Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Dec 2006

Vol. 629 No. 4

Private Members’ Business.

Public Transport: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Shortall on Tuesday, 12 December 2006:
That Dáil Éireann,
concerned at the serious traffic problems facing the Greater Dublin Area and the inadequacy of the current public transport system;
conscious that even if the metro and rail proposals contained in Transport 21 are delivered on time, it will be many years before these services become available to the public; and
believing that in those circumstances the Dublin bus service will remain the principal provider of public transport in the city and surrounding areas for many years to come;
calls on the Government to ensure relief for hard pressed commuters by:
the expansion of the Dublin Bus fleet by 50% (500 buses);
the introduction of a flat fare of €1 for adults and 50 cent for children;
the completion of all quality bus corridors and the construction of additional QBCs; and
the construction of a network of park and ride facilities on the outskirts of Dublin with express bus services to central areas.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"—commends this Government's very substantial levels of investment, both capital and current, in the expansion of the transport system in the greater Dublin area over the past ten years and the consequential significant increases in public transport and roads capacity arising therefrom;
the outstanding success of the Luas which will carry over 25 million passengers in 2006;
the doubling of DART capacity and expansion of suburban rail services;
the significant expansion of bus services and supporting quality bus corridors and the delivery of a further batch of 100 extra buses for Dublin Bus by the end of January 2007; and
the opening of Dublin Port tunnel next week which will enable almost two million truck trips annually to access the motorway network directly, in place of passing through the city centre streets and residential areas;
this Government's investment of €34.6 billion in Transport 21, including the unprecedented investment under Transport 21 of almost €13 billion in public transport, which will see:
a 60% increase in bus capacity and a doubling of the quality bus network;
the development of metro north and metro west;
a major expansion of suburban rail services, including the construction of the interconnector; and
a substantial extension of the Luas network;
resulting in an integrated public transport network carrying almost double the current passenger numbers."
—(Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Mr. Gallagher.)

I will be sharing time with Deputies Glennon and Fiona O'Malley.

One can understand why this Private Members' motion has been tabled but we should examine the causes of some of these problems when considering the entire issue. We must accept that the economic progress experienced by the country, especially Dublin, has resulted in a very high number of vehicle registrations. Approximately 120,000 vehicles are now being registered annually. While these vehicles represent a significant contribution to our traffic problems, they are the result of the progress made in our economy and the fact that Irish people have become accustomed to using cars and are not prepared to give up their transport independence, so it will be difficult to persuade them to use public transport.

There has been widespread discussion about the volume of traffic on the M50. When the M50 first opened, it carried 9,000 vehicles per day but it now carries closer to 90,000. It is no wonder, therefore, that problems arise. These problems are being addressed through the ongoing upgrade of the motorway but delays and inconvenience will be inevitable while these roadworks are in progress.

Many would agree that the toll booths on the M50 are not the most effective means of collecting tolls. If we are going to collect tolls, we should consider replacing the present system with barrier free tolling or other mechanisms. The present system allows 600 to 700 vehicles per hour to pass through each lane, whereas a barrier free system would allow up to 1,700. The Government's proposal to buy out the tolls is commendable and even though reform is not coming quickly enough for everybody, the Government cannot be seen to be prepared to throw endless money at National Toll Roads, which will naturally seek the highest price it can.

Next week will see the opening of the port tunnel, a major engineering feat which will divert a large number of heavy vehicles away from the city centre. I hope, however, that people will be tolerant of any teething problems the tunnel may experience when it first opens. If the current volume of heavy vehicles travelling along the quays was diverted elsewhere, significant improvements would result in terms of the free movement of traffic.

A number of additional quality bus corridors have been designated, which is welcome. However, it is not particularly easy to persuade people to make greater use of public transport. The Luas has proven a success, with the numbers of passengers using it increasing on a weekly basis, and I expect the metro will be similarly successful. However, we must accept that despite the improvements being made, many of the existing problems are not due to lack of investment but result from the volume of vehicles on our roads. In that regard, car traffic will move more freely once heavy goods vehicles leave the city centre.

Significant investments have been made in other forms of public transport, including rail, and on the road network. The purchase of new trains and carriages have allowed for a 25% increase in capacity on the Maynooth line, 40% on the Dundalk line and 30% on the Gorey line. Ongoing upgrades on the track between Maynooth and Clonsilla and the 143 new diesel commuter rail cars now in operation will provide for a better service. I will be parochial and say I look forward to seeing new carriages on the Dublin-Sligo line by early next year and the resulting intercity standard of service.

I hope the various groups involved in developing the Dublin transport authority will commit to improving transport in the city. They need to be positive because if they decide to take a negative approach, they will cause enormous problems.

It is welcome that the new docklands station will open in April, four months ahead of schedule. However, if we are to take people out of their cars and put them on public transport, we will have to ensure our public transport system works. The Luas is a good and punctual transport system, which proves that, despite the early critics, it was a sound investment in terms of reducing traffic volumes.

It is regrettable that local authorities in the greater Dublin area did not take up the offer of money to develop park and ride facilities. I appeal to the local authorities concerned to provide sites for park and ride facilities because people will use them. None of us would welcome the fact that public money was left unspent.

There was no ride. Sites were identified but no buses were provided to service them.

They have not taken over the sites.

South Dublin County Council made an application on a site but could not get a licence for a bus service.

We could argue whether the facilities exist but I understand that offers on facilities have not been taken up. If sites are not provided, I do not see how a question could arise with regard to buses. In respect of a number of recent developments around Dublin, planners have erred in deciding not to order the construction of transport infrastructure.

Major investments have been made on the national road network, which is vital to the overall development of the country. Significant progress has been made on the M1, the M4 and the N2 to Ashbourne. However, all of us who live in the north west and Border regions are annoyed by the delays in developing the M3. That road should already be in use. Commuters from the north west and the Border counties are forced into gridlock on a daily basis. I am delighted that the development of the road will proceed. It is regrettable that those who delayed the project have not had to pay the price by having to meet the extra costs which were imposed, such as the extra cost of providing the road.

I am delighted to have an opportunity to respond to the Labour Party's motion on transport in Dublin. It is worthwhile to reflect on what we mean when we talk about public transport in the city. While the phrase "public transport" is most commonly used when talking about buses, trains and now, thankfully, the Luas system, we should bear in mind that there are other categories of public transport. I remember once reading a gossip column on the back page of a Sunday newspaper. The columnist wrote that she had been asked at a function a few days earlier when she had last travelled on public transport. Her response was that she used Aer Lingus quite regularly. Public transport is all-embracing. Air and sea travel can be considered as forms of public transport. There happens to be a major terminus for almost every form of public transport in my constituency. While there is no sea port in the constituency, such a facility will be developed shortly, all going well. Public transport is of considerable importance to the people of Dublin North, not only because they depend on it to get to and from work every day but also because a significant proportion of them work in the transport sector.

