Public Transport Fares

Questions (58)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

58. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will request Bus Éireann to extend the "Kids Go Free" with a Leap card promotion for July to routes not covered by the Leap card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29584/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

Fáiltím roimh an toscaireacht ón tSín chomh maith.

The "Kids Go Free" promotion is a very positive initiative. However, because the Leap card does not cover all routes or the entire country, many people are unable to benefit fully from it and many more are excluded. Is there an opportunity to extend the scheme throughout the country so that every child would have an equal chance to access the free travel?

I join the Deputy in welcoming the delegation.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding relating to public transport. The NTA has the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares for public passenger transport services with the transport operators. The NTA also has responsibility for integrated ticketing, which it carries out through its Leap card system.

I understand that the "Kids Go Free" offer covers most journeys across the public transport network, including Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Go Ahead, Luas, and Irish Rail's DART and commuter rail services. The "Kids Go Free" offer is valid using any child Leap card for ages five to 15 and child Leap card for ages 16 to 18 which is valid up to the holder's 19th birthday, provided the card has 1 cent in credit. The "Kids Go Free" promotion also applies to all Local Link services although a child Leap card is not required for these services.

In the case of Bus Éireann, the initiative covers all routes that are publicly subsidised via the public service obligation, PSO, Exchequer grant. This includes Bus Éireann services in Cork city, Limerick city, Galway city, Waterford city, Sligo and Athlone towns and all Bus Éireann stage carriage services countrywide. Bus Éireann Expressway, which is a commercial service not subsidised by the State, is not included in the promotion.

The Leap card "Kids Go Free" promotion has utilised the Leap card system to enable those under the age of 19 years to avail of millions of free trips since its inception. It has been successful in encouraging children and teenagers to travel on the Transport for Ireland network using a Leap card. This year, the promotion has expanded to run for four weeks, which is twice as long as in previous years. The NTA is, therefore, doubling the fare foregone from this promotion and will have to increase the PSO subsidy to the operators for this lost fare revenue, which it estimates will be €800,000.

I sympathise with what the Deputy has to say. I ask him to spell out in his supplementary question to where he wants it to be extended, because I am not sure we are talking the same language.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Some 46% of the population of Cork city and county live outside the zone covered by the Leap card. Similarly in other parts of the country, many areas have no Leap card zone. Those people should be able to avail of this scheme on their local service.

For example, anyone travelling from Macroom to Killarney on the 40 Expressway route or the 257 via Millstreet must go as paying customers. Similarly people coming up to Cork from Dunmanway on the 236 bus are not able to access the scheme. It should be available for all children across the country who use various modes of public transport. It should not be the case that one would need to pay for part of the journey while others get it for free; it should be open to everybody.

My understanding on this is quite clear. I am open to correction because the Deputy knows the area very well. All Bus Éireann routes qualify for the "Kids Go Free" scheme, apart from the commercial operation, Bus Éireann Expressway. I do not know if the routes the Deputy was quoting are Bus Éireann's. If they are, perhaps the individuals he is talking about did not have Leap cards. My understanding is quite clear that any Bus Éireann bus qualifies. We can make that clear afterwards. I can discuss it with the Deputy afterwards if he thinks I am wrong, but I do not think so because I asked for this advice before I came into the Chamber to make it absolutely clear. If there is a misunderstanding there, we can clear it up very quickly. It may be that they do not have the Leap cards or the children to whom the Deputy referred are referring to commercial routes. Commercial routes have been asked to participate in this scheme.

I am sympathetic to what the Deputy is saying. If there is some sort of discrimination against children who take certain routes or use certain operators, I could appeal to them. I cannot force them to do so, but I could appeal to them to extend the scheme.

We can follow up on it afterwards. One example is one of those commercial routes, the No. 40 Expressway bus, which travels east-west from Rosslare to Tralee. It is a very widely used bus in my area. Perhaps the opportunity could be availed of to impress on services such as those buses to take part in the scheme.

The Deputy is referring to commercial bus routes. He will understand that I cannot force any commercial route to do anything in this situation. It is a commercial decision for them to decide as it is for Expressway to decide if it is a promotion that is worthwhile. Bus Éireann and the others have decided it is worth promoting. They are PSO routes. The NTA has decided it is worth promoting and there is great merit in ensuring these children get used to the Leap cards and the bus services, and it may pay them in the long run. If it is a commercial decision, I cannot intervene and I cannot make suggestions to it. If it is something into which the NTA has an input, we can certainly talk to it and ask it if it believes it is worth subsidising further.

