Private Members' Business. - Traffic and Transport: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns this Government for its abject and complete failure to address the traffic and transport chaos of the greater Dublin area and other urban centres.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Gerry Reynolds, Crawford, Ulick Burke and Connaughton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This is not the first time we have had a Private Members' motion on this issue, or the second or third, but it is probably the last time in the lifetime of this Government that we will have the opportunity to discuss traffic in this way. We have just one message for the Government, namely, that it has blown it. The Government is out of chances, having had all the chances that a Government any time or anywhere could ever wish for. It had five golden years of limitless potential. It had the opportunity, money, time, advice and expertise, but at the end of its term in office it has delivered nothing.

I had no doubt that the Minister would table an amendment to the motion telling us about the few extra buses and rail carriages that have been provided. The Minister should be ashamed to admit to such a pathetically inadequate response when the Government knows only too well the scale of the problem. If it does not, over 1.5 million people in the Dublin region alone will let it know on election day.

When the Government came to power five long years ago, it certainly inherited a congested city centre, but now, at the end of its term, that same congestion has spread to every village, town and suburb in the entire Dublin region. Through the Government's gross incompetence and inertia, it has all but destroyed the capital as a viable place to do business and made it a thoroughly unpleasant place in which to live. These are inescapable facts and no amount of PR packaging will disguise them. Congestion of intolerable proportions is what Dubliners live with every day: that is the reality of their lives.

In recent years, many commentators have predicted that we will end up with total gridlock and that we will wake up some morning and nobody will be able to move at all. I never subscribed to that view. I predicted that the gradual stranglehold of congestion would force rational people into making rational decisions and that they would ultimately withdraw from a battle they could not win. That is exactly what has happened. Slowly but surely jobs in every sector of the economy, particularly those in distribution and any industry that requires any degree of mobility, are being eroded.

A recent survey placed Dublin only just above Calcutta for ease of doing business. Why would any company locate a business in Dublin when it could not do its business with any degree of ease and when workers could take up to two hours to travel a short distance to work? Throughout Dublin, average commuting times have doubled during the Minister's term of office. Congestion is estimated to be costing £1 billion annually, but the figure is impossible to estimate. It is incalculable and probably a multiple of that figure. Competitiveness is suffering. The Minister has heard that from every possible report, whether from IBEC, the Competitiveness Council or the chambers of commerce. While the Minister might blame the events of 11 September for many things, the reality is that congestion in Dublin and all around Ireland and the lack of infrastructure are at least as great a contributor to the reduction in growth rates and the nose-dive in tax revenue in recent times.

Whatever about business operating, people have to live in this city too. Their quality of life has dropped immeasurably during the past five years. In my constituency, which is a mere five, six or seven miles from the central business district, the average commuting time is anything from 1.25 hours to two hours. People are spending up to 20 hours per week just sitting in their cars trying to get to work. Is it any wonder that our health bill is going through the roof and that people are trying to retire earlier from work? They cannot stand the stress of this. At weekends, when they do have a bit of free time, the public transport system, such as it is, disappears off the streets altogether so that mobility is even worse. The smallest local journey is now an endurance test.

When the Minister entered Government, the transport deficit was considerable. The Minister stands indicted because for every year she has been in Government the transport deficit has become greater. The challenge as now defined in the DTO's Platform for Change is to reverse entirely the modal split between public transport and car usage. That is a mammoth task requiring an increase in the transport capacity by a factor of four and a half. Even then, by 2016, the number of cars on the road will be exactly the same as it is today. Therefore, just to stand still, an enormous investment is required. Nobody expected or even demanded that rail transport would be provided overnight, but people did have a right to expect that the Government would begin to provide public transport, that it would make decisions and follow them through.

One decision was made and that was to re-examine Luas, the one rail decision that had already been made. My constituency and others around Dublin are paying the price of that delay every day. The tragedy is that all that was achieved by that delay was a doubling of the cost and the production of a lesser project. Indeed, it has not yet been delivered and we wonder when exactly it will be ready. The decision to re-examine Luas was made in 1997. At that time the Minister and Government let it be known that there was private sector interest in providing a Metro project and that this was one of the reasons for re-examining the proposals. Why did the Minister wait five years before she sought expressions of interest, not tenders – there was nothing more definite than expressions of interest – for the very same line? What was happening at Cabinet subcommittees during those five years that even the first-step decision could not have been made? Why did the Government wait until the price of that too has doubled and possibly trebled?

The Minister has before her a firm public-private proposal to provide a Luas line in my constituency, which is required for the enormous amount of residential and industrial development which has planning permission, is being built and is fully in accordance with the strategic planning guidelines. Why is the Minister not giving that her support? Why is she casting around the world for another proposal when she already has one right here in Dublin from a group of people willing to put up their money for a facility that people are crying out for? Why does the Minister not want the light rail order – which is ready – to land on her desk before an election? Why is that decision being made? Is it because she is afraid she might have to make a decision before an election? Is it that the only decision she is capable of making is not to make a decision?

This is not the only planning and transport disaster that is happening. They are happening throughout the country where development and strategic plans for areas are being drawn up. None of them, of course, is informed by anything like a national spatial strategy because that is another secret being kept until after the election. However, even with what is known, there is no co-ordination between road plans, rail plans and local development plans. In many cases there is downright conflict between them. This is creating transportation time bombs for every part of the country, including Dublin.

Is there anybody in charge in the Government? Does the Taoiseach realise what is happening under his watch? Does he ever get back from his friendship tour for long enough to sit at his desk and make a decision? Does he have any planning and transport vision for the country? Does he have any target at all other than to shake hands with everybody in the country twice? Does he know, for instance, that the vital national road network has more or less ground to a halt and that only 12 of the 20 projects that were due to start last year actually started? Does he know that we are now into the second month of 2002 and have no roads programme and will not have one because no chairman has been appointed to the National Roads Authority? Maybe that is a delib erate action to mask the fact for as long as possible that there will be no roads programme.

As of 4 p.m. today, there was none appointed. Whatever about the roads and rail programme, the real disaster I have to highlight is the one that the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, has surpassed herself in ignoring. For five years, I have being saying that buses, which may not be the sexiest solution, are the only short-term solution. It is the only mass transport system we can provide within a reasonable time to keep this city moving while rail based solutions are being put in place. That means throwing buses at this problem. It is only with increased frequency that people will switch to buses. People are too busy and their lives are too stressful to plan their days around buses that come every hour or hour and a quarter.