I will put this debate in context by reminding the House how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. I will use figures from 1997 for the purposes of comparison, rather than to make a political point. I am taking 1997 as a starting point because I have statistics from that year. A major programme of expenditure on the national rail network — it did not just relate to Dublin — was commenced in 1997. When we look back at it from this juncture, it is remarkable that we had to spend more than £400 million, or €500 million, to make the rail network safe. Everyone accepted at the time that such repairs were needed. I mention such figures to put in context the state our national transport services were in a short time ago. The problems we faced ten years ago resulted from generations of continual non-investment, as opposed to mere under-funding, by Governments of all hues. There was a lack of investment for a very good reason — no money was available. The investment of money to maintain our public transport network was seen as a luxury when compared to more worthwhile projects in other sectors of the economy. It is as simple as that.

One of the great benefits of the arrival of the Celtic tiger — I will not put a date on its arrival because I do not want to politicise it — has been the increase in the level of resources available to develop infrastructure in all sectors of the economy. All one has to do is look around the country to see that the transport sector has got a fair crack of the whip in that regard. As someone who lives on the north side of Dublin, I have been a regular visitor to the North of Ireland for the last 30 years. In years gone by, it was always a pleasure to travel to the North. One could always tell when one had crossed the Border into the North, even if one was asleep in the back of the car, because the road surface there was much better than the road surface in this jurisdiction. That set of circumstances has now been reversed, thankfully. Our Northern visitors look on our road network, particularly the M1, with envy. Similarly, the rail service between Dublin and Belfast is tremendous. One can make the journey in extreme comfort in two hours, with a high rate of punctuality. While we have come a long way, we are by no means there yet. We are playing catch-up in the area of infrastructure, as we are in so many other areas. I hope the current level of funding will remain on-stream for a long time to come and that the recent investment in transport and other areas can be maintained.

A cultural shift is necessary in this regard. When the great success story that is the Luas project was in its planning stages less than ten years ago, nobody thought it was worthwhile to take some considerable care to provide appropriate and adequate park and ride facilities, particularly at outlying Luas stations like Sandyford. Any time I have visited the facility that is provided at the Sandyford terminus, I have observed how utterly inadequate it is. When the facility was being designed, it was considered to be appropriate. It is the only park and ride facility of any size on the Luas network. We are learning as we go along. We are trying to make up for the chronic under-investment or non-investment of years gone by. A statistic that is sometimes used about the railway service is that not one mile of new railway track was laid in Ireland in the 20th century, whereas several hundred miles of railway track were lifted in the same period.

I will continue to be somewhat parochial by speaking about the north side of Dublin. Deputy Ellis referred to the increase of 40% in the capacity of the Dundalk suburban railway line, which is obviously extremely welcome. A further increase of 40% is needed, however. I hope that will be facilitated by the construction of the new railway station in the docklands area. The new station will ease considerably the disproportionate congestion at Connolly Station, which is a major problem for commuters coming into and leaving the city. The docklands station will be of major benefit to the International Financial Services Centre. The forthcoming development of the metro north system to Swords should ease dramatically the difficulties experienced by people on the north side. I urge those who are charged with planning the metro north terminus at Lissenhall to ensure there are adequate park and ride facilities for the projected numbers of metro travellers. That is particularly important in light of my earlier comments about the park and ride facility at the Sandyford Luas terminus. The potential for the development of a bus terminus on the Lissenhall site should be fully explored and exploited. A multi-storey parking facility should be provided there, if necessary, in order that people from the entire north east who travel on the M1 to Swords can continue onwards to the city centre, on the metro or with Dublin Bus via a quality bus corridor. There would be no excuse for repeating the mistake that was made when the Luas system was being developed at Sandyford. If such errors are made again, we will all have egg on our faces, to put it mildly.

While it is expected of us to make some political capital out of the difficulties, if we were all honest with each other, we would realise that mistakes have been made but there has been a massive investment in transport, the benefits of which not only the commuter but the traveller to Dublin from further afield are reaping. The progress that has been made on the individual projects under the unjustifiably maligned Transport 21 bodes well for the future of transport in the city.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on matters of transport because those of us who represent a Dublin constituency are deeply concerned about the level of congestion our constituents meet on a daily basis on the M50 or smaller local roads as a result of traffic works or the introduction of quality bus corridors. I refer in particular to the Rock Road, in my constituency of Blackrock and Booterstown, which causes me great anxiety, and the proposed Mount Merrion Avenue QBC.

I would like to think we could come up with new ideas on dealing with fast transport corridors because there is no doubt that public transport is the only viable alternative for a major city. If we are to address the problems of congestion we are dealing with currently and continue to build on the investment made in Transport 21, we will have to come up with proposals that are a little more imaginative.

I want to refer briefly to the use of bus lanes. Unfortunately, in my constituency, on the extension of the very successful Stillorgan quality bus corridor it was decided to include a 24 hour bus lane beyond Foxrock church. I do not know who is responsible for the decision. I tried to get the council to stop it. Those 24 hour bus lanes should be banned. I do not understand why or where in the country we need a 24 hour bus lane. The day we have 24 hour bus services we might have an argument for 24 hour bus lanes but there is no need for them now.

We must also examine the way the road surface is used and be able to use it to maximum ability. I take issue with what is proposed along Mount Merrion Avenue in my constituency. We must employ systems that work in other countries. It is never necessary to reinvent the wheel but, unfortunately, we constantly feel the need to do this.

Essentially, there are three lanes along Mount Merrion Avenue. It is an old avenue, with a glorious vista down to the sea, and if one stands at the top of it and looks downwards, it typifies our county because it brings one from the mountain to the sea. It is proposed that some of the trees along the avenue might be cut down to allow for a quality bus corridor. The project is being delayed because of the strong opposition to it. A fair amount of negotiation and dealing has been done but we are not quite there yet.

Why can we not employ the road surface in a flexible manner and have transferable lanes? There is space for three lanes but there is not enough space for four. In trying to put a QBC on the road, the trees will have to be cut down and some of the grass verges removed. I do not believe that is necessary, nor do the people who live on the avenue.

I would welcome a system where the use of transferable lanes, using new technologies and so on, is encouraged. That is done in other countries, in particular in Los Angeles. When I made that suggestion, the point was made to me that it would be impossible to police and people would not observe it. People adapt quickly and if they are given guidance it would be very easy for them to do it.

