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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 Nov 2016

Vol. 927 No. 1

Other Questions

Road Projects

Brendan Griffin


7. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will allocate increased funding to Transport Infrastructure Ireland to initiate the shovel-ready projects in the capital investment plan, such as the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30727/16]

This question relates to shovel-ready or almost shovel-ready projects in the capital investment plan, namely the N22, Ballyvourney to Macroom road, which is in County Cork but as a resident of County Kerry I point out that it is one of the two main road arteries serving our county. Until that road is upgraded, our economic progress potential will be seriously hampered. I want this project to be considered a priority for construction. It is contained in the capital plan, which was a great achievement, but we now need to get it built.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter, which is very important to his area, other areas and nationally. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding regarding the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects, including the N22, is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII - formerly known as the National Roads Authority, NRA - under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 and in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for TII in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act.

The capital plan published last year provides for a gradual build up in capital funding for the road network from the current relatively low base towards the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. In this context there will be a  significant ramp up in funding from 2020 which will facilitate the construction of projects such as the Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme.  As Minister, I have to work within the capital budgets included in the plan. TII, in planning the construction schedule for individual projects, also has to take account of the annual budgets available.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicated in his budget speech that, in light of economic growth, he is bringing forward the capital plan review.  There is a strong case for additional funding for the transport sector which I will make robustly when the time comes. However, the parameters for the review and the final decisions on allocations are matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government as a whole.

I am optimistic that the fact that the review of the capital plan has been brought forward means there will be opportunities for acceleration and I will certainly consider this project as one of those which is certainly of merit and which is needed in the area.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I want to put two points to him. The first is an invitation to travel the N22 and see the congestion caused in the village of Ballyvourney and the town of Macroom and to experience at first hand what many people experience five, six or seven days a week, depending on the circumstances. Will he sit down with me - a Deputy from one of the counties affected - the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and representatives of TII and the local authorities involved to see what we can do to ensure that the sod is turned on this project as the earliest possible opportunity? I welcome that the review of the capital plan has been brought forward but we need to do everything possible to progress this project. This is the greatest socioeconomic project for the south-west region that is in the queue of current projects. The fact it has not proceeded is hampering County Kerry. Our prospects for development are very dependent on feeding into the engine that is Cork city. The latter is situated 50 miles from Killarney but it feels like it is 100 miles in view of the congestion on the route. It is holding back County Kerry. This is a vital project that needs to be prioritised and built as soon as possible.

That is certainly an invitation I could not refuse. I thank the Deputy for it.

I would be delighted to make a trip to Kerry as soon as possible. I meant to go in the summer but I was diverted to Rio on the way and I was lucky to get back. I would be delighted to go to Kerry and I will not be heading back to Rio in a hurry. I thank the Deputy and accept his invitation. I and any officials will discuss the issue of this road with him because I know it is very important. I cannot make any particular promises but, as the Deputy knows, the capital plan is being reviewed. It gives some cause for optimism that various roads, which are very important, will possibly have an earlier examination than they might otherwise have had. I do not want to put it any stronger than that.

On the issue of the acceleration of shovel-ready projects, TII will start to look at the scope for bringing forward the construction of shovel-ready capital plan projects in the event that additional funding becomes available. A table I have, which summarises this position, suggests it is possible - and I say no more - that if funding were to become available, the construction of the Ballyvourney to Macroom road might be brought forward.

I thank the Minister for his reply. As a Deputy from the county of Kerry, I see no reason the construction start date cannot be brought forward. The year 2020 was given but it is simply too far away for the people of the south west. I have mentioned the socioeconomic impacts but there is also the issue of the number of people who have to travel that road every day to health care appointments in Cork. People are expected to buy into the centres of excellence model of health care, which is fine, but we also have to be able to facilitate the transportation of people. As long as we have that road, which has more or less been the same way for the past 100 years, it makes this particularly difficult. This would make it viable for people in the entire southern half of County Kerry to commute to Cork safely and in a timely manner and to tap into that expanding jobs market. It would be a massive regional boost. This project would ensure that a rural part of Ireland would get a huge boost so it is crucial. I hope the Minister keeps it high on his agenda.

