Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 11 Jun 1998

Vol. 155 No. 22

Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 1:
In page 4, before section 3, to insert the following new section:
"3.—Section 43 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion after subsection (2) of the following subsection:
‘(2A) Notwithstanding subsection (2) and section 46(4), direct access from any adjoining land to a motorway or from the motorway to such land may be granted by the Authority to Córas Iompair Éireann in respect of a light railway—
(a) authorised by a light railway order under section 9 of the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, or
(b) the subject of an application for a light railway order under section 3 of that Act,
and, accordingly, any such access shall not be a contravention of subsection (2) or section 46(4).'.".

The background to this amendment lies in the intention that the proposed Dublin LRT will cross the M50 motorway at the Red Cow junction on the Naas Road intersection. A special bridge will be constructed running parallel to the roundabout and on a level with the Naas Road. The light railway will cross the top of the M50 slip roads in order to gain access to the bridge.

This design was agreed following consultation between the Dublin Transportation Office, the LRT project team, the National Roads Authority and South Dublin County Council. It was agreed that the light rail crossing is feasible and that Luas vehicles will operate within the traffic light system determined by the road traffic.

The DTO recommendation was based on a specially commissioned report which shows that it is possible to run the LRT line through the interchange without interfering with the road traffic. Planning and design of the LRT have been carried out on this basis. However, it has recently come to our attention that while access to the M50 motorway in the sense which the layman might understand it is not envisaged, the light rail might in law be regarded as accessing the motorway in that it will cross the tops of the ramps to and from the motorway, as is regularly the case. The map accompanying the motorway declaration order shows most of the ramps to be included in the motorway. This is not done to avoid access being sought to the motorway from the land adjoining the sliproads.

In view of the prohibitions of the Road Act, 1993, on direct access to motorways, it is considered prudent to amend the Act to facilitate the proposal. The amendment gives the NRA authority to grant direct access to the motorway to CIE in respect of a light rail proposal under the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996. It is important to note that this power to grant direct access will rest with the NRA which has statutory responsibility for the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads. All aspects of the LRT design will be open for consideration as part of the statutory consent procedures under the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996.

There have been many requests in this House to take all Stages of a Bill on a particular day. Many Members felt we could take all Stages of this Bill but the Opposition was not in favour of doing that. We were proved right because the Minister has moved an important amendment which removes a doubt that might have existed if this legislation had been passed in its original form.

I am concerned about the interchanges on the M50. The Minister said it is feasible to have light rail transport on the roundabout by using traffic lights. When we were designing new motorways, roundabouts and interchanges, traffic lights were the last thing we needed. Unfortunately, however, they were installed at the Red Cow and Blanchardstown interchanges. It is difficult to understand how it will be possible for light rail transport to use the Red Cow interchange without interfering with traffic. One has only to go to the roundabout each morning and evening to see the traffic difficulties there. I cannot understand how it is feasible to have light rail transport on the roundabout.

This is a technical provision to change what was perceived as a defect in the Bill which could cause difficulties at a later date in terms of development. We did not debate this matter the last day and it probably would not have been addressed even if we had discussed the Bill for a longer period of time.

I agree with Senator Joe Doyle about this particular roundabout. The build-up of traffic on it is horrendous. When the roundabout was built, it was not intended to put traffic lights on it. Traffic lights were only installed as a corrective measure because the roundabout did not work. While it works better with them, they are not a solution to the problem. This underlines the need for better planning of our road infrastructure. Our thinking is too short term. We are looking for cheap solutions which are more expensive in the long run.

I welcome this Bill which I hope will lead to more forward planning. We should ensure that when we build roads they will be there for 50, 60 or 80 years and that they will only have to be maintained not reconstructed. I urge the Department to do that.