Recreational Facilities Provision

Questions (59)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

59. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for investment in vital recreational infrastructure for local communities such as swimming pools, community centres and other sporting facilities; the extent to which budgetary allocations are sufficient to cater for demand for such facilities in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29519/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

I ask the Minister of State the extent to which he is satisfied he has the sufficient resources available to meet the requirements of the various sporting, recreational and community groups throughout the country involved in providing facilities for their members.

The sports capital programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. Under the 2017 round of the programme, €62 million was allocated to 1,837 sporting projects and my officials continue to assist these grantees in completing their projects and draw down their grants.

Sanction was received last year from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to open a new round of the programme with allocations of up to €40 million. This new round opened for applications on Friday, 7 September and the application period closed on Friday, 19 October 2018. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162 million in funding.

A total of 186 of these applications were for projects deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme but corrected documents were subsequently submitted. These applications were assessed first and approximately €7 million in allocations to 170 projects were announced on 17 January.

A total of 619 equipment-only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8 million were announced in May.

Work is now under way on assessing the remaining applications for capital works.

For the first time, applicants who submitted incorrect documentation under this round are being given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, I expect that it may be the end of the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced.

As soon as allocations have been made, my Department will carry out a review of all aspects of the 2018 round of the programme to include any possible improvements for the future. This review will include consideration of the timing and scale of the next round but I fully expect that the sports capital programme will again be open for new applications before the end of this year.

The funding available this year and currently earmarked for subsequent years is sufficient to meet all existing commitments and allow for a new round of the programme to be opened.

Does the Minister of State remain satisfied that sufficient funds remain constantly available to him to meet the requirements as already set out by the various applicants who have made submissions in the relevant period and whether there is likely to be a shortfall or a surplus?

I know the Deputy has an interest in swimming pools, particularly in his constituency. The local authority swimming pool programme, LASPP, was operated by our Department and that provides grants to local authorities towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. To date 51 pools have been completed and four swimming pool projects remain in the current LASPP. The priority this year is on advancing these projects and sufficient resources are available to cover these commitments. The budget allocation for 2019 is €4.1 million. Along with €2.8 million carried forward from 2018, this funding will be sufficient for that area.

In respect of the large-scale sport infrastructure fund, LSSIF, there is €100 million available. We hope to allocate that funding towards the end of this year. It is oversubscribed but not to the extent that the local and regional sports capital programmes are typically oversubscribed. There will be some disappointment in that regard but not as much as the Deputy may have anticipated at local level.

At local level, we had to make a call on the equipment-only grants. We had to cut off the lowest scoring applications because we could not spread the funding too thinly. I expect something similar will happen with the local sports capital programme unlike the 2017 programme when we effectively doubled the budget. As we will not be able to do that this time, there will be some disappointment but it will be done in order of merit in order that the lowest-scoring applicants will be the ones least likely to receive funding. We want to reward those who score highly through the system, which covers a vast range of criteria.

Would it be possible to give favourable consideration to local community groups that want to join together to make an application for funding from other organisations, as well as from the Department? Would that be viewed as being constructive and acceptable in those circumstances, which would give good value for money to the community and to the Department?

The Deputy’s suggestion is apt. Within the programme, we are trying to encourage shared facilities and usage. The scoring system for the 2018 programme, which is being assessed and which has been assessed for invalid applications and the equipment-only ones, takes into account clubs and organisations which share facilities. Where there is a licence agreement in place between partners, that application will score additional funding. Other criteria are taken into account when allocating a score to a particular proposal, for example, the socio-economic situation. The Pobal deprivation index is used for that. We also take into account the level of matched funding that is being made available by the partners in projects. We also consider previous allocations to clubs. We do not keep giving huge sums to the same people every time and several other factors are taken into account. In respect of deprivation and disadvantage, the requirements for higher levels of matched funding are lower where the community is scoring in the deprivation area through the Pobal deprivation index. There are several other factors to try to make it as fair as possible and as weighted as possible in favour of communities that are disadvantaged under the Pobal deprivation index.

Road Safety Authority

Question No. 61 replied to with Written Answers.

