Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 [Seanad Bill amended by Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.

I welcome the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey.

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 103, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed groupings to the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

The first group of amendments with which we will deal is comprised of amendments Nos. 11 to 18, inclusive.

This group of amendments relates to the membership of the authority and the advisory council. With regard to the authority, the Bill always provided for a chairperson and nine members and that remains the case. On Committee Stage in the Seanad, the bar on local authority members serving on the Dublin transport authority was discussed. This bar was subsequently removed by amendments. A further amendment, which reduces the number of DTA executives on the authority from three to two, has also been made. This will allow the Minister for Transport to appoint six ordinary members of the authority in addition to the chairperson.

The advisory council has been increased in size from 12 to 23 members, plus a chairperson. There will be a member from each local authority in the greater Dublin area, GDA — a development which was sought by Members in this House — in addition to a member from each of the two regional authorities. This means there will be a total of nine public representatives on the Dublin transport authority. The amendments also provide for two Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, nominees, two business representatives, two representatives concerned with the promotion of the general interests of communities in the GDA and four representatives of the public interest, including the interests of people with disabilities.

These are the major changes that have been introduced in respect of the membership of the Dublin transport authority and the advisory council. They go a long way towards meeting the concerns expressed in this and the Lower House.

I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will guide me in respect of the matters under discussion. I wish to make a number of points in respect of these amendments, which relate to the advisory council and the board. My colleague, Senator Donohoe, who tabled a number of amendments on Committee and Report Stages in respect of the membership of the advisory council and the board, is not available. One of the Senator's concerns is that representatives of consumers — in this case, commuters — would be included on the advisory council. I did not detect from the Minister's comments whether Senator Donohoe's concerns have been taken on board. Will the Minister clarify the position in that regard?

Another issue raised in this and the Lower House was the vetting of board members by the Joint Committee on Transport. I do not believe the Minister referred to that matter either when commenting on the amendments.

I understand that on Report Stage in the Dáil, some 72 amendments were not reached as a result of the imposition of a guillotine. I am sure some of those amendments are contained in the group with which we are dealing. Perhaps the Minister might explain what is covered and indicate whether this group deals with the matters to which I refer.

On the question of representation for commuters and others, I already provided a breakdown in respect of the membership of the advisory council. Four of the members of the council will be representative of the public interest and will be appointed by the Minister. These individuals can be nominated by different interest groups. Therefore, the concerns to which the Senator refers in this regard are covered by this group of amendments.

As regards the Joint Committee on Transport vetting board members, we made a number of changes regarding the authority, appointments thereto and the role of the joint committee. The latter has been given a new role, to which I will refer in respect of a later group of amendments. To allow the joint committee to vet people and make final decisions in respect of the board's membership would be an abdication of the responsibility of the Minister and the Government to make such decisions. Therefore, no change has been made in that regard.

The second group is comprised of amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, 8 to 10, inclusive, 19, 22, 24, 25, 31, 32, 37 and 39 to 41, inclusive.

This group of amendments deals with enhanced accountability, reporting and consultation arrangements. It was always the case that, under the Bill, the Joint Committee on Transport could call the chairperson and chief executive officer to account for their stewardship of the authority. The Minister for Transport retains direct political responsibility and ultimate accountability for the DTA and has final sign-off in respect of its two main outputs, namely, the transport strategy and the implementation plan. In addition, all moneys voted to the DTA will go through the Vote of the Department of Transport. The Secretary General remains the Accounting Officer for all voted transport expenditure and will report to the Committee of Public Accounts in respect of those funds.

As already stated, the Bill has been amended to provide that the Joint Committee on Transport shall be consulted on the DTA's draft transport strategy. This matter was the subject of discussion in the Seanad on a previous Stage. The joint committee will be entitled to call representatives of the DTA to come before it to discuss the draft strategy and shall submit its views to the Minister prior to the strategy being approved by him or her.

