Impact of Core Bus Corridor Proposals: Discussion

I welcome witnesses who are here to discuss the impact of the core bus corridor proposals. That is the main purpose of the first part of our meeting. In particular, I welcome Ms Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority, NTA, and Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO of the NTA. They are both very welcome.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses, or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite Ms Graham to make her opening statement. It is up to her but if she is happy to do so I ask her to comment on the situation in regard to Na Fianna. As agreed, members may also ask questions about the other issue that has been raised, namely, MetroLink.

Ms Anne Graham

If it is okay I might ask my colleague to deal with MetroLink.

I thank Ms Graham.

Ms Anne Graham

I thank members for the invitation to attend. I am joined by my colleague, Hugh Creegan, deputy CEO of the NTA. I understand that the committee wishes to focus on the core bus corridor project, which is part of the BusConnects Dublin programme. We will address some MetroLink issues after that.

In terms of background, the overall framework for transport provision to meet the needs of the region over the next two decades is set out in the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy 2016-2035, which was approved by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in 2016. The strategy outlines the various networks to be developed, namely, heavy rail, light rail, bus, road, cycling and pedestrian networks, together with supporting measures including park and ride provision, information provision, integration and demand management measures. The core bus corridor project is outlined in that strategy. A welcome uplift in public transport funding has been provided in the recently published National Development Plan 2018-2027, which has allocated €8.6 billion towards sustainable transport measures.

The three largest projects are MetroLink, the DART expansion programme and BusConnects, all of which will serve the Dublin region. However, resolving the transport deficiencies caused by the unavailability of investment over several years will take time, as major infrastructure projects take a number of years to deliver.

BusConnects Dublin, which was launched last year, aims to overhaul the current bus system in the Dublin region by building a network of new bus corridors on the busiest bus routes to make bus journeys faster, predictable and reliable; completely redesigning the network of bus routes to provide a more efficient network, connecting more places and carrying more passengers; developing a state-of-the-art ticketing system using credit and debit cards or mobile phones to link with payment accounts and making payment much more convenient; implementing a cashless payment system to accelerate passenger boarding times; revamping the fare system to provide a simpler fare structure, allowing seamless movement between different transport services without financial penalty; implementing a new bus livery, providing a modern look and feel to the new bus system; providing a number of supporting park and ride facilities; rolling out new bus stops with better signage and information and increasing the provision of additional bus shelters; and transitioning to a new bus fleet using low-emission vehicle technologies. BusConnects Dublin is a programme of integrated actions that, together, will deliver a bus system that will enable more people to travel by bus than ever before and allow bus commuting to become a viable and attractive choice for employees, students, shoppers and visitors.

From the perspective of public transport, specifically bus travel, congestion is a major problem. On the busiest bus routes, bus lanes are only in place for less than one third of the corridor. This means that, for most of the journey, buses are competing for space with general traffic and so are also affected by the increasing levels of congestion. As a result, whereas bus journeys should be fast, reliable and predictable, the increasing impact of congestion is undermining that objective. Additional buses are being added to the system simply to compensate for delays in journey times.

The bus system in Dublin is important because it is the main component of the solution to address our current congestion problem and to meet our future transport needs. As Dublin is a low-density city, there are few areas with the size and concentration of population for rail-based public transport. This means that, for most corridors, bus travel represents the optimum form of public transport.

Dublin Bus carried 137 million passengers in 2017. When combined with Bus Éireann commuter services in the Dublin region, 143 million passengers were carried on State-operated bus services in the Dublin area, compared with 38 million on Luas and 33 million on the DART and rail commuter services. The bus system accounts for over 67% of public transport passenger journeys in the greater Dublin area. That means that, while the bus carries two thirds of all public transport passengers, the Luas carries 18% and DART and commuter rail services deliver the remaining 15%. Due to its regional coverage and its flexibility, the bus system is, and will continue to be, the main form of public transport for most people across the Dublin region. It is vital that we invest now in ensuring that it can properly perform this role into the future.

Overall, the core bus corridor project envisages the provision of approximately 230 km of bus lanes on 16 of the busiest bus corridors in Dublin, which we refer to as the radial core bus corridors. These are shown in the appendix to my statement. In addition to these, there is a plan for enhancement of the orbital bus corridors as part of BusConnects. These proposals will form a separate plan, which will be advanced at a future date.

Our objective is to provide a continuous bus lane in each direction while maintaining two general traffic lanes. In addition, we want to provide a dedicated cycle track on each side of the road, providing safe cycling facilities segregated from other vehicular traffic. The standard layout also includes footpaths for pedestrians and supporting elements such as pedestrian crossings at all key road crossing points and bus shelters for waiting passengers. However, this standard layout is difficult to achieve in practice and there are a number of challenges that we face in trying to implement it. Difficult decisions will have to be made and some locations will require more changes than others. I will set out some of the likely impacts that will arise from the core bus corridor project.

By creating more priority for buses and cycling, there will be changes to how traffic currently moves around the streets. Some roads may become one-way, new bus-only sections will be introduced and, in some places, general traffic will have to take new routes in and out of the city. Since there is so little unused space along these busy roads, it will often not be possible to accommodate the bus lanes and cycle lanes in the width available. In order to achieve the required space, it will be necessary in places to acquire parts of front gardens and land in front of commercial properties. This would require rebuilding garden walls a short distance back from the existing road boundary.

Given that the roads we are widening travel through residential and business areas, there will be a need to reduce the amount of on-street parking to accommodate the new layout. As with the need to remove some parts of front gardens and footpaths, there will be also be a need to remove trees along some of the corridors. The public consultation stage later this year will have details and locations of the trees and lands impacted once the initial designs are developed.

Every feasible option will be examined to minimise the disruption to people, their properties and the wider local community. Where there is simply no viable alternative and we have to remove trees, portions of gardens or parking, we will ensure appropriate mitigation measures are put in place, wherever practicable.

Turning to the benefits of the core bus corridor project, specifically improving cycling infrastructure, the major bus corridors across Dublin city are also the main cycling arteries. The widening of these roads for bus lanes provides the opportunity to transform the cycling infrastructure at the same time. On each of the 16 radial core bus corridors, our objective is to provide high-quality cycling facilities segregated from the bus lanes and general traffic lanes as far as is feasible. We calculate that more than 200 km of cycle tracks or lanes will either be built or current lanes will be improved upon. A better cycling network is good for all transport users. It avoids cyclists sharing bus lanes with buses and will remove many of the conflicts between buses and cyclists. This initiative is the foundation of the overall cycle network that has been planned for the greater Dublin area.

The core bus corridor project will deliver on improving journey times and creating certainty and confidence in the bus system. Improving current journey times on the key bus corridors will make bus travel more attractive, improve the efficiency of the services and give people the reliability of knowing exactly how long their journeys will take. This may sound overly simplistic, but the concept of saving time and giving people back time from their commutes to the rest of their lives is a quality of life issue. However, in the absence of BusConnects, journey times will continue to get worse and commuters will spend more time travelling to and from work each day.

Tackling the challenges of climate change is a national priority and BusConnects will contribute significantly to that objective. Moving people from cars onto sustainable transport is a key component in reducing CO2 emissions in addition to addressing congestion and its adverse environmental impacts. In addition to these beneficial impacts, we want to transition to a fleet of low-emission vehicles, further enhancing the environmental contribution of the bus system.

A well-functioning public transport system is a basic requirement for any metropolitan area that aspires to providing plenty of good employment opportunities for its people into the future. With bus, rail and trams, Dublin boasts great services, but if we are to maintain our capacity as a city, region and capital and to continue attracting the best jobs and employers, we will have to do more, and urgently. By improving the overall public transport offering, these proposals will make commutes shorter and more reliable, and will therefore make Dublin a more attractive location for employers. It will also make it easier for people to get out and enjoy the city and all it has to offer, which is good news for businesses in the city centre and beyond.

The BusConnects report that we have published on the proposed bus corridors is intended to update people on the current status of the project and what is emerging in terms of the choices that need to be made to deliver a radically transformed bus system. It allows discussion to take place on those choices and what we want to achieve with the overall bus system in Dublin.

As to the individual corridors, work is continuing on assessing options and developing proposals, which will be published for public consultation in September or October of this year. Accordingly, more detailed information on the individual corridors will not be available until that later consultation stage. When those details are developed, we will be contacting the relevant property holders - in advance of that public consultation - to provide them with the proposed details pertaining to their properties. The busconnects.ie website will provide regular updates as the project develops. It also provides the relevant contact details for anyone who wants to contact the authority with his or her views on our proposals.

Mr. Creegan will now make a statement.

Before he does, I will ask a question. What is the timeline after the September-October discussions? Will there be applications for planning permission?

Can some be fast-tracked if there is no opposition? How can the work be accelerated?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Two items on MetroLink got some coverage today. One was about the possible change to a single bore tunnel layout as opposed to a twin tube tunnel and the other relates to Na Fianna grounds on Mobhi Road.

We identified in the MetroLink public consultation document that one of the options still being assessed by us is the use of one large or single bore tunnel instead of two smaller tunnels. Since that publication work has continued on assessing that proposal and at this stage it is likely but not certain that we will propose a single bore tunnel. A final decision has not yet been made on this issue. However, if we do adopt a single bore tunnel arrangement it would then be the position that we would no longer need to operate a tunnel boring site at the Griffith Park station location which is on Mobhi Road. The construction works for a station at this site would still be required but would be of a shorter duration than would have been required to service the tunnel boring operations.

