Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008: Second Stage.

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

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.

I welcome the Minister to the House to present this legislation to the Seanad. At the outset I will quote what was written about our city 104 years ago by James Joyce. He wrote: "I chose Dublin for the scene because that city to me seemed the centre of paralysis." When Joyce made that point, he had a particular form of paralysis in mind. More than a century later, we can see that other kinds of paralysis have gripped the city of Dublin. This is why a body such the one envisaged by this legislation is important and necessary for commuters and people resident in Dublin. On the one hand, we can see over recent years that the ability to travel quickly and safely through the city of Dublin has changed dramatically. The current commuting speed within the city of Dublin for those on our roads is 13 km/h. This is a fraction of what it is across other European capitals. As work by the Department of Transport has pointed out, this commuting time is to decrease to around 8 km/h in the coming years. Over recent years, we have seen an additional 100,000 cars on our roads. We have also seen an increase of more than 40% in peak travel times.

The need for a body such as the one envisaged by this legislation has never been greater because the other kind of paralysis we have seen is the overwhelming number of different organisations involved in trying to deal with the needs of our commuting public, both now and in the future. The National Roads Authority is involved in our roads, while Dublin Bus and, at times, Iarnród Éireann, are involved in the area of buses. The Railway Procurement Agency is involved in the Luas and metro. Among those involved in the regulation of these forms of transport are the national transport regulator, the Office of the Director for Traffic, Dublin, the Commission for Taxi Regulation, and a number of different local authorities within this region, all of which have their own traffic department and are making decisions on behalf of the people within their local authority area.

It is very clear that there is a strong need for an organisation to come together to deal strongly with the problems the city and regions of Dublin face and deliver co-ordinated and strong strategies and results for people to ensure these issues are dealt with. However, as much as I want to hail the implementation of this Bill and point out there is a strong need for it and it is good to see we are moving forward, there are a number of important areas where I want to criticise this Bill and make some points that must be made.

The first relates to the Bill itself. The Minister said it has more than 130 different clauses. It has been in development in different ways for nearly 22 years since its predecessor was abolished in 1986. The Minister has spent much of the past year deliberating in private on this legislation in recognition of its importance. Despite this, it is being introduced in the Seanad in less than a week. We all received the legislation and the accompanying memorandum just over a week ago. Second Stage is taking place today and I believe Committee Stage will begin next week. Given that this organisation will have such unprecedented powers and such huge influence on our commuters and the people who work in and provide transport in the city of Dublin, we need more time to scrutinise this Bill. It is not just that we need more time to talk about it ourselves. We need time to talk to the people who are experts in providing transport within the city and region of Dublin and who have a good grasp and understanding of what is happening to get their reaction to this legislation to help inform the contributions and amendments we intend making to the Bill. Owing to the speed with which this legislation is being implemented this week and next week, there simply will not be time to do that.

The second point relates to the role elected representatives will play in this organisation in the future. There is no provision in the legislation for the direct questioning of the Dublin Transportation Authority by a Member of the Oireachtas. If we have an issue in respect of how transport is delivered in Dublin, we have the opportunity to table a parliamentary question to the Minister who will respond with a certain period. As this legislation stands, no Member of the Oireachtas will be able to table a question to this organisation, which will assume significant responsibility and power within our region. I made the point this morning about the ongoing discussions that take place in the Seanad about the role of an organisation such as the Health Service Executive and the significant frustration experienced by many Members on both sides of the House in putting questions to it and getting answers. Are we making the same mistake with the Dublin Transportation Authority? As we all grapple and deal with the issues our constituents and other representatives raise about transport issues within their community or constituency, where is the provision in this legislation for any Member of the Oireachtas to get a straight, timely and accurate answer from the Dublin Transportation Authority?

The third point is in the same vein and concerns the role of elected politicians in this organisation. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said last summer:

That isn't a viable way of running a country. That is not a very fashionable point of view, but we have gone down the road a little too far — I am not talking about the Department of Justice, but right across the range of government business — of setting up agencies and bodies at one remove from the government to whom the government can then abdicate responsibility for dealing with certain matters.

The point here concerns the role that politicians will have in the running of this organisation. It will have immense power over commuters and people working in transport in the city. It will be accountable to the Minister but the people who will make these decisions will not be elected politicians. I again go back to the many discussions that have taken place in this House about, for example, the HSE, although I could mention many other organisations, where many Senators ask where the power has gone and who is making the decisions about important matters we are facing. Are we making the same decision in respect of the Dublin Transportation Authority? When a Member of the Oireachtas or a member of a local authority wants to play a role in influencing a decision that has been made, there will be no other politician in that organisation with whom they can deal.

There is no factor more immediate and urgent in driving someone to make a good decision than the fact that they are responsible to an electorate. That is the way our democracy works. That impulse will not be present in this new organisation. If, in years to come, people from the Government side of this House blame the Dublin Transportation Authority for decisions that have been made or wonder why they cannot influence and make decisions themselves, they can look back at this legislation and ask whether that was where the decision was made and whether we had not learned from what we done before.