I thank the Deputy. In his budget speech, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicated he was bringing forward the capital plan review and that work on the review would commence now. He also stated clearly he would be in a position to bring a revised and more ambitious programme of capital investment forward next year. To date, the review has not been formally launched and the scope of the review has still to be clarified. However, the Department will put forward its submission once the parameters are known. There are considerable demands in the transport sector where a strong case can be made for extra funding. The additional resources to be allocated under the review remain to be determined. In the road sector alone, there are a range of issues which extra funding would help to address, including the Deputy's issue. Overall, once the scope of the capital review is clarified, including the amount of extra funding involved, proposals to accelerate shovel-ready road projects would have to be weighed against other demands.

Public Transport Provision

Eamon Ryan


8. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the timeline for the Dublin metro and the DART east-west interconnector. [32780/16]

As much as I understand the traffic problems the Minister and Deputy were just speaking about in the town of Maigh Chromtha, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the capital city, Dublin, is about to enter gridlock. We are facing a real transport crisis. The M50 cannot be further extended. All the roads that lead to Dublin will hit that motorway and the city will not work. We suffer terribly because the big public transport projects that have been planned for more than 17 years have not progressed. When does the Minister intend opening the Dublin metro north line and the DART east-west interconnector between Heuston Station and Spencer Dock?

The Deputy’s written and oral questions seem to be slightly different but I will try to address them both through my supplementary replies. I do not mean they are very different but there is certainly a lot more in the Deputy's oral question than in his written one. I will address both.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, has statutory responsibility for the implementation and development of public transport infrastructure projects in the greater Dublin area, including metro north and heavy rail projects. With regard to the DART underground project, which is specifically mentioned in the Deputy's question, the business case for the project was reviewed in 2015 and the NTA recommended that the tunnel element be redesigned to provide a lower-cost technical solution while retaining the required rail connectivity. The Government accepted the NTA's recommendation and announced in September 2015 that the tunnel element would not proceed as originally designed but would be redesigned. DART underground remains a key element of integrated transport for the greater Dublin area and the implementation of the overall DART expansion programme, including the redesigned tunnel, is included in the NTA's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area for the period 2016 to 2035. Funding for redesign and planning of the project is available under the Government's capital plan, Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021. Funding is also provided under the capital plan for planning, design and construction of the new metro north. The funding in the initial years of the capital plan allows for planning and design work on the project, with construction expected to commence in 2021 with a view to delivering the project by 2026 or 2027.

The decision to proceed with new metro north followed consideration of the Fingal-north Dublin transport study and the NTA's recommendations on the study, which identified the light rail link as the optimum long-term public transport solution on the Swords-airport-city centre corridor.

Why does the Minister say the National Transport Authority has responsibility? This is a political issue. The former Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, made one of the worst mistakes in his career, which should rule him out as a potential Taoiseach, when he shelved a project that was ready to go, had financing available and was in the four-year plan. We knew then as we knew in 2000 that we needed this project. The Minister is right that Deputy Varadkar's successor as Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, brought it back. As we have yo-yoed backwards and forwards, there is no certainty that the dates the Minister mentioned, of the project coming on board towards the latter part of the next decade, are actually real. It requires the Minister to show some leadership and give a commitment on when the metro north and the DART east-west interconnector will be built. The reason he needs to do that now and to give some certainty and political support to it is because the building of houses has to be connected to where public transport will be. The alternative is the continuing sprawl of Dublin, which will feed more cars onto the M50, which will not work. Rather than throwing the ball back to the National Transport Authority, the Minister needs to show some sort of political commitment and leadership and crack the whip as a Minister in order that we can start the process rather than it remaining in limbo, which is where it has been for the past six months.

I would love to be able to do exactly what the Deputy says. I absolutely agree with him and I deeply regret that both the projects the Deputy referred to were delayed. One was delayed in 2015 and the other was postponed in 2010. The DART underground project was postponed in 2010. The Deputy should bear in mind that these were done with a heavy heart. I had no brief in Government at that time and no role in its decisions. The Deputy will understand the Government made these decisions for compelling reasons. It simply did not have the resources to do it. The original DART underground was going to cost €3 billion. It was postponed in 2010 for the very simple reason that we were in the middle of a financial crisis.

It was in the four-year plan. The money was there and it was ready to go.

