Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Trans European Transport Network Programme

I thank the Minister. Before I move to the next question, I welcome the junior class from Rosses community school in Dungloe, County Donegal, the town of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher. Fáilte romhaibh go léir go dtí Leinster House inniu. As it happens, the next question is in the name of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

Pat the Cope Gallagher


6. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the TEN-T priority projects for County Donegal; the timeline for these projects in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51966/18]

Pat the Cope Gallagher


41. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the priority TEN-T projects for County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51965/18]

Ba mhaith liom cúpla soicind a úsáid chun fáilte a chur roimh na daltaí agus na múinteoirí atá anseo ó Phobalscoil na Rosann. Tá súil agam go mbainfaidh siad tairbhe agus sult as a dturas go Baile Átha Cliath, go dtí Teach Laighean agus go dtí Brother Kevin sna Capuchins.

I wish to ask the Minister to update me on the TEN-T priority projects for Donegal and the timescales he sees for them.

I welcome the pupils from the school mentioned. They have a worthy representative speaking on behalf of Donegal today, who will no doubt give me and successive Ministers a difficult time if we do not deliver for Donegal.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 41 together.

First, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have overall responsibility for funding and policy concerning the national roads programme. However under the Roads Acts the planning, design and operation of individual roads is a matter for the relevant road authority in the case of local and regional roads, or for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the relevant local authority in the case of national roads.

The TEN-T priority improvement projects in Donegal consist of improvements and realignment of three sections of the national road network. These are the Ballybofey and Stranorlar bypass on the N13 and N15; the N56-N13-N14 Letterkenny to Manorcunningham route; and the N14 link between Manorcunningham and Lifford, Strabane and the A5.

TII has advised my Department of the current status of the projects. Technical advisers are continuing to develop the schemes through phases 1 to 4 of the project management guidelines. A number of route options have been identified and it is anticipated that the preferred routes will be presented to the public in early 2019. The preferred routes will then be brought forward for further design and appraisal during 2019. The construction timetable is estimated to be in the region of approximately 36 months with an estimated completion date at the end of 2027. However I would like to stress that any timeframe is dependant on obtaining the necessary consents at various critical stages, including at the route selection, detailed design and tender stages. Meeting the requirements of the public spending code, obtaining planning consent from An Bord Pleanála and an adequate capital budget are also critical to delivering the project.

These TEN-T projects will greatly improve journey times, improve safety and significantly improve local and regional connectivity which will help strengthen economic growth for Donegal.

I welcome the fact that progress is being made, and I realise that first of all a route must be selected. I would like to think that every opportunity would be given to those who are affected by the construction of the new road. I refer to Ballybofey and Stranorlar in particular. In my time in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport we had already decided on a route for a bypass. It has now moved to the other side of the town. My concern is that it may be so far from the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar that it may affect their economic development.

I would like to think the Minister will pass on my views to the TII and ensure that the selection will not have adverse effects on the town. The route from Letterkenny to Manorcunningham, which is the Bonagee link, is vital and it is important that those along the route have an input. After the Manorcunningham to Lifford route is constructed to link up with the A5, it will ensure that through the A5 and M2 there will be a motorway all the way to Dublin. It is important the Minister makes my views known to the TII and ensure we can progress quickly.

I assure the Deputy I will make his views known to the TII. I will make sure they are passed on. He should not underestimate the cost of the project, which is €400 million. It is split approximately as follows: section 1 from Ballybofey and Stranorlar will cost €115 million; section 2 from Letterkenny to Manorcunningham will cost €99 million; and section 3 from Manorcunningham to Lifford and Strabane, which is the A5 link, will cost €186 million. These are only estimates and the budget costs will be clear when the projects progress to business case stage.

The TEN-T projects in Donegal form part of the designated comprehensive network. The Deputy will be familiar with the TEN-T regulation targets from his time at the European Parliament. In Donegal, the TEN-T includes the N15 as far as the junction with the N13, the N13 to Letterkenny and onto the Border and the N14. In June, the European Commission published a proposal for a new regulation for the connecting Europe facility, CEF, which is the funding instrument for the European transport network, to come into effect from 1 January 2021. The comprehensive cross-Border road link between Dublin, Strabane and Letterkenny is included in the annexe to the proposal, meaning the Irish elements of the route could, in principle, apply for CEF funding when the regulation comes into effect.