Several amendments have been made to strengthen the consultation among the DTA and various interested parties, including regional and local authorities, the Garda Síochána, other transport authorities and the public, in the greater Dublin area. This matter was also previously discussed at length in the Seanad. The DTA must consult all of these parties when the transport strategy is being developed and again before it is submitted to the Minister for Transport. Members of the public will also be entitled to make written submissions.

Before the draft transport strategy is approved, the regional authority, the joint committee and interested parties will have a four-week period in which to make known their views to the Minister. The recommendations of the advisory council, and the DTA's reasons as to why it has rejected any of these, must be published.

A further amendment to the Bill requires that the DTA must report every two years in respect of the continuing need for any subsidiaries it may establish. The Bill has also been amended to make it explicit that on each occasion on which consultation occurs, the authority or the Minister must consider the views expressed by the consultees.

This group of amendments introduces a number of changes. Many of those changes were discussed in the Seanad but we were not in a position at the time to accept the amendments relating to them. However, the concerns expressed were subsequently taken on board in the Dáil.

The third group is comprised of amendments Nos. 36, 38, 42, 45, 46 and 48 to 50, inclusive. The subject matter of these amendments relates to the relationship between the DTA and other organisations.

One of the amendments in this group takes account of a concern originally expressed by Senator Brendan Ryan in respect of legal professional privilege. The amendment makes it clear that when authorised officers of the DTA seek documents and records from another organisation, there is no requirement to provide documents which would otherwise be protected by legal professional privilege. As the Senator will recall, we discussed the need to make provision in respect of legal professional privilege. It was not believed absolutely necessary but in deference to what he said, we have included it.

The Bill provides that the functions of the Dublin Transportation Office should be absorbed into the DTA and the DTO will be dissolved in due course. The original Bill contained only provisions relating to the transfer of staff from the DTO to the DTA. An amendment was made in the Dáil providing that similar provisions should apply to any transferring staff of the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA. The Bill already provided that the integrated ticketing function of the RPA should transfer to the DTA. That amendment allows the RPA to designate, with the consent of the Minister, staff to be transferred to the DTA provided their principal duties relate to a function assigned to the DTA.

When I introduced the Bill to the House, I indicated that the Government had asked my Department to consider the possibility of the incorporation of the Commission for Taxi Regulation. That is consistent with the decisions being made to pursue administrative efficiencies but following examination of the proposal, it became apparent that it would be too complicated to integrate the commission into the DTA at this time. We were not able to do it in the timeframe for consideration of the Bill.

A new subsection has been added to section 76 to require the DTA and the commission to consult each other with a view to identifying administrative efficiencies in regard to the implementation of their respective functions and implementing such measures as they consider appropriate to achieve those efficiencies.

In regard to the DTA's strategic traffic management plan, amendments were made to the section on traffic management guidelines which make it clear that control of carparking revenue remains in the control of the local authorities. Further amendments were made which clarified the role of the National Roads Authority in regard to road user information systems.

The fourth group comprises amendments Nos. 26 and 27 on public transport service contracts.

Amendment No. 26 relates to the insertion of two additional paragraphs to section 48 which provides the statutory basis for the authority to enter into public transport service contracts in respect of the provision of bus, rail, light rail and metro services.

Section 48(3)(o), as amended by the Dáil, responds to concerns expressed in regard to the terms and conditions of employment for public transport sector operators. The House will be aware that arising from Towards 2016, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is preparing legislation to give effect to a range of measures and discussions are also taking place in the partnership talks on the implementation of part two of Towards 2016 in regard to workplace employment rights and compliance. That is being dealt with in those circumstances and the Bill, when enacted, will take on board whatever agreements are reached.

We introduced a new paragraph (o) to require that the public transport service contracts contain requirements relating to the applicable law in regard to pay and terms and condition of employment. That addressed the concern expressed in so far as it was within my capacity to do so at this time.

Arising from concerns relating to the certification of transport operators, paragraph (n) was inserted. That will require operators to hold the appropriate national and international road passenger operators licence, known as the RPTOL, which is granted every five years. The application criteria relate to a range of issues such as professional competence, good repute and sound financial standing.

