Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Road Projects Status

Questions Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (7)

John Curran

Ceist:

7. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding allocated and drawndown to date on the M50 enhancing motorway operation services project; the status of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48179/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  However, under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and operation of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the Local Authorities concerned.

I would also like to stress that I fully recognise the demand pressures on the M50.

Demand management measures.

TII, along with other relevant stakeholders, has completed a number of measures on the M50 to manage demand and optimise operational efficiency, including:

- enhanced vehicle recovery services;

- establishment of an Inter-agency Incident Coordination Group;

- changes to merging and diverging layouts at junctions;

- establishment of signed Emergency Diversion Routes; and

- improved access for incident support and emergency services.

[Enhancing Motorway Operation Services (EMOS)]

TII has also commenced a project entitled ‘Enhancing Motorway Operation Services (EMOS) to which the Deputy refers. This project will include Variable Speed Limits, referred to as VSLs and Lane Control Signalling.

[Variable Speed Limits (VSLs)]

The VSL regime on the M50 is intended to improve the operational efficiency of the motorway by

- smoothing traffic flow,

- improving journey time reliability, and

- reducing the number of traffic collisions.

As I mentioned, lane control signalling will also be installed as part of the project which will allow the rapid closing off of lanes.

Status of the project.

With regard to the status of the EMOS project, my Department is progressing the legislative arrangements to provide TII with the powers to operate VSLs.  The legislative proposals will be contained in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.  A General Scheme of the Bill has been approved by Government for formal drafting, subject to two items being examined further. 

These two items - for graduated speeding penalties and the carrying of driving licences - have now been examined in detail at Cabinet Committee and I shall be referring them back to Government shortly.  In the meantime, work on drafting the other provisions of the Bill is under way in the Office for the Attorney General.  I hope to publish the Bill before the end of the year.

I am also advised that, in order to progress this important measure, TII is extending the motorway traffic control centre at Dublin Tunnel to cater for the additional workload from introduction of VSLs.  Phase 1, which includes the new Control Room, is expected to be handed over before the end of this month (November 2019). Tender competitions to procure the management systems and hardware for the operation and roll-out of VSLs for the M50 are progressing. Tenders for the software were returned at the end of last month (October 2019) and the tenders for the hardware are due back this week.

All the preparatory technical and logistical frameworks will need to be put in place by TII before VSLs can be introduced and become operational.  As I have just explained, this work is ongoing and I  expect that the first phase will be completed in mid-2020.

Public Transport Role

In addition, Project Ireland 2040 identifies a number of key public transport priorities including the BusConnects programme, MetroLink and the DART expansion programme. These will be delivered by the National Transport Authority (NTA) progressively and steadily over the short, medium and long term, to deliver a comprehensive public transport network that will match transport demand, alleviate congestion, provide an alternative to private car use and deliver a range of benefits over the next decade, all of which will have a positive effect on the M50.  

Funding allocated and amount drawn down to date.

In 2019, TII provided an allocation of €16.75m to progress this project.

Approximately €12m has been drawn down to-date in 2019.

I very much support this project and look forward to its introduction.

Questions Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (12)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

12. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he anticipates the tourism sector to expand in the coming year, including the identification of new markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48140/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Revenue from overseas visitors to Ireland reached record levels in 2018 and the tourism sector continues to perform strongly this year following 8 consecutive years of growth. Overseas visitor data released by the CSO for the first half of 2019 show that spending in Ireland by overseas visitors was €2,276 million, up 0.3% on the same period in 2018.

In Budget 2020, I secured an allocation of €186 million for tourism, up 10% (over €17m) on the 2019 allocation, which puts the sector in a strong position to grow next year. The additional resources in 2020 are primarily directed at tourism product development, including Greenways, and build on the €35 million increase in 2019. Furthermore, €7 million is being provided in a 2019 supplementary budget, to support accelerated tourism marketing initiatives aimed at mitigating the impacts of Brexit. Budget 2020 also provided for an additional €40 million contingency fund in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

Fáilte Ireland recently unveiled its plans for 2020 which focus on helping to sustain and support the tourism industry region by region.

Tourism Ireland will launch its 2020 marketing plans in early December. These plans will be consistent with the tourism commitments under the Government's Global Ireland Strategy. Under this Strategy, we are committed to developing tourism from new and emerging tourism markets with potential for Ireland. In Budget 2019, I provided almost €4 million in additional funding to Tourism Ireland to enable it to commence the implementation of strategies for growth in these new and emerging markets.

