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Official Engagements

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 18 January 2011

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ceisteanna (218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

265 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of meetings and discussions he has had with representatives of Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and Bus Atha Cliath in each of the past three years to date; the nature of any innovative proposals or business plan discussed in the course thereof; the likely future impact of such discussion on transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2756/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

I refer the Deputy to PQ No. 59, Reference No. 2409/11, which I answered earlier today.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

266 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of meetings he has had with the National Roads Authority in each of the past three years to date; the degree to which the subject matter of any such discussions is likely to impact on road transport policy or the future development of the road transport system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2757/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I and my Department keep in regular and ongoing contact with the various transport agencies on matters relevant to general transport policy. My engagement with the National Roads Authority over the past three years has ranged from formal discussions with the full Board to less formal discussions with the Chairman, Board members and the Chief Executive on a variety of occasions such as re opening of new motorways under the Government's Transport 21 Programme. In addition to its statutory functions in relation to the planning, design and implementation of individual projects, the Authority provides important analysis and advice to me which is taken into account in the ongoing development of transport policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

267 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of meetings or discussions or correspondence he has had with the representatives of the various airline companies operating within and to and from this country; the degree to which any such discussions are likely to affect the development of air transport and its competitiveness, with particular reference to the need to maximise such services for the economic benefit of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2758/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I have frequent interaction with various airline companies in the context of aviation policy. However, decisions on the operation of air services from any particular State Airport or Regional Airport are commercial decisions for air carriers, in conjunction with the relevant airport authority. The Deputy will be aware that the market for air services in the European Union was fully liberalised in 1992. All European carriers are free to compete and operate on an equal basis within the European market. Within the European Union, Ireland has consistently supported market liberalisation measures and has also sought to influence the wider international framework for aviation to ensure that it continues to promote competition and innovation in the market-place. In this context, the development of our bilateral aviation relations with emerging economic powers, such as China and India, is one of my Department's key long-term goals. The development of airport infrastructure and US preclearance facilities at Shannon and Dublin, which are unique in Europe, complement this strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

268 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has had discussions with the various airport authorities or representatives thereof in each of the past three years to date; the degree to which the issues discussed have been implemented or are likely to be implemented with a view to the maximisation of economic benefits to the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2759/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Both I and my Departmental officials are in contact with the various airport authorities on a regular basis. These contacts would cover a multitude of issues of relevance to the aviation sector. I can assure the Deputy that the context of this interaction is to ensure that the sector supports Ireland's economic and social goals in a safe, competitive, cost effective and sustainable manner.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

269 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent, if any, to which he has had any discussions with the various port authorities throughout the country or their representatives at any level in each of the past three years to date; the extent, if any, to which any such discussions are likely to be of benefit to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sea transport in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2760/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

There are ten State owned port companies. In September 2010 the Irish Ports Association hosted its annual conference, which I attended. The annual conference provides me with the opportunity to engage with the sector as a whole. I also meet from time to time with the individual port companies. I emphasise the importance of the maritime sector and that the existence of efficient modern ports increases competition and provides a greater choice of routes for exports and imports.

The ports provide a competitive service and sufficient capacity to meet the needs of our importers and exporters. They have responded quickly to increase their efficiency and achieve even greater economies of scale in response to traffic declines over the last two years. The consensus is that the country's return to economic growth will be export led, and this is already evident. In this regard, it is vital that the ports are in a position to facilitate this and to make their contribution to improving national competitiveness.

In September 2010, I initiated a review of national ports policy to help ensure that the policy framework within which the ports operate helps them address future challenges. The consultation period has now concluded and my Department is considering the submissions received.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

270 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent, if any, to which he has had any discussions with the various shipping companies throughout the country or their representatives at any level in each of the past three years to date; the extent, if any, to which any such discussions are likely to be of benefit to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sea transport in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2761/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Over the last three years I have met, from time to time, with representatives of ports and shipping groups. In addition, officials from my Department meet with representatives from ports and various shipping companies. I have encouraged both ports and operators to improve their overall efficiency and to re-adjust their routes and capacity in order to maintain their service levels for customers, while at the same time reducing their overall operating overheads.

In addition, Noel Ahern T.D., former Minister of State at my Department who had responsibility for maritime affairs, met on several occasions with the management of some shipping companies in 2009. Ciaran Cuffe T.D. the Minister of State at my Department also opened the European Shipping Congress at Dublin Castle in June 2010, on my behalf. Two hundred delegates, including many of Ireland's and Europe's senior port and shipping executives attended this conference. The theme for discussion at the Congress was "strategies and opportunities for recovery in European Shortsea Shipping".

My Department through its agency the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) also regularly meets with shipping companies and continues to support and assist Irish and foreign owners establish new shipping services here, providing them with expert market intelligence and analysis. Shipping demand has declined worldwide in recent years. However, the IMDO's most recent figures indicate Irish export shipping volumes rose by 12% and Ferry passenger numbers rose by 5% in the third quarter of 2010, which is an indication of economic recovery in some areas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

271 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent, if any, to which he has had any discussions with the various air freight companies throughout the country or their representatives at any level in each of the past three years to date; the extent, if any, to which any such discussions are likely to be of benefit to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of sea transport in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2762/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

273 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has engaged in discussions with air freight companies and or their representatives in each of the past three years to date with a view to determining how he can best assist economic recovery through such companies; if he has taken any action, sought any advice or given any indication as to his intention to proceed with such matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2764/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 271 and 273 together.

A key goal of my Department is to ensure a planned integrated network which encompasses all modes of transport. This process involves very close liaison between my Department and the three main transport sectors: land transport, aviation and marine. Mindful of the need to ensure that export-led growth is underpinned by national transport policy, my Department is working with key stakeholders and in particular the freight industry to identify and implement measures to secure competitive, sustainable and safe freight transport both domestically and internationally.

While operational responsibility for air and sea transport rests with the relevant Airport and Sea Port authorities, both I and my Departmental officials are in contact with these Authorities on a regular basis. I can assure the Deputy that the context of this interaction is to ensure that these sectors support Ireland's economic and social goals. In addition, my Department engages with air freight and maritime freight stakeholders through its involvement in the All-Island Freight Forum, which it jointly chairs with the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

272 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent of the discussions he has had in each of the past three years to date with private freight transport companies such as the road hauliers association, private bus companies and or others involved in the sector with a view to identifying the issues currently affecting their efforts to expand and assist economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2763/11]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I have met with the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) on two occasions during the period mentioned in the question. Those meetings took place in 2008 and 2009, and covered a wide range of issues of concern to the IRHA. The overall thrust of any meeting I have with the IRHA or with any other similar organisation is always to find ways to help the development of their sector, to resolve any problems or concerns they might have, so that their sector can work with Government to identify and implement measures to secure competitive, sustainable and safe freight transport and therefore play its part in assisting the national economic recovery.

I should also point out that staff in my Department regularly consult with and meet the IRHA and other representative bodies of the haulage and passenger industry regarding haulage and passenger issues. Wherever possible, requests for meetings are always agreed to. Again, my officials treat such meetings as opportunities to provide as much information and assistance as they can for the sector, and to resolve any difficulties or concerns the sector might have, within the framework of transport policy generally.

Question No. 273 answered with Question No. 271.
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