The Dargan Project: Presentation.

The next item on our agenda is a discussion on the Dargan project. I call Mr. Cormac Rabbitt who has ten minutes to make a presentation.

Mr. Cormac Rabbitt

I thank the Chairman and members of the joint committee for the invitation to make a presentation and answer questions. I will begin by quoting Mr. James Nix who co-authored a book,Chaos at the Crossroads, with Mr. Frank McDonald. He recently stated:

If we are ever to address the capital's traffic problems, something like Dargan is needed. The project is bold but very achievable. It will help provide a public transportation system second to none.

James could not have summed up the message I wish to get across better.

Is he a transport expert?

Mr. Rabbitt

He is a correspondent withThe Irish Times. He wrote much on transport and he has also produced a book with Mr. Frank McDonald of The Irish Times.

It sounds like he is a journalist.

Mr. Rabbitt

He is a journalist and economist, and he works within the private sector also.

He is not a transport expert. I do not mean to jump in.

Mr. Rabbitt

He is a transport expert in that he has written books on transport. He has written extensively inThe Irish Times.

He must be good so.

Mr. Rabbitt

On 14 February 1996 in a forum such as this, a Senator who is not here today——

I think Mr. Rabbitt is aware of the rule stipulating that nobody should be referred to by witnesses appearing before the committee.

Mr. Rabbitt

I am aware of the rules. There were two Senators. May I mention their names?

Nobody should be referred to.

Mr. Rabbitt

On that date they demanded that the underground option for Dublin be investigated, and this led to the acceptance by Government of a metro. The details of that can be seen on my website onwww.darganproject.com. These Senators worked very hard to get the Atkins report and from that we got the decision to go underground. It was in a forum such as this that a real decision was taken, which was against the grain at the time.

The Dargan project is an innovative integrated rail-based transport project for Dublin. It would create, or complete, a circle line comprising Templeogue, the airport, Swords and Blanchardstown rail lines for Ireland's capital city. It would connect with Dublin's mainline rail, DART, Arrow, Luas and bus services. The committee has the outline maps.

Dargan is not just innovative and responsible in its conception and design, but also in the manner in which it would be carried out. It promotes a holistic approach in which participation by communities and the general public is embedded. Additionally, the project is committed to full transparency and clarity in its implementation.

It is envisaged that Dargan will be implemented directly by State agencies, or alternatively by the private sector through co-operation with State agencies and private sponsorship. To seed fund the Dargan project, a public subscription offer for €1 million will be made and the prospectus for this will be available in mid-January 2007. The fund is to complete Dargan's procurement and preliminary design process in order to obtain a railway order for its implementation.

The Dargan project recognises the need to address the capital's transportation issues in terms of traffic and quality of life, which manifests in a requirement to provide the most rail and quality bus routes possible, providing integrated transportation services. It offers the public a real opportunity not only to add to our transport infrastructure, but also to address cases where moneys for critical social infrastructure are competing with moneys for physical infrastructure.

The former is an environment which has a growing deficit of €140 billion, according to a Goodbody report this year. This is a deficit that Transport 21, with a budget of €34.4 billion, cannot address by itself. In other words, Dargan would be complementary to Transport 21. The members of this committee must be consulted when deciding on a project's benefit not just to the citizens of Dublin, but to the nation.

I was trying to follow Mr. Rabbitt's presentation but I am unclear on what exactly is being proposed. Much of what is contained in the diagrams are transport proposals which are already in the pipeline. Will Mr. Rabbitt speak briefly on the exact nature of the proposal he is making?

Who is Mr. Rabbitt representing? I am surprised to hear him speaking about inviting tenders in mid-January, so who else is involved in this matter with Mr. Rabbitt? I am not aware of it previously occurring that preparations are made in such a way for a railway order by a body other than one approved by Government, so why is Mr. Rabbitt suggesting he would go as far as to prepare a railway order without having any approval for any of this from any source, as far as I am aware?

Mr. Rabbitt

The proposal seeks to connect Dublin's existing infrastructure, so it consists of a half-circle line on the south which is reflected on the north. The difference between this and the interconnector, for example, is that this will take in mainline rail and simultaneously provide a circle line for Dublin. Such a case exists in Madrid between the Atocha and Chamartín, where 480 trains a day would run, with 60 being mainline rail trains going between the two major stations on the outskirts of the city.

The nature of the proposal is outlined in the documentation, with a Templeogue line and one to the airport. The details of integration are on the website. The major point is one of connectivity within the system, as the line from the airport goes directly on to the circle line and around. Somebody leaving from Lansdowne Road or Dún Laoghaire could then go directly to the airport, which is not possible with metro north. There is much interconnectivity, and people coming from Kimmage or Templeogue would be able to go directly to the airport.

What is the specific nature of the proposal? Is it a tunnelled metro on a circle line?

Mr. Rabbitt

There is currently a partial circle line on the north of the city which is 6 km long. I am suggesting we build a half circle on the south side to complete the circle. That circle runs from under the Phoenix Park tunnel to under the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham to under St. James's Hospital. These are all public areas. It would run to Cork Street, which is wide.

Is there a map to show this?

Mr. Rabbitt

The details are on the website and I have a map here.

I would not mind seeing it as the diagrams provided are schematic, with no detail on them.

Mr. Rabbitt

Full details are available and I will try to get the map for the Deputy. Will a schematic diagram suffice?

I would like to see the areas in question.

Mr. Rabbitt

I will distribute two diagrams.