When the Government came into office, Dublin Bus had 875 buses. In 2002, after five years of unprecedented wealth, the Government has managed to provide another 275 buses. The net increase in the fleet is 195. That is about 1.3 extra buses per route to cater for a vastly increased population and workforce and to cater for the altered pattern of traffic. The greatest travesty of all – I am not sure if the Minister is aware of this – is that after five golden years Dublin Bus is operating less routes than it did five years ago. Does the Minister have any contact at all with CIE or Dublin Bus? What happened to the great plans she announced for Dublin Bus park and ride schemes on the outskirts of the city? Has land been identified or bought? Has planning permission been received? Has anyone taken responsibility for funding any of them? The answer in each case is "no".

Some years ago the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, commissioned another of her famous consultancy reports on the future structures of public transport. As a result, she promised bus competition. Since then there has been a deafening silence and nothing has happened. There has been no legislation to change structures, no move to break up CIE, no move towards privatisation, no move to appoint a bus regulator and no competition. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment took my breath away at the weekend when she promised that if elected to Government she would introduce bus competition. She is in Government. Does she realise that she has been in Government for five years, but it did not strike her that bus competition might be needed in Dublin?

Private operators applying for licences to give a service to a public that is screaming for it are being frustrated at every turn. When they get licences, they are so circumscribed in what they can do that they are inoperable. In a city that is screaming for buses, at least two major potential operators have told me that they have cancelled orders for buses. However inexplicable Government policy may be in restricting people getting onto private buses, preventing passengers from getting off at their destinations defies all explanation and understanding. Five years on there is still nobody in charge of traffic in the Dublin region. We still have up to two dozen agencies with varying degrees of responsibility.

As I have said on numerous occasions, transport systems are multi-faceted, but they are interdependent and unless they are co-ordinated and integrated, their sum is infinitely less than their parts. That is certainly true of Dublin, where dispersed responsibility has been used continually by Government to pass the buck. After an inevitable consultant's report, it was agreed that a single transport and land use body was required for Dublin. Again, no legislation has been delivered and nothing has happened. Failure to deliver has been the theme of this Government. Through its gross incompetence, indecision and inertia, the Government has completely failed the people of Dublin. That will not be forgotten or forgiven by the population of Dublin.

Not only is there traffic chaos in the greater Dublin area, but most urban centres around the country are also clogged up by traffic. Our citizens spend too much time in their cars commuting to and from their places of work. On many occasions when the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment was on this side of the House, she complained bitterly about the lack of finance provided for the development of infrastructure and said this is a First World country with a Third World infrastructure. She made the same statement just ten months ago after four years in Government. If proof was needed that infrastructure development is a shambles, the Tánaiste's statement highlights it.

Over the weekend, the Progressive Democrats Party held its conference and it has a billboard campaign around the country proclaiming: "Look what we have done with four. What could we do with eight?" If there were eight of them in the next Government, we would get nowhere. That billboard campaign will not be believed. Eight Progressive Democrats Deputies would cause major concern for the development of this country and I have no doubt the people will make sure that does not happen.

Time will tell.

We are looking forward to it. The national development plan that was to provide the necessary funding for the provision of infrastructure up to 2006 is an utter shambles. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Minister for Public Enterprise have both been abject failures in providing the necessary leadership and prioritising funding for the many developments that would allow traffic and commuting problems to be resolved. The national development plan is so out of control that many projects that should have been completed are now in jeopardy. As my colleague, Deputy Olivia Mitchell said, the chairperson of the National Roads Authority may have been appointed, but he is not making announcements about where money will be spent. I hope he will be able to explain why the costs of all these projects have increased so dramatically in recent years. Why are there about 40 projects under the national development plan that will not be completed by 2006?

I am sorry that the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is not here. However, I ask the Minister of State to intervene immediately with the National Roads Authority and request it to provide funding for the Sligo inner relief road. There is gridlock in that town. The NRA has suggested that the money that should have been provided this year for the Sligo inner relief road will not be provided. That will have catastrophic consequences not alone for the development of Sligo, but also for the development of the north west in general.

It now takes people more than an hour to commute less than a mile and a half from Carraroe into the centre of Sligo. This is replicated in many towns and cities. The Government had so much funding available but it has done nothing. The national development plan is a complete and utter shambles. The Minister talks out of the side of his mouth about a spatial strategy and that Sligo will become a spatial centre in the north west. However, the Government is not willing to provide the necessary funding to allow people to get into the town and develop it. Fewer jobs have been provided in that region than in any other in the country. Not many industrialists from Germany or America were brought to Sligo by the IDA or other Government agencies. They would get to within a mile and a half of the town and get stuck in traffic. That would not create the necessary confidence to bring much-needed jobs into the region.

My old friend, the Minister for Public Enterprise, is some pin up. For the past four and a half years she has done wonders for the public transport system. The only pity is that she did not sit in the Luas carriage that was in Merrion Square instead of sitting in her office. I have no idea what she is doing, but she is presiding over a shambles in public transport. Iarnród Éireann has decided not to continue to provide the Sligo-Dublin freight service. It has suggested that it will discontinue it at present because it cannot organise the train service or freight delivery due to developments taking place in Dublin. The Government's fictional amendment to our motion states that the Government welcomes the initiative to undertake a strategic rail review which will provide a blueprint for the future development of the rail network. A gentleman from Iarnród Éireann on a programme on local radio in Sligo said it was up to the Government to provide a freight service to the north west as Iarnród Éireann will not do so because it is losing money. If the Minister for Public Enterprise was here, I wonder what would be her decision on that. The strategic rail review will stop more development than it will propose.

Many other issues need to be dealt with in the context of traffic management and transport. The Government's record in providing and prioritising any form of transport policy has been one of abject failure. I have no doubt the old ostrich syndrome has been alive and well in the Departments of the Environment and Local Government and Public Enterprise over the past five years. My fear is that the Ministers are sticking their heads further into the sand rather than coming up with policies to provide the necessary funding and development to free up the regions and cities and make it easier for people to commute to their place of work and for industrialists to invest here and provide much needed jobs in many of the regions. The Government's record in this area has been a failure.

I am pleased to support Deputy Olivia Mitchell's motion. The serious traffic problems Dublin has experienced over the past 20 years and which have manifested now as gridlock have also manifested further west along the N6 in Enfield and Kinnegad and have reached the most westerly town on the N6, namely, Loughrea in County Galway. Similarly there is gridlock on the N7 in Naas, Kildare town and as far as Monasterevin. A similar position is to be found on all roads radiating from Dublin. Every urban centre is experiencing serious gridlock, something people did not experience in the past.

Over the past five years the Government has not done anything in any part of the country to alleviate the problems resulting from traffic gridlock. These problems are costing money. They cost commuters locked in traffic jams time and energy and there is also the high cost of pollution into the atmosphere from such congestion. That seems to be of little consequence, interest or concern to the Minister of State or his colleagues given that they have not done anything to address the problem.