I thank both Senators for their comments on this matter. This amendment is designed to provide a legal basis for a particular situation, that is, the crossing at the top of the sliproads and onto the ramps at the Red Cow interchange. This is an enabling provision. The pros and cons of the design of the light rail system at the Red Cow interchange or any other location must be examined in detail at a public inquiry before the Minister for Public Enterprise can make a light rail order. The National Roads Authority has overall responsibility for the motorway network and it must also give its consent to any such light rail line. These procedures will ensure there is no negative impact on the capacity of the motorway network.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 is consequential on amendment No. 3. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, line 33, to delete "two" and substitute "three".

This issue was raised on Second Stage in the other House by a Member of the Minister's party who felt there should be a six month period. An amendment was tabled on Report Stage in the Dáil which sought to extend it to four months, but the Minister did not accept it. Concern was expressed by a Member of the Minister's party and by Deputy Howlin that the period for the public to prepare a case for a judicial review should be extended. I am trying to act as Solomon here today by asking for a three month period. I know from planning procedures that it takes time for local groups to get all the required documentation together before they present their case. In light of the views expressed in the other House, it is only reasonable that the Minister should extend the period at least by one month.

On Second Stage, Senators welcomed the provisions being introduced to regulate a judicial review. Section 5 aims at striking the right balance between, on the one hand, ensuring that legal proceedings challenging decisions on motorway schemes or roads related environmental impact statements can be brought to finality and, on the other hand, safeguarding the rights of the individual to challenge these decisions where he or she considers it necessary to do so. The correct balance has been achieved in section 5 and the related part of section 4. I remain of the view that two months is a reasonable and sufficient amount of time for lodging an application for leave to apply for a judicial review. All sides of this House have expressed concern on a number of occasions at the length of time it now takes to bring major infrastructural projects to reality. In this light, it would be inconsistent as well as unnecessary to amend the Bill as proposed. I ask the Senator to reflect on this and to withdraw his amendment.

I understand the Minister's anxiety to restrict the time the public has to oppose the building of motorways and other such projects. However, the Minister is achieving that in another way in this Bill because the High Court can make a decision about a judicial review. It is only in exceptional circumstances that it could go to the Supreme Court. The Minister is already limiting the public's right to oppose such projects. That is important because the delay occurred once people went to the High Court and then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. I know of a number of motorways and roadways which were held up under that procedure, including parts of the M50 which were held up for a long time, but that has been resolved in this Bill. I ask the Minister to allow the public more time to present its case because it may be its last opportunity to do so. The Minister should bear that in mind.

Other codes, such as planning, waste management and light rail, have specific rules governing legal challenge to decisions made under the legislation. The aim of these provisions is not to rule out legitimate legal challenges, but to ensure that such challenges are brought to finality within a reasonable timescale.

These new provisions will not restrict the right to institute proceedings. They are intended merely to ensure that any such proceedings can be brought to finality as quickly as possible, bearing in mind the importance of having final and conclusive decisions on major road development proposals within a reasonable timescale. The new arrangements give a longer time — two months instead of the former three weeks — to mount a challenge to a motorway scheme and formally provide for challenges to decisions on the EISs where there was no such provision before. Two months, as allowed for in other legislation, is adequate and I cannot agree, unfortunately, to accept the amendments.

Question, "That the word proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, line 14, to delete "two" and substitute "three".

Question, "That the word proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 5 agreed to.
Sections 6 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank Senators for their co-operation in ensuring the speedy passage of the Bill. While the Bill is short and somewhat technical in nature, it provides valuable clarification and enhancement of the law in important areas of transportation planning. Transport is a key feature of modern life and it is essential that the law keeps pace with what we want to achieve in terms of providing mobility for goods and people. The Bill helps to do this.

I look forward to the enactment of the Bill in the near future after the Dáil considers this amendment.

I compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill in the House. I thank him for his responses to the debate. I welcome the Bill, the provisions of which will enable us to provide necessary better road infrastructure in the future. This is needed in order to assist the growing economy.

This was a technical Bill and I thank the Minister for introducing it to the House. My only regret is that while we were prepared to accept his amendment, he could not accept our amendments.

Acting Chairman

I thank the Minister and his officials.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 12.55 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.