The Deputy's second question concerned the make-up of our organisation. In the early 1990s my group suggested we build a metro for Dublin. That culminated in the publication of the Atkins report, which examined an underground-overground line. That resulted in the Japanese coming here. We made a presentation to the Minister's committee on infrastructure and public private partnerships in April of 2000 which included an offer to build a metro for Dublin, similar to the system in Madrid, at a similar cost. There was a number of people in that Japanese consortium. When we presented we offered to do a complete design-build project. All we wanted was a competition. We said we would apply to do the project and if something better came along, so be it, but at least the Government would know that a metro can be built in Dublin. With all the work we did for that the Government made a decision to opt for a metro. We waited for the competition but it never happened. I understood there were clear instructions from senior politicians that this competition would be held.

In terms of who we are, I will deal with all those issues. They are on the second page on the website.

Will you deal with them now please?

Mr. Rabbitt

I have outlined who we are——

No. Mr. Rabbitt told us what he has done but when he refers to "we", who is he talking about?

Mr. Rabbitt

I am talking about a group of people who see the need for a comprehensive system to solve Dublin's traffic problems because what is happening now is chaotic. I am doing this in parallel with what is happening currently. It is additionality——

May I intervene in an attempt to be helpful? I understand Deputy Shortall wants to know the names of the personnel, is that right? It is to ensure that in cases of conflict of interest she will know who makes up the team.

Mr. Rabbitt is not representing a group of well-meaning campaigners.

Mr. Rabbitt

No.

He is representing business interests that are forming a consortium.

Mr. Rabbitt

There is no conflict of interest with regard to me. I am not involved in any of the current projects, nor is anybody I am associated with involved in any of the projects at the moment.

The Dargan project is just Mr. Rabbitt.

Mr. Rabbitt

The Dargan project is mainly me. I am the chief executive officer of it. I am here today to represent it.

Mr. Rabbitt cannot be the CEO of a proposal.

Mr. Rabbitt

Why not?

What is he CEO of? Is there an organisation, a grouping or a consortium——

Mr. Rabbitt

As I said, there is a group of us who have worked diligently to promote a metro system for Dublin. We offered to build it——

Are they business people?

Mr. Rabbitt

I was aligned with various consortia to do this. Members know about the Japanese. I also brought in the operators of the Hong Kong system. They were over here twice. Professor Melis's visit to the Oireachtas was a direct result of my visit to Madrid to ask him to come here. I arranged for an invitation to be issued.

Who funds the project's activities?

Mr. Rabbitt

I fund them.

What is the long-term gain from this project? Were you involved in the direct tendering for a previous project?

Mr. Rabbitt

In 2002?

Mr. Rabbitt

I was associated with MTR Hong Kong, which built and operates that system but that is no longer——

Are you associated with any group that may bid for future projects?

Mr. Rabbitt

I am not associated with any group at the moment that is bidding or involved in bidding.

Using the words "at the moment" is an easy way of saying you will be involved in the future.

That is not——

The Senator will have time to speak. He should not worry.

The question should be appropriate.

There is a question for the committee——

You are asking him to answer a hypothetical question about the future. Occam's razor operates. It is a philosophical proposition. You are not entitled to ask that type of question.

I might not be entitled in your eyes, Senator, but Deputy Shortall is trying to work out something here and I am trying to——

He can say who the personnel are now but one cannot say who they might be in five or ten years from now.

None of us knows what the future holds.

Somebody has to fund the preparation for this project and it is not the sort of preparation most people would do from their own resources. Deputy Shortall is trying to find out the personnel involved in addition to Mr. Rabbitt.

Mr. Rabbitt

That is the next question. The Deputy asked about the funding and the tenders. To clarify that issue, to seed fund the project a public subscription offer for €1 million will be made and a prospectus will be issued. The way the Deputy phrased it does not apply.

The standard practice is that public transport projects are initiated by Government. The entire legal process, the railway order process and so on is overseen by Government.

Mr. Rabbitt

Yes and no. Public transport projects, historically, have been initiated by the private sector. Also, many of the public transport projects being done now were lobbied for by business organisations to get them into forums. A good example of that was our proposal for a metro. In 1996 in the Oireachtas, two Senators introduced a motion with the intention of bringing about a sea change in this area. I am at that level, so to speak, in terms of doing that.

On the question as to whether the private sector can build a public transportation system, the answer is "yes" because the Act refers to RPA, CIE or a private individual. That is in line with the European Union requirement regarding competition and so on. In fact, a Senator got that wording changed to ensure it was in line with the rest of Europe. Theoretically, I can apply for a railway order, which then goes through the process. I would apply to the Minister who would refer it to An Bord Pleanála, which would adjudicate on it. That offers a choice and the marketplace will determine whether it can be done, if it is a good or bad proposal, whether the RPA should take it over or whatever.

I have indicated the utmost flexibility in that I said the project will be implemented directly by State agencies. The perspective I am coming from is that State agencies have many constraints on them. I do not have those constraints. I can imagine how a project should be and I can put forward proposals. State agencies might like to put forward proposals but they cannot because they must follow a given policy and they have a particular set of objectives to achieve. I do not have those constraints and therefore I can come forward with a vision and a plan that is more holistic.

Surely Mr. Rabbit is not proposing to prepare for a railway order without additional resources being provided. He is not doing that from his own resources.

Mr. Rabbitt

I explained how I would fund that. It would be by way of a subscription offer. I need 15 people to invest €60,000 and 1,000 people to invest €100,000, and there is much interest in it.

What timescale is envisaged?

Mr. Rabbitt

It would parallel what is happening with metro north. I would have my order and then, at the same time——

On that issue, and I understand this is what Deputy Shortall is trying to work out, you will apply for a railway order at the same time as the RPA. Is that right?

Mr. Rabbitt

That is right, yes.

