Roads Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Continuity is very difficult to maintain when there is a lapse of some weeks, but I will try not to repeat the points I made on the previous occasion. There was much criticism of the amount of money spent in Dublin but I made the point, very graphically, about the population of Dublin and the need to provide proper infrastructure there. There are other points I wish to make.

Due to financial uncertainty we were unable to plan for the medium and long term needs of the national roads. This task was left to local authorities. It seems a little unfortunate to say the least that when we now have a guaranteed source of funding through the Structural Funds, we are setting up the National Roads Authority. I know the Minister will reassure me that there is no implied criticism of the role of local authorities or their ability to perform magnificently given sufficient finance. I have no doubt of the need for the National Roads Authority. We need to draw up plans and secure finance so that the road structure throughout the Republic can be improved dramatically.

There is a major need to upgrade the public transport system, particularly in Dublin. I know, and am sure the Minister will reassure me, that roads will not be upgraded at the expense of public transport. A National Roads Authority which will draw up plans and identify finance for them is fine but I wish to point out that the Department of the Environment refused an application by Dublin County Council to continue construction of a roundabout which had already started on the Western Parkway, a major motorway and part of the ring road which will bypass Dublin city and county. The council took the initiative in applying for this sanction because, although the project did not form part of the link, it was a sensible one as the completion of the Navan Road bypass would involve ripping up part of a new road. Unfortunately, the Department of the Environment refused to allow the local authority to proceed with this small section of the Western Parkway which would have resulted in the integration of two major pieces of road infrastructure. Over the last few months part of a £36 million road has been torn up to enable the construction of the second leg of the ring road around the county to begin.

I hope that the National Roads Authority will not be hindered in its work as my local authority was and that its establishment will ensure that this waste of taxpayers' money will not happen again.

I do not know who the members of the National Roads Authority will be but I hope there will be some women among them. From my experience of the area in which I live and my membership of a local authority I know that national, primary and, particularly, district distributor roads cannot be described as "people friendly". The Minister spoke of the need for a central, single-minded, independent and far-seeing body. I hope the authority is extremely open-minded because I would love to make my own submissions on the provision of safe pedestrian facilities, cycle ways and pedestrian underpasses which are a major concern of mine. These existing underpasses are not safe. In my parish there are two within a few hundred yards of one another but to walk through them late at night when the public lighting may be out of order is highly undesirable.

Roads are constructed through housing estates. Roads are necessary to enable traffic to move in and out of an area and there is a clear need for national roads of a standard which will encourage industry to invest. I have been told by industrialists that they were attracted to an area by the road network to the industrial sites. However, we must ensure that we do not overlook the needs of people who live in these areas. I ask the Minister to ensure that the members of the National Roads Authority bear in mind the needs of pedestrians, those who push buggies and those who, at present, feel unsafe on many roads which, by and large, have been designed and constructed by men.

That last statement was sexist.

It is fact.

I do not know if women would do any better.

Give us a chance and see.

Has the Senator applied——

I do not have the necessary qualifications.

I welcome many of the Bill's provisions but am concerned about others. Irish motorists and the operators of commercial road vehicles have to pay heavy insurance and taxation costs but they are getting a bad return for their money when road conditions are taken into account. I welcome the improvements to the national primary roads but many more such improvements are needed on the roads the Chairman and I have to travel.

In my own county there have been improvements to the national primary routes. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, recently opened the Rathkeale bypass. One should give the positive aspects as well as the negative aspects. However, the main area of concern is our county roads. Having completed a Seanad campaign one is conscious of the progressive deterioration in the condition of our county roads over the last 15 years. It is time to halt that deterioration.

In my own county the county engineer made it clear that it would cost £25 million to bring the county roads of County Limerick up to the condition they were in 15 years ago. It is frightening to contemplate that £25 million would not raise the roads above the standard of 15 years ago. The roads in parts of our county are in extremely bad condition and in need of urgent repair; finance should be allocated for that. Every year due to the financial position of councils less and less money is going towards county roads. This situation must be changed.

