International Carriage of Goods by Road Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Fifth Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I do not want to hold up the proceedings but I want to go back over some sections of this Bill and remind the House that, as the Minister of State, Deputy Lyons, said on Second Stage of the Bill, in giving the CMR the force of law in the State the Bill also makes a necessary supplementary provision aimed at protecting the public as well as property and the environment. Article 22 of the CMR provides that a carrier is entitled to unload, destroy or render harmless dangerous goods. Section 3 (5) of the Bill provides that a carrier must give notice to the public authorities of his intentions in dealing with dangerous goods and he is obliged to take all practical steps to prevent injury or the risk of injury to persons or damage or the risk of damage to property or the environment.

I highlight those provisions because they have a great deal of relevance to politicians who represent Dublin city. The Minister acknowledges that there is to be an increased uptake in road haulage.With the anticipated increase in road haulage and trade using our road network and the resulting dangers posed by the carrying of dangerous and volatile materials by carriers particularly on our city road network, the Minister might look carefully at alternative methods of conveying these potential time bombs through built-up areas in Dublin city from their major source which is at Dublin port. It is an unsatisfactory method and environmentally unfriendly that these massive and dangerous lorries and their loads must travel through our city streets leaving thousands of city pedestrians and commuters vulnerable and leaving property vulnerable also in the event of an accident.

In this context we will have to consider for Dublin a rail link at Dublin port using the piggy-back combined transport technique as established and used on mainland Europe. If we are to be seen as real Europeans we should be seen to use desirable alternatives to bringing in these highly volatile loads on massive lorries trundling through our city streets making their way to their ultimate destination. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of pounds on roads like the eastern bypass or the — new term — port access route, a safe mode of conveying these goods can be achieved.

Severe problems are created in Dublin by heavy goods vehicles going from the port through the city to the main road network on the city outskirts. There is potential for the greater use of rail in this regard. Why should containers which arrive in port by ship not be transported by rail to a central depot outside the city where they could then be collected by heavy goods vehicles or drive-on, driveoff piggy-back systems as in operation in Europe and make their way to their destination? The rail network for this is already there. All we need to do is simply upgrade the line. This would take much of the freight traffic from the streets of Dublin reducing the weight of goods vehicles in the city and generally lessening damage and pollution to the environment.

I would like to record my disappointment with Deputy Gay Mitchell, who is on record as attacking myself and the members of the Labour Party for our non-attendance because we were at a conference in Trinity College on 1 June. He challenged us to be here today. We are here today, and it is very bad that the main Opposition party are not represented by their spokesman on Tourism and Transport.

As this is non-contentious legislation I will make only one comment in connection with section 3 of the Bill. It is recognised that any legislation dealing with the international carriage of goods by road or rail at this time raises questions of the carriage of sealed toxic materials, dangerous products etc. Section 3 requires the carrier where it is considered that he has a cargo of a dangerous category to notify the health authorities, the fire services and the local authorities. Are we satisfied with the capacity of the three categories of services to deal with emergencies that may and can arise due to the carriage of goods not only through the city of Dublin as Deputy Byrne says, but right through the whole of this country? In addition to ensuring that the three bodies, the health boards, the local authorities and the fire service, have the capacity to deal with any emergency, once the goods arrive and are being distributed throughout the State we should have a method of surveillance to ensure that at least every possible step is taken to make certain the safety of the community through whose areas these dangerous cargoes may be passing.

I wish to express my general agreement to the Bill. The development of a road freight system is a vital component of a vibrant Community economy. Central to the success of a transport service for goods is the development of an adequate standard of road carriageway radiating to all parts of the Community and to the very perimeters of the most far flung member states. However, one wonders how many light years away we in Ireland are from seeing mainstream arteries such as the autoroutes and autobahns of central Europe reaching from Blacklion in County Cavan to Malin Head in County Donegal, or Mizen Head in County Cork——

Or County Westmeath.

While Ireland's peripherality is undoubtedly a handicap in terms of our distance from the main centres of population, the sheer additional distance and the hopelessly inadequate national primary and national secondary road network underlines the extreme difficulties these areas have in attracting industry. Such industries face additional crippling transport costs, occasioned not alone by sheer distance but by substandard roads. The Members of this House will have heard me time and time again drawing attention to this major problem in our country, particularly in the Cavan-Monaghan area. I wonder when we will get around to levelling this playing field. As we come closer to the realisation of the single European market we should be aware of the remarkable fact that an enormous population of 100 million people live within a 250 mile radius of Brussels while less than 8 million people live within the same radius of Cavan.

