Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 5 Jun 1996

Vol. 466 No. 4

Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Prior to moving the adjournment of the debate I referred to the costs of the Luas system and the underground option and suggested the costings available to me indicated that putting the system's centre city sections — the part which lies between the canals — underground would not have been more expensive than the proposals for an on-street unsegregated system. These costings showed that constructing a tunnel in Dublin would cost in the order of £11 million per kilometre and this compared favourably with the estimated cost of £12.5 million per kilometre for an on-street unsegregated system.

It is up to the Minister and his Department to assess the comparative costs of the underground and over-ground options for the system's city centre sections. On the issue of comparative costs, I want to address a number of questions directly to the Minister. Did the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications or CIE carry out a study of the costs of going underground in the City Centre? What firm of consultant engineers was used to carry out this study; what were its conclusions and will the Minister publish them?

This Government has made great play of its commitment to openness, transparency and accountability. It is time we had some openness about Luas. It may be the case that the city centre sections of the system could be put underground without the need for any increase in the present project's budget. If so, the Minister should explain why he is going ahead with an on-street system in the city centre which will cause enormous disruption during construction, and will deliver no real increase in journey times than could not be achieved by running a faster bus service.

What of the third line which must form an essential part of any rapid transit system for Dublin? How can it be funded? The Ballymun-Dublin Airport line must be built. We cannot construct a system at huge public expense which simply ignores the needs of the people of the city's northside. It is vital the Ballymun line is included in the first phase of the Luas project because there may not be a second phase. We are told there is not enough money available to build the northside link, but if we make better use of the resources at our disposal, it can be built.

Several hundred million pounds of public money have been earmarked for the construction of the north-south port access road tunnel. Everybody recognises the need for the port access tunnel to relieve the chronic congestion and environmental damage caused by thousands of heavy trucks trundling through the city centre every day. However, one does not have to be a traffic engineer to see that what is needed is an east-west tunnel linking the port with the main routes to Cork, Limerick, Galway and the north-west. One only has to stand on O'Connell Bridge to see that the heavy commercial traffic using the port moves along an east-west, not a north-south, axis. Does anybody expect a driver of a heavy vehicle travelling from Cork to make a detour as far north as Whitehall to get to the port? Would it not make sense to abandon the north-south route and proceed instead with the east-west option? Private sector interests have already come forward with a proposal to build an east-west port access tunnel at no cost to the taxpayer, so why not use private money to build the tunnel in the right place instead of using public money to build it in the wrong place?

Ditching the publicly funded north-south tunnel in favour of the privately funded east-west option could save the State £170 million. This money added to the existing Luas budget would be sufficient to fund the entire proposal, complete with three lines and underground sections in the city centre. In other words, provided we adopt a strategic approach to the problem, we have the financial resource to provide Dublin with a state of the art rapid transit system covering both sides of the city. It is a matter of ensuring that we get the best possible value for the money available.

This whole issue highlights, once again, the need for an integrated approach to transport management. The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, is the Minister for planes and trains, but not automobiles. There should be a single Department responsible for all aspects of transport policy at national level. This would involve bringing roads under the same departmental roof as CIE. At present, responsibility for roads and traffic in Dublin is split among the Departments of the Environment and Justice, and four separate local authorities. Responsibility for public transport is split among the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus. Remarkably, the people of Dublin have no democratic say in the formulation of public transport policy for their city. This is a very unsatisfactory situation and it is certainly not the norm in other major European cities.

There are important questions with regard to the strategic management of transport policy in Dublin, and the desirability of proceeding with the north-south port access tunnel in particular. I appreciate this project does not fall within the Minister's area of responsibility, as he does not have responsibility for roads. However, perhaps he could prevail upon his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, to answer questions on this issue on behalf of the Government. The following are among the questions I want to see answered. Was there a Government decision to switch funding from the Ballymun line to the north-south port tunnel? If so, when; and by whom was it proposed? On what basis was the decision made to reallocate the funding; and was approval received from Brussels for this move? Why, and by whom, was the privately funded east-west port access tunnel rejected? Finally, is the north-south port access tunnel part of a larger roads plan for the capital about which we have not been told?

I am particularly anxious to get clarification on this latter point. The proposed port access tunnel will start at the southern end of the M1 motorway at Whitehall and surface at the East Wall. The existing road network in the East Wall area is poor and would be totally inadequate to cope with the huge volume of traffic coming out of the tunnel, much of which will be heading for the south city and beyond. The net result will be a major bottleneck and serious traffic congestion. At that stage, the case for resurrecting the proposal for an eastern by-pass would be so strong as to be unstoppable. This proposal would involve running a four-lane motorway across Sandymount Strand, Booterstown March and the south-eastern suburbs of Dublin resulting in untold damage to the natural environment and the quality of life in those areas. The cost of building such a road would be enormous and, depending on the route chosen, could be as high as £400 million. In the context of reduced EU funding, this would place a huge burden on the taxpayer. I ask the Government to state clearly whether the proposed port access tunnel is intended to be the northern leg of an eastern motorway around Dublin? Is the eastern by-pass now back on the political agenda? The people of Dublin should be told.

I am disappointed with some of the basic assumptions in the Bill. It is automatically assumed that the whole Luas project will be publicly funded and controlled by CIE. Consideration does not appear to have been given to involving the private sector even though this is the policy favoured by the EU, which is, after all, putting up most of the funding. It is also the policy of the recently published Forfás proposals for the future, which clearly state a preference for private funding of major transport projects.

Private provision of public infrastructure is now common practice in most western economies. In Ireland, there are two good examples of this principle in action: the East Link and West Link toll bridges. These two vital pieces of Dublin's road infrastructure were put in place by private enterprise. It is a great pity the Minister could not have borne these examples in mind when it came to Luas. Why could he not have taken an innovative and imaginative approach to the issue of funding and the potential for private sector involvement? Could the whole project not be put out to tender? A competitive tendering process could produce significant savings for the State. Even a small saving would be sufficient to fund the extenstion of the Dundrum line as far as the Sandyford Industrial Estate.

I question the assumption that CIE is the organisation best equipped to manage this project. CIE has no experience of managing a construction project of this magnitude and complexity. It has handled the DART project and, more recently, the upgrading of the Dublin-Belfast mainline but both these projects essentially involved the upgrading of existing rail track, not the construction of new infrastructure. By contrast, Luas is one of the largest infrastructural projects in the history of this State and the biggest ever undertaken in the public transport area. It will involve digging up half the streets of central Dublin, building new bridges, repairing others and laying new rail track. This will be a tall order for CIE. Already there are indications of serious cost overruns, even before the project has got under way. I understand that an over-estimation of the carrying capacity of the new trams means that additional vehicles will have to be ordered and the total cost of this slip-up could be as much as £25 million. This does not augur well for future management of the project.

We are about to make major decisions about transport planning in Dublin, which will cost several hundred million pounds of public money and shape the city's transport infrastructure for decades to come. Those decisions should be made after calm deliberation, after consideration of all the alternatives and detailed assessment of all the available options. That is not what is happening. The Minister's Department and CIE seem to be determined to steamroll this proposal through in its present form regardless of what alternatives might be on offer. That is not the way to handle such an important project.

Depending on the Minister's reply to some of the points made, my party will consider whether it will table amendments. The indications from public statements so far are that it may be necessary to amend this Bill to achieve the objectives of the Progressive Democrats in regard to the light rail transport system for Dublin.

This Bill should be a good news story for Dublin and yet residents and business people along the route are full of apprehension. Overall the light rapid transit proposals are a good news story for Dublin provided the total concept is embraced and that sensitive and sensible routes are adopted.

I welcome this enabling Bill which is modelled on much of the road legislation. Even though in parts of my constituency there is concern about the precise lines proposed and I have been asked to oppose the Bill I do not intend doing so. I intend to support the Bill and the Minister. However, I wish to raise some major concerns. First, I am concerned about the time limit in which to enact this legislation, to set up the public inquiry, to allow for the public inquiry to be held, to give adequate time to all the witnesses, to allow for the inspector's report to be drafted, for the Minister to consider that report and to make his decisions on it. There is much to be done in those phases alone before any work can commence. Yet we are told we have to comply with a specific deadline if we are not to lose some of the EU funds allocated for this purpose. Will the Minister clarify if it is absolutely necessary that this legislation and what will follow from it — the public inquiry process and the construction process — are rigidly fixed to a timetable as suggested or can the project be phased in over a slightly longer period? It is important not to rush our fences and that we get it right. This is one of the most major infrastructural proposals for Dublin since the foundation of the State. Do we have to rush our fences and is there a possibility of some leeway in relation to the EU funds? Without wishing to delay the project we must take due care and attention to ensure we get it right. There is a second reason we need to clarify the position about phasing in the project over a slightly longer period.

As proposed, the Government appears to be embracing only part of the light rail concept, in other words the overall proposals are cut down to the amount of money available. It is extremely important that the light rail, when finally developed, is part of an integrated public transport system for Dublin. For that reason it has to go beyond O'Connell Street and interact with the DART and Busáras if it is to make sense. Second, the northern line to Dollymount or Finglas should also have a clear timetable. Third, there will be an absolute need to vary the route in a number of places, along the Tallaght line in particular. Fourth, if the proposals go ahead the present snarl-up of traffic in Dublin will be minor compared with what will emerge. All these things will happen because the overall budget provided for the LRT will meet only the lines proposed from Tallaght, through Inchicore, Kilmainham, Benburb Street to O'Connell Street, by O'Connell Bridge, Westmoreland Street, College Green, Nassau Street, Dawson Street to Harcourt Street and the Harcourt Street line to Dundrum, not to Sandyford. There is no mention of interaction with the DART, the Arrow, Busáras or the northern route to the airport.

One of the mistakes we made in the not too distant past was to throw money at projects or, worse, to spend money on half projects and to cut back in the middle of a project. I call it the half dam project, where you build half a dam and you might as well not have spent a penny because the water still gets through. The LRT proposal has a hint of that.

I make a strong plea to the Government and Ministers to support the construction of a complete LRT system, even if it means phasing the cost over a longer period because this system will have an influence for good or ill on the city for many decades. It has the potential to do great things for the city but, if its full concepts is not embraced and provided for, we will end up with an unintegrated system and more traffic on the roads, fewer people opting for public transport and greater traffic problems than already exist. I do not have to urge the Department in which I was a Minister as I know what it would like to do. I am sure, as head of that Department, the Minister is fully seized of the need for an integrated transport system for Dublin, but he is subject to the constraints laid down by the Minister for Finance and the Cabinet in regard to financial expenditure. However, while prudence in public expenditure is necessary, the Government must implement the LRT proposals in their entirety and that will mean providing for components not included in the current plan.