On the use of bus lanes, much of the congestion in the city is construction traffic — lorries bringing rubble to or taking rubble from construction sites. A proposal worth examining is that outside peak times heavy goods vehicles should be allowed use those bus lanes. I accept people might have concerns because, generally speaking, cycle lanes share bus lanes and issues of safety might arise but we could examine that aspect. The heavy goods vehicles that are carrying these loads cause much of the congestion and we should examine ways of trying to alleviate it. Roads are about moving traffic, people and goods and we need to maximise our ability to do that. Studies indicate that construction traffic is at its peak at 1p.m. throughout the city. The use of bus lanes is clearly compatible for HGV construction traffic in particular.

In a proper transport system we need to have integrated ticketing. It is unfortunate we do not; I go back to the point made earlier. We spent a good deal of money and a lot of time on developing an integrated ticketing system. That has been done in hundreds of other countries. I do not understand why it is taking so long to do that here. It is not fair and I am beginning to think it is in somebody's interests not to have the data available to the Department of Transport that will allow it open up a variety of routes. There is not a Member in this House who would not support the expansion of bus licensing.

My view — this is where I share the perspective of Fine Gael — is that while we need additional buses they do not necessarily need to be Dublin Bus buses. I would welcome the introduction of licensing to the private sector. Fine Gael is to be commended on its attitude in that regard but the Labour Party motion is slightly reckless in that it wants 500 additional buses. The problem I would have with that is that, as we all know, Dublin Bus demands a subsidy of €100,000 for each bus it puts on the road.

The lowest in Europe.

That is an immediate cost of €50 million per annum to subsidise those additional buses.

That is tiny by European standards.

That does not represent the best value for the taxpayer.

The Deputy should wise up.

In my short political career, value for money for the taxpayer has always been important to me.

Dream on. Tell that to the residents in Marino.

All Members in this House are united in looking for that but we need to have scrutiny. Allowing the licensing to stay with Dublin Bus at a subsidy of €100,000 per bus per annum does not represent value for money. In another area of public transport, Irish Rail, where competition——

Will the Deputy give way to take a question?

Acting Chairman

She does not have time, Deputy Shortall, as she has only 30 seconds left.

If I am running out of time, I wish to continue.

Is the Deputy aware that the subsidy to Dublin Bus is the lowest in Europe?

Acting Chairman

Please continue, Deputy O'Malley.

Where competition in the public services has worked — Deputy Shortall will be glad to hear me compliment an instance where public competition has worked very well — is in Irish Rail. Irish Rail recognised there was competition from other sectors. It got its act together and as a result, Spencer Dock which under Transport 21 was due to be built by 2009 will open next year. It is heartening to see a public body change its ways by doing this.

It is now getting the money it needs to do it.

Yes, I know; that example shows the good work it can do.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Connolly, Eamon Ryan and Crowe.

Acting Chairman

That is agreed.

I support this important motion on public transport in Dublin. In the two minutes available to me I want to refer specifically to the proposal to expand the Dublin Bus fleet by 50% by introducing an additional 500 buses. I fully support this proposal and reject the Government's amendment which states 100 extra buses at the end of January 2007 will be adequate to meet the needs of those who wish to use public transport in Dublin.

I have been requested by many constituents to draw attention to the Government's failure to provide an acceptable service in at least three areas in a small part of my constituency. The first is the area in which I live, the Ballybough and Summerhill area in Dublin 1 which is served by the No. 123 bus route which starts in Deputy Finian McGrath's constituency in Marino and Fairview——

Hear, hear.

Such is the level of take-up of the service at the Marino end that by the time the bus reaches Ballybough and then Summerhill, it is already full to capacity. This means effectively that a reliable bus service is being denied to the people of Ballybough, Clonliffe and surrounding areas. This causes serious hardship to the community, elderly people in particular. An additional service, specifically for the Ballybough-Clonliffe area, is urgently required.

There is a similar situation along parts of the Navan Road in Dublin 7 where at peak hours in the morning when people are trying to get to work, buses coming from Blanchardstown are already full to capacity. This turns people off and away from using public transport and simply adds to the problem.

A further area in my constituency, East Wall, has never had a reliable bus service largely because it is an isolated docklands community and Dublin Bus simply does not have sufficient buses to provide the necessary service. From these three examples in Dublin city, it is evident that Dublin Bus requires an additional 500 buses as presented in the motion.

I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to speak on the motion which I strongly support because it is important and relevant to the crisis in regard to traffic management and the inadequacy of the public transport system. Before I go into detail, I wish to state that it is amazing and a bit rich for Members — they have brass necks — to come into the House and say we must do this or that we must do that; they are speaking as if they have not been in power for the past nine or ten years. The Government has had nine years to address this problem but nothing has been done. I particularly challenge those backbenchers who spoke about transport policy as if they had just arrived on the planet. The reality is that we need a plan and a vision.

I strongly support what my colleague, Deputy Gregory, said about the need to expand the Dublin Bus fleet by 50%. The No. 123 bus which serves the Marino area fills to capacity very quickly. We need a proper bus service with an adequate number of buses.

I also support the introduction of a flat fare of €1 for adults and 50 cent for children. This is a creative proposal and a sensible idea and its introduction would encourage people to use public transport.

I also challenge the people concerned regarding the spending of public moneys. The Dublin Port tunnel project is €250 million over budget. Some 30 road projects, estimated to cost €932 million, will set everybody back by approximately €2,970 million. Many road projects were 86% over budget. It is important to point out that this represents a waste of taxpayer's money.

With regard to big projects, I am mindful of the concerns expressed by local residents, particularly in Marino, Fairview and Santry. Some 273 homes have been damaged. Cracks are appearing in walls, including kitchen walls, and nobody is saying anything about it. I strongly support the local residents concerned.

I support the Labour Party motion and many of the public transport elements of Transport 21. However, there is no doubt that there is a need for an immediate response because the problem in public transport is of emergency proportions. We need more buses now. The Dublin Bus network review proposed the introduction of 200 new buses earlier this year, but only 100 were introduced following a row between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats during the summer. Worse still, licences for new routes are being issued under the 1932 Act, with 27 issued this year to private operators, on whom there is no obligation to operate an integrated ticketing system, on which the State has spent more than €10 million without any obvious result. They are also not obliged to carry people with bus passes. Every operator will have his or her bus stops, timetables and will decide the fares to be charged and fare increases. By the time competitive tendering is introduced, there will be nothing left for which to tender.

This fragmented approach is not in the interests of the commuter. There are two bus operators in my area and a commuter has to decide to which of the two bus stops he or she should run to catch a bus. That is no way to run a public transport system. The 15% of non-Dublin bus services must be integrated in a way that is in the interests of the commuter.

There is a problem in regard to car parking in the vicinity of every train station or bus terminal. In a sense, this indicates a success story because it is evidence of people's desire to use public transport. More car parking spaces are needed now, not in a few years' time. Such facilities can be provided.