While welcoming the development of the road freight policy envisaged in this Bill I have to confess that I would have much preferred to debate a similar Bill entitled the International Carriage of Goods by Rail Bill, 1990. Our Community policy is far too road-based and the massive boom in freight traffic within the Community has foisted an unacceptable aggression on Community residents.It is obvious that the more we develop our road system the more we proliferate the harmful effects attendant on road transport, for example, noise, exhaust pollution and congestion.

People living along road corridors are fully entitled to demand protection for their environment and Governments owe them this protection. However, it is equally true that a solution to this problem has to be found urgently which will reconcile this right with the economic requirements of the countries concerned. An alternative to the ongoing extension of road transport is, therefore, very necessary. This option is there in the development of railways. The Community should look seriously at the need for a rail investment policy which would be most beneficial to the Community and promote railway systems at least on a par with the current motorway programme.

During the mid-sixties the then Government made a major blunder in my constituency by closing down the rail link between Clones in County Monaghan and Mullingar in County Westmeath.This rail link was a major means of transport from Monaghan to the midlands, and the hurried decision taken at that time by a so-called expert brought in to advise the Government to close down this rail link was a major disaster. The consequences of that decision are that heavy traffic has been put on our roads which were not constructed for the heavy traffic they have to carry now. This problem has accelerated to such an extent that it is well nigh impossible for people to make their time schedules from Donegal to Dublin or Galway and they have to pass through Counties Cavan and Monaghan.I do not know whether this rail link can be renewed. Much of the land has been taken over by farmers and developers and the whole system has broken down. Even though it was thought necessary at that time to close down this rail link the Government should have held onto the railway line so that it could be reopened sometime in the future. If that rail link was there now I have no doubt that it would be opened in the morning, if not by CIE then by some private enterprise who would be prepared to take it over.

While transport capacity should be increased both in quantity and quality terms thereby facilitating a transfer from road traffic to rail I believe that, while ambitious, the only way forward is by investing on a large scale in high performance rail infrastructure and terminals to combine transport. A well integrated railway system can offer a coherent transport system and an alternative to road only transit traffic. Such a system would safeguard the quality of life for people affected by traffic while at the same time ensure environmental protection.I appeal to the Minister to divest front lines which have not been overly trespassed upon or devastated to individuals and for Irish Rail to seriously look at the possibility of keeping these routes open, as the Community as a whole must. In the not too distant future we will see the folly of putting too much emphasis on road transport to the virtual exclusion of the rail option which must offer a far more efficient and long-term alternative.

The Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Transport, Deputy Lyons, has asked me to convey his regret at not being in the House to reply to the concluding Stages of this Bill and has asked me to stand in for him, which I gladly do. A number of points were raised during the previous day's debate which the Minister of State failed to address and I should like, out of a sense of courtesy, to refer to these.

Deputies Gay Mitchell and Eric Byrne referred to the controls on the carriage of heavy or dangerous goods by road or rail. This point was touched on again today by Deputy Byrne, Deputy Moynihan and Deputy Boylan. As the House knows, there is already a wide range of controls in existence covering this area. The points raised by the Deputies have been noted for consideration by the Ministers concerned who are, in the main, the Ministers for Labour, the Environment, Justice, Energy and Tourism and Transport.

Deputy Gay Mitchell asked about the date of operation of the Bill when enacted. It is expected that in four months time or so the Bill will be in force in so far as carriage to or from the State other than to and from the UK, including Northern Ireland, is concerned and in about one year's time the Bill will be in force in so far as carriage to and from the UK, including Northern Ireland, is concerned.

The Minister of State appreciates the co-operation of all Deputies in securing the passage of the Bill through the House. With regard to the points raised by the Deputies today, I should point out to Deputy Byrne that the emergency services will be on notice to deal with any emergencies which may arise. I know of this in the context of the Asahi train which runs through County Westmeath. Local authorities have the main responsibility for these services and have very explicit and up to date emergency plans in place. Indeed, they meet very frequently to monitor, evaluate the update their emergency plans. These plans must be kept up to date, and I know this is happening at present.

Deputy Moynihan and the other Deputies who spoke indicated their general agreement for the Bill. Deputy Boylan's main point of debate was the imbalance and he asked why rail was not used more often. He also said that he would like the Bill to have been a rail rather than a road Bill. I am glad to be able to tell the Deputy that a Bill to deal with the carriage of goods by rail is being prepared for Oireachtas consideration later this year. It will apply an international rail convention, COTIF, as our law. That is a brief encapsulation of the points raised by the Deputies today and on the previous day.

Question put and agreed to.