Project 2040 and Transport Matters: Statements

I am happy to be back in the Seanad for this debate and look forward to hearing Senators' thoughts on the range of projects to be rolled out in the transport, tourism and sporting sectors over the lifetime of the national development plan, NDP, which forms part of project Ireland 2040.

In June this year, I launched Linking People and Places, the name given to the transport, tourism and sport elements of the national development plan. At the launch, I was accompanied by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell, who generously gave her of time to lead a panel discussion on the topic. Something particularly interesting which the Senator expertly drew from the panel members was the connections across the sectors.

It is that emphasis on the bigger picture that Project Ireland 2040 seeks to focus upon. We need to focus on the bigger picture because Ireland is changing and will continue to change during the next ten years and beyond. We will have more people, more jobs, more commuters and more tourists.

It is not just Ireland but Europe and the world are changing too. Some of these changes are positive; others are challenging, but either way we cannot ignore them. That is the reason we need to plan now for the challenges of tomorrow. However, it is not just about tomorrow. We already face challenges today in meeting the demand for public transport services, in improving the roads network, in providing the facilities needed for increasing numbers of tourists and in encouraging and funding greater participation in sport.

Some of these challenges stem from reduced investment during the period of economic and financial crisis. The first priority is to return to what is called the "steady-state" funding level, which is the investment levels we need to ensure the services and infrastructure we have today are appropriately maintained. Then we need to address the challenges we face because of our growing economy, such as the problems with congestion in cities and towns and capacity issues on public transport services. We need to lay the groundwork for the future and start planning and delivering the projects we need for the future in an integrated way. That is what we are seeking to achieve during the lifetime of this national development plan, NDP.

We will do this by linking people and places in the national, international and social spheres. In linking cities and regions, we have ambitious plans for both public transport and the road network. A greener and expanded public transport network will add greatly to the choice and experience of the travelling public, improve quality of life, ease congestion in cities and help to deliver a low carbon society.

We have already started to increase the size of bus fleets and expand services. We are planning to invest in greener and cleaner buses and roll out BusConnects across all major cities, starting in Dublin. Many Senators who are interested in BusConnects in their home areas have asked questions and I am very happy to address this. I think it is more appropriate if I do it at the end because I will have the advantage of having heard what most of the Members have to say.

BusConnects will help to develop sustainable, living cities for families and communities and will support economic growth and jobs. It will deliver new and improved bus services and corridors, faster journey times, next generation ticketing and cycle lanes to remove conflict between road traffic and cyclists. I acknowledge the difficulties that people have encountered in their areas in some cases and hope to address them in any way possible.

Alongside this, we are funding cycling and walking networks across the country, building on the investment of more than €110 million to develop cycling and walking infrastructure in all cities during the next four years. In addition the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I recently published a new greenway strategy, which sets out a framework by which we can develop more of these wonderful cycling and walking attractions in rural areas around the country. In the way there are links between the national planning framework and the national development plan, we will back up this policy framework for greenways with a committed funding programme. Some €53 million will be invested in greenway infrastructure between 2019 and 2021. Last week we opened up the application process and invited interested parties to make an application to access that funding programme. Together with improved bus and cycling infrastructure, the NDP will fund improvements in the national rail network too; improving connections across the country and between the North and the South. We are also examining the role that an extension to the western rail corridor can play in the Atlantic economic corridor.

In addition to these initiatives, we are also funding the construction of MetroLink. This will provide faster, reliable journey times to and from key destinations such as Swords, Dublin Airport, DCU, Ballymun and the Mater Hospital, while offering interchanges with other public transport services. We also will expand the DART network by providing additional carriages, improving signalling and extending electrification across the network to provide better services.

Those improvements have facilitated the introduction this month of the new ten-minute all-day service across the DART network. That level of service effectively means people can just walk up to their local station without the need to look at any timetable. The next step will be to provide fast, high-frequency electrified DART services to Drogheda, Celbridge-Hazelhatch and Maynooth. In addition, new DART stations will provide interchange with bus, Luas and metro networks. Building on the success of Luas and recent extensions, including Luas cross city, we have started a process of adding an additional 27% capacity to the Luas green line through lengthening existing trams and platforms. The route for the remaining element of the DART expansion programme - the DART underground tunnel - will, of course, be established and protected to allow for its future delivery.

We need to increase funding for the 100,000 km of roads around the country. The sheer scale of the road network is not well known but it is actually twice the European average per head of population. That is a lot of road. The road network is the workhorse of our economic and social infrastructure. Most of our freight is carried by road, all bus services rely on the road network and regional and local roads are essential in linking communities across the country. We need to restore funding to the levels required to appropriately maintain, renew and improve the road network as it is today. Most importantly, Project Ireland 2040 provides the framework for that funding.

In terms of new schemes, the NDP lists 23 national road schemes that already are at planning, design or construction stages. One of those is the long-awaited strategic road link between Cork and Limerick. Another 20 national road projects have been identified by Transport Infrastructure Ireland for pre-appraisal and early planning work with a view to developing a pipeline of projects suitable for future development. At a regional and local level, another 13 significant road improvement projects are currently being advanced under the NDP. All of these schemes will better link local communities, reduce congestion and contribute to the local economy in their areas.

It is not just about linking cities and regions. We also need to build better links with the wider world. That is why the investment planned by the State airports and ports is so important. We are providing additional capacity at Dublin Airport through the new north runway and work is already under way on it by the DAA. Complementing that investment, a new control tower, which will facilitate operations on the new runway is under construction by the Irish Aviation Authority.

Both Shannon and Cork airports are looking to sustainably grow their businesses into the future through targeted investment programmes and working with stakeholders to improve their offering. The role of the smaller regional airports is recognised in the national development plan and there will be continued Exchequer support for safety and security projects. All these projects will improve our links with the wider world and help to sustain and grow trade and tourism.

As an island, we need ports to plan for the future. In that regard I am happy to say there is a significant investment programme under way in all our tier 1 ports of national significance. Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes each has projects under construction that will help improve efficiency, connectivity and capacity. This is important because all ports of national significance, whether it is the three tier 1 ports or Rosslare and Waterford in their role as tier 2 ports of national significance, have a crucial role to play in maintaining our trade and tourism connections with Europe and beyond as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The State is supporting those investments through improved access to our international gateways.

I already have referred to MetroLink which will better connect Dublin Airport with the city centre, while the national development plan has details of a range of road projects to improve access to ports of national significance. These include the M11 to Rosslare, the N28 to Ringaskiddy in Cork and N69 to Foynes.

The national development plan is also about linking with one another and with visitors to our country, including through tourism, where we are looking to support and grow the industry across Ireland.

The tourism sector will benefit from the planned investment in both national and international transport links across the country, which I have outlined. The NDP commits almost €108 million to Fáilte Ireland between now and 2021 and states this level of investment will, at a minimum, be maintained out to 2027. Priority areas for this investment include the development and enhancement of tourist attractions and activity-based tourism to provide the type and quality of experience that visitors are seeking.

We will use the investment to support and grow tourism in rural communities, in line with the further development and promotion of the regional tourism brand experiences - the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands - which leverage the appeal of Ireland's natural, cultural and heritage offering. NDP investment in tourism throughout the country comes with the added benefit that the new or enhanced attractions and activities will increase the attractiveness of local areas not just as places to visit but also as places to live, work or invest in.

We are increasing investment at all levels of sport from the grassroots to the elite, with a view to increasing participation and improving facilities. The Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, and I published a new national sports policy in July. The policy sets out our vision for sport over the next ten years and provides the policy backdrop to the investments that are planned under the NDP. We have since announced a new round of the sports capital programme, which will make €40 million available to support the development of sports infrastructure in communities across the State. The NDP also commits to the establishment of a new large-scale sports infrastructure fund, which will be available to larger projects when the proposed Government contribution exceeds the amount available under the sports capital programme. At least €100 million will be provided under the new fund, which is designed to provide a more structured approach for this funding. The full terms and conditions of the new scheme are nearing finalisation. We will open the fund for applications in the coming months.

We are continuing our investment in the development of the Sport Ireland national sports campus. It was a wonderful summer of sporting achievement for Ireland, with highlights such as the silver medal for the women's hockey team and the hosting of the European para swimming championships at the National Aquatic Centre. I am pleased that many of our successful athletes are based at the national sports campus. The Government's continued investment will ensure our athletes have access to world-class training facilities in Ireland. The NDP commits €42 million to fund the completion of a national indoor arena and a national velodrome and badminton centre at the campus. The construction of the second phase of the national indoor arena is well under way and the arena is due for completion next year. This covered facility will ensure our elite athletes and teams can train in training facilities that are always open all year round. The national velodrome and badminton centre is expected to be completed by 2021. It will consist of a 250 m cycling track with badminton courts in the track infill area. The development of the campus will not stop there. Sport Ireland is reviewing the master plan for the campus in consultation with the sporting bodies. The review will guide the development of a ten-year strategic vision for the campus, which will be aligned with wider Government capital planning, as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

I acknowledge that Project Ireland 2040 sets out a vision for the future that is ambitious in its scale. We need to be ambitious if we are going to build a better Ireland that addresses the demands of today, meets the challenges of tomorrow and is a place that we, our children and grandchildren are proud to call home. The investment committed by the Government under Project Ireland 2040 for the transport, tourism and sport sectors will help to ensure they play their part in realising that ambition and delivering for citizens. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators. I again thank the House for the invitation.

