Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (10)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

10. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport the status of plans to extend the Luas to Bray, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25822/20]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Transport)

My question relates to the much-needed extension to the Luas green line from Bride’s Glen and Cherrywood. I note the extension of the Luas lines to Bray, Lucan, Poolbeg and Finglas were included in the National Transport Authority’s 2016 transport strategy for Dublin, and news that the Finglas line is proceeding is welcome. However, residents in the other areas are wondering where they stand. In particular, will the Minister provide an update on the status of the extension to the Luas line from Bray?

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of public transport in the Bray area, including the issue of light rail. I note, of course, that Bray is set to benefit from investments in BusConnects and DART+, both of which will boost public transport capacity in the area. I am delighted that the final BusConnects network will be published today and that the National Transport Authority, NTA, can move forward with delivery of a much improved network of bus services.

The transport strategy for the greater Dublin area is the strategic framework within which transport infrastructure in the region is considered and developed. It has a statutory basis and, importantly, is integrated within land-use plans across the region, thus laying the foundation for a much more sustainable approach toward development generally.

The strategy is a 20-year framework and it makes a number of proposals in regard to light rail infrastructure over that period. These proposals include the Luas cross-city, which has been completed; the Luas green line capacity enhancement, which is well under way; and the proposed extensions to Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg. Building on the strategy’s recommendations, the current national development plan provided indicative funding toward planning and design of those Luas extensions to Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg in the greater Dublin area. Indeed, a number of weeks ago, I was pleased to launch a public consultation on the emerging preferred route option in regard to the proposed Luas Finglas project.

The transport strategy’s proposal in regard to extending Luas services to Bray was predicated on an upgrade of the existing Luas green line to metro standard. This was considered a prerequisite in order to ensure sufficient capacity on the line to cope with additional demand generated by the extension. More recently, the Bray transport study was published in 2019 and sets out a number of sustainable mobility interventions designed to facilitate continued population growth in the area. It recommends the introduction of a new bus service from Sandyford to Bray, via Old Conna, until such time as a Luas extension might be delivered, as well as other measures for the area.

Residents across Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, not just in the Bray area, want to see delivery on public transport improvements. I note what the Minister has said about BusConnects and DART+, which is very welcome. However, development is currently taking place in areas such as Cabinteely, Carrickmines, Cherrywood and Old Conna, to name but a few. I estimate some 50,000 people will be living and working in that area over the next few years. Development plans were agreed on the basis that public transport would be upgraded, along with the extension to the green line. There were three preferred routes back in 2006 and any delays to projects such as the Luas link to Bray or the construction of the new Woodbrook DART station, on which I have another question today, would put serious pressure on the road network. Something needs to happen.

Any development plan should, to my mind, be conditional on real certainty as to where the public transport is going to go in. We should not be developing any area or putting this into any development plan if we do not have concrete certainty around the development of public transport nodes in those areas. Otherwise, we are confining people to a future of car-based dependency, which will not work, will not serve the community and will not serve the country.

The issue about the extension of the line beyond Cherrywood will be critically dependent on what happens to the metro and, as I have said, that is not yet even in the planning system. Even when it is, MetroLink will be a project which runs to and stops just south of Ranelagh. There will be a further study looking at the alternatives after that because, for example, if it was to extend in a south-west direction, that would not resolve the problem of capacity on the existing green line. The other options would be to upgrade the green line or to run a spur via UCD and Stillorgan to Sandyford, which would address the capacity issue on the green line.

That capacity issue is not a short-term issue. We should be very careful to say to Wicklow County Council and others that they should not be developing sites for projects or housing in areas on a speculative basis where we think there might be particular projects down the line. We should focus on those areas where we know there is expansion, with BusConnects and with the DART+ programme, and where we know the Luas extensions, for example, the Finglas extension, are going to come. We have to start integrating planning and development. I, more than anyone else, will support public transport extensions but we cannot have housing where we do not have certainty we will have public transport.

While I agree with the Minister's view about future development, the development plans are under way and I hope the Minister's office will contact the relevant local authorities. As I mentioned, the Cabinteely, Carrickmines, Cherrywood, Shankill and northern Bray area has enormous development already planned and, on the back of that, it is anticipated public transport will be delivered. In fact, many of the developments that have happened are on the back of the idea that public transport will be delivered in those areas. One of those projects is the Luas green line, the B2 line, which, as I said, had three options. People want a high-frequency, high-capacity link from Bride’s Glen to Bray. In addition, as the Minister mentioned, there are key employment areas such as Sandyford, Dundrum and Cherrywood. It is critical we have an alternative to the car, that it is a reliable service and that the capacity is there to accommodate all of those people living and working in those areas.

I ask the Minister to commit that, in the national development plan, we would fast-track and reconsider that extension to the Luas line.

I will be engaging with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the local authorities on this issue. While I cannot give a commitment on the fast-tracking of any one project, the planning connection is what I really commit to.