As the Deputy may be aware, in July of this year, the Government adopted new Tourism targets out to 2025. The headline target is revenue from overseas tourists of €6.5 billion (in real terms) by 2025.  Secondary targets have also been set and they are: employment in the sector increasing to 310,000; and 11.6 million overseas tourist visits by 2025.

Rail Network

Ceisteanna (13)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

13. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the extra carriages planned for 2021 will be provided for the northern line; the way in which the carriages will impact on frequency; if the existing platform infrastructure is capable of servicing extra carriages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the 41 additional InterCity Railcars recently approved by Government will benefit Northern Line commuters, as well as commuters on the Maynooth and Kildare Lines.

As the Deputy is aware Government has approved this project which will provide a 34% increase to capacity across the GDA commuter rail network in advance of the much bigger increases which will be delivered under the DART Expansion Programme.

This increase in capacity will be provided principally through lengthening existing trainsets, but also through providing some additional services. I am not aware of any infrastructure works required as a result of the proposal, although the overall project cost does include compatability works associated with the integration of the new carriages with the existing rail fleet.

I understand final contracts will be exchanged in the next few weeks and as the Deputy has already referred to, delivery will commence by late 2021.

The specific benefits for Northern Line commuters are considerable with a projected 20% increase in capacity once the project is completed. As mentioned some of this additional capacity will be delivered through moving current 5-car sets to 6-car sets or other extended configurations.

However the Northern Line will also benefit through the provision of two new additional services in the morning peak, which will be very welcome to those commuters who rely on the Line to get into work each morning.

As the Deputy is also aware, this is an intermediate measure ahead of a much bigger expansion of services on the Northern Line which will be delivered through the DART Expansion Programme. That Programme will see a massive expansion of fleet through the purchase of a minimum of 300 battery-electric or electric units, with the potential for that to increase to 600 units over a ten-year period, while the Programme will also electrify the Northern Line as far north as Drogheda.

These are all very welcome developments and I look forward to their implementation.

Road Traffic Legislation

Ceisteanna (14)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

14. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way in which the new regulation on the law of dangerous overtaking of cyclists will be enforced; the data being recorded on the matter to inform policy reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47909/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (Statutory Instrument Number 495 of 2019) builds on the previous legislation in relation to dangerous overtaking.  These regulations divide the offence of dangerous overtaking to make it a separate offence to dangerously overtake a pedal cyclist.  This will specifically target those drivers who put cyclists at risk.

Since 12 November 2019, the offence of dangerously overtaking a pedal cyclist carries a fixed charge of €120 and 3 penalty points.  The increase in the fixed charge to €120, which is significantly higher than most fixed charge amounts, is contained in the recently signed Road Traffic Act 2010 (Part 3) (Fixed Charge Offences) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (Statutory Instrument Number 548 of 2019).

The aim of the new legislation is to improve the behaviour of those drivers of mechanically propelled vehicles who put cyclists at risk when overtaking. In addition, the associated Road Safety Authority's campaign aimed at educating road users and in particular, motorists, has and will continue to heighten public awareness of the potential risks involved when overtaking cyclists.

Enforcement of the new dangerous overtaking of a pedal cyclist legislation, as with the existing legislation regarding dangerous overtaking and indeed all Road Traffic legislation, is a matter for An Garda Siochána. It is my understanding that data in relation to the enforcement of this new offence will be recorded on the Garda PULSE system and that statistical information will be eventually be available to assist in any future review of this particular legislation. 

As is the case with all Road Traffic legislation, which will now include this new offence, my officials keep the legislation under frequent review as priorities and the necessary resources allow.

Tourism Policy

Ceisteanna (15)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

15. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will fund initiatives to make Halloween-Samhain an international attraction for tourists on an all-island basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48176/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department's role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of developing national tourism policy, while our tourism agencies – Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland – have operational responsibility for the implementation of this policy.  Although it provides funding to Fáilte Ireland for investment in festivals and participative events, my Department has no role in the administration of related funding programmes.  These are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority.

With regard to tourism agency initiatives relating to Halloween/Samhain, the most recent key development has been the creation of a new three-day festival, Púca, which I launched this year with the aim of positioning Ireland internationally as the home of Halloween.  Developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with Meath and Louth County Councils and promoted overseas by Tourism Ireland, the Púca festival comprises of multiple events in three towns in these two counties.  It builds on an existing community celebration in Meath and leverages the strong historic, prehistoric, archaeological and mythical connections of that specific geographical area to ancient Celtic traditions around Samhain.

I would expect that any plans to expand this festival to other locations would have regard to factors such as authentic connection to Samhain, international visitor demand, cost benefit analysis, access and accommodation capacity among other factors.