I welcome the Minister. I am glad to have an opportunity to discuss Project Ireland 2040. It is somewhat disconcerting to find myself discussing a project with a terminal date which is probably beyond my actuarial life expectancy. The Government is great at looking into the future. I am reminded of Joe Stalin in Russia. When things were not going too well in Russia, Joe would announce a five-year plan with all guns blazing and trumpets blaring. When things were going belly-up halfway through the plan, Joe would announce a new ten-year plan. He did it three times.

He put all the managers to death when he announced a new plan.

I am not too sure I would recommend it. The Government definitely takes the biscuit. Joe Stalin would be impressed by the methodology adopted here. We have a chance to discuss this plan. It seems that transport is one of the few areas in which we are unambitious as we seek to project into the future. If we are going to address the very serious problems in this country's transport infrastructure, we need better planning, better forecasting and more joined-up thinking. Transport infrastructure is haphazard, dysfunctional and anything but joined-up. This will not come as any surprise to the Minister. When I was perusing a number of his Sunday Independent columns, which were written when he was a Member of this House some years ago, I noted that he was scathing about aspects of public services, especially the public transport system. He wrote about the structure of that system and about the involvement of unions, for example. He seems to have become more sanguine since he became a member of the Cabinet.

I think the word the Senator is looking for is "captured".

I suppose that is part of politics. I regularly use all modes of public and private transport with the exception of the DART. It is fair enough to say none of them is up to scratch. None of them has the confidence of the paying public. None of them seems to be equipped to serve the needs of Ireland into the future. Fianna Fáil welcomes the much-needed investment in Ireland's transport infrastructure, which is creaking at the seams. A strong public transport system is the backbone of any strong economy, but Ireland is seriously flagging in that regard. The transport system is completely unfit for purpose and the road network is experiencing similar capacity issues.

The core question I must ask about Project Ireland 2040, which is an ambitious plan, relates to delivery. The Government and its predecessor have failed to deliver key infrastructural projects in a timely or efficient manner. We cannot allow another Luas cross-city debacle to grind our capital city to a halt. There is an ongoing underspend issue in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. In 2016, there was a capital underspend of €6 million as a result of delays and the non-completion of scheduled projects. Chronic underinvestment is at the heart of the problem. Years of underinvestment by the Government and its predecessor have left us in big trouble. While budget 2018 resulted in a large increase in the capital budget for land transport, in the context of what is needed the increase is no more than a drop in the ocean, particularly as we are coming from a low base. In the past five years, Ireland has been one of the lowest net spenders on transport infrastructure in the EU. Capital investment in transport of €7 billion for the period from 2018 to 2021 is a huge 23% lower than our capital investment in transport between 2007 and 2010, when my party was last in government. The huge backlog of work that has built up throughout Ireland's capital infrastructure is now posing a considerable safety concern. The Minister cannot be happy about the crisis in the public service system. I refer, for example, to the measly 8% increase in expenditure on public service obligation services.

Fianna Fáil has proposed that a new national infrastructure commission be established and tasked with planning ahead, beyond the limited five-year cycle of current capital plans. This would be set up by reforming Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, and would draw from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the National Transport Authority, NTA, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, and the local authorities. The new commission would be responsible for setting out a new framework for the development of transport in Ireland in the coming years. It would be tasked with overseeing long-term plans for the achievement of a series of targets: securing infrastructure investment of 4% of GDP, facilitating decarbonisation in Ireland, developing a strong transport network with balanced regional development, making Ireland an IT nation with telecommunications connectivity and providing for a balanced and secure energy mix. In our time in government, huge investment was made in capital infrastructure. I refer, for example, to the peak-level investment in infrastructure in 2008 under the most recent Fianna Fáil-led Government. Under this funding, we were able to deliver crucial projects, including the development of the Dublin Port tunnel, the creation of the Luas, the construction of hundreds of kilometres of top-notch motorways and the overhaul of the Irish Rail fleet.

While we talk about the future, I always say politics is now and politics is local. I am in my 12th year in this august House and when I started coming up by train from Charleville, there was not even a method whereby elderly people could traverse the platforms without climbing up rickety steel stairs with their suitcases. I raised it here innumerable times and the former Cathaoirleach, the late Rory Kiely, who I assume the Minister knew well, and I waged a campaign and I was delighted when I saw a proper lift system going in place about three years ago. That is the reality of how long it takes to get something done. I had to get off a train in Clonmel recently - a fairly sizable town, one of the biggest in Munster, to find that there was no public toilet in the railway station and that patrons had to go out across the street and ask for the key to avail of the facilities of a small supermarket. It is no harm to drop these real things into the debate and get our feet back on the ground. I urge the Minister to nail down investment in transport. I expect him to fight in Cabinet to secure the necessary funding to secure a modern, efficient system that is fit for purpose. In this he will have the support of the people and he will also have the support of Fianna Fáil.

I welcome the Minister. This is a timely debate. I congratulate the Minister also on his script because with the exception of the development at the National Sports Campus there is not a single time or date commitment mentioned anywhere. This worries me as a general proposition because it is easy to talk about things it is intended to do between now and 2040, but when will these things be done, how will they be done, what will they cost and will we get good value for money? These are the issues with which I am primarily concerned. I heard what Senator Ned O'Sullivan said about national rail and transport infrastructure and agree with it. I hope the Minister will forgive me if I look at the issues which arise for discussion today slightly from a Dublin perspective.

First, I note the Minister's speech mentions the MetroLink project. I was struck by former Senator Sean Barrett's speech to the Dublin Economics Workshop, in which he developed the proposition at length that there had been no cost-benefit analysis for the MetroLink project. The vaguest statements have been made about it but a cost-benefit analysis has not yet been published. It should be done but more fundamental than that is that the alternatives to it should have been considered in some form of public dialogue and that never happened. I note that the Minister, for instance in his contribution today, speaks about the Luas green line, which goes right past my garden; therefore, it is a thing which I have always supported and of which I am strongly in favour. The Minister has stated it is intended to increase the capacity on that line by 27% by lengthening platforms and lengthening tram sets. That is a good idea, which I favour, but if the platforms on the Luas green line are to be lengthened let us remember that the MetroLink project, as it was explained to representatives of the Oireachtas, including me, Senator Humphreys and other people, involves a different form of platform, a different metro system, perhaps driverless trains and entirely different stations. Consequently, are we spending money now on extending the capacity of the Luas green line at this stage in pursuit of one strategy, while at the same time preparing for a MetroLink which will go the whole way to Sandyford and which will involve the radical transformation of all of the stations on the intervening line? I refer to the raising of their height to accommodate the kind of trains it is envisaged will run on them and the destruction of all of the existing platforms, including the extended platforms to which the Minister refers. Which are we doing? What is our plan?

It is the case - I remember it from my time in government - that the Luas green line as it is now called, was planned with a view to its incorporation into a metro system at the time. That was a possibility but it was not done at the time and it was left aside. Bodies such as Iarnród Éireann came up with alternative schemes for different metro configurations in Dublin, including an east-west link between Heuston Station, Pearse Station, Connolly Station and the like. One thing that we should remember is that we committed €368 million to the construction of the cross city Luas and if the MetroLink project, as currently envisaged and as is currently out for consideration for public consultation is proceeded with, the Luas green line will effectively cease to exist. It will connect Charlemont station with Broombridge on one tram service and an entirely separate tram service from Sandyford to Bride's Glen on the other side. I want some answers to these questions. Why are we extending the platforms for trams when we know that we will be digging all of those platforms up and putting a high vehicle platform system in place if we are going to construct the MetroLink the whole way to Sandyford? I note the Minister's speech did not mention connecting the MetroLink the whole way to Sandyford. He talks about the city centre and Dublin Airport and I can see that there would have been a logic if a metro system was to be built from source to the city centre, to leave it at that and to have interconnectivity with the expanded green line Luas service, with longer trams, and to stop the idea of trying to break up the Luas green line service into three separate components, one of which is the Broombridge to Charlemont section, another of which is the portion of the metro which runs from Charlemont to Sandyford which would be a high-speed train operation which then reverts to a tram system between Sandyford and Brides Glen. This is not joined-up thinking and the cross city Luas would not have been built had it been intended to also serve places such as O'Connell Street with the MetroLink project. We will have two stations on St. Stephen's Green and two more on O'Connell Street. All of this money would not have been spent in that way if we had a clear view at that time when we authorised the construction of the cross city Luas, that MetroLink or something like it was in the pipeline.