Will you have the same powers of acquisition the RPA will have?

Mr. Rabbitt

Under the Act, I believe so but at the moment——

Do you believe or you would have the same powers?

Mr. Rabbitt

I believe I would but it has not been tested. If we consider the critical infrastructure, if we are operating 10m below ground there is no compensation. There is no CPO involved. We are not buying any land.

Will the project have the power to impose a CPO, given that it will not be possible for the line to run underground for the entire route and that it will have run at ground level in some areas?

It involves much management of the existing structures.

Mr. Rabbitt

It is not possible to impose a CPO on public land. I indicated where the project will go underground. When the line comes out from the Phoenix Park tunnel it will cross the existing railway line. The ground in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham is high and therefore the line will go underground there and the garden there will be restored to its existing level. That is public ground; it is a stand-alone site and the line there will not interfere with anybody at that entry point. The line will be on a national route from which material can be removed, whether by train, the River Liffey or by road. The line can go underground at that point and emerge in Spencer Dock. In that sense no land acquisition would be involved.

I will give an example of a case in point. When the RPA ran the line down Harcourt Street and it wanted to hang catenaries, it did not impose a CPO on the property on which they wanted to hang the catenaries, it did it by other methods. I do not propose that any land would be bought. There would simply be schedules of people who would be likely to be affected by the project.

This committee undertook research on a metro project two years ago. I recall a meeting at which a document produced by a consultant was circulated in which several lines, if not pages, of what we were told was sensitive information, were blacked out. The RPA, which has appeared before this committee, will not give us its passenger patronage numbers, its fare cost or capital costs. It has not informed us of anything in that respect.

The information I have downloaded from the project's website contains detailed maps and income figures. In respect of income, it indicates 98 million passengers at €1.50 each. In respect of expenditure, it indicates capital financing at 4% and a return on investment on €260 million equivalent to 8%. We have been denied this information by our consultants who spoke on our behalf to the RPA to obtain information to enable the public to know what is happening.

A valuable lesson is being given to us here today. The only proof we have that the taxpayer is getting value for money is encapsulated in one word, transparency. There has not been transparency to date in respect of the metro project. We do not know the patronage numbers, the costs involved or who will fund it. We know very little about it.

This document sets out a detailed appraisal of maps, the line and the preferred route. Mr. Rabbitt has set out what I would call preferred routes based on his analysis, which is the work that has been conducted in respect of the metro north project over the past eight or nine months. An analysis of three routes has been carried out and a preferred route was put forward in September or October. Am I correct in saying that, having regard to the preferred route chosen in respect of that project, Mr. Rabbitt is at the same stage of saying that he has a preferred route? While he is not delaying the existing metro systems, he has brought forward a competition of ideas which we have not had up to now. At a previous meeting we agreed that a representative from the RPA would attend this meeting, but Mr. Frank Allen is not here. There is no representative from the RPA here.

Was a representative invited?

The RPA explained that it was unable to appear before the committee today but it would be willing to do so on other dates. I understand the Senator was not present at the last meeting, neither was I, when it was decided that Mr. Rabbitt would be invited to appear before the committee today, even though the RPA representative was not available to attend. It had been suggested that we would defer this meeting until both representatives were available.

We have gone through a lengthy process over the past two years with our consultants, but we were approving a cost benefit analysis without having sight of detailed figures. If Mr. Rabbitt's figures are so off the wall why does somebody not come in here and say so? It is easy to knock these figures. Page 19 of this document gives as detailed an outline of capital costs as is possible.

Nobody is knocking the project.

We have proceeded to this stage on behalf of the taxpayer to secure value for money but have done so in a vacuum with no figures available. Page 19 of this document sets out details that have never been produced before this or any committee.

To what document is the Senator referring?

Page 19 of the document I downloaded from the website. It is this document before me.

It has only 14 pages.

The document I have has more than 20 pages. I downloaded it from the website.

From where do the figures come?

From the Dargan project's website.

Therefore, they are Mr. Rabbitt's figures.

Yes, they are. He has examined preferred routes. The route presented is his preferred route and he referred to it as being under public lands. Deputy Shortall asked about the maps. The maps are more detailed than any map we have received in respect of the metro north project. We are still awaiting the detailed design. We are only at the preliminary design stage, which is what Mr. Rabbitt has outlined in this document.

Mr. Rabbitt has known for a month, from when he was invited to do so, that he would appear before this committee. Has he spoken or attempted to seek a meeting with the Minister for Transport or any of his officials or with officials of the RPA? In the context of the report that we commissioned a consultant to prepare at our expense on behalf of the taxpayer two years ago, will Mr. Rabbitt give us the detail of the interviews, or none, he gave to that consultant? Did he give the consultant this type of information? I recall that report and it was censored beyond recognition.

Mr. Rabbitt has given this information, which sets out the cost down to literally the number of shovels that will be used to dig a hole in the ground to construct a metro. He mentioned Hong Kong and Professor Melis of Madrid. Surely everyone who will bid for the RPA's metro north project also knows this information, or is he breaking some secret code in putting forward this information and, if he is, he is mad because somebody might shoot him down and say his figures are off the wall? Can he stand over those figures, including the return on investment? I am aghast that this information is not before a Minister and that we are at this stage of a metro project without having any such information. I am also aghast that we hired a consultant and I want to know did the consultant speak to Mr. Rabbitt? If he gave information to the consultant, was it blacked out in the report we received because much of the information in it was censored. Will Mr. Rabbitt answer a few of those question?

I ask that Deputy Wilkinson take the Chair as I have to leave. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Wilkinson took the Chair.

