Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 4 Jun 1998

Vol. 155 No. 18

Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to be in the Seanad for the Second Stage debate on the Roads (Amendment) Bill, 1997. While this is a short and somewhat technical Bill, it deals with a number of important issues. The Bill has already been considered by the Dáil and was examined in Committee. During its passage through the other House, Deputies from all sides participated in a positive and constructive debate. I know that the same will be the case in this House.

The Bill has four primary aims: to clarify the power of local authorities, as road authorities, to compulsorily acquire a substratum, that is an underground slice of land, for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993; to amend the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, to provide a similar power in legislation relating to a tunnel for light rail development; to regulate procedures for judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and roads-related environmental impact statements and to confirm the legal status as motorways of a number of proposed public roads.

This is the first Bill to amend roads legislation for five years. The Roads Act, 1993, is the basic legislation which governs how we construct and maintain our road network. It provides a comprehensive and modern legislative framework for road development. Preparation of that legislation involved considerable research and drafting work and there was extensive scrutiny of the Bill in both Houses of the Oireachtas. For these reasons the Roads Act, 1993, will stand the test of time as the legislative basis for the development of Ireland's road network.

However, it was inevitable that in the course of experience of the legislation some matters would come to attention which, if added, could benefit the legislation or on which clarification of the law would be desirable. Three such matters have arisen which are the subject of this Bill.

Senators will be aware that the proposed Dublin port tunnel is one element of the Dublin Transportation Initiative's strategy for the city. In the course of the planning of the project by Dublin Corporation legal doubt has arisen over the powers of the corporation, as road authority, to compulsorily acquire the land required for the tunnel. The corporation proposes that the land to be acquired for the project should consist of the underground section — or substratum — necessary for the tunnel and should not involve the compulsory acquisition of all of the land above or below it or of any buildings located on the land. The essence of the legal issue was whether the land acquisition powers contained in the Roads Act, 1993, allowed the corporation to acquire only the necessary substratum of land as it proposes. Differing views were expressed on this issue.

Having considered the matter, the Government came to the conclusion that it was desirable to ensure that there was no legal uncertainty over the powers of local authorities generally to compulsorily acquire substrata of land necessary for road tunnels. Accordingly, section 3 of the Bill amends section 47 of the Roads Act, 1993, in a number of places to provide that a motorway scheme made by a road authority may specify any substratum of land which it is proposed to compulsorily acquire for the purposes of the scheme.

Section 4 of the Bill amends section 52 of the 1993 Act to provide that when the Minister approves a motorway scheme, the road authority will thereupon be authorised, under section 52(1), to compulsorily acquire any substratum of land specified in the scheme and that the general law in relation to compulsory purchase will also apply to the acquisition of a substratum of land. Similarly, the new subsection (7) to be inserted in section 52 confirms that any reference to land in the compulsory purchase code includes a reference to a substratum of land.

At this point I should emphasise that the purpose of this part of the Bill is to provide a legal basis for the acquisition of land for road tunnels generally. It is not the intention, nor will it be the effect, of this new legislation to take away from the statutory procedures which must be followed before any road tunnel project can proceed. In particular, the Bill does not authorise the construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel. Whether the Dublin Port Tunnel project goes ahead, and in what form, will be decided, inter alia, through the statutory motorway scheme and environmental impact assessment procedures set out in the Roads Act, 1993. A full motorway scheme and a comprehensive environmental impact statement will have to be prepared by the corporation and submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. The public will have to be given an adequate opportunity to make submissions on the project and on its environmental impact. A public inquiry will have to be held at which all views can be heard and a report will have to be prepared on the inquiry and submitted for decision. A final decision on the port tunnel will, therefore, be made another day and as part of a different process. For that reason this debate should not be a forum for discussion of the merits and demerits of the port tunnel project. It will not be possible for me to enter into any such discussion in the course of the debate or elsewhere in view of the quasi-judicial functions which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is likely to be called upon to exercise in relation to the project at a later stage.

I now turn to the second purpose of the Bill, which is the proposed amendment to the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, which is contained in section 6 of the Bill. The 1996 Act is similar to, and based to a large extent on, the Roads Act, 1993. Amendment of the 1996 Act is also required in so far as it relates to compulsory acquisition of a substratum of land and this is being done in the current Bill.

During the passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas of the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, concern was expressed by many Deputies and Senators that the underground option was being excluded because the legislation as drafted did not refer to it explicitly. In order to allay these concerns the then Minister of State agreed to amend the Bill to make it explicit that the underground option was not being ruled out. It now appears, however, in light of the position as it has emerged with regard to the roads legislation, that these amendments may not have been sufficient to achieve their intended purpose.

Section 6 of the Bill, therefore, provides that under section 10(2) of the 1996 Act a light railway order may specify any substratum of land the acquisition of which is necessary for giving effect to the order. Section 6 goes on to provide for the compulsory acquisition of substrata of land under section 13(1) and (2) of the 1996 Act. The new subsection (3) in section 13 of the 1996 Act confirms that any reference to land in the compulsory purchase code which is to be used for light rail land acquisition includes a reference to a substratum of land. The amendments to the light rail legislation now proposed in this Bill will, therefore, copperfasten the intent of the light rail legislation. This is all the more important now since the Government in its recent decision on the light rail project decided to proceed with a network which includes an underground section in the city centre.