In regard to Na Fianna grounds, since the conclusion of the public consultation last month we have been assessing the submissions received and the various issues raised in them. We have met with Na Fianna and Home Farm which is adjacent to it and with adjacent schools and have discussed various issues and options with all of them. We undertook to assess and evaluate these options further and then to engage in further dialogue with those organisations when we had advanced that work. That assessment work is ongoing. No decisions on any options at this location has yet been made. We intend to hold further meetings with Na Fianna, Home Farm and adjacent schools when we have sufficient work completed to engage productively. We then expect to publish any revisions to the MetroLink proposal in August.

"Likely but not certain", what are the barriers to that decision? Are they engineering or administrative? An engineering decision has been made already, in theory.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We are still assessing its impact. We need to evaluate the impacts. Every choice has a series of consequences both for cost and in other areas and we have not completed a full assessment of it. At the moment we are veering towards a single bore tunnel solution but have not fully concluded what is an engineering assessment.

The fact that the National Transport Authority, NTA, is saying that gives hope to the communities who came in here and on whose behalf members spoke. People believe they were misled. I am not suggesting that the NTA misled anybody.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We are not misleading anyone, we are trying to be as clear as-----

I accept that, I just want to absolutely specify that.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

I appreciate that. At this stage we think it is likely but we have not concluded our assessment and it would therefore be wrong of us to say we are certain but it is likely that it will be a single bore tunnel solution.

I welcome that.

Ms Anne Graham

The Chairman asked about the timeline. If we start the consultation in October of this year we would expect that because we have to seek planning permission from An Bord Pleanála there would be a decision in 2020 and we would commence the construction in 2021 on the core bus corridor project.

That is the €2 billion project in total.

Ms Anne Graham

Yes.

I want to open this to members. This is an example of the committee system working. We had a full hearing at the request of members with the NTA and residents from Na Fianna, and the schools. There was a visit to the site and while the outcome is not certain it is likely. That is very positive and it is great to see a public body like the NTA listening to and doing the best it can to facilitate people, notwithstanding whatever criticisms there may be.

I want to open my remarks in a similar vein. This is a good example of the committee system working. The hearings we had with the various stakeholders before the committee were constructive and useful. It was beneficial for the committee to go out and see the projects that we discuss here in an abstract way and the impact they would have on a community or an area. I hope that if other projects come before us, no matter where they are in the city or the country we display that same spirit of going out to the world and meeting with the people because that was very good. I also praise the NTA for listening to the points raised and taking on board the concerns of those various stakeholders. While the media reports that the solution is being considered, much as Mr. Creegan has said today, it is good that if anybody, the Oireachtas or a semi-State body is listening to, and taking on board the concerns of the citizenry. There have been 8,000 submissions to the public consultation. That is an unprecedented number. I am genuinely delighted that those voices are being heard.

My two questions follow from the Chairman's question on that. The witnesses might come back to them at the end. What are the cost implications of single bore rather than a twin bore solution? What are the timing implications of any change? My understanding is that it would make no change unless it expedites the work and potentially makes it a bit cheaper. Do the witnesses have any informed views on that now?

I have been fulsome in my praise of the agency. It does great work and faces great challenges. It is filled with good people and will have a good legacy. The plan for 230 km of dedicated cycle lanes and 16 dedicated bus corridors has transformative potential for the city, which, as we all know because we have to come to work here in Dublin 2, at times crawls to a halt. That will be exacerbated in the coming years. Getting ahead of this and having a plan is important, trying to change people's mentalities in terms of how bus networks and transport systems work is important. The BusConnects plan is important but there are some difficulties in its presentation for the consultation. Why was such a specific number of affected households outlined in this phase 1 release? If we do not know the identities of the households how do we know an exact number of them? This is one of the issues that gives rise to great concern among the public. There are 16 routes and along them there are more than 20,000 abodes yet a very specific number of 1,300 has been identified. How was that arrived at? Would it not have been prudent to either reach out to those households and tell them they may be affected if the plans stand unaltered or to wait and release phase 1 and the upcoming phase 2 of the consultation in September-October together? If the NTA is going to alert property owners, for example, on one or both sides of the Swords Road, which is a very narrow road in Santry, that they may need to sell parts of their land would it not have been better to release both phases of the plan together or engage with those people at this phase 1 stage rather than leave them in the limbo they inhabit now? It looks as if phase 1 was released for public relations purposes and that the real meat of the consultation is coming in September or October.

I wonder should both releases not have been released together to avoid this negative external attention we now face, which in many ways is very reminiscent of what happened with Na Fianna. Similarly, as regards the consultation, I know the Chairman got an invitation relatively close-----

Mr. Creegan rang me the day before but I was unable to meet him. He offered to meet me, as Chairman, but unfortunately I could not meet him. I acknowledge that.

Nevertheless, I would have thought that committee members, given the number of media invited, would have had a place at that as well.

Would it be helpful if we agreed that the committee be invited if similar launches are being organised in the future? I do not think that is unreasonable.

That would be appropriate and members would appreciate it. Many of us attended the departmental consultation in the Mansion House in recent weeks. Many of us have interest in these matters outside of the hearings. That would be useful and beneficial to everybody, including the NTA. I would be curious to hear the thoughts of the witness on that as well.

There are other aspects of the public consultation, as it stands, that are practical, outside of the garden aspect. On a more practical question, is there a decided sequence for the roll-out of the routes? There are 16 potential routes. Will they all be constructed at the same time? Will they be done one at a time? If they are to be done one at the same time, which order will they be in? This is proposed for the September to October consultation, I imagine, but how will existing Dublin Bus services interact with this? Will there be a crossover period? I presume the routes will be amended and the amendment of the routes is within the NTA's remit. How is that process likely to be handled?

Some media were reporting the BusConnects route or map, as a Dublin Bus service expansion, as though it was a given that Dublin Bus would be operating it. I presume it would have to go to tender but perhaps the witnesses can comment on whether or not that is the case?

Much was done in Dublin city that was planned around the initial three BRT mooted routes, which were proposed in 2014 or 2015. Much development work has taken place on lands, based on the Swords to city centre stretch, in particular. Many planning permissions have been given, etc., based on the strength of the BRT running along there. The current BRT plan proposes an amendment to that. What was the rationale for that deviation, given that was a long-standing, publicly flagged route in the previous round of consultation? I would be curious to hear the witnesses thoughts on that.

We face big challenges. I realise the garden aspect is the one that has caught much of the public's imagination but anything that gives public transport in Dublin a real shake-up is to be welcomed cautiously, if we can iron out the rough edges in it. Hopefully, our two esteemed members of the NTA can give some answers to those questions.

The member would like replies to his questions now, if that is okay. We will then take questions from other members. Will the witnesses answer those questions now? We will move on to Deputies Troy, O'Keeffe, Munster, Barry and Catherine Murphy, Senator Humphreys and Deputy Lahart. That is the normal process.

Ms Anne Graham

We made a decision to separate the consultation and to start with a discussion document to show what the whole proposal was. We were concerned that we would get tied up in what were the difficulties associated with delivery of the bus corridor project rather than focusing on both sides of the project which include the benefits and what can be achieved in the overall network of bus corridors in the city region and not to focus on the difficult side, which was the gardens. That is why the decision was made. Learning a little from the MetroLink consultation, it was about giving the public some information about how this project was developing, rather than focusing on the details. It was very deliberate on our part to break it up into two phases - a discussion document initially and then detailed consultation to take place in September and October.

On the amendment of routes, this bus corridor proposal is required no matter what routes operate on it. These are the core bus corridors. One is always going to have a very frequent service level on these corridors no matter who is operating the services.

We have decided not to just provide BRT on three routes. This proposal will bring a BRT level of service to all of the 16 corridors. Much of the work that we had done on BRT fed into the core bus corridor project and we are proposing a BRT level of service in respect of frequencies on these core corridors.

When we talk about a service expansion, we are talking about the bus service for Dublin expanding. The decisions as to who will be operating these services post-2019 is still a decision for the authority to make. We will alert members that we will be consulting on a new Dublin Bus network, as in a network of bus services. This consultation will be commencing later next month.

On that point, will that be post-the new bus routes or will it happen anyway?

Ms Anne Graham

This is proceeding anyway. It is about how we can improve the bus network that is currently in operation. It is part of the BusConnects programme of works, but is a separate consultation and relates to the network. The current discussion document relates to the infrastructure that supports that network.

We will take Deputy Troy's questions now.

I welcome the witnesses. On the metro north, or metro as it is called now, when will the detailed design be published or are will we get changes to the draft design on a drip-by-drip basis? Deputy Rock was critical that we were not invited to the launch of BusConnects. Some of us, however, had access to it and were well able to talk about it on "Morning Ireland" before it was published. Without being invited, the information is being fed to some people. We are happy with the potential changes which will be made to Mobhi Road and Na Fianna. This morning on "Morning Ireland" it was implied that this new solution would be cheaper and faster but that was not confirmed here today. What I and the 8,000 people who made submissions to the consultation process would like to know is when will that consultation process be completed? When will we know the definitive route of the metro? Everybody along that route who has made submissions is entitled to have the information at the same time. That must be clear. That is not to take away from the great work that was done by the submissions and by Na Fianna which came into the committee.

We are here today to talk about BusConnects. I gave it a guarded or a cautious welcome when it was announced and I stand by that. My main concern is the time required to implement it, and that concern was not being allayed in any way today. It is important that we plan and think in the long term. The lack of investment over the past decade is having a huge impact on our public transport now.

What level of engagement and consultation has the NTA had with the respective local authorities on the route selection to date?

As I said already, according to the NTA this will be a ten-year process.

Does the NTA have plans to increase the capacity on Dublin Bus? I can share examples with the witnesses about the capacity on the current quality bus corridors. People are standing at the bus stop at 7.45 a.m. and have to watch seven or eight buses pass by before a bus stops to allow people to embark. Are there plans to increase the bus capacity in the here and now?