I welcome the recent cooperation between Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland on the "Taste the Island" initiative which highlights the many unique and exciting ways holidaymakers in Ireland can enjoy local produce and food and drink experiences.

Public Transport Initiatives

Ceisteanna (16)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

16. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of disability groups do not support and have reservations regarding the concept of a proposed new centre (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48135/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for promoting the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network. I am aware that the NTA has already responded to the Deputy in this matter.

I am advised that the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is proposing the construction and development of a state-of-the-art, indoor, accessible transport training centre, to empower people with access needs when preparing for and during their journey using public transport. 

I understand that the primary goal of the National Transport Training Centre (NTCC) is to provide short-term comprehensive instruction, designed to teach people with disabilities how to travel safely and independently using public transportation. Training will also extend to transport agency staff and other key stakeholders. According to the NTA, the NCBI considers that such a centre has the potential to be transformative in enabling people who would not otherwise be able to become independent transport users, to gain familiarity and build their confidence in a supervised training facility.

The NTA has confirmed that following a review of the potential benefits of such a facility, it informed the NCBI in July of last year that it was willing to support the NCBI proposal and would be prepared to grant aid the delivery of a National Transport Training Centre if the training faculty was open to other groups with disabilities.  The NTA considers that the centre can perform a pivotal role in expanding the use of public transport by users with disabilities. 

The NTA has informed my Department that the NCBI have confirmed that it had been, and continues to be, their intention to make the facility available to user groups across the disability spectrum. 

I am also advised that while the NCBI has been in contact with a small number of disability groups, it intends to undertake a more comprehensive consultation process when it finalises arrangements for a potential premises.

Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (17)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

17. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the Bonagee link road project in County Donegal; when the project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47794/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and development stages of individual road projects is a matter for

(a)  the relevant road authority (i.e. local authorities) in relation to local and regional roads, or

(b) Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned, in relation to national roads. 

Background

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides the strategic and financial framework for the national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027.  In the ten years, over €11 billion will be invested in the overall road network.

Having consulted with TII, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on the Bonagee Link Road project, also referred to as the Letterkenny Relief Road: 

The Bonagee Link project, as referenced, is a legacy project proposal. All work on this historical scheme is now superseded and any development progressed previously, has been overtaken by newer project appraisal and project management requirements.

The concept and goals of the ‘Bonagee Link Road’ have been included and developed as an integral part of Section 2 of the current Trans European Network-Transport (TEN-T) Priority Route Improvement Project.

The N56/N13/N14 Letterkenny to Manorcunningham scheme is the current project dealing with the N56/N14 link across the River Swilly.

In 2016, Donegal County Council commissioned a Corridor Needs Study on the TEN–T Comprehensive  network within Donegal.  This network extends from the Leitrim County boundary in the south of the County to the County border with Derry in the northeast and includes the N14 Letterkenny to Lifford road. 

The Donegal TEN-T project is an important project for the entire County and indeed for the whole northwest region. It involves completing three new sections of National Road Network in Donegal under the collective heading of the TEN-T Priority Route Improvement Project, as I have mentioned.

Essentially the overall TEN-T project includes :-

Section 1: N15/N13 Ballybofey – Stranorlar Bypass;

Section 2: N56/N13/N14 Letterkenny to Manorcunningham including the upgrade of the Dual Carriageway as well as  a new N56 link road crossing the River Swilly ( locally referred to as "Bonagee Link" or part of the Letterkenny Relief/Ring Road);

Section 3: N14 Manorcunningham to Lifford Realignment Scheme including the link to A5/Western Transport Corridor in Northern Ireland.

The objectives of the three schemes are consistent with the National Planning Framework (NPF) 2040 and the core National Strategic Outcomes and priorities as stated in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018 to 2027. The projects themselves are individually listed in the NDP.

Current Status

The Donegal TEN-T project is well advanced through the route selection phase.  The Emerging Preferred Route Corridors were presented to the public on all three Sections earlier this year.  It is anticipated that the Options Selection Report will be finalised before the end of 2019.

Further design, including site investigations, surveys and more consultations with affected landowners will continue through 2019 and 2020.

It is intended to complete preliminary design and be in a position to request approval to publish the Compulsory Purchase Order and Environmental Impact Assessments Report for the entire project by mid 2021.

Expected Benefits:

The TEN-T Priority Route Improvement project will have many benefits including:

- Improved road safety;

- Improved journey times;

- Improve the local environment through urban bypass;

- Significantly improve local and regional connectivity and address infrastructure deficit for regional growth and development distribution.