Two other points that are of great importance relate to value for money. One of the objectives and principal functions called out in the early stages of this legislation is the role for this organisation in delivering value for money in the spending of billions of euro of taxpayers' money. This is a superb objective but how is it delivered in this legislation? Even though it is called out as both a principal function of the organisation and an objective, it is not suggested or detailed in the legislation how this will be carried out. For example, should we not ask the Dublin Transportation Authority to publish a yearly report setting out how it is spending billions of euro of taxpayers' money, its efficiency in doing so and whether it is delivering the objective laid out in the strategy it will produce? From what I can see, the need for such a reporting structure or line is not identified in this legislation.

Where in the proposed structure is the recognition of the commuter, the person who has suffered from many years of bad decisions that have been made in respect of Dublin transport? The board of directors is the unelected group which will make significant decisions on behalf of the Dublin region. The legislation recognises the input of the local authorities and many other organisations and groups involved in the transport sector in the Dublin region, but the input and needs of the commuter who travels back and forth across the region is not mentioned. Commuters are given recognition on the advisory council. I have served on many advisory councils and their role is simply to advise, but the power will lie with the board of directors. I strongly contend it is within that body the voice and the needs of the commuter should be heard and recognised.

The amendments we will put forward will reflect the points I raised. We welcome the establishment of the authority and understand the need for this legislation to be implemented. It is critical that we learn from previous mistakes made in the setting up of huge organisations that were given vast powers over the people they are meant to serve. If, in few years' time, members of Government complain about transport issues in their constituencies and heap blame for those on the Dublin Transport Authority, we will know that if this legislation is passed unamended, they will be responsible for that situation in the future.

I emphasise the need for adequate time to be given to debate this Bill. This legislation has been 22 years in development. The Minister has spent a year considering it and making some changes to it. As a House of the Oireachtas, we need some time to do our job properly, to fully understand this legislation and to table good amendments to it. I hope the possibility that the Minister might be moving on to bigger and better things in the future and, therefore, the need to get this legislation through as quickly as possible is not what is driving the urgency and the speed with which this Bill is being dealt. If that is the reason, I would be concerned that the commuters of the Dublin region would suffer because of the haste with which it is being put through. I hope I will be proved wrong in that regard by the Government's attitude to the amendments we will put forward.

I welcome the Minister to the House and his introduction of this long-awaited Bill. The need to establish a Dublin Transport Authority has been talked about for the past number of years. The need for it has been sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb for the past 15 or 20 years. Regardless of how this legislation is enacted, we must accept that some people will find fault with it, as that is the case with every Bill that comes before this House.

It is important we take into account that this authority is meant to serve the people of the greater Dublin area and those who commute to and from Dublin on a regular basis. In doing so, it must provide a fast, efficient and integrated transport system. We are all aware of the problems in introducing the integrated ticketing system. Work on that project that been ongoing for the past number of years. A considerable amount of money has been wasted by various bodies which contended they had the ability to do that job but still have not done it. The Minister has this project in hand. It needs to be dealt with.

This will be a powerful authority. Its operations will extend down to the level of who will or will not get planning permission in certain areas of suburbia. That is somewhat worrying. It is also dangerous in that certain planners may overstep the mark on planning decisions. We have all seen situations where planners have been left with too much power. Having gone through the Bill, it appears that neither the Minister nor anyone else will have power to override them. It may be necessary to include a provision to ensure members of the public are protected from adverse decisions which arise from the consequences of previous encounters with planners. We all know that personal vendettas have often been carried through by planners in this city and its suburbs.

The legislation presents an opportunity to provide the public with a first class service. That is very important. The Dublin Transport Authority needs to be established and functioning as quickly as possible. I agree partly with what Senator O'Donohoe said about the need for accountability, from management level down to the local elected representatives because it is the latter who will take the blame if it does not work. They are entitled to have an input into how it operates. The Minister might consider ensuring that some members of the board should be elected public representatives from the local authorities. The old embargo applying to Members of the Oireachtas being members of boards such as this one is still intact. It is time it was examined because it discriminates against Members, who have been elected to this and the other House. Lifting the embargo might be in the best interests of the country.

The provision whereby Oireachtas Members are no longer allowed to be members of local authorities has not been to the betterment of local government. Anyone involved in it would confirm that. When Members were also allowed to be members of local authorities, their time was divided between the two roles and perhaps people thought they could not give a commitment to either one or the other, but the change made in that respect has not led to an improvement in local government.

In appointing the board, it is important that local authority members be represented. Of all the people involved in the authority, county managers will play a major role. Given that, they should be required to take questions on what is happening in the authority at their local authority meetings and not respond to local authority members to the effect that it is an executive power. That needs to be examined because there is a danger that the authority could become totally executive driven and that the people who are at the coalface might not have an input.

That authority will have enormous resources available to it directly or indirectly from the Exchequer. It will be accountable to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to Oireachtas committees. A small section might be included requiring the authority to respond to elected public representatives within 14 days of representation. That might help to break down barriers. If there is not a mechanism by which to question a representative of a body such as the Dublin Transport Authority, we may be fobbed off. It has happened with the HSE. Elected members have put questions to members of its advisory bodies to which they receive answers one day that are totally different from the answer the Minister may give the following day. That is wrong and unfair to those who are on the advisory committees and to Ministers.