I return to the fundamental point, namely, the absolute necessity for the publication of a clear, unequivocal and convincing cost-benefit analysis for such an investment. I ask again why it is the case, if the capacity of the green line will be expanded by lengthening platforms and tram sets, which I fully support, that we are also pursuing a different strategy, namely, to install a high vehicle train system on a portion of that line that will involve the destruction of all of the newly expanded platforms and the like and their replacement with a very different system which the engineers in the National Transport Authority have in mind? If possible, I ask that at some stage, before we go further with all of these projects, the Minister will publish the detailed cost-benefit analysis for the MetroLink project.

It is important that the public, and particularly the Dublin public, are given a fair and reasonable estimate of the duration for which the entire Luas green line will be out of commission if this goes ahead. It was suggested to me and Senator Humphreys that

everything would be done in six months, which is laughable. It was then admitted that however long it took to construct it, there would be a further three months for commissioning it. The truth is that between 12 and 24 months is a much more likely timeframe for the temporary abolition of the Luas green line service.

Today the The Times, Ireland edition features a plea from cyclists for the investment of significant sums to make a cycling-friendly city. It is an area on which the Minister's Department and Dublin City Council should now concentrate. Dublin is not a hilly area and it could benefit greatly from the use of bicycles but most parents and people of my age fear going out on bicycles in city centre traffic. There are not enough dedicated thoroughfares for the use of bicycles. There needs to be a significant rethink of the commitment of the city council, which is the most relevant local authority, and the Minister's Department to making a major contribution to building new cycleways and new bridges across the canal and opening up old laneways and dedicated ways of getting around Dublin by bike, which is unthreatened by heavy vehicles and traffic dangers. I welcome the Minister's paper. It is short on specifics and I would like a clear picture of the Luas green line cost-benefit analysis and the project, as he has not mentioned it in detail.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute briefly to this debate. I welcome Project Ireland 2040. I refer briefly to Senator Ned O'Sullivan who spoke of a plan, a further plan and Joseph Stalin. My view has always been that any plan is better than no plan, although I want it to be a good plan. The Senator spoke of the investment by the Fianna Fáil Government during the early noughties, which I acknowledge, but he also mentioned how planning went belly up in Joseph Stalin's era. The Senator's memory might be questionable in this regard. The Minister adverted to this himself in the sense that we are playing catch up because of under-investment as a result of the economic crash, which was challenging in itself. This plan gives us a pathway to provide a modern, efficient transport infrastructure throughout the country and an efficient system of connectivity within our congested cities. I defer to my Dublin colleagues on many of the issues raised, though I have a query which I will raise later regarding metro north, but I am more aware of what is happening in Galway. Prior to having any involvement in politics, I recall hearing about this ring road in Galway city in 2000 that was being held up by the bats in Moycullen. How near are we to having that bypass which is vital to opening up Connemara to tourism and so on?

There is an urgent need to open up the regions with modern infrastructure. I refer again to Senator O'Sullivan's contribution. Many projects were cancelled or stopped in 2007 or 2008 because of the crash. I welcome the recent completion of the Gort to Tuam motorway, the N17. This needs to be connected to Sligo and the north west and the N4 and N5. There has been great increase in air connectivity and in the numbers of passengers coming through the three State airports, particularly Dublin where a second runway is proposed. As a rural representative, I welcome the acknowledgment in this plan of the important part played by regional airports in the economic recovery and its sustenance. Reference is made to Kerry and Waterford airports and so on, but I highlight Ireland West Airport Knock. I was chair of a study group there that recommended investment of €36.5 million in projects, including the overlaying of the runway and the apron, as well as its designation as a strategic development zone. The airport is as crucial to the west and north west as Dublin airport is to the eastern region. I welcome the support that has been given on this and urge that it continue.

I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the importance of developing the regions. He noted he was examining the role that an extension to the western rail corridor could play in the Atlantic economic corridor, which is crucial. Will he elaborate on that matter?

Regarding metro north, I was a part of a transport committee delegation that visited Na Fianna GAA club and other areas on the proposed route prior to the summer recess. Consultation is ongoing on that but club representatives contacted the committee again recently. They say that, despite media reports of resolution, there has been no formal agreement with TII or any other body and the concerns about the impact and scope of the project in the community remain. Will the Minister update us on that matter?

The Minister mentioned the state-of-the-art sports campus. I congratulate everybody involved. As someone who has been passionately involved in sport over the years and understands the needs of elite athletes and the supports they require, the campus is an example of what can be done when there is co-operation between all the sports governing bodies, Sport Ireland and the Department. I very much welcome it. I have visited it on many occasions and used it for sports activities. It is a great advertisement for the country and demonstrates what can be done. The results in various sports recently have been brilliant and long may they continue.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on behalf of Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile.

In respect of transport, I refer first to the recent revelation published in The Irish Times that, in 2011, the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, blocked EU funding for infrastructural projects in the west and north west. The revelation proved the intention of this and previous Governments to concentrate economic growth and development in the eastern region. The upgrade of road and rail networks, which has long been recognised by community and business groups as vital for the sustainability of the regions, was removed from the plans with the blame directed towards the EU. Sinn Féin believes this is a scandalous revelation. All of the spin, even in overdrive, by the strategic communications unit could not hide the betrayal of rural regions by the Taoiseach.

The programme for Government contained a commitment to seek a review of the Irish trans-European transport network or TEN-T projects by the European Union within the first three months of government. I understand this review has not been carried out. The TEN-T funding for major transport projects that have a positive carbon reduction impact can be in excess of 50% and up to 75%, yet the Government refused to use the opportunity to invest in rural regions. Some weeks ago Sinn Féin asked the Taoiseach why the western rail project was not included in the much published 2040 plan. We were told that the project did not meet the criteria contained in a cost-to-benefit survey. Again, I suggest his reply is merely further spin. A freight and passenger western rail project would open up the parts of the country that have the most potential for development. It would transport goods to ports in the south of the country that export directly to European markets. Obviously exporting directly to mainland Europe is becoming more part of the conversation. This is the time for a real change in direction in terms of investment in ports, airports, roads, modern rail and broadband services along the west, in the midlands and across the Border. This episode shows the finances can be found and all professional analysis shows that the return to the economy would be enormous, thus leading to sustainable social balance.

I ask the Minister to urgently prioritise a plan to engage with the city councils of both Dublin and Belfast on the memorandum of understanding that includes the development of an hourly high-speed rail link between both cities. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade stated the project would be a priority for Government. Any plan to link Ireland, its people and places must span all of Ireland and defy the illogical, incoherent and self-defeating harm of operating on a partitionist basis only. Ireland works best when we work together.

On sport and cycling, I have resumed cycling to Leinster House with the resumption of the sittings and I find the commute frustrating. I used to experience road rage when I drove my car in this city but now I experience road rage when I cycle to work on my bike. My rage is not directed at anyone else on the road but stems from the poor network of cycle lanes. I cycle from the Luas red line stop at Blackhorse to the Suir Road, navigate a pedestrian crossing and some vacant land and then I encounter the Luas line at Rialto Park. Thankfully, I can then quietly cycle around the Guinness brewery and on into Pimlico and Meath Street. There is a good cycle route from Blackhorse to the Suir Road and along the canal. Unfortunately, it seems that the plan for the Luas lines did not take cyclists into consideration and provide two cycle lanes along the track. If some areas can be patched up, then two cycles lanes could be provided but sadly, such ambition does not appear to be present. When one reaches Meath Street one must go left and swing back up on to St. James's Street. The one-way routes around the city are completely designed for car use, which frustrates cyclists. I break the rules and cycle towards-----

Sinn Féin has never been good with rules.

I have been trained well. My Dad taught me to cycle. I cycle towards St. Patrick's Cathedral. There does not seem to be too much urgency to link the canals and Luas lines with cycle links. I ask the Minister to demonstrate more urgency on that front.

I welcome the Minister to the Seanad. It is always nice to have the senior Minister in a Department here to discuss something, particularly something as far ranging as this development plan, Project Ireland 2040. In common with other speakers, particularly Senator O'Mahony, I believe it is important to plan. For too long we have done things in a hip-hop way. Long-term planning is very important. I agree with Senator McDowell that plans need a timeframe. It is okay to write a plan on paper but it is vitally important to set targets for what we want to achieve.

