I am pleased to introduce the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 for the consideration of the House. The main purpose of this Bill is to put a single public body in overall charge of surface transport in the greater Dublin area. Simply put, the objective of this Bill is to ensure people living and working in the greater Dublin area will in future have a high quality integrated transport system that meets their needs in a sustainable way.
The greater Dublin area, GDA, is the most densely populated and traffic congested region within the State. It comprises seven local authorities, namely, Dublin City, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare. It has an area of just under 7,000 sq. km and in 2006 had a population of 1.66 million people, or almost 40% of the State's total population. In 2006, 836,000 vehicles were registered with local authorities in the GDA. The people of this area and its business community need a transport system that is integrated, efficient and effective and that is the mandate I want to give to the Dublin Transport Authority.
When we launched the ten year €34 billion capital Transport 21 investment framework in November 2005, we recognised the need for institutional as well as infrastructural renewal. As I indicated at the outset, the new authority will have overall responsibility for surface transport in the greater Dublin area, subject to direction by Government in respect of significant policy issues. The proposals contained in the Bill have been guided by a number of policy priorities; they are designed to ensure the timely and cost effective implementation of the public transport infrastructure projects in Transport 21; they seek to ensure there is effective integration of public transport infrastructure and services; they aim to ensure that services are organised in a manner that optimises the benefits arising from the almost doubling of capacity on the public transport system under Transport 21; and they include provisions to better align the transport and land use planning processes to ensure that both operate closely together to best meet the future needs of the GDA.
To deliver effectively on these policy objectives, the Dublin Transport Authority will be given a wide range of functions covering strategic transport planning, the procurement of infrastructure and services and better integration and traffic management. The authority will also allocate capital and current funding for public transport and traffic management.
The authority will be responsible for strategic transport planning in the greater Dublin area. It will set out a strategic framework for the delivery of infrastructure and services in a strategic transport plan covering a 12 to 20 year period. This will be consistent with Transport 21 and build on the Dublin Transportation Initiative and Dublin Transportation Office's A Platform for Change. It will also prepare a six year implementation plan which will translate the transport strategy into action. Both the strategic transport plan and implementation plan will be subject to ministerial approval.
The authority will procure public transport services which are subject to public service obligations in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of EU law. That will enable the authority to ensure the integration of services and will provide a new framework to hold to account service providers for the quality of services provided to the public.
It will also regulate public transport fares and have powers to ensure the delivery of integrated ticketing and fares and public transport information schemes. It will prepare a strategic traffic management plan for the region to ensure a consistent approach across all local authority areas, including during construction works for major infrastructure projects. The role of the Garda in traffic enforcement will remain unchanged.
The Government is committed to a radical improvement of public transport services in the GDA. Moreover, we are wholeheartedly committed to obtaining best value for the travelling public and the taxpayer from the significant subvention being provided by the Exchequer for public bus services operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in the GDA.
The Bill provides for the use of performance-based public service contracts for bus and rail public transport services in the greater Dublin area. The contracts will set out clearly the services being provided and the payments to support those services. These provisions are in line with the new regime introduced under the new EU regulation on public service obligations in the transport sector which becomes mandatory from next year.
The programme for Government includes a commitment to improving bus services under Transport 21 by reforming the bus licensing provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932 to facilitate the optimum provision of services. It is my intention that proposals for a new bus-licensing regime will follow in subsequent legislative proposals. The new licensing regime will be designed in a manner consistent with the new EU regulation. In the meantime, applications for new bus licences and notifications from the State bus operators will continue to be processed under the licensing provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932 and the notification system under the Transport Act 1958.
To deliver on our commitment to improved public transport services, we need to undertake a major programme of infrastructural investment. The Bill includes strong provisions which are modelled on the powers which have been so successfully used by the National Roads Authority. The powers of the Dublin Transport Authority set out in the legislation can be summarised as follows. The DTA will have responsibility for the allocation of Exchequer funds for public transport infrastructure projects and it will be required to endeavour to deliver public transport infrastructure projects through existing agencies. However, if it considers it more convenient, expeditious, effective or economical to do so it can deliver a project itself and the DTA can issue a direction to a transport agency requiring it to deliver or take a particular action in delivering a project. Should the transport agency refuse, the DTA can step in and take over the project itself.
A major objective of this legislation is the delivery of an integrated public transport network. That will be achieved in a number of ways. The DTA will be obliged to implement a single public transport brand. We are all familiar with the Transport for London brand, which is used by a multitude of operators and across public transport modes. The DTA will also take over direct responsibility for integrated ticketing. It will also have responsibility for developing an integrated information system, providing a single integrated source of travel planning information for public transport users. Its infrastructure powers will enable it to ensure the delivery of public transport interchange and park and ride facilities.
