities in similar circumstances should be given explicit legal power by elected members to grant aid people seeking to make a submission in circumstances such as the holding of a public inquiry, be it in relation to a motorway order or otherwise. The previous Dublin city manager maintained he did not have that power and that even if Dublin Corporation decided to grant-aid objectors it would act ultra vires. I have always publicly expressed my doubts about that, but as long as the city manager holds that view and has been given legal advice to that effect he presumably has no alternative but to follow it. In view of this I ask the Minister to take on board the need to redress this balance because it will doubtless again arise. We all accept that money cannot be thrown at people. While there must be some kind of public control and auditing, we must give people the democratic right to object to major schemes of this kind which will impact seriously on their everyday lives.
The NRA was established to take an overview of the major and primary road schemes in the country. It is right that we should rely on local authorities in this area, who inevitably take a view which stops at the boundaries of their own areas. However, the Minister is not accountable to the House for the activities of the NRA and it is not publicly accountable to anybody else. This problem must be addressed. Either the Minister is accountable for the NRA to this House or it must be made directly accountable. How is compensation assessed regarding a substratum and how is the loss of amenity or property rights from houses to a substratum assessed?
The port tunnel project is one of the largest construction projects ever attempted in the State and, presuming it proceeds, it will have a lasting effect on the city and the traffic flows. The aims of the DPT scheme are laudable. The problems of traffic congestion in Dublin are increasingly serious. The city has seen many positive developments in the past ten years. Much of the city centre has been rejuvenated, partly as a result of urban renewal schemes. For the first time in many years people are returning to the city centre to live. Many of the derelict sites which blighted the city for so long have been gradually replaced with buildings in which people are living and cultural and artistic life is undergoing a renaissance.
The down side of this is the increasing number of cars coming into the city and blocking the streets. Anybody travelling to this House during rush hour at any time of the morning or evening will be aware of that. Traffic and traffic congestion is a complex problem which requires an integrated solution. The DTI produced a report a couple of years ago which is a fine attempt at tackling the problem through an integrated approach.
We need a comprehensive Luas system. The two lines currently planned are inadequate. We should move as quickly as possible to put in place the mechanisms required before the third leg. I do not understand why there has been an additional delay in doing that. We also need to look at the possibility of other lines. The budgetary situation in the country has not been as positive for many years. Everybody accepts that we can afford to and must increase spending on infrastructural development, especially in the Dublin area. This can be done without causing problems down the road. I urge the Minister and his officials to look urgently at the Luas plans. Extension of the plan beyond the three proposed lines needs to be considered.
Another part of the DTI plan is the quality bus corridors, which I support. They are an excellent idea. However, they must be implemented with sensitivity. There are difficulties in my constituency, for example on Fairview Strand, largely because bus lanes are being placed in areas adjacent to businesses. There is no need for a bus lane at times of the day when buses can normally pass freely.
The Dublin Port access tunnel is an important part of the DTI recommendations. While we need a dedicated port access route we must avoid urban motorways. People must be discouraged from bringing their cars into the city centre. I am concerned that, given the way this plan has been formulated, it will encourage the use of the port tunnel by motorists travelling to the city centre via the docks. We should seek to avoid this.
For commercial reasons, it is imperative that we continue to develop Dublin Port in the way it has been developing for several years. The port now employs 3,500 people and contributes indirectly to many thousands of jobs nationally. It handles over two thirds of our sea trade. In the last number of years there has been significant growth in the trade flowing through the port. I compliment the staff and management of the port who have contributed to the significant development of the facility in recent years. In 1995, the port experienced a 25 per cent increase in trade and, more important in the context of this debate, 6,000 HGVS a day were entering and leaving the port. In the context of these figures there is no dispute about the need for a port access route. It is vital for the future of the port and of Dublin.
However, I object to the port access route which has been chosen and the construction which this Bill is intended to facilitate. Initially, six possible routes, numbered A1 to A6, for the proposed port tunnel were proposed. Some of these routes ran along or under institutional land largely owned by the Churches. If there had been proper and meaningful consultation at that stage with local representatives and local residents it might have been possible to reach agreement on one of these routes. However, it became clear at an early stage that the project promoter and Dublin Corporation favoured a specific route, numbered A6, and were determined it would be selected.
The A6 route is the most controversial as it locates the tunnel portal entrance near a residential area in Whitehall and involves tunnelling under 273 houses in Marino. If it goes ahead, it will result in the closure of Fairview Park, a major facility on the northside of Dublin, for up to three years. Most importantly, it will utilise a tunnelling method that has been involved in several serious tunnel collapses. The most recent incident was during the construction of the Jubilee line in Heathrow when a tunnel collapsed causing several deaths. There was also a spectacular accident during the construction of the U-bahn in Munich some years ago when a single decker bus upturned into a tunnel that was being built. The method involves shooting concrete at high speed into the side of a tunnel which solidifies over the next 18 hours. I concede there is controversy among engineers involved in this area of expertise but it is generally accepted that there is a risk, albeit small, and it should not be taken in residential areas.
It quickly became obvious that the reason the A6 route was chosen was because it was the cheapest of the six options. Ironically, the portal entrance has been shifted by general agreement and this has added approximately £30 million to the cost. It may no longer be the case that it is the cheapest option. The impression was given in the immediate area that the cost factor outweighed all environmental, health and safety concerns.
The Dublin Port tunnel as currently proposed is flawed. The choice of route is flawed and the degree of consultation with local residents, to which other Deputies referred, has been ineffective. The proposed tunnelling method is inappropriate for use in residential areas. These genuine and legitimate fears are held by people, many of them elderly, in my constituency. Unfortunately, the project promoters have failed to take these concerns seriously. It is fair to acknowledge that efforts have been made in the past year to 18 months by Dublin Corporation and the project promoters to consult local residents in a formal grouping. However, the consultation in the early stages was not effective and this has contributed to the level of mistrust which exists. Public consultation at that stage was more in the nature of public confrontation.
I am interested to know how the Bill arose. I recall attending a number of meetings of Dublin Corporation where councillors were assured by the City Manager that he foresaw no legal difficulty with regard to tunnelling. I assume he was acting on the legal advice given to him by the law agent. I am not sure whether he sought advice from the Department of the Environment and Local Government or the Office of the Attorney General. However, somebody has obviously decided there is a legal difficulty which needs to be clarified. If that is the case, what is the position regarding tunnelling projects that have already taken place, for example, the Lee tunnel? If there is a requirement to compulsorily acquire the substrata under land, what is the position regarding projects that have already started?
I am surprised the Bill was published in the manner and at the time it became available. It was circulated at the end of the last session on 16 December although it had not been previously signalled in any way. It was not included in the Government's programme issued at the start of the last session and it was not signalled at any point during it. This type of action inevitably fuels the high level of mistrust which already exists and which is easily understood.
This matter has been bungled by the local authority in Dublin. It has been badly handled and sold and there was a flawed consultative method. There are genuine reasons to be concerned about the project and I wish to highlight those concerns. The Minister has questions to answer not only in relation to this project in which he has a role, but also about the genesis of the Bill and other matters affecting the Dublin Port tunnel and the planning process.
I welcome the Bill, the purpose of which is to smooth the way for tunnelling for the Dublin Port tunnel, Luas and other projects and to avoid a position where the projects are further delayed by court action and hassle. The Bill seeks to avoid a possible block which some determined or misguided groups may try to put in the way of the projects. I support the legislation because it will make it much easier and simpler to progress the plans. It will also ensure that more time is not spent in the courts and fortunes are not spent on lawyers arguing the toss about aspects of the projects.
The Bill states that substratum of land means any subsoil or anything beneath the surface of land required. I am not a geologist and the Bill does not explain those terms. I agree with the principle that the National Roads Authority and the State should be able to tunnel under people's property. However, where does the substratum start? I might know if I were a geologist, but does it start two inches, two feet, two metres or 20 metres beneath the surface? Where does it start and end? There is no problem if it involves depths of 10 or 20 metres. However, it may be necessary to comply with regulations in this area and the Bill does not indicate the exact depth of the substrata or at what point CPOs will start. This aspect needs to be clarified. The State should have the right to carry out this work, but rights also involve duties and responsibilities. The Bill is designed to remove possible confusion and this matter may add to it rather than remove it unless it is clarified. The answer may be simple and I look forward to the Minister's response.