Mr. Rabbitt

I will attempt to answer Senator Morrissey's questions. On his first question of a preferred route, the RPA has chosen a preferred route having considered a number of routes. It has its best option and I also have my best option. I am building on its work. In other words, we have a basis to compare one with the other and that is a good comparison to make. I might outline some advantages later if I have an opportunity or if I am asked a question on it.

With regard to this being a competition of ideas, I agree it is. I have a parallel timeframe for the project. The Senator asked about figures. I am sensitive about the robustness of the figures I have chosen. Fortunately, Dublin Port tunnel has been completed and the cost of that is known. It is the case that not only do we know the cost of similar projects in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, but we have those costs down to the wire, down to the nail.

Let me put something in context. The port tunnel involved two sections of tunnel: half of the length was done by tunnel-boring machine and the other half was done by a cut-and-cover process. The tunnel-boring machine part went very well and came in on budget — the 10% or 15% in additional costs were due to changes related to fire precautions and the like. The trouble was with the other part. I am speaking about the tunnel-boring machine method which has a proven track record here, and I set out those costs in my document.

On the question of figures, the only tool one has at one's disposal is transparency. I have a project costs file here detailing everything to do with the Madrid metro. It is all there and was published before, during and after the project. People have misinterpreted what Professor Melis from Madrid stated. He hands out these figures. There are spreadsheets, etc., that he gave to me in my file.

I met the consultants and gave them my data. There was an interesting hypothetical situation set up, that Irish materials cost 2.4 times that of Spanish materials and Irish labour rates were 2.38 times that of Spanish labour rates. On 5 December last year I came before this committee and produced evidence — economic data from EU websites, etc. — stating that our wage and salary levels are on a par with those of Spain when one takes account of the social costs. In Spain, they often get 14 or 16 salary payments a year, which amounts to more per month, and there are higher social costs. That does not apply here. Their additions amount to 28% or 30%, whereas ours amount to approximately 12%. They showed that the figures were approximately the same. What happened was that Professor Melis came over here and the RPA produced a figure for Dublin, with the relevant multiples of 2.38 and 2.4, showing both match. The committee can see the flaws in that argument. That is one of the benefits of a committee like this, that it can explore these matters.

I have never said that the RPA figures are not comparable internationally. The difference is that in Madrid they do it a different way than in other countries and Madrid has repeated it 28 times, or at this stage probably 56 times, because it has done its fourth Dargan type project and also an N30-M30 road project involving the building of more than 50 km of road tunnel which is twice the area of the Dublin Port tunnel. After leaving here in May 2003 the professor went back to Madrid to appoint a team and contractors to build a tunnel as part of that 50 km tunnel, and they opened one part of that tunnel in May last. The Dublin Port tunnel was being built at that stage for a couple of years.

The difference, which I have outlined previously, is there are 20 major reasons they do works cheaper in Madrid and it involves the way the contract is set up. I have five pages of detail on it here, which, if the committee is interested, I can pass around for discussion. That information is available. There are 20 reasons. One brings in a project cheaper, not because one is good at one aspect or another, but because one must be good right across the board. Basically, it amounts to their contract methods, team methods and panel of experts. If they must appoint consultants to solve a particular problem, it is done on a lump sum fee rather than a time-related basis. They use extremely direct, hands-on and no-blame type contracts. Contractors, therefore, are able to give keener rates because they know the risk need not be priced into it. They know what they are pricing, but the method by which and how they quantify a problem, and how quickly they act, is what brings in a project much cheaper, and contractors are able to bring their own solutions.

How does one compare Ireland's use of route design consultants, who probably have never built an extension on their own houses, with having a contractor consortium on board from day one? The RPA does the latter now. The NRA does it throughout the road schemes and is very happy with it. They are completing projects six months, nine months or one year ahead of schedule at much lower costs. When I campaigned for this all through the 1990s, I stated this is the way we must proceed and wrote repeatedly about the method the RPA uses now, where one lumps everything together as a one-stop-shop. I have a track record. There is a proven track record.

To answer Senator Morrissey, the figures are there and provide transparency. We all can have libraries of figures. What the committee is given is a library of books, but it is not allowed open the books. It is a matter of checking. I listed 20 areas where Madrid saved massively. The last I listed is transparency, but that is the one that covers the rest.

This idea that contracts are secret is nonsense. The contractors do not depend on the figures of anybody else and the more information available, the keener the competition. There are so many people who could be involved that one should adopt an open door policy. If there is a figure out of kilter in a transparent process, as I have written, somebody will pop up to ask why not do it another way. Before making the mistake a second time, one is corrected and can better approach it. In Madrid, they are able to adopt such processes and we can do that. That is why I want to proceed with implementing the Dargan project in this way.

I apologise to the committee and to Mr. Rabbitt in particular, that I was not here for the beginning of the meeting. I was scheduled to speak in the Seanad, which I had to do, and the minute I was finished I came down here.

I come out with my hands up and declare an interest. I have been promoting the idea of an underground railway in Dublin for more than 20 years. In the mid-1990s I saw some of the material reported in the newspapers on Mr. Cormac Rabbitt and his late business partner Rudi Monaghan, the two involved in this early metro project, and I contacted them. As a result of the information they were able to supply, I pushed this matter in the Seanad and got a series of debates on it, and I amended the Dublin transport legislation to make provision for the underground. I was one of those Senators. I was joined subsequently by Senator Quinn and Mr. Rabbitt will confirm that we were the two Senators to whom he referred. On the second time he referred to a Senator getting changes, I am quite happy to come out with my hands up. I am not a bit shy about it. In fact, I am gloriously proud of it.