While all of these are important - I hope we all live to see them - and they will be of major benefit to Donegal, if they can be expedited, they should be because they should be Brexit-proofed. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, Donegal will be more affected than any other part so it is vital we have a motorway right through to Dublin. This is not the end of developments in Donegal. I acknowledge the work being done on the N56 in Mountcharles, Inver, my area of Glenties, Dungloe and around the coast. It is important there are linkages from the north, west and east of the county into the TEN-Ts as otherwise only one part of the county might benefit. We want to ensure a proper road structure throughout. I acknowledge the work done on the N56 and we are grateful to the TII.

The most important point the Deputy made - and I do not in any way suggest the others were not important - was the fact that Donegal, as are other Border counties, is looking on the arrival of Brexit with a certain degree of trepidation. It is important to the Deputy and his colleagues that Donegal does not suffer as a result of Brexit but this is in flux. In these circumstances, the Border areas of Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan and others that have made special pleadings in the House have the right to be looked upon sympathetically and I will do so.

The Deputy has made a good case. The situation with TEN-T funding is something upon which we cannot depend but irrespective of the funding mechanism, every opportunity will be taken to access any EU funding that may be available and appropriate for the projects the Deputy has mentioned. I assure him that the matter will be kept under review and that I will convey his views to the TII.

Question No. 7 replied to with Written Answers.

Ports Development

James Browne


8. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding development plans for Rosslare Europort; if his Department is in contact with the CEO of the port regarding its future development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51954/18]

This question is to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the development plans for Rosslare Europort and whether the Department has been in contact with the CEO of the port regarding its future development.

Rosslare Europort is unique among the State-owned ports, as it is not a commercial company operating under the Harbours Acts but is instead operated as a division of Iarnród Éireann.

Iarnród Éireann recently completed a detailed report on Rosslare and a €15 million plan to transform Rosslare Europort has been approved by the board of Irish Rail. Investment in the port is a matter for the company and Iarnród Éireann is examining how it will raise the capital necessary for planned investment. I understand that the company also intends to appoint a business development and sales manager to promote the port. Last week, Iarnród Éireann and Rosslare Europort briefed my Department on the company's plan for strategic development of the port over the coming years.

The Deputy will be interested to know that there is also ongoing engagement between my Department and the port on Brexit. The efficiency of Ireland's logistics sector has been built up over many years on the basis of the advantages provided under the Single Market. Brexit has the potential to disrupt this logistics supply chain. In response, a whole-of-Government approach has been adopted on our key ports and airports through the establishment of an interdepartmental committee.

The OPW, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Health, supported by my Department and other Departments, are working together with Rosslare Europort to plan to manage and minimise any impacts that may arise at the port as a result of Brexit. Plans are being developed under both a central case scenario and a no-deal scenario to minimise any future disruption to the port as a result of the UK becoming a third country. Over the past months, there have been numerous meetings between Rosslare Europort and the individual Departments to identify the requirements for the port and to plan for their establishment. The port authorities have also met on a couple of occasions with the full interdepartmental committee.

The Deputy may recall that I visited Rosslare Europort earlier this year at the invitation of my ministerial colleague, Deputy Paul Kehoe, and was briefed by the europort's management on its commercial position. This was a particularly valuable opportunity for me as Minister to witness the central role that Rosslare Europort plays within the economy of Wexford and the wider south east, and to see at first hand its potential in terms of future development as a vital part of our country’s trading infrastructure.

I thank the Minister. As he and the Department know, I have raised the issue of Rosslare Europort on almost a weekly basis since I came into the Dáil. It is a source of frustration in Wexford and the south east that the significant potential of the port has not been developed. In the face of Brexit, and what we are witnessing in the UK where the situation is varying from farce to effective chaos, the situation of Rosslare Europort has become acute. I understand the OPW is looking at putting in additional facilities. The manager of Rosslare Europort told Wexford County Council three weeks ago it would take approximately three years to put the facilities in place. Brexit, which is increasingly looking like a hard Brexit, is happening in less than three months. This time last year, I asked the Minister to raise the ownership issue when he met the UK Minister with responsibility for transport. As I understand it, there are no political or economic reasons Rosslare Europort and Fishguard Port cannot be separated. What it requires is minor legislation in the Parliaments in Dublin and Westminster to separate the company into two different ports. Rosslare Europort could then act as a stand-alone port.