When the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, was the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, he produced the Action Plan for Jobs that stipulated targets for every year. He was accountable and people were accountable if targets were not reached. It is important to outline targets because otherwise things lapse. The key point is to have finance in place on a long-term basis and, therefore, to succeed we need a stable economy. I always cite Germany as a model because it does not have boom and bust cycles. As a result the German Government can make long-term plans for infrastructural projects because it knows the money will come in on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Ireland has experienced boom and bust cycles on a regular basis and, therefore, cannot plan for the long term. Ireland, from an economic perspective, is at the wrong end of a cycle. During the bust part, we should invest in infrastructure and during the boom part we should save for the next bust. As usual, we make a mess of things here but that is not the fault of Fine Gael. The fault usually lies with Fianna Fáil but Fine Gael has been left to clean up the mess.

Let me refer to planning. In 1983, my mother opened the first motorway in Ireland, the M7, which is also known as the Naas bypass, along with Dick Spring. The great thing is that the original plan ensured there was enough capacity for three lanes of traffic. The motorway is being widened at the moment and, therefore, none of the bridges must be changes or moved as a result of such forward planning. Almost 40 years later, the original infrastructure can be utilised to create a third lane. That is an example of good planning. I urge the Minister to ensure when a Luas line or new road network is being designed that it is future proofed in order that the infrastructure can be utilised in 40, 50 or 60 years' time, thus ensuring that we do not have to build something new.

I am sure the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is well aware that the M7 and Sallins bypass are being upgraded. When towns and major hubs are being developed, people should support whatever is needed to provide the infrastructure for ring roads to be built around towns. We must allow planners to design towns in order that they have the correct infrastructure to facilitate the population of towns in 20 and 30 years' time, rather than the current five-year plans. I am pushing hard for Naas to get an exterior ring road, for example. At least there is a line on the map now. A feasibility study must be conducted to ensure that in 20 years' time, there is a potential to build the road. I urge everyone to plan for the long term. I seek an assurance from the Minister that he and his Department will encourage long-term development.

Someone built a tunnel under the Phoenix Park that was left idle for almost 100 years. In fairness to the Minister's predecessor, the tunnel has been opened up and now links most of Kildare to the heart of Dublin. Someone built the tunnel in the 1870s and we are benefitting from it now. That just shows that a good plan pays dividends way into the future.

When the idea was mooted to have three lanes on the M7 motorway I proposed that the Luas line should run down the middle of the motorway all of the way down to Naas and build a large park and ride facility and provide additional transport links. No one at the time gave me a logical reason for not doing so. Again, I sought to future proof the project in order that it could be utilised in ten, 15 or 20 years' time. Unfortunately, many planners work on a five-year cycle or, worse still, a Government cycle. We should break such practices and I am glad to say the Project Ireland 2040 does so.

We need four lanes of railway track to go to Kildare to service the commuter belt. That must be a priority. If we want to take people off the road network, the easiest way to commute from the greater Dublin area to the heart of Dublin is on the railway. It makes sense and it should be a priority.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have land holdings at the junctions of roundabouts. This land should be used to provide park and ride facilities. The buses would be able to pull in and take on passengers to bring them into the centre of Dublin. Even in my village of Johnstown, the TII owns a two-acre patch that the buses pass on their route. This could be levelled off and a park and ride facility could be made available. Land in the vicinity of junctions should be considered for that purpose.

Tourism falls within the Minister's brief. We need to work on creating a greenway along the canals. The greenways that have been opened up, in particular in the west and Waterford, are fantastic tourist facilities. I have always viewed the greenway as a major tourist boost for this country. People who visit Ireland do not come for the weather but for other things, and those other things link into the greenways. I put out the idea that Irish Water has a natural right of way from the Shannon to Dublin via the canals, which could be used for the transport of water straight from the Shannon into Dublin, with some storage place along the way. While it would be doing that, it could present the canals as greenways as well.

The sports organisations would like to know whether it is proposed to continue the sports capital funding scheme in the long term. Clubs are no longer the beneficiary of large-scale grants that were distributed during the McCreevy years. I know that my club in Kill got a grant of €750,000 on the condition that it would raise 30% of that sum, which caused it serious problems for a period of time. Now that clubs are getting lower sums of money, their plans are broken down into many steps. The clubs would like to know that the capital funding scheme will be available regularly so that they can apply for funding of €50,000 or €100,000 each year.

Now, I will become very parochial. Kildare County Council spent €500,000 on transport infrastructure during the snow last winter. The county council would like to get that money back to use it for the repair and maintenance of rural roads. There are many rural roads that need to be repaired to make them passable. People in rural areas pay their property tax, support rural industries and must be able to use their local roads.

The local authorities must be able to plan. The county council plans from year to year, depending on the allocation from the Department. A multi-annual budget would allow the local authority to plan projects for a five-year period and it would allow a councillor to tell people when their road would be done because the money would be there to do the work.

I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, for coming into this Chamber. As I said, it is great to have the Minister here to listen to our issues. I hope some of the ideas I have suggested may be taken on board.

I welcome the Minister. He did not mention pedestrians. Footpaths in cities and towns are in a horrendous state and a serious trip hazard, not just for older people. We need to put that right. I know the quick glib answer is that footpaths are the responsibility of the local authorities and they need to invest in the maintenance of footpaths. The local authorities have not had the money in the past decade. We need a serious level of investment to ensure footpaths, junctions and pedestrian lights are up to a quality and standard that encourages citizens to walk more rather than use the car.

I, too, support the investment of 10% of the Department's annual budget in cycling infrastructure across all cities and towns. The Minister mentioned the cost-benefit analysis. The return per euro on investment in cycling far exceeds anything put into roads or transport. Again I make the argument for increased funding purely on a cost-benefit analysis. It should be in and around 10% of the Department's budget and I ask the Minister to consider that seriously.

The Minister said he would deal with BusConnects during his closing remarks. I wish to make a general comment because I do not think the Minister will be able to deal with the number of specific queries that everyone has. People who telephoned me from the Lower Kimmage Road were crying on the phone because of the information they were given. Whether the information is incorrect or misrepresented, it does not matter. The consultation process has not worked as correctly as it should, and this has created anxiety and fear among the public. We have to examine it to see what has been done to create this anxiety. When I spoke to a representative from the National Transportation Authority this morning, I was told that it was a consultation document. I accept that, but since it has created the spread of fear and anxiety among the public in the capital city, it has been done wrong. We must learn from that mistake because we will have a bus corridor consultation process in November. We need a clear analysis to ensure we put out the information clearly in order that it can be understood. What has become clear from the BusConnects consultation process is that there was no origin and destination survey done in respect of the design of the routes. That is showing up very clearly through the consultation process. People want to go to different places and not where the routes are designed for. We need to learn lessons from the BusConnects consultation process and make sure that we do not repeat those mistakes. I will deal with the National Transportation Authority on specific questions.

Senator McDowell covered MetroLink exceptionally well. Again, the papers and studies that came into the public domain show there was no origin and destination survey on the south side of the people travelling on the Luas green line. I travelled on the green line and conducted a minor origin and destination survey in Dundrum. I found that people were travelling great distances to use the green line to travel into town. We need to collect data on who is using the green line if we are going to spend vast amounts of money to make it a metro line. We do not know where the people are coming from or the distance of the radius from which they originate to travel on the green line, which causes capacity problems. I am a big believer that there should be a metro system on the south side. The location should be evidence based. Having been in government through the recession, what was said over and over again was that future decisions would be evidence based. There is very little evidence in respect of MetroLink on the south side.

I would like to see an evidence-based decision-making process on MetroLink on the south side of Dublin. If the evidence is there to support it, I will hold my hands up and admit that I got it wrong. What I see, however, is a waste of money in terms of the investment currently going into the green line which will be compounded by investment in a metro link. We do not have sufficient information to make an evidence-based decision and I ask the Minister to review the matter.

The Minister made brief reference to Dublin Airport which has a number of transport links. One must look at the passenger numbers going through and in that context, I think we are missing a trick. We are developing Dublin Airport as a hub but is the airport authority looking at connectivity for Irish people rather than just focusing on onward travel for passengers from America who are flying on to other capital cities? I have received many complaints from passengers going through Dublin Airport who have told me that services are diminished and that much of the connectivity to other European cities has been lost. The airport seems to be more focused on serving as a transatlantic hub rather than focusing on where people want to travel to and do business. Again, I have no hard evidence but it has been said to me enough times for it to merit examination. We must determine if that is a genuine complaint and if we are missing a trick in that regard.

The main port facilities in Dublin and Cork face many challenges in the context of Brexit. We must make sure that the infrastructure is in place so that whatever form Brexit takes, whether it be soft or hard, does not have a major detrimental impact on how ports operate. We need to be ready and to plan for the worst case scenario. In that context, I must give credit to the CEO of Dublin Port, Mr. Eamonn O'Reilly, who is trying to do just that.

It is very important that we invest in our top sportspeople. While I welcome such investment, I would also like to see a focus on sport for life, that is, investment in what are often minority sports that people can play well into their latter years. Such sports keep people active and healthy but many are not getting the funding that they need. The Minister must prioritise spending, which I accept. I will discuss the sports to which I am referring with the Minister at a later date.