The legislation presents an opportunity to ensure that accountability to elected representatives is paramount. This body will be responsible for major development in this city. It will designate in terms of bus transport, have a role in rail transport and a major role in the provision metro north and the upgrading of the rail system in this city. It will have an input, albeit indirectly, in that regard. We need an integrated system and the legislation presents an opportunity to ensure we get that. We have said and heard enough about the integrated ticketing system. I hope that this time it will be successful. We have had promise after promise but there has been a failure to deliver.

The integration of transport and land use planning is something that causes me slight concern, but it must be done. Wherever development takes place, there is a need to ensure proper facilities are put in place to serve the people in those areas. There is not much sense in a major housing estate being built in a 14 ftcul de sac. That is the sort of planning that is involved. I hope conditions will be laid down requiring the DTA to respond within a given period in the same way as An Taisce or any of the other prescribed bodies. There is no point in arriving at a situation where a planning application cannot be processed further because the authority has not made its submission, which it is entitled to make. The Bill must specify a mandatory period in which the authority must make its submission. If it does not make such a submission within the timeframe, it cannot raise the matter again later. It is imperative that such a provision is included in the legislation. It is useless to give an authority an endless ball of twine with which it can decide to do something at any point in time. There should be a mandatory period for a response.

This Bill provides us with an opportunity to provide this city and its hinterland with a first-class transport system and that must be our aim. The Minister has suggested a 12 to 21-year schedule, which is fine. However, we must have a three-year schedule initially rather than a six-year one. This will speed up the process of making the necessary provisions. I say this because the authority could be used as a mechanism for delaying development in certain parts of the city.

Is there a case to be made for a semi-permanent board of some description which would report to the overall board fortnightly or monthly? Where one has only a chief executive and his or her various minions, there must be a division of responsibility among the people who report to the chief executive officer. The authority will be dealing with rail, metro, Luas, DART, buses, taxis and all the different elements of our transport system. I am fearful of a situation developing where no one is responsible. That will happen if responsibility for each of the various elements is not designated to specific individuals. Someone must be accountable for the taxi service in our city, for example, and be answerable to the chief executive of the authority if it is not working properly. The same applies to the functioning of the bus service, the integrated ticketing system and so forth. The chief executive is responsible for the overall system but he or she cannot be expected to have responsibility for problems such as bus lanes in Artane or the DART service somewhere else.

Whatever structures are put in place, those working within the authority must be responsible and accountable. They must be obliged to answer to the chief executive and the board of the authority. The board should have the right — as should Members of this House through the Oireachtas Committee on Transport — to call individuals before it to give an account of anything that is causing problems. We do not want a situation to develop where responsibility rests nowhere and decisions are long-fingered. It must be the case that specific people have specific responsibilities. If that does not happen, we will have the same old quango system we have seen in other organisations.

This Bill is a major step forward and I know the Minister will drive it with all his might to ensure this city has a proper transport system. Like me, the Minister must get in and out of Dublin. He knows how bad it was until quite recently. We now have bus lanes and other facilities which have improved the public transport service and drawn people to use it.

We must develop park and ride facilities far outside the city. If that means the compulsory purchase of land, then so be it. In that way, we will ensure more people are able to use public transport. At the moment, many people would love to do so but have nowhere to park their car safely. We should consider building car parks for commuters similar to those in the city centre. It would encourage more people to use public transport.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I am very glad he is in charge of the Department of Transport. I have followed his career with interest and admiration over a number of years. He is prepared to be decisive, innovatory and to stick to his guns.

I have some reservations about this Bill which I intend to put on the record. However, before I do, I wish to say that while I believe it is important we have an integrated transport system, accountability and a small group of people with authority in the area, I would like to discount the rumours that have been circulating around the House today as a result of an article in theIrish Independent that I propose to be the first elected lord mayor of Dublin.

The Senator is canvassing too early.

I would not touch the post with a barge pole. I would be completely the wrong person. I do not have the administrative talents that are required. I would like to advise those who are considering placing a bet, at odds of eight to one, not to waste their few dollars.

I agree with the point raised in the very fine speech by Senator Donohoe regarding the refusal to allow elected Members to serve on the boards of bodies such as the proposed Dublin transport authority. That is something we should examine again. I know the reasoning behind it, namely, a concern to avoid political jobbery and partisanship. However, I had the pleasure of serving on the Oireachtas Committee on Transport during the previous Seanad under Senator Ellis, then Deputy Ellis. That committee and all the other committees on which I have served met and made decisions in a non-partisan way in the interests of the country. I believe if we relaxed the rules and allowed elected Members to serve on such boards, precisely those democratic forces which we want to see might come into play. I would rely on my colleagues not to act in a partisan fashion and believe they would not do so. The Members of these Houses are professional people.

