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.