Questions (60)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

60. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there has been an improvement in disqualified drivers sending their licences to the RSA during the first two quarters of 2019; the measures he is undertaking to improve compliance and awareness of the role of the RSA in driver licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29119/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

In my earlier question, I referred to information that came to me from the Courts Service regarding people in court for non-payment of fixed-charge notices for speeding, drink-driving and holding a mobile phone. The figures provided show that large numbers of drivers still do not have their drivers' licences recorded in court. For example, this year, 1,628 speeding offences were convicted, while the number of drivers' licences recorded upon conviction was only 566. The picture is similar for 2017 and 2018. When will the information flow between the courts, the Road Safety Authority, RSA, and An Garda Síochána, become streamlined and efficient in order that An Garda Síochána will know who is disqualified?

Pretty soon. I am optimistic that it will not be too long.

There has not been an improvement in the number of disqualified drivers surrendering their licences to the Road Safety Authority during the first two quarters of 2019. Of the drivers with a court disqualification, the surrender rate is between 18% and 20%. Of the number of drivers with penalty point disqualifications, the surrender rate is 35%.

The requirement for a disqualified driver to surrender his or her licence is set out in the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006. Failure to comply with the requirement to surrender the licence is an offence in itself and enforcement of the law is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

I do not believe that the non-return of licences, unacceptable and illegal though it is, is the central issue. The number of disqualified drivers not returning their licences is not a proxy for the number of people who drive while disqualified. Some people will return their licences and still drive, others will not return their licences but will not drive. Therefore awareness of the role of the RSA is not the issue.

What we need to achieve compliance with the law is strong enforcement of the law against people driving while disqualified. In this context, the crucial legislative step was taken in the Road Traffic Act 2014, which empowered An Garda Síochána to arrest a person where it has reason to believe the person is driving while disqualified. The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to a maximum of €5,000 or a prison term of up to six months or both. The penalty for non-return of a driving licence is the general penalty under the Road Traffic Acts, namely, a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence, up to €2,000 for a second offence, and up to €2,000 or up to three months in prison or both for a third or subsequent offence in a 12-month period.

I am aware that Garda authorities are working in order that details of specific drivers who are disqualified are readily available to members of the Garda on the ground. I understand that an initiative to that effect will be rolled out under the Garda modernisation and renewal programme 2016-2021. That programme sets out a pathway so that each member of the Garda has the technical tools that will give him or her direct access to all the information he or she needs as he or she interacts with the public on the ground.

The figures are pretty shocking. The Minister quoted the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulation 2006, which is SI 537 of 2006. It is quite clear what the penalties are. When I asked the Courts Service the number of disqualified drivers who were taken to court for not surrendering their licences during 2018, given that it is a criminal offence, I was informed that just eight were taken to court. I then asked about the sanctions handed down and was told most people were summonsed but no convictions are recorded of those eight. It is something that the Minister's Department, the Department of Justice and Equality the Courts Service do not seem to take seriously enough. We constantly hear these promises of action and that it will be clarified, the Commissioner reporting to the Committee on Public Accounts and to the Policing Authority. We are still waiting and there can be no argument that the number of those failing to comply with the surrender of licences is shocking. The Ministers for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Justice and Equality urgently need to address this issue.

I accept what the Deputy says; the figures are pretty awful. There is room for improvement and that is coming pretty rapidly. It is taking longer than I would have hoped to get all the information together so that the Garda can have immediate access to this information but I think it is coming very shortly. Drivers who are disqualified are required to return their licences to the RSA.

That is the first action they have to take. Some simply ignore that and many are not being pursued, as the Deputy correctly noted. The Department understands that the Garda initiative is at an advanced stage and that it will extract details of any drivers who have been disqualified and fail to surrender their licence for dissemination to local gardaí. As of 2014, gardaí have the power to arrest those suspected of driving while disqualified, which is an important tool in dealing with the dangerous behaviour of driving while disqualified. The Department is satisfied that current legislation is adequate, both in creating the offences along with the penalties prescribed therein, and that the necessary powers have been given to the Garda to deal effectively with the issue. The Garda mobility programme is within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. I understand that the hand-held devices, which are the key to solving the problem, are at testing phase and, subject to satisfactory appraisal, are to be rolled out later this year. I agree with the Deputy that it cannot happen soon enough.