Achieving greater integration of transport and land use planning is central to the success of these proposals. My objective is to ensure delivery of a common strategic sustainable transport focus between local authorities in the greater Dublin area and the new Dublin Transport Authority through maximising consistency between regional planning guidelines, local authority development plans and local area plans and the DTA's transport strategy. This can be achieved only if a balance is struck which ensures that transport considerations are fully addressed as part of land use planning while respecting the existing democratic accountability of the current planning process.
My proposals seek to give an equitable share of responsibilities to the planning authorities on the one hand to engage with the development of the transport strategy and implementation plan and to the DTA on the other hand to engage in the formulation of the regional, county and local planning processes.
A series of technical amendments are proposed to the Planning and Development Act 2000 to allow the Dublin Transport Authority make key inputs at every stage of the preparation and review of regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area thereby ensuring they are closely aligned with the authority's transport strategy. A balancing provision allows the regional authorities to influence the formation of the authority's transport strategy to ensure it is consistent with the regional planning guidelines. Similar arrangements will apply to ensure local authority development plans and local area plans are consistent with the Dublin Transport Authority's strategic transport plan.
Additional powers will be given to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to intervene, if required, to ensure that regional planning guidelines, development plans and local area plans are consistent with the transport strategy prepared for the greater Dublin area by the Dublin Transport Authority. A balancing power is given to the Minister for Transport to intervene, if required, to ensure that the transport strategy is consistent with the planning policies. Additionally, developers of prescribed classes of development will be required to submit transport impact assessments as part of the planning process and planning authorities will be required by law to satisfy themselves that such developments are consistent with the authority's transport strategy.
These proposals will provide, in my view, workable and effective arrangements to better integrate transport and land use planning to ensure the full benefits of a more accessible city and hinterland envisioned under Transport 21 are realised for people living and working in the greater Dublin area.
Following my appointment as Minister for Transport in June 2007, I initiated a review of the draft legislation having regard to the commitments in the agreed programme for government and the length of time that had passed since the establishment team completed its report. In the intervening period, the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, had made major progress on the important projects assigned to it under Transport 21, in particular Metro North. I became concerned that absorption of the RPA by the authority could jeopardise the ongoing PPP procurement process in respect of Metro North, which is at a critical and sensitive juncture. I have decided to leave the RPA outside the authority. The authority will have precisely the same relationship with the RPA as it will have with Irish Rail, the other rail procurement body in the GDA. I am also satisfied that the benefit of providing organisational continuity in respect of the Metro North procurement process far outweigh any other benefits that could have accrued from pursuing other options regarding the relationship between the RPA and the authority. I was also concerned we would have a service-provider that would be part of a regulatory body and I do not believe that is a good thing.
The Bill before the House is incomplete in one respect. The original proposals for the Dublin Transport Authority did not impact significantly on the issue of taxi and hackney services. Accordingly, the Bill simply provides for the DTA and the Commission for Taxi Regulation to have regard to each other's policies and plans and to engage jointly where actions by one body are likely to impact on the responsibilities of the other. However, taxi and hackney services in the greater Dublin area clearly comprise a significant element of public transport in the area as well as making up a substantial part of the national taxi and hackney fleet. Accordingly, the Government came to the view that, in light of the significant commonality of purpose and interest between the DTA and the Commission for Taxi Regulation, the Commission should be absorbed into the DTA. The new arrangement will have the added advantage of achieving administrative efficiencies.
My Department is preparing the necessary amendments to the Bill in this regard. However, this will take a little time. Accordingly, I anticipate that it will be possible to introduce the necessary amendments only on Committee Stage in the Dáil. The Seanad will have an opportunity to discuss them when it considers Dáil amendments. I would welcome Senators' views in this regard.
My predecessor appointed Tom Mulcahy as chairman of the interim Dublin Transport Authority. In the light of my decision to retain the RPA, Mr. Mulcahy will retain his position as DTA chairman-designate but will relinquish his position as RPA chairman in due course. I acknowledge the important contribution he has made in that capacity during the past 14 months.
I will shortly appoint the other members of an interim Dublin Transport Authority whose remit it will be to prepare for the establishment of the new authority following enactment of the legislation.
When the chief executive-designate is in place the interim authority will be able to consider the staffing and financial requirements of the authority, initiate the recruitment of staff, source office accommodation and put in place the necessary support systems with a view to ensuring the authority is in a position to hit the ground running following enactment of the legislation.