The W.S. Atkins report convinced the Government of the merit of proceeding with a substantially surface-based light rail system. Of the 25 kilometres already designed by the CIE team on the Tallaght and Sandyford lines, only a small section will need to be revised to accommodate the 2.5 kilometer long underground section which is proposed to run from St. Stephen's Green to Broadstone. The underground section will address two issues raised in the Atkins report — disruption during construction and potential longer term capacity constraints in the central area as the network is extended.

On roads matters and the third purpose of the Bill which concerns judicial review, the 1993 Act contains no specific provisions relating to judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes or on roads-related environmental impact statements. This is in marked contrast to other legislative codes. For example, the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1992, and the Waste Management Act, 1996, contain specific provisions governing judicial review of decisions under those codes. It is desirable there be clear provisions applying to judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and roads-related environmental impact statements. These should be framed in a way which is broadly similar to other comparable legislation. Accordingly, section 5 of the Bill introduces three new provisions. First, an action challenging the validity of a decision of the Minister on a motorway scheme or on a roads-related environmental impact statement will have to be by way of an application for judicial review. Proceedings will have to be instituted within two months by motion on notice to interested persons. Second, the High Court will not grant leave to apply for review unless it is satisfied there are substantial grounds for contending the decision challenged is invalid or ought to be quashed. Third, the High Court's decision will be final unless it certifies that its decision involves a point of law of exceptional public importance, in which case appeal may be made to the Supreme Court. It is important to emphasise that these new provisions will not restrict the right to institute proceedings challenging these decisions. They are intended merely to ensure that any such proceedings can be brought to finality as expeditiously as possible, bearing in mind the importance of having final and conclusive decisions on major road development proposals within a reasonable timescale.

Section 5 was amended in the Dáil to confirm that it will only apply to legal proceedings initiated after the passing of the Bill.

The fourth and final provision of the Bill is intended to put beyond doubt the legal status as motorways of a limited number of proposed public roads. The Roads Act, 1993, substituted new motorway scheme procedures for those in the Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974, the repeal of which was provided for in the 1993 Act. The procedures under the 1974 Act had two elements. Firstly, a motorway scheme was prepared by a local authority, then a public inquiry was held and a ministerial decision was made on the scheme. Secondly, where a motorway scheme was approved by the Minister, another separate ministerial order was required declaring the road the subject of the approved scheme to be a motorway. By contrast, the 1993 Act provides for a single motorway scheme procedure which involves only one formal decision by the Minister. That Act also contained transitional provisions aimed at catering for situations where motorway schemes had been made by local authorities under the 1974 Act but the procedures under that Act had not been completed at the point when the Act was repealed.

Subsequent experience with these transitional provisions suggests that they may not be sufficient to make good the absence from the 1993 Act of the previous power of formally declaring to be a motorway a road which had been the subject of an approved motorway scheme made under the 1974 Act. Three approved motorway schemes are involved — the Southern Cross route, Dunleer-Dundalk and the Kildare town by-pass. Section 7 of the Bill, therefore, provides for the making of orders by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government in these specified circumstances to declare these roads to be motorway.

The House will appreciate from this short overview that this is an important Bill. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators and I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for introducing this Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend and extend the Roads Act, 1993. That Act gave local councils the authority to compulsorily acquire lands for road-making. It was not anticipated at the time that it would be necessary to clarify the powers of local authorities as roads authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum of land — by this I mean an underground slice of land for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel. Members will be aware that the proposed Dublin port tunnel project is one of the major elements of the DTI strategy for Dublin in order to solve its traffic problems. In the course of the planning of the project by Dublin Corporation, legal doubts arose over its powers as a roads authority to compulsorily acquire land for the tunnel. The land required would consist of an underground section or substratum necessary for the tunnel and would not involve the compulsory acquisition of land above or below it or any buildings on the land. That is why this issue is different from normal compulsory acquisitions. The question then arose of whether the acquisition power contained in the Roads Act, 1993, would be sufficient to allow Dublin Corporation to acquire all the necessary substratum of land. I understand there were different legal views on this issue and, as a result, the Bill now clarifies the position. Section 3 amends section 47 of the Roads Act, 1993, to provide that a motorway scheme made by a local authority may specify any substratum of land which it must compulsorily acquire for the purpose of the scheme.

