I thank the delegation for its presentation. It never surprised me that the AerDart service from Howth Junction to Dublin Airport ceased. I saw the bus in question almost every day because I work in the area and there was hardly ever anyone on it, be it a Sunday, Saturday, Monday or Tuesday. The bus went from Howth Junction to the Airport and its purpose was, supposedly, to get people there using public transport. It was under used and I believe the only way the service could function would be for an operator, be it Dublin Bus or a private company, to be subsidised. I never saw more than three people on the bus as it left the airport. It went down the N32, a road I use frequently, which had a quality bus corridor that was cancelled only recently. Even after the service was dropped, Dublin City Council maintained the QBC. It is an absolute waste of road space.
The possibility of inviting licence applications for peak-time services was mentioned. I believe that park and ride facilities will be provided by the private sector and, equally, new services will more likely be provided via the private sector. I say this because even though Dublin Bus is getting extra buses, if it is to provide the service the public expects, those extra buses, or certainly their first phase, will be used for existing routes. There is a gap in the market. The representatives here today are from the private sector. Why are there not people within their operation who recognise the importance of establishing park-and-ride facilities on the outskirts of Dublin?
In my own region of Dublin North, somewhere north of Swords where there will be a metro station and a park and ride facility, one could build a park and ride tomorrow morning with a private operator collecting people and bringing them through Dublin Port tunnel into the city. It would take thousands of cars off the road and provide a facility with which, based on my discussions, I think Dublin Bus would not have a problem. Dublin Bus believes that it has different priorities. It surprises me that there are not a number of people within the group who intend to go out there, lease the land and provide a park-and-ride and a bus service into town. That could happen all over. The other Deputies can talk about Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and so on.
The connection between the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann was mentioned. Given that the private companies have the buses, and Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann do not need licences to operate existing services, surely, from a business perspective, there is a case to be made for approaching Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann and offering buses for their use. For example, if Dublin Bus is short 350 buses, the private company could offer to supplement its service. With a bit of negotiation, the company will get business. Dublin Bus already has the licence so there should not be a difficulty.
The issue of subsidising peak services was mentioned. However, the peak service pays for itself. Buses are full and people are left at bus stops. There is no need to subsidise them. Subsidies are really needed in the off-peak times such as mid-afternoon, mid-morning and late at night. Nobody wants to run those services because only half a dozen people will be leaving at those times. That is where the emphasis should be in terms of subsidies. We should insist on that service being provided either by public transport or by private companies. If they cannot sustain those routes with the fares they collect, they should be given a subsidy.
Over the years I have discussed transportation issues with many members of the public. I meet very few people who tell me they want to get from Blanchardstown to Tallaght, Tallaght to Blanchardstown or Swords to Blanchardstown. There are few places in between these centres. Many of the businesses in my region provide private buses to collect workers and bring them into the business park. Again, this is just an observation. I do not see these routes as a priority and I would not like that message going out to the group. Rather, the priority should be the expanding residential areas in north Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Analysis of growth in house-building activity will show that regardless of whether we like it, the vast majority of people work in Dublin city. That should be the target market — places such as Balbriggan, Swords, Donabate, Rush and Lusk. I will let the other members speak for Kildare and Meath.
There is a huge market and it is growing. One can look at Fingal County Council's development plan and see the projected house growth in these areas. Thousands of houses are to be built, and there will be thousands of people who want to use public transport. They will do so if there is a good service. The reason I say this is that a new private service from Swords has been introduced by a company called Swords Express. I am sure the representatives are aware of it. It charges more than Dublin Bus — it is €3 from Swords to the city using the Dublin Port tunnel. However, one gets into town in 25 minutes — less, on some occasions. People are prepared to pay the extra euro because to go the traditional route, as Dublin Bus does at the moment, takes an hour and a half at the minimum or maybe longer if it is a rainy day or there are traffic jams. People want a service at the time at which they want to get in to work, at 7 a.m. until 8.30 or 9 a.m., and 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. That is what is needed. I would welcome the suggestions of the representatives.