A two tier fare system is in place on rail and bus suburban services. For example, commuters from Kilcock and Sallins, not as long a journey from the city centre as Balbriggan, pay substantially more for the service. An adult fare from Balbriggan to the city centre is €3.60, while an adult fare for the shorter journey from Sallins or Kilcock is €6. A journey with one stop between Hazelhatch and Sallins costs an adult commuter €8. This is the reason more people do not use public transport. A fair pricing system must operate.

With regard to the West Link Bridge toll, the Government collected €8 million in tolls in 2004 and €15 million in 2005. An additional 6,000 additional vehicles will travel on M50 by the end of this month. At this stage, the Government should realise the game is up. Tolls need to be removed now.

I also support the motion. This issue affects us all, even though I live in Monaghan. People from my area can now travel to Dublin in a shorter time. The journey to the airport now only takes one and a half hours because the construction of bypasses has led to improved journey times. If people want to travel south from Monaghan to Wexford, they will encounter traffic, with commuters travelling to and from work in Dublin. A bypass or outer ring road bypassing Dublin further along the route is needed. The payment of tolls also slows up traffic. It does not make sense for people to be caught in traffic for a long period queuing to pay a tax to commute to and from work. One can travel through other cities much quicker owning to the fact that they tend to make better use of flyovers and bypasses than we do.

We could improve the position by establishing a public agency to co-ordinate the operation of trams, trains and buses. The motion also proposes the introduction of additional buses, for which there is a great need in Dublin. Somebody mentioned a figure of €50 million per year. If such a cost resulted in people getting to and from work in a shorter time, it would be taxpayer's money well spent. That is what a good public transport system is about.

A more frequent service is required on bus routes and the service should commence earlier in the morning and continue later at night. We also need a more equitable pricing system. It is not equitable that a worker and a child are required to pay the same fare; a child should pay half the adult fare. That would make sense.

Train stations are a target for criminals. Additional staff should be employed to ensure commuters who travel by train will feel safe, particularly vulnerable commuters travelling late at night.

I waited with bated breath to see how Operation Freeflow would work out but it does not appear to be working well. It does not appear to be the success that it was advertised or intended to be. The aim was certainly laudable, but it has not worked.

However unpalatable it might be, we must look at what has worked in London. A congestion charge was introduced and it appears to be popular with people. We should look at this if we want to free up our cities.

The greatest failure of the Government is in the area of transport and land use planning. It will leave us a legacy of a difficult, impaired quality of life for generations to come. I would not put the Members opposite me who have acted as Ministers in charge of a car park in an empty field at a garden fete. They have proved themselves incompetent, witless, illogical, uninspired, craven to vested interests and, on crucial occasions, corrupt in some of the decisions that they have made to my mind. They have left us with the massive problem that we can see developing every day on our roads.

The reasons for that failure are clear. There has been an absolute lack of investment in public transport. In 2006 we will spend six times more on new roads than on public transport in the capital programme. Even though we have set aside a significant sum of money for public transport next year, I do not believe it will be spent because no rail projects will be developed, such is the poor planning that has taken place. I mentioned corruption because it is part of the problem. If we look at the planning that has accompanied road development, we notice that major stores have been put adjacent to motorways against the best planning advice, which is now causing much of our gridlock problems.

There is also a broader planning failure as the Government starved cities such as Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and elsewhere, which could have been real alternatives to Dublin. These are centres where we could provide public transport and other services to attract development and investment away from the capital city. I pity the next Government that has to undo and repair this damage, as it will have a very difficult task.

I agree with the broad intent of the Labour Party motion, but I disagree with one aspect. I do not believe that park and ride facilities will provide a substantial solution to our problems. It has been proven in many international reports that they do not provide significant capacity, that they cost a great amount in land use and provision and people simply do not use them to the extent required to provide a real solution. The main solution will be in the provision of fixed rail services, which will allow for a fast and high quality public transport system, with the development of the crucial softer modes of walking and cycling. In conjunction with proper planning, these modes of transport can deliver a healthy, vigorous, economically advantaged city.

Bus services provide a crucial interim measure which will help us get through the difficult times this Government's bad planning will cause. We need an emergency plan to provide bus services to try to take people off the road and reduce current congestion, while waiting for the development of long-term rail solutions. That will require flexibility in the running of bus services, which should involve a regulator establishing new bus routes and directing Dublin Bus and private operators to alter services so that more frequent, high quality services can be provided. To do that, we need to provide radical road space for such services to make sure they arrive on time.

I was flabbergasted at the latest ideas of Deputy Fiona O'Malley on how the problem might be solved, when her party has utterly failed in government to do anything about it for the last ten years. It is interesting to look at the manifesto of the Progressive Democrats Party in 2002, which promised a metro and all sorts of rail and bus services by 2007. In five years the party has done nothing. The people should vote on that legacy on transport planning next May, by voting this incompetent Government out of office.

If one does not own a car in Dublin, one's options in employment, shopping, education and social opportunities are severely limited. People will only leave their cars at home if public transport is an attractive alternative. Due to failed transport policies by this and other Governments, owning a car is no longer a luxury but a necessity for many people. The 20% of households without cars are marginalised as a result of Dublin being an extreme example of a car-dependent city. Dublin transport systems are being starved of adequate funding for decades and Dublin is creaking from the pressure, with daily congestion problems and gridlock infuriating commuters.

It took three hours for buses to get from the Ringsend depot to Tallaght on 20 November, a journey that would normally take one hour and 20 minutes. This was due to roadworks being carried out during the day outside the bus depot. No doubt it was more cost effective for the contractor to carry out the work during the busiest time of the day, but what of the cost to the rest of us? Bus drivers and passengers are frustrated and under pressure, stuck in traffic jams while quality bus corridors lie empty in parts of the city. The Dublin Bus fleet has remained constant, with 50 additional buses delivered since 2001. The recently announced decision, after much procrastination, to deliver an extra 100 buses is long overdue. Buses can deliver short-term benefits at low cost.

As has been proven in other cities like Brussels and Zurich, the public transport system can be efficiently run by the public sector. We have only had to look at the private transport initiatives in Britain, which proved disastrous as safety standards were lowered, wages and passenger numbers decreased, fares rose while jobs were lost. According to subsequent cases, lives were also lost in the pursuit of profit. Dublin Bus receives one of the lowest State subsidies in Europe. It receives less than half the subsidies of cities like Stockholm, which has an excellent public transport system. Dublin Bus does not need the failed transport model of privatisation, but appropriate State investment. Through such investment, the quality of life for all of our citizens will be drastically improved by a reliable, safe, efficient, fast, clean and affordable transport system.

