Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ceisteanna (40)

Robert Troy


40. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the BusConnects redesign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22271/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

I ask for a comprehensive report on the status of BusConnects in respect of the redesign and the infrastructure changes that are necessary.

I thank the Deputy for providing the opportunity to talk about BusConnects. The Deputy is aware of the fundamental importance of PSO bus services in addressing congestion and contributing to tackling our climate action challenge. The PSO bus network is the backbone of the public transport system. Last year, over two thirds of the approximately 266 million passenger journeys on State-supported services and networks took place on the bus network. Of those 266 million passenger journeys, approximately 141 million journeys took place on the bus network in Dublin.

I am sure the Deputy agrees that we need to ensure delivery of an improved bus network that works best for passengers and citizens, for the environment and for our economic growth. That is the purpose of BusConnects. It needs to expand bus services, improve journey times and deliver a better passenger experience. It is being rolled out in Dublin first and will also feature in the other major cities in line with their transport strategies once developed.

BusConnects comprises a number of different elements, of which the two most commented upon have been the network redesign and the development of new bus priority measures. Last July, the National Transport Authority, NTA, published proposals for a revised network of bus services across the Dublin region. There was a large response to that consultation period, and more than 30,000 submissions were received. Among those 30,000 submissions, we all know concerns were expressed about certain aspects and suggestions on how other aspects might be improved. We have also seen a certain level of misinformation in certain quarters about the proposals as published and their potential impacts, which is regrettable. This was a public consultation exercise and the purpose of it was to engage with the public and seek their views on how things might be improved.

Following the conclusion of the public consultation period at the end of last September, the NTA commenced reviewing and assessing all of those 30,000 submissions. That review is now largely complete and a revised proposal for the bus network is under development by the NTA. It believes this revised network will incorporate measures which will take account of the vast majority of issues raised last year and suggestions put forward by the public. The NTA expects to publish the revised network for a further round of public consultation in September, and it will publish a report of last year’s consultation process and the issues raised during it.

The Minister is right about the level of submissions, which was as a result of the anxiety and fear on the part of the people who use the buses. I welcome that at long last the redesign will be published in September. After that redesign, what level of public consultation will be undertaken? For how long will it be open? Will submissions be able to amend the design further?

On the most recent proposals on the loss of gardens to provide the infrastructure changes needed, I understand the consultation is still ongoing for one element. When that is completed, how long will it take the NTA to respond to the concerns that will undoubtedly be raised? I have been out with some of our local election candidates in recent weeks. There is major concern in the affected areas. When can those residents expect to have a reply from the NTA on their comprehensive submissions?

I thank the Deputy for his general support for BusConnects. Fianna Fáil has warmly welcomed the principle of it as something that is necessary. The party has also applauded quality bus corridors, which formed the second part of the Deputy's question, and I think we can unite behind that.

There have certainly been hiccups and high-profile difficulties in the route changes proposed, and plans and drafts, which upset many people in parts of Dublin. We expect changes to be proposed in the new draft plan. We expect that draft plan to be open to a very thorough public consultation. I do not know how long it will last but I do not think it will be as long as the last one. We want it to be open to people to make representations that lead to further changes. This is very important for many people. I understand the difficulties some people, particularly elderly people, have when they see changes coming that they do not fully understand. I think it will be clearer next time. It will be open to further changes. It will probably be shorter than the previous one, but it will give ample opportunity for further changes to be made.

Fianna Fáil welcomes the principle of increased investment in public transport, which has suffered from severe underinvestment in recent years. How can we have confidence that the Government can roll out that necessary investment and the necessary changes to the benefit of the service users when the Minister cannot even tell us the exact timeframe in which the consultation will take place?

I ask specifically about the infrastructural changes. When will the NTA respond to the concerned people along these routes? Will these concerns be taken on board? When will we look at elements of changes that could be implemented now to reduce journey times now and not some time five or six years down the road? I am talking about off-street ticketing, which is very beneficial in many other European cities.

It very much benefits Luas users and would greatly increase efficiency. The work on one corridor, in particular, from Lucan to the city centre, could be done with minimal disruption to residents along the route. Only 15 houses would be affected if a park-and-ride facility were constructed in Lucan. It would greatly reduce congestion in the city centre. None of the measures that can now be implemented seems to have been addressed at all. We do not know when the concerns of the residents who will be affected by the quality bus corridors will be addressed. Will these concerns be taken on board?

I share the Deputy's concerns for the residents; every Member does. There are genuine concerns for those who are going to lose part of their gardens. They have justifiable grievances. Unfortunately, one cannot make radical changes in transport without sometimes causing difficulties for a few people. That is the reality, which we deeply regret. As the Deputy will be aware, the residents will be offered compensation packages and the NTA will make it as easy as possible for them to adapt to the changes.

Approximately 390 individual properties are affected by the six corridors to which the Deputy referred. The number of properties ranges from 166 affected on the greater city centre corridor to two on the Ringsend-city centre route. The impacts on properties vary but can include loss of on-street parking and some front garden space. All the property owners have received a letter explaining the proposal, an-----

Please outline the timeline.

-----overview map of their road showing the potential impact on their property, and an offer to meet on a one-to-one basis. Details of public information sessions were announced at the launch and advertised in national and local newspapers. Information is also available on the BusConnects website.

Maidir le ceist Uimh. 41, tá an Teachta as láthair ag an am seo.

Question No. 41 replied to with Written Answers.