The Dublin port access tunnel is an important part of the Dublin Transportation Initiative recommendations for Dublin and I strongly support it. For commercial reasons it is imperative that we continue to develop Dublin port in the manner it has been developed for several years. It was one of four ports selected for funding under the European Regional Development Fund. The objectives set out by Government for the ports in receipt of EU funding until 1999 were: to increase traffic by more than 11 million tonnes by 1993, to increase passenger traffic by not less than 5 per cent in the same period and to reduce combined port costs by 15 per cent. I understand that by 1997 Dublin port on its own had contributed more than its share towards achieving these objectives and targets. The port has increased tonnage by 6.7 per cent, has increased passenger numbers by 12 per cent and has reduced the price of tonnage by 10 per cent. This year it is expected to exceed all previous throughput records and the throughput of any other Irish port. I commend the staff and management of Dublin port who have contributed to the significant development of the facility in recent years. Going by the figures I have quoted, there is no dispute about the need for a port access route. It is vital for the future of Dublin port and for the future of Dublin. The basic minimum requirement of the port in terms of access is an effective road system to serve the industrial needs of the city, and a new port relief route is essential by the year 2000.

The planning and construction of Dublin port tunnel is strictly a matter for Dublin Corporation. There has been wide consultation relating to the route the tunnel should take and the scheme has been incorporated by way of variation to the Dublin city plan. There was a long debate in the city council relating to the variation and it was passed by a substantial majority. The variation was put on display for three months, representations were then examined and it was then put on display for a further month. An amendment was made at that stage. An environmental impact statement has been published but, as an amendment has been made to the scheme, it is necessary to prepare a new EIS and this work is in hand. As soon as this is completed, the motorway proposal, consisting of acquisition documents, etc., will be submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. By law, he must hold a public inquiry which will give a further opportunity for people with anxieties about the tunnel to make representations on the scheme. The outcome of the inquiry will then be submitted for a final decision to allow the scheme to commence.

The Bill also amends the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, to provide a similar power relating to the authorisation to compulsorily acquire a substratum for the construction and maintenance of a tunnel in connection with light rail development. When the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, was debated in the House it did not indicate the detail of how the light rail project would be implemented. Since then the Government has made a decision that part of it should go underground and, given this, section 6 provides that a light rail order may specify any substratum of land the acquisition of which is necessary to give effect to this order.

The revised Government proposals for the Luas light rail system have been the subject of a debate in the House and I do not intend to enter into detail on the matter again. Suffice it to say that I sincerely hope the EU funding for the Luas programme which cannot now be drawn down will be used for other traffic management measures to solve Dublin's traffic problems, such as quality bus corridors and the implementation of various measures which the Government has accepted as essential to the successful implementation of the Luas development. These include the construction of the Macken Street bridge, the Mercer Street link, the Cork Street-Coombe bypass and the North King Street route, together with the development of a network of environmental traffic cells. Furthermore, there is no point having quality bus corridors without having sufficient clean rolling stock. I ask the Government to make provision for capital funding for Dublin Bus to allow it purchase new buses.

The 1993 Act contains no specific provision relating to a judicial review of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes. I am pleased to note that the Government deems it desirable that there should be a clear provision applying to judicial reviews of ministerial decisions on motorway schemes and roads relating to environmental impact statements. Section 5 accordingly introduces three new provisions to bring this about.

This Bill reflects the capacity of the Oireachtas to respond to difficulties in legislation which arise with changing times and practices. If the issue concerning the port tunnel had not been cleared by this legislation, the process would have been delayed by legal disputes. I am glad the problem has been cleared and I hope construction of the port tunnel will commence as soon as possible to relieve one of Dublin's major traffic problems.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, and also the Minister of State, Deputy Dan Wallace, who was present a short while ago. The Minister and Ministers of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government are such frequent visitors to the House that we should acknowledge that, apart from keeping us busy, they are busy themselves in bringing forward legislation relevant and pertinent to the implementation of policy.

This Bill is simple and straightforward. It is a housekeeping exercise in that it clarifies that there are certain powers which local authorities have to enable them to undertake much needed infrastructural development which they are obliged to construct in the interests of the public. The clarification of the powers of local authorities to compulsorily acquire substratum is important in the instances mentioned in the Bill, which include any tunnelling undertaken with regard to light rail or roads. It will become increasingly necessary for these issues to be addressed. There have been debates about the Luas light rail system in Dublin. Anyone who commutes in Dublin will be well aware of the need for significant improvements in traffic management in the city. While this is independent of the planning process it is, nevertheless, important that the legislative underpinning of the powers of the authority is well founded to ensure that there are no undue delays. In that regard I compliment the Minister on bringing this Bill forward.

The Bill also deals with the substratum for motorways. Section 5 contains the welcome provision that leave to apply for a judicial review shall not be granted unless the High Court is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for such a review. It is important that schemes which involve very heavy capital expenditure by the State on infrastructure which is long overdue are not held up by frivolous or minor complaints. Section 6 deals with light railway orders which may specify any substratum of land the acquisition of which is necessary for giving effect to the order.