Funding

TII has provided an allocation of €2.5m in 2019 to Donegal County Council to progress planning and design work on the TEN-T project.

In addition, with the support of DTT&S and TII, Donegal County Council was recently recommended for co-funding, under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Transport 2019 call for proposals, for its TEN-T Priority Route Improvement Project. The total eligible value of the project stage (design and development to EIS/CPO) is €8.67 million, of which 50% or €4.335 million has been recommended for funding under CEF. The Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) will shortly finalise and sign a grant agreement with the Council.

Sports Capital Programme

Ceisteanna (18)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

18. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the sports capital funds allocated for 2019 are sufficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48145/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Sports Capital Programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country.

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme (SCP) closed for applications on Friday 19th October 2018. By the closing date, 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding. This was the highest number of applications ever received.  186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents.  These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January. 619 equipment only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8m were announced to these organisations in May. The final allocations for capital works were announced in the last week with a total of €39.5m allocated to 1,009 projects.  This means that over €56m was allocated to sports projects under this most recent round which I believe represents a very significant step in improving sports facilities right across the country.

In view of the fact that the total amount sought by all applicants was €162 million, clearly not all applicants could receive the funding they sought. In relation to how individual grants were decided, the full scoring system was published in advance of assessment work commencing. The main considerations in assessing applications included the level of disadvantage in the area, the likelihood of the project increasing participation, whether the facility would be shared with other organisations and the level of SCP funding previously received by the organisation.

In relation to future assistance, Minister Ross and I will continue to make the case for enhanced investment in sport infrastructure in the years ahead to ensure that all of the objectives set out in the National Sports Policy are met.  My Department will now undertake a full review of the 2018 round of the SCP to consider any further improvements to the application and allocation process. This Review will also consider the timing and scale of the next round of the Programme but I fully expect that a new round will open for applications in the coming months.

Rural Transport Programme

Ceisteanna (19)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

19. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the policy he has to radically improve rural transport particularly for commuters from rural areas to the regional cities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48009/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I do not have responsibility for the day-to-day operations of public transport services. 

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of Local Link services funded under the Rural Transport Programme.

Public transport in rural areas of the country is primarily provided by bus and coach services, as well as rail and small public service vehicles (SPSV) services, which include Taxi, Hackney and Local Area Hackney services. 

The National Planning Framework commits to provide public transport infrastructure and services to meet the needs of smaller urban centres and rural areas.  It also commits to provide a quality nationwide community-based public transport system in rural Ireland which responds to local needs under the Rural Transport Network and similar initiatives. 

The National Development Plan (NDP) was published alongside the National Planning Framework.  While the NDP is a capital investment plan, it recognises the importance of investment in public transport services outside of the cities and commits to continued investment in such services over the lifetime of the NDP.  Subject to the availability of operational funding support, it is intended to introduce new town bus services in certain large towns to enable their development growth and provide a public transport option for residents and visitors.

Modal shift from the private car to sustainable means of transport remains central to the transport sector’s response to climate change.  Investment in public transport resulted in 269 million passenger journeys across all public transport operators on PSO services in 2018.  That’s an increase of 16.3 million, or 6.5% compared to 2017.

The bus and coach services include Public Service Obligation (PSO) services operated by Bus Éireann and other operators, Bus Éireann Expressway services, licensed services provided by commercial operators and Local Link services. 

Local Link services comprise conventional fixed services with regular routes, stopping places and timetables and Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services which respond to local demands and which constitute the vast majority of Local Link services.

I am committed to the further development of bus services in rural areas and that is why funding has been increased over the past number of years, for both PSO and Local Link services in rural areas.

The Deputy has specifically asked about commuter services and the increased funding has enabled the introduction of over 66 new commuter services into the Local Link network, operating five, six or seven days per week, as well as demand-responsive services. Key features of these new services include greater integration with existing public transport services and better linkage of services between and within towns and villages.

The NTA is also continually working with Bus Éireann to provide improvements on its contracted services. The scope and scale of the changes implemented recently, or planned to be introduced shortly, include improvements to its city and town services and non-urban networks. The changes being implemented on Stage Carriage services focus on delivering enhanced frequency throughout the day with earlier and/or later departures, more frequency and increased weekend services including on Sundays/Public Holidays.

Road Improvement Schemes

Ceisteanna (20)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

20. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps being taken to allow for greater safety for motorists turning on and off the N22 between Macroom and Ballincollig, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48142/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, improvement and upgrading of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

In the overall context of Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan 2018-2027 (NDP) has been developed by Government to underpin the successful implementation of the National Planning Framework (NPF).  This provides the strategic and financial framework for TII’s national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. 