The present proposal for the Dundrum and Tallaght lines to meet at O'Connell Street without interacting with the DART line is crazy. The LRT should interact with the DART line by extending from O'Connell Street to the end of Abbey Street and across Tara Street Bridge. While tunneling would ad significantly to the cost of the service, it will be unavoidable if we are not to gridlock the inner city. There is a strong case for tunneling from Tara Street to St. Stephen's Green. The LRT should also interact with the Arrow service.

The current proposals are that the line run in front of Heuston Station at Kingsbridge, at least 1,000 metres from the loop line under the Phoenix Park, which is part of CIE's proposals for the development of the Arrow service. The Arrow station should be located nearer to where the loop line crosses the River Liffey. That makes sense not only from the point of view of integration with the developing Arrow service but also on the grounds that the present Stephen's Lane-John's Road-Victoria Quay junction is already extremely busy. If the LRT runs across that junction it will cause major traffic problems back to Inchicore along St. John's Road and to the city centre along the quays.

A timetable should be set for the development of the LRT line to the north of the city and it should not be based on the current proposals along Drumcondra Road which would further gridlock traffic. Rather it should be built along the present vacant Broadstone line as far as Glasnevin Cemetery and to the Finglas Road, giving people the option to go to Ballymun via either Finglas or Glasnevin.

If those proposals are met we will have an integrated public transport system in Dublin. However, if the LRT line runs along Abbey Street, turns left towards O'Connell Bridge, goes up Westmoreland Street and runs along College Green to Nassau Street and Dawson Street that route will remain in place forever and we will have missed an opportunity to interconnect the LRT and DART lines, the only way to give a semblance of an integrated system. It would be similar to the loop line which is an eyesore in front of the Custom House. That was built in the middle of the last century and, as Minister, Erskine Childers tried to demolish it, but that will not happen. The additional £10 million to £15 million needed to extend the LRT to Lower Abbey Street and across Tara Street should be provided so that it would interconnect with the DART line.

As proposed the LRT will affect the Dublin Central constituency more than any other because there will be more physical problems and obstacles nearer the centre of the city. However, the proposed line will give an uplift to the south west part of the inner city from Jame's Street to Inchicore, which is currently the most rundown part of the inner city. It has not benefited from urban renewal designation. If the LRT runs down Tirconnell Road in Inchicore and a one way road system westward is built, people living, say, 300 yards from the Oblate Church will have to travel only 300 yards to get to the church but three miles to get home from it. Also, people living 300 yards from the centre of Inchicore Village, around the Blacklion pub area, will have to travel three miles to get to the village but only 300 yards to get home. That is not acceptable. Those plans must be changed and I have pointed that out to the Department and to CIE.

When announcing the LRT proposals at a press conference the Minister did not refer to those problems. However, a report on the conference the following day in The Irish Times alluded to the fact that there may be provision for a new bypass road at Inchicore from Goldenbridge Industrial Estate to Spa Road or St. Vincent's Street. It is crucial that such a road is provided. Otherwise the proposed line would be untenable. The bypass would be a better route for the LRT because it would avoid disruption to business in Inchicore Village which is already at a low ebb due to the lack of urban renewal designation and other problems in the area. It would also open up the old Spa Road CIE busworks for urban renewal and the part of that site not used by the LRT could be used to provide badly needed housing in the area. Furthermore, it would avoid the need for removing underground services. If the building of a road is unavoidable, why not build the LRT along that route? Those proposals must be adhered to so as to avoid disruption to residents and businesses in Inchicore.

There will also be major difficulties on the proposed line from Tallaght to O'Connell Bridge at Old Kilmainham and Mount Brown where a civil war has been taking place for years between neighbours about parking problems. If the LRT is built along that route it will cause great disruption to residents and be fatal for many businesses in the area.

There is great resistance to the proposed line and a number of alternative routes have been proposed. They include the High Road-Bow Bridge route, Davitt Road-Linear Park to the old James's Street Basin or along Bulfin Road to South Circular Road and through the grounds of St. James's Hospital. There is a good argument for the High Road alternative because it would facilitate crossing St. John's Road further up from Heuston Station and avoid a bottleneck at the busy St. Stephen's Lane-St. John's Road junction. It would also facilitate the LRT-Loop Line intersection at the Liffey crossing to the northside. An integrated service in this area would be welcome. Traffic travelling down High Road to Bow Bridge could take the military road at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, crossing the existing railway line and intersecting with the Arrow service at that point. That is the first alternative for Kilmainham.

The second alternative is to take the South Circular Road-St. James's Hospital route, which would pose much fewer problems than the proposed route. It would not, however, have the advantage offered by the High Road route of crossing St. John's Road at a point other than the St. Stephen's Lane junction and intersecting with the Arrow service. There is also the Davitt Road-Linear Park possibility, which is probably the cheapest alternative and the most direct route, but it would have the effect of taking the service from the centre of Inchicore which, for urban renewal purposes, badly needs such a service.

There are three possible alternatives to the existing route and I would welcome any of them. There are arguments for each one over the existing route. The Davitt Road-Linear Park route would be an alternative to the Inchicore section and the Kilmainham-Mount Brown section.

The proposal to demolish 11 houses at Arran Quay Terrace, a beautiful row of houses in the inner city, is unacceptable. Alternative routes should be considered via Hendrick Street and Haymarket to Smithfield Major objections should be taken on board. A certain amount of tunnelling in the inner city, even if only at major junctions, is unavoidable.

I am concerned there is no provision in the Bill for appeals. I wonder if that is constitutional. A decision made by the inspector and approved by the Minister, which may greatly affect residents and businesses, may not be subject to appeal. I would like the Minister to consider making provision for appeals. While there is provision for compensation for those who will be relocated, there is no provision for compensation for businesses that will be severely disrupted during the construction phase.

This proposal started off as a good news story for Dublin and it should end that way, but that will happen only by integrating the DART and the Arrow service more fully, taking on board reasonable objections to the proposal and making minor changes where necessary. Apart from tunnelling, the cost involved will not be significant, but even if extra money is needed it should be provided. The overall effect will be to provide for Dublin a much better public transport service than that proposed in the present curtailed plan. Unless an integrated system is provided people will not use public transport, which is one of the key objectives of this proposal.

Fianna Fáil recognises the vital importance of a good public transport system for our capital city. We are proud of our role in approving construction of the DART, the reopening of the western line to Maynooth on suburban rail and the introduction of the Arrow service to Kildare. The policy of a previous Coalition Government, pronounced in the programme, Building on Reality, resulted in a slow death sentence for the rail system. That Government stated 12 years ago that there would be no substantial investment in railways, but when we returned to office in 1987 we rescinded that policy. We are proud that in the National Development Plan we as a Government negotiated £226 million in EU aid as part of a total investment of £356 million for the Dublin Transportation Initiative and other related measures. We are now debating the manner of its implementation.

Fianna Fáil remains broadly supportive of the idea of building a light rail system, but, for reasons explained last week by our spokesperson, Deputy Séamus Brennan, we are opposed to giving draconian powers to State companies that would allow them to ride roughshod over local communities and businesses. As established by the courts in the case of the Office of Public Works, State bodies should not be completely exempt from the planning system. As Minister at the time with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, I find it incomprehensible that while the Office of Public Works is required to seek full planning permission to build a car park and visitor centre at Mullaghmore, County Clare, no permission is required to knock down houses and disrupt businesses in the centre and suburbs of Dublin.

It is amazing to contrast the furore that surrounded the proposed demolition of homes on the route of the eastern by-pass with the acceptance that such demolitions are par for the course in constructing a light rail system. Those who fought for the widening of roads, interpretative centres and other developments are now advocating a different policy. I do not understand the inconsistency of people who regard knocking down houses in Clanbrassil Street for road widening as a social crime but knocking down houses on Arran Quay for a tram as a social blessing.

CIE must proceed as far as possible by consultation and consensus. It must work with communities and businesses rather than impose decisions over their heads. The House must reconcile the broader public interest with the interests of those likely to be most closely affected by the construction and operation of a light rail system.

Concerns have been expressed under a number of headings and it is our job as the main Opposition party to bring these concerns to the consideration of the Dáil and to represent the people involved. There are EU concerns, as well as concerns of communities in north Dublin, that social factors are not being given sufficient weight or priority. Those without cars need public transport most and, therefore, there is a strong case for the Ballymun line to be given priority — the EU Commission is right in that regard. As we said on a previous occasion, the Minister was very economical with the truth in announcing a go-ahead without reference to known European Union objections. Planning for the Ballymun line needs to be accelerated. I had the opportunity of meeting the officials involved in the front line of work in Luas and I thank them for taking time to listen to my case.

There is strong public concern that houses and public amenities may have to be abolished to make way for light rail. Those concerns are particularly evident in the Arran Quay-Kilmainham-Mount Brown area and along the proposed route of the Tallaght Line. Deputy Mitchell went into great detail in that regard and there is no need for me to repeat what I said at numerous meetings, both public meetings and with the officials concerned.

There is great concern among the business community in Kilmainham and Inchicore and in the chamber of commerce generally at the disruption and loss of business that may occur during construction. That matter must be negotiated with the people involved to see if their fears can be allayed and to try to find alternatives. Fourth, concern has been expressed by planners that the proposed light rail system will not integrate adequately into the DART and suburban rail system. The experts must ascertain if this argument holds up and, if not, allay these fears.

I have great sympathy for the inhabitants of the north side of the city, particularly those in Ballymun and the wider area, whose social needs have been put on the back burner. Even before a light rail system is provided, there is considerable scope to improve the public transport system to serve working class communities on the north side. I welcome the opening of a new DART station at Fairview which will also serve the needs of the community in the East Wall where for the first time in half a century there is growing employment in the non-port area. I also welcome the decision to open a station in Drumcondra on the Maynooth line, a development for which I have long lobbied.

Consideration must also be given to opening stations in the North Strand and the bridge over Prospect Avenue which is within easy walking distance of Glasnevin. The cost of building extra stations is minimal when compared to the larger investments proposed and should be undertaken as a matter of priority, particularly if there is any question of a delay in extending the line to Ballymun.

I am sceptical of the argument that construction of the port access route will make it impossible to build a light rail system to Ballymun. I did not have time to consider this argument fully as we had to depart from Government rather quickly. However, the Northern Cross motorway will be open at that stage and much of the port route will be under ground and away from the Ballymun route. If the construction work was properly co-ordinated then the projects could be made compatible. The social argument for the provision of a line to Ballymun is unassailable.

