Priority Questions

Tourism Promotion

Timmy Dooley

Question:

1. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will give a commitment to engaging with the Web Summit with a view to retaining the event here for 2016 and for future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39534/15]

In light of the decision of the promoters of the Web Summit to move the event from Ireland to Portugal, can the Minister indicate what efforts he and the Government have made since that announcement became public to try to retain that event in Dublin next year? What other contacts has either the Minister had or might other Ministers have had with the promoters of that event?

It is disappointing that the Web Summit has decided to move to Lisbon for the next three years, particularly as it has been such a great success in Dublin and grew so impressively over that time. I am open to engaging with the organisers of the Web Summit with a view to the summit staying in Dublin in the future and they have indicated this is something they wish to consider.  However, the organisers were clear about their intention to leave and that it was a commercial matter for the organisers to consider and upon which to decide.  I wish them the best of luck in the future and of course would be delighted were this event to return to Ireland in the future. In considering how that might happen, my Department will play any role it can to facilitate such a return. It should be noted, however, that Fáilte Ireland continues to work with the international conferencing sector to win events and many other events continue to choose Dublin and Ireland as their host destination. Fáilte Ireland has been directly involved in winning 188 international events to take place here over the next four years. This represents €151 million of confirmed business with more than 110,000 international business tourists. Additionally, Fáilte Ireland currently is competing for more than €150 million of other conferencing business for Dublin alone within the same period.

International sporting events also are targeted by Fáilte Ireland to bring larger numbers of visitors to Ireland. During 2015, some €10 million of sporting business was confirmed and the current pipeline is strong with an estimated value of up to €70 million against confirmed and potential events for Ireland to 2020. This includes the College Football Classic, Boston College versus Georgia Tech, in September, which will bring with it an estimated 15,000 US visitors. We can also look forward to hosting the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2017, as well as staging part of the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championships.

I thank the Minister and while I do not mean for my comments to be taken personally, I am deeply disappointed by the approach taken by various Ministers in response to what can only be described as a tremendous loss to the State. This represents a €100 million loss to the economy next year with the loss of 40,000 people visiting the city, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and spending their money. The only response from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance along the way has been that another conference will be found to fill the slot. This fails to understand and recognise the importance of this event and what it does to the technology sector, to small and medium-sized enterprises trying to get a start and to attracting foreign investment to support such companies. Moreover, to state on behalf of the Government it now is "open to engaging" is somewhat akin to telling somebody one is open to the idea of closing the door after the horse has bolted. The first thing the Government must do is to engage proactively with the promoters but nowhere do I get any sense of urgency from the Government. As for explaining it away by stating it is a commercial matter, it is not a commercial matter. Mr. Cosgrave and others have been clear there are infrastructural and organisational issues which, were they addressed, could have retained the event here.

Thank you, Deputy.

The Minister mentioned Fáilte Ireland but the Government's failure to retain this event has put a monkey on the back of that agency. While Fáilte Ireland is out doing good work in selling to people who do not know much about Ireland as a conference destination, our competitor countries now will be pointing out to those people what happened with one of Ireland's own events. It was one of the most successful and largest conferences in Europe and the world this year-----

I will come back to the Deputy.

-----which Ireland lost.

Deputy, sorry-----

A really proactive approach from the Government is needed. I accept the transport, tourism and sport Department for which the Minister is responsible is not the key Ministry but I believe that were he to take a leap of faith, the Minister could have a meaningful impact on the long-term outcome with regard to bringing it back.

I would never take the Deputy's comments personally and he is making fair and important points. I agree with the Deputy the loss of the event to Dublin is a significant business loss and I always have acknowledged that. Alongside this, however, I will make two points to the Deputy, the first being that one might consider the degree of support the Government and State agencies have provided to this event in recent years. When the event first began in 2010, it had just over 400 attendees whereas last year, more than 22,000 people attended the event. When Government agencies and various Departments were actively involved in supporting this growth, this support was never acknowledged; nor should it be because the Government was supporting an Irish company here that was doing excellent work and employing people. However, I am confident that strong plans were available in respect of all the matters raised by the organisers of the Web Summit regarding transport and the availability of hotel rooms.

I simply respect the fact that the organisers made a commercial decision about the growth of the event and the ability of Dublin to support it in the future. We will be aiming to win that business back.

