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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 10 Dec 1998

Vol. 498 No. 3

Ceisteanna — Questions. Priority Questions. - Traffic Management.

Ivan Yates


4 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the public transport initiatives, if any, which have been put in place by the Government to deal with the special traffic relieving measures in the context of the pre-Christmas period; the proposals, if any, to grant temporary licences to private bus operators during any part of the day or night in this regard; if she has received proposals from the Federation of Transport Operators; and, if so, the response she has given to them. [26896/98]

The enhanced Operation Freeflow programme announced in early December includes the provision by Bus Átha Cliath of a number of additional services to cater for the anticipated demand over the Christmas period.

The Nitelink bus service will operate daily, except Sundays, from Monday, 7 December until Saturday, 1 January 1999. Southbound Nitelink routes will now serve St. Stephen's Green and northbound routes will serve O'Connell Street. Departures are hourly commencing at 12.30 a.m. and ending at 3.30 a.m.

Additional off-peak buses will operate at weekends to cater for shopping traffic in the city centre and at suburban locations. Twenty additional buses will operate at morning and evening peak hours for the duration of Operation Freeflow.

Bus Átha Cliath is participating in the pilot park and ride scheme for shoppers. There are park and ride sites at Whitehall Church and RDS Simmonscourt and a dedicated bus service runs between them, operating at 10 minute frequencies. Additional capacity will be provided on Saturday and Sunday DART services between 5 and 20 December. A special three-day rambler ticket for travel on all Dublin Bus services will be available at a cost of £5.50. A special "DART into town-Nitelink home ticket", priced at £3.50, will also be available. Twenty additional inspectors have been recruited by Dublin Bus to improve operational control, adjust services to deal with traffic conditions, reduce congestion at bus stops and control layovers.

The Road Transport Act, 1932, is the legislative basis for the licensing of scheduled bus services. To be considered for a passenger licence an operator is required to submit an official application form, a map, a timetable and various other documents.

In recent weeks, I received an outline proposal from the Federation of Transport Operators that passenger licences be granted to its members for a six-week period to help to relieve traffic congestion over Christmas. This proposal was of a general nature and did not contain any concrete plans nor any individual applications for licences.

I welcome the spirit in which the proposal was made. However, it raised some complex policy issues including the possible exclusive use by private sector operators of one of the corridors normally operated by Dublin Bus.

Consequently, it will not be possible to deal with the matter in the short time before Christmas 1998. I have asked my officials to contact the federation to discuss the general matter in the context of my Department's current review of bus licensing policy.

Is the Minister aware of anecdotes relating to this city at night in recent days and weeks where literally hundreds of people are walking the streets of the city centre round Dame Street, St. Stephen's Green and other places and cannot find a form of conveyance to get home? Would it not be a novel step to totally deregulate the area between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. and allow anyone who wants to run a bus? Would the Minister agree that would be an imaginative step forward?

The Minister announced that the DART was to run at night. However it is not running at night. Has agreement been reached on that.

On a lighter note, I note that the advertising campaign for the Nitelink service has such novel phrases as "do you prefer to be on top" and "the only guaranteed ride at the end of the night is Nitelink". Was the Minister consulted on that campaign?

I was not, but it is novel.

The Minister is tucked up at night.

The Minister did not butt in there.

Until I heard the Deputy, I did not know about it. Advertising acts to intrigue, to attract and to cajole.

I am in favour of it.

The Deputy is in favour of the mechanism in the advertising. That is an interesting sight-line on him. The Deputy asked would it not be an imaginative step to allow private operators to run from 12 midnight to 6 a.m. They put in a general application. We give out about CIE all the time, but it has done much in laying on additional services. The southbound Nitelink service from St. Stephen's Green is new. CIE also introduced several other measures.

In regard to the DART, I made an announcement. What happened was that Deputy John Bruton, speaking on the radio, said he went to see the chief executive officer of CIE and two days later he welcomed the proposal for the DART because it was a proposal he put to the chief executive officer. On another day, on Marian Finucane's radio show, he said he was sorry CIE had not concluded their negotiations with the unions before making their announcement. As of now the information is that it is not proposed that DART services will run at night beyond closing time.

One of the points raised by the unions with CIE was that stations are in locations which are unsafe in that they are behind shrubbery and so on, and there have been many incidents involving DART passengers. There is no proposal to run the DART service at night, but CIE have introduced the interesting "DART in, bus out" service.

People who left this House last night had to wait an hour and a half for a taxi. That is totally unacceptable. Will the Minister consider some novel proposal to deal with the traffic crisis?

It was the Fine Gael Christmas party that kept people late in the House.

Does the Minister think that is satisfactory?

Life is not satisfactory all the time. I strongly wish there was a DART service. Perhaps there will be one in time for the Fianna Fáil party next week.

I hope so. I would not begrudge the Minister a lift home.