On train infrastructure and commuting, Councillor Mark Wall has been running a campaign relating to the train fare from Newbridge to Dublin. If we want to get people out of their cars, we must recognise that places like Newbridge are now commuter towns. It must be economically viable for people to commute from Newbridge and other parts of Kildare into Dublin city. I ask the Minister to examine the fare structure for commuter towns like Newbridge. I recognise that I am dropping this on the Minister's lap without prior consultation and would be happy for him to come back to me on it at a later stage. I do not really expect an answer on it now. I will not be comparing the Minister to Joseph Stalin, as others did. I do not think Deputy Ross looks anything like him. I much prefer Lord Churchtown. I will leave it at that and thank the Minister for coming into the House.

I welcome the Minister. I took great interest in Project Ireland 2040 - Linking People and Places when it was launched in June. There are many elements of the plan which are both necessary and welcome. It is particularly welcome that the plan refers to an investment of €53 million in greenway infrastructure between 2019 and 2021. However, I have a difficulty. Perhaps the problem lies not with the Department but with the local authority. On four occasions funding was announced for a so-called greenway between Boyle in County Roscommon and Lough Key Forest Park. What did the local authority do with that funding? It built footpaths in an area with the first round of funding. When it got a second round of funding it built more footpaths and it did up some of the roads with the third tranche.

Many local authorities did not really enter into the spirit of what constitutes a greenway. When one goes to Germany, Amsterdam and other parts of Holland, one sees that little villages and towns are linked by walking paths and cycle paths. We have applied again for funding for a greenway between Lough Key Forest Park and my town of Boyle. This is necessary infrastructure because the park is a major tourist attraction. The town of Boyle needs this investment and the greenway must be fast tracked. Roscommon County Council has not entered into the spirit of greenways. It has used greenway funding to repair roads instead of using road funds for such work.

I have pointed out to members of my party who are in government that there are approximately ten towns in the country that are lacking the most basic infrastructure, namely, a hotel. Boyle, for example, had two hotels 20 years ago but now has none. Lough Key Forest Park is nearby and I urge the Minister to visit what is a huge success story. In the early 2000s, Coillte owned Lough Key Forest Park, which is the jewel in the crown of parks in the country. Coillte could not draw down funding from the European Regional Development Fund because it was a semi-State company. I came up with the idea that Roscommon County Council could get on board with Coillte in order to be able to draw down funding. All the council had to do was come up with €2 million, which it did and now the people of Roscommon and Ireland have a stake, with the semi-State organisation, in Lough Key Forest Park. We have drawn down nearly €20 million in funding and it is a huge success. There are approximately 80 people employed in the park and the company is making around €20,000 per year but Boyle does not have a hotel.

An Bord Pleanála has refused planning permission for five hotels in the past ten to 15 years. Lough Key Forest Park, a major tourist attraction drawing hundreds of thousands of paying visitors every year, is two miles from Boyle but there is no hotel infrastructure in the town. The downturn following the boom has meant that nobody will build a hotel because one can buy one from NAMA for a fraction of the price. I am trying to get the local authority involved. I understand funding cannot be given to a private developer but there must be some way for the local authority to build a hotel and then lease it out. Boyle is dying because it does not have that necessary piece of tourism and social infrastructure.

Who objected to the hotel?

I know who objected to the hotel and the objection was due to the lesser horseshoe bat. Droppings were found under the tower where the hotel was to be located. The lesser horseshoe bat had never been seen north of Athlone but it stopped a development worth €100 million. Had it gone ahead, Boyle would now be a major tourist attraction. It is frustrating and annoying.

I ask the Minister and his departmental officials to consider whether something can be done for the towns to which I am referring, namely, those without hotels. Senator McDowell understands Boyle needs a hotel but we cannot get a developer to build one. If we build one, we will then have five. I invite the Minister to come to Lough Key Forest Park to see what is an absolutely wonderful development. I also invite him to my town of Boyle to see for himself the need for Government involvement.

I congratulate the Minister on his plan and thank him for all of his work.

I indulged the Senator somewhat because this debate is supposed to be on transport, not tourism. I am sure the Minister would be delighted to come back to the House to discuss tourism, sport and various other aspects of his brief but today we are discussing transport. I remind Members that we are discussing Project Ireland 2040 - Linking People and Places and transport matters.

I welcome the Minister and the debate.

In terms of Project Ireland 2040 and linking people and transport, Limerick and the mid-west have been far ahead in our plans in this respect. The local authorities in Limerick and Clare are working with Shannon Airport and the Foynes Port Authority. Connectivity is important in the region. We are seeking a bypass of Adare, as the Minister is well aware, and the M20 project, which is at an advanced stage. However, we have a good deal of local transport infrastructure in place. The Coonagh to Knockalisheen bypass road will link Coonagh to Lisnagry on the way to Killaloe in County Clare. That is important for the development of the region because transport connectivity is vital in the development of businesses. As a result of Brexit, a number of companies are looking to locate in Ireland. Dublin is growing at a particularly fast rate. New roads infrastructure along the Atlantic corridor from Galway to Cork via Limerick will be highly beneficial in attracting companies considering locating in the region, which will create jobs. It is important to place an emphasis on that.

Senator Humphreys referred to some of the problems with Dublin Airport. We have fine airports in Shannon and Cork and if infrastructure was put in place quickly to improve connectivity, the region would be a great counterbalance to the eastern region.

We also have a major plan for the development of Foynes Port. While we have a port in Limerick city, there is also a deep sea port in Foynes. The N69 upgrade and the bypass of Adare are very important projects for the development of Foynes, the second deepest port outside Dublin. This project is vital for the development of the region and it must proceed as soon as possible. Many businesses operate through the port. Transporting goods from Foynes to other parts of the country is hindered by gridlock and a lack of transport infrastructure. Adare is constantly gridlocked, with people spending up to an hour driving through the village, which is not satisfactory.

The mid-west region is working proactively to put fine projects together. The educational institutes have had a major input in that regard and their work together as a unit has been very important for Limerick and the region. Limerick city is the driver of the region. Limerick City and County Council has reached out to Clare and Tipperary local authorities and the local authorities are working together to drive development in the region.

I ask the Minister to consider prioritising some of the projects to which I have referred. Regarding the Coonagh to Knockalisheen Road, I compliment Limerick City and County Council and Clare County Council, the lead authorities for the project. It is vital that this bypass is completed. It is estimated to be completed by 2021 but if it could be completed sooner, it would help the region a great deal in terms of development.

I welcome the Minister. The issue of transport is a very important as the population grows and the economy expands. I welcome the Minister's comments on the metro and the electrification of the DART service to Drogheda. However, in the interim, we could invest in hybrid trains that would deliver increased frequency before the line is fully electrified. That would be very welcome.

I do not need to remind the House that Fingal has the youngest population in the country, if not in Europe. It also has a good deal of land rezoned for housing. In the midst of a housing crisis, it is an obvious place to meet housing need quickly. However, we need infrastructure such as schools and amenities - sports amenities fall within the Minister's remit - as well as road and transport infrastructure.

I welcome the second runway and tower at Dublin Airport. I mention metro again because 30 million people will pass through Dublin Airport this year. Under a plan being considered, that figure would reach 50 million. This new connectivity with the city is crucial for the development of Dublin Airport and the country.

I welcome very much the Minister's comments on greenways. I have been a long exponent of the coastal greenway extending through Fingal from Sutton and Howth all the way to Balbriggan. This presents a tremendous opportunity for tourism, family activities and safe exercise.

That brings me to the issue of cycle lanes. Currently, one takes one's life in one's hands when cycling. Many people would cycle from Lusk into Swords but there is not one cycle lane that is safe. We need cycle lanes from Swords, Malahide and Portmarnock into the city centre. Many people would use them and, as others have pointed out, they would be environmentally friendly but also very good from a health point of view.

I raised the issue of BusConnects on the Order of Business this morning, as did the Acting Chairman. There is much that is good in this plan. There is no doubt that we need to plan ahead and develop a system that is more efficient than the current one. The consultation process is extremely important and we need to up the game in the communication of this issue. I met people in the Alex Hotel who pointed out that there are good aspects to the plan which will result in major improvements. Swords will have an improved bus service, which is good, and Dublin Airport will also have a better bus service and greater connectivity with the city. Against that, there is no proper coherent transport approach between Irish Rail and the bus service in Fingal. People in north County Dublin now have to take two buses to travel to Beaumont Hospital. They will have to take three buses to make that journey if BusConnects proceeds without further proper consultation.

Under the plan, there is to be increased frequency in the DART service from Malahide, with a train to run every ten minutes. However, the schedule shows that on weekdays a DART train will run at 9.30 a.m. and the next train will not run until 10.10 a.m. There is a need for connectivity between buses and trains because I am sorry to say the experience has been that the buses and trains are not co-ordinated properly. Sometimes buses leave stops early and sometimes trains are late and people miss their connection. A good deal of work needs to be done around that, and I mention only some of the points.