In due course there should be a link from Ballymun to the airport so as to integrate transport systems and assist airport workers living in the area. There is a general view that there should be a frequent high speed rail link from the city centre to the airport off the main Belfast line, whether by DART or otherwise, and that this should be independent of any light rail link to the airport via Ballymun. Aer Rianta and CIE should come together to provide this service sooner rather than later, particularly as airport passenger numbers are expected to increase from six million to eight million. It should be possible for the Government to earmark some of Aer Rianta's profits and dividends for this purpose. International research and EU surveys show that airports with fast transport to the city centre have a competitive advantage over those which do not have such a service.

Light rail has clear advantages for the old Harcourt Street line. Much of the separated way still exists but if trams are to be brought into the centre they must be able to travel through to O'Connell Street. The Financial Services Industry Association has made reasonable representations that the International Financial Services Centre should be connected to the light rail system. There would be considerable merit in providing a connection from O'Connell Street via the central bus station and the IFC and terminating it at Connolly Station as it would integrate the different modes of transport. However, this is not provided for in the present plans. Obviously the Harcourt Street line needs to extend to the Sandyford industrial estate and, eventually, the Carrickmines and the proposed Cherrywood development near Loughlinstown or, as it once did, perhaps link into the DART system at Shankill. This should also be done on the basis of an integrated transport principle.

CIE needs to work in consultation with the business community who have legitimate concerns about disruption to their business. I have long accepted the argument that a modern high quality transport system will be of long-term benefit to Dublin city centre. In addition, the chronic congestion at peak times on the Stillorgan dual carriageway and other radial routes on the south side could be significantly relieved by the Dundrum line.

My main concerns relate to the proposed line to Tallaght about which I have received many representations. I have been contacted by people from all walks of life and social classes — business people, at the unemployed, working people, commuters, cyclists and motorists — and they are all at one on this issue. It has been stated that these people do not represent the same views but that is not my experience. I have attended numerous meetings and I agree with the points made by Deputy Jim Mitchell, who has received more or less the same representations as I have.

It has been represented to me that the construction of the line could result in the loss of 600 jobs in businesses. This is based on a costly survey undertaken by some of the businesses in the area. It has been stated outside the House that this is the view of one group who have spent their own money on this survey. This is not the case as I have met these people, many of whom are not young and have been in business for a long time, and they are merely putting forward their case. Concerns have also been expressed that construction work could damage house foundations and structures. The proposed route through Kilmainham and Mount Brown will necessitate the demolition of seven houses in St. John's Terrace for the erection of a tram shop. The proposed line past Arran Quay Terrace will also necessitate the demolition of eight or ten houses, involving the destruction of an old settled community. Some of these people have lived in this area for the past 50 or 60 years and do not want to move to other areas. People living in the surrounding areas also have great reservations about the system. The Government and Irish Rail must look seriously at all the alternatives before deciding to proceed with these proposed lines.

In 1979 I was ticked off by a former leader of my party for abstaining in a crucial vote in the city council on the route for the Eastern By-pass which would have involved the demolition of houses in Marino, at the Griffith Avenue intersection, Distillery Road, Susanville Road and part of the North Strand. All the experts said that there was no other possible route for the by-pass. However, I was the Minister who signed the contract for the construction of the tunnel on a route which meant that no house had to be demolished. When it was first proposed to widen Clanbrassil Street it was stated that the road would have to run a certain way even though it would affect St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral. Dean Griffin and others lobbied for a change in the route and, of course, an alternative was found. The same will happen in this case, and the people involved must recognise that objectives are not always right.

It is not simply a matter of paying compensation as money does not mean everything, particularly to old people who have lived in a certain area all of their life. These people have legitimate concerns and must be listened to. For many years I have argued in favour of bringing people back into the city. This will be a stupid argument if the people now living in the city are forced to move out. I know it will be argued that only a few people are involved but that is not the point. There are no people living at Mullaghmore but some of the people in that area felt aggrieved about the development and they got their way in the Supreme Court. However, it is difficult for people who have lived in the heart of Dublin city all their life to pay the airfare to Brussels to lobby the relevant people, to commission reports etc. Based on these considerations, we have no alternative but to ensure that the interests of the so-called handful are protected and that their arguments are listened to.

I have yet to see any senior engineers or other technical people live in any of these houses. Whenever such proposal might affect their housing estate, though it may be only human nature, they would find a dramatic way around the problem, such as that the line be constructed underground or on some other road. They might not choose the former alternative for fear that their houses would fall into the tunnel.

To be fair in relation to this matter, there is a small number of people with legitimate reservations to whom those involved should pay urgent attention since there is not a hope in hell of this project being commenced in October next. I can assure Members that we will be attending the 1996 or even 1997 Christmas party without a stone having being turned anywhere. Anybody who believes there will be is living in cloud cuckoo land.

There will be some turning of the sod before the next election.

They may be cutting many sods. Sometimes a resolution can be found through discussion or dialogue but a broad public consensus on a light rail route to Tallaght is necessary if construction is to begin. It is necessary and I want to see it happen in my lifetime.

Objectors will not go away, nor will Deputy Jim Mitchell. I and other Members of this House.

While an underground system could be advanced as an overall resolution of the problem, on the basis of plans viewed during my term in office that option was much too expensive, so there is no point in my putting it forward. Nonetheless, there are at least two or three alternative routes which should be considered, on which Deputy Jim Mitchell has done the spade work.

As far as passengers are concerned, it is healthier and safer, where possible, to have public transport above ground. The Dublin Transportation Initiative ruled out a comprehensive DART system on grounds of cost, which finding I accept. The Government and CIE should re-examine the option of running a short extension off the main line along a reserve way to Tallaght town centre as was planned originally, so that a full DART service would be provided, with a limited DART extension, mainly on existing rail lines, to Tallaght being examined on its merits. We must remember that Tallaght is a very large conurbation with a population of between 70,000 and 80,000, justifying a frequent, high volume, public transport system to the city centre. Such a service could be used via the Phoenix Park tunnel and Cabra, to link up with the mainline rail system to the south west, and with other rail lines to the west, north and south east.

From a passenger point of view, our present rail system is not integrated, to enable those branch-line passengers wishing to travel by rail to the city centre to change at Clondalkin or Cherry Orchard. The benefits of a completely integrated rail system should be seriously considered. The link is in place but not in use. In addition to a fast, frequent service from Tallaght to the city centre stops could be provided sensibly in Ballyfermot, Inchicore, Kilmainham, the Phoenix Park, the North Circular Road and Cabra, a large catchment area with a high social priority. Passengers who would benefit from the convenience of a light rail system would have our mainline services almost equally accessible to them. The disruption of residents and businesses in the construction process would be minimal if existing rail lines, with much spare capacity, were used to maximum extent.

There is still some time before the beginning of next year to carefully consider alternative light rail plans for Dublin. While we do not want further delay, we should pause and reflect prudently, with the European Commission and local communities, on what constitutes the best way forward. For example, if different phasing would produce better results, we should not be afraid to consider such changes now. Fianna Fáil has proposed the establishment of Luas consultative councils. There is need for a clear signal from this House that we wish to proceed by way of participation and consensus only. If we take the right decisions now they will form the basis of further gradual extensions to our public transport system as they can be afforded. We must remember that continuous, gradual extensions are being implemented in other capitals. Dublin will need a rolling public transport improvements scheme for some time to come which is why the right decisions need to be taken now.

With the approval of the House I should like to share my time with Deputy Frances Fitzgerald.

I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

I welcome this Bill. Dublin's transportation problems have yet again become a major source of concern, brought about largely by under-investment in its transport infrastructures over many years. The long period of recession in the 1980s, accompanied by sharp increases in car prices and running costs, exacerbated the city's traffic congestion problems. However, recent economic growth — ours being the highest within Europe over the past three years — has led to a huge increase in car ownership, once again highlighting Dublin's transport dilemma.

As one who commutes by car daily to and from this House I can confirm that throughout the day there is no valley period during which one might expect a relatively clear run to or from the city centre. The main problem in Dublin stems from its inadequate street network, particularly its inability to cope with the increasing volume of transport making for the city centre. Notwithstanding recent major improvements by management and staff of Dublin Bus through the provision of bus lanes and traffic management, road-based public transport has deteriorated because of congestion, in turn forcing additional commuters to use private transport and causing the familiar spiral effect.

Dublin Corporation undertakes a cordon account annually of all people entering the city centre in the morning peak period, providing a useful indication of the trends in private car and public transport usage. The most recent statistics available to me show that the proportion of the public using public transport increased to 36 per cent in 1994 and the percentage using cars, motor cycles and bicycles increased to 56.3 per cent.

What is the effect of these statistics on our environment? Today, and rightly so, ever greater emphasis is being placed on our physical environment, on the problems of congestion, air pollution and its effect on our health. Road transport is one of the major sources of atmospheric pollution, 56 per cent of which is estimated to be caused by road transport, including carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. Research shows also that road transport is by far the most pollutant of all forms of transport while, in contrast, rail transport is a negligible contributor.

All these factors have a negative effect on our capital city, accompanied by a growing awareness that, unless these problems are addressed satisfactorily, there is the distinct possibility that retail and service employers may be forced to move to outer suburban shopping centres. This, in my view, would defeat efforts to regenerate the city centre area.

Recent tourist figures show that Dublin has become one of the most attractive European cities for short break holidays. This is of great benefit to the economy of the city and county and the creation of real jobs. A properly co-ordinated transport system, including light rail, would make Dublin even more attractive to foreign visitors in the future.

A crucial question is how to restrict the number of private cars entering the city centre. The alternatives would appear to be to physically restrict car traffic, through some form of space rationing or pricing system or, alternatively, attract car users to public transport. My preference is for the latter. The fact that this can be achieved by the provision of a modern, efficient, reliable public transport service is demonstrated by the numbers of people who leave their cars at home or park at railway stations along the DART route. That system which commenced in 1984, at an estimated cost of £87 million, runs on 37 kilometres of electrified line between Howth and Bray and has been highly successful in attracting car passengers to public transport. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 cars are left at home daily by DART users. It is also estimated that along the narrow DART corridor, served by bus and DART, practically 55 per cent of morning peak journeys are undertaken by public transport, a significant improvement on the 36 per cent who use other modes of transport along the corridors to which I referred earlier.

If the success along the DART corridor could be transferred to the projected corridors of the light rail system, such as the Tallaght, Dundrum and Ballymun routes, it would go a long way towards solving our traffic problems. That would have a major impact on the socio-economic life and the environment, which must be taken into consideration when assessing the light rail proposals provided for in the Bill.