The previous speaker spoke eloquently about the roads in Dublin and the condition of many urban roads is to be praised. Surely the person in rural Ireland who is paying the same road taxes deserves at least a standard of roads — maybe not as good as in town areas — suitable for normal transportation. Every public representative, whether a local representative, a TD or a Minister is conscious when out canvassing that one issue which arises in every area is the condition of the roads. The roads have become progressively worse in the last 15 years, and certainly since I became a member of a local authority in 1985.

I urge the Government to allocate money for the improvement of county roads. Mr. Ray McSharry, when he was EC Commissioner, spoke on this subject and, at the time, argued that Structural Funds be allocated for the improvement of county roads. I would like the Minister's response to Mr. MacSharry's suggestion at that time that a percentage of Structural Funding be dedicated towards county roads. Urgent action is needed. The Government should be more conscious of the demand of rural people for improved county roads.

I would like the Minister to consider increased allocations of funds to the local improvements scheme. There has been a reduction in the allocation in County Limerick for the scheme over a period of years. It is a good scheme which helps people living in remote areas not serviced directly by a public roadway. With funds under this scheme combined with a contribution from the people themselves, access roads can be improved. I know the Minister is keen to maintain rural Ireland. However, to do so we must give people access to rural Ireland and to their homes. Money allocated to the local improvement scheme to improve cul de sacs, passages where there is more than one premises, and to allow improvements in country areas, is money well spent. It is a vote of confidence in the people of rural areas who have been the backbone of our nation.

I would like to refer to an issue of great concern to the public representatives of all parties in County Limerick and that is the condition of N69, the road between Limerick city and Tarbert, which is extremely bad. It is a national secondary route but is one of the worst national secondary routes in the country. The Government and the Taoiseach have identified the Shannon area as one of special importance for the development of industry, heavy industry in particular, and Dr. Con Power, the Taoiseach's adviser, is doing his best to attract industry. There is no doubt that the condition of the roadway I refer to is a turn off for any industrialist coming into the region.

Senator Daly can bear me out on these two issues. We have an excellent airport at Shannon to service industry and we have an excellent port at Foynes to service the shipping industry. The Minister for the Marine will be opening some new extensions there next Monday. However, we have a roadway that negates these advantages. There is a stretch of 30 miles where one could hardly overtake another vehicle, except near Askeaton where the road has been improved.

We have had discussions on Limerick County Council and motions have been passed by all sides on the council — Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Progressive Democrats — on this issue; we all support each other. We have discussed the issue of upgrading the road to a national primary but that is not really our concern. We want money to improve the road; the status of the road does not make any diffence to us. We are afraid of spending the next ten years arguing whether it should be a national primary or national secondary road. The former Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley announced at one stage that money would be allocated to that road and it would be upgraded. At this stage we are not interested in upgrading. We are interested in the allocation of funds to improve one of the key routes for the development of industry in the mid-west region. We want to make it attractive to come to areas like Foynes or to the 200 acre industrial estate available for development in Askeaton.

I ask the Minister for the Environment and his Department to look seriously at this request. We need a comprehensive plan of improvement — an overall plan, not a plan to take a bend off here and a bend there, as has happened heretofore — immediately for the development of that road. The plan should be drawn up and implemented. Limerick County Council has the expertise to develop such a plan very quickly. Let the Department cost it and then allow the funds to come through. I ask the Minister to ask the Government to look seriously at this issue and take it off our agenda in County Limerick.

I should like to welcome the Minister of State to the House as it is my first occasion seeing him here. Being from Kildare I can say that shortly my county will be known as the bypass county. All the Senators present, except Senator McGennis, will appreciate the bypasses of Kildare. Newbridge, Kilcullen, Naas and Maynooth in the north of the county will soon be bypassed. Construction of those major bypasses is of great importance to the country and the people in surrounding areas greatly appreciate the amount of work done to ensure that all interest groups were treated fairly.

In the south of the county, Athy will be the first town on the national section of roadway to the south. That could be a major problem. The Department should commence work on the inner road in Athy. That road has been planned for many years and is considered to be of vital importance to the improvement of the road infrastructure in Kildare. Work on intersections on the Naas dual carriageway at Rathcoole, Johnstown and Kill is due to commence and I ask the Minister to consult with interested groups in those areas regarding the location of flyovers or tunnel passes to ensure that the best possible advantage is obtained from them. I attended a meeting of the Kill group and discovered that many of its communities believed the design and location of the intersection would not be of benefit to them. I hope the authorities will ensure that some of the problems expressed by the different organisations at that meeting will be resolved.