The committee should accept that there is a difference between Mr. Rabbitt and the RPA. It is quite clear. I heard the head of the RPA on the radio a few years ago speaking about the Luas project. He did not know the length of the project and was not sure of its cost. He stated then that it would cost €3.5 billion and when asked why the cost of the infrastructure was only €1.5 billion and to explain the rest, he replied it was for insurance and contingencies. That is a great deal of money to pay for insurance and contingencies, and I did not find the case convincing at all.

Then Senator Morrissey got right into one of the central questions in that report, which was like a CIA document about rendition containing gaps where one is not let know anything. We were invited to buy a pig in a poke from people who did not seem to even know anything about the nature of the pig.

Mr. Rabbitt has given us figures. In fact, I am not competent to judge them. Unusually, for me, I am prepared to accept my limitations, but I propose that the committee spend a little of its resources in referring these figures to a reputable independent analyst to tell us whether they stand up.

I am also partly responsible for this meeting because I wrote to this committee on 2 November asking for a meeting because some of the least qualified members of this committee were sceptical about Mr. Rabbitt's qualifications. People who have difficulty walking down a road, let alone designing a railway track, presumed to question his qualifications and it was important that he should appear before the committee. I was also involved with him. The man is very unusual but he is a genius, similar to Mr. Dargan.

Would Mr. Rabbitt be prepared to submit the figures to an independent investigation? This causes concern because one can read a shoal of figures from persons with official titles and positions and think that that commands respect. A number of people appeared before the committee recently to discuss Dublin Port but none of them had turned up at the important conference organised by a member of the committee, even though they had been asked to be key speakers.

Does this proposal take in the entire city? The Luas is disconnected and services amputate portions of the city. Does Mr. Rabbitt's proposal for an orbital route with spokes mean that the network would be accessible from virtually every section of the city? Information has been provided on costs but over what timescale would the project be likely to be delivered? In addition to the orbital route, is a spur to the airport included?

As I am parochial, I am not bothered about the use of the word "beyond". Swords can well look after itself and the line will probably be extended there anyway. Would Mr. Rabbitt's system make the airport spur accessible for most areas of the city, not only points on the orbital route? In other words, if one was in Drimnagh or Rathfarnham, would one be able to use a spoke?

Mr. Rabbit is cleverly using a significant proportion of an existing network. For example, 54% of the circle line is in place. Presumably, this is demonstrable from the maps but I would like Mr. Rabbitt to confirm in writing that this is the case. The committee should examine recommending that Mr. Rabbitt appear before the Cabinet sub-committee. When we had a meeting a few years ago and I happened to see in the distance Deputy Eoin Ryan, then chairman of this committee, I grabbed him. As a result of that meeting, we arranged for Professor Melis to appear before the committee, which transformed things. It also led to the legislative changes we have made. One can travel ten metres underground without incurring a cost.

I am sorry the meeting is truncated but we should pursue this proposal, even at this late stage. We are being railroaded into a situation where we will buy a pig in a poke. It would be a pity to be betrayed in the enthusiasm for an underground railway to include something that is second best, if a project that would serve the entire city could be implemented for the same or a lower cost. During the period I have campaigned for a metro system, in the footsteps of Mr. Rabbitt who gave me the technical information,The Irish Times has consistently campaigned against it and I do not understand why. I wish I understood because, in addition to campaigning vociferously in favour of the Luas, the newspaper has campaigned strongly against a metro system.

Mr. Rabbitt

I have no problem submitting the figures, as long as there is a purpose to it. What will be the consequences if I submit them? If I am correct, what will be the next step?

With regard to the route, the spurs and connections, the project would be for the entire city. In my jargon, I use the phrases "capital city" and "capital's traffic" because this is about the nation and Dublin affects the nation. I live in Galway and make many trips to Dublin. How I get around has a major effect on my day-to-day life. How one gets around Dublin is more important than how one gets to it because that determines whether one will drive. If a person is living in Dún Laoighaire and wishes to travel to Phibsboro, using public transport, he or she must take the DART into the city centre and then take a bus. It is very awkward and people usually drive. However, if a connecting circle line was in place, the person concerned would be able to travel from Dún Laoighaire to Phibsboro because there would be connecting rail lines.

The plan would have a significant influence on quality of life. The Atkins report in 1998 recommended a compromise on the airport line. Two lines were under examination to Tallaght and Sandyford and we proposed a third which we called a compromise, but it was additionality. It was recommended that the PPPs should be used on the airport line. The Farrell Grant Sparks report commissioned by the Minister recommended that it be done that way. The difference between my proposal and that of the Government is the Cork-Galway-Limerick line into Heuston Station could go underground at the Phoenix Park, join the circle line, head to Liffey junction at Cabra and on to the airport. This was recommended in 1991 and provided for a mainline rail service to the airport, which would be extended to Swords and connect with the service to Belfast. It could be funded, while goods traffic could be transported to the airport. This proposal is also fully incorporated into my scheme, which would connect the circle line to the airport, Swords and Belfast line.

There are three options — to connect as quickly as possible at Swords; connect at Drogheda; or connect further north at Duleek. The Dublin-Belfast route could be 6 km shorter and would be much faster. European Cohesion Funds would be available to finance this and the line would run along the motorway corridor. There would be many advantages, including increased commuter numbers for Irish Rail, Luas and so on by between 5% and 15% through a fully integrated system. My project has Xs and Os outlining transportation points in the city centre. The O represents the circle line which could use the interconnector and connect with the Belfast line or travel via the airport to the old Belfast line on the same gauge. That highlights accessibility. The connection and options between routes would result in a massive capacity increase. It would fit in with the existing rolling stock. More rolling stock could be bought and used in other areas, as more and more of the system is electrified. There will be lower energy costs when the system is electrified in the future.