Will any elements of the project be front-loaded such as, for example, the park-and-ride facilities? Could these facilities be provided in a 12 or 18-month period, as this would encourage people to get out of their cars and migrate to buses? The NTA alludes to the need to reduce emissions, which is a necessity. When will we cease to purchase diesel buses? When can we expect the new energy-efficient hybrid buses? I visited Edinburgh a few weeks ago and took at least ten buses during the weekend and every bus displayed a big banner stating we were on one of the new hybrid buses. When can we expect to see that in Dublin?

I welcome the commitment to the cycling network but the track record in this area is poor. The budget for cycling infrastructure in the past two years has decreased significantly from €18 million per annum to €8 million, at a time when we have seen an increase of 46% in the number of commuters opting to cycle to work. Funding was withdrawn from Dublin City Council for the Liffey cycle route, which turned out to be a fiasco. Dublin City Council was at fault for not being able to select a route. Can we have confidence that a similar situation will not arise in BusConnects? It is hoped that An Bord Pleanála will reach its decision by 2020 and construction will commence in 2021. Are they arbitrary deadlines or must these deadlines be met? Can the NTA be a little more specific in order that it can be held to account if the project is not delivered within this timeframe? This project must be delivered and those involved must be working to a timeframe because the 136 million passengers who rely on buses require a better service.

BusConnects will have a negative effect, which will have a bearing on households and on those who regularly use the routes at present. Will the NTA outline exactly what level of consultation it will have with the people affected? Will there be town hall meetings along the routes that will be affected? Will everybody be notified of a potential risk of impact on their dwelling house? I agree with Deputy Rock that the method chosen created unnecessary anxiety among people. Without knowing the selected routes, it is hard to see how one could quantify the 1,300 houses that will be affected. Unnecessary anxiety also was whipped up by some politicians who may have tried to get electoral gain from this issue.

A change in the livery has been raised. What is the rationale for that? At present Dublin Bus is achieving a 96% satisfaction rate, which is phenomenal. The brand value of Dublin Bus is €28 million. What is the merit of doing away with that? New bus corridors have been selected but now it is proposed to hold consultations on a network. Will there be potential for a reduction of services in particular areas? A potential reduction could have an impact on parents with young children with buggies or people with restricted mobility. What will be done to ensure it will have no impact on the most vulnerable people who currently use the network?

The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform shared some nuggets in the past number of days, advocating that we should curtail the use of the free travel pass to the hours after the commuter rush hour. I would like to hear the opinion of the witnesses on that.

Will the witnesses answer the questions?

Chairman, in an effort to be helpful, if it is appropriate to call one or two more members, I am happy to wait.

Deputy Troy was anxious to get the answers earlier. I am happy to allow any speaker.

I welcome Ms Anne Graham, the chief executive of the NTA. The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area, 2016-2035 must be welcomed and hopefully it will not end up being an aspiration. I would like my city colleagues to be happy about issues arising from the route of MetroLink, such as the impact on the sports ground of Na Fianna and other disturbances. However, we on the committee also must consider the cost implications. The proposed single bore is almost the equivalent of a triple bore because to get the two bores into a single bore will require a bigger bore diameter. That would drive up costs enormously in extraction and back-fill. Has the costing been done for this proposal before we jump into taking this solution? I am not an expert on engineering but I can do the maths. Going deeper into the ground might be good for the residents on the route because it might lower noise pollution and keep it underground. My concern is about astronomical costs that will delay further projects down the line, as the money will be used on MetroLink, which is an essential requirement for the transport network in Dublin. Dublin Airport, one of the busiest airports in Europe has no connection to the city centre.

The proposed routes for BusConnects brings to mind a scene from "The Field". We never thought that green areas would become so important to urban people but it is the case. The tremendous motorways built in the north east by the second last Government have proven invaluable in terms of interconnectivity between urban areas. At that time, in fairness to Departments and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, they communicated with the landowners and the various property holders to find solutions. I hope the same process will happen. Obviously one will need to compensate property owners for taking green areas. My major concern is that on-street parking for housing terraces will go.

On page 21 of the BusConnects report, which sets out the "plans to mitigate those challenges" with regard to parking spaces, it states "we will seek to provide, where feasible, alternative parking close by". How close by is "close by"? How can private residents be compensated for the loss of parking spaces? While we welcome the overall thrust of this plan, we do not want it to be pursued at the expense of other projects. We do not want taxpayers to be inconvenienced or to have to contend with additional charges. Perhaps this money could be spent elsewhere to improve the national transport network outside Dublin.

It would be an appalling vista to restrict the times at which people on free travel can travel. It would discriminate against older or sick people who have hospital appointments to keep or family arrangements to attend. Many people on free travel who are well may be helping others, for example by babysitting, and are working in the economy. My personal opinion is that it would be an appalling vista to exclude those people from the privilege of free travel on the basis of their age or medical status. We should never make second-class citizens of those who built the economy during their working lives.

If solutions are not agreed with residents, businesses and communities, will the NTA go down the compulsory purchase order route? Will that instrument be used if the need arises?

I ask the witnesses to answer the questions that have been asked.

Can I come in at this point?

I am happy for the Deputy to do so. I have no problem with anybody coming in at any stage. I want to make sure everybody is treated fairly. If the Deputy wants to make a contribution, there is no issue.

We are all aware of the outrageous congestion and accept that something has to be done. People live with it day in, day out. Bus lanes and narrow streets can add hours to the working day. Deputy Troy has asked many of the questions I was going to ask. However, I do not think one of them has been answered. How was the NTA able to identify and calculate the specific number of properties, given that it said in its statement that "more detailed information on the individual corridors will not be available until that later consultation stage"? When the announcement was made, people were frightened to think their properties might be among those to have parts of their gardens confiscated or their parking spaces taken. I hope the NTA's failure to identify these people and liaise with them does not turn out to be problematic for it from a public relations point of view. The least they deserve is to be given some information to put their minds at rest. The proposal is fine and glossy but it is fairly scant on the detail. That is something the NTA needs to look at between now and the public consultation. It should openly give people some information well in advance of the consultation process on where and how this scheme will affect their properties, what it will actually entail and what effect it have on them.

It has been suggested that these works will commence in 2021 and will be completed over a ten-year period. As we have often seen, for example in the case of the Luas project, projects that involve traffic management always tend to exceed the planned timeframes for them. This means that the plans for managing traffic congestion for the duration of such projects are very important. The officials from the NTA should provide a little more detail in that regard. I did not see much detail in the documentation. What will be the percentage increase in Dublin Bus services for the duration of this project and indeed when the project has been completed?

I would like to hear the NTA's opinion on the proposal to ban free travel pass holders from travelling at certain times. I sincerely hope it does not endorse this outrageous and ludicrous suggestion.

There needs to be a focus on park-and-ride facilities. Regardless of where one lives, one should be able to avail of such facilities when one is travelling to work. I know it is down to local authorities. Deputy Troy asked about the NTA's liaison with the various local authorities in this regard. One of the downfalls for every large town and city is the poor planning of the provision of park-and-ride facilities, particularly in commuter towns. There is not much detail in the document about this aspect or perhaps I just did not see it. I ask the NTA officials to provide some details on what is proposed in respect of park-and-ride facilities.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

I am conscious that we did not respond to Deputy Rock's query about the cost and timing implications of the change to the single bore. We have not yet fully bottomed out these things. That is why I referred at the beginning to something that is likely rather than certain. At the moment, all the indications are that the cost of a single-bore tunnel will be broadly of the same order as a twin-bore tunnel. Maybe it will be a fraction cheaper. The costs will be broadly similar. Opting for a single-bore tunnel will not make any difference to the timing of the project programme. In both sets of circumstances, the project will be started and completed at roughly the same time.

That is great.

I find it hard to believe that a single bore would be cheaper than a double bore.

There will be two bores.

It would have a bigger circumference.

Why was it not done this way originally?

To be fair, it was outlined in the consultation document in the first place, as those of us who read it will know.

We have asked the NTA to find solutions to problems and that is what it is trying to do.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

All of these options have positive and negative aspects. If everything was very clear-cut, it would be very simple to do. There are implications of each option.

Deputy Troy had a number of queries. He asked when the process of making the MetroLink changes will be completed. As I said at the outset, we are working through all the submissions that have been received and all the issues that have been raised. We intend to bring out a single report, just as the Deputy has suggested. Our target is to do this in August. It will move us from what we announced previously as an emerging preferred option to what, having had the benefit of the public consultation process, we consider to be the preferred option.

I assume Mr. Creegan is referring to August of this year.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Yes, August of this year.

Will it happen in early August or late August?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

I was hoping to avoid answering that question.

Ms Anne Graham

We will go for late August.

Mr. Creegan has timed his holidays around it.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Questions were also asked about the level of engagement with the BusConnects project, with specific reference to the degree of consultation with local authorities to date. It is fair to say that because the BusConnects project straddles all the local authorities, we have taken the lead role in trying to pull together the principles, the approach, the routes and everything else. There has been a limited level of engagement with the local authorities so far. Now that we have reached the stage we are at, we will ramp up that engagement over the coming months. We intend to develop the BusConnects project on a collaborative basis with each of the four local authorities in Dublin over the coming period.

It has been suggested that the development of park-and-ride sites should be front-loaded as the BusConnects project is pursued. It will be difficult to make bus-based park and ride successful until the bus lanes are in place. As we said during a previous visit to this committee, we might be able to do one or two park-and-ride sites in advance but others will have to wait until the bus lanes have been provided. Nobody is going to get out of his or her car to get on a bus that has a congested journey in front of it.