I support the proposal of making public transport affordable, as it is an obvious way to attract more people to avail of it. We currently have some of the highest bus and rail fares in Europe, hitting those on low incomes the hardest, as they must rely on that form of transport. Dublin Bus recently requested a 10% fare increase, which is a direct result of the fact that our public bus company is under-funded by the Government. I share the view that we should encourage greater use of public transport. One way to do that is by decreasing fares.

There is a lack of integration in our public transport system, if it could be called a system. In many other European countries, a single ticket allows one to travel by bus, metro and rail. We in this State urgently need integrated ticketing and co-ordinated timetables between our different modes of transport. There also needs to be a direct link between land use, planning and transport provision to ensure that no new large developments are built without transport access.

The Minister of State spoke about the Rail Procurement Agency and the extension of the Luas line in Tallaght, which was welcomed by everyone. However, it will only be a spur off the existing service. The Minister of State failed to mention that this is being funded by local developers. While I have no problem with that, many of the green spaces in south Dublin will be filled in with more and more houses, factories and shops to pay for it.

I support the Labour Party motion as it is an attempt to deal with the problem that exists. Most people who use public transport experience that problem. Instead of matters improving, they are getting worse. The journey from Tallaght was re-routed via Ringsend from the quays, but there is no QBC, which will be introduced in a few months. The Tallaght buses are now coming into town via Pearse Street, one of the most congested parts of the city. It is difficult to go on a bicycle along that street, not to mention a car or a bus. This adds to the frustration of the drivers and those who must travel along that route.

We need more buses. The best way of getting those buses is through the public sector. That means the Government and the taxpayer paying for a better service. The Minister of State indicated that people were increasingly using the service. If it improves, is safe, clean and affordable, people will use it.

I want to share time with Deputies Wall, Lynch and Broughan.

I thank my colleague, Deputy Shortall, on behalf of the Labour Party, for bringing this motion before the House and producing a policy document on bus transport for the greater Dublin area that is simple, practical and the aims of which would be achievable in the short term. It is a proposal that recognises Dublin has spread way beyond the old city boundaries and the reality of daily commuting for tens of thousands of workers. It is a proposal that recognises the need to take urgent action to ease congestion and traffic jams on roads into and within the city and seeks a positive and achievable solution for many now trapped in daily gridlock. It is a proposal that recognises that the workhorse of the public transport system will remain for some time the bus service provided by Bus Átha Cliath and Bus Éireann.

This is a positive, realistic and achievable proposal from the Labour Party and when in government next year we will implement it. We will provide an additional 500 buses for Bus Átha Cliath. The Fianna-Fáil led Government provided 20 extra buses in the last five years. We will extend their operational area to cover a 25-mile circle around Dublin city. This will include areas in my constituency such as Celbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth, Naas and Kilcock and extend to Sallins, Prosperous, Clane and Straffan. It will also extend to south Meath, where our colleague, Councillor Dominic Hannigan, has been campaigning for public transport reform and provision.

The Labour Party proposal on public transport includes a provision in respect of strategically placed park and ride facilities in order that long distance commuters, visitors and shoppers would be able to drive to the outer city ring and get buses from there into the city, leaving their cars in secure locations, while reducing congestion in the city area. The proposal would introduce for the first time a flat rate fare of €1 for a 25-mile journey. This would simplify the present system and remove the anomalies highlighted by Deputy Shortall. In my area it costs nearly twice as much to travel from Dublin to Kilcock as it does from Dublin to Maynooth. The new system would not only be fairer, it would also provide real financial encouragement for commuters to leave their cars behind and take the bus. Not only would the Labour Party proposal provide for 50% more buses and a fare rate that would encourage their use, it would also reduce bus travelling times by completing the quality bus corridors, thereby providing certainty.

The Labour Party has traditionally been and is now the champion of public transport. It believes public transport is a service best provided by the public sector. As a service, it should be efficient, cost effective and attractive. It is not possible to achieve these aims, provide a universal service and make a profit. We should now accept that the aims of being cost effective and profitable are not synonymous. The cost savings from a good universal public transport system would not be seen on the balance sheet of any company. These savings would be seen in the time saved by bus users, the reduction of stress as traffic congestion is eased and the quality of life of road users. Surely, if there had been a three-hour wait on the then equivalent of the M4, it would have been included in the horrors of Dante's Inferno.

All good universal public transport systems are supported by public funds, an investment from which the taxpayer gets a good return. Of course, the private sector can make a profit if it is allowed to cherrypick the best routes. The last time it went universal, however, it went broke and CIE was established in its stead.

I again thank Deputy Shortall for bringing this motion before the House and presenting Labour Party policy on bus transport which would provide for 50% more buses, a flat fare of €1, full length quality bus corridors and park and ride facilities.

I, too, congratulate our colleague, Deputy Shortall, for the document she has put before the House tonight. It is positive in its proposals and realistic as regards the timescale for its implementation. It is, perhaps, unusual to see someone from a rural background addressing the House on Dublin Bus. However, when one has to access the capital on a daily basis or a number of times per week, one knows one is interested in the traffic problems within the city. Obviously, a quality bus service would have this as its basic aim.

Each morning I leave Athy I face a necklace of tail lights. When one arrives at the dual carriageway, however, there are few buses in evidence providing a link between Kildare and the capital. The traffic tails back four or five miles each morning of the working week, from Newlands Cross to Brown's Barn at the entrance to Citywest and the situation appears to be getting worse all the time. I just cannot see any improvement. There is no linkage. As regards Deputy Shortall's proposals, if a park and ride facility was to be introduced in respect of the M50, such an initiative could only improve the circumstances of those trying to reach their place of employment at a reasonable hour. There is a quality bus corridor along the Long Mile Road which has been marked for four months, although I stand to be corrected on this. However, there are signs stating it is not in use, while the traffic jams continue and buses get caught up in the congestion every morning — from the South Circular Road to Clanbrassil Street and Wexford Street. There is no organisation. The Labour Party proposals, if implemented, would result in immediate improvements for commuters.

Because of the lack of effort on the part of the Government to ensure decentralisation of employment from the city, the congestion will continue into the foreseeable future. Unless we really attack the problems as regards quality bus corridors, the provision of extra buses and park and ride facilities, the city will slowly but surely come to a halt. It takes at least an hour any evening to get from Leinster House to the dual carriageway on the Naas Road. It is unbelievable in the modern city Dublin is becoming that the lack of a quality bus service means gridlock and that the quality bus lanes depicted in the document are not available.

I have asked Deputy Shortall about the Imp buses which certainly appeared to deliver a service in the city. However, because of the financial implications for Dublin Bus, they seem to have been gradually removed from the system and they have not been replaced by a modern fleet that might make a difference. No new buses have been introduced. There is, therefore, no incentive on offer to use the public transport system. That is one of the problems. However, the document sets out to do this. As such, I strongly support the initiative proposed by Deputy Shortall. I hope that when in government the Labour Party will ensure its proposals are implemented.

