Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Military Aircraft Landings

Questions (11)

Mick Wallace

Question:

11. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of requests made by aircraft from the United States in 2013 for a permit to transport munitions through Shannon Airport; the number of these requests that were refused and the grounds for those refusals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15131/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

A permit under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973, as amended, is required for any civilian aircraft to transport munitions of war in Irish airspace. In total there were 670 applications by US airlines for such permits in 2013. Of these, 349 flights sought to land at Shannon Airport, while the rest were overflights using Irish airspace, but not landing in Ireland. None of flights landing at Shannon Airport was refused a permit.

There were 13 applications refused from US airlines for overflights transporting munitions.  These were refused on the basis of the nature of the cargo.

Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme

Questions (12, 39, 43)

Clare Daly

Question:

12. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the contact he has had with Aer Lingus in relation to recent pension problems, including threatened industrial action and legal action. [15141/14]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

39. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on calling on Aer Lingus not to proceed with suing SIPTU and a union official doing their duty, for a strike that never went ahead; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15155/14]

View answer

Alan Farrell

Question:

43. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects the expert review of the IASS pensions scheme to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15130/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 39 and 43 together.  

These questions relate to the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS) and to threatened legal action by Aer Lingus against SIPTU in the context of the threatened strike action on March 14th last. I refer the Deputies to my answer to Priority Question No. 1 earlier today which addresses the issues raised.

Tourism Promotion

Questions (13)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

13. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the success of the global greening initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15046/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

This year marked the fifth year of Tourism Ireland's Global Greening initiative, which sees iconic buildings and sites around the world "go green" to celebrate St Patrick's Day.  The initiative is part of Tourism Ireland's annual St Patrick's promotional programme which spans all of our significant overseas tourism markets. For minimal cost, the measure helps raise Ireland's profile at a time of year when many potential tourists are planning their annual holidays.  

More than 120 landmark buildings and iconic sites around the world were part of the initiative in 2014. Amongst the high profile sites which were "greened" again this year were the London Eye, Niagara Falls, the Moulin Rouge, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Sydney Opera House.  In addition, some new sites were added for the first time in 2014 including the Great Wall of China, the Grand Place in Brussels and City Hall in Savannah. The full list of all sites can be found on Tourism Ireland's website. In 2013, Tourism Ireland estimate the initiative generated publicity worth approximately €10 million in advertising equivalent value.  I expect this figure to be matched or exceeded this year.  

In 2013, on foot of Deputy O'Donovan's proposal,  the initiative was expanded to include a number of buildings in Ireland. This continued in 2014 when  a total of 28 buildings under the remit of the OPW took part in the "greening".  Many other public bodies also took part as well as local authorities across the country. The St Patrick's Festival Company also engaged with Dublin City Council and others to arrange for the greening of key landmarks around Dublin.  

Obviously the initiative can only take place because of the efforts of many. As well as Tourism Ireland, particular credit must go to Ireland's Ambassadors and Embassies overseas, the Office of Public Works, the St. Patrick's Festival Company as well as the public bodies and Local Authorities who support this initiative. Now that it is firmly established, I have no doubt that the "greening" will play a part in raising Ireland's profile as an tourism destination for many more years to come.

Light Rail Projects Status

Questions (14)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

14. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Luas cross-city project; if the project is currently meeting its deadlines; the difficulties the project has faced to date; his plans to consider expanding light rail to other cities here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15134/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility  for the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), including the Luas Cross City project. The project is progressing well and to agreed timelines.  While all construction projects may give rise to problems from time to time, I understand from the NTA that there are no significant difficulties or unexpected issues arising in relation to Luas Cross City and that every effort is being made to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum as construction proceeds.  

The building condition works along the Luas Cross City corridor and the Cellars Infill works have been completed. The Utilities Works commenced at a number of locations in the city centre in January 2014. The tender process for the main infrastructure contract has commenced and the anticipated award date for this contract is November 2014.  Work is then expected to commence in early 2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. Following testing, commissioning and trial runs the line is expected to be operational at the end of 2017.  