We were also asked about the sequencing of the projects, with specific reference to whether any part of the overall project will be front-loaded. The 16 bus corridors cannot all be constructed concurrently. The whole city would grind to a halt if we were to try to attempt that. We have not prioritised any particular one at this stage. Our current thinking is that we may be able to divide the city into quadrants and tackle one corridor per quadrant. As we finish each corridor, we could move on to the next one. We envisage that some version of that will be attempted. A carefully thought-out sequence will have to be followed in due course if this project is to be delivered.

The changes to the bus liveries were mentioned. Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, we are required to operate all transport operators under a single brand. We are conscious that as additional operators start to operate services, all services will need to be integrated rather than fragmented. These two goals - the legislative requirement and, as more operators start to provide bus services, the need to ensure the bus system looks like an integrated system rather than a fragmented one - are driving our thinking on the bus liveries.

Mr. Creegan seemed to indicate that more than 10% of routes would be privatised if more operators entered the market.

Is the point that more people will be travelling?

Ms Anne Graham

We have not made any decision about going beyond the 10% figure with regard to the proportion of services in Dublin that are not operated by Dublin Bus. That is part of a different consultation that we will do later this year. No decision has been made about that but there is-----

There are only two operators in Dublin this year. As Mr. Creegan says, as more operators come on-stream, that would lead me to believe that there is-----

There are more buses overall. The fleet could be getting bigger.

I did not say more buses. I said more operators.

It will mean more buses.

Ms Anne Graham

We tender services outside Dublin. A service for Mullingar town is likely to be a tender service. We do not know who the operator will be for that service. That is to fit in with the overall livery structure, so that members of the public know it is a subsidised bus service provided by the State for the benefit of customers.

Does Ms Graham have an analysis of existing private bus capacity? If so, will she circulate it to the committee to allow us to measure what the private operators are doing? She indicated the authority has information on Dublin Bus. However, we do not know the level of private service provision in the city and in the area of commuter transport.

Ms Anne Graham

We have that information.

It is not provided in the submission.

Ms Anne Graham

No. We have it.

I ask her to share it with the committee.

Ms Anne Graham

That is no problem.

Deputy Barry is next. Does Deputy Munster want to speak?

We have more questions to be answered.

I apologise.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Deputy Troy asked when we would cease purchasing diesel-only buses. It is important to note that the buses being purchased have Euro 6 diesel engines and are very clean vehicles. From July 2019 onwards, we will not purchase any further diesel-only buses. After that point, we will purchase some other low-emission type vehicle.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, will continue to purchase diesel buses until July of next year.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We will purchase the current, modern standard of diesel buses until July 2019, after which we will no longer purchase diesel-only buses.

We recognise that more needs to be done on the cycling network. We do not deny that. They are difficult projects, as anyone who has been through the local authority system will be aware. It is worth reiterating that BusConnects is transformative for cycling. We will deliver that and create arterial corridors into the city centre. We will try to deliver more in the cycling area in the months and years ahead.

Ms Anne Graham

I will answer some of the other questions. We have plans to increase capacity on Dublin Bus services. As we introduce the Go-Ahead services, which will operate from September this year, drivers and buses will be freed up to extend the services operated by Dublin Bus. This will give us the facility to increase capacity on Dublin Bus services. We will have plans not only to deal with congestion issues but also to try to improve our services, including, I hope, having 24-hour services on some corridors and improving weekend services.

There was a question about whether our deadlines are arbitrary and if we could be more specific. At this stage, we can only give an indication of our timelines. When we start construction in 2021, we will make every effort to complete the project as early as possible. We hope it will not take ten years to complete and that concurrent development of a number of routes would reduce the construction period. However, we have to be very careful to ensure the operation of services is not undermined while construction works are taking place.

The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform made an announcement on free travel, which gave rise to some discussion. While we do not have any proposal to change the conditions that apply tor free travel during peak services, we continue to make the point that funding for the free travel service has not increased since 2010. The number of passengers availing of the free travel scheme continues to grow yearly. Free travel passengers are subsidised by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport through the subsidy it provides for services. They are also being subsidised by fare-paying passengers. We will seek increased funding for the free travel scheme to ensure it can continue. If we find that funding does not increase, some steps may have to be taken. At this stage, there are no proposals to make changes to free travel.

If the NTA were to propose to change the free travel system, what would be the process for doing so?

Ms Anne Graham

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has responsibility for the scheme and it applies the rules. We accept free travel pass holders on transport.

I appreciate Ms Graham's point. Any change would come through the Department, not the NTA.

Ms Anne Graham

It would be a combination of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

There would be a hot debate in the House.

For clarity, Ms Graham is not saying she would be against what would basically amount to a two-tier public transport service for those with a free travel pass. Decades of underinvestment in public transport is the main reason for the current state of the service. Is that not the case? It is shocking that Ms Graham did not rule out penalising a certain section of society, treating them as second class citizens and banning them from using rush hour services if funding for the free travel scheme is not increased.

Ms Anne Graham

No, what we want-----

Ms Graham referred to the NTA not being given an increase. She did not state that under no circumstances would the NTA consider banning pensioners or anybody else in receipt of a free travel pass from using their-----

Ms Anne Graham

The Deputy is putting words in my mouth. If she will allow me to-----

That is what the NTA is looking for.

I appreciate the point the Deputy is making but in fairness to Ms Graham, the point she was making was that the scheme has to be properly funded and funding has not increased despite increasing numbers of users. The NTA's budget for the service is not adequate. Is that her point?

Ms Anne Graham

That is the point I am making.

It is up to politicians to ensure an adequate budget is provided.

Ms Anne Graham

We are asking for the budget to be increased. We want to provide services for everyone, including free travel pass holders. We want to encourage everyone to use public transport but, as an operator or provider of services, we need to be funded for the provision of the services we provide on behalf of the State.

That is a fair point. We know what our views are on this issue. It is up to the political system to ensure adequate funding is available.

I understand Ms Graham's point. The allocation for the free travel scheme increased by €9 million in last year's budget. Has this increase been paid?

Ms Anne Graham

I cannot comment on that because it would not have been paid through our office. We only seek funding for the services that we directly tender. Any funding that goes to the other operators goes through the CIÉ group. Any arrangements with commercial operators are a matter for operators and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

I presume the consensus is that the committee should write to the Minister seeking clarity on this matter because the suggestion was floated by a senior civil servant. We have to ensure that suggestion is not implemented in the manner proposed and proper funding is provided for the free travel scheme. We will seek clarity on the point Ms Graham is making.

When a senior civil servant makes comments of this nature, the Minister will be made aware of them.

The Secretary General is not the Minister. The committee's position on the matter is absolutely clear - the answer to the Secretary General is "No". Deputy Barry is anxious to ask a direct question, receive a direct answer and then make a few comments.

Given that other members were given an opportunity to respond to the comments of the senior civil servant, I would like to make a brief point.

Absolutely.

There is no way free travel pass holders will be barred from peak time routes on my watch. That is the message I wanted and expected to hear from the NTA spokespersons.

They did not say that. There was a famous individual in the United States who was told to go to the back of the bus and we all know what happened next. Discrimination is not acceptable in our society and the idea that free travel pass holders, old or sick people, or both, would be barred from peak time routes is unacceptable. Are the witnesses prepared to say that this will not happen on their watch? I want a direct answer to the direct question. I will be very disappointed if I do not hear that from leading spokesperson for the National Transport Authority.

Ms Anne Graham

We are not proposing any discrimination between a free travel pass holder and a fare-paying passenger on the services that we provide. We are conscious, however, of the funding associated with providing free travel on public transport because it has an implication for our budgets. There is an implication when the free travel budget is not increased to cater for the provision for free travel pass holders. We are not taking any action or any decision to change the access for free travel pass holders for access to our services.

That is a fair comment.

It is clear and it is a disappointing answer. It needs to be noted. I have other points I wish to raise.

My next point is again a direct question. Is BusConnects something that the NTA envisages happening on the basis of a fleet the same size or roughly the same size as the current fleet or will it come into operation on the basis of new buses being added to the current fleet to be put into BusConnects?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

What we have in our proposals that we launched last week is the infrastructure, the bus lanes. They will operate for the fleet that the operators will have. It is our intention that they will have sufficient fleet to provide the services that are needed. We do not know how much larger the fleet will be from its current strength. The intention is that they will be able to operate their services on those bus corridors with sufficient fleet to provide the services that are needed.

If it is proposed to double the numbers travelling, implicitly the fleet must double.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

If the numbers double, we would have to double the fleet. It would depend on the year one looks at.

I appreciate that.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

The numbers will increase gradually and our intention is to ensure there is sufficient fleet in place each year to service the number of passengers that are using the service.

I asked the question because there is a concern that if there is not a rock solid commitment to increase the fleet to bolster this proposal fully, we will end up with a trade-off. The trade-off is that while there will be an increased and improved service along the route of the bus corridor, other services which currently exist will be sacrificed in full or in part to facilitate that. Bus services in the Dublin area developed over decades not so much to serve places of employment, which is an important factor in the thinking of this proposal and I do not have a problem with that, but more on the basis of community and neighbourhood. It is common for bus services to connect with a very specific community neighbourhood or large housing estate and for those services to be used a lot by people who are vulnerable, such as those who are sick or old. The idea of strolling a quarter of a mile to the local bus stop is not as easy for these people as it might sound. Is it the case that services that currently go into the heart of communities, into big housing estates, for example, will be curtailed to facilitate the new service and that there will be a trade-off? If that is the case, the NTA has a responsibility to put all the information out there so that people can make a judgment not on part of the facts but on all of the facts. The witnesses tell us there will be 16 new corridors, which is a positive, and 230 new cycle lanes, which again is very positive. If the plan is implemented as it is currently being framed, however, what is the number of housing estates that currently have bus services going into the heart of them which may no longer will have such bus services? I am asking the witnesses to comment on the general point of a trade-off. Will housing estates lose out and are we talking about being able to count on one or two hands the number of housing estates that will lose out or will it be dozens, hundreds or more?