In the ten years covered by the plan, over €11 billion will be invested in the overall road network.

The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies two categories of national road improvement projects

- the first category covers projects to advance to construction, subject to the satisfactory outcome of the project appraisal and development consent approval processes;

- the second category relates to projects at pre-appraisal and early planning stage which are being assessed with a view to developing a pipeline of suitable projects for development.    

Background

Following the economic downturn and the subsequent reduction in the availability of exchequer funding, Project Ireland 2040 now provides for the gradual build up in funding for the roads network but, it will take time to restore funding to the levels needed to maintain the road network in a 'steady state' condition, and allow for investment in new road improvement schemes. 

This is marked by the Government’s recent approval of a number of key major road infrastructure projects around the country and for the Cork region, such as the Ballyvourney to Macroom, and the construction contract has been awarded and the formal signing is scheduled for the 29th November 2019.

Safety assessments

TII  assesses the  current  condition  and performance  of the  national  road network on an  annual  basis,  considering aspects such  as capacity, traffic volumes,  level of service, road pavement condition,  condition of structures and safety.  In addition, they carry out a collision analysis of the entire national  road network, in compliance with the EU  Road Infrastructure Safety Management (RISM) Directive. The purpose of this exercise is to identify locations that have high concentrations of collisions.

N22 between Macroom and Ballincollig

Having consulted with TII, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on the N22 road between Macroom and Ballincollig:

The N22 Ovens to Macroom major scheme, which links the N22 Ballincollig Bypass to the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom scheme, is a legacy project proposal. This scheme was suspended some time ago, at which time it had been developed to the stage of  route selection. This scheme remains suspended and has not been identified in the NDP among the projects to be progressed. There are, therefore, no current plans to progress the planning and design of this project.  

Traffic calming measures, Safety feasibility Report and pavement strengthening.

However, while there are no plans to progress a major scheme,  traffic calming measures have been carried out at several of the junctions along the existing National Road in recent years.

In relation to one of the remaining unimproved junctions, the N22/R585 junction at Castlemore, Cork County Council are progressing the preparation of a HD15 Feasibility Report. Once completed, it will be issued to TII's Safety Section for review and consideration for funding.

 In addition, pavement strengthening proposals are also being considered.

Light Rail Projects Status

Ceisteanna (21)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

21. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the works taking place in relation to Metrolink; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48151/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware earlier this year  the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) held a public consultation in relation to what is known as the 'Preferred Route'. It followed last year's consultation on then then 'Emerging Preferred Route'. I understand that the NTA and TII are preparing a report of the submissions received during this year's consultation.

As you can appreciate an infrastructure project of this size requires extensive preparatory and exploratory work so, in addition to the extensive consultations held, I understand there has been an ongoing programme of works around the city related to issues such as geotechnical surveys etc.  

That programme of works will inform the development of the required environmental reports and also of course the development of the project's business case. As required under the Public Spending Code a business case will be developed by TII as the sponsoring agency. 

The Public Spending Code requires all projects with projected expenditure in excess of €100million to be submitted to Government for its approval at the appropriate decision gates and I expect therefore to receive a business case in relation to this project next year. I can assure the Deputy that my Department will ensure appropriate and rigorous analysis of the business case as one would expect for a project of this scale involving a significant investment of taxpayer funds.

Greenways Development

Ceisteanna (22)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

22. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the planned greenway from Athlone Castle to Eyre Square, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48011/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In 2018 I asked Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to manage the development of the Dublin-Galway greenway project which includes the Athlone Castle to Eyre Square section.  Since then progress has been made on certain sections of the route and also on various other matters in relation to the project. For example, the section from Maynooth to Athlone has been completed and an underpass has been constructed in Athlone that will permit the completion of the sections east of the Shannon in 2020.

Funding of €3m has been allocated for continued planning and design works for the Athlone to Galway section of the Galway to Dublin Greenway for 2020. A project office to progress the Athlone to Galway section is being established. The procurement process of the technical advisors will be completed around the end of this month and both the technical advisors and local authority staff will be based at the Ballinasloe project office from the new year. In addition officials are working with TII and other stakeholders to develop a Code of Best Practice for Greenways as set out in the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways.

I am committed to progressing this project and finding an agreed route that has the support of local communities and that will, once completed, provide a world class piece of infrastructure enabling people, from both home and abroad, to cycle and walk from coast to coast.