Section 7 deals with the regularisation of the status of certain motorways. I welcome the placing of the status of roads on a correct basis. There is a need to accelerate the development of motorways. As president of the Irish Road Hauliers Association, 15 years ago I put a proposal to the Minister for motorways from Belfast through Dublin to Rosslare and from Dublin to Cork. Since then progress on those routes has not been significant and is not sufficient for the volume of traffic on them. Thinking in the Department is too short-term and fails to recognise that more than 90 per cent of goods are transported on national primary routes. Anyone who drives on these roads incurs undue and unnecessary delays. Investment in motorways and by-passes has given a good return in terms of economic development. As an aside to my comments on Second Stage, I suggest that development of motorways and dual carriageways be accelerated. These projects are costly but money can be wasted on short term measures which often become redundant when the necessary long-term development takes place. There is no point building roads to deal with traffic growth in the next ten or 15 years. Roads should be built to last into the second half of the next century. Hitler has been criticised for many things but the autobahnen which were constructed under his rule in Germany are still serving the economy of that country well. I would like to see a significant improvement in the provision of motorways. The Bill will enable such an accelerated programme to be well accommodated and I commend it to the House.

I very much welcome this Bill because it is in two parts, one dealing with the road tunnel and the other with light rail. The Government has been criticised on the basis that it was using the sophisticated new plan for Luas with a centre-city underground element as a method of avoiding reality and was planning to make the project so expensive that nothing would be done. Those of us who continue to believe the Government have been looking out for evidence of action. We have today some evidence of this action. The Government has introduced the enabling legislation empowering it to acquire land and do various technical, legal things which are prerequisites of developing the underground section. I obviously welcome this Bill because I tabled the amendment to the Light Rail Bill, 1996, which raised the question of the underground effectively for the first time. I am naturally glad to see progress on this.

My second point is a rather technical one. I seek reassurance from the Department. Tunnelling is not as hazardous a matter as people imagine. It is engaged in more and more frequently, there are more and more sophisticated methods of doing it and there is a number of alternatives. However, I am chairman of the Friends of the Library of Trinity College Dublin and they are embarking on a massive building project of another new library. They are exercising their minds lest the route of the underground section of Luas should pass beneath College Park and beneath the library at the point where they are engaging in building operations. In order to be helpful I am signalling to the Department that this substantial building operation will take place in College Park which will require foundations. Quite a lot of this building will be underground and by shifting the Luas line a hundred yards or by leaving it where it is and reassuring the library, difficulties might be avoided.

I note that the Government has accepted one of the points made during the debate on the Light Rail Bill when we advocated the necessity for tunnels in some areas. The Minister says that the corporation proposes that the land to be acquired for the project — the port access tunnel — should consist of the underground section, or substratum, necessary for the tunnel and should not involve the compulsory acquisition of all of the land above or below it or of any buildings located on the land. One of the great advantages of a tunnel of this nature and quality is that it can be made without the level of surface disturbance required for the building of a road through an urban area.

Some of the residents may not agree.

It depends on how the tunnelling is done. I know that residents are worried about subsidence. We read from time to time in newspapers of old coal mines collapsing and buildings disappearing in parts of England, but with new methods of tunnelling that danger is held to a minimum.

I welcome the Bill for the reasons I have stated. It is increasingly obvious that something must be done about traffic throughout the country and not just in Dublin. Anyone who travels throughout the country knows that surprising bottlenecks occur in places like Ashbourne and Carlow. In the city of Dublin it is just appalling. I ask a question which is not directly germane to the Bill but has some relation to it. When will we do something simple, sensible and practical about traffic in Dublin?

Coming to the House today I saw tour buses double-parked and CIE buses belching rotten black fumes with a thumbs up sign on the back asking people to be courteous. I do not notice much courtesy on the part of bus drivers, particularly when I cycle and they seem to want to flatten me against a taxi. There are four or five principal sources of double parking, including those delivering linen and mineral water and booze to pubs and the gardaí turn a blind eye. One hears about zero tolerance yet I got a ticket for parking outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on a Sunday afternoon when I dropped off my 100 year old aunt. I was not going to pay the fine because I wanted an opportunity to go to court to complain about someone attending an AIDS service the previous year who had her car towed away from a space to which she had been directed by the gardaí. Is that zero tolerance or does somebody in the gardaí object to religious practice? Perhaps militant atheism is creeping into the traffic section.

Traffic in Dublin is a serious problem and this Bill will go some way towards resolving it. However, there are simpler methods to prevent double parking. Specific times should be stated for deliveries. This is not a new idea; many of us have said it for years. Deliveries should be made in the early hours of the morning before traffic builds up.

I know that usage has crept in everywhere, but as a pedant it grieves me to see a split infinitive in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill which states:

The primary purpose of this Bill is to clarify the power of local authorities as road authorities to compulsorily acquire a substratum.

It would be much more elegant to put "acquire compulsorily". I appeal on behalf of the infinitive which has been split to distraction, that we observe the decencies of grammar.

I congratulate the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Ministers of State, Deputy Wallace and Deputy Flood, for bringing forward this necessary legislation to alleviate traffic problems. This Bill is welcome because it is surprising how traffic has damaged the infrastructure of Dublin in the past number of years.