I am a little disappointed in the Bill. Its title is something of a misnomer. It is not really the Dublin Transport Authority Bill but rather the Dublin bus authority Bill because it does not address the issue of rail. While it deals with the Luas and surface rail services, the most critical element of Dublin transport as far as I am concerned is the development of metro. We pioneered that idea in this House and pushed it when it was very unpopular. We promoted the idea against very strong bureaucratic resistance. We also pushed the idea within the Oireachtas Committee on Transport. To omit the metro is a significant diminution of the significance, power and responsibility of the proposed authority.

At the beginning of his speech today, the Minister referred to surface transport. It is perfectly clear that some of the lessons that have been learnt were learned as a result of the work done in debates in the Houses and in inquiries of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport on the subject of metro. The committee, for example, invited Professor Manuel Maynar Melis from Madrid. He also spoke to the Cabinet sub-committee on transport. He examined and addressed very clearly and cogently the delays incurred by the absence of legislation in this area, especially with regard to planning and land acquisition. He made a number of suggestions, some of which clearly are incorporated into the Bill.

It is surprising that lessons that were learned on the issue of metro are being implemented, but only in the context of surface transport. The metro is the single most important element of our transport strategy because it is the one solution that will reduce the pressure on surface transport.

I have just seen off a guest from the Middle East. He adored Dublin but the one criticism he had was about the unholy traffic here. He found it impossible to believe the traffic jams. Of course, we walked almost everywhere and the taxi lanes were of some help.

One could read the Minister's speech and not realise that the underground is excluded. One would think it was included, particularly given that the Minister said that: "The DTA will have responsibility for the allocation of Exchequer funds for public transport infrastructure projects". One of the biggest spending infrastructure projects is the metro. The impression given by the Minister's speech is that it is the whole bag but it is not. It is a partial deal. Lessons have been learned from the London experience, which is good. I have in the past complained that we tend to look to British legislation and copy it slavishly. That has not been done in this instance and we have learned a good lesson.

With regard to the Railway Procurement Agency the Minister stated:

In the intervening period the Railway Procurement Agency had made major progress on the important projects assigned to it under Transport 21, particularly 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.

How and why? Perhaps there are good reasons but the Minister, significantly, did not spell them out. He became concerned because there might be problems but what were they? It is not obvious that the PPP process would be damaged at this "sensitive juncture". He also stated, "I am also satisfied that the benefit of providing organisational continuity in respect of the Metro North procurement process far outweigh any other benefits could have accrued from pursuing other options...". What were those benefits and costs?

The Minister stated in an aside that it would be a regrettable feature if the service provider was also part of the regulatory authority. I would like further information because I find this confusing. I may have misunderstood him but I do not believe the RPA is necessarily correctly seen as a service provider. It may implement Government policy by acquiring land and putting out the construction of a railway or tunnel to public tender but the providers will be commercial companies. The tunnelling will be done by public competition and tender. Perhaps this is too insignificant to have troubled the consciousness of other Members but Cormac Rabbitte, a brilliant engineer, has been very much engaged with this issue on a selfless basis for many years. He produced a number of people who were prepared to tender. One was a Japanese company, Mitsui, which was prepared to undertake the entire project virtually for nothing on the basis that it would be awarded a 35-year contract to run the system. I do not necessarily see the RPA as a service provider in the sense it is accessible to an ordinary person like myself.

The other difficulty I have with the authority relates to the way in which its members will be appointed. The Minister stated:

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...

Do I sense unease on the part of the Minister because he is landing this back in the lap of the previous Government? If he feels unease, I share it because if an establishment team recommends an independent nomination panel, it is not appropriate to slap down the suggestion without an explanation of why it is better because that leads to suspicions of political jobbery. If the Minister accepts what previous speakers said, Oireachtas Members should be involved. In that case, the process should be independent. It will exonerate the Minister, who is an honourable man, from any suggestion that he or his successor will nominate to the authority persons from their own political party for reasons of political patronage. A number of persons will be statutorily involved such as the city manager and, therefore, only a small number of places will be available.

It is regrettable that the question of taxi regulation has been introduced at the last minute because that means an incomplete Bill has been presented to the House. At least the Minister has noticed a gap and has moved to address it. Given that he is introducing an amendment, I cannot see why he could not have done something similar with regard to permitting the authority to examine the underground problem.

I welcome the Bill because it has elements of the Wide Streets Commission. I would like to make a strong plea regarding bus regulation, which the Minister will examine. I like public transport and I like the utilities to be State-owned. I like such corporatism and I am not convinced the market is the absolute god. If these services are provided, they need to be monitored very carefully. Why, for example, are there no public bus parks for private buses? Why are they parked dangerously on Parnell Street and Mountjoy Square? Will the Minister examine the way buses are serviced because a number of them belch out black fumes? On the corner of Merrion Square under a sign that says, "Engines must be switched off", buses are neatly parked every day with their engines running, sometimes with no drivers in them. That is not acceptable.

I welcome the Minister to the House. While it is standard practice to welcome the opportunity to discuss Bills, this opportunity is particularly welcome because this legislation has been a long time coming. I compliment the Minister on bringing it forward as quickly as he has. I am based in County Wicklow and the Bill will have an immediate and direct effect on the county once it is passed. There is a need for the Bill. Unfortunately, my experience as a county councillor in Wicklow has pointed up the absence of integration between land use and transportation planning, which has caused major problems, and it had the potential to cause further problems had it not been addressed. I am glad the legislation will address them.