We will all have a different view about how we got to the position we are in but we need to park that. I do not get the sense from Government that there is a real structured approach to finding a solution. The Web Summit is just over. Yes, the organisers have made a decision but could this decision be changed? There is an offer and they seem to have begun the work with Lisbon but is it too late to convince them that Dublin is the right venue for next year? I do not get the sense from Government that anybody has even sought to ask Mr. Cosgrave or the promoters generally whether there is still an opportunity at the 11th hour to keep the event here. Like many other events, once it goes for one year, the chances are that it will be gone for quite a few.

A structured approach is in place in respect of winning and supporting these events. This is the very structure that has delivered the kind of success I outlined to the Deputy a moment ago. A total of 188 international events will take place in Dublin over the next four years. The National Convention Centre is exceptionally busy, as are other venues throughout the country, with the kind of structures for which the Deputy is calling and which are working in winning business to our country and supporting those events when they arrive here.

The Deputy asked me about next year. Given all the water that has flowed under this particular bridge, I would be surprised if there was to be any change in respect of the location of the event next year. All the relevant Ministers and I, along with our agencies, will work to see if there are other events of a similar nature that could be attracted to Dublin over the coming years. We will then work with the organisers of the Dublin Web Summit to see if there are other activities or events they are organising that could be supported in Dublin while putting a proposition to them to see if the larger event can be won back to our capital city.

National Car Test

Dessie Ellis

Question:

2. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to investigate the efficiency and effectiveness of the current national car test system and the operation of that system given the high failure rates, the long waiting lists for motorists to have their cars tested, and the regular need for retesting of cars over minor issues. [39558/15]

What are the Minister's plans to investigate the efficiency and effectiveness of the NCT system and the operator of that system given high failure rates, long waiting lists for motorists to have their cars tested and the regular need for retesting of cars over minor issues.

The Road Safety Authority, RSA, has statutory responsibility for the delivery of the NCT. The contract the RSA has in place with Applus+ to carry out the NCT requires that specific standards in a number of areas be met, including customer waiting times, customer satisfaction and test integrity. I understand this contract sets out specific penalties for not meeting performance requirements which the RSA continually monitors.

Both the testing system and vehicle inspectors are subject to a stringent audit system.  All test centres frequently receive unannounced visits and vehicle inspectors are observed undertaking tests and check tests, which involve vehicles just tested being immediately re-inspected. These show that over 99% of tests are correctly assessed.

The NCTS is currently providing a seven-day-a-week service with late openings at least three days a week to 10 p.m. at all centres. Twenty-four hour testing is provided at Northpoint and Deansgrange centres in Dublin. A third shift is in place at Enniscorthy, Ballina, Galway, Kells and Drogheda which provides testing from 7 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. four days per week.

I am informed that the average waiting time for a full test during October was 9.25 days. Retests requiring the use of test equipment are facilitated within three days and visual retests are available without appointment.  There is currently no backlog at the NCTS.

The NCTS is planning to increase testing facilities further with the provision of new test centres at a number of locations due to come into operation in the first half of 2016.  A total of 588 vehicle inspectors are employed and a further 26 will be available at the start of next year, the highest total number in the history of the NCT.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Regarding retests, only road safety related fail items require retesting.  The main fail items in 2014 were suspension, tyre condition, brakes, stop lamps and headlamp aim.  These are not minor items and it is in the interest of road safety that such items are working correctly.  Retests not requiring the use of a test lane are provided free of charge and without appointment.

High failure rates and an apparently high number of retests have been brought to my attention. A discrepancy seems to exist in that pass rates are far higher in some areas than in others. Although the Minister says that waiting lists are down to a certain level, it seems that people are booking many months in advance and still have to wait a long time. There is a danger of a fine if their car is stopped or a Garda looks at their car for any reason.

Some incidences of failure involve things like a tester refusing to test a car because it contains dog hairs and a damaged bulb, which can be replaced fairly quickly. When a car is retested, half the rate is charged. Some of the retesting is over the top.

In respect of some of the items that can cause a car to fail the NCT, I would respectfully say to the Deputy that a bulb that is not working, which can in turn cause an indicator or light not to work, is not a minor item. It might feel like one now but as we can see with the nights getting longer and the days getting wetter, having indicators and lamps that work is a very important part of keeping a car prepared and safe. I am sure the Deputy agrees with me on this point.