I was also asked about the timescale. This system could be started immediately. If I was told to go out the door and make my order, I could have it operating within five years. I could get my money and my sponsors. I could work with the RPA, or under the RPA. It could be done as part of a combined effort. When I say it can be done, some people might be keen to question my credentials. I have done approximately 20 CPOs. I have managed EIS schemes. I have worked in some of the most difficult areas, including Foxrock, White's Cross and Knocksinna. I have dealt with things that have been on the agenda for up to 15 years. I refer to the widening of the dual carriageway. I went in and I solved it. I did the Dublin Airport to Balbriggan bypass, which was the longest motorway scheme in the country at the time, in two years using new technology. It was the first time it was ever done in a fully integrated way. That was in 1992-93. I did it in two years, from start to inquiry.

I selected the northern cross route. I altered it around Ballymun. I brought that scheme forward. It was supposed to be ten years behind the southern cross route, but it opened five years before that because I did the groundwork for it and put it together as a package. I put it together as a very neat bundle. I pointed out what needed to be done. I could point out some other issues like that. I held it as a three-plus-three motorway, instead of a two-plus-two motorway. I said that a three-plus-three motorway would be needed because I knew that traffic levels would increase. I refused to reduce it. I held it and eventually the people for whom I was working agreed that I was right and that we should proceed in that manner. I thought the same had been done for the southern cross route — I gave them the same information I had — but it was not done. It is costing a fortune to upgrade that section of the road. I refer to the cost of acquiring land and building bridges, for example. The construction of the southern cross route was delayed when they realised they would have to widen the bridges. I have a very strong track record. I have touched the surface of it. I have responded to the questions about my capability and competence.

Who was Mr. Rabbitt working for?

Mr. Rabbitt

I was working for the local authority. It was my job to do it.

Mr. Rabbitt

I maintained the reservations. I had overall control of non-motorway schemes in Dublin for a long time. I am not sure how many kilometres of such roads I built. I am sure I built 120 km or 140 km of distributor roads with private contractors. I also worked on planning permissions. I worked out in 1988-89 that I had done 85 km of such roads at that stage. I continued with that work for a good while after that. The committee knows about my ability and my experience in Madrid, Hong Kong and Japan. I have been to Barcelona, where an incredible railway tunnel has been completed. The tunnel in question, which is slightly bigger than the Dublin Port tunnel, is totally split in the middle so that there are two separate tunnels, in effect. That was done in line with fire safety precautions, etc. It has massive operating advantages. That is what this is about. It is about customers and how the system is operated. It is not about questions of engineering, like how awkward it is to build certain things. It is about what works. That is what I have taken on board when making my suggestions. Such matters can be taken on board.

I was also asked about the use of the existing network. I mentioned William Dargan. It is no accident that Dargan is the patron of this project. One should look at this proposal in the context of the interconnectivity of the transport systems in Dublin city. It is not just about rail. It links all the bus systems as well. If one examines the website I mentioned earlier, one will see the presentation that was made by the Japanese group that supported me at the Minister's committee. The maps of Dublin in that presentation show the road and rail systems which were set out by our forefathers. The rail system had five radial lines coming into Dublin. In addition to the four surviving lines — the Belfast, Wexford, Cork-Limerick-Galway and Mullingar-Sligo lines — there was also a fifth line, which was the Harcourt Street line. Those five lines were like the spokes of a wheel. There is a half-loop around those spokes on the north side of the city. I propose to complete that loop on the south side of the city. That is how this project started. It is proposed to develop extra spokes going to the airport and to Templeogue. There are six railway lines at present — four mainline railway lines and two Luas lines. The airport and Templeogue lines would be new.

Our forefathers laid out the roads which are now the national primary and secondary routes. Those roads arrive in Dublin between the railway spokes I mentioned. Seven primary routes and one secondary route come into various parts of Dublin. Some other roads also come into Dublin. One could argue that more than ten roads come into Dublin. We need to consider the eight railway lines, or spokes, that I mentioned — the six existing lines and the two proposed lines — along with the ten existing roads into Dublin which are between those spokes. There could be 18 ways of coming into Dublin, which is a bay city, by road and rail. I find it fascinating that the road network is semi-circumferential on the north and south sides. I refer to roads on the north side like the North Circular Road, Collins Avenue, Griffith Avenue, the M50 and the road that runs parallel to the runways which go around to Blanchardstown, more or less. On the south side, the Kylemore Road, the South Circular Road and Sundrive Road run in a similar pattern. These are big and wide roads. The hub of the wheel is in the city centre, the spokes travel out from that in the manner I have outlined and the roads I have just mentioned operate like the rim around the edge. A very integrated system could be operated using that network. We need to take advantage of that by providing for the system I am proposing. I have highlighted the issue that was raised.

I would like to ask one or two questions. Mr. Rabbitt alluded earlier to the subject of one of my questions — the type of tunnel that would be necessary. He said it would be a single tunnel, divided into upper and lower sections. I understand that representatives of the RPA recently visited the Portuguese city of Oporto. They were fascinated to learn that all the tunnelling there is single-bore. As I understand it, the RPA has decided to pursue a twin-bore tunnel for the metro in Dublin, for simple safety reasons. Therefore, we will have two tunnels instead of a single larger tunnel. Has Ireland made a law to that effect, for safety reasons? Is the Irish approach peculiar in the context of the rest of Europe? Mr. Rabbitt mentioned that Professor Melis has built a system time out of number in Madrid, with single-bore tunnelling that was then divided into upper and lower halves.