As we were told at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts, An Garda Síochána is preparing a series of actions to address the non-surrender of licences, which, we have been told, will cover enforcement and public awareness. The Minister for Justice and Equality asked that a Garda report be provided on the matter. Is the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport involved in that? Is a collaborative report being done to ensure there will be a programme of action in that regard as soon as possible? As the Minister will know, part of the problem is that, due to the impact of the economic policies of the Government and the previous Government, only 704 members of An Garda Síochána were assigned to road policing at the end of March this year. Before the economic crash, as the Acting Chairman will recall, almost double that number of gardaí carried out this critical function.

I welcome the Minister's comments, given that we have heard that the hand-held devices work brilliantly in the Limerick Garda division. People are waiting. The Government spent an extra €342 million this year on Garda information and communications technology. We want to see those devices used by An Garda Síochána throughout the country as soon as possible.

I agree with the Deputy about that. I, too, want to see the devices working as soon as possible because I do not want to have to come before the House again and produce figures of that sort. I do not take direct responsibility for the figures but I am unhappy to have to give them to the House, although I will do so whenever Deputies want them. The figures indicate that drivers who do not hand in their licence while disqualified are, on the whole, not prosecuted. I do not know what the effect of that is but some of those people are still driving around. Handing in their licences might not make a blind bit of difference and they might continue to drive around, but they are committing an offence by not handing in the licence, which is in itself unacceptable. If people felt there was a certainty of being prosecuted, it might deter them.

I accept the Deputy's criticisms and that the initiative cannot come a day too early. There are additional gardaí in the traffic corps but not as many as we would like there to be. As he noted, 84 people have died on the roads this year. We should take any measures of the sort he mentioned that contribute towards saving the lives of people. The Deputy's pursuit of the issue is worthwhile and I hope it will bear fruit in the near future.

Question No. 61 replied to with Written Answers.

Dublin Bus Fleet

Questions (62)

John Curran

Question:

62. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of low emission buses placed on order; the number of same to be delivered each year; the number that will operate in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29139/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

In a reply to a parliamentary question I received from the Minister this time last year, he indicated that the Government would no longer purchase diesel only buses from July of this year. He went on to state comprehensive trials would be conducted towards the end of last year to determine what type of buses would be bought in the future. I understand that those trials did not take place last year and that they took place early this year, or perhaps they are still taking place. In light of the commitment the Minister gave, will he set out the types and numbers of replacement non-diesel only buses the Government intends to purchase over the coming years?

Public transport - bus, rail and taxi - accounts for a little over 1% of Ireland’s overall non-emissions trading scheme carbon emissions and less than one 20th of the emissions from the transport sector. Accordingly, the impact on reducing national CO2 emissions of converting public transport to lower emitting fleets will be limited, though positive and important. Nevertheless, I believe in the leadership benefit of this move to low emission alternatives for public transport. The change will help to promote and normalise the use of non-conventional, lower emitting fuels and technologies.

A clear trajectory towards low emissions has been firmly established in the urban bus fleet. In the short term, we are committed under Project Ireland 2040 to no longer purchasing diesel only buses for the urban public bus fleet from this month onwards. Consequently, the NTA recently initiated a tender competition to award a framework agreement for the supply of double-deck diesel-electric hybrid buses. To help inform a longer-term bus procurement strategy, my Department, together with the NTA, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, has undertaken a comprehensive series of low emission bus trials, which will be reported upon shortly. Findings from this trial, alongside EU public fleet procurement requirements set out in the clean vehicles directive, together with ongoing market analysis and research, will collectively inform the NTA's approach to its bus purchase programme in the years ahead. I expect that half of the public urban bus fleet will have moved to lower emitting alternatives by 2023, with full conversion by 2030.

On the number of low emitting buses on order and to be delivered, I understand that the NTA’s recent framework agreement has indicated that up to 600 buses could be purchased over its duration. The framework will run for 30 months, with the option to extend by up to a further 30 months. The figure of 600 is only indicative and the exact number of vehicles to be purchased will be decided by the NTA annually in line with replacement requirements, capacity needs and funding availability, as well as taking account of developments in other low emitting technologies.