I dealt with the time involved in testing about a year ago. I am aware that we hear about people who go to book a test and the length of time involved in waiting for that test. Against that, I would say that the average waiting time for such a test is improving at 9.25 days. I hope it gives people the possibility of having their cars tested in a reasonably prompt fashion.

I urge anybody who is due a test next January, February or March to book the test as soon as possible because this matter does develop at this time of the year every year. I remind the House that a person can get their car tested three months early without having to change the date after that. This is another change that has been introduced to try to moderate the demand for these tests, all of which have the objective of trying to make cars and thereby our roads safer.

Sometimes one gets the impression that on occasion cars are failed and owners are forced to come back for revenue reasons. I am not saying that this always happens. I would consider a bulb that is not working to be a serious matter but a person can go from A to B on the way to a test centre and something can happen to cause a bulb not to work. I do not see why the charge should be so high and this is an area where people are being penalised. I dealt with a case where a tester would not entertain the car because there were a few dog hairs in it. This is a bit much and needs to be looked at.

I know we are dealing with a private company and Applus+ has a contract with the RSA but it is a pity that much of this money is not going back into road safety, which is where it should be going.

I have concerns about this process, including the speeding up of the test, which the company says is an efficiency measure but could lead to further health and safety issues.

One of the causes of this is the decision I made over a year ago to include the NCT in the fixed charge system. I did this following advice I received and based on my own judgment that the quality and safety of cars and their roadworthiness continued to be a factor in our roads not being as safe as we would like. The statistics in regard to what has happened since that change was made indicate, I would contend, that it was the right change to make. For example, the number of NCT tests carried out this year to date has increased by 11% on what they were a year ago. This is on the back of last year being the highest year on record in relation to the number of vehicles on which an NCT test was carried out. While we did not increase the penalty so to speak in relation to the inclusion of the NCT into the fixed charge system we did change the nature of the penalty such that it is now a sanction that can be more easily applied. This has led to more people having their cars tested, leading, in turn, to increased road safety.

On the Deputy's point regarding dog hairs in a car, I cannot comment on any individual case but I would hope that the inspectors would inspect cars in nearly all circumstances given the importance of doing so from a road safety point of view. I draw the Deputy's attention to the independent appeals board operated by the AA on behalf of the Road Safety Authority, which is independent of my Department and the RSA, to which his constituent's concerns in regard to his or her treatment can be addressed.

Harbour Authorities

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

3. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views that, in the context of the new Harbours Bill 2015, Dún Laoghaire harbour should be transferred to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, with the dissolution of the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, to make it a fully integrated department of the council; and that decisions regarding its future should be made by the elected members in consultation with a newly established harbour stakeholder and community group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39545/15]

The last few weeks, today in particular, and the next couple of weeks mark a significant time for Dún Laoghaire Harbour. A four week long An Bord Pleanála hearing about the controversial cruise berth proposal is still not complete. Today, the Harbours Bill 2015, which deals with Dún Laoghaire Harbour and other regional harbours, is being dealt with in committee. I have submitted 30 amendments to that Bill, debate on which, presumably, will be completed in the next few weeks.

The Bill lays out two options for the governance of harbours. Dún Laoghaire Harbour will either be a quango - a subsidiary of the council - or it will be fully publicly controlled. I would like to know from the Minister, because the Bill is not clear in this regard, which option will be chosen. The people want it to be publicly controlled.

I thank the Deputy for his question. The  Harbours Bill 2015 was published on 1 July and Oireachtas debates on the Bill have commenced with Committee Stage scheduled for this morning, 11 November, which I will be taking. The Bill will provide the legislative basis for one of the national ports policy's key recommendations, namely, that governance of the designated ports of regional significance should vest in more appropriate local authority led governance structures. As the Deputy is aware, Dún Laoghaire is one of these five ports of regional significance.