I would like to focus on my local area to a slight extent. A preferred route has been chosen for the metro north project. The RPA is doing the preliminary design for the project. If Mr. Rabbitt were to commence works in the morning, for example, by pursuing a railway procurement order, would he develop the project in phases as is currently proposed with the metro, which will be done in phases of metro west, metro north, etc.? Would he be able to deliver the metro north project by 2011, which I understand is the expected completion date?

Mr. Rabbitt spoke at length about interconnectivity within the existing public transport system. It is proposed, for some strange reason, that metro north will stop in Lissenhall, which is in the middle of nowhere. It is just 3 km from the Belfast railway line, which is being electrified to DART standard as far as Drogheda under Transport 21. I am being parochial. Anyone living along the northern rail line, which serves Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk, Rush and towns as far as Belfast, who wants to come to Dublin Airport must first travel to the city centre and then take the northbound metro. In this regard, one should bear in mind that passenger numbers for the airport are to increase to 30 million, or 50 million if there is to be a third metro. The entire population of north County Dublin is being denied access to its capital town, its airport, Dublin City University, the proposed children's hospital and the Mater Hospital. This sounds crazy.

Consider the results of a simple analysis I have carried out on the metro north route, bearing in mind that there are great benefits although we talk a lot about costs. If people in Swords transfer from the bus to the metro, when it is constructed, they will save 390 hours per year in travel time. This is the equivalent of ten weeks' work, yet the Railway Procurement Agency is saying it will not extend the metro line to meet the northern rail line, which is only three kilometres away. I notice Mr. Rabbitt has a dash on his diagram and that he proposes to have a heavy rail connection and to bring heavy goods to the airport. Irish Rail has moved away from freight transport but Mr. Rabbitt is saying it could be encouraged.

The attendance at this meeting is appalling considering that the metro is to be the biggest infrastructural project this nation will ever undertake. Along with my colleague, I must act as the Opposition to current political thinking. The Opposition ought to ask the questions I am asking.

Bearing in mind the safety aspects of a single-bore tunnel versus a twin-bore tunnel, what are the legislative requirements? Are there impediments or must we have a twin-bore tunnel? Will phase 1 be delivered as quickly as metro north? I ask so we will not put in jeopardy what we have already achieved.

Mr. Rabbitt

Salus populi suprema lex esto — the safety of the people is the ultimate law. Senator Morrissey asked about Irish standards of tunnel safety and about records. A draft regulation specifies that there be separate tunnels, yet most cities in the world have single-bore tunnels, many of which have been operating without fault for more than a century. On the question of a single large tunnel, line 9 in Barcelona runs right across the city and goes under ground very similar to that at Dublin Port. The engineer who constructed it has been in Ireland twice and I have been in Barcelona to walk the lines.

The Barcelona tunnel is very interesting. The city was dug up for the Olympic Games and the authorities did not want massive disruption. The tunnel has an upstairs-downstairs system and can incorporate a station within itself. One can use any length of train and build a platform of any length. One can store trains during off-peak hours and bring them in and out of service very quickly. This is because there is so much space above and below. One can interchange for different operations. This is significant in terms of operational costs, the number of drivers and the number of miles trains must drive while redundant.

There are many operational advantages to systems of the type in Barcelona. One can have utility rooms and transformers built in without having to build beside the tunnel. There is very easy access up and down to meet fire regulations. Line 9 works extremely well and it was built at very shallow depths in ground affected by outwash from mountains, gravel and water. There is a section just one metre above sea level and the ground water is about three feet below. I have seen this.

With a view to scoping the project, I calculated costs on the basis of the most expensive tunnel. The costs could be a lot lower. The metro north is due for 2012, on which schedule I could deliver. I am not just talking about delivering metro north because there is a lot to be delivered. In the early 1990s one of the aspects I had to consider was scale. Representatives of international business consortia, very large construction businesses, etc., said the scale is actually quite small and wondered whether they should get involved.

There are very good human transport reasons behind the initiative. If one builds a line to the airport and extends it to Swords, property prices will suddenly increase in Swords. This would be a great advertisement for people to live in Navan because they could not afford to live along the line. This happened along the DART line. Families living along the line thinned out and their sons and daughters, who could not afford to live there, so they moved to Templeogue where there was nothing. The history of development is such that it occurs where land is cheapest and where there are no services. Such land serves as the only place where the majority can afford to buy. A comprehensive system should therefore be constructed from day one, and the Templeogue line, airport link, etc., should be integrated from the outset.

Reference was made to linking the Swords metro line with the Belfast rail line. This boils down to gauge. I am working on the basis of the same gauge as the rail line. The inability to connect lines is a serious problem. Many people working in Lusk, Rush and Skerries and Donabate work in the airport. Would it not be great if they could get a train right into the centre? This must be borne in mind in the debate on integrated systems and ticketing. The proper approach is to achieve this and I ask the committee members to ask the hard questions at this stage, as in 1996 when it was asked why the metro option was not examined. We must examine this option. We did not burn any shoe leather to ensure it was achieved.

On the benefits and costs, the project will be the biggest infrastructural project in the State, as stated by Senator Morrissey. However, it is a question of quality of life. European cities, particularly in Germany, France and Austria, built metro systems in the 1960s when their GNP and car ownership levels were one third of what they are today. They did not construct them to facilitate those who did not have cars but because it was the proper thing to do in order to ensure a civilised life. We know this now and I am therefore providing the X's and O's for the city centre so one can link up the biggest hospital, the tourist destinations, including the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, and Temple Bar and the IT area. What will be done at Westgate where 38 acres are being developed? What will be done at Sir John Rogerson's Quay and at Spencer Dock, where mega-developments are being constructed? My proposal links them all and Spencer Dock will be only two and a half minutes from Grafton Street.