It might also interest the Deputy to note that a similar comprehensive programme of work is well under way to move the commuter rail fleet to low emitting alternatives. We plan to electrify important, heavily used elements of the rail network by creating a full metropolitan area DART network for the greater Dublin area, which is the part of the national rail network that carries over 75% of total rail passengers each year. It will mean high-frequency electrified rail services to Drogheda, Celbridge-Hazelhatch, Maynooth and M3 Parkway, as well as new interchange stations with bus, Luas and metro networks. The NTA and Iarnród Éireann recently commenced a procurement process for the establishment of a ten-year framework agreement for the purchase of the additional lower emitting rail fleet required for this expansion of the DART network.

Collectively, these measures will reduce the carbon footprint of the public transport fleet.

Let us keep it simple. I will stick to buses because I do not have enough time to deal with rail in the time available to me. The Minister previously stated a comprehensive set of vehicle trials would inform the purchasing decisions for new buses over the coming years. He went on to state, "The technologies likely to be tested include full electrification, diesel-electric hybrids and compressed natural gas". Have those trials taken place? How many buses, of what types, have undergone trials?

The Minister stated his intention that by 2023, more than 600 non-diesel low emission buses would be purchased, which is welcome. As is always the problem when we ask such questions, however, he has not given any indication on a year-by-year basis of how we might get to 600. He talked about fleet replacement but apart from the buses currently on trial, will low emission vehicles be purchased and on the road in Dublin this year? If so, how many will there be and what will be the number for next year?

I reiterate what I said to the Deputy because I do not know whether he heard me. The trials will be reported on soon. Low emission bus trials have been undertaken and we will get a report on the findings soon. I will share the findings with the Deputy but I cannot do so until I receive the report and it would be premature for me to do so.

When I get the report I do not see any reason those numbers should not be given to the Deputy as well. I cannot give them to the Deputy in advance of receiving them myself.

The low-emission buses will be employed under the BusConnects programme and the intention is that 50% of the greater Dublin area fleet will transition to low-emission options by 2023, with 100% making the change by 2030. I specifically stated that the figure of 600 is indicative and the number may not be 600. It is to give the Deputy a ballpark idea and the figure could be much smaller. We will see and it would be up to the National Transport Authority to draw them down on an annual basis. It is always in the interest of the Opposition to tie down the Government to figures it will not keep but that will not happen. I am just trying to be helpful by saying to the Deputy that 600 is the indicative figure. It is very ambitious and I expect the Deputy welcomes it. It will have a beneficial effect on people in his constituency. The numbers are ambitious and an indication of our determination that low-emission buses should serve the people of Dublin and elsewhere.

The Minister did not answer the specific questions I asked so I will repeat them. What is the number of low-emission vehicles the Minister expects to have on the streets of Dublin in 2019 and does he have the figure for 2020? I acknowledge the Minister stated the figure of 600 is indicative but the Minister was not being indicative when he said 50% of the Dublin fleet would be low-emission vehicles by 2023. I accept that. I have a specific question on the trials. When we questioned the Minister a year ago, the trials were supposed to have taken place at an earlier date. That was important as the outcome of the trials will influence purchasing patterns. Surely buses are now being ordered for next year that will not have the benefit of the information coming from those trials. Even today the Minister cannot tell me what types of buses are being trialled, never mind the outcomes of the trial. We will purchase buses next year without the benefit of the trial, which should have taken place last year. I again ask the Minister to specifically detail how many low-emission vehicles he anticipates will be on the roads in Dublin in 2019 and 2020.

We expect that by 2023, half of the vehicles will be low-emission varieties and by 2030, diesel vehicles will be gone completely. Buses will be replaced when they reach the end of their optimal life. For the double-deck fleet this is approximately 12 years and on this basis a steady state annual replacement need for Dublin Bus is 80 to 85 vehicles and for Bus Éireann this is 20 to 30. Additional vehicles may be also required to increase capacity on the network to cater for increasing travel demand or any new services.

Road Network

Questions (63)

Imelda Munster

Question:

63. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the preliminary appraisal for a bypass of Julianstown, which was submitted by Meath County Council to his Department and Transport Infrastructure Ireland in December 2018; the decisions taken; when he plans to proceed with the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29566/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

Will the Minister provide an update on the preliminary appraisal of a bypass of Julianstown? It was sent to his Department by Meath County Council last December. Will he provide details of any decision taken by the Department and does it wish to proceed with the project? When will that happen?

