Priority Questions. - Rail Network.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

82 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the final copy of the report of the strategic rail review; the way in which he will progress the findings of the report; his plans to present the report before Dáil Éireann for debate; and his views on whether a reported recommendation in the report not to proceed in the short-term with additional new rail lines would preclude a decision to advance the proposed new western rail corridor in the lifetime of the Government. [2887/03]

I recently received the strategic rail review from the consultants who carried out the work and I propose bringing it before my Government colleagues for their consideration shortly. Once the Government has had an opportunity to consider the review's findings and recommendations I propose publishing the document. Subject to the usual rules and procedures for allocating appropriate Dáil time to the subject, the findings and recommendations of the review can be discussed in the Dáil.

The problem is that the findings have been discussed in theIrish Independent and the Irish Examiner. One report states that there will not be additional new rail lines and the other report says there will. A major problem in public transport in recent years is that we have had so many reports of plans and progress but so little action. I urge the Minister to be quick in presenting the report to Cabinet and bringing it before the House for proper debate.

Some of the new public transport proposals that it might contain should also be implemented as a matter of urgency. Does the Minister agree that new commuter rail services from Cork to Youghal, Galway to Tuam and Dublin to Navan are the best way forward to curtail the long distance car commuting which has become characteristic of Ireland? Will the Minister ensure that such investment projects are given priority in the lifetime of the Government? What timeframe does this report embody? Does it consider investment proposals that will be enacted within the next five years or will implementation take longer?

I look forward to a full debate on the rail review when it is published shortly. There are many issues in it to be addressed. We are making a substantial investment in the railways, as the Deputy knows from our local area. We are committed to the full development of Luas and the lines from Tallaght and Sandyford should be up and running in 2004.

Some of the report has entered the public arena, but overall it takes a 20 year view of where we should go with the railways, which ones we should prioritise and which are unsuitable for prioritising. It also goes into rail freight in some detail, a thorny but important subject in terms of getting transport off the roads. When the report is published we can have a full debate on it.

The Deputy will recognise that we must identify priorities. We cannot undertake all projects immediately. We will start with the projects that are most efficient and decongest the roads most quickly. That is our priority.

Will the Minister commit to review the transport plans in the national development plan given that the study reviewing public transport is now coming out, three or four years late? We have the roads part of the plan but we do not have the public transport part. If talk were tracks, we would have the best public transport system in the world. I have been involved in this debate for 15 years and we started talking about the Luas 15 years ago but it is still not operational. We need to get away from timeframes of 15 or 20 years for public transport and start implementing plans immediately. Will the Minister review the transport element of the national development plan?

I keep it under review all the time rather than conduct a formal review of it. The NDP runs to 2006. I have acknowledged publicly many times that many of the projects will not be finished by 2006, which means they must run beyond that.

Is there a structure for a mid-term review?

I do not think there is a formal review.

Does the Minister agree it would be an opportunity for the transport plan to be formally reviewed rather than doing it on an informal basis?

The report would be a good opportunity to do that. I will do that.