Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 18 Oct 2007

Vol. 639 No. 6

Other Questions.

Question No. 6 withdrawn.

Port Development.

Eamon Gilmore


7 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport when he will bring the harbours Bill before Dáil Éireann in order to facilitate the plans of the Drogheda Port Company; if there will be separate legislation needed to establish Bremore Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24278/07]

Mary Upton


54 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport the stage the Government’s comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port which was to take account of locational considerations, in the context of overall ports policy on the island of Ireland, wider transport policy, urban development policy, the national spatial strategy and national economic policy are at; if he will bring forward a Green Paper on Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24258/07]

Róisín Shortall


86 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the recent decision to approve the development of a new €210 million port at Bremore, County Dublin; the expected capacity of the new Bremore development; the further feasibility, commercial and regulatory work that will be carried out on the Bremore project; the expected timeframe for the commencement and completion of Bremore; when he expects to receive Dublin City Council’s land review of Dublin Port; if he will be issuing a Green Paper on the future of Dublin Port; the effect the Bremore Port plan will have on Dublin Port’s capacity and its €40 million expansion plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24247/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 54 and 86 together.

It is my intention to give approval for Drogheda Port Company to enter into a joint venture agreement to develop a new port facility at Bremore in Fingal County, subject to enactment of necessary legislation. I am advised that an amendment to the Harbours Act 1996 is necessary to enable the port limits of the Drogheda Port Company to be extended to include Bremore and to enable me to convey approval of the joint venture agreement.

The joint venture proposal is in line with established ports policy. Subject to the necessary further feasibility, commercial and regulatory work, it also presents a unique opportunity to provide significant additional port capacity in a prime location on the east coast. It is intended to develop the new facility in a number of phases. The capacity of the first phase will be determined by the joint venture partners in the light of the further work referred to above, which has yet to be carried out.

Amendment of the Harbours Act 1996 will be necessary to enable the joint venture to be formalised, but the feasibility work I referred to can be put in hand in the meantime. More generally, the existing legislation is more than ten years old and requires updating. My Department has made substantial progress in preparing the heads of a new harbours Bill to further support implementation of ports policy and to update existing legislation. I propose to seek early Government approval for the drafting of the Bill and I intend to pursue its enactment as quickly as possible.

The joint venture will help to promote competition while relieving congestion at Dublin Port. This proposal is being advanced as a standalone project and is not dependent on, or linked to, any relocation of capacity from Dublin Port.

Earlier this month, Dublin City Council launched an eight week public consultation period on the report of its Dublin Bay study. That study's report looks at a wide range of economic, amenity, recreational and environmental issues linked to Dublin Bay, including the port area. The national development plan, NDP, indicates that the Government will undertake a comprehensive study of the role of Dublin Port, taking account of locational considerations, in the context of overall ports policy on the island of Ireland, wider transport policy, urban development policy, the national spatial strategy and national economic policy.

Dublin City Council has indicated that its Dublin Bay study is aimed at launching a public debate. The council will submit the findings of its report and any public submissions it receives thereon to me for consideration as part of the NDP study, which I intend to initiate shortly. I have no plans to issue a Green Paper on the future of Dublin Port.

I welcome the Minister's initiative in this area because it has major implications and possibilities for Dublin North where it will be located. Will the Minister use the opportunity afforded by the harbours Bill to ensure that provision is made to avoid the situation that has arisen in Skerries Harbour where dredgers have been abandoned and left for several months at a time? There will also be a significant opportunity to exploit the tourism potential of the area. The introduction of car ferries might also be considered, as well as the possibility of creating a marina at Balbriggan Harbour.

The Minister said that this is a standalone project but I know he agrees with my suggestion that this development not take place in isolation but that there will be proper connectivity, including an outer orbital road which will draw traffic away from the port, to Navan, Trim and Naas to connect with other roadways. The people of Balbriggan have recently suffered enough excessive development, without the contingent infrastructure. I hope that the Minister for Transport will use his good offices and influence with his fellow Ministers to ensure that we get the educational, law and order and other facilities that the people of Dublin North, particularly Balbriggan, so badly need.

I welcome the announcement about the development of the new port at Bremore and I met the Minister a few years ago about this matter. I hope, however, that he has uppermost in his mind the traffic impact on the town of Balbriggan of a vast new port which is destined to become a significant small city. I support the last speaker's comments on this subject.

Will the Minister say categorically that he has no plans to move Dublin Port? He has decided that there will be no Green Paper but he is waiting for a report from Dublin City Council. Dublin Port, however, is the country's major port, through which 80% of its ro-ro traffic passes. It is vital to our trade that it continues to be healthy. Does the Minister agree with the chief executive, Enda Connellan, that the Irish Continental Group's 33 acre site in Dublin dock has no development value?

I thank Deputy Reilly for bringing me on a tour of his constituency and the various issues arising there. All the matters raised in respect of the ports, the abandonment of dredgers and so on, can be taken into account. Legislation exists to deal with these matters but is probably not effective. During the election campaign I was shown what is happening there. The harbours Bill will provide an opportunity for us to see if that can be improved.

Before a major port such as Bremore can be developed it must go through a full planning process which must take into account its effect on traffic and the neighbourhood generally. Unless there is sufficient road and rail infrastructure to the port there will be little point in providing it. I am interested in advancing the outer orbital route. It would be important from the economic and environmental points of view.