Deputy McDowell mentioned confusion and mistrust. He suggested there was something wrong with the way the Bill was published before Christmas. I do not understand the Deputy's point. This is the first week in March and no guillotine was placed on the legislation. The Bill was not rushed through the House when Members were at Christmas parties. It does not matter when the legislation was published. The Bill is only on Second Stage and people who have an interest in it or concerns about it have had more than ample time to consider it. Members often complain that Second Stage debates of Bills are taken too quickly. The guideline is two weeks but often that is not adhered to. Second Stage debates are often taken before groups have had a chance to consider Bills, but that does not apply in this case because the Bill was published almost three months ago.
I favour the concept of a port tunnel, perhaps because I was involved in many committees on the issue over the years. I was a member of the DTI local authority committee and the steering committee. This matter was discussed at length but we did not make much progress. The DTI proposed an integrated strategy and much consultation with interest groups, residents' associations and others took place at that stage. We must be careful or the entire process of producing strategies and undertaking consultation will get a bad name.
There is no point getting people to give up their time and energy and to co-operate in trying to design what is best for the system if nothing is done afterwards. The problem in Dublin and elsewhere is that shelves are full of great reports and studies but nothing has been done about them. We cannot blame people who are frustrated. They did not bother to get involved in the process of consultation because they felt it was only another theoretical study.
When a study is done that leads to a policy, that policy must be implemented. There is no point in spending years planning if we do not act on that plan.
Some residents' groups are very dedicated and have highly qualified people putting their time and energy into the cause. However, we will never get total agreement. If anything, our system is becoming almost too democratic, and if most people are on board, we should proceed with a project. If people are inconvenienced, a form of compensation to the individual or community should be made available. This matter also arose during the debate on the Waste Management Bill but nothing ever seems to happen. One might get a nod from the city or county manager because one area is seen to be hard done by and he or she could do something for that area. However, that is not enough. This should be formalised. If individuals or a community have done poorly because of a development, compensation should be offered to them.
Deputy McDowell referred to the quality bus corridors. Many people who did not participate in the formulation of the DTI are now demanding consultation when their area is concerned. That is understandable, but if previous strategies were seen to be implemented, people would contribute to those strategies at an earlier stage. I am horrified by the way the DTI is being presented. Some groups, including certain political parties, are trying to unravel or tunnel under the DTI although they made little or no contribution to that strategy initially. We must stop playing games with this initiative and get on with implementing it.
I favour the port tunnel. It does not go under my constituency, although the northern portals will be in my area. If we moved the tunnel 100 metres, one housing estate would be happy while another would be up in arms. If there was a location that would make everybody happy, we could move it there. However, it is not a perfect world and there is no ideal site. Eventually the common good will prevail. Anything we construct will have to be done to best international standards, but it is a utopian dream to think that everybody will subscribe to it. The benefits of the tunnel will not be as obvious to some as it is to others.
Deputy McDowell referred to the route, which should be selected by professionals. I am not a geologist; experts who know about rock strata and mud types should make these decisions, not politicians who come under pressure from residents' groups. We should not veer from decisions made on professional advice unless there are very good reasons for doing so.
There are tunnels in every city in Europe. I went on a local authority delegation to Europe to look at some, and we were brought down to the bowels of the earth beneath London where there are layers of tunnels. We were allowed to inspect the work in so much detail that I was almost scared. I would almost have preferred to see a video of the proceedings because I took a chunk of the mud that was being tunnelled through and I could stick my finger into it, though this was 40 metres under the surface. That showed me London is built on mud, yet there are layers of tunnels there. If it is possible to do this in soft mud, the Dublin tunnel, going through rock, must be a fairly simple engineering task.
We then went to Oslo where there are road tunnels, as opposed to the London rail tunnels. None of the Oslo tunnels was three miles long but I was reassured that the people of Marino have nothing to worry about from the tunnelling point of view. However, I was concerned by the possibility of air pollution, which may be a problem at both ends of the tunnel. The Norwegians said they could not have a three mile tunnel and allow the fumes to blow out of it in any direction. They installed very sophisticated filtering systems; some of those systems stick up like ugly smokestacks while others are underground bypass chambers which are not visible above ground. We must provide those filter systems to reassure those living near the tunnel entrances.
We must build this tunnel to best international standards but we must also allay the fears of the communities concerned. One problem is the ease with which scare tactics can be used. Those stirring up suspicion always have an advantage over officialdom, which can be slow to react. It is easy to draw a frightening cartoon that will scare a community.
On the issue of compensation, there will always be a certain amount of vibration when constructing a tunnel through rock. When similar tunnelling was taking place in Oslo people were paid hotel expenses for three or four days regardless of whether they stayed in the hotel. They did not have to produce receipts. Perhaps we should do likewise here and compensate those on whom the project will have long-term effects. We should be straight with people. The construction of the tunnel will cause a certain amount of convenience to people in the area.
Very little progress has been made on implementing the recommendations of the DTI and there is talk of a review. People are making an industry out of devising strategies, compiling studies, consultants' reports and so on. Such initiatives have a logic only if a decision is made on them. I accept there have been many changes since the DTI completed its report five years ago. At that time people could not have known the economy would grow or that car sales would escalate to such an extent. However, the public will become cynical if we engage in another round of consultations to devise a grand overall strategy. People should be told what was achieved from the last plan and how long it will take to meet all its objectives. If the DTI is to be reviewed it should be done on an in-house basis rather than going back to the public, when we cannot show them what we have achieved so far.
We must bite the bullet in respect of the transport problem. People have more money and families are buying a second car. People take their cars to work because it is more convenient. We can either allow that to continue or do something about it. If we want people to use public transport, we must loosen the strings on Dublin Bus and Irish Rail. We cannot expect those organisations to bring vast numbers of people to and from work every day and only break even. While many of the problems in the business sector are resolved by introducing urban renewal incentives, seaside resort schemes or some type of tax concession, we tend to believe that people can be transported to and from work on a break even basis. There have been many innovative suggestions about how to encourage people to use public transport. I do not bring my car in here merely because of the free parking. I have a bike in the back shed, but I do not take it out to be photographed as often as other people.
I am glad the Deputy has a bike.
I can justify bringing my car in here because I usually attend meetings on my way home. However, many people who work regular hours in offices or factories could use public transport. We must take positive action to encourage people to leave their cars at home. For example, employers could provide employees with commuter bus tickets at a cheaper rate, if not free. Bus transport in Dublin has a bad image.
We should lead by example.
I am gearing my remarks mainly at those who work regular hours. As my constituency is further from Leinster House than the Deputy's, there is more justification for me taking my car to work.
I hope the Minister can clarify where the substratum will start. I support the two lane Dublin Port tunnel. I do not support those who want it reduced in size or moved to somebody else's door. We have made a decision on the matter and we should pull together to get it completed as soon as possible. We must accept that people will be inconvenienced in the short-term, but the end product will be worthwhile. We should then consult people about the next phase of an overall strategy for land use, transport and so on.
I welcome the Bill. My contribution will focus on how it will impact on the north side of the city, the Dublin North-East constituency and Fingal County Council.
The Bill will allow for the compulsory acquisition of a substratum of land for the construction of road motorways. It will also allow for the further enhancement of the infrastructure required to service the ever-increasing volume of traffic as a result of the vibrant economy created in the past number of years. The Government has shown some effort at last to address the serious business of the construction of motorways, light rail and the port tunnel. However, I want action.
In autumn 1995 a public inquiry was held in Swords about the construction of the section of the M1 from Rowan's Cross to join the section already constructed from the city to Dublin Airport. I understand the inspector's report was completed in the spring of 1996. The Minister recently stated that the delay in making a decision was due to the complexity of the issues involved. I am sure the issues raised were complex, but I am equally sure the Minister, who came fresh to the Department last year, is capable of dealing with those complexities. The inspector held a hearing in autumn 1995 and, having considered the complex arguments, presented his report in spring 1996.
I accept that officials of the Department may wish to consider further the matters raised in the report, but it is unacceptable that the Department is frozen in inaction. Communities need to know what the future holds for them. People's livelihoods and homes will be affected by the route of this road. The soon to be completed section of the M1 from Gormanston to the five roads, bypassing the town of Balbriggan, will be of great benefit to the town. It will allow it to develop as a community. The diversion of traffic from Drogheda, Dundalk and Northern Ireland from the narrow main street will benefit commuters and commercial traffic. However, the benefit will be short lived in assisting traffic movement if the next section of the motorway is not constructed. The capacity of the Swords bypass will not accommodate the expected growth in traffic. Equally, it is wrong that the volume of traffic should be allowed on what are inadequate carriageways.