If there is a dedicated bus corridor, presumably there will be fewer cars on that route, so those cars will go somewhere else. They will be pushed to the left, right, north, south and on to other routes. There will be a knock-on effect in terms of congestion on those routes. I do not expect that to be quantified fully at this stage, but what work is being done in that regard and when will that information be published?

There are concerns in trade union circles about the question of privatisation, which is no surprise given what has happened with Go-Ahead. The witnesses mentioned the idea of revisiting the issue of tendering later in the year. It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that some of these routes might be more attractive to private for-profit operators than the traditional bus routes that exist in Dublin. In that context, I wish to ask about worker and trade union input into the plan. I understand there have been several drafts of the plan to date, perhaps as many as four, but seemingly no consultation of real character with trade union and worker sources, the people who will be implementing a plan if it is to come in on the ground. What is the position on negotiation with the people who drive and service the fleet day to day?

I thank Deputy Barry. Deputy Murphy is next, Senator Humphreys was here earlier and I have him down to follow, then Deputy Lahart, Senator Dolan and Deputy Brophy. The members are listed in the order they came into the room.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

There are two different things at play in Deputy Barry's questions. One is the infrastructure, the bus lanes. That is the document we put out last week for discussion. The second theme will be published next month, which is our proposals for where the bus services might run in the future. The bus lanes are required, even if we never made any change to the bus services.

They are busy routes. People are delayed on them. They need those bus lanes, in any event. Next month we will come out with the proposals for the bus services and it will be the subject of extensive public consultation. It is not the case at any level that what we are trying to do in those bus services is rob from the housing estates to feed these main routes. That is not the case. Overall, a lot more services will be proposed in the redesigned set of proposals that we will publish than we currently have. Not every service will be the same, and there will be issues undoubtedly, but our intention, as we said at the start of BusConnects, is to enable more people to travel to more places. That has been at the centre of everything that we do on this. In terms of the congestion issue, it is absolutely correct that displaced traffic moves somewhere. The impact of that will be dependent on how successful we are in providing an attractive enough bus system such that more people are able to use it. We will quantify that at a later point; we do not have it done yet. We have more work to do. Towards the end of year we will have at least some of that assessment work completed.

Ms Anne Graham

In terms of consultation on the network, we propose to consult publicly on the network changes from next month. I would imagine that the bus operators that may be operating this network will also consult their workers and trade unions about it at a later stage. The first proposal is to put it out for public consultation to get feedback on that network of services.

I have listened very carefully to what Mr. Creegan has said. It leans towards the idea that this is an addition to services rather than a replacement of services. The devil will be in the detail. I look forward to seeing the published plans next month and the debate that comes from that.

The question of orbital routes was not addressed but it is implicit obviously in the whole plan. That may or may not have an impact on whether routes are changed. Orbitals may be a wiser and a better choice in some respects. I do not know if they will be or not.

Ms Anne Graham

In terms of the network of services, what we will produce next month will show additional orbital services. What we have said in our BusConnects corridor plan is that a plan for the infrastructure that will support those orbital services will come later. We focused particularly on the radial routes initially. We will look at the infrastructure that is required for the orbital movements at a later stage. In regard to the network, we will bring forward, and I would hope people would agree, an improved orbital network of services.

I too want to make a quick comment on Mr. Watt's remarks on the bus pass. We have got to be very conscious when one is talking about a bus pass that there is an array of people using public transport who are using a bus pass. Some of those are people with disabilities or people who have no other way of moving around. We have got to be very conscious of that. It seems that we have a Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport who is really the Minister for Justice and Equality and that we have a Secretary General who has suddenly become the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Some of this is really an unacceptable way of communicating and there is a degree of scaremongering that is going with it. I am very happy that we will write to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection because some of this is unnecessary. I completely accept the point that unless this is funded, it cannot be provided.

We could look at BusConnects and the difficulties and say why it cannot be done. I remember when the first of the bus corridors was brought in, there were all sorts of problems at the time. In fact, where they work they can work very well. I know some of these corridors reasonably well. One would know them better if one used the buses and one could see where the pinch points and things like that are. Take my own one bus corridor, route No. 66, which was one of the first ones that was developed. Apart from the cycle lane, the corridor does not change; it is exactly the same all the way in. How many others are more or less the same, and really do not require very significant amendment apart from the very important amendment to prevent mixing buses with bicycles? Certainly, there are an increasing number of people on bikes. Will they be segregated? Is physical segregation what the intention is? One sees that in other parts of Europe and it is a much safer environment for pedestrians to have a physical delineation between the two, and maybe even a difference in the surface. That would be important in encouraging people to cycle more. There was a proposal recently about a legal distance. I had a concern about that because I wondered whether it would be implementable and enforceable. I think the principle of it is a very good one. The segregation is one question.

In terms of the current capacity, have scenarios been looked at around the national planning framework, the number of passengers now, where growth will happen and what the capacity is likely to be? Have those projections been done?

Again, using the example of the one along the N4, which is unlike the one to Bray - I do not doubt an improvement is needed along that corridor because we could see with the recent rail disruption that the bus corridor was also problematic - why would one confine it totally to the city or to Dublin, when in fact Dublin Bus has routes that go beyond? For example, my own area is served by the Nos. 66s and 67s and there is already a population of approximately 50,000 in those three or four towns in north Kildare. Leixlip, Celbridge and Maynooth are served pretty well by Dublin Bus, but the bus corridor only starts in Lucan. Why would we exclude that location but still call it the commuter belt? It seems strange to do that because we want to discourage people from using cars and encourage them to use the buses. I would have thought that looking at that area also would have been important. I have no doubt the same is the case in a couple of other locations. It is certainly very obvious in north Kildare.

In regard to the orbital routes, I had expected, if it is BusConnects, to have seen the radial routes with the orbital routes published at the same time in order to get a visual on how that might work. Obviously, there is timetabling and the points of connection between the buses, and I refer to the comfort of the areas people will require when getting off a bus and the provision of a decent shelter, which can be an issue in its own right. All of that requires consideration. In terms of people seeing it as an attractive option, if they get off one bus that is on a radial route and there is an orbital route they can connect with, they should not be waiting 15 minutes for the bus. That those connections should be made easy. Will there be a presentation on the kind of timetabling or will that happen some time in future? Will routes be looked at first and then timetabling after that? Will any indication be given of what people might expect? If people see something that is well thought out and well designed, and they buy into it from the word go, it is a better way of appealing to people.

The bus is the workhorse of the public transport system. In that context, I do not understand why so little attention was paid to the disruption that might have been created, and was created, when the cross-city Luas service was developed. The signalling system works for the Luas but buses do not get the same priority. Has consideration been given to prioritising buses too? The new proposal means there will be more buses and a greater number of people using them. Unfortunately, bus transport is the poor relation in terms of priority.

Delivery has been mentioned by the witnesses and Deputy Lahart made some interesting points about delivery at the last meeting. Is the delegation talking about the private operators who make up 10% of users being allowed to use the same routes as Dublin Bus? Will it be a seamless operation; 10% of 1,000 buses is 100 buses but 10% of 2,000 buses is 200 buses. Will the 10% figure remain static? I accept the point made by the NTA that is has not made a decision or it will not make a decision to expand the scheme.

What are the downsides, if any, of a single bore metro option? I suspect that if there is a breakdown or fire that capacity will be lost in both directions. Are there other downsides that we must understand? I am sure there is a good reason that the NTA gave consideration to the two bore approach. I would like to understand that situation so I would like to hear about the constraints and possible difficulties.

I have inquired about locating cycle lanes on bus corridors. Will it be possible to segregate all of the new cycle lanes? Is that where the money will be spent, in addition to the land?

Over the next number of years the NTA will undertake a lot of work, including MetroLink and the expansion of the DART and bus transport systems. Does the NTA have enough staff to do such work?

There is a huge volume of work ahead for the NTA, which mean it will encounter An Bord Pleanála. How can we ensure that An Bord Pleanála will deal adequately, quickly, fairly and professionally with the volume of planning applications?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

I will address some of Deputy Murphy's queries. She identified the Lucan-city centre corridor, which is the easiest project. For the reasons that she outlined, we expect to improve the project. The route does not have segregated cycling along it and we will take the cyclists out of the bus lanes where we can do so. There are issues at some of the junctions where the bus priority is well back from the junction but buses get delayed by left turning or right turning traffic, as the case may be. The M50 junction is another place where we want to see if we can improve bus movement. There are a number of places where we can improve movement but the corridor already has a reasonably high level of bus priority at the moment. The Deputy could have picked another route and it would be a different story.

We intend to have segregated cycling everywhere possible. We cannot commit to getting it in everywhere because such a plan would prove too ambitious. It would mean we would have to knock down properties in one or two places and, therefore, we have not given such a commitment. We will end up with segregated cycling facilities on the vast bulk of the route, which is good for both cyclists and the bus system. It means that bus drivers do not have to interact with cyclists and vice versa.

We have not applied growth projections to this project but we will in due course. We have a transport model that has been kept up to date and all of the national development plan projections have been built in. All of our transport planning tries to take account of the future growth levels that are expected to occur.

How often is the plan updated? Is it updated when land is zoned, when planning has been granted or when developments have been completed?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Updates are largely based on zoning. Let us say a zoned area has a density of 50 houses per hectare. We will have got that information from the local authority and built it into our model, including the projections. If the situation changes then we revise and update our plan. We also conduct sensitivity scenarios and ask ourselves what if the density is higher or lower. Our plan predominantly stems from the zoned areas that local authorities create in their development plans.