As far back as 1991 Labour Party councillors in Dublin city and county made a detailed submission to the EU for Structural Funds and I am delighted they are now available. As a Labour Deputy, I am pleased about the impact our Ministers had in drawing up the Operational Programme for Transport 1994-99, as a result of which the Government policy changed from one of ambivalence to one of commitment to public transport, particularly to our railways. Apart from the EU-assisted light rail investment programme of £200 million, it is proposed that £273 million will be invested in the mainline railway network. That investment programme covers all the major lines on the interurban network and includes expenditure on track renewal, new rolling stock, signalling equipment and other investments which cover station enhancement. I compare that to the previous programme from 1989-93 which was marked by a bias in the ratio of 17:1 in favour of roads over public transport, totally different from the trend in other European countries. That decision has been reversed and our railways have been saved.

The DTI recommended the extension of the DART to Greystones and Malahide on the basis that the conversion of our existing line was a worthwhile option. Given that the Government approved the extention of the DART to Greystones during the recent by-election, I strongly recommend to the Minister that EU approval be sought as soon as possible for necessary funding to cover the extension of the DART to Portmarnock and Malahide. That would open up another desirable option, the extension of the DART or Arrow service to the airport with a future rail link to one of the fastest growing towns in the Dublin region, Swords, which has a population of 25,000. The cost of the extension of the rail link to Malahide with a rail link to Swords and the airport would be relatively cheap, given that 85 per cent financial aid could be secured under the EU Cohesion Fund.

There is a cast iron case for a rail extension to the airport, given that Dublin is the only European capital without a direct rail link to and from its airport. Dublin Airport has witnessed a staggering growth in the number of passengers passing through it during the past ten years. A total of 2.6 million passengers passed through the airport in 1985 compared to more than eight million in 1995 and it is projected the number of passengers will increase to 12.5 million by the years 2005. Dublin Airport has become a commercial entity in its ownright with some 100 companies operating out of it employing approximately 8,000 people directly and some 40,000 people directly and indirectly. Surely those statistics justify a direct rail link or light rail connection to the city centre. I would favour an extension of the Dublin-Belfast railway line. In that context, I would like representatives of CIE. Aer Rianta and Fingal County Council to join forces to put together a proposal for the extension of the rail link to Dublin Airport and Swords.

I am not under any illusions that there will not be major disruptions during the construction of the light rail project. I would like the Ballymun rail route to proceed. Under the Bill there is provision for a public inquiry to take place. Before one is held I would like the representatives of CIE to meet representatives of communities and organisations in areas that will be affected by the light rail route to ensure in so far as is possible a compromise can be reached. I welcome the Bill and the early commencement of the light rail project.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. The next four years will be decisive in determining the future of transportation in Dublin. It is important that we rally behind this project to ensure it is implemented during the timeframe in which European funding will be available. Failure to do so will result in Dublin losing out once again. We should encourage our constituents to participate in the process instead of creating alarm or making negative, unsubstantiated comments about the project. There is an onus on Deputies who represent Dublin constituencies to ensure that the transportation issue in Dublin is dealt with effectively in the next few years.

There is traffic gridlock in Dublin at present. It has resulted from policies pursued for years and has not arisen only in the past few years. When people travel to other cities they become conscious of how bad traffic congestion is in Dublin. While tourism expansion is welcome here, it is putting increasing pressure on the city. We must ensure people who live in Dublin enjoy a good quality of life and ensure the provision of good facilities for our tourists.

As a number of speakers said, it is important that the public consultation is meaningful and CIÉ and the Minister must ensure it will be. The meetings addressed by CIÉ representatives in my constituency have been helpful. Residents groups in my constituency have got together to form an umbrella group to respond to the proposals outlined, and I understand that changes have been made. However, I understand that is not the position in other constituencies where it is considered more consultations are required. This issue must be given serious attention. It is important that people are aware this is a meaningful process and that their concerns are taken into account. The public inquiry would be helpful in this regard. The environmental impact study must be rigorous and the planners must take note of residents' concerns, including the location of stations, how traders and people's homes will be affected by the impact of the light rail system in their areas and many other issues which need to be discussed.

Dublin needs an efficient public transport system. There is a catalogue of missed opportunities in tackling traffic congestion in Dublin. There is a clear plan to improve public transport in Dublin and a commitment to funding from the European Commission, which has invested £3 million in this project. We must ensure everything necessary is in place to enable that funding to be drawn down to improve the position.

Experience around the world has shown that if people are to be encouraged to change from using private cars to using public transport — we heard about the 36 per cent increase in private car sales this year — an attractive, reliable and comprehensive public transport system must be provided. It is not easy to encourage people to give up the comfort of using their cars to use the public transport system, but it can be achieved if the system is of a required reliable standard and such a system would reduce traffic congestion in Dublin.

The European Commission is committed to providing financial assistance for light rail in Dublin and it would be a distortion to say otherwise. Luas is needed to tackle the chronic traffic congestion which is threatening to destroy Dublin's environment. Recent articles in The Irish Times made a number of important points which must be taken on board, and pointed to the unique opportunity to improve the environment and the strong role Dublin Corporation should play as partners on the various issues which will arise during the process of the building of Luas. As my colleague said, it is clearly not an easy process. There will be disruption as there was in other cities, but if Members examine the way public transport is developing in Europe, it is clear that light rail is now the most common way to upgrade public transport in cities around the world. Throughout Europe there are many examples of light rail systems, such as those in Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Manchester and Sheffield. In many instances the light rail system has helped in the development of cities.

The Dublin city business group visited a number of cities to examine light rail systems and the impact of these systems on business in various cities. They went to Strasbourg and Geneva, and concluded that this was the right direction in which to go. Their analysis of the problems which those cities had faced during the building of the light rail system did not dissuade them from supporting the Luas project which is part of a much needed and urgent traffic management plan for Dublin.

I welcome that there will be very good access for the disabled on Luas. That has been a huge issue as our current transport systems do not provide such access. There is evidence that light rail is helping to reverse the decline in certain urban areas where it has been introduced. Positive messages from experience elsewhere show that this system is worth developing and that it is a way to tackle Dublin's very serious traffic problems.

The widest possible consultation is necessary during the development and implementation of Luas. Where environmental changes are being made, consultation beforehand is very important. Residents should be advised that work is about to be undertaken in their immediate area. Concerns have been expressed to me in relation to that issue. Fairly dramatic changes in relation to trees were made in a particular area and residents were not informed in advance; nor was the matter discussed. That sort of thing has to be dealt with very carefully if we want to ensure the success of these projects.

The Government is committed to the development of the three lines. The Dundrum line is technically the most feasible because of the existence of the Harcourt line and the necessity to tackle the ever increasing traffic and parking problems currently overwhelming the whole of south Dublin. It is important to give a timetable for the development of the Ballymun line if this is possible. Studies have shown that the development of light rail in this area will mean that more cars will be taken off the road.

As a Dublin TD I want a fair deal for our city. A fair deal for Dublin means jobs, a safe, pollution free environment and an efficient transport system. We must ensure, as I already said, that Dublin is a place enjoyed by visitors and tourists but equally one where there is quality of life for Dublin residents. The development of Luas is critical to this.

I thank the Minister for setting this Bill in a wider context and for affording the House the opportunity of discussing the public transport requirements of the Dublin region generally.

The first matter I wish to raise under this Bill relates to the traffic gridlock which it is suggested this Bill will address. This Bill will lead to a considerable amount of traffic gridlock in Dublin city and I would like to hear how the Minister anticipates normal traffic will travel through the city centre in the event that this system is implemented. It is very difficult to envisage how normal traffic will proceed after the Luas system has been installed in the city centre. I would like the Minister to address this issue because there is widespread apprehension throughout the Dublin region that the proposed light rail system overground in the centre city area will lead to considerable traffic gridlock of traffic in future.

I also wish to discuss the development of conventional rail routes around the city. There are two conventional rail routes which enter the city from the western side of the city. One is known as the Maynooth line and runs along the old Dublin to Mullingar line. The other is known as the Arrow route and goes from Heuston Station on the Cork line. Both these conventional rail routes, which can move a number of passengers far in excess of the number which it is envisaged will use the new Luas system, are in need of investment. The amount needed is small compared to the type of investment which it is proposed to draw down under this operational programme to develop the Luas system.

At present the Maynooth lines is a single track railway used for commuter purposes along a line from Maynooth to Connolly Station. At a cost of approximately £9.4 million the signalling on that line could be improved and double tracking could be installed, which would facilitate a greater number of vehicles and a greater use of this facility. However, it appears from the strategy which has been adopted — I accept that all sides of the House have to accept some responsibility for the strategy now being proceeded with — that development of this line will have to await the second phase of the Dublin Transport Initiative.

If Members examine the various places alongside that route, they will note that there is outward and inward traffic at all times of the day. The new industrial facility at Intel, the new industrial facility at Hewlett-Packard and the university at Maynooth all lie along this line, yet there is no concrete proposal to improve this line and ensure its greater use.

Another matter in relation to the Maynooth line was raised by my colleague, Deputy Ahern, a few moments ago. That is the development of the tunnel underneath the Phoenix Park which links that line with Heuston Station. The development of that tunnel, which would cost a relatively small amount of money compared to the type of money being invested in Luas, would enhance that part of our conventional rail network.

The other line which approaches the city from the western side is the Arrow line from Clondalkin to Heuston Station. There is considerable scope for development of this line as a result of recent housing developments. Thousands of new houses have been built in very close proximity to this line and there is an obvious need for a new railway station in the south Lucan area. However, to date there has been very little sign of any activity on this front despite the fact that a relatively small investment would go a long way towards relieving traffic congestion in that part of the city through greater use of the rail link.

This is a very ambitious programme yet it does not appear to be integrated with our existing rail network. One of the reasons I found the unified proposal, submitted by Mr. Monaghan to a number of Deputies, of great interest was not so much its detail but the fact that what was proposed would provide an integrated transport system for Dublin. The Luas proposal does not appear to be integrated with the existing conventional rail network. It is not related to the DART or to the lines that come in from the west of the city. Under the Luas proposal we will have three dis-connected public transport systems in Dublin.