The second amendment in the group, amendment No. 27, relates to section 52 which establishes that the three CIE companies have exclusive rights to provide the services which are currently the subject of State financial control and for growth in respect of rail services, subject to future legislative changes. In the case of bus services, the exclusive right is also subject to the grant of bus route licences to private bus operators under the Road Transport Act 1932 and direct award contracts will be entered into to support the provision of the services. We are concerned here with services existing at the time the Bill is passed.

The amendment sees the introduction of a new section 5 which provides that the authority can make alterations to bus services to which the contracts with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann relate provided there is no amendment to the scope of the exclusive rights to which the contract relates.

I wish to ask the Minister about how public funds used to subsidise non-profitable public transport routes will be guaranteed into the future, an issue raised in both Houses. A vital aspect of public transport is that the Government funds routes which are not economically viable but on which we want a public transport option. There is a concern that subsidies given to some of our public transport providers are not spent directly on the provision of those routes but in other areas. Amendments were tabled on Committee Stage and possibly on Report Stage in the Seanad on that issue. I do not know if it relates directly to amendments Nos. 26 and 27 but will the Minister give me some information on that?

I refer to licensing reform and competition in the bus transport sector, in particular. Amendments were tabled on Committee Stage in this House on those issues and perhaps the Minister will comment on them.

I have no evidence that PSO money which is given to subsidise non-commercial or non-viable routes is not being spent on them. The latest value for money study I saw on this seemed to indicate that everything was in order. However, I would be the first to admit that the system we have at present in regard to PSOs, the payments, subsidies and so on is not transparent enough. There are suspicions but any investigation or assessment done does not bear out those suspicions. However, once there is suspicion, it is necessary in an area such as this to be as transparent as possible.

The way the Bill is drafted and the way the DTA will be obliged to work will make the system much more transparent. To start that on a good footing, we are looking at the networks provided by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus in the greater Dublin area. A study has been commissioned and we will have the results before the end of the year. That will feed into the information off which the DTA will be able to work.

In regard to private bus licences, there is a need to move in regard to the 1932 Act and events in recent weeks have re-emphasised that. I intend to bring forward legislation before the end of the year if we can do so to reform the 1932 Act to ensure we have a vibrant bus service and pubic transport system in the Dublin area.

The fifth group comprises amendments Nos. 1 and 61 on transport officers.

The opportunity was taken with everybody's co-operation to change the basis for appointing transport officers who are employed by the Road Safety Authority. They inspect road haulage operations and check tachograph readings, transport company records and compliance with the legislation. They perform an important road safety function. The result of the amendment will be that transport officers may now be appointed directly by the Road Safety Authority, which will employ them, rather than by the Minister. That clears up that small anomaly.

The sixth group comprises amendments Nos. 2, 28, 29, 30, 33, 51, 52 and 56, on public transport facilities and services.

There were several amendments relating to public transport facilities and services. The definition of "interchange facilities" was amended to include park and ride, a matter which was raised in the Seanad. This makes clear that the DTA's traffic management plan must deal with park and ride issues. The section dealing with the integrated timetables was amended to make it clear that it was intended that the DTA should pursue the provision of real-time passenger information as part of that process. The section on shared use of bus stop facilities by different public transport providers was amended to set out an equitable basis for sharing the costs of installing and maintaining shared-use bus stops.

Two amendments were made to CIE's by-law-making powers. One restated CIE's powers to charge for failure to observe by-laws relating to parking and the second brought a reference in the by-laws to travelling without a ticket into line with the RPA's by-laws. The final amendment provides clarity regarding the Railway Procurement Agency's power to set fares.

I am not sure if my question relates to this area. Integrated ticketing is an old chestnut. Will the Minister outline the current position in that regard? What position will the DTA take on the implementation of integrated ticketing? We have not seen much progress in that area but it is one of concern to public transport users like myself.