The Bill is designed to provide maximum legislative flexibility. It will not prescribe the model of transfer for any of the five ports, including Dún Laoghaire. Instead, the Bill will allow for the most appropriate model of governance to be chosen in respect of each individual company.  The two possible models of transfer provided in the Bill are retention of the existing company structure and transfer of the ministerial shareholding in the company to the local authority and dissolution of the existing company structure and transfer of all assets, liabilities and employees into local authority structures, where the port will be administered as a functional area of the local authority. The manner of transfer selected in each case will be the one that finds broad consensus and agreement between the parties. However, it should be made clear that ultimately the decision is mine, as Minister.

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have established an engagement team to discuss the practical issues associated with the transfer and consultants have been appointed to undertake a due diligence process, with the funding support of the Department.  This exercise may assist in the decision as to the most suitable model of transfer.

As the Minister will be aware, the due diligence process has already run into trouble and has stalled because of so-called commercial sensitivity issues. This speaks volumes about the problem that I have been trying to convey to the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and his predecessor for the past four years. We do not know what is going on in Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company and we do not know its financial position because it is not accountable. The An Bord Pleanála hearing which took place over the last four weeks was a pretty extraordinary event. It is unprecedented for a hearing of that type to continue for four weeks. The level of participation by stakeholders, harbour users, community groups and so on was extraordinary. With the exception of the harbour company, there was overwhelming opposition to what the harbour company proposes to do with the harbour and overwhelming dissatisfaction about the fact that the public and harbour users have no influence or say in this process. They are not being taken seriously and are systematically ignored.

The public view is that the harbour should be brought under public control, although under the control of the elected representatives of the council rather than the CEO. We have proposed a stakeholders group that involves all of the people who are passionate and concerned and genuine stakeholders in the harbour. What is the Minister's view on this?

The Deputy has put three points to me. First, I do not propose to comment on a matter that is currently before An Bord Pleanála. Second, I already made clear to the Deputy in my response to his initial question that the due diligence process and the work under way will form an important part of the input into the decision that I will make as Minister. I want that to be a decision that can gain consensus among all the parties involved but, ultimately, the Bill is clear that the decision in relation to the mode of transfer and how that will happen is one that I and my Department will make. Third, and this is a matter that we can debate further in committee, while I recognise the role that stakeholder groups can play I am concerned, in the context of the amendment which the Deputy has tabled in this regard, about the prominence the Deputy would want that group to have in the decision-making process in relation to future transfers. I believe it is important to respect the structures already in place, bearing in mind that the members of the local authorities are elected by the communities they represent.

My amendment, which as the Minister said we will discuss later, proposes that the elected members and not the CEO as set out in the legislation would have the key say but only following consultation with the stakeholders group. I urge the Minister to support the principle of this amendment. There is major dissatisfaction about the current situation. I am not commenting on the individual cruise berth proposal, which we will also debate later. I attended the hearings over the past four weeks, which were also attended by representatives of the public and representatives of community groups and harbour groups and so on. It is a pity that these people did not sit down five years ago and talk. We would not be in the situation and the conflict we are in now over the future of the harbour if all those people had been compelled to sit down years ago and work out a plan that everybody could get behind. Instead, plans were hatched behind closed doors. That has to change.

I absolutely agree on the need for dialogue. I have been involved in similar matters in my constituency, as well as in my ministerial role. The need for consultation and involvement in any significant infrastructure project is evident to me.

The Deputy referred to an amendment he will table on the Harbours Bill 2015 on the need for a local authority to consult actively and to be involved with a stakeholder group. I genuinely differ with him on this. I guess it is due to a point of difference in our understanding of local government. Members of local authorities are either elected to represent local communities or they are not. If they are elected to represent them, they should have the power and ability to do their work. Depending on the matter with which they are dealing they, in conjunction with a local authority chief executive, can make that decision. I am in favour of consultation and how that will happen. Ultimately, we have models of local government in place which give power to different parts of local government. They should be allowed to discharge that power in the way the legislation is established and, I also believe, in the way people who vote for local councillors expect them to do.

Road Traffic Offences

Timmy Dooley

Question:

4. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on reports that just 40% of drink-driving cases result in a conviction; his plans to revise and reform laws on drink driving penalties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39535/15]

The Minister will be aware that some figures released by the Road Safety Authority, RSA, and interpreted by various entities over recent weeks would suggest only 40% of drunk driving cases ultimately end in conviction. There are some misunderstandings and this might not actually be the case but it may have been a poor analysis of the numbers involved. Will the Minister provide clarity on this because there is a real concern that people caught drunk driving are getting away scot free?