This Bill allows local authorities to acquire substratum of land which is necessary for the progress of the Dublin port access tunnel. A huge number of trucks come into Dublin every day. We must look at the best way to link the tunnel, the port and the M50. This has been our aim since I started serving on Dublin County Council in 1985. In the 14 years I have been a member we tried to get the Southern Cross route built; this is only happening now because of the political implications every time we made a decision.

We are now tidying up the loose ends of previous legislation; this is welcome. There was a possibility under the 1993 Act that members of the public could hold up the progress of a project because they owned a piece of land. I am pleased that Dublin Corporation can now plan the port access tunnel, which is a small part of the jigsaw.

Section 6 deals with light rail. I welcome the light rail system from Tallaght to St. Stephen's Green which will also include Sandyford and Dundrum. This is an integrated approach to travel from the outskirts to the city centre. Substratum of land will need to be acquired from St. Stephen's Green to the northside of the city. Local authorities now have the power to acquire land and there will be no dispute about the political implications. I welcome that decision and I appreciate the amount of work and time that went into it.

Section 5 puts a time limit on recourse to the courts. We have become a litigious society and going to court is used as a delaying tactic. The Southern Cross project was conceived long before 1985. Since then we have had the planning application, consultations, a public inquiry, oral submissions and a decision by the Minister that the route would go ahead. However, some people were still not happy, although the silent majority was. The decision did not suit a few people who had the money to take the matter to the High Court and the Supreme Court. A route that should have been built between 1981 and 1989 is only starting to be built now because of that court action. The extension of the M50 to the south-east is also planned and I have no doubt some people will try to stop its progress by going to court.

In the meantime Dublin has been choked by traffic. We cannot move outside our doors, never mind trying to get to the city centre. The two month time limit to challenge a ministerial decision in court is welcome. The High Court can then decide if there are substantial grounds for an action going ahead. This is the best legislation I have seen for quite a while, and hopefully, it will help to create a new infrastructure in Dublin in the next couple of years. We will then be able to say that public representatives are not such a bad crowd and that we can fight the public's cause. I do not deny a person's right to bring a grievance to court. People still have that constitutional right, provided there are substantial grounds for taking a High Court action.

This legislation is welcome and, hopefully, when the other pieces of the jigsaw are put together — the linking of the tunnel, the port and the M50 — in a couple of years we can be very proud of our city.

We support the Bill which is enabling in nature and will prove a support for other measures, particularly in the context of roads. It is interesting that this is the first Bill to amend road legislation for five years. Successive Governments have been tardy in relation to various aspects of such legislation. The Bill provides for support and enabling legislation for Dublin Corporation in the context of the light rail system, motorways, etc.

At times statutory procedures, judicial delays and various existing mechanisms do not help the system. While not directly related to the Bill, the Minister might take on board my comments in relation to further amending legislation concerning the manner in which various statutory authorities, including local authorities, carry out their business on a day to day basis. Those who use the roads in Dublin in particular, and at times other areas, realise the city is gradually coming to a halt. Many parts of the city constitute an obstacle course through blockages. At times there appears to be no overall co-ordinated plan, leading to a situation where the corporation can carry out work one week followed by the gas company, the ESB or Telecom Éireann. There seems to be no co-ordinated approach, apart from putting diggers in place and putting down cones. Gradually, roads become blocked. Sometimes even when a job has been completed cones are left in place. It can take a long time for obstacles to be removed resulting in further problems and the potential to cause accidents.

In considering further legislation the Minister should take note of the fact that local and statutory authorities should not be allowed to simply put down cones and cause all types of chaos. Every mile or so in the city the number of lanes in operation are reduced through works being carried out and, for example, diggers at junctions. Gradually the business of the city is being brought to a halt.

I ask the Minister to accept my comments in relation to this and future legislation. The problems must be looked at, as must the fact that local and statutory authorities have an onus in this context. At times roads seem perfect before work is carried out and one wonders what exactly is being done or what is being achieved.

Another issue is safety on the roads. Enough cannot be done in the context of road safety and enforcement. Speed is obviously a critical issue which must be examined. Some roads are better than others and a person travelling on certain dual carriageways at up to 85 miles per hour — which is over the speed limit — in a reasonably sized car will not necessarily cause too many problems. The difficulty is that some people are not used to driving at that speed and some cars should not travel at that speed. Every weekend, particularly bank holiday weekends, the issue is how many more pedestrians, motorcyclists and motorists have been killed. Speed has a certain amount to do with the problem.

The Senator is straying from the Bill.

I hope the Acting Chairman supports what I am saying in relation to road safety.

I support the Bill and hope its provisions will help alleviate the ongoing delays concerning roads planned many years ago which have not yet come to fruition, particularly the Southern Cross route and the south eastern motorway.

I welcome the legislation which is long overdue. It should have been before the House a long time ago, particularly in the context of the construction of the Lee tunnel in Cork. Perceived complications in that case should have been handled at the time. However, I am delighted the legislation, which will benefit Dublin city and the entire country, is now before the House.