This Bill is required to allow for improved infrastructure to accommodate the growth of commercial traffic. The need for the construction of the port tunnel is apparent. The organisation and control of the increasing level of road traffic is important and should not be put on the long finger. The public has a right to the safest road network possible and we are obliged to make that possible. The current level of danger to those who use and live along the N1 is great and we must also have regard for the concerns of those on whom the proposed M1 route will impact. Irrespective of whether one favours the current route or an imaginary alternative, it is generally accepted that this connecting section is a must. I urge the Minister to make a decision so that those affected may get on with their business.
I am aware of one family who will be required to vacate their home and farm if assent is given for the route. The man is not prepared to invest further in his farm and his wife sees no point in for instance decorating their home until the paralysis caused by the Minister's inaction is put aside. I urge the Minister to make a decision on this route as soon as possible because delays inhibit investment and growth generation.
The completion of the Grange Road in Baldoyle, which feeds into the M50, is of paramount importance. Recently the residents blocked the roadway and the roads leading on to the M50 because they have become prisoners in their homes. Given that promises had been made, for the past 20 years, that the road which runs through their estate would be completed they had no alternative but to take this action. Completion of this road is very important because heavy traffic use it going into an industrial estate in Baldoyle. To facilitate the heavy traffic by widening of the bridge which crosses the main Belfast line near their homes and leads into Baldoyle. Fingal County Council recently passed a section 59 motion and Dublin Corporation are in the process of passing one. This will allow for the widening of the bridge and the roadworks through Grange Abbey estate to proceed.
It is important to encourage people away from motorways and allow them to use public transport. Given that there is a growing population in Grange Abbey, Donaghmede and Baldoyle it would be ideal if, when the new line to Malahide is put in place, a halt was constructed beside the bridge in Baldoyle. This would be of enormous benefit to the local community and would get them to their places of work quickly. The DART has been a great success. A halt in this area would pay, would be of great benefit to the community and would take people off our roads.
A traffic calming scheme was arranged for the Baldoyle area. As in every other community this matter was debated at public meetings and only some agreed with it. The ideal solution would be a road which would bypass Baldoyle from the Grange Road and continue towards the main road which feeds Baldoyle and Portmarnock. This road, and the road to which I have just referred, when constructed, will generate further traffic because to get on to the M50 people will come through Baldoyle village and make their way there. While we are spending money it is important that a road to bypass Baldoyle from Grange Road to the main Strand Road would be constructed. The money has been promised. Will the Minister use his good offices to ensure that the money is made available as soon as possible to allow these works proceed.
Dublin Port continues to grow. I served as a director of the Dublin Port and Docks Board when the port was not doing well. The management, to whom I pay tribute, have built up the port and it is now operating profitably. It will not continue to operate profitably unless there are proper routes to and from the port. People who operate trucking businesses, manufacturers and others, need to get their goods to port on time and at low cost. At present it is almost impossible to get there on time especially during peak hours.
I welcome the fact that the port tunnel will go ahead but I am sad it has taken so long to happen. Deputy Ahern is right in saying one cannot please everyone. Discussions have taken place with the people of Marino, Whitehall and other areas where portals will be erected. Those people are certainly worried and I sympathise with them but one cannot hold up this development forever. The Minister should make a decision to have the tunnel erected. Some residents have suggested the portals should be shifted towards the north. However, if we were to listen to every argument the portals would end up in some part of North County Dublin or further north and the tunnel will be of no use to anyone and would add another £13 million to the £177 million cost of the tunnel.
When acquiring land for motorways we should look to the future. Experts say the two-lane dual carriageways will be running close to capacity in 2017. As a result we will have to add extra lanes in each direction in 2016. To avoid anguish and grief, when acquiring land we should think to the future when motorways will require three laneways in each direction.
I welcome the Bill and I urge the Minister to work towards completion of the port tunnel at the earliest possible date.
The primary purpose of the Bill is to clarify the power of local authorities as road authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993. Fine Gael welcomes this Bill and will not oppose it.
Are we implying that from now on the land underneath a house will be owned by the house-holder? The Bill states that its primary purpose is to clarify the power of local authorities. I assume that up to now there was uncertainty about the ownership of the land underneath the house. Are we saying that from now on, by implication, the substratum of land underneath houses will be the property of the landowner? Will there be other implications for water etc. ?
My party welcomes this Bill. Traffic in Dublin is a nightmare but I do not want to repeat it ad nauseam. I note the Minister for Finance is of the opinion that nothing will be done about traffic in Dublin until it grinds to a halt. Many of his party colleagues have suggested that tax exemptions and other initiatives should be introduced. The document my party published on the traffic problem in Dublin contains some good suggestions. I accept Dublin Bus is doing its best but it needs a major cash injection to upgrade its bus fleet. Its buses are uncomfortable, dirty, smelly and noisy. If cars are to be taken off the road, it must be made attractive for people to use buses which should be safe and run on time. This is not happening.
There are measures that can be taken now. It has been suggested that tax exemptions should be introduced as an incentive to financial institutions to allow Dublin Bus and private bus owners to upgrade their fleets. It would be money well spent but the Government is not in favour of this.
It is a sign of underdevelopment that the vast bulk of the population of a country is concentrated in the capital city. In Lima and other south American cities people have been drawn in from rural areas. As a consequence of people being drawn into Dublin, rural areas are being denuded of people and resources. There is a need for local improvement schemes to upgrade county roads. Last year Cork County Council received £120,000 for this purpose. A total of 236 roads need to be upgraded. With this sum it will be able to complete six projects per year. It received 35 applications in 1997; 20 in 1996; 22 in 1995; 35 in 1994; 33 in 1993; 42 in 1992, and 27 in 1991. Compared to a figure of £500 million which is to be spent on the Luas project £120,000 is a measly sum. The Minister should increase it dramatically.
In urban areas there are bus shelters every few hundred yards but they are not constructed in rural areas because they are deemed uneconomic. A bus shelter will be constructed only if an advertiser is willing to act as sponsor. An advertiser will do so only on roads on which there is much traffic and an advertisement will be seen. There are many dangerous crossroads in rural areas on which there is no lighting or bus shelter. People are expected to wait for buses in the rain and the dark in winter. I am sure the Minister will acknowledge that this is a serious problem for those living in rural areas. They should be treated equally.
Litter on county roads is a major issue. Last week on a half mile stretch of road my wife collected eight large plastic bags of litter, including a dead cat in a plastic bag. This is unbelievable. There is a need to put appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure county roads are cleaned up.
Provision is made in the Bill for a judicial review. We should proceed with care as it appears accountability is being devolved. I cite as an example the construction of pylons by the ESB in east Cork where controversy is raging. There is a danger that this will lead to public disorder. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Enterprise have tried to intervene but, to my knowledge, they have been snubbed.
Although the Fermoy bypass is badly needed, the National Roads Authority has decided not to proceed with it. Fermoy is one of the few places in the country where there is a right angle bend. Some evenings it can take the best part of a half an hour to pass through the town which is situated on a national road. This is crazy. The rail link between Midleton and Cork needs to be reopened.
It is unbelievable at this late stage in the development of the Dublin port tunnel project which has been extensively studied, redesigned and placed on public display that it has dawned on the various arms of the State it is necessary to introduce this Bill. It should have been introduced many years ago. It is a source of great frustration that it seems to be taking forever to complete major infrastructural projects. Everybody appreciates that Dublin Port provides an economic lifeline and that the tunnel project is long overdue to relieve the pressure on the city quays which are clogged from early morning to late in the evening with oil tankers and commercial traffic. It is a national scandal — and beyond comprehension — that we are still talking about this project in 1998 and the potential for a further judicial review, High Court challenge and Supreme Court hearing. The responsibility lies with consecutive Governments.
The traffic problem in Dublin has been the subject of many studies by bodies such as the DTI. The underground rail option has also been the subject of review but little action has been taken. There are two new satellite towns in my constituency of Dublin West which I have the honour to represent. It is projected that its population will grow rapidly and increase to 100,000 in a short few years. Transport is, therefore, high on people's agendas. The constituency is the location of a national rail distribution project which should be compatible with the Dublin port tunnel project. There is a possibility that containers will be transported from Dublin port by rail to the ring road network which may lessen the need for a tunnel.