A Traffic Forum has been established representative of the NTA, RPA, An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council, and Dublin Bus as well as business representatives and there is on-going consultation between the Forum and contractors on proposed works and traffic impacts. The project Communications Director and local liaison officers also consult and engage on a regular basis with all parties and a city centre Project Information Office is located in Hibernian Way. I also chair a high level project group which includes business and trade representatives to monitor progress at a strategic level and to ensure that the city remains "open for business" while the project is being delivered.

There are currently no plans to develop a light rail system in other cities. The public transport needs of these cities will be kept under review in the context of on-going public transport planning and available funding. Under the current capital plan my Department funds a programme managed by the NTA to improve public transport in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. This programme funds projects such as bus lanes, green routes, cycle lanes and safety measures for pedestrians & cyclists.

Dublin Bus Services

Questions Nos. 16 and 17 answered with Question No. 10.

Questions (15)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

15. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a progress report on the tendering of orbital bus routes around Dublin and, in particular, the routes that serve the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15154/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Priority Question No. 2. The tendering and award of contracts for Public Service Obligation (PSO) services comes under the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA).  

In accordance with the decision made by the NTA Board on the arrangements for the award of public transport contracts after December 2014, all Dublin Bus routes will be included in the direct award contract which the NTA will enter into with Dublin Bus next December.  However, a number of local and orbital bus routes will only remain within the direct award contract until the end of 2016 when they will be competitively tendered and thereafter removed from the direct award contract and provided under a separate contract.  These local and orbital routes include a number of routes that serve the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area. I will take this opportunity to point out that the state, in the form of the NTA, will be the body who determine the schedule, the frequencies, vehicle-types associated with these services.  

Since November the NTA has been engaged on the detailed work involved in the preparation of the necessary procurement and contract documentation required to implement the NTA Board's decision. The NTA expects the procurement process for the routes to be tendered will begin in December 2014 leading to the award of the contract in March 2016 with the successful operator commencing services in late 2016.

Questions Nos. 16 and 17 answered with Question No. 10.

Taxi Regulations

Questions (18)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

18. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the proposed legislative changes he will be bringing forward in the area of taxi regulation; and if he will provide a cost-benefit analysis of the effects of continuing to allow new entrants into the market without a market supply reference mechanism. [14994/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I have no plans to bring forward further legislative changes in the area of taxi regulation. The Taxi Regulation Act, 2013, was enacted on the 23rd October 2013. The majority of its provisions have yet to be commenced but I expect to commence those sections this month in tandem with new Small Public Service Vehicle (SPSV) regulations prepared by the National Transport Authority (NTA).  These SPSV regulations will introduce new measures provided for under the Act, as well as consolidating and replacing the existing regulations.  

The Taxi Regulation Act 2013 legally underpins many of the actions recommended by the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011. The aim of the 2011 Review was to allow consumers to have confidence in the taxi system while also ensuring that legitimate and competent operators and drivers can be rewarded fairly by operating in a regulatory framework that is adequately enforced. The 2013 Act provides a robust framework for the implementation of the key enforcement measures proposed under the Taxi Review, including making provision for a range of offences for contravention of the provisions of the Act and the regulations made thereunder, mandatory disqualification from holding a licence upon having a serious criminal conviction, a demerit system to deal with recurrent breaches of the SPSV regulations and powers for the NTA to enter into agreements with service providers for the purpose of increasing enforcement capacity and capability. 

In relation to the issue of a cost benefit analysis, I am advised that the NTA, which has responsibility for the regulation of the SPSV industry under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, intends to conduct a fare review later this year and that as part of that review it will gather and publish information on driver income. The Authority also publishes information on SPSV vehicle and driver licences which are an indicator as to whether the industry is expanding or contracting. This should provide some assistance to persons considering market entry.