Transport Policy

Ceisteanna (23)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

23. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for future investment in the primary routes of County Meath. [48149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, development and construction of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The National Development Plan (NDP), which has been developed by Government to underpin the implementation of the National Planning Framework, provides the strategic and financial framework for Tll's national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. The focus of Tll's activities over the coming years is, therefore, being directed towards the development of the major national road improvement schemes that are listed in the NDP.

Following consultation with TII, I can provide an overview of national road developments in County Meath, to which the Deputy refers.

Major Schemes

The proposed N2 Slane Bypass is included amongst a number of major national road schemes that are identified for development during the period of the NDP. The scheme is also contained in the National Transport Authority (NTA) Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.

The bypass is intended to alleviate traffic congestion in the village and to reduce the potential for serious road traffic accidents due to the steep approaches to the very narrow Slane bridge and high number of commercial vehicles using the route.

The project is currently at Phase 2, route selection stage. Meath County Council has also commissioned a supplementary assessment of East-West options in relation to Slane to assess the N51 traffic implications. In that regard, Meath County Council held Public Consultation No. 3 (Emerging Preferred Option) for the scheme in Slane only last week (14 November 2019).  Following consideration of the Public Consultation on the emerging preferred option and the feedback and information gathered, the Options Selection process will be finalised. This process is well advanced and it is anticipated that the preferred route option will be selected later this year.  Once the preferred route is identified, the scheme will be progressed through planning and design.  A Business Case will then be prepared for the approval of both my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. In addition, the statutory documentation will be prepared, including the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR).  Meath County Council has indicated that the scheme is intended to be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in 2021, post the adoption of the new County Development Plan.

TII has provided an allocation of €1m to Meath County Council for the scheme this year. 

The proposed N2 Rath Roundabout to Kilmoon Cross scheme is also included amongst a number of major national road schemes that were identified in the NDP for progression through pre-appraisal and early planning during 2018. In this regard, the Project Pre-Appraisal for the proposed scheme has been approved by my Department.

This approximately 6 km scheme will address the existing operational and safety problems on this section of the N2, which has an annual average daily traffic of circa 16,000 vehicles per day and experiences considerable peak time congestion.

Meath County Council has engaged the services of Technical Advisors to commence the planning and design of the scheme. This year, TII has provided an allocation to Meath Co. Co. of €250,000 to progress the scheme. 

I am advised that it typically takes three to five years from this point through Phases 1 – 4 of the Project Management Guidelines, in order to have a scheme ready to submit to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval.

Minor Schemes

The N51 Dunmoe Phase 2 scheme comprises the construction of approximately 4 km of single carriageway and associated ancillary and consequential works, including the provision of side roads, accommodation works/roads, junctions, from the townland of Blackcastle Demesne to the townlands of Cruicetown and Pighill in County Meath. An Oral Hearing was held on 12th July 2018 and An Bord Pleanala confirmed the CPO for the scheme in October 2018. Meath Co Co are currently progressing the final design and tender documents and intend to go to tender for this scheme in 2020. TII has provided an allocation to Meath Co. Co. of €150,000 for the scheme this year.

The proposed N52 Grange to Clontail improvement scheme involves the realignment of approximately 3 km section of the existing N52 route.  The scheme will commence at an appropriate tie-in point at the Townland of Grange to the west and extend to an appropriate tie-in point at the Townland of Clontail. The expected benefits fo the scheme are -

- to reduce the occurrences of road collisions on the N52 by, for example, providing  increased lengths of overtaking opportunities;

- to reduce journey times on the N52; and

- to adequately cater for projected increase in traffic volumes.

The scheme is currently progressing through the early planning and design stage and this year, TII has provided an allocation to Meath Co. Co. of €100,000 for this work.

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (24)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

24. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress in the review of the 233 bus service in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48141/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Sports Organisations

Ceisteanna (25)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

25. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the creation of an all-island soccer league; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48177/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The organisation and delivery of sport in Ireland is mainly a matter for National Governing Bodies of Sport.  The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) are the respective Governing Bodies for soccer on the island.  They are independent and autonomous bodies and any proposals regarding an all-island soccer league would be a matter for those two bodies.

The organisation of sport on an all-island basis has worked very successfully for a number of sports, most notably in the cases of rugby and hockey.  I am very supportive of cross-border sporting initiatives and collaborations between sporting organisations.  Such approaches have excellent potential to enhance relationships on both parts of the island of Ireland.  In that regard, the Unite the Union Cup was a very welcome addition to the sporting calendar on the island of Ireland this year.

I am aware that proposals for an all-island league were presented in recent months and that, thus far, it has not been possible to progress such proposals.  It is important to respect the autonomy and positions of the National Governing Bodies in this matter however personally, I believe there is serious merit in such proposals.  I would encourage the bodies to continue to facilitate opportunities for cross-border cooperation and competition.