The Deputy probably put his finger on it when he mentioned Brexit as being such a sword of Damocles over so many places. However, it might also provide opportunities for Rosslare. The advent of Brexit might or might not provide opportunities. There will have to be changes in many of the ports and Rosslare will not be immune from them.

I am sure the Deputy is aware the process of agreeing the future trade relationship between the UK and EU, including Ireland, is at a sensitive stage as we speak. Clearly the outcome of the process will have implications for this country's ports, notably Rosslare Europort, in view of its position as an import-export trading route to mainland Europe for those businesses that now or in the future may wish to consider alternatives to the use of the UK land bridge, which is a pivotal issue for people in Rosslare.

Departmental meetings with Rosslare Europort and Irish Rail in the context of Brexit are ongoing. Most recently, the Department, as the Deputy will know, met the CEO of Iarnród Éireann and the general manager of the port last week and was briefed on the company's recent consultancy report and its plans for the future strategic development of the port. Ports are one of the top items on my Department's agenda when it is involved in any talks on Brexit, and Rosslare Europort and Dublin Port would be top of that list.

The Minister mentioned the sword of Damocles. The concern is that the sword will fall and nothing will have been prepared for that. If the Minister wants to bring Rosslare Europort up to speed to deal with a hard Brexit where if we lose the UK land bridge either because of issues of legal access or financial constraints regarding its use, the port needs to be expanded along with development of access roads. The authorities in Dover and Calais have publicly printed plans to deal with a hard Brexit, but Rosslare has not. The authorities in Dover and Calais are predicting ten mile tailbacks. Rosslare has no plans in place to deal with that. The manager in Rosslare Europort was reported in the local newspaper as having told Wexford County Council that the Government's policy is not to invest in ports. He seemed to be outraged that Iarnród Éireann had to spend its own money on its own port because the Government would not spend on it. Facilities in Rosslare Europort are required for customs, the Garda and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It can then make an application to the EU to be upgraded to border inspection port status and then get tier 1 status.

There is a great deal of work to be done in Rosslare Europort to make it suitable to deal with the impact of Brexit, as the required work has not been done to date. If we lose access to the UK land bridge for the transport of roll-on, roll-off freight, Rosslare Europort will be the only game in town. We can send freight through any port in the country but for the movement of perishable, pharmaceutical and agricultural goods transported by the drivers of trucks direct to the Continent, Rosslare will be the only game in town.

It is unfair of the Deputy to say that no preparations are in train. All contingencies are being prepared for in the event of Brexit. It would not be correct to spell all of them out here in public, and I do not believe the Deputy would expect me to do that. However, he can be rest assured that that includes Rosslare Europort and Dublin Port.

My Department has been engaging with Rosslare Europort not just about Brexit but also about the land bridge and how that will affect that port as well. The Irish Maritime Development Office, in conjunction with my Department, has undertaken a study into the use of the UK land bridge by the Irish road transport industry, importers and exporters. The report, which was published recently, established the volume of traffic currently using the UK as a land bridge to the rest of Europe, the potential consequences that Brexit will have on land bridge usage and the various alternative options that may be viable. As I said to the Deputy, many of those involved in Rosslare Europort are looking at opportunities as well as the difficulties that will be encountered.

Departmental Funding

Éamon Ó Cuív


9. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount sanctioned by his Department or the agencies under the remit of his Department to date in 2018 for the development of greenways and dedicated cycling facilities, respectively; the amount spent on each to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51964/18]

I always measure success by delivery. There has been a lot of talk about the development of greenways and dedicated cycle ways but I want to know the amount of money that has been sanctioned either by the Minister or any of the agencies under the remit of his Department for the development of greenways and dedicated cycle ways this year, and the amount that has been spent on the ground.

I thank the Deputy for his question. There are two separate sources for funding of cycling infrastructure within my Department. The tourism development division provides funding for greenway construction while the public transport investment division provides funding to the National Transport Authority, NTA, for the provision of cycling infrastructure, including greenways, within the greater Dublin area and the regional cities of Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.