The Deputy asked why we did not go further with bus corridors. One will see in the proposed redesign of the bus service, that will be announced next month, that the services start to divide when one travels further out of the city and, therefore, bus frequency starts to drop. We would love to do more but we need to start somewhere. We started with what we view as key routes. There is no problem bolting on something afterwards, if it makes sense.

I think the Deputy referred to the ease of movement between orbital and radial routes, and asked what could be done to address the matter. Such routes will be part of the services plan that will be announced in a few weeks time. The plan will include a lot more orbital routes. The Deputy was right when she said that there must be a seamless transfer from one route to another thus making the routes attractive. If that movement is not simple and easy then it will not be an attractive transfer. The network redesign will provide the timetable information that the Deputy asked about. The information will not say that a bus will come along at 4.02 p.m. or whatever but it will say that we expect to put a service on this route and a bus will come along ever ten minutes in the midday and every five minutes in the peak hours. That information will be provided and people will be able to make a judgment.

The Deputy asked whether there are downsides to the single bore tunnel versus a twin bore tunnel. There are a number of downsides and upsides for both options. Like most things in life, there is no perfect answer. There is one school of thought that says two tunnel tubes is a better idea in the event of an emergency because they allow passengers to move from one tunnel tube to the other tunnel tube through cross passages. However, that requires narrow walkways to be included alongside the edges of the tunnel, which creates issues such as how do wheelchairs use the narrow walkways. The other school of thought is that one tunnel tube is better because one has all of the space of the second track available to offload passengers and thus allow them to move much more easily up and down the track. Most international experience is beginning to move towards the single bore tunnel. Certainly, the design team that is involved with us now has a lot of experience in building a single bore tunnel, addressing all of the safety issues and ending up with a really safe project. There are pluses and minuses.

Ms Anne Graham

I will pick up on some of the other questions posed by Deputy Murphy. She asked, given that the bus is the workhorse of public transport, why buses do not get the same level of priority in the city centre compared with the Luas cross-city service. In the lead up to the launch of the Luas cross-city service we conducted some very careful planning with both Dublin Bus and the local authorities. We tried to ensure that all of the different modes of transport could operate through the city centre. We published traffic management plans around the city centre. A lot of improvements were made, particularly on the north quays, to improve the movement of buses through the city centre. When we were in operational mode, we had hoped that the College Green proposal would be in place at that stage, which would have changed the movements of buses around the area.

When it transpired that that would not be an option, we had to make a decision to remove some of the bus services at peak times in order to keep general traffic moving through that area. The bus can respond very quickly in terms of changing priority but we consider all services in the round and try to improve priority for bus and light rail at the same time.

The livery for the Go-Ahead services has been designed and those buses will come into operation later in the autumn. We wish to provide a single livery across the Dublin services but we are still working with Dublin Bus on the livery and how it might be presented in terms of the services it operates. We want it to be under a TFI bus livery such that customers are not confused about this State-provided bus service in Dublin.

The Chairman asked about staffing. We want and need more staff in order to deliver and we are working with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to see how we can deliver these ambitious programmes of works with our current staff and, it is hoped, an improved level of staffing resource. We are very conscious that we need to engage with An Bord Pleanála, which decides on many of our infrastructure projects, to alert it to the projects coming forward not only in terms of transport but also other major infrastructure developments such that it is resourced to manage this programme of works.

The committee will write to the Minister to state that these issues have been raised with the committee and should be addressed. We do not want proposals to be held up because of a shortage of professional staff to deal with them effectively and efficiently. I call Deputy Lahart.

It has been an interesting conversation. I thank Ms Graham and Mr. Creegan for their attendance and public service. Ms Graham made the point regarding Luas cross city that when College Green did not come into play, the NTA was forced to make changes. That is not really the case because it would have known of that months in advance of the opening of Luas cross city. The chaos caused by Luas cross-city prompted the NTA to make changes and redirect 30% of Dublin Bus routes. That is a more accurate description of what happened.

Ms Anne Graham

We hoped that we would not have to make such extensive service changes. When one begins operating through a very sophisticated signalling system throughout the busy city centre, one must operate it for some time to see what impact it has on other transport services. One can predict what may happen and that was part of the management programme we put in place in terms of trying to improve the infrastructure on the quays and in other parts of the city. One predicts as much as possible but the big test is when it is operating and in service and one can tweak the signalling system to try to make improvements and, ultimately, make changes to the services in order to improve the system overall. I do not agree that there was chaos. Rather, it was part of the learning experience of moving a significant piece of infrastructure into the heart of the city centre.

That may be so, but buses were the casualties. Some routes were amended, such as the No. 15 which I use. It was redirected from College Green in advance of Luas cross city to facilitate that project. However, it was not restored to its original route and the closest stop to the Oireachtas, for example, for a person travelling on the bus from Knocklyon or Templeogue is College Green or the Bleeding Horse on Camden Street. I will come back to that because it needs to be separately addressed.

I could not be more enthusiastic in my welcome for BusConnects. I know it is a cliché but it will involve the breaking of a number of eggs, which will be painful. The NTA was correct to be upfront on compensation such that people at least know of it. The timeline is very ambitious. The city needs this project and I am a very strong advocate for it but it will hurt some people. I wish to ask some questions relating to my constituency. BusConnects is the way forward for the city and it is democratic. If one had a Luas for everybody in the audience, life would be great but the problem is that when Luas lines are constructed everybody between the lines, such as those living in my constituency which is between the green and red lines, suffers because they do not have the service and are ambitious to get it. There are associated issues such as an increase in property values. That is not a democratic way to do things. BusConnects will not cause the same increase in property prices as would rail-based public transport but it will have some effect. It is essential to have an A to B seamless, segregated and guaranteed route. I am the biggest supporter of the NTA in that regard.

Some of my questions have been answered so I will be quite quick. One of the big advantages of Dublin Bus is its reach into housing estates in various parts of Dublin, as other members stated. Will that suffer? It is an essential part of the service which must be maintained but that can only be done if the fleet is increased. Ms Graham is aware from the most recent Dublin Bus strike that there is significant loyalty to and sympathy for Dublin Bus in the city and that people are very understanding when drivers take industrial action and there is very little adverse public reaction to that. Will some areas be left without buses? Will buses be pulled out of estates? That is the lifeblood of many people, particularly older people and those in disadvantaged areas. Dublin Bus currently carries approximately 140 million passengers on the existing network. What will happen to that network? I ask Ms Graham to help us with the narrative in that regard because the proposed bus corridors are separate to it but connected. Dublin Bus has approximately 1,000 buses. If BusConnects were in place tomorrow, how many buses does Ms Graham think would be needed to maintain the existing network as it connects to the corridors and to keep it running on a pretty efficient basis? If the NTA got everything it wants and BusConnects was ready to launch tomorrow, how many buses would it require in tandem with the existing network?

This is where we will differ. Ms Graham stated that it does not matter who is operating the service. Does the NTA propose tendering the 16 bus corridors separately? Similar to the manner in which those who can afford to do so buy homes near the DART or Luas lines, some people have made home or work choices based on existing bus routes. Has that been taken into account in this project? I acknowledge that the NTA is not at the detailed design stage but it will have to sell to the public the interchanges at which several buses will arrive into a depot and a person such as Deputy O'Dowd may get off one bus and connect with another. We need images of those interchanges and their geography and an explanation of how they will work because one of the drawbacks of the existing system is that people do not know how to connect. One of the advantages of the Dublin Bus system is that it has many single journey route options that work very well.

How does the NTA work around that? We need more orbital routes. What data does the NTA have to suggest that people do not want city-bound routes, which Dublin Bus predominantly provides? I do not expect detailed answers but we will need them because the NTA will get these questions at a public consultation. In my constituency, the bulk of the Templeogue to Tallaght BusConnects corridor is in place, along the N81 to Templeogue Bridge. There will be a little work to segregate it but there is ample land, which is public land and will not be an issue. Why is the NTA not starting it from further up the N81, for example, at the Jobstown turn at the beginning of the dual carriageway? That would be a relatively inexpensive addition to it. There is a hard shoulder and there is public land available. There may be little bits and pieces to be done to segregate it and a proper cycle track. If it is being done between the M50 and Templeogue, what is the difficulty here?

If this is to be seamless, it looks like Templeogue village is a pinch point. What are the NTA's plans for property owners who may need to be contacted there? If the NTA is to fulfil its ambitions, several property owners will have to be contacted along the stretch from the Templeogue-Templeville Road junction to Terenure village. Can the witnesses comment on that? Garden acquisitions will be required on Rathfarnham Road between Rathfarnham village and the Rathfarnham crossroads at the Dodder River.

There is another group waiting to come in. These are important questions and the Deputy is entitled to a full answer but I am not sure the witnesses have the detail of particular routes with them. Before Deputy Lahart continues, Senator Humphreys missed his slot because he had to leave but he is back. I am conscious that I must finish this sooner rather later. I will take Senator Humphreys next if Senator Dolan agrees to that.

I accept that. I just want to be fair to everybody and to our witnesses who have been here for almost two hours.

I will curtail my questions.

I am not trying to curtail the Deputy.

I appreciate that. I am happy to get written answers to those questions. The witnesses do not have to respond verbally.

A major issue for Ballycullen, Knocklyon and Firhouse is that there is nothing for them in the metro plan under Project Ireland 2040.

I will take Senator Humphreys now.

I apologise for having to leave and come back.

I thought Deputy Lahart was finished; I apologise.

No, I am not finished.

I thought this could be an easy gain for the NTA. Ballycullen is one of the fastest growing areas in my constituency. There are BusConnects corridors proposed for Tallaght to Terenure and for Rathfarnham to Terenure with a huge road width available because there is a park. There is a quality bus corridor, QBC, on Firhouse Road that could very easily connect to the proposed Tallaght to Terenure corridor via the Spawell Bridge. The cost would be minimal and the guts of the infrastructure are there but it is important for connectivity.