Some years ago I put a proposal to Kerry County Council in relation to building a tunnel under the Shannon from Tarbert to Kilrush. People thought I was daft but tunnels seem to be the way forward and I am delighted that Luas will be going underground in the inner city area, particularly O'Connell Street, in an effort to maintain the beauty of the city.

Most of those coming to Ireland want to come to Dublin city, something proved by the number of new hotels being built, to see its beauty and enjoy its scenery. However, a boom in tourism can result in problems with tour buses and traffic problems.

I am delighted the necessary money is being made available to try to alleviate the very serious traffic problem in the city. I compliment the Garda, who did a tremendous job, on the manner in which they kept traffic moving during the Christmas period. I will speak on other parts of the Bill on Committee Stage.

Account has to be taken of the additional number of registered cars in the city and country over the past couple of years. The number will increase further as a result of the large decline in unemployment, which will lead to more traffic problems.

The way to travel is via a rail system. From the time the DART was introduced much traffic was taken out of the city and many people are using rail to travel to and from work. I am sure the new system on completion will alleviate all the problems in the city and that the people of Dublin can feel secure about the legislation which will take us into the next century. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to empower local authorities as road authorities through compulsory purchase to acquire a stratum or underground slice for the construction and maintenance of a road tunnel as part of their powers under the Roads Act, 1993. This will allow projects such as Luas to proceed to planning level underground, something I am totally in favour of.

I am also satisfied that this Bill will facilitate progress on the port tunnel, although it does not allow for it to be built. There was ambiguity about this in the overall context of the Bill. There is ongoing debate and consultation on the port tunnel and a decision has not yet been made. I favour port tunnel access because it is vital to the economy of Dublin and to the viability of the port. The port tunnel, as envisaged by Dublin Corporation and the National Roads Authority, may be the way forward but many questions have yet to be answered before it can get the go ahead. The residents of places such as Marino, Whitehall and Santry are extremely worried about the foundations of their homes and have voiced their opinions on the northern portals. I am happy that the Bill deals with the proposal to go ahead with the tunnel and that it is not entirely committed to anything.

In the course of planning this project legal doubts arose over the powers Dublin Corporation had to compulsorily purchase land as it required it. The Government has considered this matter and has come to the correct conclusion that there should be no legal uncertainty in this regard. Accordingly, a section of the Bill amends the Roads Act, 1993. I am happy to note, however, that this new legislation will not remove the statutory procedures which must be followed before any project can proceed.

As legislators, we have a duty to uphold the rights of the majority while protecting the rights of the individual. A balance must be struck between the two in all democracies. The individual's entitlement to appeal should not be limited but limits must be imposed on the entitlements if any progress is to be made. An increasing number of people now have their day in court so a line must be drawn to ensure that reason prevails and progress is unhindered. Once a project has moved from the planning stage a halt must be called to the consultation process. The Minister must examine the recommendations and make his order. While democracy must prevail, a decision must be made in the name of progress. We cannot allow individuals to hold up the planning process ad infinitum. The common good must be allowed to prevail in the final analysis.

The Bill also amends the Transport (Dublin Light Rail) Act, 1996, to allow for the compulsory acquisition of land for the construction and maintenance of a tunnel in connection with the light rail development. This development, which I support, will now go underground. The decision on Luas was courageous and farseeing and its benefits will be realised long after we have departed this House.

The streets and infrastructure of Dublin are unable to cope with traffic developments. One has only to listen to the "Eye in the Sky" reports on the radio in the morning to hear about traffic jams in Drumcondra and Phibsboro and on the M50 and the south side of the city. This is caused to a large degree by the number of heavy trucks going to and from the port. If we encourage people to use the light rail transport and if heavy duty trucks use the port tunnel when it is built, the situation will be greatly improved. However, progress is being impeded.

The passing of this Bill will clear the way for the planning process to commence and move forward. We all know from coming to work each morning that traffic in this city is growing at an enormous pace. The port tunnel, Luas, quality bus corridors, the new rolling stock CIE says it will introduce and this Bill will bring about a significant improvement. I commend and thank the Minister for bringing this Bill to the House.

I welcome the Bill because anything which improves the traffic situation in Dublin will be a great help. I am eternally grateful that I am within walking distance of Leinster House because the traffic reports each morning seem to suggest that the situation is getting worse.

The Luas tunnel, which will run from the north to the south of the city, will be underground but the line from the east to the west will be on the surface. When the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, was in the House I asked her if these two systems would meet. She said they would meet at an escalator somewhere in O'Connell Street. Surely the east west tunnel should go underground as well? I know this matter is not part of the Minister's brief today, but I hope cognisance will be taken of it.

Is it significant that the Bill does not specify how deep one can dig to acquire subsoil and substrata of land? When does tunnelling for a road become mining? Will this infringe on mining rights? This Bill will also apply to other motorways. I do not suspect that once we start digging under Grafton Street there will be pots of gold around Brown Thomas or Marks and Spencer. However, if precious metals are found in rock which is not far from the surface, will mining rights be infringed? I am not an expert on this but I was struck by the lack of detail in the Bill on how deep one can dig underground. I presume there is a good reason for that.