I have secured a substantial increase in funding for all forms of cycling and walking infrastructure investment over the coming years. This includes €110 million specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas; €135 million for sustainable urban transport measures; and €750 million towards the BusConnects programme in Dublin, which will include the delivery of around 200 km of segregated cycling lanes, where possible.

I am also providing €53 million to support the development of new greenways up to 2021 in more rural areas, in line with the greenways strategy published earlier this year.

As can be seen, these are multi-annual capital expenditure programmes which will positively assist with the better development and provision of cycling and walking infrastructure across the State.

In addition to these infrastructure measures, my Department also provides funding to the NTA in relation to behavioural change programmes and to Cycling Ireland to develop the national cycle training standard Cycle Right, which was first rolled out in January 2017 and is expected to have trained approximately 20,000 primary school students this year.

In relation to cycling facilities specifically, the NTA has statutory responsibility to secure or provide cycling infrastructure in the State. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.

With regard to the funding provided from my tourism development division, in 2018, €3,650,000 was allocated for greenways. As there was no open funding call at the time, and there were no new projects commencing this year, this allocation was for ongoing projects that were funded by my Department in previous years. To date, €3,256,402 of this allocation has been spent in 2018.

As somebody who prided himself on being direct and to the point in asking about the issue at hand in the Seanad, when I was a Member anyway, the Minister must have been very embarrassed to read out that long, convoluted answer to a question I did not ask. Do I take it that the total State investment in greenways and dedicated cycle ways this year across the 30 local authorities is only €3.65 million, which is the equivalent of approximately €100,000 per local authority - it is nothing - and the expenditure is even less? Can he confirm that is all that has been spent on greenways and cycling infrastructure, despite all the talk of plans for years? When will we get something delivered in that regard?

I do not know whether the Deputy was listening to my reply-----

-----but I quoted a figure which I would have thought he and others in this House would greet with a great deal of glee and salute the fact that the Government is making a very large commitment to greenways. The Deputy said derisively that only €3.6 million was allocated this year, but what does he say about the €53 million which is available for greenways from 2019 to 2023? The current application form for that was issued in August and the application process closed on 30 November 2018. He should not dismiss that. The Deputy plucked figures out of the air which are convenient to him but €53 million is the amount that will be given, and that process is already in train. It is wrong for him to say we have not spent enough this year without acknowledging that €53 million and that there is a commitment to greenways in the Deputy's area as well as others. It would be far more laudable if he said, "Thank God the Minister is embarking on a great adventure with greenways". Greenways have been a great success.

Greenways in Mayo and Waterford have been a great success.

Regarding the greenway in Waterford, I started that particular project-----

Congratulations. Well done. More power to the Deputy.

Deputy Ó Cuív, without interruption.

-----and the one in Limerick.

More power to him on that also.

That shows how far back it goes.

The Minister threw out big figures. This Government has been throwing out big figures about housing but it has not been building houses. This Government throws out big figures for projects into the future but it does not deliver. I asked a specific question about delivery this year of either formal approvals of money for greenways or cycle paths or actual delivery on the ground.

Can the Minister confirm that the amount sanctioned this year for greenways and dedicated cycleways was €3.65 million across the State, and that the expenditure was €3.2 million? That was the question and that is the answer I want confirmed on the record of the Dáil. He must remember I represent the whole country, as we all do, including the Minister. Can he tell me that those are the facts and stick to the question that has been asked of him?

Before the Minister responds, there are three Deputies sitting here who will not get their questions in. Deputies, and not only the Minister, continue to exceed the time. The Minister has one minute. I ask him to limit it to one minute because I want to accommodate those who have been sitting here. We will not keep within the time limit if the Deputies do not co-operate.

The figure quoted of €3.65 million, which the Deputies had an answer to already, does not recognise the number of authorities which have committed to applying for greenway funding. I repeat for Deputy Ó Cuív - it would be good if he acknowledged this - that Galway County Council has gone for two, Kerry County Council for three, Donegal County Council for three and Wexford County Council for two. I congratulate the Deputy for all he did for greenways in his time in government but for some reason, he magicked all this funding out of the air. Fianna Fáil overspent when it was in government. We will not spend money we do not have.