I now propose to outline the main provisions of the Bill which Senators will have noted is quite lengthy. I propose to highlight only the main provisions of each Part. Members will have already received an Explanatory and Financial Memorandum which briefly explains the purpose of each of the Bill's 114 sections.
Part 1 deals with preliminary and general matters and concerns certain standard legislative provisions. Part 2 concerns the Dublin Transport Authority. Chapter 1 of Part 2 concerns arrangements for the establishment of the authority. Sections 10 and 11 set out the general objectives to be pursued by the authority and its principal functions. Under section 12, the authority is required to prepare a transport strategy identifying the strategic transport requirements for the greater Dublin area. The DTA will inherit the work currently being undertaken by the Dublin Transportation Office on the development of a transport strategy for the greater Dublin area to succeed A Platform for Change.
The authority is also required under section 13 to prepare a six-year integrated implementation plan setting out the priorities, actions and objectives of the authority in regard to the provision of public transport infrastructure and services. This plan is designed to translate strategy into action. Chapter 2 of Part 2 sets out the structure and governance arrangements of the authority.
Under section 14, the authority will comprise ten members appointed by the Minister, three of whom will be executive directors consisting of the chief executive officer and two senior managers. The Dublin City Manager will be appointed in anex-officio capacity. The remaining six non-executive, part-time members must be people with relevant experience. The establishment team’s report recommended the use of an independent nomination panel to recommend to the Minister persons for appointment to the authority. However, the previous Government took the firm view that there should be strong accountability by the authority to the Minister of the day and to Government given the large amount of taxpayers’ money being allocated to it and that such accountability is best met by the direct selection and appointment of the board by the Minister. I believe this is the correct approach.
Section 17 provides for the appointment by the Minister of a 13 member advisory council which will scrutinise the work of the authority. Membership of the advisory council will comprise the Dublin City Manager and two county managers from the GDA or their nominated officers, four elected members of the Dublin and mid-east regional authorities, a member of the Garda Síochána and four ordinary members nominated by representative organisations.
The establishment team recommended that the authority should have a statutory advisory council chaired by the authority's chairperson with 29 other members comprising city and county managers, elected members of local authorities and representatives of the community and business sectors. I was concerned, however, that such a large council might be unwieldy and ineffective. Accordingly, I decided to opt for a streamlined advisory council with an independent chairperson. I am satisfied the revisions I have made will ensure the advisory council can undertake its functions effectively and efficiently.
Chapter 2 of Part 2 incorporates important provisions concerning the duty of the authority to implement Government policy and its accountability to the Minister, to Government and to the Oireachtas. The Minister will have the power to issue policy directions and guidelines to the authority regarding any of its functions. Compliance with policy directions will be mandatory.
In addition there is a statutory obligation on the chairperson and chief executive under section 41 to appear before Oireachtas Committees. The Dublin Transport Authority accounts will be subject to annual audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. As I mentioned already, the authority will be grant aided through my Department. It also will be permitted to borrow up to an aggregate limit of €1 billion and those borrowings may be guaranteed by the Minister for Finance, subject to appropriate terms and conditions.
Part 3 comprises six chapters dealing with various aspects of the transport system. Chapter 1 sets out the functions of the authority with regard to the provision of public transport infrastructure. It will be given responsibility for the procurement of public transport infrastructure. However, in the normal course of events the authority will procure infrastructure through the existing statutory agencies such as Irish Rail in respect of suburban heavy rail and the Railway Procurement Agency in respect of light rail and metro. The authority will also allocate funding to those bodies or agencies.
Chapter 2 establishes for the first time in Irish law a performance related contract regime for the procurement of public transport services. The chapter is drafted in a manner consistent with EC Regulation No. 1370/2007 which will have direct application in Irish law from next year.
I intend later in the year to bring forward a Bill to modernise the licensing regime for bus services in line with the commitments in the agreed Programme for Government. That Bill will deal with the replacement of the Road Transport Act 1932 and the provisions of the Transport Act 1958 concerning bus services.
Sections 48, 49 and 50 enable the authority to procure public passenger transport services by means of contracts and set out the main provisions that are to be included in such contracts. Incentive clauses for exceeding specified performance standards are provided for, as well as financial or other penalties for non-compliance with contract requirements. In the case of rail services, the authority will engage in direct award contracts with Irish Rail. Light rail and metro services will be procured by way of open public tendering. Bus services will be procured by way of open public tendering and direct award contracts.