I welcome the Bill because it is necessary to ensure progress is made on improving traffic flow in the city.

I welcome the Bill. All road users, particularly those who drive through Dublin or any of our major cities on a daily basis, will welcome any measures which ease traffic problems and delays.

There has been a huge increase in traffic on our roads in recent years due to increased prosperity and economic activities. As our economy grows, the infrastructure must be in place to assist the future development of our country. The cost of transporting goods, particularly if drivers are caught in traffic jams, is adding to their price. I do not want to think what it will be like in the future.

I hope this Bill gives local authorities the power to compulsorily acquire lands for these much needed developments. That will help to ease traffic delays on our main routes and particularly in Dublin where they have become a major problem for Dubliners.

I compliment the Minister and the Government on their work in this area. Serious and genuine efforts are being made to implement proposals to ensure we have an infrastructure in place for the 21st century. I compliment the Minister, the Government and those involved in the implementation of this Bill.

I welcome this legislation which, as the Minister said, is technical and will facilitate the clarification of powers in relation to the functions of local authorities under the 1993 and 1996 legislation concerning the port tunnel and the amended light rail proposals, with which none of us could disagree. The Minister made it clear it does not interfere with the various schemes which must be drawn up in relation to the environmental impact study and the submissions of the public inquiry.

I would like to raise a number of issues relating to the two proposals, the port tunnel and the light rail projects. As many other Senators indicated, there is a sense of urgency in getting proposals up and running and in implementing the schemes about which we have spoken. Unfortunately, the funding agreed for the light rail project will be lost because of the delay in putting a final scheme in place. The port tunnel project is, in many ways, up in the air as well because of problems in agreeing the final scheme. There is also a danger European money for that project could be lost.

These matters are important when considered in the context of the gridlock and the traffic problems in this city. The ongoing economic boom will quickly make these problems worse. There is a great urgency in drawing down money which has already been earmarked. We will see whether we will get further money in the next tranche of funds for the light rail project.

As regards the light rail proposal, I am not displeased there is an underground element. I am also pleased the light rail project will extend to the northside as well as the southside and that the plan will be considered as one, although that raises problems. Much of the preparatory design, planning and engineering work has been done and there is concern that there will be further delays in putting the scheme together given that it is more complex. It will require much complex drilling and examination of the substrata and the subsoil for its suitability and the depth to which we will have to tunnel.

Senator Henry asked about the exact interpretation of subsoil and substrata. How far down does one go before one goes below the substrata? What is the difference between mining, drilling and tunnelling? A tunnel is presumably a parallel route which runs underground but if one must go down a long distance, is one legally covered by the definition? Does the legislation cover us adequately? It would be a shame, having sought to clarify the situation, if further clarification was required.

The north-south line from St. Stephen's Green to Broadstone will require a significant amount of tunnelling — 2.5 kilometres. I am glad the Broadstone line has been included in the proposal. I have problems with the fact that the east-west line is not included in an underground scheme. There is a contradiction as to why in the centre of the city, from north to south, the proposal is to go underground but there is no such proposal from east to west. The route from Heuston Station to Connolly Station, which will go through the heart of the city and will run parallel to the Liffey, will not be underground.

How did the Minister and the Government come up with a proposal to alleviate obstruction and disruption to business by having the line from the northside to southside underground while failing to do the same with the line from east to west, which is in the heart of the city? The mind boggles as to how such a proposal was devised. The logical proposal would have been to go underground, north to south and east to west. That was the proposal the constituency of Dublin Central, which I represent, would have wanted.

I am sure Senator Kett would agree because we both attended many meetings with residents, particularly those in Arran Quay West, which will totally be demolished to make way for an overground line. This line will go directly through the market area, which is congested. The local authority has major plans in the context of the Harp project to develop and revamp the fish and fruit and vegetable market. This line will travel alongside the market which will mean St. Mary's Terrace will have to be moved back a number of meters. An entire streetscape will be moved to facilitate this process and that will cause maximum disruption.

Why did the Minister not come up with an underground plan for the line from Heuston Station to O'Connell Street and on to Connolly Station? Because the Minister did not go ahead with an underground line, I have no doubt it will further delay to the plan as the residents and business community will be up in arms. While the business community on the southside, around St. Stephen's Green and Grafton Street to O'Connell Street, was successful in its campaign in getting the line to go underground, the business community on the northside has not been treated with the same respect and tolerance. There should be a rethink in this regard. I raised this issue with the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, who agreed to look again at the matter. I would appreciate if the Minister put forward my view in the context of an overall proposal for a north-south and east-west underground line.

Private funding is available for the east-west line.

It seems this project can only be undertaken if substantial private funding is added. There is no guarantee at this stage that we will get European funding. The extended project will cost well in excess of £600 million, although the Minister has failed to put a figure on it. It will be well in excess of that figure if we consider that the original funding was £114 million with a likely cost of £220 million overall. The cost of the project has trebled because we are going underground and extending the line to the airport, Broadstone, Ballymun and Finglas. If the Minister is prepared to embark on such substantial new development at such substantial cost, why can she not also bring that extra cost to bear on the northside? The extra money will largely be spent on the first underground tunnel. The Minister should take on board the full set of proposals and finalise the matter satisfactorily rather than leave this hanging and, in the process, cause further extended delay of the proposal.

