Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Questions (312)

Pat Carey

Question:

388 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the matters raised in a report to Dublin City Council on the impact of the Dublin Port tunnel on traffic flows in the areas surrounding the tunnel portals and to the concerns that traffic congestion should be avoided in the tunnel itself; if he has satisfied himself that the ventilation system within the tunnel is adequate to deal with emergencies which may arise within it; his views on the proposal to charge motorists for the use of the tunnel as a disincentive to its use by motorists; his further views on whether the expected number of HGVs using the port tunnel will have a positive impact on traffic flows in Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3828/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

A copy of a draft interim report prepared for Dublin City Council on the development of a HGV management strategy for Dublin city to coincide with the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel to form the basis of a public consultation exercise on this issue was sent by Dublin City Council to my Department. I understand from Dublin City Council that this plan has three objectives: to ensure the optimal use by HGVs of the port tunnel; to minimise adverse effects of remaining HGV movements in the city and to manage the movement of vehicles not within permitted dimensions, for example, through permit systems. Implementation of such a HGV management strategy was always envisaged as part of the overall transport strategy underpinning the construction of the port tunnel to ensure that port HGV traffic utilises the tunnel to the maximum extent.

Ventilation in the port tunnel is matter for Dublin City Council and the NRA. The tunnel has been designed as a longitudinally ventilated tunnel. This means that for each tube air is drawn in at one end and pushed through the tunnel both by means of the "piston effect" of vehicles and by large fans mounted on the roof of the tunnel. Under this arrangement, in the event of a fire the fans push the smoke downstream of the fire incident, that is, in the direction of vehicle travel, and the smoke is limited from affecting the area behind the incident. Vehicles downstream of the fire incident can exit the tunnel safely by continuing to drive out of the tunnel. This is the basis upon which numerous international tunnels operate. A recent safety audit of the project confirms that the Dublin Port tunnel complies in all respects with the requirements of the proposed EU directive on safety on road tunnels.

The operating system for the tunnel and the ventilation and safety systems have been designed with safety as a paramount parameter. This ventilation system, along with a package of further safety measures, including emergency telephones, lay-bys, pedestrian and vehicular cross passages, continuous CCTV coverage of the tunnels, a 24 hour manned control room, fire detection equipment and incident detection equipment, represents a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safe passage of vehicles through the port tunnel. It is in line with the best international practice.

A key objective of the operating system for the Dublin Port tunnel will be to ensure that there is no build-up of traffic in the tunnel. This objective would apply regardless of the ventilation system in use. A vital mechanism to ensure that the tunnel meets its primary objective of providing easy access to Dublin Port for HGV traffic will be the implementation of a differentiated tolling system applicable to private cars. Currently, all truck journeys in and out of Dublin Port pass through city centre streets and adjacent residential areas. Completion of the tunnel will provide relief to the city centre, environmental and safety benefits and relief from congestion for freight distributors and other port related traffic.