Senator Norris asked about my making a presentation to the infrastructure committee. I would like to do so but I want to make progress if it is possible. I do not want a repeat of what happened on the last occasion. This committee, being the proper forum to raise such issues, could recommend that I meet the Minister for Transport and his officials to answer his questions.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Rabbitt

I would meet his officials to outline the procedures and possibilities. I want a positive meeting. I do not want them to tell me what they are doing; I know that and how good they are. I want them to listen to what I have to say and analyse it, not what they are doing themselves. I would like to meet the Minister and his officials with a view to outlining the procedures.

The committee could also ask the RPA to meet me on a similar basis, with a possibility of co-operation or facilitation. It is the Railway Procurement Agency and its function is to procure railway lines. It could bring matters forward for the benefit of the country. The capital city could have a transportation system and a lifestyle to which we aspire. I have outlined how this could be funded and how it would be self-financing. That is a bonus because the money used provides additional physical infrastructure while releasing capital for social infrastructure, for which we are crying out. As we are taking on overheads in all of our systems every day, we need to find methods to address the transport infrastructure.

I made a proposal that I would like to put to the committee as a recommendation. It is in line with Mr. Rabbitt's remarks. He is driven by ideas and that makes people suspicious because they expect a big group but he does this out of his own interest and resources. We should recommend that the Minister and his officials meet him. They could then assess the quality of the work. That is what Mr. Rabbitt wants.

Has Mr. Rabbitt contacted the Minister?

This sort of thing arose ten years ago and it was blocked. I was in the Seanad and had the issue raised. We approached the Minister directly. Approaches by people from outside such as Mr. Rabbitt were not entertained but we secured a meeting and that is where this started. That is how we can help. Mr. Rabbitt may have written to seek a meeting and been rejected; I do not know, but it would be more likely that a meeting would be facilitated if we were to support it.

Mr. Rabbitt

I have met the Minister but they were not directed meetings. The RPA and those responsible for the Luas and the Dublin transport initiative, with all the data and facts I produce, never once asked me for a meeting. I would like to be invited to a meeting.

When trying to arrange a meeting with the Minister, what was the response? Was there a brief encounter.

Mr. Rabbitt

I met the Minister, Deputy Cullen, briefly and he said he would be interested in seeing more detail but there are firm commitments in Transport 21. Therefore, it is difficult for him to discuss issues outside of this. This is a worthwhile proposition that should be examined. I have spoken to Mr. Frank Allen but I have never been able to lay plans out to him. He is aware of my proposals but to carry an idea like this through, I must speak to those who understand the contractual arrangements and that has not happened.

We will consult the Chairman of this committee, Deputy Ellis, but I cannot offer any commitments. We will tell him what happened today and see what we can do. That is far as I can go.

Why is that as far as we can go? Is it because the Chairman is not here?

I do not think it is necessary to be the high panjandrum to get this one through. I suggest a modest request.

The Senator is always modest.

I am extraordinarily modest. We should send the report of this meeting to the Minister asking that he give it his special attention. We could then follow up what we have done here. However, this must be done urgently because we do not want things to happen on the ground that could make the situation more problematic.

Three years ago we sat long into the night at times, discussing a report that had been highly censored at the demand of the RPA, which stated it would not co-operate with the committee unless its wish was granted not to have market sensitive information published. We went along with this. Today we have seen figures produced and I want them to be analysed, assessed and verified. I do not care if it is the Minister who does this but I want it to be done. We have our own resources that would allow us to assess the figures independently. We have not carried out any consultancy reports this year.

Interest rates on capital available from the National Development Finance Agency are low. Have discussions taken place with that agency? This man has come in here and put his name down in opposition to an organisation which censors data. The least we must do on behalf of the taxpayer is to call for action.

That is my proposal.

I will call other members for a vote on verifying the figures which someone must assess. Senator Norris will settle for a letter to the Minister but some official in the Department will reply, stating he or she has read the correspondence and that will be it. I will not agree to this.

I understand where the Senators are coming from and I am impressed by what I heard. I will talk to the Chairman regarding what I said initially.

On a point of order, I want to clear up one matter. I understood the Acting Chairman said he legally cannot proceed because the Chairman is not here. Is that the correct position?

I never said "legally".

Then we can proceed.

I am referring this to the Chairman and a decision will be made at our next meeting. I thank Mr. Rabbitt very much for his presentation, which was very impressive. I thank both Senators for their contributions. They have been given good time.

What is the status of the proposed motion tabled by Senator Norris, which I am prepared to second?

With respect, I am not accepting it.

I know the Acting Chairman is well disposed.

We are going the way I said and that is the position.

I will make one comment and leave it at that. My understanding is that the Acting Chairman believes his hands are tied and he is not in a position to go any further. He will talk to the Chairman. My suggestion is that Mr. Rabbitt be invited by the Minister and so on. I have also said, and the Acting Chairman, I believe, is in agreement, that the blacks should be sent to the Minister with a recommendation and that at least will be done. My first recommendation was to the effect that this be independently reviewed by somebody who is competent to say whether the figures are accurate. If those figures are accurate, we would be stark raving mad not to go with this and to put in something that is about a quarter as useful and half as coherent for the same price. That is the test, I believe, if we can go that route. However, we must come back to this very early in the new year.

Time is marching on and they will have assembled facts. I have seen the way political people operate. They will be digging the bloody tunnel, just out of spite.

The Senator is himself a political person. I thank both the Senators and Mr. Rabbitt. We will do what we said. There is no further business.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.33 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 January 2007.