When discussing roads, Senators agree that the national roads are maintained in good condition. It is the non-primary roads that are the problem. Kildare, like other counties, has problems with its non-primary roads. The Department, through the local authorities, should ensure that the rural population is not forgotten in the development of the national carriageways. County roads leading away from the national primaries should be maintained to a high standard to integrate the rural population with that of the towns and cities. Rural populations believe they are ignored due to the condition of the roads.

When carrying out improvements to various roads the Department should allocate responsibility for their maintenance to local authorities. Comprehensive analysis of the sites for bypasses or intersections should be carried out so we will avoid the conditions sometimes seen at laybys when used or scrap cars and other items are dumped there. Landscaping should be included in the improvements to roads. Attention should also be given to road signs in rural areas where small communities border crossroads. Road signs there are as important as those elsewhere. Those communities should not be deprived of the basic necessity of adequate road signs.

I thank the Minister for attending and I hope that some of the ideas expressed in this House will bear fruit.

I welcome the Minister to the House. What I have to say on this Bill may appear parochial in some instances but there are also national issues involved.

I agree with previous speakers and with the former EC Commissioner, Ray MacSharry, that 10 per cent of the funds for national primary routes should be allocated to county road structures. The Minister would agree that the county roads structure throughout the country is falling apart. Major funding is necessary to restore it.

There are major problems in some counties with Iarnród Éireann and unattended level crossings. When stretches of road are being widened, one usually discovers that the last section to be completed is an area where there is contention with Iarnród Éireann. That issue should be addressed. It amazes me that the local authority can, in most instances, deal with all local landowners but has problems with Iarnród Éireann. I would also like to see more attention paid to level crossings.

The national primary route, N5, finishes in Castlebar and people in County Mayo would like to see the continuation of that road from Castlebar to Westport upgraded to national primary route status. The road from Swinford to Ballina should also be upgraded to national primary route status. Ballina is the third largest town in Connacht and it is a sad state of affairs that the national primary route does not reach the town. There is a campaign to have the road upgraded to national primary route status. Westport is a major tourist centre and the Chamber of Commerce, Mayo County Council, Westport Urban Council and other agencies are seeking to have the road from Castlebar to Westport upgraded.

Who is responsible for the imposition of national speed limits? There is a 30 miles per hour speed limit within urban boundaries. In exceptional cases decisions may be taken by local authorities to change the speed limit on a national route inside that boundary. Who is responsible for imposing speed limits on national primary routes or, indeed, on other routes? The road from Castlebar to Ballinrobe is a national secondary route and is probably one of the most dangerous roads in the country. We are thankful to the previous Minister for the Environment Mr. Flynn, who allocated specific funding for this route. However, we would appreciate funding for the removal of bad bends on other roads. I wait anxiously for the Minister of State's reply.

I support and welcome the Bill. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Browne, to the House and I wish him luck against Cork on Saturday.

He will need a good road to go to the match.

I hope the new National Roads Authority will ensure that EC funding for the development of our roads is properly spent. The duplication and bad planning which occurred during the construction of our bypasses is a national scandal. Some people may suggest that this does not matter because the project is funded by the EC.

A sum of £5 million was allocated for the construction of a bypass around my local town. However, it cost almost double that amount and its design is a disgrace. The local authority members blamed the Department of the Environment and the Department of the Environment blamed the local authority. I hope the lines of responsibility are clearly defined in this Bill and that road construction will be carried out more effectively and efficiently.

People involved in the construction of roads should learn from their mistakes. Throughout the country, bypasses are badly designed and constructed and they are endangering people's lives. This scandal should not be repeated.

Considerable waste is involved in the construction of a bypass over four or five years. As a small country we need money to develop our resources and our main roads are important. Therefore, when we receive money we have an obligation to spend it properly. Officials from the Department of the Environment, designers, architects and county council staff should learn from their mistakes because they have built many bad bypasses. I say that as a person who has been a public representative for 26 years. This practice must not continue in the interest of public safety.

The bypass around my town is a continuous hazard on the road to Cork. On average, there are three crashes a day as a result of its poor design. A child in second class in national school would have designed it better. I hope this mistake will not be repeated.