Another major issue is the loss of the 33x bus service. While I am aware that this proposal is being reconsidered, this plan will fail miserably if the 33x, which provides an excellent service into the city, is not maintained.

Before I return to BusConnects, I will mention Donabate and land zoned in Fingal. There are plans to build 1,200 houses in Donabate and a new road has been developed. However, we still have a traffic jam on the M1. What is badly needed is a slipway onto the M1 directly from the road that exits the peninsula on which Donabate and Portrane are located. We need to keep the cost of transport at its current level. When the cost of transport goes up, the cost of everything goes up, especially for hauliers who are competing against their European Union colleagues. Any move to equalise the price of diesel and petrol would be a catastrophe for hauliers and put them out of business.

I refer to the proposed gas station at Dublin Port. People who bought and invested in gas lorries, with the encouragement of Government, cannot get the gas to run them in any meaningful sense.

The Minister must ensure current services are maintained until the new services are up and running.

That is particularly important when it comes to the new rail services on which we will be waiting. There should be more buses, especially for rural link services. As north county Dublin expands, villages such as Naul, Ballyboughal, Oldtown and others need connectivity with the likes of Balbriggan and Swords in order that people can get onto the main transport routes. I look forward to the Minister's answer. I will have to watch it on screen because I have another meeting to attend. I thank the Minister for coming to the House.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross, and his officials. The Minister spoke about linking people and places. It is not just desirable, it is essential. That is why the overarching philosophy of the Minister to link people and places is one we must continue to develop. Project Ireland 2040 is the platform that will not only allow the Government, at both national and local level, to manage and plan but to develop a new Ireland, as the Minister said, not just for today but also for tomorrow. Connecting people with place will be the Minister's legacy as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Transport is the one thing we all desire and seek. It includes public transport, in terms of the efficiency of bus and rail services and airports and also concerns motorists who commute from work to home. I have in my mind the image of people travelling in Cork city from the Kinsale Road to the tunnel and the gridlock that has happened as a result of a growing economy and people going back to work. It also means we must plan.

In the debate the Minister has listened to many Senators. One thing he should take notice of from the Order of Business today is that the BusConnects consultation in Dublin is causing difficulty for both Members of the Oireachtas and citizens of the capital city. Members who come in here are giving views that have been expressed to them at public meetings. The Minister was correct when he said a greener and expanded public transport network will add greatly to the choice and experience of us all and will help improve our quality of life. Congestion is now the cause of much stress and it causes huge annoyance for people.

Project Ireland 2040 provides the opportunity to develop the region in which I live in Cork for its people. We will not go through the list of announcements. It is critical for the connectivity of roads, rail and sea and air transport. It is an opportunity for Cork, as the second city, to be the gateway to the south and a hub. It will allow for the strengthening of the connectivity both between Cork and Limerick and between Cork and the east and Cork and Dublin. The regeneration of Cork city is one I believe will happen in tandem with Project Ireland 2040. That is why it is very important that Project Ireland 2040 has staging points in order that we can see the tangible delivery of projects whether for the M20 or the BusConnects project for which €200 million has been announced. In the Minister's discussion with the various authorities under his remit, will he discuss whether we will see, during the Minister's tenure as Minister, an enhanced public bike scheme for Cork city? We have a university, an IT and a hospital all on the same side of the city. It makes absolute sense to see an expansion of the public bike scheme. Equally, when we speak about our cities it is also important - in the context of Cork, which I am speaking about - to allow for the expansion of bus routes.

It is important that there be a discussion with the NTA on a Ballygarvan to Cork bus route and a direct link with Ballygarvan from Cork city. It is an area with a growing population. If we recognise that cities cannot be the only place in which to live it makes absolute sense that in the case of Ballygarvan there would be a direct link with Cork city. Under Project Ireland 2040, Cork city has the capacity to grow. The new local government arrangements for Cork city will allow that to happen.

I will conclude with one sentence. I congratulate Cork Airport on its growth of almost 4% this year and its magnificent global marketing award achieved this week. The Minister has been very supportive, on which I commend him, but it makes absolute sense for Norwegian Air to have a 12-month, 52-week service in and out of Providence. I have used it myself on a number of occasions. It is an excellent service. It makes no sense to have the route cancelled for a couple of months when the route is open in Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport. Why can we not have a service from Cork, the capital of the south, to Providence even if it is only one or two days a week?

I welcome the Minister to the House, with which he is very familiar, having spent a long time in the Seanad before he was elected to the Dáil. I welcome him back.

I will make a number of points particularly on the transport matter. I came here this morning by bicycle. I was very glad I was cycling because there was a tailback through the heart of the Minister's constituency where I live, from Goatstown pretty much the whole way to Leinster House. I appreciate that the Luas was not operating but it shows how popular the Luas is and how dependent many people are on it. It was not raining at the time but the impending bad weather probably had more people in their cars. We need to look at it seriously. I know the Minister is looking at it through BusConnects and so on. I thank the Minister for the mention I got in the Lower House yesterday. I do not think I have been mentioned before in the Lower House. I thank the Minister for mentioning it.

BusConnects has much merit. There are very many good things in it such as the connectivity, the 90-minute journey fares and interconnectivity between Luas, DART and bus services. There is much good in it. There are services that seem to be very popular and altered in a certain way. I completely accept it is a draft proposal but I hope Mr. Walker and his team will look at all of the consultation - I understand there will be a lot of consultation done and observations put in - and will try to keep the best of what is there while adding to it. The concept of the spines is very good for those people lucky enough to live on spines. The 46A is a very popular route in my former council area in Stillorgan. There is much merit in BusConnects but I think the process and the people involved in it need to take on board people's concerns.

I cycled here this morning. It was fast and took only 19 minutes but there were cars the entire way in. That is not acceptable. We need to be looking at the number of park and ride facilities for people who are travelling long distances who do not have great public transport. Many people come up from Wicklow, perhaps not too far from the Minister. They come in on the M50 down through Goatstown and Clonskeagh and into Ranelagh. If they had a better option and there were park and ride facilities further out, I do not doubt they would use them. We need to consider those people and give them options and alternatives to avoid them having to bring their cars close to the city centre.

I apologise I was not here for the Minister's speech - I had another commitment elsewhere - but I have read it. I do not know what other speakers mentioned. Senator McDowell may have mentioned the metro and the concerns about it. The metro is going as far as Sandyford at the very same time that we are building a brand new town in Cherrywood. I think it is proposed there will be about 12,500 housing units for almost 30,000 people yet we are going to have the old service being provided from Brides Glen inward as far as Sandyford, which will then become a metro, which will then become either a Luas or an underground metro somewhere in the area where Senator McDowell lives. We need to future-proof whatever is going on in Cherrywood because it is a very significant residential development on almost 400 acres of land. It is probably the last developable bit of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown left of such size.

If we are to do work on the line, we need to do it there where there are relatively very few people. The work could probably be done there far more quickly and easily than in a city centre location.

On Brexit, Dublin Port is certainly making provision. As Senator Buttimer said and as I have said, there is nothing good about Brexit. It will be difficult but we need to future-proof ports in that regard. We need to examine road safety. I did not hear the figures yesterday but I hope European Day Without A Road Death was a success in Ireland, despite the weather. I encourage the Minister to consider road safety and speeding although it is technically not his brief. When I drive at the speed limit on the M50, motorists fly past. The level of enforcement on some of our major roads is not what it could be.

With regard to airports, I must state, to be fair to Senator Byrne, that I would prefer if there were more people flying out of Shannon. Equally, there should be more travelling from Cork. For all the abuse the former Minister, Noel Dempsey, got ten or 11 years ago over white elephants, terminal 2 in Dublin Airport is now so full that Aer Lingus aeroplanes are going back to using terminal 1. It has been a phenomenal success. I congratulate Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, on what they are doing but we need to keep an eye on future-proofing all our investments.

It is not all negative. I am not trying to be negative. I commend the work being done. It is very positive. I refer to initiatives such as the Leap card. It is amazing how fantastic the Luas was when it was opened by Séamus Brennan only 14 years ago at the Sandyford depot, near where I live. Much positive work is being done but we need to future-proof for the increase in population. As much as we can, we need to get people out of their cars, not for the sake of it but because they will have faster journey times and better experiences. There is nothing worse than sitting in a car and not moving at all for a time. I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Minister.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me the opportunity to respond to what has been a very useful and constructive debate. I thank the Senators for the mature, sensible and constructive way in which they addressed this issue. Everyone knows there are serious difficulties in the public transport sector. Traffic congestion is a major problem that has to be addressed. In some ways, it is worse than we would expect. Certainly in Dublin, it is chronic. This debate has been marked exclusively by pleas by Senators on behalf of people in their own areas, particularly Dublin.