I thank Deputy Munster for her question. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant county or city council in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the councils' own resources, supplemented by State road grants. Prior to the financial crisis, applications for funding for road improvement projects would have been considered as part of the specific improvement and strategic regional and local road grant schemes. However, the extent of the cutbacks in grant funding during the recession meant these grant schemes had to be curtailed after 2013 because expenditure on maintenance and renewal was falling well short of what was required to adequately maintain the regional and local road network.

Project Ireland 2040 provides for the gradual build-up in funding for the road network but it will take some time to reach the level required for the adequate maintenance and renewal of the network. For this reason there is limited scope for funding projects under the specific and strategic grant programmes. The primary focus is on implementation of the 12 regional and local road projects identified for development, subject to necessary approvals, in Project Ireland 2040. Any additional projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under the specific and strategic grant programmes are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the public spending code and my Department's capital appraisal framework, and it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind.

Under the capital project appraisal process, a preliminary appraisal must be submitted for each proposed project. In this context, the National Transport Authority's transport strategy for the greater Dublin area provides the overall policy framework for transport development in the region. As part of the corridor options appraisal, the strategy considers the measures needed to meet travel demand on the economic Drogheda to Dublin city corridor and focuses largely on public transport options and improved rail services. The proposed electrification of the rail line to Drogheda under Project Ireland 2040 reflects this approach.

The draft preliminary appraisal received from Meath County Council regarding a bypass of Julianstown will therefore have to be considered with the above factors in mind. Against the backdrop of the need for action to address climate change and limited resources, I am conscious that investment has to be focused on the projects which best deliver on the Government's overall policy priorities and this means looking critically at proposals for new roads where public transport is being enhanced and where investment has been already made in high quality infrastructure, such as the M1.

The report assessed four separate solutions, as well as a "do nothing" scenario, and the bypass of Julianstown emerged as the preferred option not only in the multi-criteria analysis but also in the preliminary cost-benefit analysis. The cost was expected to be in the region of €20 million but the estimated benefit over the lifetime was to come to €80 million.

I do not know if the Minister personally had the chance to read the preliminary appraisal sent to his Department but this is a small, picturesque village with approximately 600 people living there. There are 20,000 cars and heavy goods vehicles travelling through that village every day. When the motorway was planned, the idea was that it would take all that traffic away from Julianstown but it has not done that. There are still 20,000 vehicles per day going through the village so not only would the bypass reduce travel time, it would also reduce the carbon footprint. We are in the midst of a climate emergency and the objective is to reduce our carbon footprint. Will the Minister and his Department, therefore, reconsider the project in order to give it priority?

My Department will liaise with Meath County Council on the appraisal. I have taken note of what the Deputy has to say and I hope she has noted also what I have to say and considers it in that light.

There are commuters from Laytown, Bettystown, Drogheda and Julianstown driving through this stretch of road on their way to and from Dublin. The corridor between Drogheda and Dublin city centre is forecast to see the highest growth in transport demand up to 2025. The road is not fit for purpose for the volume of traffic. Given that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, will the Minister prioritise this project? Funding the bypass would take 20,000 vehicles per day out of a village with a population of 600 people.

I will take the Deputy's comments to Transport Infrastructure Ireland and my departmental officials.

Sports Capital Programme Administration

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website

Questions (64)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

64. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the rating system for sports capital grants; his views on whether it is the fairest process for rating applications; his plans to make changes to the process and the appeals process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29582/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

The question relates to sports capital grants, particularly those for equipment. I agree with the principle that we need a quantifiable measurement when it comes to funding schemes essentially coming down to some form of choice from the Minister's Department.

Nearly one third of the weighting relates to criterion No. 3, the level of socioeconomic disadvantage in an area, which is scored automatically on the Pobal deprivation index. I will develop that point further when I speak again.

I thank the Deputy. As the Deputy knows, the detailed scoring system was published on the Department's website prior to the commencement of the assessment works under the 2018 sports capital programme. The key factors used in arriving at the relevant score for each application include the likelihood of increasing participation and improving performance, or both; whether the proposed facilities will be shared with other users; the level of socioeconomic disadvantage in the area; the technical merits of the proposed project; the level of funding being provided for the project by the applicant; and the level of sports capital programme funding received in the last ten years by the applicant.

