Before commencing, I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded. Amendments Nos. 1 and 11 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.
Roads Bill 2007: Report and Final Stages.
I will not move any of my amendments.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are out of order.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are out of order.
Amendment No. 14 is out of order.
On Committee Stage, I had similar amendments tabled and the Minister offered me assurances on some of the issues covered. These included issues such as parking during events in Croke Park, in respect of which the Minister tabled his own amendment. He also guaranteed that one device would cover all tolls and that there would be a move towards barrier-free tolling. I was happy enough with his position on many of the issues and have therefore not moved my amendments.
Will the Minister of State outline the position on traffic control, especially on our national primary routes and motorways? Regarding the serious accidents that occurred yesterday on the N7 and N9, I convey my sympathy to the family of the woman who lost her life and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. The crash on the N7 was, without doubt, the biggest in the history of the state. It brings home to us the consequences of careless or excessively fast driving in serious fog or on frosty roads. It forces us to question how we will supervise national primary routes and motorways in the event of such accidents.
There has been much talk on the adjustment of speed limits at a moment's notice and I am sure a system to achieve this would be computerised such that changes could be made at the flick of a switch. The Bill under discussion will increase speed limits from 100 km/h to 120 km/h on certain routes, with which I agree, but we cannot allow a recurrence of disasters such as those on the N7 and N9.
Let us consider the N4, the Kilcock route, which is to be constructed by way of public private partnership. It is to be maintained and run by a private consortium. Could a system be introduced to adjust speed limits downwards during adverse weather conditions? Would control of this system be handed over to those with the maintenance contract or would the Garda be responsible? I presume a balance would be struck between the Garda, the National Roads Authority and the consortium. Urgent action needs to be taken and we need some sort of system that can kick in immediately if poor weather is forecast.
The accident on the N7 was a freak and has never occurred before. I congratulate the emergency services personnel in Naas General Hospital, who responded quickly, and the fire brigade in County Kildare. They all did a great job and I wish them well.
However, there is a need to introduce some form of legislation or ministerial order to resolve this matter. I welcome the Bill and thank the Minister of State for bringing it before the House. I have no doubt the situation will be improved when the Bill is enacted because it covers many outstanding issues. I wish the Minister of State well with the Bill.
Before I deal with the questions raised, I wish to thank Senators for their interest in the Bill and for dealing with this matter so promptly. I welcome the overall positive and constructive contributions from Senators.
I dealt with the Bill on Committee Stage and Report and Final Stages and I am aware of the clear understanding of the Bill evident from Senators Paddy Burke and Wilson. I thank Senator Paddy Burke for withdrawing his amendments. I acknowledge his input and that of Senator Wilson on the various Stages of the Bill. While we may not have accepted the amendments, we embodied the principle of them, especially in regard to parking around stadia and where events are held, in the Government amendments.
In recent years, Senators have shown great interest in and concern about road issues. I have worked with them in bringing through aspects of the Roads Bill and in the establishment of the National Roads Authority. We are all aware of Ireland's economic development. The quality of citizens' lives is closely connected to disposable income and the money we invest in our national infrastructure such as roads.
In addition, the Bill improves and strengthens the position of the National Roads Authority as it continues to deliver large-scale investment in our national roads and in local roads which come under the responsibility of local authorities. Together with the Minister, Deputy Cullen, I opened a number of roads in the past 12 to 15 months. All of them came in on time and within budget. I believe we will see all of the other projects come in on time and within budget.
Many of the changes made in the Bill are in recognition of the evolution of the role of the main players in the roads building programme since the introduction of the Roads Act in 1993. The Bill also takes account of the changing needs of national roads and the requirement to protect for future generations the record levels of investments on roads.
I wish to be associated with Senator Paddy Burke's remarks on speeding and to sympathise with the family of the woman who lost her life in yesterday's pile up. I also wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured. I extend my sympathy to all families who recently lost those who are near and dear to them. If we compare the fatalities this year with those of last year, the number is much less but that gives little solace to the many families who have lost members who are near and dear to them this year. The various measures we have taken and the legislation we have introduced has contributed in some way to the reduction in fatalities. We tend to forget those who are injured and maimed in accidents. The statistics relate to those who are killed but we know many people have been seriously injured and whose quality of life has changed dramatically overnight.
Senator Paddy Burke made a suggestion on the improvement of electronic warning signs. We would expect to see variable message signs rolled out in the coming year by the National Roads Authority. We all realise we are largely responsible for our own safety. I believe the culture is changing and this can contribute greatly to the reduction in fatalities. Days like yesterday are possibly a dear lesson to those who were badly injured. It is important that drivers would relate their speed to the circumstances of the day. This is not just the case when we have fog but also when there is frost and snow and the roads are treacherous.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and Members of the House for their support, understanding and contributions which have improved aspects of the proposed legislation. Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl dos na Seanadóirí agus don Teach as ucht an chomhoibriú ar gach taobh maidir leis an reachtaíocht seo, Bille na mBóithre 2007. Tá mé fíor-buíoch dos na Seanadóirí as ucht an cuidiú agus tacaíocht a thug siad dom.
In reply to Senator Paddy Burke's question on PPPs, that will be a matter for the National Roads Authority. If it is to introduce variable signs, it will have to consult with those responsible for PPPs, especially in Kilcock, to ensure any changes to the roads that have been built directly and indirectly by the NRA, and others, will have to comply with that as well.
Will that change the contract?
It may well, but that is something of which the NRA will take cognisance and I will discuss the matter with it.
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, and the Minister, Deputy Cullen, for taking this Bill through the House. I also thank all Senators who contributed to the debate, especially Senator Paddy Burke. We had a lively Second Stage debate on the Bill but it was worthwhile. The Minister of State took on board some of the topics discussed on Second Stage and aspects of the amendments tabled on Committee Stage. I thank him for doing so.
The Bill provides for a number of measures, most importantly, barrier-free tolling, which will help relieve traffic congestion along with the other works that are taking place, especially on the M50. I welcome the fact that it will allow certain roads to be classified as motorways as this will raise the speed limit on them from 100 km/h to 120 km/h. The Bill is an important item of legislation and once again I thank all who contributed to it, especially the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher and his officials.
I wish to be associated with the remarks of Senator Wilson. I thank the Minister, Deputy Cullen, the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, and their staff for the efficient manner in which they dealt with the Bill. I also thank Senator Wilson who has contributed to all Stages of debate on the Bill. I wish the Minister of State well with the Bill.
When is it proposed to sit again?
Tomorrow morning at 10.30 a.m.