This Bill ensures that temporary dwellings will no longer be a problem on our main roads. However, temporary dwellings could become a problem on county roads. I appeal for enlightened planning in this area also because when temporary dwellings are removed, weeds and dirt accumulate on the vacant land. This land could be leased so as to reduce the maintenance cost for the local authority and to prevent the erection of temporary dwellings.

Our spendthrift attitude to road development must be changed. Otherwise, EC officials will say that we received money to develop our roads and to build bypasses, but we did not spend it properly. I hope the mistakes which have been made in the last ten or 15 years will not be repeated and that the National Roads Authority will act more responsibility and be an example to the people who wish to question how the authorities spend money.

The National Roads Authority should examine the operations of Coillte which has created many problems along main roads, particularly on the road between Cahir and Mitchelstown. Coillte removed timber from the Galtee Mountains and damaged the water drains. As a result, the main road became flooded. There have been many fatal accidents on that road. Coillte damaged the road surface, but did not repair it.

One Department does not care what another Department is doing. That damage to water drains is only the tip of the iceberg, compared to the damage Coillte has done to our county roads. Subcontractors are removing the timber, without any regard for the countryside. They seem to be responsible to nobody. As a result, the money which has been allocated for the development of our county roads must be spent on repairing damage to roads. Flooding never occurred on that road until Coillte removed the timber from the side of the Galtee mountains. The high priests in Coillte do not seem to worry about people in rural Ireland as long as Coillte acquires its supply of timber.

The National Roads Authority must ensure that we are not obliged to spend money unnecessarily on public roads because of the actions of an irresponsible body. Local authorities have little money. Therefore, our problems should not be added to by this type of activity. I hope Coillte will be reprimanded by the National Roads Authority.

I wish the National Roads Authority every success and I hope we see better planning, management and greater value for money in the years ahead.

Wexford): I thank the Senators for the enlightened and diverse views, from Senator McGennis who represents Dublin, and from Senators representing rural areas. There certainly was much evidence of parochialism.

Would the Minister expect any better?

(Wexford): The reason the National Roads Authority is being established is to provide an independent organisation to undertake the task of developing the national road network. These roads are a vital part of our national infrastructure and carry out 37 per cent of total road traffic. Two thirds of this traffic is work related. We need to spend over £3 billion to improve these roads as part of the overall effort to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy and reduce the impact of our peripheral location in the European Community. The National Roads Authority will co-ordinate and provide a single focus for over 30 national authorities who currently have responsibility for national roads. Senator Cosgrave raised the issue of the independence of the National Roads Authority. I assure the Senator that it will be an independent body with substantial functions. It will not be a talking-shop.

The National Roads Authority will take over all the functions currently exercised by the Department of the Environment in managing the development of the national road system. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, will continue to exercise overall policy supervision and certain judicial functions. I assure the House that there will be no interference by the Minister or the Department in the day to day operations of the National Roads Authority.

The Minister's role is clearly set out in the Bill. It relates principally to the approval of the National Roads Authority's medium-term plan. Most importantly, Exchequer funding for national roads will be in the form of a block grant paid to the National Roads Authority. Allocation of that money to individual projects will be the prerogative of the National Roads Authority only.

Senator McGennis made the point about the National Roads Authority's single-mindedness and said she hoped it would be prepared to listen. I also hope it will be prepared to listen. It will have to publish draft plans of what it intends doing as well as inviting and considering submissions from the public.

Senator Cosgrave asked how long it would take to upgrade the national primary road network. A target of 12 to 15 years has been set to achieve this task. Our capacity to achieve it will depend on the availability of EC funding and the capacity of the Exchequer to provide matching funds. It is intended to have the National Roads Authority in full operation from 1 January, 1994. Staffing will be drawn from experienced personnel in the Department's road division.

The question of tolling powers was raised by a number of Senators. Some of them expressed concern about the cost of tolls on motorists. It has been the policy of successive Governments, drawn from virtually all parties in this House, to seek toll-based investment in roads. It has been the consistent policy of these Governments that revenue obtained through tolling should be used for road development. In my view logic dictates that tolling powers should be available to the National Roads Authority as part of its overall financial powers which include the power to allocate State grants, borrow money and promote EC investment in national roads. I would remind the House, however, that this is not an unfettered power. The authority is obliged to consult fully with the appropriate local authority and consider any views expressed by it. There is a public consultation process. The Minister must hold a public local inquiry into any objections and tolls cannot be levied without ministerial approval. Senators should also note that the scope for tolling in this country is very limited and that there are no projects on national roads which could be fully funded by toll-based private investment. All would need a contribution from Exchequer funds.