I also commend my colleague, Deputy Shortall, on her excellent Labour Party policy document, Getting Dublin Moving, and tabling the motion before the House. If the measures proposed were implemented, they would play a major role in combating the ever increasing congestion on our city streets and, in a matter in which I am also interested, helping to reduce our energy consumption and carbon emissions. A well funded, cheap and reliable public transport network would be a key foundation stone of any low or zero carbon economy and society.

In recent decades the public transport system has been starved of necessary funding by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Ministers. Effectively, Transport 21 is pie in the sky and provides no solace for harassed and angry commuters in the short to medium term. They will face a daily nightmarish trek in getting to and from work. I hope metro north will arrive on time in 2012. The linkage of the green and red Luas lines should also occur at approximately the same time. Even Blanchardstown and west Dublin may receive a much needed DART system. However, what will happen to commuters in this gridlocked city in the intervening years? Deputy Shortall's solution, namely, the provision of 500 buses and a €1 fare, appears to be the only feasible one to get people out of cars in the short to medium term.

Many residents on the western side of my constituency of Dublin North-East are bitterly disappointed by the metro north decision. As the Ceann Comhairle is aware, there was intense competition in the consultation process between proponents of the three possible routes. The proposed eastern route ran through Whitehall, Coolock and Clonshaugh; the central route ran through Glasnevin and Ballymun, while the western route ran through Finglas. Strong arguments were made for all three routes and I congratulate the people of Ballymun, their residents associations and representative bodies, for convincing the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, to formally propose the central route as the preferred option. Of course, I also congratulate Deputy Shortall as their representative.

Metro north will be a terrific asset to all the districts and communities along its route, including Drumcondra, Glasnevin, Dublin City University, Ballymun, west Santry, Northwood, Nevinstown and Swords. However, this means the greater Coolock district does not and will not have a fixed line transport system. Consequently, I again call on the RPA to return to the Dublin Transportation Office strategy to 2016, A Platform for Change, which includes the provision of a Luas line that would run across the top of what has become, to an increasing extent, a major new region of the city. It stretches from the eastern side of my constituency to the western side of the constituency of Dublin North-West. Many enormous developments are under way, particularly at Northside Shopping Centre, and it seems incredible to construct a major new urban centre without having a fixed rail link. I again call on the Railway Procurement Agency's chairman, Mr. Padraic White, to immediately resurrect the Coolock Luas proposal.

I have received many complaints in recent months regarding gross overcrowding on the DART line that runs through my constituency and the health and safety issues involved when passengers are stuffed like sardines into trains at rush hour. While the commencement of work on the Malahide to Greystones link was welcomed, the upshot was the Dublin North-East constituency lost approximately 18 trains, nine in the morning and nine in the afternoon. I have called and again call on the CIE chairman, Dr. John Lynch, to ensure he will try to increase the availability of rolling stock on the Donaghmede to Howth lines.

I also warmly welcomed the DASH project, under which stations were upgraded. Seven or eight years ago I called on the former Minister for Public Enterprise, Senator O'Rourke, to try to provide the north side of Dublin with railway stations constructed to the same finish as those on the south side. At long last the DASH project followed through in this regard. However, much unfinished business remains, particularly regarding Bayside station, in which a major drain was burst asunder by DASH project workers. Despite campaigning for two years via endless e-mails, telephone calls and attempts to contact CIE management, it still has not been repaired. In addition, park and ride facilities are required at Raheny and Donaghmede stations. An opportunity arose to create such facilities, which would have been highly beneficial for the entire DART network. However, once again, CIE, Iarnród Éireann, Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council signally failed to pursue the matter.

The Ceann Comhairle will have heard me discuss the northern fringe many times. It is a new city of perhaps 20,000 to 25,000 housing units, a key element of which should be a new railway station which is already two or three years behind schedule. It is a key piece of infrastructure for the northern fringe. I again call on the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, to try to ensure a new DART station will be secured for the new Clongriffin town centre with its growing population. Incidentally, a new bus route has been promised for the area, with buses to be provided from the 100 new buses. However, while the DART line is already in situ, there is no station. If a new city is to be developed, key pieces of infrastructure are essential.

I commend Deputy Shortall on an extremely well thought out proposal for the intervening years up to 2012 or thereabouts. I also congratulate her for bringing it before the public.

In common with my Labour Party colleagues, I congratulate Deputy Shortall. It seems incredible that Members should be obliged to devote so much time to something which should be an asset, namely, transport and how one can travel from point A to point B. This has become the bane of people's lives. How can one get to work or the shops or visit relatives? It has become an impossible task.

While the motion under discussion is flagged clearly as one to deal with transport problems in Dublin, I wish to talk briefly about three areas in my constituency of Cork North-Central. For instance, Glanmire is one of the fastest growing areas outside of Dublin and now has a population of 30,000. The community is mixed, as originally it was an old community but has become a community of young commuters. While it has a growing youth population, the only bus service available to it is one that originally serviced and still services a rural area. Although I would love to be in a position to discuss light rail, Cork is not at that point. If one is lucky, the bus comes once an hour. To ensure one gets onto the bus at the morning peak times, one must be driven one mile down the road to meet the bus. Even if one manages eventually to get a seat or simply get on the bus, as most people must stand, it will not reach the Cork Institute of Technology, one of the third level institutions, in time for lectures. This is incredible.

In the Cork North-Central district of Farranree the established bus service has been cut back so badly that one could be obliged to wait for anything up to one and a quarter hours for a bus. While Farranree had a regular bus service, it has been so deprived of money that it is now worse than it has ever been in the lifetime of that community. Any new buses that come on stream replace buses that have become so clapped out that they now constitute a health hazard.

I refer to Watergrasshill which is slightly outside my constituency and which has become a victim of a bypass. Originally it was served by a bypass, namely, the Watergrasshill bypass, which worked well. However, the Government decided to toll the road which has now become the Fermoy bypass. In so doing, to ensure the road tollers would have sufficient traffic to make it financially viable, the Government handed over the Watergrasshill bypass to those who now own the toll road. This has ensured traffic that does not wish to use the toll road now comes thundering through Watergrasshill.

I visited Watergrasshill last week. It is a small rural village with only one street. One can no longer hold a conversation at the side of the road because of the volume of noise and trucks thundering through the village. This is a consequence of putting in place a toll road that effectively has split a community in two and has made the village unsafe for people to walk in. It is a beautiful village but the residents' entire lifestyle has been taken away as a result of a toll road. They wish to meet the Minister, as they believe him to be singularly responsible for this state of affairs. They wish to do so after Christmas and he should accede to their request.