Much of our population growth in the Celtic tiger years occurred in the east. The greater Dublin region is now referred to as a metropolitan area. It has expanded into County Dublin's former hinterland to cover Counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. I am delighted the local authorities in these three counties will also be covered by the new transport authority. The four Dublin local authorities and three rural county councils are covered. It has been a challenge for them to deal with the population, housing and development pressures they have experienced because they have had no say over the provision of public transport and that has led to great problems in integrating their work with that of national and regional transport providers.

Councillors are largely concerned with responding to local needs and a strategic approach to integrating land use and transport planning is needed in the greater Dublin area. I refer to the development of Bray golf club lands in my constituency, which highlights the need for an authority such as that proposed in the legislation. A large €2 billion development was planned for the Bray golf club lands, which are very close to the existing town centre and would constitute an extension of the existing town centre. Bray has a significant number of bus terminuses and a DART terminus and is, effectively, a transport hub in the making. Unfortunately, the golf club lands were zoned for development without any reservation of land for the Luas to extend through the proposed development.

The Green Party councillors on Bray Town Council made an effort to reserve a corridor of land but that did not happen as part of the planning process. Later, when the Railway Procurement Agency displayed its proposals on the extension of the Luas from Cherrywood, its preferred route appeared to be one that would bring the Luas from Cherrywood towards Fassaroe, which is well outside Bray town centre in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains, land that is undeveloped as yet. It was only public outcry that caused the RPA to reconsider and now we have a satisfactory plan where the Luas will extend right to Bray town centre where it can connect with the DART line, the bus lines and the Dublin to Rosslare line, which makes transport sense. I hope the establishment of this new authority will avoid that kind ofad hoc approach to the integration of transport and land use planning where it was only public pressure that caused the proper transport and planning decision to be made in the end.

I welcome the Bill which is about providing an integrated transport system in the greater Dublin area through establishing the Dublin transport authority and ensuring the delivery of the planned Transport 21 investment. I understand the general functions of the authority will include strategic transport planning of the area, the regulation of public transport fares, the provision of public passenger transport services and infrastructure, effective traffic management, transport demand management, the carrying out of research, the provision of transport related statistics and the development of a single transport brand.

The public transport infrastructure area is of great interest to the Green Party. In this area, the authority's functions will include securing the provision of or providing public transport infrastructure, entering into agreements with other parties to secure this, including joint ventures and public private partnerships, the acquisition of land adjacent to public transport infrastructure and the facilitation of its development.

I support the comments of other speakers about what was said about privatising public transport services as opposed to provision of services by the State. I am comfortable with the fact that the provisions of the Bill do not make the privatisation of public transport services in the greater Dublin area inevitable. The way the Bill is structured appears to favour the continuation of a single main provider but does not exclude private competition. In the main, a single large provider could continue because in a country as small as Ireland with a limited population, a natural monopoly applies. If Dublin Bus and the other bus companies can continue to develop and provide an efficient and competitive service for the public, there is no reason we would have to go down the road of widespread privatisation. I welcome this.

I also welcome the idea of developing a single brand for the promotion of public transport. This will help the public to identify an enhanced public transport service in the greater Dublin area. I hope too that the Dublin transport authority will be able to implement integrated ticketing as soon as possible so that users of public transport can enjoy its benefits.

For me, the most welcome part of the Bill is Part 5, the land use provisions. These are important because they allow us deal with issues such as those to which I referred in Wicklow in terms of the integration of land use planning and transport. I note that the sections of the Bill dealing with co-ordination between planning authorities and the Dublin transport authority are clear. They set out that each planning authority within the Dublin area shall ensure its development plan is consistent with the transport strategy of the Dublin transport authority. Reference is also made to regional authorities which must ensure their guidelines are consistent with the transport strategy. Emphasis is placed also on the powers of the Minister who can direct a planning authority to take measures either to review or vary the draft development plan or proposed variation to ensure consistency between the draft development plan or proposed variation and the transport strategy of the DTA, and the authority shall comply with any such direction. There is encouragement in the Bill, therefore, for local authorities to take the issue of consistency with the overarching transport strategy for the region seriously.

If the Bill is implemented and the new authority works well, this will lead to much more efficient movement of people and goods around our capital and the greater Dublin area. This is in the interest of business, tourism, workers and other members of the public. I hope we will be able to enjoy the same level of excellent public transport other European capitals enjoy.

I have two questions for the Minister. Will he consider similar transportation authorities for other gateway cities or hubs in the near future? The Green Paper on local government reform was launched yesterday in which there is a clear commitment for a directly elected mayor of Dublin by the end of 2009. Would the Minister consider providing for the newly elected mayor of Dublin to be the chair of the Dublin transport authority?

I welcome the Minister to the House. The Labour Party has been calling for this Bill for some time and though long overdue, it is welcome. The Dublin transport authority establishment team produced its report more than a year ago, in November 2006, but the publication of the Bill has been delayed until now. The DTA is a vital agency which should have been established much sooner and the delay in its establishment has had a very negative effect on the already traffic-congested greater Dublin area.