Integrated ticketing is a project where one does not see significant progress while the background work is being carried out. The integrated ticketing board was set up by my predecessor around 2006. Since that time, it has made substantial progress. Currently it has the back-room facilities required to ensure we have an efficient, effective integrated ticketing project. Tenders have been received for this and we are in the final stages of negotiation of the tender, if not already completed. The next stage will be when the integrated ticketing project goes to public tender to find an operator to run the system.

The first companies to operate the system will come on line in September 2009. Subject to correction, by 2011 all of the public transport companies and, hopefully, private companies will be in the system. When the DTA is established, it will take over from the integrated ticketing board and will have full responsibility for the roll-out of the system. Again subject to correction, Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann are currently using a smart card as a lead-in to integrated ticketing. The Department of Social and Family Affairs is also finalising a smart card for people entitled to free travel. There has been significant progress on the issue.

The seventh group comprises amendments Nos. 55, 57 and 58, on corporate governance.

This group deals with CIE and RPA matters and amends their parent Acts. The first two amendments, amendments Nos. 54 and 55, relate to the requirement that CIE obtain the consent of the Minister for the disposal of property. They provide for setting by order the minimum threshold above which consent must be sought. The terms of the directorate of the RPA were changed to make it clear that members would serve up to a maximum of ten years in total over two terms of appointment, which is the normal practice for the boards of State bodies.

A requirement that the directorate of the Railway Procurement Agency make declarations of their interests was repealed because it had been overtaken by the Ethics Acts, which set the standards for declaration of interests to which all directors on all State bodies must comply, including the directors of the RPA. This issue was discussed in the House previously.

The Minister referred to amendment No. 54. Was that amendment part of the group he has just dealt with?

No, the seventh group dealt with amendments Nos. 55, 57 and 58. The eighth group comprises amendments Nos. 59 and 60, on planning process clarification.

The amendments in this group clarify the planning processes with regard to railway orders. The first amendment makes it clear that a planning application to An Bord Pleanála for railway development done by way of railway order is complete and there is no requirement to also go through the standard planning process for any aspect of the development. The second amendment relates to An Bord Pleanála granting rights to a railway operator in a railway order when the railway crosses a public road, or in the case of Luas uses a public road. It removes the need for the consent of the Minister for Transport to the rights granted.

The ninth group comprises amendments Nos. 3, 7, 20, 21, 23, 34, 35, 43, 44, 47, 53 and 54 and relate to technical or drafting corrections.

These are a group of technical or drafting amendments and typographical corrections. They are straightforward and make the Bill more readable.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister and his officials for coming to the House and thank him for his straightforward answers. I did not get the opportunity to mention Deputy Séamus Brennan earlier, but I always found him a straightforward man to deal with when responding to questions. It is nice that his legacy is being carried on by this Minister.

When I spoke on this Bill previously, I welcomed it because the Labour Party has been calling for it for some time. The DTA is a vital agency that should have been established sooner. It has been established now and we are grateful for that. We advocated that the DTA be placed on a statutory basis, have real powers to oversee development of transport, infrastructure and services and be accountable to the citizens of the greater Dublin area.

The Bill defines the greater Dublin area as the city of Dublin, south Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire, Rathdown, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath. As I argued previously, it should have included Drogheda, which is now an integral part of the greater Dublin area. It is difficult to understand why it was not included. The Labour Party pressed the Minister on this in both Houses, but to no avail. However, the Bill contains the mechanism to address this later, which I hope will happen.

The Labour Party wanted to make the new transport planning body more effective, democratic and accountable and to avoid it becoming another HSE with no accountability to the Oireachtas. We tabled a number of amendments to ensure that this failing was addressed. However, we did not get the response from the Minister that we sought.

We have had the debates and the amendments and have made our arguments as cogently and forcibly as we could and there is no point in rehashing matters at this stage. In fairness to the Minister, he has accepted some of our ideas for improving the Bill, including some important changes relating to the public submissions in key areas. The Bill has now passed through both Houses and I welcome it. Notwithstanding the reservations that motivated our amendments, I wish it every success in bringing about the much-needed improvements in public transport in the greater Dublin area in years to come. I thank the Minister and his staff for the manner in which they brought the Bill through the various Stages.