Different Departments have responsibility for these projects. The Department of the Environment and Local Government is responsible for the road network while the Department of Public Enterprise is responsible for the rail network. Implementation of transport policy in the greater Dublin area is fragmented between local authorities, Departments, State agencies, such as the National Roads Authority, and the Dublin Transportation Initiative office. They endeavour to deal with what everybody agrees is a ridiculous situation. Why has that happened and what will be done about it? When will we say there have been enough studies and it is time to begin the work? There is a need for consultation and proper dialogue.
In the case of the Dublin Port tunnel project, Dublin Corporation had the necessary expertise. It decided what should be done, but that resulted in a public outcry and the plans were put back on display. Five options were put forward for the tunnel entry in Whitehall where there is a motorway and surely the place to commence the tunnel is at the motorway. It is beyond me why this has become such a contentious issue, why those decisions cannot be fast tracked and why the common good does not supersede everything else. It will be many years before that tunnel project will be in place to help alleviate traffic congestion in the capital.
Regarding the motorway ring, I hope Deputy Cosgrave's prediction that further lanes will be required in the tunnel by the year 2016 is not based on the projection figures used for the Westlink toll bridge. Those projections have been fast forwarded by approximately five years. That toll bridge, which is a key link in the motorway network, is running to capacity four or five years in advance of what was predicted.
The capabilities of our experts in road design, road planning and in completing the required work have been deplorable. I hold that view for a number of reasons. Traffic was hardly using the roundabout at the Red Cow Inn when efforts were made to widen the road by narrowing footpaths and devising all sorts of trimming gimmicks to relieve the traffic congestion that virtually commenced the day the road opened. In my constituency footpaths have been narrowed at the Western Motorway at Palmerstown which has resulted in traffic disruption. It was then decided to provide a bus lane for buses travelling in from Lucan which has required the cutting of intersection aisles where there are currently traffic lights. Why was the motorway not designed to accommodate that bus lane which could have been built five or six feet further in than it is? People are happy to use public transport provided it will take them where they want to get in a reasonable time. However as soon as buses using that bus lane reach Heuston Railway Station they are into the tailback of traffic on the quays. The time advantage gained by using the bus lane on the dual carriageway is quickly lost in a traffic bottleneck.
Because there has been no progress to deal with that problem people who might use public transport do not use it.
The rail service is an issue in the Dublin north by-election. People on the doorsteps in Swords have said that when they travel by car to Malahide railway station they cannot get on the commuter rail service because there are not enough carriages. The lack of integration between road transport and bus and rail services is frustrating and it represents a waste of taxpayers' money. The Minister for Finance, when dealing with the Finance Bill yesterday, made the honest comment that the greater Dublin area is gridlocking and it will probably have to become chaotic, which it is not far off now, before real action is taken. Perhaps a written constitution in this area — which has merits — could be a major liability.
The Southern Cross route is a major motorway that terminates on the Firhouse Road. An extra loop to that motorway should have been built five years ago and I understand the contract for that work is about to commence. The cost of those projects have escalated. Substantial funds have been lying in Brussels waiting to be dispensed, but they were not drawn down until five to eight years later which involved an escalation in the capital cost of the project. Public representatives at local and national level are frustrated because they know that a lack of funds was not the reason those projects did not proceed quickly enough.
There is also the issue of environmental transport movement. Priority should be given to the public transport requirement to reduce the number of car trips, but as long as there is a lack of an integrated transport policy people will continue to use their cars. Deputy Stanton referred to the rural versus the urban in regard to transport infrastructure. If one were to stand at the side of the Naas dual carriageway, the Galway road or the Navan road between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., one would note that the number of motorists commuting to Dublin from the midlands has greatly increased. Added to that is commuter traffic from western satellite towns. That results in gridlock every morning on the Lucan bypass. One could predict the traffic report every morning. The only difference arises when a car breaks down on a freeway or there are wandering horses on the Lucan road, which is another matter.
It is annoying that a lack of resources and finances are not the cause of the traffic congestion but the problem has arisen because we do not appear to be capable of getting to the root cause of it because of the fragmentation of the bodies responsible for transport. I urge the Minister of State to return to the Department to seek to clear up this legal matter in this legislation. He should consider the total picture. Who has ultimate responsibility for transport movement in Dublin? There is a need for the Government to introduce some co-ordination in this area.
The present position cannot continue and is not acceptable. I urge the Minister to communicate with his ministerial colleagues to bring forward the provision of a rail link to reduce the number of heavy duty vehicles in Dublin city centre. Goods coming through Dublin Port should be transported by rail. That would benefit the national rail network. Goods would be transported from Dublin Port to west Dublin and would then be distributed nationally, preferably mainly by rail, which would reduce the number of heavy duty vehicles on our roads network.
Decentralisation of our population could be achieved if a decent transport network was provided to the west coast and all areas in between. The growth of industries locating in west Dublin is due to multinationals like IBM, Hewlett Packard and Intel, which are all in or on the borders of my constituency and are creating employment and generating residential developments, availing of the transport infrastructure in place. However, there is a need for a more balanced distribution of investment and population settlement. That will not be achieved unless the necessary national transport infrastructure is in place. Great progress has been made, but we are not here to compliment ourselves on what we have achieved. We are here to strive to improve the position.
We have had the Dunleer by-pass, the Athlone by-pass and a multiplicity of major industrial infrastructural development. That is how decentralisation will be successful. Major industrial projects want to be within a half hour's travel distance of the international airport and we may be able to encourage them to locate within an hour's travel distance of it. If we are to succeed in developing a co-ordinated transportation policy in the eastern region, which is at the heart of this Bill, that must be achieved. We need an integrated approach to take account of public transport, cars and heavy duty vehicles, but at this juncture there is a great deal of fragmentation in regard to who has responsibility for achieving targets. Looking at the history of this tunnel, one must ask if anyone is satisfied with the rate of progress. When the project was first mooted and decided necessary, it would have been difficult to believe legislation would be introduced in 1998 to enable the project to proceed.
We must have public consultation. The Palmerstown by-pass was constructed in my constituency and 11 private residences were acquired and demolished. The families concerned were compensated and relocated. In Lucan four or five houses were located on the route of the by-pass. Naturally, the initial reaction of those affected and others was to object to the project. The hearings, the inspector's report and modifications are part of the requirement of consultation, but I am concerned about the time it takes for these projects to be brought to fruition.
It is obvious to the one million people in Dublin that a port tunnel project should be in place. I hope when the Minister responds to the points raised by other Deputies he will address the requirement to extend the width of the tunnel to take projected traffic flows in the year 2016. Even after considering the ideas, recommendations and information provided by economists, experts and so-called forward planners, we have found serious shortcomings because of the economic uplift. They are not keeping up with the requirements of a small capital city of one million people. This is not large in international terms but it seems like a city of ten million because of the defects we have highlighted.
This brings us back to incentives under various Governments, including incentives to build car parks in the city. We provided this incentive as a short-term measure to resolve a car parking problem but now we want to find ways to discourage people from bringing their cars into the city. I should like to see a coherent traffic programme for the greater Dublin area which would recognise the need to minimise the use of the car. That will only happen if and when public transport is responsive to the needs of the population.
I reside in Lucan in a community of 30,000. We have asked Iarnród Éireann to open a commuter station at south Lucan. It opened stations further up the line at Hazelhatch, for example, which has a population of perhaps 500, but in areas with a large population it seems to be beyond the company's ability to recognise the potential customer base. It introduced the Arrow service which was welcome, but after a year it closed the station at Hazelhatch because people were not taking the train. Further down the line places like north Clondalkin and Lucan have populations of 20,000 to 30,000. The trains come to a grinding halt at Heuston Station. There is an old rail link under the Phoenix Park linking up to the rest of the rail network but it is not in use. Iarnród Éireann should be able to say why it is not in use.
We are introducing Luas and we have the DART but we are not integrating them. I do not see the logic in what is proposed. We were to go over ground with Luas but the Government has now decided to study the underground option. Why was that not done initially? That is another source of considerable frustration. I urge the Minister and his colleagues to get to grips with the problem and come up with an integrated transport plan.
The previous Taoiseach introduced Operation Freeflow because he got caught in traffic for almost an hour one day and could not get from one engagement to another. As a result a crisis decision was made to introduce Operation Freeflow and the Garda authorities were asked to manage the traffic. It seemed to work for a period of time but that crisis passed and we reverted to the old ways. I would like to see these major infrastructural projects completed as soon as is practicable so that the people of this city will see that the Government, the local authorities and the transport authorities are doing something to resolve the problem.