I will address the BusConnects issue first because it has been a common theme, certainly among those from Dublin. I understand the difficulties that people from all constituencies and areas of Dublin are encountering with this project. Radical change of this sort cannot be introduced without some very understandable, constructive, sensible and, in some cases, absolutely correct opposition. One cannot do anything as radical as drawing on a clean sheet of paper a map of bus routes in Dublin to reduce journey times dramatically and relieve the traffic problem without upsetting certain people in certain areas. There is no intention of doing so. The intention of BusConnects is to relieve the traffic congestion. The projections being made are quite dramatic in that regard.

As everyone knows, the plans as produced will increase the frequency of buses, increase capacity and introduce new, very exciting and much-needed routes. That must be applauded. I will not go into the detail but there will be new routes introduced that have been necessary for a very long time and that will satisfy many of the demands many have made about UCD, St Vincent's University Hospital and such places. Quite understandably, those projects and initiatives tend to be banked by those who get them while all the more vocal responses are from those who are inconvenienced by some of the projects suggested. Like all the Members who mentioned this, I am especially sympathetic towards those who could not reach hospitals, universities and schools before now. Some of them see the project has not introduced a way for them to do so.

It is important to state the criticism is not so much of the project ibut of the communication of it. There were circumstances in the past in which I would not have said this - Senator Ned O'Sullivan rightly referred to this - but the ambitions of the NTA and its constructive attitude towards this very difficult project have been commendable. In many cases, it has gone the extra mile to involve the public regarding this initiative. That is because the NTA, all politicians and I realise the heartbeat of the people of Dublin is contained in the trains and buses, which carry them almost every single day of the year. It is the commuters who count and who must be accommodated.

Buses, including those of Dublin Bus, are not run exclusively, and not even primarily, for profit. They are run for those who are unable to travel by other means, sometimes for economic reasons. We want to move as many people as possible into those buses. The NTA realises this and the very important social role buses play. That was a surprise to me. Nevertheless, the criticisms of the consultations have been coming in faster than expected. I suspect that is because there is a misunderstanding over what is going on.

The NTA has held numerous public consultations across the city of Dublin in recent weeks and staff from Dublin Bus were present. They have been well advertised. People have been invited at various fora and through various media to go to them. Many have turned up and many have been reassured by what they have heard. These consultations have not taken the shape of public meetings with people rabble-rousing or anything like it. There are not politicians stirring people up at these meetings. There are serious people going along with serious problems and explaining them to people from the NTA and getting an answer on how they may get from point A to point B most easily and quickly, or on why they cannot. Many people have come away happy from those consultations, reassured after having been fed a lot of misinformation.

Some people have come away from the consultations still worried about the links. I refer, in particular, to old people and the disabled. They are worried about links and having to change where they did not have to change before. That is understandable. Those views are serious and must be taken into account. If communities are cut off, of course, they must be looked after. If groups of people who were habitually used to getting from point A to point B, including the elderly, now find they cannot do so for various reasons, their cases must be considered with great sympathy and there must be a practical response. My sense of what is happening is that the consultation which will end on 30 September will prompt a constructive response from the NTA.

This is not window dressing or cosmetic. This is for real. The public has responded to the invitation from the NTA to communicate. It is not the only way the public can respond.

There are other actions the public is invited to take on the BusConnects website. A telephone line is available where the public is invited to ring in and ask the questions it wants answers to and see if that is satisfactory. Is it working? I rang it myself. I did not say who I was. I just gave my Christian name. I asked quite a complicated question and they came back to me with a full answer. I rang again and asked another question and they came back to me. I will not say whether the answer was satisfactory but the answer was full information about how to get from point A to point B. That is a very good service because if someone gets that particular response, he or she can decide whether the new system suits him or her. People are misunderstanding the maps, which are very complicated and very difficult to understand, and are unable to make decisions about whether this benefits them, but once they get a reply from this service, and they will get a reply, they are able to decide.

The next step they can take is to make a submission. The NTA is taking submissions by email and letter and will consider them very seriously. My sense is that the options are open and public representatives behaving responsibly will tell those who come to them with legitimate worries about what is going to happen that they can at least rectify the fact that they are not fully informed by ringing up, finding out the information, making a submission and seeing the result. As submissions close on 30 September, there are another ten days or so. There is plenty of time to do it.

After the submissions are made - it is fair to give the NTA time to consider them - it is likely that a new version of that plan will emerge. I am not making any promises but I appeal to the NTA to put the new version out for consultation again when it appears because this is a serious matter and entire communities are affected by it. We realise that and we want to see a serious and proper toing and froing. We know these measures will not come into force until 2020. One or two might come into force very late in 2019 but, in effect, it is a 2020 project; therefore, there will be time to consider sympathetically the difficulties people encounter and sort them out. I appeal to everybody to indulge and involve themselves in this process because that is the best way of getting a result. They have a willing listener at the other end of this process who wants to see a new programme of buses that works where all the benefits of the new radials and orbitals will be seen and felt by the majority of people and where those who are or have been unable to find out or who are puzzled and worried about this can be reassured in the months to come.

I will answer some of the questions asked by some Senators because it is appropriate for me to do so. Senator Ned O'Sullivan spoke about underinvestment in transport. He is right. I will not indulge in political blame for all of this because it is unhelpful, but there has been and there still is a problem with underinvestment. This is why we need a plan. If we could produce all the capital today, we would do all those things the Senator would like and do them faster. There has been underinvestment because of the usual reason, namely, a shortage of money. The reason there is a shortage of money is something we could probably debate for a very long time. From what the Senator said, the projects of which he approves are projects of which we also approve. We are not really on different sides. We might be on different sides when it comes to the speed of it and the source of the capital that will come forward.

The Senator also referred to the Luas cross city debacle. Everyone knows there were problems to start off with but it is working pretty well now. One of the great merits of a good transport company is being flexible. There were serious mistakes and difficulties in the beginning such as overcrowding but they were responded to fairly swiftly by the company behind Luas and the green and red lines of Luas are now working very effectively apart from the damage caused by the storm last night for which we cannot blame the company or the Government. It is now working flexibly and is showing a willingness and an ability to adapt pretty quickly to changing conditions.

Senator McDowell said no cost-benefit analysis was made.

I should have said no proper cost-benefit analysis had been made.

A cost-benefit analysis was made.

It has been criticised by everyone.

I do not want to engage with the Senator about what was proper and what was not proper but a cost-benefit analysis was made. If the Senator goes to the MetroLink website, he will find a cost-benefit analysis. A preliminary business case analysis will be made shortly, which will be published on www.metrolink.ie. A final business case will be presented for Government approval before construction starts in 2021. Will all the platforms be dug up? I keep being asked detailed questions about matters that are not matters for me, but the answer to that question is that platforms will not be completely dug up. They will be changed and enhanced in ways that are necessary, but the idea that there will suddenly be a complete and utter change is not true. They will be adjusted accordingly.

Regarding the question about a cycle-friendly city, I probably ought to say a little about cycling. I have said quite often - maybe not in this House but certainly in the other House - that we have been behind the curve in terms of cycling, not just in Dublin but throughout the country. We have spent a lot of money on greenways. A total of €53 million will be spent on them in the next four years. This is a way of promoting cycling. Greenways are used by a great number of cyclists. I regret the fact that at certain times there has been a fall in our expenditure on cycling, whatever the economic condition of the country was. However, we have committed fully in the national development plan to what is a big step change in cycling.

The national development plan commits a €110 million spend on cycling, a trebling of capital spending over the next three to four years. That is an enormous commitment by the Government. It is an admission that we fell behind on this before. I believe that was the case with all Governments. However, we have now decided that cycling is absolutely necessary, not just to get the people from point A to point B, like Senator Horkan this morning, but for the health of the nation, as well as part of the drive to reduce carbon emissions. That decision has been taken and will be followed through. Senator McDowell is correct that in times past, including when he was in government, cycling was not promoted as much as it should have been or could have been. We have now decided it is necessary for the sake of congestion and health.

If I am asked for concrete evidence of this, I revert to BusConnects and the radial routes. The proposal also has a commitment to provide 200 km of segregated cycling ways which will ensure whole new avenues open to cyclists, which will contribute to having more cyclists. These will be adjacent to all bus corridors. They will improve safety, health and the numbers of cyclists on the road. That commitment should be not taken lightly. It will cost money but will greatly benefit the cycling community and contribute to cycling safety.

Senator O'Mahony asked about the ring road around Galway. Within two or three weeks, I will be seeking the Government's approval for the Galway ring road project in order that the county council can go ahead to seek planning consent from An Bord Pleanála.