Senator Quinn made a number of points about the importance of roads for industrial competitiveness and suggested that we need to accelerate our development programme partly by generating private funding. When looking at private funding there are two possible options: toll-financed private investment or some form of loan finance. As I mentioned already, the scope of private toll-based investment is very limited for two reasons: we do not have the traffic volumes or the mileage of motorway type roads suitable for tolling. East Link and West Link are the only toll facilities we have to date. Indeed, motorists coming from Wexford have to pay substantial sums when they cross the East Link bridge as they do when going to Croke Park. Toll proposals for the Dublin ring road proved unacceptable to Dublin County Council——

Bear that in mind.

(Wexford): While negotiations on possible toll-based investment in the Newbridge and Kilcullen by-passes did not reach a satisfactory conclusion, mainly because the likely level of private funding available was small compared to the total cost and the likely diversion of traffic onto secondary roads.

Regarding loan finance, the major concern is the cost of borrowing. Private money is, of course, available, but should we borrow it at a cost greater than direct Exchequer borrowing? Our investment programme is also influenced by the availability of funding to match EC finance. The National Roads Authority will have both tolling and borrowing powers and will be able to look afresh at the question of funding. I hope when the Authority considers the possibility of tolling it will have full consultation with the local authorities involved and that the Minister can also intercede if he so wishes.

Senators Quinn, Daly and others commented on the role of the executive chairman. We might be in a position to return to that on Committee Stage when they can outline their views more clearly. Annual reports were also referred to and I would point out that the National Roads Authority will be duty bound to present its annual report not later than 30 June each year. That answers Senator Quinn's question. Senator Finneran expressed a concern that the west and midlands would not be ignored in developing the national road network. I can assure him this is not the case, and that when the next road programme is published he will find substantial investment proposed in those areas. I want to assure Senator McGowan that I share his call for a balanced approach to road development. We do, of course, have to start somewhere and that means concentrating first on the roads with the worst traffic capacity problems and bottlenecks. Generally, one would expect the National Roads Authority to develop the road network on a fair and equitable basis and to ensure that all sectors of the country are suitably serviced.

As regards representation on the National Roads Authority, the Bill provides that members must have had wide experience of roads, transport, industrial, commercial, financial, or environmental matters, local government, the organisation of workers, or administration. Members will be chosen for their personal skills and not as representatives of particular organisations or interests or indeed political parties. It is very important that we have a range of expertise and experience on the Authority, and that it will not be made up of political hacks. When the board is set up Senators will see that the National Roads Authority will comprise people suitably qualified to perform the duties involved.

There were many calls during the debate for increased assistance for regional and county roads, including pleas from Senator Gallagher about the roads in Cavan, Senator Cotter in relation to roads in Monaghan and Senator McGowan in relation to roads in Donegal. In addition to increased funding for national roads and notwithstanding the constraints on Government since 1987 in our efforts to restore balance to the public finances, substantial extra funding has been provided for non-national roads. Total grants to local authorities for the maintenance and improvement of regional and county roads were increased from £40.5 million in 1986 to over £75.3 million in 1993, an increase of over 85 per cent and well ahead of the rate of price increases. The discretionary grant allocation to local authorities of £182.4 million provided for non-national roads in the three years 1989-91 was significantly ahead of the target of £150 million which the Government had initially promised for that period. In 1993 funding is again being provided for non-national roads which is a clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to the improvement of the road network considering the Exchequer constraints.

I would like to make a particular point in relation to Cavan/Monaghan. Some £5 million is being provided this year in the form of a supplementary grant for improvement works on non-national roads of which over 20 per cent is being allocated to Cavan and Monaghan county councils, so they are obviously getting priority. Other politicians around the country may not be happy about that but, because of the serious road situation in those countries it was important to provide an increased allocation to help bring local road standards up to those of the rest of the country. There is also a special provision for pilot projects in this year's allocation. The provision, which is over and above the normal rate of grants for non-national roads, is intended for pilot projects in counties Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan which will evaluate and implement new mechanisms and work practices designed to enhance the output from funds available for regional and county roads.