I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to comment on the interpretation of the figures in question. It is of fundamental importance to how people view the implementation of our law, particularly for dangerous driving. Recent reports referred to by the Deputy suggested that only 40% of people charged with drink-driving offences are being convicted. This figure is based on an interpretation of data provided by my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality in a response to a parliamentary question. My colleague was asked for, and provided, figures for the number of summonses for drink-driving cases and the number of convictions. These figures were portrayed by treating convictions as a percentage of summonses leading to the false conclusion that 60% of cases taken to court led to acquittal. The reality, as the Courts Service pointed out, is that 86% of drink driving cases which go to court result in convictions.

The fundamental error in the portrayal and reporting of those figures is that the number of summonses in fact represents all summonses requested. It includes those not yet processed, not yet issued, not yet served or not yet come to court.  It also includes cases which are being dealt with by a court but have not concluded.

On the reform of drink-driving penalties, legislation on intoxicated driving was last reviewed and consolidated in the Road Traffic Act 2010. This is quite robust in dealing with driving under the influence of alcohol. The Road Traffic Bill 2015 will seek to strengthen the law on driving under the influence of drugs. The drafting of the Bill is being finalised. It is my intention to commence the passage of this Bill through the House before the end of the year.

I thank the Minister for his response. Is there any work under way in carrying out a comprehensive analysis of all the data as it relates to drink driving? There is a concern in some quarters that summonses are not issued or fail to get through the courts because of relatively basic mistakes. An end-to-end analysis of all cases, particularly regarding drunk driving, needs to be done by the RSA or by the Department. This will ensure a detailed chart of results is compiled with every case tracked and the outcome recorded for statistical purposes to get an overall picture. Will the Minister, the Department and the RSA start this work and chart it right the way through? It is only then we will get to understand where the problems lie.

It is not enough to give the general point that a percentage fall through the cracks in the courts system and that is the way it works. We need to codify that and understand where the problems are. Then we can, as we have before, come up with a legislative response in a bipartisan way which will eliminate, to the greatest extent possible, any opportunity for anybody to evade or avoid justice on this particular matter.

There are matters of concern to me in the implementation of the legislation on the matter in question. That is why we are examining matters such as the new database that would integrate information between a driver licence and the details of a car. That is also why we want to make available the third payment option for next year.

On the point about statistics, the Courts Service did make information available to me after these matters of concern were raised with me. For example, in the two years and seven months to 31 July 2015, 11,237 drink-driving cases were concluded with 9,714 convictions. The conviction rate was 86.41% with an acquittal rate of 13.56%. Just over 9,100 people were disqualified from driving while over 8,300 were fined and over 300 were sent to prison.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to carry out a detailed analysis of all cases, whether it is by way of the creation of a new integrated database into which different State agencies will be allowed to input. For once and for all, however, we need to see where cases are falling down in court and group them under certain headings. Then we can develop an action plan to resolve that. It is a concern that there are all sorts of allegations that summonses were tampered with in advance or prepared in a manner which would ultimately lead to a non-conviction. These are serious charges and to some extent they might be wives’ tales. Accordingly, we need a proper method of charting, challenging and cataloguing these events to allow us to be in a position to bring forward a legislative response, if required.

This information is available to me. I have spoken about the issue of the number of individuals charged with road traffic offences but who do not produce their driver licence when they are in the court. The statistics on that have enabled us to prioritise it as a matter of concern and that is why we are following it up with the various steps I already outlined on the third payment option and an integrated database to pull together all available information.

I will write to the Deputy with all of the information that is available to me for 2013, 2014 and 2015 concerning what has happened in the courts in each of those years in terms of convictions, disqualification orders and fines that have been imposed.

I thank the Minister. We must move on.

If I could just conclude, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I wish to put this information on the public record because the Deputy did make an important point - that if a perception arises regarding the ability of people to deal with road traffic offences in court, that is a big matter of concern to me and to the Government.

I thank the Minister.

The message is very clear that our courts are independent, but the overwhelming majority of people who appear in court for drink driving offences are successfully prosecuted.