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (26)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

26. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the disability community were not consulted by the NTA in relation to BusConnects which is in contravention with Article 4 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. [48136/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the BusConnects programme.

I am aware that the NTA has engaged in extensive consultations  since the BusConnects project was first initiated and continues to proactively engage with all relevant stakeholders and citizens generally.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Rail Services Provision

Ceisteanna (27)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

27. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when approval will be given to Iarnród Éireann to purchase new rolling stock in view of the critical shortage of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48010/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Government recently approved for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the proposed purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars to increase capacity on the rail network.  This additional stock will cost approximately €150 million and is expected to commence entry into service by end 2021.

The Deputy may also be interested that, in May this year, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann commenced pre-qualifying in relation to a 10-year procurement framework for a minimum of 300 electric and battery-electric units with the potential for that to increase to 600 over the life of the procurement framework. This proposals forms part of the DART Expansion Programme and I expect to receive a business case in relation to the overall programme next year.

Railway Stations Upgrade

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (28)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

28. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need for the provision of funding for necessary upgrade works of various facilities at Thomastown train station, County Kilkenny (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47938/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport.  The operation of the rail network and stations on the network, including any proposals for upgrading of the station referred to by the Deputy, and in the context of plans to facilitate the event referred to, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility in this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for a direct and detailed reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (29)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

29. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the consultations and plans for BusConnects for the H1, H2 and H3 spine routes, for D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5 branch spine routes and the 290 local route in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47912/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the BusConnects programme.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Rail Services Provision

Ceisteanna (30, 221)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the rail carriages in storage will be brought into service; the manner in which this is likely to benefit commuters in north County Kildare and throughout the greater Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48139/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

221. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when rail carriages currently in storage will be redeployed to alleviate current overcrowding on the commuter rail service from Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Celbridge and Sallins with particular reference to identifying the most serious deficiencies in this regard with a view to early solution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48505/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 221 together.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport.  The procurement and or refurbishment of rolling stock is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance who, in consultation with the National Transport Authority (NTA), continue to examine how best to source additional rolling stock as efficiently and effectively as possible and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

In this regard and as the Deputy is aware, an option considered by Iarnród Éireann / NTA to increase fleet capacity was the proposed refurbishment and reintroduction of older train sets back into service.  This option was ruled out following market consultations which returned costs far in excess of those originally expected and which meant the option did not represent value for money.

However, as the Deputy is aware Government recently approved for the NTA and Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the proposed purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars to increase capacity on the rail network including north County Kildare.  This additional stock will increase capacity by around 34% on the Kildare, Maynooth and Northern lines in the morning peak time and is expected to commence entry into service by 2021.

Furthermore and for the Deputy's information, in May this year the NTA and Iarnród Éireann commenced pre-qualifying in relation to a 10-year procurement framework for a minimum of 300 electric and battery-electric units with the potential for that to increase to 600 over the life of the procurement framework. This proposal forms part of the DART Expansion Programme which will see both the Maynooth Line and the Kildare Line (to Hazelhatch) electrified and I expect to receive a business case in relation to the overall programme next year.

Haulage Industry

Ceisteanna (31)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

31. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the specific measures planned to assist hauliers in view of the higher operating costs and considerable negative impacts that Brexit will create for the industry. [48143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The haulage sector plays an important role in our economy and I recognise that it faces particular difficulties in the context of Brexit. 

My Department has maintained close contact with road haulage stakeholders in the context of Brexit and continues to work with the industry representative bodies to keep hauliers and businesses informed of developments, in keeping with our long-established practice.  My officials held meetings on a number of occasions this year  with representatives of Freight Transport Association Ireland and the Irish Road Haulage Association to discuss Brexit and the whole-of-Government preparations and, importantly, preparations by industry. I addressed an FTAI event on 29 August and emphasised the ongoing need for the transport and logistics sector to prepare for Brexit. 

My Department hosted a Brexit Freight Maritime Forum with key road transport and maritime stakeholders, including haulage industry representative bodies, in January of this year.  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine were also in attendance and addressed the Forum.  My Department was represented at a number of the Irish Retail Grocery and Distribution Sector Roundtable events to date in 2019 hosted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and engagement with this sector, including haulage industry representatives, is continuing.  

In March, my Department issued a comprehensive Brexit communications notice to all Irish licensed international road haulage operators outlining the position on a range of transport issues that would arise in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This notice is published in my Department’s area of www.gov.ie and the information available online will continue to be updated to keep industry stakeholders informed of Brexit developments.  An updated notice will be issued to the sector in the event of a potential no-deal Brexit on 31 January 2020. 