Deputy Ryan might have been aware of that at the time and before. It was postponed but the imagination is still there and in 2015, it was reviewed and revived. The Deputy will be aware that the money was made available for it to be redesigned. We now have a situation where it has been redesigned but is less ambitious. That is probably more realistic. There is no tunnel involved in the plans at the moment but the commitment is still there. Similarly, the commitment is still there for the metro north as well. That was a €2.4 billion project originally but there simply were not the resources to do it at the time.

However, I believe the current realistic timetable of starting to build it in 2021, which seems a long way off, and finishing it in 2026 or 2027 should be welcomed, even if it is delayed.

The political waiting for this dates back to 2000. I was a member of the Dublin transport advisory committee at the time. A presentation was made which stated that the first priority in Dublin had to be the public transport projects and that the metro north and the DART interconnector had to be built before the M50 was widened, as otherwise there would just be sprawl around the road. A political decision was taken then, 16 years ago, to do the exact opposite and build the road first. I have just returned from the civic forum in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where the talk from anybody involved in business was that it would not be possible to come to Dublin from London or anywhere else because the city cannot cope. Every British person is saying, "Do not go to Dublin because it is not working". Dublin Chamber of Commerce and others are crying out for the political leadership to state that Dublin will work and that the public transport will be built. The Minister cannot put it off for another year and say that the capital review will make the call as to whether to spend on roads in Ballyvourney or to spend the money in Ballymun. The Minister must show political leadership and say he will build public transport as the first priority. If he does not do that, this city will not get a chance to attract new housing and start working. We cannot wait another year because in that time the housing and investment decisions will go elsewhere.

The mid-term capital review has been brought forward. One cannot simply wave a magic wand and say today that we will go ahead with the projects for which we do not have the money. That does not work and it will not happen. It is my ambition to do exactly as the Deputy says. I would love to see the imagination he has for transport in this city, which is to be commended, turned into reality, but I do not see it happening overnight. However, down the road and long after I have left, although the Deputy might still be here, I envisage Dublin city with a modern transport system if we stick to the current plan. Of course, that depends on prosperity and growth in the years to come. We must depend on that. We could be sent off course. Brexit could delay this even further, although I do not believe it will. One never knows, however, with these long-term capital projects. However, we are determined to set these projects in train now, according to that timetable. We are keeping to the timetable. We are redesigning both the metro north and the DART. We are committed to that, but not within the six-month timetable which the Deputy seeks because we do not believe it is practical.

We could start the application for the rail order. We have been working on this project for 17 years. More planning has been done on this than on the Apollo mission. Instead there is lots of "could have", "if", "but" and "maybe". In view of that, the investment community is correctly making the call that this is a country that does not believe in public transport and that this is a Government that does not give such a commitment. In the absence of that, it will not come to this country, we will not put housing in the right place and we will not have a sustainable city. The timetable starts with the Minister pressing the button, saying we will move now and starting the application for the rail orders. That is what he should do.

I agree with everything the Deputy says, except on the timetable. We do not have the money at present to commit to this. That is the reason the design stage is taking place now. When we get through the difficulties in the next few years, presumably we will have the cash to pay for these large capital projects. We cannot do it overnight - it is unrealistic - but we will do it in due course.

Olympic Games Ticketing Arrangements

Brendan Ryan


9. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to improve public confidence in the Olympic Council of Ireland after the fall-out from the Rio Olympics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32786/16]

While our athletes at the Rio Olympics succeeded in doing our country proud, they were let down by the debacle of the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, OCI, being arrested. In light of the Deloitte report on the OCI, what will the Minister do to restore faith in the organisation?

I fully recognise the need to maintain public confidence in all State funded bodies including the Olympic Council of Ireland. It is vital that the highest standards of governance are in place across all levels of Irish sport to ensure accountability, fairness and transparency across organisational activities and support the integrity of sport both at home and abroad.

  On 19 August, the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I announced our decision to establish a non-statutory inquiry to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the distribution of tickets for the Rio Olympic Games and related matters. The inquiry commenced on 19 September and is being led by the former High Court Judge, Mr. Justice Carroll Moran.

Under its terms of reference, the Moran inquiry will inquire into the policies, procedures, processes and practices adopted by the Olympic Council of Ireland around the receipt, distribution and sale of tickets and accreditations for Olympic Games. This includes the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2012 Summer Olympics and any previous summer or winter games into which the judge wishes to inquire. The terms of reference also allow the Moran inquiry to inquire into any matter that the judge considers necessary, including corporate governance within the Olympic Council of Ireland and the State funding of the Olympic Council of Ireland through Sport Ireland and its predecessor, the Irish Sports Council.