Public Transport

Dessie Ellis

Question:

5. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to work with Dublin City Council and public transport companies to improve the accessibility and affordability of public transport links in Dublin, with a particular focus on the commuter belt and Dublin Airport. [39589/15]

I wish to ask the Minister about his plans to work with Dublin City Council and public transport companies to improve the accessibility and affordability of public transport links in Dublin, with a particular focus on the commuter belt and Dublin Airport.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, has statutory responsibility for the provision of public transport infrastructure and public transport services in the greater Dublin Area, and a range of initiatives are being undertaken as regards service provision and investment. Under the recent capital plan there will be investment of €3.6 billion in public transport in the capital between 2016 and 2022. That will enable a number of major public transport projects to proceed and it will also fund additional capacity to meet existing and growing commuter needs. Under the capital plan, the construction of a metro link between the city centre, Dublin Airport and Swords will commence in 2021. Other improvements to the Dublin public transport system that are planned for the short and medium term include the opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel next summer, improved DART frequency, the opening of the LUAS cross city in 2017, elements of the DART expansion programme, including the extension of the DART to Balbriggan, and the ongoing improvement and expansion of bus services

On the service provision front, the NTA funds public service obligation, PSO, bus and rail services and oversees the provision of Luas services as part of its statutory remit. The NTA will receive an additional €28 million in PSO funding from my Department in 2016 in response to the increased need I have outlined.

The Dublin city centre transport study is now being undertaken by the NTA and the city council. A significant number of submissions - almost 8,000 - have been made, which I welcome. They include numerous submissions on the future of College Green.

The NTA recently published its fare determinations for 2016 with the aim of maintaining customer support while ensuring financial stability for the operators.

I thank the Minister.

I might come back to that.

At a time when the number of DART, Luas, rail and bus commuters have increased, it is difficult to understand why prices have been increased as soon as we started to see a big improvement. It is very disappointing. I accept that the NTA has a role, but the approach is unfortunate.

The Minister referred to the capital plan in terms of transport links. The problem with projects such as metro north, among others, is that it will be 2022 before it even commences, which is well outside the Government's term in office. I agree that the metro north is an essential transport link for this city and country, but it is a long-term project.

The use of apps has resulted in a big improvement in bus transport. Apps are of major significance for people who use buses because they allow them to see departure times. That is an important development.

In response to the first question on the length of time it will take to commence the metro project, much of the reason for that is the amount of time that will be required for the planning process, including tendering and construction, for a project of such scale. By way of analogy, I refer to what is happening in the construction of the Luas cross city, which is a very big project for the Luas but is of a smaller magnitude than the new metro project. As the Deputy will recall, the decision on the Luas project was made in 2012 and 2013 but it will not be in operation until 2017.

Much of the need for fare increases is due to the need to give the best chance possible to transport operators to have financial stability. The NTA decides on fare increases and structure. It has continued to structure fares in such a way as to give a benefit to Leap card users. That is the reason I welcome the fact that in 2015 alone 436,000 Leap cards were sold, with a value of €57 million. That shows the success of the initiative.

I agree with the Minister that the Leap cards have been a significant step forward, in addition to the apps and real time information at bus stops. The impact of those initiatives has been major. I hope they will be expanded to other cities, because currently they are predominantly based in Dublin. I accept that the initiatives have been extended to Cork and other cities but I would like to see them spread even more widely.

The Minister indicated that he had maintained the PSO funding at last year's level but, in effect, with inflation and other factors, last year's level would mean a bit of a loss. That is what worries me about the increases that have been announced. The Minister referred to viability. We have one of the lowest levels of PSO funding in Europe and the allocation could have been increased to offset the increases.

Will there be any further expansion of bus lanes or other approaches to deal with bus lanes?

The increase in the PSO is €28.5 million, which is a significant increase on where we were last year. There is no way the figures could be portrayed as either a cut or even a stabilisation of funding compared to last year. Last year the Government stabilised the funding; we did not cut it further. This year we have increased it. Since 2008, there had been a reduction of approximately €100 million in PSO funding at a time when the number of journeys on the public transport network decreased by tens of millions. We have now restored €28.5 million of the €100 million decrease in a single year. That is because of my recognition of the importance of PSO funding.

As the Deputy acknowledged, Leap cards are being expanded into a number of other areas - Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Dublin Airport - as will real time passenger information systems. In terms of bus lanes, the capital plan we have put forward does include some funding for their expansion across the city.