“That Dáil Éireann:
— public bus and rail services provide an essential environmentally friendly service and their use should be promoted; and
— Dublin Bus provides a vital and necessary public service for all citizens in Dublin and its greater area and should receive investment to ensure that its services are maintained, improved and enhanced to meet the needs of a vibrant capital city;
condemns the unnecessary anxiety and anger experienced by the public in the last eight weeks since the BusConnects consultations have commenced; and
— the current proposals put forward by the National Transport Authority via BusConnects for culling bus routes across Dublin and its greater area be immediately reversed and re-configured so that all communities in Dublin and surrounding counties can retain access to their schools, colleges, work places, hospitals and other essential amenities, by Dublin Bus; and
— the reconfigured plan, when completed, should be put to consultation so that communities can be fully consulted on any route changes.”
I will share time with Deputies Jack Chambers, Curran, Haughey and O'Brien. Each of us will take four minutes.
I welcome the opportunity to bring forward this Private Members' motion. I will allow my colleagues who represent particular constituencies to outline their main concerns about some of the proposals in the BusConnects plan. I acknowledge that the NTA will have carried out 32 public consultations by the end of the consultation period. I encourage people to engage in these public consultations to have their views known, not just on the negative elements of the proposal but also on its positive aspects.
People have asked me time and again what the NTA does. The NTA is the body responsible for public transport. It is responsible to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, and he and the Government are responsible to the Dáil. The reason we have moved this motion is to ensure the Minister is aware of the anxiety, worry and concern caused by BusConnects.
There are some positive elements of BusConnects, such as the segregated cycle lanes, which I welcome. Earlier today, the Minister referred to BusConnects and segregated cycle lanes, but in reply to a question he was unable to say exactly how much will be spent on this measure. Perhaps the Minister will do so this evening. The new orbital routes will alleviate the need for everybody to come into the city centre. This will reduce congestion and is welcome. The new fare structure is also welcome. I would, however, question why the Minister enabled the NTA to allow Bus Éireann to withdraw the refund facility before this new fare structure and cashless option was introduced. Greater capacity and new energy efficient buses are all very welcome. I put it to the Minister that the drafts of the plan that were put on display at the end of July have caused great anxiety. Public meetings organised by my colleagues, Deputies Jack Chambers, Lahart and O'Brien, Councillor Cormac Devlin and Senator Catherine Ardagh, were attended by between 100 and 600 people.
The NTA is responsible to the Minister. I want him to give a commitment on the floor of the Dáil that the consultation process is not simply a box-ticking exercise, that the views of Dublin Bus service users will be taken on board and that, whenever a redesigned network is agreed to in draft format, it will be put back out for consultation in order that the 150 million passengers who use the service annually will have an opportunity to give their verdict on it.
Was Jarrett Walker and Associates the only consultancy firm considered for the draft plan? If not, who else was considered and why was Jarrett Walker and Associates chosen? Will the Minister acknowledge that the timing of the public consultation process was wrong from the get-go?