In the absence of such an agency, many essential projects have been delayed. Integrated ticketing, the green and red line Luas link-up, the integration of commercial and residential planning with transport needs planning and the slippage in major Transport 21 projects are some of the obvious examples. Phase 1 of the Navan rail link has had its completion date revised from 2009 to 2010. The completion date for the resignalling of the Maynooth line has been pushed back from 2009 to 2011. The completion date for metro north, which impacts on my constituency, has changed from 2012 to late 2014. The Tallaght to Citywest Luas extension has been revised from 2008 to 2010. The Connolly to docklands Luas has a revised completion date of 2009 rather than 2008 and the linking of the existing Dublin red and green Luas lines has been stalled indefinitely.

One of the principal functions of the DTA as outlined in the Bill in section 11 is to promote an integrated and accessible public transport network. Integration and accessibility are very important for Dublin transport. Provisions in the bill for the DTA to give binding directions in this regard to public transport agencies in the greater Dublin area and to acquire land for public transport services, if necessary, are also very welcome. Objectives in section 10 to increase the use of the public transport system and for increased recourse to cycling and walking as a means of transport are also to be welcomed.

Section 58 contains measures providing for the DTA to take over the implementation of the long delayed integrated ticketing system and section 61 proposes the development of an integrated public transport information scheme, a road user information system and a comprehensive traffic management plan for the greater Dublin area, which should improve the transport system. The provisions in section 50 for public transport service contracts and public service obligation measures should also greatly enhance public transport services for commuters.

Unfortunately, the Minister has not addressed the bus licensing issue clearly in the legislation and we will continue to rely on the outdated 1932 legislation in this regard. The Bill indicates that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will continue to provide existing public bus passenger services under the 1932 laws. The Minister said in his speech that other legislation will follow. I hope it does soon.

Under section 56, the Dublin Transport Authority is designated as a public transport operator of last resort that can provide passenger transport services if existing operators fail or are unwilling to meet the obligations and standards set out by the DTA. The Labour Party has long advocated an authority that is placed on a statutory basis, has real powers to oversee the development of transport infrastructure and services and is accountable to the citizens of the greater Dublin area. This is especially important given the DTA's proposed powerful new role as both the fares regulator and as a public transport services provider of last resort. As other Senators have noted it is disappointing that under section 17 there will be no directly elected representative on the board of the authority and only four councillors from the seven greater Dublin area local authorities on the DTA advisory council.

The complete failure to integrate transport needs properly with commercial and residential developments has been one of the worst aspects of planning and transport policy in recent decades. The Bill has a series of amendments in sections 82 to 96, inclusive, to the Planning and Development Act 2000 to ensure consistency between the authority's transport strategy and the various plans and guidelines produced by planning authorities within the greater Dublin area. I welcome these amendments. Many high density developments without adequate transport links have been developed in the past ten to 15 years. The people in north Dublin have suffered badly in this regard.

The Bill provides in sections 103 to 111, inclusive, for the dissolution of the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, and the incorporation of its functions into the DTA. I commend the DTO on its work. Concerns remain, however, that there may be still some duplication and overlap of responsibilities and duties between the DTA and the Railway Procurement Agency which is not being incorporated into the DTA. I note the Minister's comments, I see his logic and I accept the validity of his reasons for not incorporating the agency at this stage.

Under section 3, the greater Dublin area is defined as the city of Dublin, the administrative counties of South Dublin, Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath, and such other areas as may be declared by order from time to time by the Minister for Transport. This definition should have included, if not the whole of County Louth, at least the town of Drogheda which is now such an integral part of the greater Dublin area that it is difficult to understand why it was not included. I await the Minister's comments on this matter and I hope he will reconsider this.

I welcome the Bill and look forward to its enactment with whatever amendments might come on Committee Stage. My colleague, Deputy Tommy Broughan, may have some amendments to propose in the other House. I look forward to the speedy delivery of the Bill's long-awaited commitments.

The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, asked for comments on the absorption of the Commission for Taxi Regulation into the DTA. It seems there is some logic to this but until I see the proposals, I do not care to comment further.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I represent an area where traffic gridlock and lack of transport infrastructure has serious consequences for commuters every day, whether people are stuck in gridlock in Lucan village, held up on the M50 motorway, or there is no space available on the new trains arriving at Adamstown station. Transport gridlock is a serious issue for the people of Dublin Mid-West, as I am sure the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, is aware.

The Bill should have been published and in place a long time ago and it is disappointing to see it appearing at a time of increased economic pressures. Many people will feel the transport issues which bedevil the capital city and surrounding areas are matters that should have been dealt with when more money was available, our finances were in better shape and the investment could have been made more easily. It would have been good to have had a Dublin transport authority to examine what was happening in the Dublin area before now.

I welcome the Bill and the thinking behind it. Much work has been done to bring it before the Houses. I agree with Senator Donohoe that it is a shame the Bill is being rushed because of the changed circumstances and the formation of a new Government. We would have welcomed more time to consider amendments rather than having to bring them in next week.