Unlike the previous speakers who were all of the same opinion, I am opposed to the north port tunnel and have consistently made my views known at Dublin City Council and in public. I am opposed to the tunnel for very good reasons. I agree with the view of Professor Simon Perry that we should have explored an east-west tunnel, otherwise known as the Liffey tunnel. It would have had direct access to the port which is essential. It also would have serviced the industrial estates in the western suburbs. That would have cleared the city quays which, as the previous speaker rightly said, are clogged up. That would have been the ideal solution but instead we have opted for a north port tunnel. I believe it is a power trip by the road engineers who have always wanted it.
We spoke about port access, which is essential, but now we are including cars. As Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Lawlor said, it looks as if we will have to expand the tunnel, which does not make sense. Let us have port access for trucks, but not cars. It is clear that we are looking at a Trojan horse for the eastern by-pass. It is time there was some honesty in this debate. Will the Minister say if we are looking at an extension of the north port tunnel and the eastern by-pass? It is essential that we address this problem now. If not, we will be looking at two versions of the eastern by-pass — at cut and cover across Sandymount strand and a road on stilts — both of which are unacceptable. We could look at the tunnelling option now which would mean tunnelling under the Liffey and Sandymount strand. That would be extremely, perhaps prohibitively, expensive. That is the reason we should address that problem now, otherwise we will run into problems with the habitats directive and local opposition. People are still unhappy about the eastern by-pass.
The problems in the Sandymount-Irishtown area will get progressively worse because of the docklands scheme which will bring over 20,000 people into the area. A large proportion of these people will have cars which they will use because public transport in the area is appalling. The No. 3 bus to Sandymount is probably one of the worst services in the country. I have called time and time again for a quality bus corridor which has been refused on the grounds that the people in the area are not as affluent as those in Donnybrook and, therefore, do not have cars. The idea is to encourage people to leave their cars at home. While I understand the logic of that argument, it is flawed. We need to cater for people who do not have access to cars and who are helping to relieve the traffic crisis by using the bus. That is why I reiterate my call for a quality bus corridor for the number 3 bus. It is absolutely essential. It is a form of discrimination that one section of Dublin 4, Donnybrook, is being catered for with a quality bus corridor while others, such as Ringsend and Irishtown, are ignored. This must be re-examined.
Tunnel vision is being adopted in dealing with the traffic crisis in Dublin. Some £6 is spent on roads to every £1 on public transport. That ratio says a great deal about our approach to traffic in Dublin and in Ireland. Examples in Germany, Holland and France, where there is efficient public transport, must be examined. It makes for more efficient urban economies. Dublin is losing approximately £500 million through traffic delays, and that does not take into account the health effects, of which I will speak later, and the damage to buildings from air pollution. The cost of none of these has been calculated. It makes economic sense to invest in public transport. People have become very frustrated with traffic in Dublin. I listened to previous speakers, especially the Deputies representing Dublin North-Central, debating the port tunnel and crying their crocodile tears about the effect it will have on local people. They had an opportunity when the Green Party proposed the east-west tunnel to Dublin City Council, yet they ignored it. People should be careful before they are taken in by these Deputies.
The issue of cycleways must be explored. It is interesting that the Deputies who complained about the effect the tunnel will have are also those who obstructed the construction of cycleways in Clontarf. That is regrettable. Progress is very slow. When I was Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor's commission on cycling examined the effect of cycling. It found that 26,000 motorists could be taken off the roads in Dublin if a proper network of cycleways was constructed. That is happening very slowly and it is deeply frustrating for people who want a proper cycle network in Dublin. Studies show many children do not cycle to school. The commission discovered that two thirds of children in my constituency who live within a two mile radius of their school travel to it by car because it is dangerous on the roads and there are no cycleways. We are in a vicious circle and we must break out of it immediately. The will is there. I see a change of attitude in the new director of traffic in Dublin Corporation, Mr. Owen Keegan, and the new city manager but it is happening very slowly and they are constantly faced with obstacles.
There must be greater progress in traffic calming measures. It seems possible we can have grandiose schemes for tunnels costing millions of pounds, yet we cannot do the small things right. We are still waiting for a proper traffic calming scheme in Sandymount in my constituency. One has been installed in Ranelagh which is working reasonably well. However, people in Terenure and Rathgar are crying out for traffic calming measures because the streets are dangerous, especially for their children. Greater progress should be made and I ask the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to intervene and obtain a progress report on the situation. I do not want to be too critical of the traffic section in Dublin Corporation. The problem is it does not have sufficient resources. It needs an injection of funding.
I listened to Deputy Noel Ahern speak of his conversion and I welcome his assertion that public transport must be financed. People should also be encouraged through measures in the Finance Bill to leave their cars at home. This would mean examining the issues of benefits in kind and free car parking spaces. The latter should be a no-no. People who have a bus pass, for example, should be given a tax allowance. These are ideas which have been examined in other countries and which have worked well. I am speaking of clean and efficient public transport. The effect of the DART has been seen. People will leave their cars behind if proper and efficient public transport is provided.
The issue of Luas is being protracted and I do not know why. I do not know whether it is the car lobby as I am unsure whether it has sufficient members to lobby so effectively as to stymie the project. When I hear the Progressive Democrats calling for this project to be again put underground, I throw my hands up in despair. This will just prolong the debate. It is all right for Deputies from Clare, but it is deeply frustrating for those of us who represent this city.
We are here three days a week.
The Deputy may witness the traffic when he comes to Dublin, but it is becoming intolerable for those who must live here on a daily basis and deal with the air pollution. The Dublin City Centre Business Association has identified traffic as the number one issue in the city. It was crime, now it is traffic. This Government is making a terrible mistake. A great deal of incompetence is involved because, as I understand it, the underground route being studied follows the same line as the overground one. That does not make sense. The terrain is different and no borings have been taken, so I do not know what this report, which will be published in March, will reveal. The idea of the route being put underground must be scrapped. If anything should be put underground, it should be cars. There is potential there as it would leave the roads above free for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
I am disappointed the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has not introduced a proper car maintenance test and that it has been delayed yet again. We know from the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency that there is a serious air pollution problem in this city. There are already problems with nitrogen dioxide; the World Health Organisation's limits have been broken on 15 occasions. It has now been discovered that there is a problem with Pm 10s, Pm 2.5s and volatile organic compounds. This is a serious matter because, as World Health Organisation limits have been breached, it is clear that the deaths of some people in Dublin must be due to these pollutants. It is a serious matter for inner city dwellers. Schools in my constituency have a box full of inhalers in each classroom for children. One in four children is suffering from asthma and the air pollutants exacerbate this. It is unacceptable and highly irresponsible to allow it. We have a right to a clean environment and to breathe clean air. The Government is ignoring that right. Buses which should be clean and efficient are the worst polluters because they spew out smoke. A first step would be to have them running on natural gas but the Government is doing nothing about it. Some £20,000 for an air quality management plan for this city is completely inadequate. It must be examined urgently.
If the philosophy of Deputies Cosgrave and Lawlor is adopted, whereby the road capacity is expanded to suit cars, a serious scenario would have to be faced. It would mean the Glen of the Downs would be the first of many such cases. Roads all over Dublin and Ireland would have to be widened. We should adopt a more far-sighted view as we approach the 21st century. We are capitulating to the car lobby if we do not do so, and that is not the way to do business. We should adopt a holistic approach to traffic problems and I hope the Government will do so.
I thank Deputy Gormley for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. Roads such as the N2 and N3 are extremely important to Cavan-Monaghan as cars are the only form of transport in this region. I welcome roads such as the M50 which allows us to transport goods. Some rural dwellers are critical of such roads but they improve business opportunities.
I will speak of the powers of the National Roads Authority and local authorities. We have been trying to get an outer relief road or a bypass for Monaghan town which is on the N2. However, there is a grey area between the powers of the local authority and the National Roads Authority. When the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, submitted the road network plans to Brussels he completely ignored the N2 and N3 and encouraged those travelling to Donegal town and Letterkenny to travel through Longford and Sligo. That road has been dramatically improved but no funds have been granted for a bypass in Carrickmacross, Castleblayney or Monaghan town. The situation in Monaghan town is critical. Two weeks ago we had a bomb scare on a Friday night. There was no way for the emergency services to get out quickly if needed. They were not needed in that case. There was another bomb scare on Saturday night. In view of this, I urge the Government to take up the plans put in place by Monaghan County Council for an outer relief road for Monaghan town where the emergency services could be based and on which traffic going to and from Letterkenny could flow freely.