As recently as last Christmas, the Taoiseach indicated following a visit to Loughrea that he would quickly arrange to alleviate the traffic congestion in the town. He said the necessary funding would be allocated in 2002 for the provision of a bypass in Loughrea and that it would be in operation by the end of 2003. Reality struck home when we discovered such funding is not available and that even with the best will in the world on the part of the NRA and its professional personnel to deliver that project, they would be unable to do so.

The NRA does not have a chairperson who can say when funding will be available for any of the projects it has mentioned. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that we get on with the business we are supposed to be doing. Various public representatives, embarrassed by the situation created by the Taoiseach's presence in Loughrea recently, demanded that some people should place themselves in a conspicuous position, whereby the public would be fooled once more by the initiatives of the Government and the pretence it was doing something to address the problem. When the people concerned were approached they said they had been mandated to have a presence in Loughrea to show that they were progressing the project. They indicated this was the third time this project had been surveyed – there has been one topographical survey on top of another. That indicates the local Minister has power to deliver bodies on the ground but not to deliver the project the Taoiseach said would be delivered.

Many of the projects costed at various times over the past four or five years are now so out of date that the NDP and the funding apportioned to them are irrelevant. That is why there have been indications that the NDP will be extended beyond 2006 to 2010 or maybe 2050 in respect of some projects for all we know. The Government has not shown any initiative to indicate it was serious about solving the problem of traffic chaos. I said to the Minister of State's ministerial colleague that if she was serious about addressing the transport needs of people in the west and wanted to make even a token response to doing so, she would introduce a pilot commuter rail transport service between Athenry and Galway city to encourage many commuters travelling by road to travel by train. Commuters could be easily facilitated on that line because it is under-utilised. Such a service could be timetabled to transport many people from outside the dormitory towns of Galway city to work easily, safely and on time without encountering chaos or concern, which would benefit other road users.

I ask the Minister of State, who represented part of that constituency in the past, to relay this proposal to the Minister and to ask her to take up the cudgels and arrange for the provision of such a service and of park and ride facilities with bus services connecting the other satellite towns of Galway to Galway city. These are simple measures, but they would make a difference.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion dealing with transport and traffic chaos experienced by people going about their business, whether commuting to work or travelling for some other reason by road or rail. Some weeks ago I welcomed the fact there was not a chairman of the National Roads Authority at the time funding was supposed to have been announced for various projects. At that stage no money was allocated for many of the bypasses that were promised, including those for Carrickmacross, Castleblayney, Monaghan town and Cavan town in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan which I represent. The possi bility of additional funding now being available must give us some hope.

Our party leader proposed that some of the pension fund money should be spent on special projects, whether in my area or elsewhere, which could guarantee a good return on funding for pensioners. That was condemned by the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs but I understand the concept is now being considered by the Minister for Finance and I hope it bears fruit. It was interesting that the Tánaiste and leader of the Progressive Democrats admitted at her party conference last weekend that after five years in office, the Government has left the country with a third world infrastructure.

All politics is local and in my constituency the Dublin to Derry road is still without a bypass at Monaghan town, Castleblayney or Carrickmacross. This is the major road that links the people of Derry, the fourth largest city in the country, with Dublin and the people of north Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Monaghan with our major city and ports and the infrastructure needed to move our produce out of the country. However, no money has been spent on it. The other main road through my constituency is the Belfast to Galway road which goes through Monaghan town, Clones and Cavan, but that is not even on the NRA list for the next number of years.

The Government rightly claims responsibility for the good work on the Good Friday Agreement but it fails to put funding into creating the infrastructure that would facilitate involvement between the people on the two parts of our island whom we wish to see working closely together. Last Wednesday in this House the Taoiseach assured me that there was infrastructure in place between North and South and mentioned the Belfast-Dublin road. That might eventually be of use if we can get to Ardee but for people trying to get through Monaghan, Castleblayney and Carrickmacross, the Taoiseach's words ring hollow.

Monaghan was placed in the BMW region. It was the Taoiseach's wish to include Kerry and other parts of the country to keep the Independent Deputies happy but the EU overruled that and ensured the designated region comprised only the Border, western and midland counties. Will NRA money be spent on new bypasses in the region this year or in the near future? There is only four years left and we were supposed to get great benefits from the BMW designation due to additional – not replacement – funding from Europe.

The railroads were closed in the 1950s. Successive Governments failed to live up to the promise that was made then, that additional funding would be put into building up the road infrastructure to compensate people for the loss of railway lines in Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. What has been done? Nothing. The money is still given to CIE at national level. The Minister ensures the money is spent in Dublin and elsewhere but none is available for the people of our region. It affects the quality of life for people in Monaghan. They must leave their homes in south Monaghan at 6 a.m. and do not get home until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. The Leas-Cheann Chomhairle is well aware of that. How can they be involved in community activities? They are too tired at the weekends and need to catch up on their sleep. Businesses are paying the extra costs of extra time spent on the road.

The consultants are the only people who have won on this issue. I do not know how many millions have been spent on consultants drawing up plans for the three bypasses in Monaghan. They failed to communicate with the locals and to understand what was needed. They just caused more problems. The country is in a mess despite five years of the best economic circumstances it has ever experienced. We need action now.

I thank Deputy Mitchell for putting down this motion. It is a hugely popular subject. In all the years I have been a Member of this House, I have never seen a Government more askew on the issue of developing transport services for an increasingly mobile population and on the need to plan for the next 20 years. This Government plans for tomorrow, not for what will happen in the next ten or 20 years. That is why we have our current problems in every city and town. One need not be a rocket scientist to appreciate that not only is our population increasing but that the mobility of our population is also increasing dramatically. Car ownership is shooting up. The roads are clogged with cars. On the deficit side, however, our road capacity has changed a little but not in tandem with what is happening. The standard of our roads did not keep pace with the volume of traffic.

People will find fault with this Government at the next election for not coming up with the type of transport models or strategy for the future that are likely to work. I spend three or four days a week in the capital and I know it will take a huge amount to get rid of the gridlock. The great tragedy for people in the provinces, however, is that the same mistake that was made in Dublin is currently being made in the other cities, particularly in Galway, the city I know best. Ultimately, the Government, ably assisted by most consultants, has only one answer to gridlock, namely to build wider and bigger roads. They do not give a second thought to the railways.

The Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, and I both live in Galway, the Minister in the city and I in the county. If the model of what has happened in Dublin is maintained in Galway in the next ten years, it will be a horrendous place to live. Galway is in a unique position and the Government would see this if only it opened its eyes. Around the perimeter of Galway city, about 12 miles out, there is a railway line owned by Iarnród Éireann which connects Tuam, one of the biggest towns in the county, to Athenry and goes on to Oranmore, where there is a new city, and into the city of Galway. No other city in Europe has this dormant infrastructure. Iarnród Éireann owns the line and the land so there would be no question of court battles or the like. That is not to speak of what could happen by providing park and ride facilities. It will be possible to get all the land required for such facilities in towns such as Athenry, Tuam and Ballyglunin, where "The Quiet Man" was filmed. One can imagine the importance that would have for the north of the county: it would benefit the entire region.