The Minister referred to the very-widespread public consultation which took place as part of the Dublin Transport Initiative. On Second Stage he referred to the fact that there was overwhelming public support for the Luas proposal and that Government policy on light rail has the support of the people of the region. That assertion is based on polls carried out by the Dublin Transportation Initiative, but if the public are asked in a pool if they would like light rail, they will say yes, just as they would like stricter enforcement of the traffic laws, just as the public in Dublin would like to see greater extensions of the DART system. There are many desirable proposals. On all sides of the House we wish to see greater emphasis on public transport to relieve the traffic congestion in the Dublin area. However, public transport has to become attractive to the consumer if that objective is to be secured.

The various alternative proposals that have been put forward highlight one weakness in the existing proposals. They do not appear to integrate the existing conventional rail system with the proposed new system. I would like to hear the Minister's views on that when replying to this debate.

I note that sections 9 and 10 contain the core provisions of this measures. In these sections the Minister is given the crucial power to make a light railway order. That is the central power given to him under this legislation. It is clear that, as with many other powers of compulsory acquisition, the Minister has in effect decided on policy here, and the purpose of the statute is simply to see that the policy is implemented having regard to the convenience of the public generally. There is no question of criteria being laid down in the legislation which would enable the Minister to refuse to make a light railway order. There is a policy and that policy will be implemented by the making of an order under section 9 which will seek to contain the provisions set out in section 10 and, as far as possible, to accommodate the various representations made at the inquiry which is envisaged under the legislation. That is the core provision of the Bill, but there are signs of hasty draughtsmanship in the measure. One example can be found in section 12 where it is provided that a person cannot question the validity of a light railway order other than by way of an application for judicial review, and that application must be made within a period of two months.

If one examines that provision one will see it is essentially a cog from the local government planning and development code. In fact the correct cog for that type of provision should be in the compulsory purchase code, because the light railway order which the Minister is making is an order which is akin to a compulsory purchase procedure. It is not akin in any way to a planning procedure and, if one looks at section 12, it is clear that the Bill is assuming the same scheme as the Planning Act. However, if a light railway order is made the legislation then provides in section 13 that the Minister can proceed to compulsorily acquire land. Later sections of the Bill enable the Minister to take various other steps. There is no provision in section 12 for putting a stay on the light railway order in the event of an application for a judicial review having been made. That seems an extraordinary omission from the Bill until one realises that what has happened is that the section that has been transposed is the wrong section which has been taken from a Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, and that shows signs of hasty draughtsmanship. I do not want to get lost on Committee Stage points at this stage but section 26 states:

The Regulation of Railways Acts, 1840 to 1889, and any other Act relating to railways shall, in so far as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, apply to a light railway constructed under the Act,.

Considerable vagueness surrounds that type of provision where it is not spelled out to the householders of Dublin who will be affected by this legislation exactly what Acts will apply to these light railways when they are constructed. The least this House should expect is that it should be spelled out in the Bill and not as it is put in section 26 where it refers to various Acts relating to railways which shall apply "in so far as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act", all 30 sections of them. That is some exercise in draughtsmanship for a poor citizen of Dublin who wants to contemplate what his or her rights are following this order.

Some people think the Luas should have been built by now. It looks as if the Deputy wants to put it off until the next century.

I am not trying to put it off until the next century but, looking at the inquiries envisaged under this Bill, it will take a long time to build it under this Bill.

The Deputy is either for the Luas or he is criticising it. He should make up his mind.

Learn from Labour.

I have pointed out to the Deputy two sections of this Bill which contain complete mistakes and inaccuracies which suggest that the Bill is not thought out in any great detail. It has been rushed before the House.

There is another more fundamental aspect to this Bill. That is the whole question of compensation. Compensation under this Bill has been left to the land clauses legislation which is the normal type of compensation that is given for compulsory acquisition of land for, say, a motorway. However, when a motorway is constructed and a business is no longer able to trade as a result of the construction, unless that business has actually lost land, unless it has had land acquired from it in the course of the construction of the motorway, that business is not entitled to compensation. That is an issue that will arise on the implementation of this Bill and lead to further challenges in the courts.

These are a number of technical aspects of the Bill to which we on this side of the House will be returning on Committee Stage. I draw attention to them to substantiate my more general point that I do not accept that the proposals of the Government on this subject have been fully thought through. I realise the matter now rests with the European Commission in Brussels, and the speculation is that the Commission will insist that the Government proceed with three lines rather than two so that we will have a measure of integration at least within the Luas system. Deputy Broughan will be happy to know, therefore, that there is still a possibility of a line going to the north side under this proposal.

The Deputy's brother is a candidate in Dublin South-West. He had better be careful.

So he is, but he is well able to speak for himself. I am speaking for an area that has a very substantial conventional rail network that could be developed at a very low cost, as I am sure the Minister of State. Deputy Durkan, is aware, and I hope he draws that to the attention of the Minister.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Broughan. I welcome the introduction of this Bill and congratulate the Minister for Transport Energy and Communications. Deputy Lowry, and his departmental officials on producing the legislation.

In common with most other Dubliners in recent decades I have become very frustrated at the virtual strangulation of the city by private and commercial vehicles. For too long the official response to this chaos was lacking in vision and starved of funding. The poverty of thought and resources has inflicted major scars on the city, many of which are still there today. The road widening and the urban motorway schemes in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which were started and not finished, and some of which were never started, are the most obvious examples of the misguided strategies embarked upon by local and national government in those days.

I am glad the days of addressing Dublin's transportation problems with shortsighted "sticking plaster" solutions are over. It is, nonetheless, worth remembering the social, cultural and environmental destruction that was visited upon our city by well intentioned but fundamentally flawed projects. Short-term solutions to structural problems have singularly failed to tackle Dublin's transport problems. If anything they have made them worse. There are serious lessons to be learned from this sorry experience that can apply to any other policy areas. Dublin's transportation policy is now being formulated and implemented in a coherent and structured manner. This approach owes much to the tremendous work undertaken for many years by the Dublin Transportation Initiative and I pay tribute to all involved who contributed to it. Without their work I very much doubt if we would be debating this Bill today.

The DTI produced a framework within which transport in Dublin can be successfully addressed. However, this issue presents us with real challenges and opportunities. Let there be no doubt that what we are talking about goes beyond railway lines, capital investment options and strategic interchange facilities. This debate is about seizing the opportunity to fashion a vibrant environmentally conscious city.

The political establishment must accept responsibility for the fact that, for decades, civic pride has been tragically eroded. The old political establishment of the State, notional and local, presided over the erection of soulless housing estates. They created places, not where people could live and communities thrive, but merely row upon row of bleak billets where people merely exist. The components necessary to support real community life were dismissed as extravagant extras suitable only for the more affluent suburbs. Sports and recreational facilities, community centres and attractive green-spaces were, sadly, the preserve of the better off and were not provided in any structured way for the new, sprawling. working class suburbs. Community life was undermined by the incompetent and parsimonious diktat of previous generations of officialdom and today we are living with the conequences of their short-sighted policy decisions.

The Bill is a crucial element of our approach to transport in Dublin. This approach is an integrated one where light rail, quality bus corridors and the extension of the existing DART line will provide our citizens with an efficient, dependable public transport service. One of its core objectives, which I strongly support, is to reduce the number of commercial and private vehicles which use the city centre and choke our streets. Let there be no doubt that if this integrated project is not implemented successfully, the results will be disastrous and a great opportunity will have been lost. Traffic chaos in the city is getting worse by the day, leading to more congestion, more pollution, greater fuel consumption and a greater incidence of road traffic accidents.

A living city must use its road space to move people, not vehicles. We have to provide high quality public transport that encourages and rewards commuters for using it. However, we appreciate that LRT is only one part of that solution. Even with the system up and running the majority of people travelling to and from the city will do so by bus. The upgrading and extension by quality bus corridors are vital to the success of this overall strategy. With LRT we will be creating a public transport project that has as its central feature a priority over private and commercial vehicles in terms of road space.

The project we are currently undertaking will go a long way to providing our capital city with the transport system it deserves. There are, however, points about its operation that are vital to its success. The successful completion of the LRT network will provide Dublin with three modes of public transport and they must be integrated in a consumer friendly manner. Consumers should not have to pay separate fares or use different prepaid tickets to avail of these services. The zonal ticket system that operates in many European cities needs to be introduced to streamline the three public transport options.

Park and ride facilities located at the outskirts of the core city area must be provided to cater for commuters from beyond the greater Dublin area and indeed for those who still wish to bring their cars part of the way into town. These park and ride facilities must be of the highest standard where customers will feel it is safe and economical to leave their cars outside the city centre. This will not only contribute to the overall reduction of traffic on our streets but will also reduce the need to erect more multistorey carparks that blight the streetscape of many parts of central Dublin.

Luas must provide a regular late night service that operates at a greater frequency than the Nite-Link operated by Dublin Bus — however, the DART does not operate a late night service. My colleagues in the House who serve on Dublin Corporation will be aware of the vocal representations made by taxi men and women in recent months on late night public transport. It is in the interests of consumers and transport operators that we fashion a late night transport system in Dublin that accommodates the lifestyles of all the city's inhabitants, people who work late at night, younger people or others who want to avail of entertainment in the city centre. In spite of recent improvements we are a long way from achieving this goal and Luas must have some role in addressing this flaw.

The Luas project presents us with an excellent opportunity to accommodate what has become the Cinderella of transport in Dublin, the bicycle, which is the most environmentally friendly form of transport available. In recent years some progress has been made in accommodating bicycles in the city centre but we have a long way to go. The LRT network will provide the option of establishing parallel bicycle paths and I hope this will be examined.

In the coming years we will make strides in addressing Dublin's transport requirements and in doing so, bring into play some of the most important and expensive engineering projects ever seen in this State. The port tunnel project to which Deputy Bertie Ahern referred can proceed only with the support of the local communities most directly affected by their construction and that is why the public consultation process in these areas is so critical. In my own constituency, Dublin North Central, the proposed port tunnel project is experiencing vocal resistance from communities in Marino, Whitehall and East Wall, pretty much all along its construction path. I am sorry to report that the consultation process for this project has singularly failed to address the concerns and take account of these people. Many people living in these areas regard the consultation that has taken place as merely PR and can see no effort to take on board their suggestions or concerns. One of the reasons for this distrust is that local groups have not been offered help or assistance in carrying out or commissioning independent research on this issue. I will return to this point on a different occasion. It is critical that with all major engineering projects or developments of this kind, local interest groups and community groups are given an independent facility for research. I refer in passing to a report in today's newspaper on the method being used for tunnelling in Marino called the New Austrian Tunnelling Method. Following a collapse at Heathrow Airport the Health and Safety Executive in Britain suggests in its recent report that this particular method is anything but safe. The report is damning and it seems that there is a long way to go before the process that Deputy Bertie Ahern so happily claimed to have initiated is brought to completion.