It is a welcome development to have an authority that will co-ordinate transport in the Dublin area. Everyone in the House knows that competition, rivalry and jealousies have bedevilled the development of transport in Dublin. This has led to a lack of co-ordination between the responsible bodies, whether it is the bus services linking with Luas or the lack of co-ordination between other bodies. There has not been the sort of co-ordination necessary to develop effective services for commuters in Dublin. The hope is that this new authority will be in a position to co-ordinate the transport needs of the capital city and I hope this will be possible. Much will depend on the relationships that are developed and the power this authority has over the different bodies. I ask the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, to address this issue and to explain how he sees this working in practice.

There has been a lack of co-ordination and communication between the relevant bodies in the transport sector in Dublin, leading to a very poor service for the commuter. It has led to bus lanes with no buses for long periods, which I saw in my area, and delays in development plans. Given the economic success we have had over the past ten years, what has been created in Dublin in terms of transport has been disappointing. A co-ordinating body is necessary to deal effectively with the transport needs of the capital city.

Will the Minister explain how Transport 21 will be integrated into the work of the new authority? I note the authority will be asked to create a new strategy and outline plans for transport in Dublin. I have concerns about the timeframe for this and I ask the Minister to state what timeframe he sees for the production of these reports from the new authority. The nightmare scenario would be the production of more reports rather than their implementation. Will the Minister reassure the House on the implementation role of the authority? I assume it will have the power, influence and financial resources to carry out its role, which has not happened to date with the various bodies responsible for transport in Dublin. Will the Minister address the implementation of plans, co-ordination of the transport service providers and the financial power that he expects this authority to have to carry out its function?

The Minister pays much attention to the link between transport and planning in this Bill and the power in the legislation to ensure there is a link between transport needs and planning development in a given area.

The link between transport needs and the planning of developments in a given area has been a significant issue but there does not seem to have been any integrated approach taken to development and to transport needs. Large numbers of people have been completely inconvenienced and their daily lives have been made a misery by the lack of integration between the development plans of commuter areas by county councils and the lack of transport. The Bill pays attention to this issue and I wish to hear the Minister's views on how this will work. The Minister referred to the authority having the power to buy land, to order local authorities to integrate transport. I would like information about the mechanisms to make this happen as this could make a real difference.

If a new bridge is needed across the River Liffey how will the new transport authority ensure it is built? What will be the relationship between the transport authority, Dublin City Council and the other councils that might have an interest in this? Will the authority be relying on a good relationship with the county councils or will it be able to implement such a decision?

This Bill is long overdue. Co-ordination between the various transport bodies is essential. I regret the Minister is not bringing forward the legislation on competition in bus transport. I ask him to give the House an indication of when he plans to introduce such legislation.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I compliment him for bringing forward this Bill which has been a long time coming. I may not be able to speak very well today as I am hoarse but I will do my best.

There is a need for such a body as the Dublin Transport Authority. A network of quangos have been dealing with the issues to do with Dublin Bus, Luas the metro and no decision was being made nor was anybody accountable. This Bill will bring everything together and create a nucleus.

The Minister said we must revisit the planning legislation to see how the local authorities can work with the transport authority. We have talked about the erosion of power from local authority councillors. This Bill is a golden opportunity to strengthen the strategic policy committee with regard to transport. The membership of the advisory council includes the Dublin city manager and the county managers, including those of the neighbouring counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. The Minister stated there will also be regional representation.

The process will begin with the strategic policy committees and move out from there. If everything is right at a local level then the plan will work. When the Minister revisits the planning legislation and works closely with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I ask him to consider giving power to local authorities to help bring about an efficient and effective transport system.

I have a lot more to say but I am unable to continue today. I wish the Minister well and I will listen carefully to other speakers. This Bill is well worthwhile. I will be interested to hear how its provisions will be implemented and co-ordinated.

I sympathise with Senator Ormonde on her hoarse voice.

I thank the Members who have spoken on this Stage of the Bill and for the constructive manner in which they have approached Second Stage.

Some speakers on the Opposition benches have referred to this but I wish to clarify it is not my intention to have Committee Stage before the House next week. I believe the House should have another week before Committee Stage to allow for Members to table amendments. I am in the hands of the House in that respect and I will try to facilitate its wishes. I agree with Members who said it is important that due consideration be given to this Bill. We will be returning to the House with the Bill because I do not believe I will have the time here to insert the couple of amendments to which I referred. The Bill will return to the House after being dealt with in the other House.

Members raised a number of points in the debate about different aspects of the Bill. When I was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government some years ago there was talk then about some kind of a co-ordinating agency in the greater Dublin area. There was talk ten years ago and even before that a couple of attempts were made. It is important that the agency be put in place.

I want to reassure Senator Fitzgerald and other Senators that this will not delay Transport 21 projects. The authority will have the responsibility for implementing Transport 21 projects. It will have a responsibility in planning strategic transport in the greater Dublin area for 12 to 20 years hence but it will not interfere with the plans already in place. The Bill allows the Minister to retain powers so that if there is a Government policy such as Transport 21, an agency such as the Dublin Transport Authority or any other authority cannot decide to abandon such a policy and implement a different policy. This agency will have the responsibility to deliver Transport 21 and will have the power to deliver it.