The Government is absolutely committed to Knock airport. We realise its importance regionally, that it is vital for tourism and that it is the gateway to the west from overseas. The Senator need not have any worries on that score. The departure of the previous Taoiseach, although he was a great supporter of the airport, will not make any difference to the Government's solid commitment to the airport.

The western rail corridor is subject to review going ahead. Iarnród Éireann is doing a review which will then be examined by the Government.

Senator Warfield spoke about a blockage by the Taoiseach, when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, of developments in the west. If there were blockages by the Taoiseach, they were done for economic reasons. I do not believe there was ever a bar put on any project by the Taoiseach because he is open to these projects. A stop or a delay may have been put on certain projects in the hope that when the economic crisis was over they would be restored. Some of them have been revived as a result.

The Senator also talked about the need for cycling. I have dealt with that issue.

Senator Lawlor referred to the need for a timeframe. It may not have been mentioned in my speech but there is a timeframe in the NDP. I cannot promise the Senator anything about the railway line to Kildare because it is a matter for the National Transport Authority, NTA, CIÉ and Iarnród Éireann. He referred to the greenways, which are an exciting project. Up to €53 million will be provided for them. The application for the greenways is already out. We opened it up last week and invited interested parties to make an application to be funded. We are expecting massive competition in that regard.

The Senator also asked if the sports capital programme would continue every year. That is our ambition. We would like to see it happen every year. It is a phenomenal programme which fulfils one of the key pillars of our sports policy, namely, that there should be participation. We have had phenomenal success recently with sporting achievements which has to be acknowledged day after day. It is great for national morale and we are all immensely proud of it. We must not forget the fact that 95% of those people who indulge in sport will not reach that extraordinary pinnacle which we have seen from Irish sport in recent weeks. However, they are equally important, if not more so. The great virtue of the sports capital programme on a whole is it filters everywhere. It filters to people who are not athletic stars but will benefit enormously from it. It is a community grant which is beneficial to both small and large communities. It makes a significant contribution to social and health well-being but its primary purpose is not to contribute to winning gold medals at the Olympic Games. That is another day's work.

Senator Humphreys devoted much time to cycling. He looked for a commitment to a 10% investment in it. I will not give such a commitment but €110 million is trebling the investment we had before. That is an enormous commitment which we will keep. It is a massive step change and an acknowledgement that those who have been advocating for cycling for so long were ahead of the curve. We are doing something that others were not prepared to champion for various reasons. We are committed and we have taken on board the real benefits as advocated by the cycling lobby. We will continue to do so.

I take the Senator's point about consultation on BusConnects. I do not accept it. It has made an extraordinary effort to reach out to all those with difficulties with it. I will be urging them to continue that consultation on a serious level to ensure communities in the Senator's area have every opportunity, even after the next version of the plan, to come back on it.

This dialogue must end in a consensus, in agreement and in the vast majority of people being happy with the number of routes open to them and the access they have to the places which are important to them.

Senator Humphreys talked about MetroLink and an evidence-based decision. I do not anticipate any decision made on MetroLink not being evidence-based. My understanding is that the real reason for the provision of the metro is that the whole of Dublin will need greater capacity in its means of transport and in transporting people in and out of the city. This means being speedier, being larger and being able to provide a service which the Luas cannot provide in terms of speed and numbers. This is the whole purpose of MetroLink, with routes with which the Senator will be fully familiar. I do not think this will be done without evidence-based decisions, but one need only see the extraordinary rise in population in the Senator's area, in my area and further afield to know that the demands on transport will continue for decades to come. We will look for increased capacity on an ongoing basis.

I will pass on what Senator Humphreys said about Dublin Airport to the DAA. I think what he says is anecdotal, but there are real capacity issues at Dublin Airport constantly. He says it is perhaps looking at being the wrong kind of airport, that it is looking at connectivity rather than where people are going in and out, etc. I think the main problem with Dublin Airport is that it is so successful and, as Senator Byrne said, I think, or certainly implied, so big in comparison with Shannon and Cork that it makes the traffic very lopsided in terms of people going in and out of the country. This is a problem for Dublin Airport and for Shannon and Cork. It is a problem for Shannon and Cork because they do not have enough customers and it is a problem for Dublin Airport because it has too many. The Senator has put his finger on it. That is very difficult.

The Senator said Dublin Airport looked on itself as a hub. It is an interesting debate. I am not sure what the answer is, but sure, perhaps passengers are suffering because the airport sees itself as just transporting people across the Atlantic. It may have to consider that matter. There are various ways out of the capacity problems at Dublin Airport. We have just got a capacity review, which is just being finalised and which will make some serious suggestions. It will comment on the benefits or otherwise of a third terminal, which could help the capacity problems, and will also probably make suggestions as to whether that should be an independent third terminal. The review will certainly outline the benefits and downsides of that and we will have to make a decision on it shortly.

The ports are absolutely vital in the context of Brexit and the main emphasis in that regard is on Dublin and Rosslare. Preparations are being made - I must be careful - for all scenarios involving the ports, for no deal and for a central case. I have seen some of the preparations and I am very impressed with what is in line, but we should not underestimate the scale of what might happen in Dublin Port or Rosslare. Large amounts of space would have to be made available in various situations, which would mean that both Dublin Port and Rosslare would have to find space. I am absolutely confident, however, that Ireland is pretty well in a leadership position in preparing for Brexit in terms of the ports. We are doing virtually everything that is necessary, particularly in respect of the two principal ports.

I do not want to interrupt the Minister, but he has responded to almost six Senators. As there are another five left to respond to and we have only five minutes left, I am-----

Are there five more? I am very sorry. I will try to get through them. That is fair enough.

I should declare that as I was the last speaker, I would not mind a response before someone else says it. As we have spent half an hour on the first six, I ask that we deal with the other five in five minutes.

I am very sorry.

I did not realise I was running out of time.

Senator Feighan acknowledged the €53 million for greenways. I cannot comment on the case he made for the greenway he proposes but he has made a very fine case and no doubt those who are adjudicating on the matter will take it into account. He talked about Roscommon and its difficulties. Ireland's Hidden Heartlands will promote areas such as Roscommon, target investment into tourist facilities in the area and provide an opportunity to highlight the scope for a hotel investment outside the more fashionable areas. Perhaps the Senator would consider zoning a hotel site in the development plan. That might help.

I think I have addressed Senator Byrne's plea about Shannon and Cork airports and the fact that Dublin Airport has too much business. She addressed the N21 and N69 Foynes to Limerick road. Its estimated cost to the Exchequer is, I think, €462 million, which is fairly substantial. My understanding is that Limerick County Council is now preparing statutory documentation for submission to An Bord Pleanála. An environmental impact assessment report and statutory process will also be prepared. There is an estimated completion date of 2026. What she is saying is "Please hurry up". I will bear that in mind. I thank her for raising the matter.

Senator Reilly addressed the issue of cycle lanes being unsafe. I think I have responded to that issue elsewhere. I think we will be taking further initiatives to protect cyclists very shortly. It will not be very long in coming. The Senator also addressed the issue of communication in respect of BusConnects. I have dealt with that issue.

To respond to Senator Buttimer, I will do anything I can to support Norwegian Air. It is in the interests of the nation, the consumer and the customer that it be encouraged. Sometimes we do not have enough competition coming in and out of Ireland. Ryanair has done an absolutely wonderful job on providing that, but the more we have, the better for the customer. I would like to see Norwegian Air operating on a 365 days a year basis. We encouraged it to come in and we will continue to encourage it to operate fully here.

To respond to Senator Horkan, I thank him for what he said about BusConnects. There is an obligation on all of us, and I am not saying in any way that he is not doing this, to look at this very objectively and assist people - Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, everyone - to get over the difficulties they are encountering. I am sure, because Senator Horkan and I are both in the same constituency, that he is finding that one of the problems is that people do not understand, when they have been taking a bus for 45, 50 or 60 years, that it is now called the 44 bus, for example, which runs through our constituency, and will suddenly be called the A-something else. That is the first mental block they must overcome and it is a very difficult one.

They also have to deal with it taking a different route, which they automatically assume will be worse for them, although that may not necessarily be the case. It would be helpful if when they understand that the route they are used to travelling to get from point A to point B will not be the same, they are told there are lots of other places they will be able to go. This is happening throughout Dublin but people are not being told this. As I said, they are backing the good bits, which is that there are lots more routes open to them, and, at the same time, complaining about how they are going to get from point A to point B when there is a simple solution.

Information will lessen the puzzlement and the resistance, if there is any. I appeal to everybody to co-operate with those who are promoting this project. It is a good scheme. I will urge the NTA to continue to engage with people to iron out the flaws, including in regard to the next stage, in order that the public, if they are not happy, can discuss how the problems can be resolved to enable BusConnects to be a successful project which, when completed, will be in the best interests of everybody in Dublin.

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive responses to the issues raised. I have no doubt that he will be in the House again soon to deal with other transport, tourism and sport related issues.