I will refer only briefly to other aspects of Luas that have been referred to by other Deputies — I am conscious of time and wish to share mine with Deputy Broughan — principally the delay for Ballymun and Dublin Airport. Dublin Airport must be unique in being one of the few international airports, if not the only international airport in Europe, that does not have a rapid rail transport service to the city centre. There has been a massive increase in recent years——

Tell that to the Minister. Until now the Deputy has been praising him.

From where I stand I can do both. I remind the Minister of the substantial increase in business through Dublin Airport.

I can remind Deputy Lawlor of some of the things he did in Government. He should not encourage me to remember what his party failed to do.

Deputy Broughan will relate to this issue. The Luas extension to Dublin Airport should be dealt with as a matter of priority and not as an "add on" that we will deal with in the next century.

I congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill. I hope we will see this project brought to reality as soon as possible but there are aspects causing concern that deserve further examination.

I join my colleague as I did at the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy in congratulating the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, for progressing Luas so swiftly and introducing the Bill. Fianna Fáil seems to have been hemming and hawing about aspects of the Bill when it is imperative that we make a start on the process.

The development of Luas is a key element in the revitalisation of Dublin city centre. I was a member of the Dublin Transportation Initiative and there were fairly extensive consultations with business and other interests over three or four years. I and Deputy Lawlor are members of the special committee of Dublin Chamber of Commerce and I am astonished the Chamber of Commerce has now decided to make submissions about major problems in the building of the light rail system. The city centre lost and continues to lose heavily to suburban malls and shopping centres. It is imperative that we proceed with a public transport system which will enable the one million plus people of Dublin to utilise all the city centre facilities.

During my membership of DTI, I made it clear I was not a Luas person, but a DART man. The best submission we got was to build an integrated DART system for Dublin. I am lucky half of my constituency has a DART network. One has only to compare the traffic conditions in Dublin North-West to see what a huge difference DART makes to Dublin North-East. Why did we not proceed with it? The Minister said the fundamental reason was finance. The majority of Members of this House were not prepared to give Dublin £400 million to build a modern metro or DART system. The most they would give was £200 million. It was a harsh political reality that the rural Members of larger parties were not prepared to give Dublin this facility. That is one of the reasons we are proceeding with Luas.

The Deputy was in Government at the time.

I made my views clear at local and national level. We were told recently by CIE engineers that they are on board as regards Luas? That will help to advance our public transport system.

Would the DART have gone under the surface of the streets?

Some of it would have gone under the surface. A report was recently presented by an engineer, Mr. Rabbitte, to the DTI which suggested that for double the cost of what we are proceeding to do we could have had a modern metro system.

The west side of the city — the lost tribe of the north side which is represented by Deputy Lawlor and Deputy Lenihan — and the north side have been shafted as regards public transport developments. Our discussions at DTI centred on the number of cars in an area, social situations, etc.

Where are the Deputy's Ministers?

We took this decision during our partnership in Government, in case the Deputy has forgotten.

Deputy Broughan, without interruption.

I regret the north and west sides of the city have lost out in this regard. It is a farce particularly when one remembers that Fianna Fáil's leader during the early stages came from the area and the present leader is a northsider. Yet these people were not able to deliver on a public transport initiative for Dublin.

Why does the Deputy not go outside and speak on the Plinth?

Fianna Fáil has let down the north side once again.

Fine Gael also let them down.

I welcome this Bill and the procedures the Minister outlined as regards public consultation on the draft plan, the book of reference, the EIS and the public inquiry. I hope that will be the final phase of consultation. It will be an important democratic ground swell to ensure everyone's views are taken into consideration.

As regards the Tallaght line, it is important to have flexibility, particularly in relation to the Mount Brown and Kilmainham areas where local businesses have indicated an equally valid route. It is also incumbent on us to link Heuston Station and Connolly Station. I make a special plea on behalf of Deputy Michael McDowell whose property lies astride the Harcourt Street DART line.

I am in the clear now.

Since he is too shy to bring this matter before the Deputies and since he is such a popular and strong performer in this House, perhaps I can do it for him on this occasion.

Did Deputy Michael McDowell register that as one of his interests?

I ask the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, to show flexibility because Dublin business are behind the project. Traffic situation in Dublin is almost gridlocked. One has only to travel up and down the quays to realise how much we need an integrated public transport system as soon as possible to reduce the volume of traffic. It is unfortunate that we have had to wait until 1996-97 to take the necessary steps.

The Minister is right to proceed with the lines in question and then he should develop the public transport system on the north and west sides of Dublin which have been neglected by Fianna Fáil under the leadership of Mr. C.J. Haughey and Deputy Bertie Ahern.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Deputy Broughan said he was delighted with the DART system and that he was a DART man. I remind the Deputy that it was Fianna Fáil who set up the DART system. His attack on Fianna Fáil, therefore, was ridiculous, Deputy Michael McDowell and myself will be DART and Luas men because we will have both systems going through our constituencies.

The Deputy is in for a few more darts as long as he stays in the Labour Party.

I welcome the idea of improving the transport system. Since I was first elected to Dublin City Council in 1985 the idea of a properly integrated public transport system needed to be addressed. I am delighted it is finally being addressed.

The problem of Dublin's transport system have been addressed in three different ways at local authority level. The first is to improve the road system. I am happy we changed what the road engineers proposed because it concentrated on cars which are detrimental to Dublin city in the long-term. The second is traffic management, which is an essential part of this three pronged approach and which we are not pushing as hard as we should. The third is public transport.

I agree with previous speakers who-mentioned the public transport system in Dublin and the row about taxis.

A good point made by taxi drivers — is that they are expected to drive everybody home after 11.30 p.m. when the public transportation system closes down. We should ensure the system runs later to allow people get in and out of the city late at night.

The Chamber of Commerce and others have raised the question of traffic flow during construction. We will have to accept that there will be difficulties and try to minimise disruption as much as possible. If properly managed, the damage to city centre businesses can be kept to a minimum.

The Government asked Dublin Corporation to ensure that as much work as possible was done in the first six months of the year so that the streets would not be dug up during the Presidency. When we last held it the Democratic Left members of the city council — the party was then known as the Workers' Party — said it was outrageous that the streets were dug up to allow Ministers glide freely through the city. The streets are being dug up to allow Democratic Left Ministers in their Mercedes glide comfortably through the city. Times have changed.

Fianna Fáil still has a few.

I never thought I would see that day. I hope they appreciated the reasons many people are anxious that disruption is kept to a minimum.

The Minister must accept some but not all of the responsibility for the delays in seeking funding for the project. These have been unfortunate. It is ridiculous to suggest that he is not responsible. He made the announcement, we saw maps and public meetings were held in my constituency to inform people what exactly would happen. There was no mention, however, of the Ballymun line in the wonderful colour brochures. It is nonsense to suggest, therefore, that the matter is still under consideration. It was never mentioned that we would not receive EU money for the three lines. The matter is too important, however, for us to get bogged down in a discussion of that issue. I welcome the fact that we are proceeding to the next stage as Dublin badly needs a proper public transport system.

I agree with those Members who said there is a need for consultation with local communities who believe — the legislation shows this — the authorities, if they wish, can push this project through without listening to their concerns. For example, people in my constituency want to know exactly where the Ranelagh station will be located. Will the people living in Mander's Terrace be affected? Business interests and residents in the area want to make an input and to be reassured that they will be listened to.

I am very much in favour of cycleways which are another cog in the wheel of the transportation system, but a number of people have expressed concern that access to them may be gained through their back gardens. Their properties have already been broken into and they are anxious there are proper security measures to ensure access cannot be gained from cycleways.

Will the thieves be cyclists?

It may be that Deputy McDowell who lives in Ranelagh has heard something different, but nobody has told me local residents are against the project, most are enthusiastic. Some have mentioned noise levels. The DART passes by the side of my garden but with the passage of time I got used to it. With modern systems, noise is kept to a minimum.

I gather it will take up to two months to complete the study, but could it take longer? If it comes down in favour of the Ballymun line, will the decision to provide the Harcourt Street line be affected? It is essential that this line be extended from Dundrum to Sandyford Industrial Estate because of the huge number of people working within it. This would make the line more commercially viable. It would be ludicrous not to do so.

I am concerned mainly about the consultation process. Many people believe they will not be listened to and, despite their objections, the project will be rammed through. This matter will have to be addressed on Committee Stage. If we fail to address it, more community groups will oppose the project and that would be regrettable.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. It is essential that our transportation system is improved. In the long-term the project will benefit the city.

There is a need for substantial Government investment to meet our transport needs and alleviate the difficulties being experienced. One has to come to the conclusion on the Minister's proposals that the financial cloth has been cut to measure. As Deputy Broughan mentioned, the proposed system has been dictated by the available funding. The extension of the Harcourt Street line to Sandyford Industrial Estate — this seems logical and reasonable — has been raised by many while the third line to Ballymun with a possible connection to the airport has been raised by the European Union. These are fundamental questions as we embark on a process to find a solution to the city's transportation problems and meet its needs.

My party's spokesperson, Deputy Séamus Brennan, dealt at great length with the various sections about which concern has been expressed. I would like to correct a comment about the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. All it has done to date is reflect the concerns of business people. One of the main concerns has arisen in the Kilmainham area where the owner of a reasonably large business is of the opinion that the building of the Luas line is incompatible with normal transport requirements because the existing narrow street is not suitable for the loading and unloading of trucks. The decision was made to launch the scheme and details of the route were announced but the people directly affected were not allowed to have their say. The Minister went about this matter in the wrong way; he announced the proposal and then told the people affected that they must wait until the Bill is enacted and all the judicial procedures have been gone through before they can have their say.

In responding to the Minister's contribution, Deputy Brennan drew the comparison with the Cork-Dublin gas line Bill which contained the major requirement to enter people's properties and under which a major public service would be provided in an efficient way. The terms and conditions of that Bill vis-á-vis the relationship developed with the Irish Farmers Association and other interested bodies provided the possibility of making a major achievement in a co-operative way.

The fragmentation of responsibility for transport in Dublin is a matter of major concern. At this late stage the National Roads Authority has decided to ask the Dublin Transportation Office, in the aftermath of the DTI study, to comment on the tolling scheme publicly advertised and on which submissions have been made. In other words, one arm of the State which is responsible for construction on the national and primary motorway network is requesting a comment from another arm of the State. It defies logic that that issue was not dealt with at the time of the DTI study, but that is the reality.