There is a QBC on the Ballycullen Road which connects to the Firhouse Road. It is underutilised as a bus route serving an area that is starved of a bus service. I wrote to the NTA and my hand was smacked. I was told it was considering BusConnects and not to dare come near it with these proposals until it was done. I thought that was a good sign and that it would be included in BusConnects. This would connect two of the corridors. There are QBCs on Firhouse Road, which is fully segregated, and on Ballycullen Road, which is almost fully segregated. They connect at a T-junction. If they were joined, I guarantee that local people would oversubscribe the bus service on offer. The 15 does not serve them. Dublin Bus has been attempting to sweat the 15B to facilitate them. They need a dedicated service. I will write to the NTA again about this but if I was an engineer, I would say these are two very easy gains. Similarly, there is a bus corridor on Ballyboden Road. That area south of Knocklyon is developing. There are 3,000 or 4,000 housing units going up there and the residents will have nothing.

I am not a member of this committee; I am a casual interloper. We need a much more detailed conversation about Dublin Bus and its livery, its independence-----

The Deputy has asked many technical questions. I would love to know the answers to them but if we get the answers, we will be here all night.

I mean we should have a separate meeting.

I agree with the Deputy. That is why we have started here-----

It should be a separate meeting.

The NTA did not give a timeline for the public consultation process on BusConnects or say how the review of the network ties in with it.

The MetroLink on the southside has caused quite a bit of anxiety and a sense of injustice. Schools and residents did not have an opportunity to appear before the committee although those on the northside had. If an offer is made that impacts on one part of the city, all parts of the city should have an opportunity to appear before the committee. The MetroLink is like a Berlin wall running through certain areas of the southside.

According to The Irish Times, the Merrion flyover is being shelved. I am waiting for a letter from Ms Graham outlining the factual position. The residents of houses which were to lose their gardens or to have flyovers beside them are no longer in a position to sell their houses or move on because there is no clarity on what is happening to their front gardens.

Ms Graham gave an indicative figure of 1,300 front gardens and parking spaces that would be lost in the bus corridor. More than 3,000 people feel they may be impacted by it. Auctioneers have been advising people whose homes were for sale that they have to inform interested parties that the front garden may be affected. Time is critical. There is an indicative line on the map for a bus corridor on Pigeon House Road which would take away 90 car parking spaces with no alternative. The owners of three or four one-bedroom cottages on that road who want to move to family homes and to have children cannot sell until there is some clarity. This is having an impact on families. I question how this is happening and its impact on many people.

What will the impact of the single bore tunnel be on the southside if the NTA decides to go ahead with that?

Will that allow the single bore tunnel to go further south underground instead of emerging on Charlemont Street, which would have a significant impact? Given the injustice that has been done to the communities on the southside and the lack of engagement by the NTA and this committee, because they have not received equal treatment, would the NTA meet representatives of the residents' groups on the southside to have a discussion during this period? We asked for an extension, which was refused. I can understand that but one of the reasons it was refused was that there was an undertaking to this committee that it would not extend the consultation period. That was disappointing because those residents and schools did not have that opportunity. This involves schools, residents and the demolition of homes.

I am a firm supporter of public transport, cycling and pedestrians, and have been since I got involved in politics. However, this must be done correctly and inclusively. Each part of the city must be treated in the same manner, but that is not happening. On many occasions people have received their information from the "Morning Ireland" programme, which is disappointing. In fairness, the NTA wrote to the garden holders in the case of the Merrion flyover at an earlier stage before there was a public announcement. However, the manner in which it has done this up to now has caused great confusion. With regard to the bus corridor and the metro, community groups have a great feeling of injustice due to the lack of consultation and engagement. They do not believe they have been treated in an equal manner with the northside. They attribute that to the statements made by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, at an early stage in the consultation. The public representatives on the southside have been quiet on this.

I ask the NTA to try to rebuild trust and engagement by meeting the community representatives on the southside so there can be proper engagement and equity of treatment, which has not been the case up to now.

I wish to be helpful to everybody. Everybody has the right to ask questions. With regard to the NTA's answers, I do not have an issue if there are matters that can be replied to in writing - for example, if there are specific technical questions that could properly be parliamentary questions and be answered in a direct way. However, we have urgent business for the second part of the meeting and I am conscious of that. I call Senator Dolan.

I thank the representatives of the NTA for their participation today. I had an interest in this agenda before I saw the report in the Irish Independent today regarding the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I am sorry to interrupt but somebody's telephone is ringing. It appears to belong to Senator Humphreys.

I must go to the back of the class now.

With regard to the document on BusConnects and the statement, I would find it reassuring that subjects like this-----

I apologise but I must interrupt again. Somebody's telephone is still ringing. We know it is not Senator Humphreys's. It interferes with the recording equipment.

It is Government policy that public transport is to become accessible for people with disabilities. The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, commits us to that through decisions of the Oireachtas. People with disabilities and I would find it more comforting if that challenge was routinely referenced in documents and statements. Even if Mr. Watt had not made his contribution, everything being discussed here today relates to people with mobility impairments and other disabilities.

I wish to comment on the Secretary General's comments. He talked about his friend Paddy travelling on the bus for free while all the mortgage slaves paid. That is incendiary language. It is not helpful. However, Paddy does not get on the bus for free.

Everybody's telephone better be switched off. It causes difficulty for our staff, and it is not my telephone. Telephones should be put on airplane mode. They cause a problem for the people working on the broadcasting.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays for it. I note the reasonable point that there has not been an increase in the payment from the public purse. It is not a free travel pass in that sense. It is just that the punter who qualifies for it and uses it does not pay at that point. That comment is unhelpful. He said it was not a criticism of existing Government policy because he is not allowed to criticise Government policy. In effect, however, he is tilting at Government policy when he does not accept that there is a challenge to our public transport services to become fully accessible. To talk about a debate is very unhelpful.

There was much talk about older people, but many people with disabilities and mobility impairments are affected. Does somebody think that people get out of bed at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. to be in the thick of rush hour traffic for the heck of it, and do the same at 4 p.m. or 4.30 p.m.? There is a reason they are doing this. Are they going to help their sons or daughters with childcare? Are they going to medical appointments? Research must be undertaken. There has to be an ethical and respectful approach to all of the public. In fairness to the NTA and all of us, it is a big challenge to make our public transport accessible. In this committee we have heard from the mouths of the people concerning the difficulties they routinely have, not just when there is a bus or train strike. Their hearts are palpitating every time they travel. I acknowledge the Chairman is writing a letter but the Secretary General should be given an opportunity to come here, as should the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection because it is part of it as well.

If the committee agrees we will invite them. I do not have a problem with that.

I do not see what role the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has regarding transport. He should not be commenting publicly. What was said was utterly offensive. Why would we write to him and invite him here?

To chastise him, I presume.

We can do that by way of a letter, without wasting our time.

He needs to get a message loudly and clearly.

I wished to make that point. Given my background and the routine engagement I have with disabled people, what has been said does not come across as respectful and thoughtful in any sense, nor is it in keeping with Government policy. I would have thought that the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would understand the ins and outs of money coming from a Department, not coming from a Department or not enough of it coming from one Department to another for a public scheme.

I will leave that aside. I have half a dozen questions for the witnesses. I am not expecting responses so I will rattle through them. What engagement has the NTA had with local authorities across the 16 core bus corridors to establish how many disabled parking spaces and the like would be impacted? Can the NTA explain the benefit of more than €14 million in expenditure for rebranding the Dublin Bus fleet?

This matter has been raised by other members. Has there been engagement with disability groups? A change of branding by marketers might be exciting, but the elderly and some people with disabilities or medical conditions can get used to a style of branding and then be confused or put off if it is changed significantly. I have in mind people with intellectual disabilities, dementia or other neurological conditions who know the sign for a certain type of bus, for example. There needs to be thoughtfulness in respect of this matter. When Translink makes changes to its fleet, for example, it invites members of the mobility impaired and wheelchair community to go to see mock-ups of those changes. It is important that we not reach the point of the bus being unveiled before we find out that there is a blip. People should know what compromises are being made before a conclusion is reached.

What discussions has the NTA had with the disability stakeholders about its new routes? Will the BusConnects budgetary requirement impact on the budget or resources Bus Éireann needs to ensure that its fleet is accessible and that disabled people can travel? What other impacts will there be?

I will leave it at that. I am not looking for everything to be dealt with now.

I appreciate that. Where answers can be given in writing to the member directly, that would be appropriate. If we wrote to the Secretary General to point out that his comments had caused us serious concern and refute his point, would that also be appropriate?

We could also remind him that a Secretary General's job is to implement Government policy, not to make it.

We could also ask him to outline the basis for his commentary. We will send the text of the letter to members so that they can be satisfied with it before we send it. Next is Deputy Brophy, whom I thank for his patience.

I thank the Chair for facilitating me. I am not a member of this committee, but I wanted to make fairly important points, some of which have been addressed by my constituency colleague.

Although I was not going to comment on the matter just mentioned by the Chairman, I am of the view that the committee should make its opinions heard in the strongest possible way. I am old enough, and have been a bus user long enough, to remember the lunacy of when there were restrictions on the pass. I sat on buses where ten or 15 minutes in circumstances were wasted by drivers having arguments with people who said they had been waiting at the stop since before the cut-off time. In an era of discussions on high-speed connections and improving the service, the farce that is someone suggesting something that we had the good sense to get rid of over 20 years ago is beyond comprehension.