There has been a lot of comment about EC Structural Funds. This is an area in which both the Minister and the Taoiseach have taken a keen interest. Much has been said about the former EC Commissioner Mr. MacSharry's comments that 10 per cent of European funding should be made available for county roads. The Minister has been involved in discussions in Brussels in relation to this proposal. There is a tendency in Brussels to provide moneys directly for primary roads and not county roads. The Senator can rest assured that the Minister is doing his utmost to secure funding for county roads to ensure that their current standard is improved. This is important when there is so much emphasis on the development of tourism as part of our economic development.

The question of reclassifying roads to national status was raised by Senator McGowan. Before formally establishing the National Roads Authority, there will be a complete review of national roads classification. Roads serving the State airports and the designated key commercial seaports will be classified as national if they are not classified as such already. The review will also look at what other changes are required to take account of new road construction, changed traffic management arrangements and changed traffic patterns. Requests for reclassification are regularly received and are carefully examined. However, there is already an extensive network of national primary and secondary roads, so reclassifications will be made on a selective basis only to carry out works. Urban authorities have powers to control the activities of the ESB, Telecom Éireann and An Bord Gáis. I would like to see them implementing the powers they have on a more regular basis to ensure that roads are kept up to standard, and to avoid wastage of funds on road openings three or four times a year by different State bodies. There should be co-ordination in this area.

Senator Farrell made a number of valuable points in relation to using the valuable expertise of the local authorities, the VAT treatment of local authority work, the importance of increased investment in non-national roads and the problem associated with getting planning permission on certain roads. The 1982 guidelines from the Department suggest a very restrictive approach to development along national roads, especially national primary roads. This restrictive approach does not apply to regional or local roads.

Most county councils allow for certain exceptions to the departmental guidelines in accordance with criteria which they have built into the county development plan. It is important that where major roads are leading to ports and airports this will be seriously considered. Adding roads willy nilly would also dilute the available funding for the network and would not be in the long term interests of the country.

Senator McGowan raised a number of issues in relation to the contracting of work. Many county councils have begun to contract out road improvement works on national roads. In many cases some of the work is contracted out and the local authority also carries out some of the work because they already have the manpower and the machinery, and it is important that a balance be struck in that area.

Road openings were mentioned by a number of Senators. This area becomes very contenious when Telecom Éireann, the ESB and An Bord Gáis all open the roads at different times. This should continue because people want to live in their own area and build on their own land. It is important to define situations in the county development plans to ensure that this can continue.

The problem of temporary dwellings was mentioned. All the powers in sections 69 to 71 in the National Roads Authority Bill can be exercised by local authorities and by the gardaí to remove people from temporary dwellings. Unauthorised trading and dangerous trees are also a major cause of concern. I assure Senator Sherlock that the National Safety Council dealing with roads, fire and water safety is very active in this area.

It was suggested that each county should keep its own motor tax collection. That would not be in the best interests of local authorities in the long term because local authorities get substantially more in State road grants than they collect in road tax. This year less than £2 million will be collected in motor tax while State road grants amount to £340 million.

Questions in regard to speed limits, land acquisition and sign posting have been raised and we will take the points made back to the Department which will communicate directly with the Senators who raised them. Iarnród Éireann was mentioned. I have a lot of problems with Iarnród Éireann in my own county. Iarnród Éireann seems to think that the Government is loaded with money while they maintain that they do not have any. The area of level crossings and warning signs needs to be examined. I will discuss this issue and the question of speed limits with my officials.

A number of Senators have expressed concern about the role local authorities will play when the National Road Authority is set up. I assure Senators that the local authorities will continue to play a major role in the development of the national roads. They have the expertise and the experience, and the National Roads Authority will continue to call on their staff to design roads, prepare contract documents, supervise construction and carry out maintenance. The mandate of the National Roads Authority will extend to the ongoing maintenance of national networks. There is no point spending money on new roads if we fail to maintain those already built.