In answer to a number of points raised by Senators on both sides of the House about the power of the authority, it will have the power to direct agencies, including the NRA, to take certain actions. This may include directions on buying land or property in order to facilitate road development which is necessary for either public transport corridors or for road transport. It will also have responsibility for disbursing in the greater Dublin area the €12 billion to €14 billion of expenditure which is currently earmarked under Transport 21. If agencies are not doing what they should do with regard to Transport 21 this agency will have the power to step in and either provide the service itself or ensure that some other agency provides it.

A number of Members raised the issue of the membership of the board. Senator Ellis, in particular, was concerned that mechanisms be put in place to ensure timely responses to Oireachtas Members. I am in favour of that. However, without casting aspersions on Members of this or the other House, I do not want this or any other body's time to be taken up with answering frivolous questions. If we are to go down this route, consideration must be given to drawing up an agreed code of practice or protocol. All Members may be guilty in this regard from time to time. I am sometimes dissatisfied to see departmental officials spending time on particular parliamentary questions. I would not like to be obliged to ask any agency to tie up valuable staff time answering those types of questions.

However, the central point, which was made by Senator Ryan as well as Senator Ellis, is extremely important, namely, the necessity to ensure there is accountability from these bodies. This includes accountability to Oireachtas Members; to local public representatives, who have a legitimate interest in such matters; and to the Minister, who must ensure policy is implemented in accordance with Government wishes. I hold up my hands in acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the past. Particular entities have been given too much freedom and power, and an insufficient degree of accountability was demanded in return. I am prepared to consider any suggestions that will strengthen the Dublin transport authority in this respect.

Senator Norris asked why I, as Minister, should seek to retain the power to make nominations to the board of the authority. We may have philosophical differences on this point. It is my view that a board, authority or agency that is established by a Minister must be answerable to that Minister. The latter must take full responsibility in the Oireachtas for the actions of that entity. He or she must, therefore, have confidence in its members. That is why the Minister should have power to nominate to the board of the transport authority.

Senator de Búrca made several points about the activities of the Railway Procurement Agency in respect of the Luas extension into north Wicklow. I will bow to her superior wisdom on this given her local knowledge of the area. However, I am not sure it is fully accurate to say that the RPA was obliged to change its plans as a result of a public outcry. The process that took place was a good exercise in consultation which allowed people to make their views known. As a result, an agreed solution has been devised for that line. The RPA has generally engaged positively in that type of consultation and people are usually satisfied that their concerns are addressed. That is the feedback I received on metro north, for example.

Several references were made to Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006, which has been a bugbear for Oireachtas Members and local authority staff in recent years. One cannot possibly separate land use planning and transport provision, although it was done in the past, by omission rather than anything else. This Bill aims to bring the two together to ensure there is communication among the two Departments, the local authorities and the Dublin transport authority. The basic approach we are adopting in regard to development plans is that the local authorities, comprising the democratically elected public representatives for the area in question, retain their supremacy. That is extremely important. However, they must take full account of the area's transport needs when drawing up the development plan.

Where the Dublin transport authority has some issue with the development plan, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will make the call. When the opposite is the case, that is, it is a transport issue, the Minister for Transport will decide. The reason for this is simple enough. Senator Ellis made the point about the process going on forever, with no statutory period. There is nothing greater than the capacity for two official bodies to procrastinate and put off decisions where there is some dispute. If there is a dispute between local or regional authorities and the Dublin transport authority, in either direction, the relevant Minister must take responsibility and give the go-ahead or otherwise. That will obviate some of the Senators' concerns in this regard.

I have referred to most of the main points raised by Senators. I thank them for their contributions and look forward to Committee Stage when we will have an opportunity to tease out some of the issues that have been raised. I welcome whatever amendments Members wish to put forward. Some of them have experience of me in this regard, particularly those who spent many long hours debating the Planning and Development Bill 2000. Where I conclude that an amendment will improve the Bill, I will be perfectly prepared to accept it. I will approach the debate in a constructive way.

What about Drogheda and County Louth?

County Louth was fortunate enough to be designated as part of the Border, midlands and western, BMW, region and to enjoy the benefits arising from that. It has not been included in the greater Dublin area for the purposes of this Bill because it cannot be designated as belonging to both regions. As Senator Ryan observed, however, there is provision to extend that definition and the Dublin transport authority can make recommendations in this regard. I am familiar with the area to which the Senator refers, which is just beyond the Meath border, and there is merit in considering its inclusion.

Several Members wished to speak on Second Stage but were delayed. For instance, my entrance to the Chamber was hindered by the presence of two groups on the stairs and in the hall. Will I and other Members be allowed to speak today or must we make speeches on Committee Stage in respect of every amendment that is proposed?

Standing Orders are clear on this point. No Members indicating a wish to speak were present when I called the Minister to reply.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 8 May 2008.
Sitting suspended at 4.20 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.