We were producing large surpluses.

I would appeal to the three Deputies left to love their colleagues for the next 15 minutes, keep their questions as brief as possible and we will get all their questions in.

Public Service Obligation Services

Joan Collins


10. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on amending the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to provide that no direct award of public service contracts for public transport passenger services in excess of 10% will continue in view of his comments that he has no ideological position on the privatisation of public transport. [52116/18]

This question relates to privatisation and when privatisation is not privatisation. It is amazing the play on words by both the Minister and the CEO of the NTA, who have consistently stated that bus services have not been privatised and have only been tendered out, and a private company happens to have won that tender even though Bus Éireann underbid it by €3 million. Its workers face lower wages and worse terms and conditions than their colleagues in Dublin Bus.

It is a statutory function of the NTA, under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and EU Regulation 1370/2007, to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services.

As I mentioned in an earlier response, the PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers' money and has increased by 35% in the past three years. Some €285 million in funding has been allocated toward funding our PSO services in 2018.

International experience indicates that introducing competitive tension into our PSO bus market, that is, a mixture of direct award and then competitively tendered contracts, should allow us to capture potential benefits as regards value in the use of taxpayers' money in securing the provision of PSO services.

It is well-recognised that good public transport is a key enabler of both social inclusion and economic progress and opening up the bus market forms part of the Government's commitment to improving our public transport system and services.

It is important to note that neither Dublin Bus nor Bus Éireann is being privatised. Competitive tendering is not privatisation, as nothing is being sold, services are not being deregulated and control remains with the NTA.

We are placing passengers at the centre of our public transport policy and the recent arrival of Go Ahead into the bus market introduces competitive tendering, not privatisation, and encourages everybody to focus on his or her customer's needs. It also encourages innovation and improvements to service quality for bus passengers.

I remind the Deputy that all public transport services, whether they are provided by direct award contracts or through competitive tender, will continue to be regulated by the NTA in order that Leap, free travel pass, real-time information, etc., will all continue to operate on these services and fares will continue to be regulated by NTA.

The NTA has the statutory responsibility to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. Under the law, this is not an area in which I have a role and I have no plans to change the law in this regard.

It can be changed. The Minister could amend the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 to stop further competitive tendering so that when this 10% tender won by Go Ahead next goes to tender, serious consideration could be given to the competitive tendering of Bus Éireann. In this case, Bus Éireann under bid the Go Ahead company by €3 million, had the staff and had good pay and working conditions. The assaults on drivers is an aspect of conditions that the company can improve. Certainly, the Minister can intervene in a way that directs the NTA to change what it is doing.

The Minister must bear in mind that drivers start at €28,000 in Go Ahead. Their maximum, at €32,000, is €14,000 less than Dublin Bus drivers earn. Their conditions are different. They do not have proper breaks and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 must be examined in respect of the hours that these drivers work.

I thank Deputy Collins for her co-operation.

I do not have an ideological position on this.

The Minister keeps saying that.

It is quite obvious that I do not have an ideological position on this. I keep being accused by Members of having some sort of privatisation agenda. What is happening here is that there has been competitive tendering. Routes have gone out to tender and, as the Deputy will be aware, the incumbent is entitled to bid for those routes. The incumbents bid for those routes. In certain cases, the incumbent, Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann, has won those bids. In others, it has not, but that is what competitive tendering is about. It is absurd to suggest there is some sort of a privatisation agenda when Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann wins the competitive tender. We only want to do the best for the customer, the taxpayer and the staff.

I challenge the Minister on that. It is the words used. The Minister spoke of the "PSO bus market". We do not have a bus market. Our public transport service needs to be protected, developed and funded, and needs more buses on routes, which is important as the cuts that have been made since the austerity years. More buses are needed on our streets. That determines the thinking behind this and the NTA's thinking as well. We must get away from thinking of the PSO bus market.

We must make the point repeatedly that the Government has a public service obligation to provide public transport. It is crucial to climate change and in trying to get people out of their cars to have a proper, well-funded and well-run public transport system to serve the people of this city and the country.

I note Deputy Collins's co-operation with the Chair.