There were 2,337 applications received by the deadline, 186 of which were for projects that were deemed to be invalid in the 2017 round of applications. There were also equipment-only applications. We are assessing these applications.

We have changed the weighting for the 2018 programme to give a better chance to communities that are considered to be disadvantaged on the Pobal deprivation index, even though 50% of successful applications in 2017 were from such areas. We have also increased efforts to raise awareness of the programme in disadvantaged communities to try to have more such applicants.

There is no perfect system when a programme receives over 2,000 applications from all over the country. We are trying to be as fair as possible and encapsulate as many criteria as possible to try to score applications on merit. For the first time ever, allocations under the 2017 programme were based on the points the applications scored. Previously, some would have been picked and prioritised, even though they had not score as well as others. The Minister, Deputy Ross, and I were keen to ensure in 2017 that the scoring system we had published on the website would be strictly adhered to and we are trying to do so again this year.

I will be happy to receive feedback from the Deputy at the end of the process. We are currently in the middle of it. We will reviewing how the 2018 programme worked before establishing and publishing the scoring system for the 2019 programme. It is constantly evolving and changing, but the changes we made between 2017 and 2018 have probably been the most radical ever in trying to make the programme as accessible as possible to disadvantaged communities and ensure applications from them will receive as much funding as possible.

At the higher end of awards made under the sports capital scheme there can be applications for large, multi-use clubhouses which are of major benefit to any area but especially so in areas of economic deprivation. The socioeconomic indicator can prove useful when considering such larger capital project applications. However, at the lower end of awards made, for equipment-only applications such as mowing equipment and maintenance machinery, I am not sure the index is useful. If a club needs new machinery to cut grass, the level of socioeconomic deprivation is not as relevant as it would be if a club was, for example, seeking to have a new all-weather pitch or build a multi-use facility. I ask the Minister of State to look again at the scheme because some applications for smaller awards are falling through the cracks. I believe the heavy weighting given to the socioeconomic indicator is a key reason for this. The scheme could be amended by using the socioeconomic criterion in considering applications for grants in big amounts and a slightly different equation in considering equipment-only applications. That is the case I am making. I will give the Minister of State a brief example of how the programme is not working when I come back to him.

I take the Deputy's point and see from where he is coming. One of the key things about the use of the Pobal deprivation index is that a blunt instrument was used previously where an applicant fell or did not under either the CLÁR programme or the RAPID programme and the different categories within them. The Pobal deprivation index is more specific. One of the failures of the deprivation index is where a club serves a large catchment area and its co-ordinates are in an advantaged area, yet its membership is drawn predominantly from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am the first to say it is not a perfect system, but we must have some way of including levels of disadvantage in the application process.

I hear what the Deputy is saying about equipment-only applications. The logic behind the application of the Pobal deprivation index in all aspects of the programme is that fund-raising capacity and ability in communities tends to be lower where there are higher levels of disadvantage. That is the mentality, whether it be for a large or a smaller grant. I see where the Deputy is coming from when he says people are at a disadvantage by not being disadvantaged and that they are less likely to receive higher amounts of funding. In general, the logic is that clubs are in a better position to raise finances from their membership if it is drawn predominantly from a non-disadvantaged area. We will be carrying out a review in advance of the putting in place of the 2019 programme and I will be very happy to take on board what the Deputy has said. It may well be workable to factor it into the programme. If that would be fair and better, I would be open to it.

I have a final point because I want to give an example related to one of the other criteria used. To get points in sharing a facility, there must be a 15-year lease in place, as the Minister of State mentioned. The Hills Cricket Club is in a rural part of north County Dublin and shares its facilities with Cricket Leinster, Cricket Ireland, the local prayer group, Skerries motorcycle group and Weight Watchers. The club allows its facility to be used by a small rural school and provides a men's shed-type environment for older people in the area. Some 70% of the cricket playing population are from new Irish communities and, through the club, there is much-needed and wonderful integration taking place. None of these factors counts for anything under the regime whereby a 15-year lease must be in place.

There is a fine line between protecting and not protecting public moneys. The reason we have criteria such as those surrounding lease arrangements is to ensure we do not put public moneys into facilities that could later be sold or discarded. That is something we are trying to ensure. The question is where does one draw the line. We are open to reviewing all of these factors and I am happy to pass that example back to the officials within the Department to examine the specific circumstances to see if we can do things better in the next programme.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.