If we are to be logical we must spend some money in rural Ireland as well as in the Dublin area. I urge the Minister to look seriously at who has the responsibility to provide the outer relief road for Monaghan town. Can he provide the finance for the road to Monaghan County Council? It will cost between £4 million and £5 million over three years which is not a great deal of money. The road would relieve traffic congestion in Monaghan town and assist traffic travelling to and from Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.
The road from Carrickmacross to Ardee has been improved. However, the road through Carrickmacross is a nightmare. The road from Castleblayney to Cashel is even worse. The National Roads Authority seems to take the attitude that it can ignore this road because a bypass is planned for Castleblayney. However, serious accidents may occur if something is not done to at least maintain the road. It would be extremely unfortunate if lives are lost.
We must continue to spend money on county and regional roads. I welcome the increased funding for country and regional roads over the past three years. Figures indicate that Cavan-Monaghan is one of the few areas which has experienced population decline. We have no airports or railroads. Money is being spent on this type of infrastructure in other counties and we are aggrieved that we do not receive similar amounts of money to subvent road improvements which are necessary to maintain industry in rural areas.
The Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997, will amend the Roads Act, 1993, mainly to allow a local authority to acquire a substratum. The Bill has a similar effect on the Dublin Transport (Light Rail) Act, 1996. However, it is natural that Members have widened to debate to include matters relating to the national road and rail networks. The fact that so many Deputies have spoken on this Bill is indicative of the importance of both issues.
Interesting legal arguments have come to light concerning the position in which local authorities now find themselves on substratum which they may need to acquire. It seems there are considerable doubts as to whether the 1993 Act gave them powers to acquire substratum with or without land and buildings. It is impossible to foresee all potential difficulties when preparing legislation. This legislation is indicative of that difficulty. However, it is encouraging that the Department and the Minister have introduced this legislation to address these doubts as comprehensively as possible.
I took part in a thorough debate on the Roads Act, 1993. It was a huge Bill with more than 80 sections and three Schedules. There were many amendments on Committee Stage. Nevertheless, there are serious weaknesses in that legislation which are being addressed in this Bill. In view of the increasing workload of legislation coming before the Oireachtas, some of which is enacted in haste, it is inevitable that shortcomings will show up not long after legislation is passed. We have recently seen this with respect to the Electoral Act which is topical because of the by elections. We have also seen it in the context of the Ethics in Public Office Act. It seems that the clear legislative intentions of Government and all sides of the House have a different effect when legislation is interpreted afterwards. A difficulty also arises because of the number of committees to which legislation is now referred and the problems faced by members in being present for Bills in which they are interested.
Section 3 amends section 47 of the 1993 Act to enable a motorway authority, in the first instance, to specify a substratum of land in its motorway plan. Section 4 amends section 52 of the same Act to the same effect in relation to the Minister's decision on that motorway project. There is also the question of conferring motorway status on roads. This continues as heretofore. As I understand it, it is not amended by this legislation in so far as it affects the substratum. A full motorway scheme and comprehensive environmental assessment will have to be prepared and submitted to the Minister for any piece of motorway to which the Bill refers. It is very important that this continues to be the case.
I have serious doubts about the quality of some environmental impact statements. I suspect that some statements reflect and support the views of the authority or body which commissioned them. There is a belief that he who pays the piper calls the tune. I am concerned that environmental impact statements are not required to meet a certain standard which can be easily verified. I do not know how this can be done but it should be done. When an environmental impact statement is required the local authority or private individual involved in the planning process pays well known consultants a huge amount of money to prepare the statement. However, there do not seem to be standards which the statement must meet. There are certainly no requirements in relation to the data provided in the statement. This makes it impossible to check the veracity of the information in the detail required. This is a crucial element of the work involved in planning large projects and the provisions dealing with the building of motorways in the l993 Act and continued in this Bill.
I am concerned at the way in which the opportunity for the public to make submissions is handled. The public is normally presented with highly technical and complicated documents to be examined and on which to make observations. If we are serious about public involvement we must give the public and local bodies an opportunity to make an input at a much earlier stage of the process. I would go so far as to say that the input of the public is meaningless if it starts with the examination of technical material, maps and reports which can only be read by highly qualified people.
This also applies to the preparation of county development plans. These are very important documents and it should be relatively easy to give local communities a say in their preparation. Up to now a draft plan was prepared by people with the relevant technical expertise and there was little involvement by local authority members who are part-time and have other demands on their time. The public were invited to make a submission only after the plan had been prepared. I am delighted a number of communities in my county have decided, in co-operation with the local authority, to make suggestions before a plan is prepared. This should be the normal procedure in all areas in which the public have a right to be involved.
The same applies to the public inquiry procedure. Questions arise about whether the procedure is working or is well conducted. Is it governed by sufficiently strict guidelines, or are ordinary people replaced in the process by expensive professional and legal personnel? If so, this removes the process from the public and increases the cost. If I am correct about environmental impact assessments and other public processes, then questions must be asked about the quality of any reports which are submitted. There should be proper consultation across a range of issues where public involvement is desirable so that democratic rights can be upheld and developed.
I smiled when Deputy Gormley referred to the traffic problems in Dublin. He may have thought I was unsympathetic but this is not so. I was thinking of the routes where there has been a significant deterioration in the flow of traffic during my five and a half years as a Member of the House. However, there are other routes where the traffic flows relatively freely. It should not be beyond the imagination of the authorities to make substantial improvements without incurring huge expenditure in infrastructural works. Some infrastructural works are necessary and it is a good idea for them to be debated properly by the House, local authorities and local communities in advance of any action.
The Bill proposes to alter the judicial review procedure. The Minister said that an action challenging the validity of a decision by him on a motorway scheme or on a roads related environmental impact statement would have to be by way of judicial review and that the same timescale which currently applies to An Bord Pleanála would apply, that is it must be instituted within two months. There is an interesting provision that the High Court will not grant leave to apply for a review unless it is satisfied there are substantial grounds for contending that the decision challenged is invalid. This is restrictive. It would be difficult to establish at this stage that a decision should be quashed, but we will have to rely on the wisdom of the courts to decide that matter. The High Court decision will be final unless it allows an appeal to the Supreme Court. Concerns have been expressed about the major delays in projects occasioned by the reference of matters to the court after the provisions of the l993 Act have been gone through.
During the debate on the l996 Act it was pointed out that if some of the light rail network was put underground specific provision would have to be made to give the local authority the right to acquire the substratum. This point was debated at some length but it was not provided for as adequately as it should have been. Some people may say this project is outside my area of concern but I welcome the independent analysis of the options. There are concerns about the delays involved but it is vital that the best option is taken and that it addresses the problems in key areas.
The Bill reflects the capacity of the Oireachtas to respond to difficulties in legislation. In the past Governments were reluctant to accept that there were shortcomings in relatively recent legislation. This is an unhealthy way to deal with legislation. If legislation is found to have shortcomings then it ought to be addressed by way of amendment at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise it will throw up other problems which may be difficult to resolve at a later stage.
The Bill ostensibly provides power to compulsorily purchase substratum land required for the port tunnel and perhaps for Luas if it ever sees the light of day. I have no difficulty with this as such power should exist, subject to the same conditions which apply to the compulsory acquisition of land in the normal manner. The port tunnel is necessary and I know that Dublin Port is handling volumes of traffic as high as those predicted for the second decade of 2000. Those who travel in the port area will appreciate the need for urgently addressing the volume of heavy goods vehicles and the traffic to and from the port. In the context of Luas, the issue is not what this Bill provides but if such a system will ever come to fruition. The decision of the Government to put the Luas project on the long finger, consequently putting it at risk, is the worst decision by Government in relation to traffic in the city. Luas will haunt Government candidates canvassing in the city in the local elections of June 1999. The city is choked by traffic. There was some hope that Luas would alleviate the problem by providing a desperately required public transport system. The Government's decision to put the project on hold is having appalling consequences for the city.