I would like to be associated with the complimentary remarks to the Minister. The Minister has taken on board many of the queries and amendments we raised on Committee Stage and has brought back amendments from the Dáil that will improve the Bill. Now that the Bill has passed through both Houses, I ask that it be commenced at the earliest opportunity. Quango after quango has been established to deal with transport within the Dublin city area, so it is important that the Bill takes effect.

I thank the Minister for increasing the number of local representatives on the board because they bear the brunt of transport and other problems. The changes will benefit the public and I thank the Minister and his officials for the efficient manner in which they dealt with the Bill.

I thank Members and staff of the House for facilitating this Bill. We had a good debate during which a number of issues were raised. I was able to accept some of the amendments proposed in this House and I undertook to consider others before I introduced the Bill in the Dáil. I am grateful for the constructive approach Senators took and for the suggestions they made to improve the Bill. We have all played a part in improving this legislation.

In regard to my colleague, Séamus Brennan, who passed on this morning, it is fitting that we should be finishing our consideration of this Bill tonight. He took a particular interest in the Dublin transport authority and in transport matters affecting the greater Dublin area. From the moment I was appointed Minister for Transport, this Bill became a subject of regular discussion between the two of us. I acknowledge the role he played in the formulation of this Bill and the other work he did as a public representative over 35 years. He left a huge mark and his place will not easily be filled.

Senator Ellis and I were attracted into Fianna Fáil at the same time, during the first Ógra Fianna Fáil conference which was held many years ago.

We are dating ourselves. We are going back to 1974.

We are not in the least embarrassed to say it. When Séamus Brennan was general secretary of Fianna Fáil, he made a huge effort to encourage young people to join the party. He attracted a number of people, including a several Members who joined the party as a direct result of his efforts to get young people interested in politics.

The last big job he and I did together was the formation of the Government. It was said at the time that with two people like myself and the Taoiseach, a peacemaker was needed in the middle to ensure the negotiations were successfully concluded. Séamus certainly filled that role.

I pay tribute to him and extend my deepest sympathies to his family, especially his wife Ann, his children, Shay, Daire, Aoife, Sine, Breffni and Éanna, and his wider family, including his brother, who heads an agency of the Department of Transport. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy for the wife and family of the late Séamus Brennan. Séamus and I came through these doors together for the first time in 1977.

One year before my birth.

We will always know the year of Senator Phelan's birth. He was my friend and colleague for 31 years, which is a long time. I concur with the remarks that were made about him. There were many turbulent periods during our early days in this House but he was one of the few people who held a steady hand irrespective of how rough the waters were. That stood to him, as the Minister's comments about the formation of the Government indicate. He was definitely the good cop when it came to that kind of situation. He is a tremendous loss not only to his family and wider circle of relatives but also to this House and the country as a whole. It must have been sad for the Taoiseach to accept Séamus's decision not to continue in the Cabinet. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

The first vote I cast after my election in 1996 was on keeping Séamus Brennan in the House when the Government of the day wanted to kick him out because of his vociferousness on the Luas. My first job in the Dáil was to vote to keep Séamus from being suspended, which was an event in itself.

Week after week during my first year, we asked whether we would win a vote on Private Members' Business but we never had the numbers. Séamus Brennan finally won a vote on the Luas because of an error.

Once while he was Chief Whip, I requested a pair but he told me to ask again after the 8.30 p.m. division. When I pursued him later, he told me to ask again in the morning. I noted that I had to be in Donegal for 10 a.m., so he told me to contact him early in the morning. As I passed through Monaghan at 8 o'clock that morning, I telephoned him with the intention of giving him at least two hours' notice. He told me that I could leave for Donegal after the Order of Business but I told him I was in Monaghan and that I was not about to turn back. I wrote him a "thank you" limerick for letting me off, even though he did not do so, and he returned my letter with a limerick hand-written in the margins thanking me for thanking him. I will keep that forever. He had a great sense of humour and was a quiet spoken and gentle man. He will be a loss to everyone.

Question put and agreed to.