Judge Moran has been asked to present a report, setting out the findings and any recommendations of the inquiry, within 12 weeks of its commencement. The judge has indicated that this timetable may be ambitious and some delay is anticipated.

I ask the Deputy to appreciate and understand that it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment on matters relevant to the inquiry while it is continuing.

Pat Hickey has been president of the OCI for an incredible 28 years. While he has said he has stepped aside he still officially retains the position while he is under house arrest in Rio de Janeiro, which is equally incredible. We continue to have a major problem with trust in institutions in this country. The average level of trust in four national institutions, Government, business, the media and non-governmental agencies such as charities, is under one in three people. This is very worrying. Of course, who can blame people for lacking trust when one sees the goings-on in the OCI during the Olympic Games? I, like many others, cringed with embarrassment when we should have been cheering enthusiastically for our athletes. It is the Minister's job to help rebuild trust in the OCI. The recommendations in the Deloitte report, as reported, are a good starting point for this task. However, it is clear from stakeholders in the OCI that they believe its president has too much power. This must change immediately. There must also be provisions to ensure that the term of the president is time limited, as is the case in other major national Olympic bodies.

The OCI has no strategic plan, which is incredible. We have an organisation with an all-powerful president that is not working to a strategic plan. That is a recipe for disaster. How can an organisation operate in a transparent manner if it is not being monitored against an agreed plan? In fact, 73% of stakeholders disagreed that there is transparency in the OCI. When the next Olympic Games take place in Tokyo, less than four years hence, the Minister will not have to worry about the athletes. They will do their job and do the country proud. The Minister must ensure that he puts in place a plan to reform the OCI to such an extent that a repeat of the debacle in Rio de Janeiro can never recur.

The Minister, Deputy Ross, and I were at the Olympic Games and I attended the Paralympics Games as well. We can all be very proud of the performance of our athletes at Rio 2016.

Sport Ireland and the Department have already initiated a review of the Olympic Games and the Paralympics Games and that will feed into the future distribution of funding which the Government makes available to Sport Ireland. Regarding the specific issues raised by Deputy Brendan Ryan, it would be wholly inappropriate for a Minister and Minister of State in a Department which established an inquiry into this issue in the first place to pre-empt what Mr. Justice Moran will report. We have received commitments from everybody associated with the Olympic Council of Ireland that they will co-operate fully with the Moran inquiry. Indeed, they have already initiated their own investigations internally and have given a commitment that the findings of those investigations will be made available to Mr. Justice Moran. Whatever recommendations emerge with regard to changes, should changes be required within the Olympic Council of Ireland, I believe there will be an appetite for that to happen. Certainly, the Government and the Department are anxious, first, to see what conclusions Mr. Justice Moran reaches and, second, to put a framework in place whereby we can ensure that trust in the Olympic movement in Ireland can be reconstructed.

I agree with the Deputy on one point. Undoubtedly there was damage to the relationship between the public and the Olympic movement.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that the Olympic movement is about more than administration. It is about the athletes who qualified. This year we sent the largest Irish team ever to the Olympics and the Paralympics. They must be celebrated, congratulated and worked with. The Deputy is right that this must be done in the framework of a governance structure that is very clear, open to scrutiny and able to develop a way forward. Mr. Justice Moran's inquiry will provide the blueprint for us to do it.

Dublin Airport Authority

Clare Daly


10. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the fact that Dublin Airport is the least regulated airport from a group of 17 similarly sized European airports in relation to noise abatement measures; the way he proposes to address the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32769/16]

Earlier, the Minister said he was very impressed with the residents of north County Dublin. They are not very impressed with the activities of the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, or the Department. Compared with 17 similarly sized airports across Europe, Dublin Airport is the least regulated airport. The DAA is a 100% State-owned organisation. What steps has the Minister taken to ensure the appalling practice which is intruding on the lives of citizens is intervened in and changed?