Dublin Port Company is a semi-State company that operates like other companies we have discussed and no doubt will discuss later, and makes its own decisions. I will not direct it on the commercial decisions it must make. The study aims to take into account the port and its place in Dublin. The Deputy is right to say that it is crucial to our economic growth and development. A significant amount of our trade goes through Dublin Port. It does, however, need further capacity but I do not intend to decide on its location.

In other words, the Minister is not ruling anything in or out.

No. That is entirely up to the company.

That is a cop out.

Road Network.

Liz McManus


8 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport the stage plans the development of the Leinster orbital route have reached; his plans to fund such a project in the lifetime of this Government; if he has plans to extend this road to Arklow or Gorey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24250/07]

Billy Timmins


45 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the situation with regard to the proposed outer orbital route for the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23882/07]

Alan Shatter


71 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for the Leinster outer orbital route, which will connect the towns of Drogheda, Navan, Naas and Newbridge; his views on whether such a proposal is economically viable, technically feasible and strategically beneficial; if the proposed orbital route is Government policy; the expected cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24339/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 45 and 71 together. As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in respect of the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, under the Roads Act 1993, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities.

Both Transport 21 and the national development plan committed the NRA to carrying out a feasibility study on the orbital route. Earlier this year, the NRA completed an updated feasibility study which built on a 2001 study which considered, in particular, the costs and benefits of such a route. The updated NRA study finds that there is merit in constructing an orbital route linking Drogheda, Navan and Naas. As part of the study, various possible route corridors were examined in detail. A corridor linking Drogheda to Navan to Naas was identified as the optimum route having regard to the policy objectives set out in the various policy documents on the route. There are no plans to extend the route through the Wicklow Mountains to Arklow or Gorey.

Neither Transport 21 nor the national development plan provide any funding for the scheme to be brought through planning and preliminary design or to construction in the period to 2015. The study is under detailed consideration within my Department.

Does the Minister not appreciate that there is considerable concern in Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow at the Government proposal for an outer orbital route that does not complete the orbit but ends at Naas?

The south east has already experienced certain difficulties in economic development and employment. Does the Minister agree that this area would lose out badly if it is not included in this major infrastructural development? Will he reconsider the exclusion of the last leg of the orbital? Will the Government accept in principle that there is an issue for the south east and that it is important that a connection be made to the N11? Will the Minister talk to people in the NRA about the very dangerous section of the N11 between The Tap pub and The Beehive pub? This section will take more lives unless action is taken to upgrade it.

The Government is not proposing this outer orbital yet. It is for consideration in the programme for Government. The report commissioned by the NRA is still under consideration. Any proposal that comes forward will be from the NRA, and it would then have to be accepted by the Government.

I think the Deputy recognises the reason the route is as such is largely due to the technical difficulties in trying to get through the barrier of the Wicklow mountains. I do not accept that if the outer orbital is provided and the remaining leg is left out, this will cause a major disadvantage to the south east in terms of roads. There will be two major routes to the south east along the east coast and to Waterford. The south east will be well served by a good road network. The other part of the equation, but slightly further back in planning, is the study on what was always called the eastern bypass. The bypass would continue from the port tunnel and would be another major advantage to County Wicklow. Both of these will be looked at together. Wicklow will not lose out as a result of decisions that were taken.

I acknowledge what the Deputy said about the N11. We have had much correspondence from almost every Deputy and councillor from Wicklow on this issue. I have taken it on board and I have raised the issue with the NRA. It is dangerous and about €27 million has been spent on it, but it would be desirable if we could move it forward very quickly.

I appreciate that, but I urge the Minister to keep dealing with that issue which is so fundamentally important. I ask him not to exclude the last leg of the outer orbital on the basis that the Wicklow mountains are in the way. It has been proposed that the road could skirt the southern end of the mountains, but if that does not happen, the south east of Ireland will be at a great disadvantage. There will be no linkage between the N11 and the new Waterford road, which is where the problem lies.

Is it not a fact that the Taoiseach promised, during the general election campaign in Laytown, County Meath, that this road would be built? The Minister states today that it is not being proposed. Is it not true that the Green Party is opposed to this? Deputy Cuffe, as chairperson of the Green Party transport committee, is opposed to this route and there is disagreement in Cabinet about this. Let us have the facts. It was not included in the national development plan and it is not in Transport 21. The Taoiseach stated that it would be built, but the Minister has stated otherwise and the Green Party is opposed to it. The Minister also stated that he would build Bremore Port and we need that very badly. Infrastructure around Dublin will collapse if we do not have this outer orbital route.

Bremore Port cannot go ahead and the people of Balbriggan will be further disadvantaged unless this road is built. It is absolutely key.

I was picking Deputy McManus up on a statement she made that the Government was proposing the particular route. I corrected her and stated that the NRA was proposing the route. The document shows that the cost benefit analysis is very positive.

The Government consists of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats and there is a commitment in the programme for Government to bring this to design stage during its lifetime.

There is a Green Party veto on this.

Up to that time, it was not in any programme. It was not included in the NDP or in Transport 21. The intention is——

The Minister could have done that.

It was put into the programme for Government to try to advance it to design stage. It will take five to six years to get it to the stage where it can be put out to tender. That is the intent during the lifetime of this Government.