I have raised this issue for a number of years but until recently I felt like Moses in the wilderness. It appeared that nobody was taking any notice. However, I am a member of the transportation group in Galway County Council and I have tried to convince the consultants over the last year that there is merit in this proposal. As always, they tend to say it is a nice idea but that it would cost too much money.

We appreciate that we need a better road structure but £300 million will be spent on new bypasses on the Galway roads and on the new road from Ballinasloe to Galway city. If one spoke about anything approaching that expenditure on the railways, imagine the system one would get. One is not comparing like with like, which has always been the problem in discussing road versus rail infrastructure. Everybody claims the railway will not pay for itself but no road has ever paid for itself in the first 20 or even 30 years of its existence.

The problem with roads is that no matter how wide they are, cars will fill them at a certain time of the day as they act like funnels. One might get to Galway or Dublin city faster, but the problems start at the city's perimeter because the traffic must be dispersed somewhere.

I have much to say on this topic and I am sorry that my time has run out. The Minister of State will discover when he knocks on doors during the next general election campaign that people will have a lot to say to him about transport.

I now see the reason my area does not get adequate funding. It all goes to Galway.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dail Éireann" and substitute the following:

"welcomes the achievements of the Government in upgrading transport infrastructure and services in Dublin and throughout the country and, in particular:

–welcomes the increased investment in transport infrastructure since this Government took office;

–welcomes the progressive implementation of theNDP which provides for the investment of €12 billion in transport over the 2000-06 period and the demonstrable progress made in 2000 and 2001 in implementing this investment programme;

–welcomes the significant increase in capital investment in public transport during the lifetime of the Government, including the provision of over €400 million in Exchequer capital funding for public transport in 2002;

–welcomes the progress being made with regard to Luas and the metro;

–notes that the DTS strategy update, A Platform for Change, provides a comprehensive, updated framework for meeting Dublin's transport needs;

–notes the progress being made in the upgrading of the national road network in the greater Dublin area where work has commenced on the Dublin port tunnel, the south eastern motorway, the Cloghran-Balbriggan motorway, Kildare bypass and Glen of the Downs project and in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford where major projects have either been completed in recent years, are under way or well advanced in planning;

–welcomes the increased investment in non-national roads, including projects such as Macken Street Bridge, Cork Street-Coombe, Mercer Street and North King Street, which are particularly important for traffic management purposes;

–welcomes the 2002 provision of €49,633 million for traffic management grants in the greater Dublin area and other urban areas in which traffic management strategies are being developed or implemented;

–welcomes the increased numbers of taxi licences available since liberalisation in November 2000, and the recent publication of a consultation paper for the purpose of developing further qualitative improvements in taxi services;

–welcomes the purchase of a significant number of new buses for Dublin and the provincial cities;

–notes that nine QBCs are now providing bus priority routes in Dublin;

–notes the progress being made on the DART network by the purchase of 38 new DART carriages, which will result in a nearly 50% increase in capacity;

–notes that capacity on the Maynooth line has recently been increased by approximately 150%;

–notes the significant progress being made on the rail safety programme;

–notes the commitment of the Government to strengthen the institutional arrangements for land use and transport planning in the greater Dublin area through the establishment of a Greater Dublin Land Use and Transport Authority; and

–welcomes the Government initiative to undertake a strategic rail review which will provide a blueprint for the future development of the rail network."

I am glad of the opportunity to address the House on this important issue and outline once again how the Government has prioritised the upgrading of transport infrastructure and services, not alone in Dublin and other urban areas, but throughout the country.

The sustained economic success and prosperity which the country has experienced in recent years have seen GNPper capita increase by 92% between 1995 and 2000, unemployment decrease from 15.5% to 4.1% between 1993 and 2000, the labour force almost double in the last ten years to 1.86 million in 2001, the national population grow by over 6% to an estimated 3.74 million in 1999, the population in the greater Dublin area grow by 8% to 1.46 million between 1991 and 1999, employment in the same area grow by over 50% to 681,000. As these figures demonstrate, the performance of the country in recent years has been exceptional in terms of continuous high economic and employment growth.

This level of success has resulted in real and tangible benefits in terms of jobs, living standards and reduced emigration. However, growth on this scale does pose challenges, of which one of the more obvious is increased traffic. For example, car ownership has increased by 40% since 1992, with over 1.2 million private cars now on our roads. The number of heavy goods vehicles has also increased substantially. It is generally acknowledged that our transport infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in travel demand. For many years we did not have the resources to invest heavily in transport infrastructure and services. All parties were in office during these years and have shared this experience. The consequences are evident in traffic congestion in Dublin and other major cities and on some parts of the national road network. There is no doubting the adverse impacts of traffic congestion, whether they be increased costs to business and the community generally through longer journey times, reduced environmental quality or a poorer quality of life.

The Government has been proactive in responding to this challenge and the urgent need to upgrade our transport infrastructure in Dublin and other urban centres. Since we took office we have put in place the integrated strategic framework and the increased investment necessary to ensure we have a comprehensive, well functioning transport network. While the Opposition may wish to deny it, we have made good progress in implementation. Our approach is in sharp contrast to that of the main Opposition party which is bereft of a clear vision of how best to meet the country's transport needs. Investment in transport was at a low ebb in 1997, but we have turned the situation around during the last five years. We have made good progress and more is in the pipeline.

Looking first at Dublin, it is clear that during the past five years, within the framework of the DTI strategy which has recently been updated, the Government has invested heavily in Dublin's transport network. The road network has been substantially improved through the completion of a number of major projects such as the southern cross route, the Balbriggan bypass, Naas Road widening and free flow slips on the M50. Work is currently under way on a number of other major projects, including the Dublin port tunnel, the south eastern motorway and completion of the M1 to Balbriggan. Completion of these projects, at a total estimated cost in excess of €1 billion, will further improve traffic conditions around the city.

Major investment in other arterial routes such as the Kildare bypass and the Glen of the Downs project will also have a beneficial impact on traffic flows into and out of Dublin. Despite the delays and difficulties in getting these projects under way, the Government has succeeded in doing so. A major upgrade of the M50 is planned and public consultation is under way regarding improvements such as widening to three lanes, upgrading junctions and relocation and enlargement of the West Link toll plaza. Preliminary planning of the Dublin eastern bypass is also under way.

Investment in national roads has been complemented by substantial going investment in non-national roads. In this context, a number of key road schemes in Dublin city which are important from a traffic management viewpoint have been identified for priority funding – Macken Street Bridge, Cork Street-Coombe, Mercer Street and North King Street. In the 1998-2001 period, funding of €11.368 million was provided for these schemes with an additional €7.539 million provided in 2002.