I have serious difficulty with and am absolutely opposed to section 5 of the Bill. The section, inserted in a Bill ostensibly about compulsory purchase of underground land, restricts the right of the public to have access to the courts in relation to road and motorway schemes. The summary by the Minister of State is accurate in its interpretation of the section. It provides that a judicial review of a Minister's decision to make a road or motorway order must be instituted within two months from the date on which notice of the decision is first published. However, some aspects of a road or motorway scheme may not become apparent until after that time, making it a very restrictive provision. A residents' association or local group must assemble its argument and legal case and commit itself to legal action within two months. The High Court can then decide whether there are grounds for hearing the case. As the Minister said, the High Court will not grant leave to apply for a review unless it is satisfied there are substantial grounds for contending that the decision challenged is invalid or ought to be quashed. Deputy Killeen correctly noted that this sets a very high standard of proof. The Bill further provides that the decision of the High Court will be final and may only be appealed to the Supreme Court on a point of law in cases where the High Court certifies that this may be done. This effectively means that the decision of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on a motorway or road scheme is virtually unchallengeable.
The Minister stated that this is similar to the type of provision which applies in relation to the planning and waste management legislation. This may be so, but the public has access to an independent appeals body in relation to planning and waste management. There is no access to an independent appeal in the case of a motorway or road scheme. If somebody decides to build a house or other structure close to a person's home in, for example, Kilternan or Sandyford, an appeal can be lodged with the planning authority. If the person is not satisfied with the decision, he or she can make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála and, subsequently, can pursue the issue through the courts. However, there is no planning process if the local authority or National Roads Authority decides to build a motorway. In the case of a motorway the local authority can draw up a scheme following which the Minister can establish a public inquiry to hear the opinions of those aggrieved by it. However, the ultimate decision is made by the Minister. What is wrong is that, effectively, the Minister is the developer, paymaster, planning authority and appeals board. The Minister makes roads policy, appoints the National Roads Authority, provides funding, has a supervisory role in many respects over the local authority and makes the final decision as to whether the motorway goes ahead and the form in which it proceeds. The Minister is also the final adjudicator in the inquiry.
Up to now a certain discipline has been imposed on the Minister in relation to his functions in this area. Aggrieved people could go to court and use their legal rights to exercise discipline over the manner in which the Minister proceeds. This right is severely restricted in the Bill in a fundamentally undemocratic manner, particularly in the context of the Roads Act, 1993, which, in turn, removed many of the rights of the public in relation to road schemes.
In relation to the development of roads, there ought to be a procedure analogous to the planning system which allows for public involvement and has an independent appeals mechanism. The public should have the right to an independent appeal of a decision made by a Minister on a motorway scheme through An Bord Pleanála or another appeals body established for this purpose.
Deputy Olivia Mitchell and I are actively involved in the proposed south eastern motorway which will run through both our constituencies, the inquiry for which was held recently. I compliment the inspector who carried out the inquiry in a very fair, patient and thorough manner. He will be reporting in due course to the Minister who will then have to make a decision. I agree with Deputy Killeen that, in some respects, there processes are being gradually taken over by the legal profession. It was instructive to see how the inquiry operated. A panel of briefs represented various interests during the course of the inquiry. I, Deputy Mitchell, other Members and public representatives represented residents' associations and made our case. Representatives of residents' associations and small community groups explained to the inspector how the motorway would affect them. The briefs were in the corridor with the senior officials of the county council making side agreements which were subsequently reported to the inspector.
I hope that when the inspector makes his report to the Minister, and no doubt he will reflect the concerns raised by the community groups, residents' associations and individual householders, the same regard will be had for the concerns expressed by the people who went to that inquiry but who were not in a position to afford the fees payable to members of the legal profession. I do not want to see what is intended as a public process being one where if people have the money to afford legal assistance they get one type of treatment at the inquiry, and this is no reflection on the inspector, but if they are a member of a residents' association or a community group, they are treated in a different way.
I want to deal with some of the issues which arose in that context and where this legislation, particularly in relation to section 5, is fundamentally flawed. Issues will come before the Minister from that inquiry on which he will have to adjudicate. One of those, for example, will be the selection of the route at the Leopardstown end. I do not want to bore the Minister of State with the details of this — it would take longer than the time available to me — but the fundamental argument rests on the choice of two different routes. The route chosen is known as route A which will take the proposed motorway through part of Leopardstown Racecourse and almost across the back gardens of a number of houses, including council housing schemes in the Leopardstown-Ballyogan area.
Five years ago, Dublin County Council said that route A should not be chosen and selected route B. The then Minister for the Environment instructed the county council to reconsider route A and to conduct an environmental impact study on that route. The issue has now come full circle in that the motorway scheme is proposed at route A. Residents' associations stated at the inquiry that they did not want route A but that route was selected by the county council five years ago. The decision now rests with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. In the absence of an independent appeals system, is it right that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, or his Department, who originally ordained that the route should be route A, should be the final arbiter?
A second issue which will arise relates to noise pollution. This State does not have an official noise standard. The 68 decibel UK standard is being used by the Department. The case was made to the inquiry that it is not the appropriate standard for this country because tolerance to noise is likely to be less in a country which does not have as much experience of traffic noise as our neighbour. Does the Minister intend to introduce a lower standard since he has not yet made the regulations?
Householders along the proposed route of the motorway have argued consistently that they should be provided with double glazing in order to reduce the impact of noise. Will the Minister, who is the paymaster for this scheme, be in a position to decide objectively on the type of noise abatement measures that should be taken? The same issue will arise in relation to the provision of pedestrian bridges, small reroutings that will have to be done on some of the adjoining roads, junctions and so on.
All of the issues which arose in the context of the motorway inquiry will go back to the Minister who initiated the scheme, set certain guidelines for it and appointed the National Roads Authority which is charged with responsibility for developing our primary road network he is the paymaster. By virtue of his or her competing functions, and this is not a reflection on the integrity of the individuals holding the office, no Minister for the Environment is in a position to objectively adjudicate on the final form of a motorway scheme, particularly in circumstances where the Bill before us will effectively abolish the right of the public to go to the courts for a judicial review, except in very limited circumstances.
There is a compelling case for putting in place an independent appeals system in relation to road developments. If the Office of Public Works has to apply for planning permission to erect something on top of a mountain, or if the Department of Justice wants to build a new Garda station or the Department of Defence an Army barracks, they must go through the planning process. What is so precious about the road network, some of which, including motorway and major road schemes, has an enormous impact on local areas, that there is no equivalent of the appeals system? There is no due process in the real sense for the public in relation to a motorway scheme. The current process which involves the scheme being proposed in a local authority, then sent to the Minister, followed by the holding of a public inquiry — all of which goes back to the Minister for a final decision — is not due process. It is not fair or independent and it ought to be replaced with an independent appeals system.
Unless an independent appeals system is put in place which will allow the public a fair hearing, as they have with An Bord Pleanála and the Environmental Protection Agency, I will oppose section 5 of the Bill which denies public access to the courts, restricts public rights in relation to roads and motorway schemes and is profoundly undemocratic.
I am glad to have the opportunity to make a short contribution on this legislation. The primary purpose of the Bill is to clarify the power of road authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land for the construction and maintenance of road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993. That Act was important legislation which merited detailed consideration in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The addition of this legislation will enhance that Act.
The further development of our economy and the creation of employment is dependent on an adequate transport network. Since 1989, substantial progress has been achieved with the national primary network. I welcome the commencement in my own constituency of the £13 million Cavan by-pass project which will be of major significance to the economy of County Cavan and to the entire north-east and north west region. If we are to attract inward investment and export products a modern national primary route is essential. The elimination of traffic delays is essential if firms based in the regions are to remain competitive.
I and the other public representatives in Cavan-Monaghan are very appreciative of Minister Dempsey's support for the Cavan by-pass project and his help in ensuring that substantial funding was provided for this project in 1998. I remind the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, and his officials, that other sections of the N3 need substantial upgrading and I hope the Department and the National Roads Authority will advance those proposals. From Butlersbridge to Belturbet and further west of Belturbet, the road network is not adequate to cater for heavy volumes of traffic.
The N3 is of particular significance in the context of North-South development. The blowing up of Aughalane Bridge outside Belturbet in 1972 resulted in the N3, the main Dublin-Donegal national primary road, ending in a cul-de-sac. Huge problems were experienced by the communities of west Cavan and south Fermanagh because of the severing of that main artery. I am sure Deputy Barrett, former Minister for Defence, will be aware of the difficulties experienced by local communities in going about their daily work and social activities. Many farmers in Cavan and Fermanagh had to travel 20 or 25 miles to do simple tasks on their farms. Thankfully, work has commenced on rebuilding that bridge and building a new road from Belturbet to the bridge.