I will raise my core point with the witnesses. Unlike my constituency colleague, Deputy Lahart, I do not welcome elements of the NTA's proposal on BusConnects. While I welcome the strategy of improving our bus services and the idea behind it, given that an improvement is vital, I wish to discuss the manner in which the NTA has chosen to implement it. I appreciate that every organisation has to make decisions about how it will do something, but I base my decisions on what I believe is at the heart of representative politics, that is, representing everyone in our communities regardless of whether he or she voted for us.

I draw the witnesses' attention to something that is inherently lacking. Transport forms part of a city of communities. It is not something that takes place in the abstract. Nor does it involve the movement of many people from one part of a city to another, as desirable as that is. Rather, it is about moving people through communities and neighbourhoods where there are families, sporting organisations and community groups. While theoretical planning is welcome and has to be done, and the NTA will now be moving to a consultation process, there was a lack of real involvement before an undetailed announcement about something that would impact on the daily lives of hundreds or thousands of people was made.

I will take the witnesses through what I mean by that, particularly as regards the Templeogue proposal. Developing that bus route will involve the closure of a road to inbound traffic and the diversion of traffic onto two other roads. One of those is Cypress Grove Road. It is a small point, but emblematic of how the NTA approached this matter, that it could not even get the name of the other road right. It has actually proposed that the traffic be moved onto Springfield Road, which is a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential area. That may be a typo, but I do not know how many hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of euro have been spent on this document. It was published without being proofread, a level of sloppiness that has caused excessive worry to residents who will not be directly impacted. That is not worthy of an agency like the NTA.

I will not discuss the benefit of the QBC because everyone recognises that it will have benefits. In its considerations, what weighting has the NTA given to people living in the area through which it intends to divert traffic? It is proposing bringing roads to a standstill. For example, hundreds of families living on or close to Cypress Grove Road will not be able to get onto it in the morning. Given that someone in the authority will have examined the matter in some detail, the NTA will be well aware that these roads are already congested and have queue times in excess of 20 minutes between one junction and the next at peak times. Despite that, the NTA will still move a volume of traffic onto it. I appreciate that the long-term goal is for car drivers - "God love them, they are stupid" - to stop driving after the NTA has made it impossible for them to drive into the city, but that will not happen immediately. As such, there will be an impact.

Let us consider the NTA's track record. It said one thing about the interconnector around College Green but, when that did not work, it had to divert the bus routes to free up the complete gridlock. I am worried about the impact of the plan on communities if the NTA does not get this right in the theoretical and planning phases before it goes live.

Many of the questions that have already been asked of the witnesses I would ask as well. What will be the NTA's communication process with the communities? I am not just referring to those along the routes, but also in the surrounding areas. How does it intend to engage and how quickly will it do so? Why did the NTA decide not to indicate clearly from the first moment what lands and gardens would be subject to compulsory purchase orders, CPOs? I am sure it must have had an idea. While it engages in a consultation process, whole roads and areas are being put into limbo for people who are trying to move, sell their houses and so on. I cannot believe that there is not a plan sitting somewhere in the NTA's offices outlining whether the houses on, for example, the left-hand side of a road would be affected as opposed to those on the right-hand side.

A question was asked about Templeogue village. It is almost a complete logjam. The witnesses can reply to me and Deputy Lahart in writing. How does the NTA plan to address the route through that area?

How does what is proposed sit with the fact that South Dublin County Council has a redevelopment plan for the village?. The left hand does not seem to know what the right is doing.

The question of other QBCs has been raised. Before massive plans such as this - however necessary they may be - are put in place, a massive increase in the number of buses using existing, under-utilised QBCs would be much more welcome. That is at the heart of what I wish to say. If people had an opportunity to get on a bus, we would have a real indication in my constituency as to the level of bus usage. There is a logjam on the N11 - the Stillorgan dual carriageway - at Donnybrook. Everyone who travels the route by bus knows that. People get on the bus because there is a proper service that runs in a QBC most of the way. That shaves a lot off one's travel time when one compares it with a journey by car and people accept the fact that there will be logjams. People in my constituency, those in Ballycullen and Firhouse, do not have that option.

I will make a final point which explains a lot of the cynicism people have about consultation. I went through this as a councillor with Dublin Bus. I appreciate that the witnesses are not here to represent that company. Those who do represent Dublin Bus came, saw and said they would talk. What they did ultimately was implement a structure that suited an element of the transport community. It suited people who wanted to travel from an outer area to work in the morning as fast as possible. That worries me because the witnesses seem to be thinking the same way. Who was left behind? Pensioners, schoolchildren, older people with disabilities and those who could not make the 15-minute walk to the nearest bus-stop because they were not in full fitness and health. I know that there is a second phase on the way regarding the interconnectors. However, I am concerned that, again, we are looking at developing a transport system which focuses on a particular section of society and which does not take account of the people whose communities through which that system will run and those who do not have the ability or the wherewithal to get to the major interconnector routes.

Before our guests reply, I wish to state that there is huge interest in this matter, particularly in the constituencies through which the routes will run. Two Deputies who represent the same constituency have pointed out that there are serious concerns because there will be more gardens lost there. I do not expect our guests to reply in respect of many of the issues that have been raised, with the exception of those relating to policy. Without telling our guests what to do, I am of the opinion that it would be a good idea if Members of the Oireachtas were invited to attend a meeting at which the nitty-gritty details relating to locations, streets., etc. might be discussed with them and the relevant officials. Such a meeting would help broaden our knowledge of the matters that have been raised.

I asked about the level of consultation with the people who are affected, not just political representatives but also those on the ground. I also asked if our guests would be conducting town hall meetings at which people can engage and have their concerns addressed. I am disappointed to hear that our guests have not been engaging with the local authorities on route selection. Mr. Creegan said there is limited engagement and that it would be accelerated. I would have thought that the bodies that are responsible for future development and population growth would have been the first to talk to before coming out with a plan in terms of where there is a need to increase public transport.

There are people who will inevitably lose some land. That has to be acknowledged and, unfortunately, it has to happen in some cases in order for this to work. In the context of people who do not co-operate, will our guests be going down the compulsory purchase order, CPO, route? In terms of the compensation people can expect, is the figure that has been bandied about in the media fair and accurate or will the actual figure be based on property values in particular locations?

So many questions have already been asked. However, in light of the fact that there will be environmental impacts of which the witnesses will be aware of in the context of gardens being lost, trees being knocked down and streetscapes changing significantly, are there proposals to add value in terms of street furniture, environmental improvements or even new parks? This is a €2 billion project and I appreciate that it is focused on transport but the environment and improvements to it are essential considerations. In my view, taking cognisance of the environment and of the impact this project will have on it would lead to a greater appreciation of what is being done.

Ms Anne Graham

Will I do a summary rather than-----

A summary is fine

Ms Anne Graham

-----answering all of the questions? If we do not pick up anything-----

We will come back to Ms Graham.

Ms Anne Graham

-----we will respond in writing.

On the environmental impact and mitigation, we will look at where we can carry out village improvement schemes or urban village improvement. If there is something of significance lost in a particular area, we will see if we can mitigate that by providing improvements in another area close by. We will set aside some of the budget to do that but it is only when the detail is seen-----

I agree.

Ms Anne Graham

We will resort to CPOs if required. The level of funding that has been bandied about is higher than we would have put forward. We had said that it would be in the tens of thousands in compensation per property but it is based on the location and value of the property and the extent of what is being purchased.

What we were looking at and what is being proposed today is the core bus corridor network. That did not come out of the ether. It was always planned as part of the strategy for the greater Dublin area and these routes were identified in the strategy. When the strategy was being developed, the local authorities were very much involved. The corridors would always have been identified as the core ones that need improvement in terms of the bus infrastructure.

I refer to the network issues. This is part of the BusConnects programme. The latter is programme of works of which the bus corridors is one element. The network is another important part of it and we will undertake consultation on that. To whatever extent we can, we will engage with the committee before that consultation begins. There are a number of elements which are complementary but which all support each another. One way or another, whatever the network is, we need to improve bus journey times on these core corridors. Doing so will benefit the entire network of services and we need to make it attractive so that more people will use the bus and public transport and that those who currently use cars will transfer to buses. That is the only way to do it. We have a limited amount of road infrastructure available for public transport. We have budgets setting out what we can do for the next ten years and what we are putting forward for discussion is whether this is the best way forward for our bus network for the future.

On a point of clarification, Ms Graham will come back to the committee regarding meetings and other issues. Will she, however, come back to me on equality of access? Sports clubs, schools and residents did not have an opportunity to present their queries. Will she come back to me in writing on that matter?

Every member's comments will be noted.

The question was addressed to the Deputy as Chair of this committee.

Of course. The committee will get the replies and we will ensure that they are passed on.

I am happy that Ms Graham will answer me directly on the questions to which I refer. However, I am asking the Chair about equality of access in the context of the committee's consultation process.

Sports clubs, schools and community groups did not have access to the committee during that process. I ask the Chair to explain in writing why that happened and to guarantee that it will not happen again in circumstances where we might be receiving a presentation on a major infrastructure project.

Members wrote to the committee and the committee agreed to their suggestion. If the Senator has a proposition, he should send it to the committee which can then discuss it. I will certainly support him in that regard.

I have served on a number of committees and I know that when both sides are impacted upon, both sides should be allowed to make presentations.

Of course. I have no issue in that regard. It is a matter for the committee. I looked at a television screen earlier and I am aware that our guests, having already appeared at another committee meeting, have been here for five or six hours. I thank them for attending. They are doing an excellent job, notwithstanding current difficulties. I also thank them for their professionalism.

Ms Anne Graham

I thank the Chairman for his kind words.

I propose that we suspend proceedings for ten minutes.

Sitting suspended at 4 p.m. and resumed at 4.20 p.m.