Senator Kelly raised the questions of lay-bys, picnic facilities and landscaping. Picnic sites might be used for temporary dwellings and roadside trading. Around the country designated picnic sites or caravan sites seem to be taken over by roadside traders and this is not in the best interests of the local areas. That is the only reservation I have on this issue.

The possibility of advertising in local papers was also raised. This was discussed in great detail in the Dáil and it is something I will consider when framing regulations to implement the Bill. The suggestion was also made that a non-driver should be appointed to the National Roads Authority. It is now Government policy that 40 per cent of the board members of State bodies should be women. We hope the National Roads Authority will adhere to this policy.

Senator O'Sullivan made a number of comments on the importance of by-passes and signposting in highlighting special features of by-passed towns which would encourage visitors to come to these towns. Senator Wall spoke about Kildare becoming a by-passed county. The Department will have to seriously consider this issue when by-passes are being built. There are a number of these by-passes in Wexford and some of the towns seem to suffer as a result.

The question of overlap of functions was also raised. I hope there will be no overlap of functions. The National Roads Authority will take over the management functions currently exercised by the Department of the Environment. It will also have the power to ensure that road planning and other policy areas are properly co-ordinated.

Senator Daly mentioned travellers camping on the new Bunratty by-pass. The encampment of travellers on our main high speed roads has long been recognised as a problem. Section 69 of this Bill gives local authorities and the Garda effective powers to remove temporary dwellings from motorways, protected roads and national roads, and I think this provision should go a long way towards eliminating the problem from the high speed roads. I speak from personal experience when I say that it may take a little more than a section of the Bill to deal with this problem.

The Senator also raised the subject of the Limerick by-pass and said that this road had been constructed on extremely poor, boggy ground. It is expected that some sections of the road will deteriorate after a number of years. Works are to be carried out this year on the sections of the Ennis dual carriageway which should eliminate the problems which Senator Daly raised. I do not understand why a recently constructed by-pass should have to be resurfaced so soon after construction, even allowing for the extremely boggy ground. This should have been taken into account at the time of construction.

Facilities for cyclists and effective action on roadside vegetation were discussed. Section 68 of the Bill gives local authorities powers to provide cycleways while section 70 gives them improved powers to deal with roadside trees and vegetation. A number of Senators, including Senator McGennis, raised the issue of cyclists and I would like to see this area improved because we have not done enough to make our roads safe for cyclists.

I have responded as best I can to the issues raised by Senators. I hope that on Committee Stage Senators will introduce amendments and we can discuss them fully to see how we can improve the Bill.

Many of the points raised by Senator McGennis about improved public transport, better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, concerns about personal security and so on are being dealt with by the Dublin Transport Initiative.

I would like to assure Senator Neville that the condition of the N69 road will not be allowed become an impediment to the future development of the Shannon Estuary. The local issues raised by Senators will be considered by the Department and I hope they will get a response. The points raised by Senator Wall about Athy and the location of the Naas Road interchanges and the comments made by other speakers will also be considered by the Department.

Senator Mooney referred to Border roads and trans-European routes and, with other Senators, he made a strong case for county road investment. He particularly referred to the Border roads and, as he said, funding is available under the EC Interreg initiative. I expect that this initiative will continue in the next round of Structural Funds. As I mentioned earlier, general funding for county roads has increased substantially in the Border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim.

Senator Mooney also argued for the improvement of the Belfast-Dublin-Rosslare route and I have to support that as the route ends in Rosslare. It is one of our highest priorities for investment and the Minister for the Environment recently announced approval for the Balbriggan section of the route. He also referred to the inclusion of the N16 in the trans-European network proposals. This route will be part of the finally approved trans-European network and thereby eligible for Cohesion Fund assistance. The N16 will be upgraded in due course but probably not to motorway standard.

I wish to repeat that Senators put much thought, effort and work into the Bill. The Department of the Environment would incur a large expenditure bill if we were to spend all the money requested by the Senators, especially in relation to rural Ireland. It is important that the National Roads Authority and the Department strike a balance to ensure that the roads not only in Dublin but in rural areas are upgraded and developed, giving easier access to this country and allowing people in industry to transport their goods to the European market of 320 million people as quickly as possible. I hope we can continue to work on this Bill and get Committee Stage through the Seanad as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 26 May 1993.