The Cork Street and North King Street areas, and other areas for which road schemes have been planned over many years, are choked with traffic. As a result of a plethora of problems involving CPOs, legal arguments, the rights of private property owners, judicial reviews, High Court actions, etc., the State and its agencies cannot get on with doing what is best for the common good.

The roads departments of Dublin Corporation and Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire local authorities are linked to the road engineering section of the Department of the Environment which provides funding for various projects not in the national primary network. Dublin traffic has become choked due to excessive car use.

I want to give credit for the limited rail service available to people living in the west side of Dublin for several years. The provision of that service came about in a rather peculiar way. The Pope was arriving to say Mass in the Phoenix Park and it was decided to open the Ashtown railway station that morning to link up with various other rail networks — the station had been closed for the previous 20 years. Following the opening of the station I and other people from that area of Dublin lobbied vigorously the then Minister, Deputy Albert Reynolds. We told him that the opening of this small station was proof that the railway network could act as a commuting as well as a national rail network. Following that lobbying, CIE decided to provide a basic rail service.

The people in that area are crying out for another line to serve Maynooth, which should have been built many years ago, but the arguments for and against it continue. There was a proposal to reopen the line under the Phoenix Park and link it to Connolly and Pearse Street stations but that was not proceeded with. A basic service was provided to and from north Kildare but that was merely a half-baked attempt to solve the problem.

Despite the fact that we have a State transport company, the National Roads Authority, Dublin Transportation, which is now a State organisation, and all the roads departments of the various local authorities, it appears that a cohesive, dynamic, pragmatic approach is not being taken to solving Dublin's rail and road transportation problems. Perhaps it can be done under the umbrella of this Bill by way of amendments tabled by my party, but there is an urgent need for somebody to be given the overall responsibility for carrying out the type of work that is so essential to Dublin.

If one stands at the roundabout outside the Red Cow Inn any morning between 7 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. one can see the tremendous inflow of traffic from Naas, north Kildare and beyond. The position is the same on the Galway road. A huge number of people live substantial distances outside Dublin but work in Dublin and they will drive to work irrespective of the type of public transport system being provided within the environs of the city. A similar problem exists in the sprawling urban areas and that tends to fragment the usage of the public transport systems provided. As the town of Tallaght comes of age, a great deal of industry is being located there and the percentage of the town's population travelling to the city on a daily basis is reducing. As a result, the economics of these schemes are questionable.

The proposal for an underground rail system between the canals is worthy of consideration because, due to financial limitations we do not appear to be tackling Dublin's transport problems. The issue of transport bonds which could, over a 40 or 50 year period, raise the necessary funds to build an underground system — approximately £400 million — should be considered.

One of the most unacceptable aspects of this proposal is that following the building of the new Luas system, we will continue to have excessive car usage on the roads and the problem will not have been solved because of the physical limitations of the city streets and the lack of outlying services. People will continue to use their cars and the Luas system will serve a smaller population than is desirable to make it both effective and efficient in solving the city's transport problems.

The Government intends to proceed with this proposal. It may or may not accept amendments to the Bill but when the Bill comes into law Iarnród Éireann will be given the task of proceeding with the light rail option proposed. There is a need, however, to bring all the other areas to which I have referred into play and to have some form of cohesion. I do not see any reference in the Bill to the Dublin Transportation Office opened recently by the Minister for the Environment. I assume that office will have an overview of the solution to Dublin's transportation problems and I hope it will bring together the other arms of the State with responsibilities in this area which may result in substantial overhead savings being made. It is not clear from the Bill as to whether it will be CIE, a new company or a subsidiary which will take on responsibility for the DART system also. Will the company involved take on responsibility for the commuter dimension of the Arrow and the Maynooth single line commuter systems? I have been pressing CIE to consider opening the Lucan south railway station but so far it has not agreed to do so. Yet in a sparsely populated area, such as Hazelhatch in County Kildare, there is a station serving some 300 to 500 people who live within a three or five mile radius of that station while in Lucan, where there are approximately 20,000 people, there is no station. One wonders how the economics of the issue relate to the type of service being provided.

This fragmentation is unfortunate because it does not serve effectively the population of Dublin, which exceeds one million people. Although it is not within the brief of the Minister responsible for this Bill, the urgent Dublin Corporation road schemes, such as on Cork Street, with which Deputy Eric Byrne will be familiar, and North King Street, have being crying out for attention for years. None of this, however, will change the fact that there are fish and fruit markets in the heart of the city, that 40 foot containers come and go, and will continue to do so. We will not get the container traffic off the quays until there is access by tunnel to the port. These road projects are all exciting and badly needed and will involve many hundreds of millions of pounds but I sincerely hope that a similar situation will not arise in their management to what occurred with the southern cross motorway scheme. Due to prevailing cumbersome legalities, somebody can hold up the final loop of a motorway around the capital city, costing about £100 million, because they are unhappy with the compulsory purchasing orders. The people involved do not want their properties acquired at all. I do not think the problem was one of money but of the ability of those people legally to cause such frustration in respect of something which was being provided for the greater good. If the small project in Kilmainham follows that procedure, there will be the same legal potential to frustrate an important public facility according to my interpretation of the Bill. I hope that will not be the case and that the Minister, his parliamentary draftsmen and the Attorney General have adequately thought that through. I know Deputy Brennan asked the Minister to provide the Attorney General's briefing on how those issues have been addressed.

I hope the scheme will be as successful as the Minister claims it will be. I trust that the EU Commission will suggest that the third line and the extensions to the two existing lines be added to the project. Whether it be by way of off balance sheet financing or some sort of Dublin transportation bond issue, the moneys should be found now so that as it is done, it is done correctly rather than doing 60, 70 or 80 per cent of the job. One can understand fully the limitations on the Department of Finance and the Minister's straitjacket under the national plan. Transportation has attracted a substantial figure but if it falls short of tackling Dublin's real transport problems, it should be examined. We are talking of something that may be in place without change for 50 years or more so you really cannot afford to get it wrong. It cannot be done in a piecemeal way and we cannot say we will look at the northern line and the extension to Sandyford, etc., later. That would be backing off funding a proper solution to the problem.

I hope the Minister will accept amendments on Committee Stage so that the Bill has a smooth passage.

I wish to share some time with Deputy Gregory.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Light rail is not necessarily a new transportation system for Dublin as there was a comprehensive tram system in the city until a couple of decades ago when it was abolished in the name of progress. Now, in the name of progress, an updated version of that system is being resurrected which we hope will be with us for good.

Since 1960, the number of cars in daily use in Dublin has mushroomed as every community in the city is aware. More than 87,000 new cars were sold last year and there was an 8 per cent increase in car registration. Despite the fact that the number of cars per head of population in Ireland is still half that of Germany, Dubliners still find themselves caught in what could be described as a permanent traffic jam unlike certain cities in the UK and on the Continent. Wartime bombing, which we were lucky to escape, did not provide our city planners with the opportunity to build new streets capable of taking 20th-century traffic as it did on mainland Europe.

Dublin's inner city streets were conceived in the age of the horse and buggy. Today they are required to cope not only with the occasional horse and buggy but also with cars, fuel tankers, articulated vehicles and the like. In 1996, the short trip by car from Cork Street, which Deputy Lawlor mentioned, to Leinster House can take around three-quarters of an hour. The sad reality of the cars on the road today is that most of them——

Shame on the corporation.

——contain only one occupant. The current situation is clearly untenable, not only in terms of sheer inconvenience to Dublin's residents, visitors and workers but also in terms of pollution and the damage to the business environment of commercial inaccessibility.

This problem has not arisen overnight and I understand several attempts have been made to address it over the years. Eighteen years ago the Transport Consultative Commission was established to examine transport in the greater Dublin area and it recommended the establishment of a Dublin transport authority with an integrated planning and development mandate. I remember the commission well and applauded it at that time. However, just 12 months after its establishment, Fianna Fáil in its wisdom, an attribute in which it was clearly lacking, dissolved the authority. As with many matters this Government must pick up the pieces.

Today there is the Dublin Transportation Initiative which was conceived as ongoing with permanent structures and which one hopes will be rather longer lived and more effective than its predecessors. The DTI's twin aims are to restore life to the centre of Dublin keeping the commercial life of the city alive while encouraging commuters to switch from private vehicles to public transport. Like the TCC, the DTI has emphasised the need to use existing resources and enforce traffic regulations, which, sadly, are not being enforced at present. I travel down Harold's Cross Road every morning during the hours in which traffic is prohibited from occupying the bus lane and I have never seen a Garda penalise motorists who enter that lane. We can have all the plans and schemes in the world, such as light rail systems complemented by other forms of public transport, but without the proper enforcement of the law the whole system can be brought to a standstill.

Attempts to date which aimed at encouraging commuters to switch to public transport have fallen at the first hurdles because the quality of our existing public transport services and buses, in particular, is abysmal. Lumbering double decker buses are outdated. Like the first cuckoo of spring, spotting one on many of the routes to which they are assigned is an occasion for celebration and letters to The Irish Times. The Dublin Transportation Initiative's central recommendation for improving public transport in Dublin was the introduction of a light rail system with a core network of lines to Tallaght and Ballymun and a proposed expansion to Finglas and Swords once the core network was complete. We are all aware that Ireland is not the only EU country opting for light rail in an effort to get commuters out of their cars and into public transport.

I took time off, not by way of a junket but at my own expense, to visit Grenoble in France. The experience of the two systems in Grenoble and Sheffield has been that light rail is not only efficient and user friendly but it has succeeded in restoring life to inner city areas. If politicians are to be encouraged to take trips abroad I suggest they be sent to Grenoble to see a most magnificent light rail system which, I understand, is the system we are about to mimic here.

They had a referendum there.

While I welcome the plans for a light rail system I am anxious that communities affected — to which I think Deputy Gregory will refer — will be consulted as widely as possible and the impact on Dublin's built environment be taken into account. In this regard I look forward to the environmental impact statement, the parameters of which are outlined in the Bill. I welcome also the stipulation for a full public inquiry into the application for a light railway order and that it will be open to members of the public to appear and to be heard at this inquiry.

I am slightly amused at the criticism from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and others at this, the eleventh hour. The Dublin Transportation Initiative, of which I was a member, praised the consultants who were given the task of providing information to the public on what was involved in the DTI. I recall vividly their staff stopping traffic along the Grand Canal, huge traffic jams while interviews were taking place, and leaflets being distributed concerning what was going on. The public meetings which were held, many in my constitutency, were not well attended but certainly there was an effort to inform the public as to what DTI was about. Now at the eleventh hour Dublin Chamber of Commerce is out of line with the thinking at that time and their colleagues in the inner city.