I do not disagree with much of what the Deputy said. Some of it is a matter of language and rhetoric.

The passengers and those who have a social need for a transport system need to be protected and preserved. I do not believe that is inconsistent in any way with competitive tendering.

Competitive tendering is responding to a need for more passengers having a hunger for more routes and it is not true to suggest that in some way the incumbents, the State bodies, are not being protected. The Deputy does not like figures but let me give her some.

The PSO subvention increased in 2016, 2017 and again this year. Over three years, PSO subvention will have increased by 36% in total. That is a projection and it is correct. In 2018, €285 million of Exchequer funds was allocated to support the delivery of these socially necessary but financially unviable services throughout the country.

Transport Policy

Thomas P. Broughan


11. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps he will take in 2019 to increase the uptake of climate friendly travel, including cycling and public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51958/18]

I heard the Minister's earlier reply on the climate change performance index. Of course, Ireland performed badly. We were 48th out of 56 countries. A third of our emissions are from transport.

The amount the Minister has provided in the national development plan for green transport or environmentally friendly transport is €8.6 million. We were supposed to have an all-of-government plan from the new Minister for the Environment, Planning and Local Government. Could the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport tell us what he is doing about this area, specifically in respect of transport?

As the Deputy is probably aware, in budget 2019 I secured funding of almost €790 million for sustainable mobility measures. This allocation will be invested in public transport infrastructure and services, cycling and walking initiatives and other measures designed to reduce our carbon footprint.

The framework for this significantly enhanced level of funding is of course the national development plan, which outlines a number of significant measures designed to support sustainable mobility. These measures include BusConnects in all major cities, MetroLink, DART expansion and increased funding for the heavy rail network generally.

In 2019 we will see expanded PSO bus fleets through the provision of around 65 additional buses to the bus fleet in Dublin alone, while we will also see around 85 older buses replaced by more modern and environmentally friendly buses as part of the bus replacement programme. This order also represents the last diesel-only order as, from 2019 onwards, the NTA will end the purchase of diesel-only buses for the urban PSO bus fleets. In support of that move, a comprehensive series of low-emission bus trials has just commenced in Dublin, with support from the green public transport fund and from multiple agencies, including the National Transport Authority, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. It is expected that the trials will conclude in April 2019. A final report will be produced which will further inform the best lower-emission option, or options, for our PSO services in the greater Dublin area and the regional cities.

Next year will also see consultations continue on the BusConnects Dublin programme with a second round of public consultation on the proposed new bus network and consultations continuing all through the first half of the year on the proposed new bus and cycle lanes. BusConnects is a significant programme, with an allocation of €2.4 billion over the lifetime of the national development plan, and will deliver improved journey times and expanded services that will benefit tens of millions of passenger journeys each year. In 2019, we will also continue to plan for the delivery of MetroLink.

The Minister has dodged the hard decisions on having environmentally friendly transport. For example, there is a major shortage of rolling stock, which the Minister knows is one of the major reasons we have had chaos, confusion and serious and dangerous overcrowding on the north-side DART and west-side commuter lines. He dodged key decisions, for example in regard to the equalisation of diesel and petrol and the provision of significant sums for green infrastructure. Aviation has been a major contributor to carbon emissions over the years, and its contribution is growing. I noticed Ryanair now asks its passengers to make a contribution to deal with their carbon footprint. Nonetheless, the Government has not examined the issue of kerosine. There has been insufficient progress on the rolling out of an electric vehicle network. On a range of areas, all the Minister has done is mark time; he has done nothing significant.

I do not expect that the Deputy expects me to agree with that. Of course I do not.

We have made some really significant and environmentally friendly decisions, some of which I have already explained to the Deputy. On electric vehicles, the Deputy is quite right that they have been very disappointing to some extent. Certainly up to this year, they were very disappointing but the Deputy will be aware that the number is now rocketing. Admittedly, this is from a low base but the number is rising very fast and we are very optimistic that electric vehicles will become a far more common and successful product. We are going to buy into them in a big way; we have to. The incentives we have produced have sent numbers rising very quickly.

On the other points, the Deputy has not given the Government due credit. BusConnects, MetroLink, the DART expansion, the work on the Royal Canal and the Dodder, and the greenway from Clontarf, near the Deputy's constituency, to the city centre all involve clean transport.