I wish to refer briefly to the port tunnel, which is the second area covered by this legislation. It is another major and essential project for the city. When completed, it will contribute considerably to removing articulated vehicles from the city streets and allow them to travel directly with their goods to the port. However, the proposed port tunnel has been extended past Whitehall towards the airport to facilitate residents who live adjacent to the northern entrance to the tunnel. Why can the tunnel not also be extended at the other end?

The proposed location for the entrance to the tunnel is just past Alfie Byrne Road so there will be a spaghetti junction of toll booths opposite St. Joseph's primary school in East Wall. Only a short distance further would be required to bring the tunnel into the port, thus avoiding all residential areas on that side of the tunnel. The Minister appears to be willing to facilitate residential areas on the northern entrance to the tunnel but not to do the same for areas at the entrance to the port.

An extra section of tunnel in that location would be most desirable to ensure that pupils of the primary school are not afflicted by pollution caused by lead emissions and carbon monoxide emanating from the large vehicles which will be obliged to stop and start at the toll booths. I hope the Minister of State will convey my remarks to the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke. I am merely expressing the concerns of people who live in the constituency about the unfinished aspects of the proposals and other issues which might infringe on our ability to deliver these proposals. The last thing we need is further delay which simply means further congestion, traffic gridlock and more poisonous emissions for the local communities.

I am pleased to support the Bill. However, I would be grateful if the Minister of State would define what is meant by substrata and subsoil. I also hope he will take my suggestions on board.

I thank Senators for their contributions. This Bill addresses a number of important matters. The Roads Act, 1993, is the legal basis for much of the infrastructural work being undertaken to meet the economic and social aspirations of the Irish people. It is important, therefore, that when difficulties arise with the operation of that legislation, they are brought to the Houses of the Oireachtas for consideration and appropriate action. That is the objective of this Bill.

I wish to focus on a number of key issues raised, although there will be another opportunity to consider the detail of the Bill on Committee Stage. I welcome the generous support of the House for the measures in the Bill. These measures will significantly enhance the statutory basis for road development and will do it in a way which fully respects the concerns that can arise in relation to major road infrastructure projects.

I particularly welcome the support of Senators for the proposal to clarify and put beyond doubt the powers of local authorities to acquire the substratum of land to facilitate the provision and maintenance of road tunnels. This is one of the key aims of the Bill and is particularly relevant to the proposed Dublin port tunnel project. It was inevitable that reference would be made to that proposal during the debate. Senator Kett outlined the concerns of residents in the Marino area. These concerns are genuine and the residents are entitled to have their views and objections considered before any decision is taken on the proposal.

With a view to allaying these concerns I wish to stress that this Bill does not authorise the construction of the Dublin port tunnel. It does not even mention the proposal. Whether the project goes ahead and in what form will be decided through the statutory motorways scheme and environmental impact assessment procedures set out in the Roads Act, 1993. A full motorway scheme and a comprehensive environmental impact statement will have to be prepared by the corporation and submitted to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. The public will have to be given adequate opportunity to make submissions on the project and on its environmental impact. A public inquiry will have to be held at which all views will be heard and a report will be prepared on the inquiry and submitted for decision. The final decision on the proposed port tunnel will, therefore, be made on another day and is part of a different process.

Senator Henry asked about the depth of the proposed port tunnel. The Bill covers the substratum of land required for the purpose of a tunnel. The depth of any tunnel proposed to be constructed is to be decided not in the Bill but in the planning of the project involved, including the relevant statutory procedures.

Reference was also made to the proposal for the provision of a light rail system in Dublin. This is an essential element of the integrated transport strategy set out in the DTI report and the Government remains committed to its provision, together with all other elements of the strategy. As with the proposed Dublin port tunnel, the proposed light rail network will be the subject of a public inquiry at which the public will have an opportunity to express its views on the route options proposed. The purpose of this Bill is solely to provide a statutory basis for the acquisition of a substratum of land for any underground section of light rail.

I listened carefully to the points raised by Senator Costello and I will ensure that they are brought to the attention of the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke.

During the debate, views were expressed in support of the proposed judicial review provisions. The rights of objectors are well protected under legislation and the Constitution. However, there must be a cut off point where we can move away from consultation towards implementation. It is also important to stress that section 5 does not limit the consultation or public inquiry process. Judicial review is not a further consideration of objections, it is not about second guessing the Minister's decision. The role of the courts in judicial review is to consider whether the road authority or the Minister exercised their powers and functions in accordance with the law.

I have concentrated on some of the main issues during this debate. No doubt we will return to these and other issues on Committee Stage. I thank the Senators for their contributions.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

On Thursday, 11 June at 10.30 a.m.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 11 June 1998.
Sitting suspended at 12.40 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.