Section 52 establishes the basis for the continued provision of the existing bus services provided by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus in the greater Dublin area and for the ongoing operation by Irish Rail of rail services in that area. The section gives the two bus companies exclusive rights to continue to provide those services, except in the case where licences for commercial bus services are issued to private operators under the Road Transport Act 1932. The authority must enter into direct award contracts with the three CIE companies. However, given their exclusive nature, these contracts must be reviewed from time to time to ensure conformity with EU law. These contracts are renewable after five years in the case of bus services and ten years in the case of rail services. The Minister still retains the effective shareholder interest in CIE and the fiduciary responsibilities of the members of the board and the subsidiaries are still retained. The boards of CIE and its subsidiaries will still report to the Minister.
As Senators will be aware, a significant range of public transport services operating into the GDA originates from outside the area. In recognition of this, section 54 gives the Minister power to designate bus and rail services that are provided by Bus Éireann and Irish Rail and which commence or terminate outside the GDA but which can be reasonably considered as part of the GDA's transport system and are currently the subject of funding by the State, as services that can be regarded as being part of the transport system of the GDA.
Section 55 provides, in particular, that the authority must review the operation of the chapter at least once every five years or at the request of the Minister. Section 56 is a contingency provision, which empowers the authority to provide public passenger transport services in circumstances where a transport operator fails to meet or is unable to meet the terms and conditions of a contract.
Chapter 3 of Part 3 contains a series of important provisions designed to progress the development of a fully integrated transport system in the greater Dublin area, which is of course a key reason for establishing the new authority. Accordingly, the Dublin Transport Authority will be responsible for, in particular, developing a single brand for public transport in the GDA, delivery of the integrated ticketing project and the establishment of an integrated information system for public transport services across the GDA.
Chapter 4 of Part 3 concerns traffic management. The authority will be responsible for deciding the big picture and the individual local authorities will be responsible for implementation. The authority will, at six-yearly intervals, prepare and adopt a strategic traffic management plan for the greater Dublin area. The road authorities within the GDA must prepare local traffic plans that are consistent with the authority's strategic plan. The authority will have the power to give directions to road authorities for the purpose of ensuring the implementation of its traffic plan. The authority may also issue traffic management guidelines to road authorities.
The development of more sustainable transport and travel has a critical role to play in enabling Ireland to meet its international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, Chapter 4 also obliges the authority to implement appropriate demand management measures. While the introduction of congestion charging in the GDA is not provided for at this stage, the authority will be required to keep the position generally under review and may make recommendations to the Minister if it considers that additional demand management measures are required. I am currently working on a sustainable travel and transport action plan and this may identify further measures which will need to be pursued.
Chapter 5 of Part 3 requires the authority to collect and publish information and statistics concerning matters relating to its functions. The Bill obliges the authority, at a minimum, to produce information on the numbers using different transport modes, travel times to work and satisfaction levels with public transport services. However, the authority can go beyond that at its own initiative or at the behest of the Minister. The authority is also empowered to engage in, and fund, research on transport.
Chapter 6 of Part 3 concerns the relationships between the Dublin Transport Authority and other transport agencies in the greater Dublin area. For example, the National Roads Authority is obliged to consult the DTA in exercising its functions in the GDA and generally to act in a manner that is consistent with the DTA's transport strategy. The authority may give directions to the NRA for that purpose.
Part 4 contains a number of provisions relating to enforcement. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, has worked closely with me in recent months to ensure that Part 5 contains appropriate provisions to integrate land use and transport planning. The procedures in the Bill will ensure there is consistency between regional planning guidelines, development plans and local area plans on the one hand and the DTA’s transport strategy on the other. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will have strong powers to enforce this consistency if required.
Part 6 provides for the dissolution of the Dublin Transportation Office by ministerial order and the transfer of its staff, contracts, rights and liabilities to the authority. Staff of the DTO will be entitled to terms and conditions of employment with the authority that are no less favourable than those they enjoyed with the DTO.
The final Part of the Bill, Part 7, provides for the appointment by the Minister of the boards of Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Irish Rail. This part also provides that ClE property disposal should be subject to the consent of the Minister which is consistent with Department of Finance guidelines in respect of State bodies.
I am satisfied the establishment of the new authority will streamline and strengthen the decision making process in respect of the planning and provision of transport services and infrastructure in the greater Dublin area. It will also strengthen the interaction between land use, planning and transport. The new authority will have a clear mandate and the necessary powers to deliver on it, but will also be fully accountable to the Minister for Transport and to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
I therefore commend the Bill to the House.