That project will be of major significance for Fermanagh and Cavan. Many Government Departments and officials, as well as public representatives in the constituency, have been to the fore in pushing for advancement of the project and we are glad construction is under way. The project will be completed in November and I hope at that time a just and lasting settlement to our political difficulties will have been achieved. As a person from the immediate area, I am aware that local communities on both sides of the Border will cherish the day when traffic will be able to drive once again across Woodford river.
Last week at a sub-committee meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body there were detailed discussions on the need to improve the road and rail network on this island. We met deputations from various interest groups and State agencies. I pointed out to them the need to provide an adequate North-South road network, from the centre of south Ulster to the midlands. The road network from Ballygawley to Monaghan, Enniskillen, Cavan, Granard, Edgewardstown and Athlone, through the midlands is inadequate to cater for the substantial volumes of traffic using it. I hope, with greater economic co-operation and further development of the economy North and South, that road will carry more and heavier traffic.
It is incumbent on the Department in its long-term planning, in conjunction with the National Roads Authority, to lay the ground work for developing a national primary route that will cater for the needs of south Tyrone, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Cavan and into the province of Leinster. I hope the Government has the foresight to put in place proper infrastructure. I am confident there will be great development of the economy in that part of the country as a result of the peace process and the settlement which, I hope, will be put in place this year.
On numerous occasions in this House I spoke at length about the need to improve the regional and county road network. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I, as well as other public representatives have used every opportunity to highlight the difficulties facing counties such as Cavan and Monaghan, which have a small mileage of national primary roads and a huge mileage of regional and country roads. Both counties face serious road problems. We welcome the Minister's increased allocation for road funding this year, but when that is used, unfortunately, there will still be a substantial mileage of road in both counties in an appalling state.
Many people going about their daily work and social activities experience great difficulties in travelling on roads that are practically impassable. Roads should be maintained to a proper standard. I appeal to the Minister and his officials to provide an increased level of funding each year to ensure roads, particularly in rural areas, are in good condition so that employment will be maintained and generated in those areas. A basic requirement to attract industry and encourage existing industry to expand is an adequate transport network.
The recent National Economic and Social Council report instanced County Cavan as facing particular difficulties because of lack of a proper road network. Southern Border counties have suffered immeasurable damage for the past 27 years because of the political difficulties in the province of Ulster. Year after year we were told by Governments and State agencies that it was difficult to attract inward investment to southern Border counties since a bad image was portrayed of that region because of the political difficulties. I hope the era of violence is behind us. Inward investment is needed for employment creation. Fortunately, a great number of jobs have been created in recent years by inward investment, but unfortunately none of them has come to the Cavan-Monaghan area or to the Border region in general. If we are to attract inward investment proper infrastructure, an essential part of which is the road network, must be in place. The main industries in Cavan and Monaghan are centred on regional roads which are unable to carry traffic at a desirable speed to get products to airports and ports in good time and at minimum cost.
I welcome the Bill as it will enhance the legislation enacted in 1993. I ask the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, the Minister of State, Department officials and the National Roads Authority to give favourable and urgent consideration to developing a national primary route from south Ulster to Leinster through the midlands. The Minister should ensure that the needs of counties such as Cavan and Monaghan, where extra investment in roads is needed, are given particular attention.
I wish to use this occasion to follow on the points made by my colleague in the constituency, Deputy Gilmore, concerning the proposed south-eastern motorway. I ask the Minister to comment on the weakness in the planning area regarding building major roads. As the Minister is aware from his days as a member of a local authority, each local authority is obliged to draw up a development plan. The development plan is gospel in that any subsequent decisions taken by the executive or the officials must be in accordance with the development plan. While decisions may be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, that body is not legally obliged to adhere to a development plan. An Bord Pleanála seldom, if ever, grants planning permission where a development plan indicates that land is not zoned for that purpose.
On the question of major roads, Deputy Gilmore referred to the southeastern motorway. The initial report presented to the county council some years ago indicated that the road now proposed was not the most suitable. There was no mention in the development plan for the county that the road to be constructed would be the line now proposed for the motorway. How do we explain this to our electors?
In areas such as Leopardstown, Ballyogan and The Gallops house prices are at a premium and many young couples have struggled hard to purchase their homes. However, it is now proposed that a major motorway will be constructed at the back of their houses although it was not indicated on any development plan. This is contrary to the principle of development plans, which are meant to indicate to the public projections made by the local authority over a five year period. If somebody buys a house in a housing estate on the basis that a proposed road is to be constructed elsewhere but then finds it has been shifted if makes a joke of the planning process.
There is now a huge democratic deficit in this area because elected local representatives have effectively no say in these matters. The Minister should consider tightening up provisions before Committee Stage. He should provide guarantees and assurances to the public that major developments, such as new roads, housing or industries, will be clearly indicated to ensure that those purchasing properties or developing businesses will know of planned roads in advance. Nobody, the NRA, the Minister or the local authority, should have the right to change planned new roads when due notice was not given to those who purchased properties in the area.
Leopardstown racecourse is the last remaining race track in Dublin and renowned throughout Europe. It is of great advantage to the Dublin region and the country in terms of encouraging tourism and holds major racing events. Yet, it is now proposed to construct a major motorway through the six furlong track, which will destroy the environment and take away areas where parking is needed. The dislocation will be enormous and I hate to think of the cost of compensation.
There was a public outcry when developments of this kind were proposed for other areas. When the public becomes fully aware of what is proposed for Leopardstown there will rightly be an outcry because the land in the area and it natural beauty are irreplaceable. There are alternative routes.
Will the Minister of State look at the points that have been made, especially with regard to the need for due notice to the public in respect of major developments in the future? They must be clearly indicated on development plans so that people will not find, having purchased a property, that something which was never intended and not indicated on a development plan happens beside them which will destroy their property, increase noise levels and create other inconveniences. While I accept that road building will inconvenience some, fair play indicates that, at a minimum, we should insist that development projects be clearly indicated on a development plan.
I thank Deputies for their contributions. Although short, the Bill addresses a number of important matters. The Roads Act, 1993, is the legislative foundation for much of the infrastructural work being undertaken to meet the economic and social aspirations of the people. It is important, therefore, that when difficulties arise with the operation of the legislation, they are brought to this House for consideration and appropriate action. That is what this Bill is about.
In responding to the debate I wish to focus on the main issues raised by Deputies. There will be a full opportunity to consider the detail of the Bill on Committee Stage. While I will not have the opportunity here to cover all the points raised, I assure Deputies that all their concerns will be addressed at that Stage.
I welcome the general support for the measures in the Bill. Taken together they will significantly enhance the statutory basis for road development in a way which fully respects the concerns that can arise in relation to the major road infrastructure projects.
I welcome the fact that the main Opposition Party, Fine Gael, supports the measures in the Bill, especially the proposals to clarify and put beyond doubt the powers of local authorities to acquire substratum of land to facilitate the provision and maintenance of road tunnels. This is one of the principal elements in the Bill and, as pointed out by several Deputies, is especially relevant to the proposed Dublin Port tunnel project.
During the debate a range of views were expressed about the proposal being developed by Dublin Corporation and the NRA for the new port access route. Some strongly supported seeking its urgent provision and others reflected the concerns of residents in the vicinity of the route. Deputies Haughey and Callely outlined the concerns of residents in the Marino area. I have no doubt they are genuine and that the residents are entitled to have their viewpoint and objections fully considered before any decision is taken on the port tunnel proposal.
With a view to allaying these concerns I reiterate that the Bill does not authorise the construction of the Dublin Port tunnel. Whether the project goes ahead and in what form will be decided through the statutory motorway scheme and the 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 its environmental impact. A public inquiry will have to be held at which all views can be heard and a report will have to prepared on the inquiry and submitted for decision. The final decision on the proposed port tunnel will, therefore, be made another day and as part of a different process.
On the question of the Dublin Port access route, Deputy Mitchell also raised the need for interim measures to be taken for ever increasing HGV traffic volumes using the port. The Deputy can be assured that the strategy set out in the final report of the DTI envisaged that the main infrastructure projects will be complemented by a range of traffic management measures. I have no doubt that her suggestion for priority measures to facilitate HGV traffic in and out of the port will be fully considered by the local authority, Dublin Corporation and the Dublin transport office.