I do not think anyone will seriously dispute the need for a light rail system irrespective of what the Dublin Chamber of Commerce may say. At the same time we should not minimise the effect on our urban environment. It is inevitable there will be so-called pinch points, areas where buildings will have to be demolished to make way for the rail system. I am aware of the concerns voiced by residents in the Arran Quay Terrace area of the north inner city. I hope those concerns will be taken on board and that any compensation payments which may be made will more than adequately reflected market values. I am also aware of concerns in the Kilmainham area that businesses will be affected. These concerns must be addressed in such a way as to ensure that the disruption is minimised and that the LRT, when complete, facilitates rather than impedes commercial activity.

In recent years much of the urban decay affecting the Dublin inner city has been reversed, thanks largely to innovative urban renewal programmes. I will press to ensure that where buildings have to be demolished Dublin Corporation will use its compulsory purchase powers to ensure there is surrounding redevelopment and not derelict sites.

The light rail system is a welcome innovation and I look forward to its completion on target. We should not kid ourselves that light rail, of itself, will solve all our transportation problems. Light rail is simply one component of the broader public transport network which must be made user friendly and accountable. If commuters are to be persuaded to switch to public transport they must be assured of a service which is reliable, safe and accessible. In that regard I would welcome the formation of a special traffic police unit which would, relieve hard pressed gardaí engaged in the fight against crime and ensure that traffic is properly regulated and provisions made for public transport, such as designated bus lanes, are respected.

In the longer term we will have to examine the possibility of energy taxes and other measures which will provide effective disincentives to car use while providing parallel incentives for the use of public transport. The light rail system is just the first step towards solving Dublin's traffic problems. I hope we will build on the gains already made and that the city's transport needs will continue to receive ongoing priority attention.

I thank Deputy Byrne for sharing with me the remaining minutes of his time and also Deputy Ahern who agreed to share some of his time, if I need it.

I refer briefly to a comment by Deputy Lawlor — who I hope I am not misinterpreting — to the effect that a small business in Kilmainham should have no rights good, bad or indifferent, that the Minister should amend the Bill to ensure that the light rail scheme can bulldoze small businesses out of the way as long as they happen to be in Kilmainham and not in Deputy Lawlor's constituency. If it was a major speculative business interest the ethos of this State and this democracy is that such an interest would dictate the development of the scheme, whatever it was, and not what is being suggested in relation to a small business in Kilmainham.

It was interesting to listen to Deputy Byrne and previous speakers, all of whom referred to the LRT system in Dublin city as creating an environmentally conscious city and contributing to a living city. If I recall correctly, Deputy Byrne referred to it as "restoring life to the centre of Dublin". My experience and that of the other elected representatives in Dublin Central is the opposite. This need not necessarily be the case. Instead of a consultative process whereby communities and business interests are consulted and a route is agreed, based on consultation and fulfilling other appropriate needs, so far as I can establish the routes have been decided down to the last detail and now a consultative process is under way. In one instance, in Arran Quay Terrace, residents from the one remaining established 100 year old community in the Smithfield-Benburb Street area, behind the Four Courts, on the north side, face destruction because of the LRT preferred route, as it is now being described, following all the dereliction for road widening plans which did not get off the ground. Residents were told by the public relations consultants promoting the LRT that although there would be an environmental impact study and a public inquiry they should not worry about it as it would not affect the route, their future or their position. That type of attitude and approach leads to confrontation, not consultation. The last thing needed at this juncture is confrontation. That can be avoided at both flash points in the centre of the city.

Small businesses in the Kilmainham area face obliteration but, because they are small, Deputy Lawlor appears to believe they do not have rights. They have the same democratic right as everybody else and it is my role to voice their concerns in this House. Arran Quay Terrace and St. John's Terrace in Mount Brown face demolition, but the people of those areas have rights and their views should be considered. In both cases straightforward alternative routes are available, but the LRT people, particularly the consultants, are not willing to examine them. I am told the Minister wants agreement on a route arrived at by consultation and agreement and that he does not want communities forced into confrontation, but that is not the way the LRT people are approaching matters.

Since the beginning of this year I have been seeking the detailed LRT proposals for two parts of my constituency in Dublin Central. The design team promised to submit them to me in March or April but I still have not received them. I understand other public representatives have been treated in a similar fashion. At its last general purposes committee meeting, Dublin Corporation's elected representatives were still waiting for the detailed proposals. I do not know why this is the case, but there certainly has not been effective consultation on the LRT system. Proper consultation and local knowledge — an essential ingredient in any consultation process — would have avoided the flashpoints that will arise. If this attempt to streamroll through the proposals against the wishes of local communities continues, the light rail system is heading for disaster.

I have been an elected representative since 1979, first to the city council and later to this House. This is the first time I have known a public body to refuse to attend a meeting with local residents if their elected representatives were present. CIE told residents that they would be happy to meet them, but not if their elected representatives were present. It is ironic that as a result of a series of Dáil questions I tabled on this matter a joint meeting between the residents, their elected representatives and the LRT people will take place tonight in the Arran Quay Terrace district.

From the replies I received to those questions it is obvious that not only are we being misled by the LRT people but the Minister is also being misled. In reply to a Dáil question tabled on 21 May 1996 he stated that it would be misleading to suggest that CIE or its public relations consultants are pursuing a policy of excluding public representatives from meetings to discuss the proposed light rail network, but the facts contradict that. The elected representatives did not ask to attend those meetings. The residents wanted us to represent them and we readily agreed. The approach adopted by the LRT people will lead to disaster.

Will the Minister ensure that the alternative routes proposed for the Old Kilmainham and the Arran Quay Terrace areas are given proper consideration? An alternative agreed route that would be equally effective for the transport needs of the city could be found without the destruction of those communities. A survey carried out by small businesses in the Kilmainham district showed that several hundred jobs will be lost if the present preferred route is proceeded with. Will the Minister ensure that an agreed route is found in both those cases?

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I was a CIE employee for a number of years and a member of the DTA in the mid-1980s. I am a member of the DTI steering committee and hope to be a member of the DTO. Therefore, like all Dublin Members, I have a great interest in public transport. I welcome the Government's decision to proceed with a light rail system. Whether the matter has been handled correctly or fairly or whether this Bill has the necessary machinery to get the business done is another matter. Our party spokesperson, Deputy Brennan, dealt with the Bill in great detail and outlined a number of flaws in the proposed system.

We have had many reports on Dublin traffic, all of which are gathering dust. There was great goodwill in compiling those reports, but resources were not available to implement their proposals. The position looked good in the mid-1980s when the DTA was set up, but unfortunately, many harsh decisions were made in 1987. The then Minister, Deputy Jim Mitchell, established the DTA, but he will not be remembered for some of his other decisions relating to CIE. Following the setbacks in 1987 it took a number of years for the Government to establish the DTI and it has received much attention in the past three or four years. I am glad the Government is acting on its recommendations and I hope future Governments do not cherry pick parts of that strategy.

While resources have been provided for the light rail system, they will not be sufficient. The monthly reports received by members of the DTI committee showed that the cost of the three lines increased each month while resources decreased. It was obvious this would lead to difficulties.

I very much welcome other aspects of the DTI, particularly the appointment of a director of traffic. I will not criticise the Garda — it has other matters on its mind — for its inattention to traffic in Dublin. It is obviously well down its list of priorities. Whenever there is a shortage of manpower for crime detection, resources are transferred to that area. I look forward to the appointment of a director of traffic as progress in that area seems to be very slow. Some months ago a consultant was appointed to devise functions for the director of traffic, to see whether that person could interlink with corporation departments, transport providers and so on, but I am concerned that he has not yet reported.

I am surprised that trams have made a comeback. When I did my institution of transport examinations 20 years ago the theory was that trams were a thing of the past; one had to go on a continental holiday to see a tram. We were told at the time that they were inflexible, that if there was a traffic jam they could not operate properly and that the electric wires necessary for their operation were environmentally unfriendly. It is extraordinary matters have come full circle and that we are now witnessing a return of the tram.

It does not seem very long — perhaps I am giving away my age — since tram tracks were dug up on Drumcondra Road, although I do not remember the trams in operation there. I do not know who is to blame for the short-sighted policy to remove those tracks, but we are now talking about rebuilding them and reopening the Harcourt Street line. Most countries have got rid of trams but they still exist in Holland, Belgium and Switzerland and in some German cities. Since those countries had the basic infrastructure it was easy for them to upgrade the system.

I am totally committed to public transport but, to change its image, dramatic measures must be taken. Very often the perception is that people take the bus because they have no alternative. When the DART line was established it was fashionable and correct to use that service, but generally there seems to be an image problem with public transport. I am against spending £200 million on a new system when we could, for example, upgrade our bus service. I have been involved in discussions at corporation level on extending bus lanes and clearways. If we are to have quality bus corridors we must have 24-hour clearways, yet proposals to introduce them, even on very small strips, are met with great opposition from business people and those living nearby. With the introduction of the light rail system, parking will be banned to make way for tracks. Rather than spend £200 million on a light rail system we should introduce round-the-clock clearways. I am not against a light rail system, but with a much improved bus service there would be no need to spend £200 million on such a system. Tough decisions must be taken, even if it means preventing people from parking outside their doors.

Since the light rail proposal was first put forward the estimates for the three lines have steadily increased. In view of the rivalry between the north and south sides of Dublin, there is great disappointment on the north side about the Government decision to provide two lines on the south side in the first phase, with none on the north side. I understand that recommendation was made by the engineers on the basis that it would be easier to construct lines on the south side and there is a greater possibility of persuading commuters to use the lines there. However, the decision has led to much anger and bitterness on the north side. People there expected the three Ministers in the area to look after them. After the Government decision was made, leaks appeared in the paper, particularly from the Democratic Left Minister, about his unhappiness with the decision. Perhaps the Minister, Deputy Lowry, is to be congratulated in that this was one decision where Fine Gael did not give in to the other parties. If the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, was unhappy with the decision he should have expressed his point of view at the time.

I would not label myself as a great European, but we on the north side are relying on Brussels to change the decision or at least get a definite commitment from the Government that the technical work on the Ballymun line will start in the first phase but if that is done it may be a hollow victory unless the EU provides increased resources to carry out the work. Perhaps the obvious solution would be to try to find the money to construct all three lines in phase one.

The Minister should consider extending the present plan to include O'Connell Street and Parnell Square, linking the system with the DART line and other transport facilities such as Connolly station, Busáras and so on.

Debate adjourned.