The Minister has responsibility for developing environmentally friendly transport links. Unfortunately, he has failed in this. We now face fines ranging from €65 million to €130 million for each percentage by which we will not have met our 2020 environmental targets. This is a grave fiscal failure. I have a motion of the Dáil clár today relating to the devastating report of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council on the irresponsible and thoughtless fiscal approach of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and the rest of the Government. This is also the case in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

The Deputy is correct that we have work to do. We have a lot of catching up to do. I do not make any bones about that. I spelt out in my initial response the plans we have to do what we have to do. I am very confident that major improvements and strides will be made. The Deputy is correct that we have catching up to do but he did not address the large projects to which we are already committed and that will be very progressive in the environmental sphere.

I want to sit down to facilitate Deputy Peadar Tóibín.

I thank the Minister for his flexibility.

Rail Network Expansion

Peadar Tóibín


12. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when a rail line from Dublin to Navan will be provided in view of the fact that the commuting situation is deteriorating. [52212/18]

I have raised this issue with the Minister a number of times. Meath has a population that is now approaching 250,000. It is the fastest growing population in the country. Meath is now one of the most populous counties. It has the highest number of commuters per capita. The majority of workers this morning left the county to go to work. That happens in no other county in the country. Meath is unique in that regard. Meath residents commute farther than commuters from any other county, yet Navan is the biggest town in the country without a rail line. When will the rail line to Meath be built?

I thank the Deputy for the question. I believe it was raised before. I wish the Deputy well in his new venture. I welcome the fact that he has not lost sight of the home base while doing what he has to do.

As the Deputy is aware, the Navan corridor, or M3 corridor, is currently served by a commuter rail service that commences at M3 Parkway and serves Dunboyne before continuing through to Docklands. The service also allows for interchange with Maynooth line services at Clonsilla. Importantly, the service also benefits from two park-and-ride sites, with 1,200 parking spaces available at M3 Parkway and 300 at Dunboyne. These park-and-ride sites broaden the reach of the service and allow for people who might not live in the immediate vicinity of either station to make use of the service.

In 2016, the NTA published its statutory transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, in which the issue of a rail link to Navan was considered. The strategy states that based on current population and employment forecasts, the level of travel demand between Navan, Dunshaughlin and various stations to the city centre is insufficient to justify the development of a high-capacity rail link at the current time. Instead, the strategy proposes an enhanced bus service along the corridor and the development of a bus hub in Navan. In addition, the strategy also proposes enhanced bus services on the N2 corridor.

Late last year, Bus Éireann announced new services along the M3 corridor, known as the NX service, which starts in Navan and is scheduled to operate every 20 minutes during the day. While I acknowledge that the introduction of the new service has not been without problems, I believe the provision of an all-day service every 20 minutes operated by double decker coaches does represent a step forward in terms of public transport capacity on the route.

Meath County Council, in collaboration with the NTA, is currently progressing the development of a bus hub as provided for by the transport strategy. Importantly, the transport strategy clearly states that the issue of a rail link to Navan should be kept under review, taking into account the scale of new and planned development along the route. The strategy also clearly states that the corridor previously identified for a Navan rail link should be protected from development.

The transport system, especially around the commuter belt, is at breaking point. Anybody using the M3 or roads such as the M50 will know they are chock-a-block from 7 a.m. If an accident occurs on those roads, the whole system becomes snarled up. This is a massive difficulty for commuters. Over the past ten years, we have had one of the lowest levels of expenditure on infrastructure in the European Union, and that has had its effect. Many are living in commuter hell. Many businesses are pouring millions of euro down the drain owing to commuters getting stuck in traffic jams.

This is also hurting people financially. People living in the west of my county are spending approximately €2,500 per year on tolls in addition to what it costs to run a car in the first instance. The Minister stated that the demand is not there for the service. Ten years ago, however, Fine Gael had a plan to build a rail line to Meath. It took that plan off the table and stated that there was not enough money in the Exchequer to build the line. Exchequer spending is back to 2008 levels so the money is there and the demand exists. I ask the Minister to ensure that this key infrastructure is built soon.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.