Significant progress has also been made by the Government in addressing the substantial deficits in the public transport system. The National Development Plan, 2000-2006, provides for the most significant investment in public transport in the history of the State. Over the lifetime of the plan there will be a total investment of €2.79 billion in public transport projects. These include investment in mainline rail, improved public transport services in major urban areas and the upgrading of regional bus services.

The major elements of the public transport programme in the Dublin area between 2001 and 2006 are the introduction of the Luas light rail system; the enhancement, extension, and development of the Dublin Bus network, including increases in capacity, improvements in the quality of service, accessibility to those who may be mobility impaired and extended timetabling; increase in capacity of the DART and suburban rail network through the acquisition of additional rolling stock; upgrading the suburban rail network to allow an increase in the capacity and frequency of rail services, and extension of the quality bus corridor network.

This year the Exchequer has provided in excess of €400 million in capital funding to meet the ambitious targets set out in the national development plan. This level of funding must be seen in the light of many years of underinvestment in public transport. The total Exchequer capital provision in 1996, when Fine Gael and the Labour Party were in government, was approximately €507,000. The funding provided by the Government has allowed significant progress to be made on the implementation of the national development plan.

Progress to date on the Luas, for example, includes the following. The construction of the light rail lines from Tallaght to Connolly Station and from Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green is progressing. The lines are on target for completion by end 2003. The depot at the Red Cow is now completed and fitting out is taking place. The trams are continuing to arrive at the rate of two per month and are undergoing initial testing. Work on laying a test track from the depot to Kingswood in Tallaght has begun and it is expected that track testing will commence in April 2002.

The metro is the most significant transport infrastructural project to be undertaken in the history of the State. It also represents a major opportunity to engage with the private sector in addressing the country's public transport deficit by way of PPP. A preliminary public consultation process by the Light Rail Project Office has commenced and over 200 responses have been received. The formal procurement process for the metro will commence shortly. An independent Railway Procurement Agency has been established, which will be responsible for the procurement of the light rail and metro projects, as determined by the Minister for Public Enterprise.

On the DART and suburban rail front, progress is also being made. Iarnród Éireann has purchased 38 new DART cars. These are the first new carriages purchased for the DART system since 1984 and will provide an approximately 50% increase in capacity on the DART system. In addition, planning and design work is continuing on the next phase of the DART upgrade, which will allow a greater number of DART trains to operate through the city centre and also allow the operation of longer trains providing a further significant increase in the capacity of the network. A total of 80 new diesel rail cars have been ordered and delivery will commence in the coming months. These carriages, when operational, will improve the capacity and quality of outer suburban services in the greater Dublin area.

I hope Deputy Olivia Mitchell will note that over 400 new buses have been purchased, not the low figure she quoted. She did not have her facts right on any issue she raised tonight.

The Minister of State should speak to Dublin Bus. I referred to extra buses.

Over 400 new buses have been purchased by Bus Átha Cliath.

Some broke down.

All new buses purchased since the year 2000 are low floor and wheelchair accessible, and have provided significant additional peak hour capacity for commuters. The success of the ongoing development of the bus network in Dublin is illustrated by the fact that passenger numbers in peak a.m. hours are up 196% on the Stillorgan QBC, 44% on the Malahide Road QBC, and 40% on the Lucan QBC.

While the major infrastructural projects such as the Dublin port tunnel and Luas have tended to attract most attention, good progress has also been made by the local authorities and the DTO in a broad range of other areas. We have seen the completion of nine QBCs throughout the Dublin area, with work under way on a further three which have changed commuting patterns and those that are longer established – Malahide, Lucan and the N11 – are now carrying twice as many people as a general lane of traffic. Approximately 160 kilometres of two-way cycle routes were developed, and 2,500 cycle parking spaces provided.

The implementation of a parking control policy has improved traffic flow and reduced illegal parking. We have seen the implementation of environmental traffic cells, traffic calming schemes and street improvement projects on a widespread basis throughout the city and the greater Dublin area, and major ongoing investment in computerised traffic signal control systems and travel and parking information systems. Also, €40 million is being provided to the DTO to fund these traffic management measures in 2002. The DTO and the local authorities have also sought to ensure, in line with the DTI strategy and the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area, that land use and transport planning are better integrated so that the need for travel is reduced and the provision of public transport facilitated.

These measures and initiatives reflect the fact that meeting mobility needs is not just about providing more physical infrastructure and rolling stock. Those are undoubtedly needed but they must be provided in the context of an integrated approach to transport requirements, including improved traffic management, better integration of land use and transport planning, management of transport demand and good institutional arrangements.

It is widely accepted that there is a need for strengthened land use and transport planning arrangements within the greater Dublin area and a clearer regional perspective on transport and land use planning. Seven major local authorities plus various transport agencies need a coherent strategic framework. Robust mechanisms are needed to ensure that integrated transport and land use decisions are regional in character and implemented in a co-ordinated and effective manner. The extent of the geographical area, the number of public bodies involved, the population growth in the area and the complexity and scale of the land use and transport issues to be addressed all require an approach specific to the greater Dublin area. Proposals in this regard were published last year as part of a public consultation process and were well received. The public consultation paper proposed the establishment of a strategic land use and transportation body with the principal task of preparing an integrated long-term land use and transportation strategy for the greater Dublin area and monitoring its implementation. These proposals are aimed at finding the best way of addressing the complex and urgent problems facing the greater Dublin area and they represent a very positive step forward. Most of those who made responses to the consultation paper thought so also. The final shape of the new arrangements is being considered carefully and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government will very shortly be submitting legislative proposals to Government.

Taxi services are another important part of the transport system. This Government is the first in recent years to take direct action to facilitate a more urgent and accelerated approach to matching taxi supply and demand. The Government's commitment to improving the Dublin taxi service, outlined in "A Programme for the Millennium", was followed by the radical initiative on 30 November 1999 for the issue of 3,100 new taxi licences in Dublin. Regulations to commence implementation of the initiative were the subject of High Court proceedings and the October 2000 decision of the court made it clear that limitation of taxi licences in the interests of existing licence holders cannot be contemplated. As a result, new regulations were made to respond to this changed situation and to establish orderly licensing arrangements within it. Under the new regulations no restrictions are allowed on the numbers of new taxi and wheelchair accessible taxi licences which are granted by local licensing authorities. This is bringing significant benefits to the public through the increased availability of taxis. Taxi licence numbers in Dublin have more than doubled since liberalisation with some 4,419 additional licences granted by Dublin City Council under the new regulations at the end of December 2001. Increases in licence numbers are also taking place in the rest of the country with increases of 302, 177 and 187 licences in Cork, Galway and Limerick respectively. The liberalisation of taxi services has led to an improved taxi and hackney service with greater availability of vehicles and reduced waiting times.