Last night the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, outlined the measures taken since 1997 to improve the transport system in the Dublin area and the measures planned under Transport 21. Some Opposition Deputies claimed, however, that nothing was being done to address transport needs, although they acknowledged Transport 21 as the way forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the larger rail based Transport 21 projects will take time to implement, but in the meantime many other public transport upgrade projects will be implemented, while progress on the roads programme will be maintained. Tonight, therefore, I propose to set out in more detail the measures being taken which will be funded in 2007 from the record capital provision of €2.2 billion in the Estimates for the transport sector. This will, inter alia, fund a range of major projects in the Dublin area.

Work will be completed around March on the Docklands station. This will improve services on the Maynooth line and enable in due course the provision of services to Dunboyne and Navan. Work will commence on the four-tracking — quadrupling — of the Kildare line to Hazelhatch. This will enable the separation of long distance Intercity trains and commuter trains to substantially increase the capacity of the lines terminating at Heuston Station. The completion of the Kildare route project in 2010 will see peak hour passenger capacity rise from 2,000 in 2005 to 5,300 in 2010 and 9,300 in 2016.

It was supposed to be finished in 2004.

Work will commence on upgrading the signalling system in the city centre area. This will increase capacity in the critical city centre area, between Connolly and Pearse Stations, through the upgrading of signalling systems so as to accommodate 16 trains per hour in each direction, instead of the current capacity of 12 trains in each direction per hour. DART services, as well as Northern and Maynooth commuter services, will benefit.

Additional car parking spaces will be provided at various locations throughout the network, including Leixlip Louisabridge where work has begun.

It has been ongoing for seven years.

A programme of car park expansions is being finalised by larnród Éireann and will provide the basis for a programme of car park extensions in the Dublin area and throughout the country. Major projects such as the Kildare route project also include the provision of increased car parking spaces at new stations.

Funding will be provided in 2007 for the purchase of additional and replacement buses by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. All of the 100 additional buses being purchased by Dublin Bus will enter into service in the early part of 2007. Some of the 160 new buses to be purchased by Bus Éireann in 2007 will be deployed in the Dublin area. There will also, as outlined last night, be further major investment in bus priority and traffic management measures, with priority being given to pinch points that are reducing bus speeds.

In addition, planning and design work on the Clonsilla-Dunboyne rail link and the interconnector and electrification project will continue. The position on the Clonsilla-Dunboyne project is that larnród Éireann has been given approval to begin detailed design work and bring the project to railway order stage. It is expected that the company will submit its railway order application in mid-2007. Iarnród Éireann and Meath County Council have developed terms of reference for a scoping study for phase 2, the extension to Navan, work on which is also to commence in 2007.

Much of the discussion last night focused on bus services. Buses are and will remain the workhorse of the public transport system in Dublin. They are carrying nearly 150 million passengers per annum, an increase from 137 million in 1997. Quality bus corridors, QBCs, have assisted in this growth. According to DTO data, the number of bus passengers on QBCs increased by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2004. Recent DTO reports indicate that bus and other forms of public transport account for around 21% of work trips in the Dublin area compared to about 55% for cars and about 13% for walking, with cycling and mixed modes accounting for the balance. The Government is committed and providing the capital and current funding to extend and upgrade bus services.

Concerns were expressed by some Deputies about the impact of major projects such as the M50 upgrade on traffic flows. I appreciate these concerns but it must also be acknowledged that good efforts are being made to minimise these impacts and that the experience gained from other projects successfully delivered in live traffic conditions such as the Naas Road upgrade has helped the NRA and its contractors to ensure major necessary improvement projects can be undertaken on roads that are in use while maintaining traffic flow.

The Railway Procurement Agency is making good progress on the roll-out of the Luas and metro projects provided for in Transport 21. Projects for early delivery include the extension of the trams on the Luas red — Tallaght — line from 30 to 40 metres which will provide an additional 40% capacity. The first 40 metre trams will be delivered early in 2007 and all tram extensions will be completed by 2008. Additional trams will be purchased to increase capacity on both Luas lines.

It is important to demonstrate to the House that Transport 21 contains short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions, all of which will transform completely the travelling public's experience, both in Dublin and throughout the country, on a myriad of transport modes.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Upton and Shortall.

I welcome the fact that Deputy Shortall brought forward this motion. Policy on transport is a little like that on health, in respect of which people have reached a stage of hopelessness and a feeling that as nothing can be done, nothing will be done.

They will not get into office with that old rubbish.

The Minister has had his say and should let me have mine.

The Minister should allow Deputy McManus to continue without interruption.

It is regrettable that the Minister is simply reiterating points made in the past, when the idea behind the motion is to bring forward immediate realistic measures that could prove to be effective in their simplicity — 500 more buses, a flat €1 fare, the opening up of QBCs and providing park and ride facilities. It is regrettable that he does not seem to be listening. It is important to point out that these are measures which could be taken immediately, but they are also in line with a basic principle that should underline transport policy that we should aim to make every journey safer, quicker and cheaper than by car on which as we all know from experience we are over-reliant.

Sometimes the lesson is learned painfully that we must do things differently. I cite the example of an event which occurred on 22 November which affected County Wicklow, in particular, but also those dependent on the M50 to get home in the evening. It is reckoned that 40,000 were affected by the unprecedented gridlock. It was unsafe having so many people, some of whom were accompanied by young children, stuck in a queue trying to get home for up to seven hours. Among them were people who were sick, elderly persons and people with diabetes. They were stuck in a way that nobody in a modern society should ever expect to experience. It does not seem to set off alarm bells with the Government, but then there is an air of complacency about it, at which I suppose we should not be surprised.

I wrote to the Dublin City Council manager asking for an independent review of what had gone wrong. Of course, I did not get this, but I received an in-house response in which the city manager made some interesting points. The cause of the emergency, the burst waterpipe, was known 24 hours before work began but the council decided not to work at night-time for health and safety reasons. That is incredible. There was nothing more unsafe than what happened. Given that modern machinery incorporate lights, it does not make that one could not have done this work at night-time.

Communication between the two local authorities involved was by email. There was poor communication and even worse traffic management. A contraflow system should have been put in place, but that did not happen.

That is a matter for the local authorities. The Deputy should not come in here and blame me for it.

Minister, you can act as Pontius Pilate all you like——

I am not being Pontius Pilate.

——but that is part of the problem.

Please allow Deputy McManus continue. I ask the Deputy to address her remarks through the Chair.

I agree with what she is saying.

It will take a long time, beyond the next general election, and, I hope, a change of Government for those in Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats to finally figure out that it is a matter, not just of spending money and publishing major reports with many diagrams of Luas lines but of better management to ensure simple measures are taken to make a difference. That is the virtue of the proposal in the Labour Party motion.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate and congratulate my colleague, Deputy Shortall, for proposing the motion.

