Rail Network

Questions (51)

Duncan Smith

Question:

51. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the detail of the programme for Government proposal on DART expansion; if it will include the DART underground; if the DART routes will be expanded further into County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16048/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The DART+ Programme, formerly known as the DART Expansion Programme, is a multi-billion euro programme to upgrade rail services in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). DART+ will effectively double the capacity of the exisiting network and DART level services and infrastructure will be extended to Drogheda on the Northern Line, Maynooth and M3 Parkway on the Maynooth/Dunboyne Line and Hazelhatch on the Kildare Line.

Completion of DART+ will mean that all rail lines in county Dublin are served by DART.

The Programme for Government – Our Shared Future prioritises delivery of the DART+ programme and, as required by the Public Spending Code , preparation of a preliminary business case is well underway which, when completed, I will bring to Government for decision and I very much forward to seeing the DART+ programme progress in the coming years.

The Programme for Government – Our Shared Future also references the DART Underground proposal and that proposal will be re-examined as part of the National Transport Authority’s review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area which is underway and will be subject to a public consultation next year.

Transport Policy

Questions (52)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

52. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport his policy in relation to the pricing of publicly funded transport services within the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25017/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, nor decisions on fares.

The Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 provides a statutory power to the NTA to establish fares in relation to public passenger transport services. Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, the NTA has responsibility for the regulation of fares charged to passengers in respect of public transport services, provided under public service contracts.

Over a number of years, the NTA's approach has been to gradually simplify the fare structures across bus, rail and light rail services and to move more towards a fairer, distance-based structure. For 2020, the NTA set fares by way of two determinations: the first determination made adjustments for all monthly and annual tickets (including tax saver tickets) with an implementation date of 1st December 2019, and the second fares determination addressed adjustments for all other fares with changes effective from April 2020. These fares determinations made further progress towards the fares-policy objectives.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (53)

Marian Harkin

Question:

53. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Transport the supports being proposed to support the chauffeur industry in view of the fact revenue of members is down 98% in March and April, 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. [25862/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I recognise that COVID-19 has had a profound impact on public transport and the small public service vehicle industry, and that many limousine operators have been acutely affected due to their particular dependence on overseas tourism. Many limousine businesses are seasonal in nature meaning that COVID-19 has effectively prevented many operators from earning any revenue this year. In recognition of this, a number of important measures have been put in place.

Limousine operators have benefited from the actions taken by the statutory regulator, the National Transport Authority (NTA), to reduce the immediate financial burden on SPSV operators and to make it easier for them to return to the industry when circumstances change. These actions included licence extensions, the waiver of late licence renewal fees and, in conjunction with the motor insurance industry, the suspension of SPSV insurance for those operators who decided to temporarily stop working and suspend their licences. Since the onset of the pandemic, the NTA has communicated regularly with individual SPSV operators in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on the SPSV industry. It has also published information on its website for the SPSV industry, including guidance on the installation of screens and guidelines on how to keep vehicles clean to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Government’s July Stimulus Package, co-ordinated by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, built on the extensive enterprise and employment supports already deployed by Government in response to COVID-19 with the aim of helping to get Ireland’s businesses, including SPSV businesses, back on their feet. The Department of Transport and the NTA - the statutory taxi regulator - have been working together alongside other Government Departments to ensure that SPSV operators, many of whom are self-employed, can avail of the range of COVID-19 financial support measures to the greatest extent possible.

Self-employed limousine operators can avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), which remains open to new applicants until the end of the year and is available until April 2021. On exiting the PUP, operators can avail of the COVID-19 Enterprise Support Grant. A once-off grant of up to €1,000, this grant can be used towards the costs associated with reopening a business, including the purchase of cleaning materials and personal protective equipment.

Self-employed SPSV operators, including those in the chauffeur sector, who were profitable in 2019 but not in 2020 due to COVID-19, may be able to avail of an income tax relief allowing for up to €25,000 of losses from this year to be offset against profits from 2019. They can also avail of liquidity and investment measures such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme and the COVID-19 Business Loans Scheme, both of which fall within the aegis of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Finally, I should also mention that, in recognition of the nexus between limousine operators and the tourism industry, in July it was arranged to have the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Small Public Service Vehicles appointed to the Fáilte Ireland Industry Advisory Group to ensure that the interests of these operators are appropriately represented as the Government plans the recovery of the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Road Projects

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 45.

Questions (54)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

54. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Transport if funds for the road infrastructure budget for projects such as the Cork, Mallow, Galway outer bypass, N4 and N5 will be ring-fenced in order that the projects can proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16461/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code Guidelines and necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise on the current status and funding of these proposed projects, pending also the Government's proposed review of the NDP.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question, on this occasion, to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 45.

Railway Stations

Questions (56)

Mark Ward

Question:

56. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Transport when Kishoge railway station will open; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25665/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister of Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of stations in the Greater Dublin Area in the first instance.

However, it is my understanding that the works needed to allow Kishogue station to open will be completed later this year. An official opening date for the new station has not yet been established as the timing of the opening will have to take into account the on-going impact on public transport capacity of the Covid-19 public health emergency. This aspect will be kept under review by the NTA over the coming months.

Light Rail Projects

Questions (57)

Neale Richmond

Question:

57. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the status of the roll-out of the 25 extended trams for the green line LUAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24988/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Government has committed to continue the investment programme in public transport to improve our existing public transport, including light rail.

The lengthening of the 26 existing Green line trams from 43m to 55m is a contituent part of the Green Line Capacity Enhancement project, which is overseen by the National Transport Authority who have statutory responsibility for the planning and implementation of public transport projects in the Greater Dublin Area. The project also includes the procurement of eight new 55m-long trams and the extension of the Sandyford Depot to accommodate the maintenance of the longer trams. This project, once completed, will provide an increase of approximately 30% in passenger capacity for the Luas Green Line.

The Sandyford Depot extension has been completed. I am informed that 15 of the 26 tram extensions have arrived and entered service, and that another two tram extensions are due for delivery this month. Three of the eight new trams have also arrived. Delivery of the tram extensions and of the additional trams will continue into 2021.