As part of ongoing efforts to improve the quality of taxi services, I recently announced the publication of a consultation paper prepared by my Department relating to the development of further qualitative improvements in taxi services. The consultation paper has been prepared against the background of the liberalised regime of taxi licensing, the provisions of the Disability Bill, 2001, and the stated policy that by the end of 2003 the process will commence of making all taxi vehicles wheelchair accessible. I have invited all interested parties to contribute to the consultation process by 30 April 2002 and I am confident this process will lead to the further enhancement of taxi services for all.

Going forward, the updated DTI strategy, "A Platform for Change", provides a long-term framework for the development of the greater Dublin area transport network. This document, which was published recently, sets out a comprehensive integrated strategy to respond to the transportation needs of the greater Dublin area in the period to 2016. Key elements of the strategy include a radical transformation in the quality and quantity of public transport services; strategic but limited improvements to the road network; improved traffic management and control measures; development of a freight management policy to improve freight access to ports and airports; development of a demand management policy to reduce the growth in travel while maintaining economic progress and to encourage modal shifts in favour of public transport; and better integration of land use and transportation planning.

The strategy is designed to result in a high quality, integrated, public transport service being available to most people within ten minutes walking distance of where they live; increase the share of the market accounted for by public transport from 35% to almost 65%; reduce congestion; reduce average journey times dramatically; improve accessibility; and result in significant environmental gains including reductions in energy use and emissions. Significant elements of the strategy are now being delivered under the NDP. Capital spending on public transport has increased by 23% in 2002 or €400 million over 2001.

The problems posed by traffic congestion are not unique to Dublin. Other major cities and towns also experience traffic congestion reflecting again the economic, employment and population growth which the country has enjoyed in recent years. Just as in Dublin, the Government has responded with increased investment in the roads network, public transport and traffic management.

Since it took office in 1997 this Government has increased investment in the national roads network to almost three times its 1997 level. Over the past five years a substantial number of towns, including Nenagh, Portlaoise, Roscrea, Balbriggan, Cavan, Donegal and Arklow, have been bypassed with obvious benefits accruing to the towns from the removal of through traffic. The implementation of the national roads development plan provided for in the NDP will remove through traffic from more than 60 more towns and villages.

In addition, major projects have either been completed, are under way or are well advanced in planning in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The Lee Tunnel has been completed and work is under way on the Limerick southern ring road, phase 1. Major projects in planning include the Waterford bypass and Limerick southern ring, phase 2, which are both PPP schemes, and the Galway outer bypass. I regret having to bore Deputies by listing these achievements but the Opposition seems to be ill informed about what is happening on the ground.

The Minister of State need only go outside the door.

Deputy Burke referred to the Loughrea bypass. Regarding the availability by agreement of all the lands required to construct the Loughrea bypass by August of this year, it could be possible, if that were achieved, to advertise this as a stand-alone contract for construction of the bypass this year. That is what the Taoiseach said; if they are doing their thing it will happen.

Is this auction politics?

Investment in non-national roads in urban authority areas – city, borough and town councils – has increased considerably in recent years. Urban roads constitute 3% of the non-national road network but will receive over 12% of total grants being allocated to local authorities for non-national roads in 2002. The Department's block grant for urban authorities in 2002 is €26.583 million, an increase of over 120% on the miserly 1997 provision of €12 million.

Non-national road grant allocations to Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford City Councils of €5.747 million, €2.682 million, €3.996 million and €4.619 million represent increases of 194%, 302%, 403% and 369% respectively over the 1997 allocations by the Rainbow coalition to these authorities. This level of investment has brought about considerable improvement to the non-national road network in all urban areas.

Key aims of the public transport element of the NDP are to increase bus capacity and upgrade facilities to enhance public transport services outside the greater Dublin area, together with implementation of the railway safety programme. Bus Éireann has acquired over 200 new buses under the national development plan. These buses have allowed a significant increase in capacity in prov incial services. There has been a 40% increase in capacity on many routes providing commuter services in the greater Dublin area. There has been an increase of 26% in services in Cork, 18% in Limerick, 35% in Waterford and 32% in Galway. The Deputy mentioned the provision of private services which are in competition with CIE. We are familiar with that in Galway city where City Direct, a private operator, provides scheduled daily services and maintains a high standard which is to be complimented.

We need more of them.

The new Maynooth service commenced during 2001 following extensive work on the rail line and the purchase of new diesel rail cars, and this new service provides an almost 150% increase in capacity. A number of new diesel rail cars will also be used to provide commuter services between Cork and Cobh. Substantial progress has also been made in the implementation of the railway safety programme, with the renewal of more than 240 miles of track and approximately 200 bridges. More than 140 miles of fencing has been completed and safety improvements have been made to more than 200 level crossings. In addition, the Railway Safety Bill, 2001, was published late last year and its principal feature is the establishment of an independent statutory public body, the Railway Safety Commission, to regulate railway safety in Ireland. The commission will have wide-ranging powers to monitor and inspect railway infrastructure, investigate and publish reports into railway accidents and take enforcement action where it perceives unacceptable risks exist on the railway.

Land use and transportation studies, such as those undertaken or being prepared by local authorities in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, reflect an awareness of the acute importance of the interaction between transportation and physical planning and how integrated responses can contribute to the overall development and quality of life. The studies will assist in securing an integrated approach to meeting transport needs in these areas. The traffic management needs of these cities have also been recognised with the introduction of regional traffic management grants for the first time last year. Expenditure under this grant category amounted to €1.639 million last year. A further €2.094 million in regional traffic management grants has been allocated this year. The introduction of these grant categories is a further indication of the Government's commitment to improving traffic management in all our cities.

Reference was made to the fact the National Roads Authority does not have a chairman. The new chairman of the authority is Mr. Peter Malone. Two additional members have been appointed to the NRA – Ms Jennifer Kent and Mr. Raymond Potterton.

When was he appointed?

He was appointed today.

At least we achieved something.

It will be clear from what I have said that the Government has not failed in its efforts to upgrade transport infrastructure and services in Dublin and other urban centres. On the contrary, and unlike the main Opposition party, the Government has a clear view of what it wishes to do and has put in place the policies and funding to achieve it. Any fair assessment of what we have done so far would acknowledge the substantial progress that has been made in completing road and public transport projects; in getting other major projects that have been on the stocks for some time to construction and in progressing others through planning; in the development and implementation of other traffic management policies and measures; and in the areas of institutional development. More remains to be done, but we are on course to transform the transport network in Dublin and elsewhere in a way that meets the mobility needs of the community and improves the quality of life for all.