I thank the Deputy for the question, which is on the same lines as many others which have come through today. There is great concern and enormous interest in the area. All Deputies in the area are feeling the anxiety and distress of the residents of the area affected by the noise of Dublin Airport and the prospects ahead. Given the differing geographical and environmental circumstances of each airport, I am not sure comparisons of the type suggested in the Deputy's question can validly be drawn. There are also considerable variations in the nature and extent of aircraft operations at different airports, which necessitate tailored mitigation responses. It differs according to each airport's different flight paths, numbers, frequencies, noise and environment.

The Environmental Noise Directive No. 49 of 2002 sets out certain requirements for the assessment and management of environmental noise from transport sources, including from major airports such as Dublin. The directive was transposed into national law by the Environmental Noise Regulations 2006. These regulations set out a two-stage process for addressing environmental noise, through the preparation of strategic noise maps and noise action plans, the fundamental objective of which is the prevention and reduction of environmental noise. The most recent noise-mapping exercise found that 200 people are exposed to undesirable night-time levels above 55 dB(A) from aircraft using Dublin Airport. This amounts to some 0.02% of the total population of Dublin town and city. As compared with a  previous mapping exercise in 2007, there has been an overall reduction in the number of people exposed to undesirable night-time noise levels. This is no comfort to those who are still suffering under this noise regime. It is to put it in proportion and to ensure the figures are not exaggerated to include thousands of people.

There must be continuous efforts to secure further improvements. The regime for managing airport noise is based on EU legislation dating back to 2002 where the responsibility rests primarily with the airport operator. The entry into force in June of this year of EU Regulation No. 598 of 2014 represents a shift in responsibility from the airport operator to a separate, independent statutory entity or competent authority to oversee the delivery of the new, more prescriptive approach to airport noise management. On 22 September last, I announced details of how this more prescriptive approach will be implemented in Ireland. In particular, there will be a dedicated, expert-focused competent authority to take responsibility for consideration of all airport noise issues. There also will be clarity regarding the collaborative working and public consultation arrangements that must be applied in this area.

I am not sure whether the Minister is ill informed or not getting it on purpose. The precise point made by the residents is that figures produced by the DAA and Fingal County Council claiming that 200 people are affected by night-time aircraft noise is, sadly, laughable in the extreme. Thousands of citizens are affected in varying degrees. They are worse affected now than previously. Whereas 10% of aircraft used to take off to the east, 30% now take off to the east, causing more intrusion on residents living in that area. This question deals with the reality. There are 14 measures imposed in other similar airports to Dublin, including noise quotas, operating quotas and noise surcharges, in contrast to what applies in Dublin where aircraft are enticed to use Dublin Airport at night by way of reduced charges. I would like the Minister to comment on this measure. How, in God's name, can we minimise the impact of aircraft noise given that the DAA is offering airlines reduced charges for using Dublin Airport at night?

I have met a large number of these residents and I would be happy to meet a large number more of them and hear what they have to say. I would like to see the evidence the Deputy has, if she can produce it, to support her statement that aircraft are being enticed to use Dublin Airport at night. If it is true on a massive scale I will examine it. I have not seen such evidence. I am led to believe the opposite is the case. The Deputy should regard the possibility of a new regime on noise as a possible positive. I agree that it has been unsatisfactory to many people. There are problems when a monopoly runs roughshod over residents, particularly a State monopoly, as in this situation. I ask the Deputy to give the new situation a chance. We have appointed a new competent authority to monitor noise. A single body will be dedicated solely to monitoring noise at Dublin Airport. The body will be monitored over a period and we will see the results in a very short time. We will be able to make a judgment on it then.

Given that there is a major problem with the DAA and Fingal County Council operating in these areas, anybody new is welcome. I will deal with this in my next question. Most airports around Europe charge extra for aircraft traffic at night. Dublin is one of three, along with Rome and Oslo, which does not. I am shocked that the Minister did not know this, particularly given that he has received representations from residents in the airport. I would like the Minister to come back to me in regard to exactly what he proposes to do with the DAA. Due to the regime in operation, people are being imposed on. There is a lack of understanding. Aircraft noise is the most intrusive of all noises. It has an incredibly detrimental impact on people's learning, mental health and well-being. The consequences are happening now; I am not talking about the future. A nice study was done of the 17 airports, and I will give the Minister the facts. Dublin Airport entices night flights through its reduced charges. I hope the Minister reports to the House what he finds out when he meets the people.