I want to pick up on the final straightforward point made by Deputy McManus on the need for joined up thinking between the local authorities and public transport services. A consultant's report was commissioned to examine the transport problems and daily gridlock in the Terenure area. Terenure is in my constituency and has an overlap between two local authorities. That consultant's report is gathering dust somewhere and there has been no movement whatsoever on it.

We need more buses to alleviate the frustration drivers feel whenever they are stuck in traffic beside an empty bus lane. More buses are what we need to convince drivers they will be better off leaving their cars at home. We need 500 more buses and we need them immediately. We need buses which disabled people can use. While I realise such buses are slowly being rolled out, I receive regular complaints about the lack of such a facility. We need buses which sell and accept Luas, DART and Iarnród Éireann tickets.

We need buses which arrive on time. We need timetables that indicate when a bus is supposed to arrive at a bus stop, not when it is supposed to have left the terminus. We need real-time information at bus stops, like that on the Luas, telling users when the next bus will arrive. The number of buses which do not arrive on time, or at all, in my constituency seems to be as bad as it was 20 years ago.

In 1854 omnibuses left Terenure every half hour and by 1857 there was one every 15 minutes. Today, according to a Dublin Bus timetable, rush hour is the only time when there are four 15A buses per hour travelling from Terenure into town. Those buses end up in gridlock because of the lack of QBCs, or incomplete QBCs, that afford priority to buses. When one adds the uncertainty that the bus one is waiting for might have left the terminus early, or may not have left it at all, one is left with the conclusion that our bus service is no better than it was more than 100 years ago.

The Luas runs through a significant part of my constituency and is a very welcome innovation. It is reliable and the commuter actually knows when the next one is due to arrive. However, we need Luas trams which are not so full that four or five can pass during rush hour before one can, by pushing and shoving, somehow manoeuvre oneself into the carriage. I have had two complaints in the last week from constituents who had to allow three trams go by because they were so overcrowded.

We need a fairer fare system. As Deputy Shortall has already suggested, we need a €1 fare which allows one to travel anywhere in Dublin. We also need park and ride facilities that will allow motorists the facility to leave their cars in a secure location, sufficiently far from the city centre to avoid more congestion.

Transport 21 delivered only 17 new buses in 2005 and 15 this year and, in both cases, the buses were not operational until November or December. The same Transport 21 seems to have overlooked large segments of my constituency — there are no plans for Luas or metro for the Terenure, Kimmage, Harold's Cross or Walkinstown areas. When one looks at the map setting out the plans for transport, there is a gap in my constituency that, a constituent remarked, looks like the Phoenix Park. I recently asked a question about this, and the Minister assured me that buses were the way to go in this area. However, when I asked him about the number of buses, he told me that it was nothing to do with him and was solely a matter for Dublin Bus.

The Deputies are very critical. I thought they were supporters of the State bus company. This is a rant against the company for failing to do its job properly.

Please allow Deputy Upton to continue without interruption.

I am a supporter.

I will quote this back to the Deputy in the future.

The Minister will then be in Opposition.

I will be long retired from this House before the Deputy's party is in Government.

That is an example of the Minister's arrogance.

It is just a statement of fact. The Deputy should not worry about it.

We are great supporters of Dublin Bus. However, it is of little use if there are not enough buses, we do not know when they are due, where they are going or at what time they leave their terminus. While we support Dublin Bus, we are seeking an efficient service and a reasonable fare.

Dublin needs to get cars off its streets but it is pointless to blame motorists for taking their cars when there is no reliable, accessible and reasonably priced public transport alternative. Until that is available, all of us — commuters, businesses and tourists — will continue to suffer the consequences and the daily grind of gridlock.

I thank all Members who participated in this debate. It is an important issue and it is clear from the emotive nature of the contributions by Members on all sides of the House that transport is a burning issue across the greater Dublin area. It is the one issue that affects more people than any other because traffic congestion and inadequate transport services affect the lives of most people living in the greater Dublin area on a daily basis. Whether it is getting to and from work, going shopping or visiting family, travelling from A to B is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

The complete absence of any co-ordinated Government strategy on land use and transport has resulted in housing development being entirely developer-led. More and more families have been forced out to the towns and villages of Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and further afield in order to find affordable housing. However, in many cases they discover there are no transport or inadequate transport services available. Therefore, more people are being forced to commute by car over longer distances on increasingly gridlocked roads.

People are paying dearly for the Government's failure in transport. They are paying through their pockets with ever escalating commuting costs. More importantly, because of the Government's failure, people are paying high personal costs in terms of longer working days, lost family time, lost leisure time, higher stress levels and undoubtedly a poorer quality of life. The business community estimates that congestion is costing the economy some €2 billion annually and business interests have said that it is getting to the point where it is impossible to do business properly within the Dublin area.

In recent weeks we witnessed the catastrophic consequences of relatively minor traffic incidents, namely, the roadworks on the N11 referred to by Deputy McManus, and a single overturned car on the M50. Each of these incidents brought traffic across Dublin to a standstill. This kind of disruption is going to become increasingly common unless action is taken in the short-term.

The response of the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues has been to announce the grand plan, Transport 21. The vast bulk of the €34 billion allocated is being spent on road projects, even though we know roads are not the solution to transport in the greater Dublin area. The balance of the money is predominantly for rail projects. We do not argue with the Minister on the latter as there is a need for all those projects. However, we are long past time for starting an underground metro system that has been talked about for 20 or 30 years. It is time work started on such projects.

We support the extension of Luas. We support the additional rail capacity that is planned. We recognise that those decisions have finally been taken. They should have been taken eight or nine years ago. However, we recognise, just as the Minister should, that in terms of bringing relief across the greater Dublin area we will not see return on those decisions for many years, even if they are brought to fruition. The Minister will forgive us for being sceptical. One need only look at what happened to Platform for Change. This was another grand plan and great promises were made, but it was not delivered.

Even if the Transport 21 proposals are delivered on time, we will not see any relief for the next five to ten years. We will continue to have an emergency for five, six or seven years unless action is taken. The difficulty arises from the fact that the Minister does not seem to appreciate the need for immediate emergency action. What is happening on a daily basis in the greater Dublin area cannot be allowed to continue and the Minister must do something about it.

In proposing the motion before the House, the Labour Party outlines very clear steps that could be taken to bring forward immediate bus-based solutions. It can be done. The Labour Party has produced a plan and calls on the Minister to take it on board. It is a plan for more buses, faster buses and cheaper fares. That is the only sustainable solution to Dublin's gridlock problems for the next five, seven or eight years.

I urge the Minister to take action and I commend the motion to the House.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 58.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl: Deputies Stagg and Kehoe.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.