I commend the amendment to the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Rabbitte, Currie and Stagg.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I listened with great interest to what the Minister of State said. He set out in the early part of his speech the demographic and economic background to the existing transport problem. There is probably no greater illustration of the consequences of the absence of planning than the present transportation chaos. I will give an example of that and the root cause of it.

The decision to announce the national development plan ahead of the national spatial strategy was a major error. It was as if one could plan investment for all the different forms of transportation – road, rail, bus, taxis or private cars – without taking into account the projected demographic distribution in cities, towns and rural areas. It was the clearest case yet of the cart being put before the horse. In the absence of a transportation strategy, which in turn might have been a dimension of the national spatial plan, the national spatial plan will make projections for towns, cities and rural areas after all the major investment decisions have been made about road, rail and internal urban transport systems.

There has been an absence of integration in transport planning. However, there has not been an absence of consultancy studies or data about requirements. The Minister of State gave us the figures for the increase in road usage. There is an absence of policy choices by the Government in relation to public transport and private car usage. The Government has also been driven off course by an ideological commitment to private car usage over public transport. People should not accept my word on this, but should examine the projected capital expenditure in the national development plan, for example, for major road and rail development. The ratio reveals it all and shows the Government has accepted an increased volume of cars, moving at faster speed, at the cost of developing a public transport network.

The advice given and the assumptions made in the studies upon which the Government has based its strategy have been wrong. It is assumed that a private commercial market model can be brought to bear on public transport. As long ago as the 1960s the late Dr. John Blackwell published a study which showed that public transport was not a profit earner in any country in the world, except Hong Kong. Nothing has changed since then. There is a simple conclusion to be drawn from that, namely, that if one wants to make a choice in favour of public transport for reasons of social inclusion, economic efficiency and ecological responsibility, one must be willing to pay for it and to provide adequate Government subvention. All the speeches in the world cannot distract from the facts. All one must do is compare the Government's subvention to public transport to that in other countries. It is a minuscule proportion of national expenditure compared to any other country.

I heard the suggestion that the provision of funding will make the traffic and transport problems disappear. I will give another example of the absence of integrated planning. Other urban centres are referred to in the motion, such as Galway, with which the Minister of State and I are familiar. The Minister of State knows that the major decisions in Galway were made before the land use and transportation study, commissioned by both local authorities, was discussed, debated or decided upon. When one looks at the existing city and county development plan, one sees an absence of any recognition of the basic principles of the land use and transportation study.

Another example of the disintegratedad hoc approach is the manner in which CIE's property is being disposed of in different parts of the State. It is almost impossible to get a straight answer to one's question as to what CIE owns and what it might need should it get an adequate subvention for an adequate public transport system. We see, for example, in Galway city people queuing in the rain for buses outside a railway station. A hotel stands on the site the people had previously planned for a bus station. They are being asked to move to new land developed by the harbour authority. That is what is planned for the future. There is no provision in regard to CIE's land figures in the context of a commuter rail link to Galway city. There is no security, but that the land is being prepared for sale. There is an absence of public accountability in regard to it and an absence of any attempt to integrate it into future planning needs.

There are a number of important principles on which a public transport policy might be built, the most important being social inclusion. In this debate references were made to the great increase in gross domestic product, how everybody is more wealthy, that there are far more cars and so on. There are people in the population who were always dependent on a mode of transport other than the car – the young and the elderly. In relation to the totally separate planning of roads from any consideration of public transport, there is a desperate disregard of the needs of pedestrians, the young and the elderly. It is very interesting that when sacrifices need to be made it is the conversion of vehicles for the special needs of the disabled that is put on hold.

It is interesting to ask what assumptions are behind the current expenditure. Who decided that the issue of traffic flow was a case of handling more vehicles at a faster speed at a cost of slowing traffic to allow pedestrians to cross in safety? These are fundamental issues as to how traffic moves, how it should move and the balance it meets between the elderly, the young and those in vehicles. Frankly, the existing philosophy, particularly actions of the National Roads Authority, could be described as homage to the single occupant motor car. It is almost as if one can adjust one's transportation policy to suit the insatiable increase in demand for more vehicles travelling at greater and unimpeded speed.

This is disastrous and entirely uninformed by social needs and the social composition of communities. This happened in the case of the undemocratic imposition of the plans which were not in accordance with the late 1990s road upgrading proposals at the time. New proposals by the NRA which had been drafted without consideration, moving through special areas of conservation, through existing communities, ending nowhere, suggested, for example, that what was required was that greater volumes of traffic move, as I have said, with ever-increasing speed. This is madness and profoundly undemocratic. In the case of Dublin the problem will probably not be solved. We will not get a genuine approach towards transportation and traffic problems until we have a genuinely accountable and elected transportation authority, a regional authority, which can look at the integrated needs, not just of Dublin, but of the areas surrounding it.

It is interesting to bear in mind the undercurrent in regard to public transport. I recall the Irish Productivity Centre's human sciences committee carrying out a study at the end of the 1960s of the morale of Dublin busmen. It noted how families then worked on the bus and the rail networks. It is because of the uncertainty sowed at the heart of the State transport companies that morale has eroded. People have torn the heart out of it because it was suggested that if it was successful, the more successful parts of it could be creamed off, that privatisation was down the road and that delivering a public service was somehow less important than working in the commercial sector. Another notable feature of those families who worked on the rail and bus networks was their pension structure. Those who worked in the uniformed grades in the rail sector received minuscule pensions, of some £40 a week, after 40 years service. That is the kind of ethos created, a destructive ethos that stated something other than a public transport system would have to be provided.

The Minister of State mentioned the changes made in regard to taxis. The Oscar Faber report and several others on Dublin, as well as commissioned studies and partnership agreements, suggested that something needed to be done in regard to taxis. Different Governments allowed a secondary market to develop in regard to taxi plates. Nobody can argue that one can go overnight from a totally regulated system to a totally deregulated one, but the manner in which it was dealt with caused appalling hardship. The suggestion that somebody could sell a plate one day for £120,000, could re-enter the market within a few weeks for £5,000 and compete in a more limited market on the same conditions was absolutely immoral. The State has an obligation in regard to this matter, as the Government of New South Wales accepted. If one makes an adjustment from a regulated system to an unregulated one, one has to do so by carrying some of the cost in order to prevent hardship.

It is important that we hear the transport policies of the different parties, particularly prior to a general election. If we are to make a conversion from road congestion to increasing use of public transport, we must upgrade public transport and give it an adequate subvention, restore its morale and give it certainty into the future. There is a need to put in place accountable, responsible transport management structures in order that people can vote in those who can represent their transport needs.

I call on the Minister of State and the Cabinet to clarify immediately the issue in regard to CIE and its property portfolio. For all of these reasons, I support the motion proposed. For every extra ten minutes spent in a car there is a 10% reduction in participation by the people concerned in their communities. It is true to say that traffic chaos and transport confusion are reducing the viability of communities, not just commuters.