I thank the Deputy and I would be most interested to receive the evidence.

Airport Development Projects

Brendan Ryan


11. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the building of a second runway in Dublin Airport will be designed and constructed to ensure it complements the delivery of metro north and to ensure the DAA liaises with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, on an ongoing basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32783/16]

I am asking the question from the point of view of metro north, which I support, and ensuring any other major projects at Dublin Airport do not delay or impact on the delivery of metro north. With a new runway on the horizon and planning permission granted for a large hotel beside Terminal 2, there is no shortage of major works planned for Dublin Airport. I want to ensure any plans have been metro north proofed.

As the Deputy will be aware, the DAA has statutory responsibility to manage, operate and develop Dublin Airport, including the second parallel north runway project. DAA has made provision for the new metro north project in its master plan for Dublin Airport. Specifically, it has preserved an area within the central core of the airport to facilitate the metro link. The DAA has also met with the National Transport Authority, NTA, on the project in the context of the runway development and will continue to engage with the NTA as that project develops.

Funding is being made available under the Government's capital plan, Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021, for planning, design and construction of metro north, linking St. Stephen's Green with Swords via Dublin Airport. Funding in the initial years of the capital plan is for planning and design work with construction expected to commence in 2021, with a view to delivering the project by 2026 or 2027. The NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have commenced preparatory work on planning and design of metro north and a dedicated project steering group has been established, which is meeting regularly. There will, of course, be engagement between TII and the DAA at an appropriate juncture during the design process.

I know discussions have taken place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland since the Minister came to office, and the previous Government had set aside funding for the design of the new metro north. The rigour with which metro north was measured against other possible transport solutions for the Swords airport corridor ensures, without doubt, that metro north is the best long-term transport option. We now need to plough ahead as quickly as possible with this project. There is a ten-year plan and we are already one year into that for the delivery of metro north. It is a more important piece of infrastructure than the second runway, and that is why I always have concerns regarding anything that even has the slightest potential in delaying the project. The new runway will bring more people into Dublin Airport, which means more people will need to leave the airport terminals in an organised and efficient manner. The taxi and bus services that currently operate are not ideal and so it is even more important that metro north is delivered to meet the expected increase in passenger numbers.

What the Deputy has said is true. It would be a great pity if preparation was not made for metro north coming to Dublin Airport but that provision is being made. As I stated, the plans are advanced and a specific area has been set to one side. This is bearing in mind that Dublin Airport is experiencing a strong and sustainable return to growth. Traffic in 2015 alone grew by 15%, from 21.7 million passengers in 2014 to just over 25 million, making it the second-fastest growing airport in the European Union in 2015, growing at three times the EU average. The airport has developed and is successfully implementing a hub strategy that has made it the sixth most important hub for connectivity to North America, ahead of such competing airports as Rome, Munich and Zürich.

A significant number of public and private bus and coach operators are licensed to provide services linking the airport with the city and other suburban regional centres throughout the country, and current demand for public transport services is well catered for at the moment by these operators. In the medium to longer term, the new programme for Government includes a commitment to proceed with the metro scheme linking Dublin Airport with the city centre and Swords. Funding is being made available under the capital plan for planning, design and commencement of construction of the new metro north scheme with a view to delivering the link by 2026 to 2027. The national aviation policy also confirms that access to the airports will be taken into account during the development of surface transport programmes in line with the Department's strategic framework for investment in land transport.

The key is to get metro north started, and if we can get it started, it will continue to completion. I met representatives of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, and they were of the view that it will have the potential to start it within its revenues earlier than the Minister's timeline. Will the Minister do everything he can to facilitate that early start for metro north and not restrict TII in any way from using its own revenues for that purpose?

We will do what we can for the Deputy. As he probably knows, the National Transport Authority, NTA, has commenced initial work on the design and planning stages of the scheme, in collaboration with TII. The key objective of this first phase will be to determine the route alignment. Thereafter, the NTA will prepare a detailed business case for the project based on more detailed design and cost estimates for the route prior to lodging the railway order for the proposed scheme. The comprehensive appraisal will be conducted in accordance with the Government's public spending code. The DAA has welcomed the construction of the new metro north linking the city centre, Dublin Airport and Swords. The metro will enter the airport perimeter via an underground portal at the Naul road and the DAA has preserved an area within the central core of the airport to facilitate the metro link. Personnel from the DAA have already met representatives of the NTA on the project in the context of the runway development and it will continue to engage as the project develops.