I will take up the debate where my colleague, Deputy Higgins, left off. CIE would traditionally argue that it has been starved of resources and that it simply never had the wherewithal to provide the kind of transport system about which Deputy Higgins spoke. RecentlyThe Irish Times analysed the manner of disposal and development of CIE's property asset at Spencer Dock. Notwithstanding the location of the land in question, CIE contracted to a joint venture with a private property developer. The first phase of the development envisages CIE's auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, being the anchor tenant having signed contract documents to lease a 200,000 square feet building. It is estimated that this first phase will produce an annual rental roll of just under €10 million, of which about €1.5 million will accrue to CIE. The only significant revenue accruing to CIE, the owner of this immensely valuable site, is its share of the rent, which, in the instance of the PwC development, for example, is about 15%.

There is a minor matter of the private developer paying CIE €160,000 to take possession of the seven acre site where Iarnród Éireann's freight operations will have to be withdrawn. The value of the seven acres comprising the first phase of the development at market prices could be almost as high as €100 million. The CIE deal dates back to October 1998 and its stated purpose is to allow investment in the railways. However, the scheme designed at Spencer Dock was rejected by An Bord Pleanála. Despite this rejection in the year 2000, CIE remains locked into the deal. The Minister responsible, Deputy O'Rourke, in the wake of this objection by An Bord Pleanála, caused an investigation to be held into CIE's obligations to the private developer under the terms of the 1998 agreement. For some strange reason, she refuses to publish the findings of the investigation.

I have been looking at excerpts from the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act, 1997, which requires that lands surplus to envisaged needs must be sold to the DDDA at market value. The proceeds would go to the State or its agency. This suggests the lands in question ought to have been offered to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and developed by it. I asked if this was done and if the DDDA was prepared to pay CIE what the private developers were offering. More pertinently, I want to go back again to the legislation. It seems clear that the land should have been offered to the development authority. Since it falls to that authority to prepare the master plan for the development of the area, it would be odd if it were not prepared to do business with CIE. It has done business with the Dublin Port and Docks Board as well as with Bord Gáis. Is it not the case that, shortly after coming to office, the Minister in question won a Cabinet decision that enabled CIE to do this deal with a private developer? We need to know if this is true and we need to know why that was done. On the face of it the deal is a rotten one for CIE. Why was it done? Was the CIE deal facilitated by a Cabinet decision? Why does the Minister consider it necessary to cause an investigation to be held after approval was refused? More interestingly, why will she not publish the findings? Deputy Stagg put down a question on this issue today, but it was disallowed on the basis that the Minister has no direct responsibility for it. It is a matter for CIE. The Ceann Comhairle, in the exercise of the duties of his office, did not allow me to raise a matter on the Adjournment regarding the same issue.

We cannot seem to find a way to get the Minister to come to the House to say it is true that this immensely valuable State asset has been contracted in a joint venture with a private developer on the basis of what seems to be a lousy pay back from the rental arrangement. A company starved of the wherewithal to develop its infrastructure had this immensely valuable site. There is a docklands development authority, whose role is set out in legislation. Was that changed at Cabinet when this Minister came to office? I am particularly intrigued as to why she will not lay before the House the results of the investigation she felt obliged to undertake after An Bord Pleanála had rejected the Spencer Dock development. Why can we not see what is in that report? My colleague Deputy Stagg tried, during Question Time today, to elicit this information. We need to know, because on the face of it, CIE, not for the first time, got a rotten deal.

Reader's Digest used to have a column entitled “Laughter is the best medicine”. I do not know if that column still exists as it is a long time since I read the magazine, but we all need a laugh now and again. The Government amendment asks us to welcome the progress being made on the Luas. In the same year, and possibly in the same month, decisions were taken in Dublin and in Montpellier in the south of France, to build a Luas light rail system. Last July a delegation from the Oireachtas Committee on Public Enterprise and Transport visited Montpellier led by the Chairman, Deputy Sean Ryan. I was lucky enough to be included. We travelled on the Luas trains, which had been operational for some time, and admired their comfort and efficiency. Shortly after that, back in Dublin, I admired a Luas carriage similar to the one I travelled on in Montpellier, but this one was stationary, parked near Government Buildings, with not a track to be seen and its contribution to the transport scene was off in the future. The Taoiseach launched this carriage, which was the focus of jokes by the rude and scoffing multitude. So much for the Government amendment welcoming the progress of Luas. If it could be done in Montpellier, why could it not be done here? Why can it not even be done here now?

It is time for another laugh. The Government amendment asks us to welcome the progress being made in the rail safety programme and the improvement in capacity on the Maynooth line. Will the Minister walk over to Connolly Station some afternoon and witness the gross overcrowding on the 5.15 p.m. and 5.40 p.m. trains to Maynooth? She will get there faster if she walks. Will she then return here and tell us about the great improvement in the service and the improvement in rail safety? It has not happened. It is a delusion. The Minister is not living in the real world. In Dublin – certainly in my constituency – traffic ranks with crime creating public anger. On walkabouts, visiting house after house and housing estate after housing estate, whether in the larger centres of Lucan or Clondalkin, or in the smaller ones such as Rathcoole and Saggart, the complaint one hears is invariably about traffic. How often have I heard people say they paid £150,000 or £170,000 for a house and cannot get out of their estate in the morning, or back into it in the evening? I hope a day of reckoning is coming.

The Government has not been prepared to make the hard decisions. It has always looked for the soft option. The only solution to the Dublin traffic problem is to keep the private car out of the city. There is no other solution and it has to be implemented by a mixture of carrot and stick policies. It all depends on the creation of a public transport system sufficiently efficient and sufficiently cheap to attract people to it. That requires commitment and money and this Government has lacked one and wasted the other. This will have to be tackled some time. I will suspend my contribution now in order to give Deputy Stagg the opportunity to move the Adjournment.

I do not intend to spend any of the very short time available to me criticising the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, for the disaster with which we are now faced. Such criticism is well documented and understood by the public. Despite the expenditure of large amounts of money, circumstances are as described by other speakers.

I am very happy that the Labour Party's strong support for the provision of public transport, which has been constant for as long as I remember – and I have a very long memory – has now been adopted across the political spectrum. I was amazed last Saturday night to watch the Tánaiste, leader of the Progressive Democrats, say we have to put in place an efficient public transport system. It is a pity she was not convinced of that six years ago, before she came into office. Perhaps she would then have done something about it over the past five years. Certainly, nothing effective was done, except to dismantle decisions that had already been made about public transport. I refer in particular to Luas, which has now been abandoned. The abandonment will cost £500 million.

Debate adjourned.