EU Regulations

Clare Daly


12. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he has taken to ensure the independence of the Irish Aviation Authority as the competent authority to deal with the implementation of EU Regulation No. 598/2014; the reason he chose this model in view of the fact that other jurisdictions would appear to be opting for a more demonstrably independent authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32768/16]

The Minister earlier made the point a couple of times that never before was there an authority to deal with noise at the airport. Of course, this is a consequence of an EU directive rather than anything the Government has done. I am not necessarily opposed to the competent authority being set up as part of the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, but it is a different model from that which is being adopted by other jurisdictions which seem to be operating on the basis of a role for the local authority, the equivalent of the Environmental Protection Authority or an entirely separate new body. Why has there not been a more demonstrably independent body to deal with this critical issue?

The new EU Regulation No. 598/2014 stipulates that competent authorities must be independent of any organisation that could be affected by noise-related measures at an airport but it specifically allows for that independence to be achieved through a functional separation model. This option for member states in implementing the EU regulation is a recognition of the differing administrative and institutional systems already in place across the EU. A compulsory one-size-fits-all approach would not be appropriate and would inevitably result in the necessity for various EU member states to establish new entities with sub-optimal use of existing resources and entities.

The IAA will be required to conduct its noise-related regulatory activities in strict conformity with the requirement for independence. As I have advised the House, it is envisaged that the legislation in preparation in my Department, in consultation with the Attorney General, will specifically require the establishment of a functionally separate unit within the IAA. The IAA has considerable experience in operating a functional separation model. It has been operating that model since 2004 for safety oversight of air navigation service providers under the suite of EU legislation concerning the single European sky. The IAA is also responsible for safety regulation of Irish civil aviation generally, including airports. This experience of the functional separation model will inform the establishment of the required separate unit for airport noise management.

The other main reason for selecting the IAA under a functional separation model for airport noise management in Ireland is that it responds well to the requirement for aviation expertise to implement the new EU regulation effectively. The IAA has much expertise and knowledge of aircraft technology as well as airport and air navigation operations, which are considered essential to fulfil the various regulatory tasks satisfactorily. Although no one entity in Ireland possesses the entire range of expertise and knowledge to implement internally all elements of the International Civil Aviation Organization balanced approach, given the particular relevance of aviation expertise, it was considered that the Irish Aviation Authority was best placed to discharge the regulatory responsibilities involved.

The IAA is a better option than the DAA or the local authority in the area. That a competent body separate from the IAA is being established is also beneficial but it must be seen to be entirely independent. As this organisation is to be funded from aircraft activity, that is a problem. The Minister has said, and everybody knows, this new body will have the power, without recourse to anybody, to tamper with the existing conditions that restrict night-time activity with regard to the second runway. This relates to the runway not being used for take-off and landing between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and not exceeding 68 flights per night. If these restrictions are lifted, there will be a massive negative impact on people in the area. I imagine people will be utterly terrified to hear the Minister's answers to the earlier questions when he said that vital change may occur without recourse to this House. That is in contradiction to previous answers given by the Minister to parliamentary questions I have tabled about the new competent authority. I would like the Minister to be very clear on this.

Will this be done through a statutory instrument signed by the Minister or legislation voted on by Members?

I would like to reassure the Deputy on several counts. First, on the issue of whether the regulation will be discussed by the House and whether it will be implemented by statutory instrument or primary legislation, it is expected that we will have a result on this by the end of the year if a statutory instrument is the only course forward. We are in negotiations and talks with the Attorney General's office. If it is necessary to introduce primary legislation, that will be done early in the new year in this House. I have absolutely no problem, whichever course is taken, in bringing this regulation to the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport or joining in a debate in this House, which can be through Private Members. It should be debated in the House. I have no problem whatsoever with that but I will not introduce primary legislation if it is not necessary: that would be absurd. It would be a crazy course to take. However, I will do this by statutory instrument if that is possible.

I am deeply concerned by the contradiction in written replies to parliamentary questions previously in which the Minister stated this would require legislation whereas he is now talking about a statutory instrument.

I cannot allow the Minister to reply. His time is up.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.