My Department has also advocated at EU level for contingency measures to assist hauliers in continuing to access the UK market if the UK exits the EU without an agreement in place. Regulation (EU) 2019/501 of the European Parliament and of the Council was adopted by the EU on 25 March 2019 to ensure the maintenance of basic road connectivity for road freight transport in the event of a no-deal Brexit, allowing UK road haulage operators to continue to access the EU on the basis that the UK gives reciprocal access to EU road haulage operators.  In October 2019, the period of application of this Regulation was extended to 31 July 2020.  

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) study into the implications of Brexit on the use of the landbridge, published in November 2018, estimated that approximately 150,000 Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) travel between Ireland and the continent via the landbridge each year.  A cross-departmental Landbridge Project Group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was established in October 2017 and has been working on measures aimed at ensuring the ongoing effective and efficient use of the landbridge post-Brexit, including the key Dover-Calais route.  The Group continues to engage with our EU partners to find solutions to minimise the potential disruption to Irish hauliers’ access to and through the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  In liaison with my Department, the IMDO hosted a workshop on 4 September 2019 to discuss maritime connectivity in the context of Brexit, and the Irish Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association Ireland were invited to this event, along with shipping companies, ports authorities, and importers/exporters.  

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has a range of supports available to business including the freight and logistic sector and details can be found on their website www.dbei.gov.ie. 

My Department, along with other Government Departments, has emphasised the importance of stakeholders taking all necessary steps within their control to prepare for Brexit, including undertaking contingency planning to minimise the impact of Brexit on their operations.  I would encourage road haulage operators to refer to the European Commission’s published Notices to Stakeholders in the field of road transport, the EU’s basic road connectivity contingency Regulation and the section titled “Brexit and Transport – What You Need to Know” in my Department’s area of www.gov.ie.

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (32)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the provision of a regular bus service from Portrane and Donabate, County Dublin to the city centre will be reviewed to ease the congestion and burden on the rail service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48152/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (33)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

33. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the assessment being carried out on the impact on tourism of the additional hotels being built in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48173/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Fáilte Ireland monitors the performance of tourist accommodation through regular occupancy surveys.  This analysis indicates that while the country as a whole has sufficient stock of tourist accommodation, there are capacity constraints in areas of high tourist traffic at times of peak demand and additional capacity is required in certain parts of the country, particularly Dublin city.

In this context, Fáilte Ireland commissions periodic assessments of hotel accommodation in Dublin, most recently August 2018.  Although the latest results confirm the current shortage, they expect that approximately 5,400 hotel rooms will come on stream in the coming years, including over 3,000 already under construction.  Present projections are that this activity will still be outpaced by growing demand but this is a dynamic situation and additional room stock may be developed in response to this demand.

With specific regard to factors within my Department's and Fáilte Ireland's remit, revised hotel Regulations were introduced in 2016.  These regulations were in response to consumer preferences and in order to boost the economic rationale for investment in hotel development.  The changes set out in these Regulations, in particular in regard to minimum room size have made investment even more attractive by allowing hotel operators provide more rooms and operate at a lower cost base, thereby improving hotel capacity, competitiveness and profitability.  Consumers also benefit in terms of increased room capacity, competition and range of accommodation.  Such additional supply also leads to greater choice for consumers, improved quality of accomodation and has the added benefit of lowering prices.

Rail Network Expansion

Ceisteanna (34)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

34. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if discussions have taken place within his Department on providing funding for extension of the railway line from Navan to Kingscourt, County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46618/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I have previously informed the Deputy that the priority funding objective in relation to mainline rail is the maintenance and renewal of the existing operating network.  That objective is supported by the significantly enhanced funding now available to support that network as evidenced by the approximate 23% increase in Exchequer funding provided in 2019. 

The Deputy is also aware from previous answers I have given on this issue that there is no funding provided within Project Ireland 2040 for the re-opening of the Kingscourt line.

Road Traffic Legislation

Ceisteanna (35)

John Curran

Ceist:

35. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress made to date to legislate for the use of e-scooters in view of the fact that the public consultation period for the use of e-scooters has closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48178/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, the public consultation on e-scooters and other forms of powered personal transporters closed on 1st November. My Department received more than 500 submissions and officials are currently going through them with the aim of producing a report. I have been informed that this report will be submitted to me for my consideration next month. I will not be making any decision on whether or not to amend road traffic law to regulate for the use of such vehicles until after I have given full consideration to the report.

In the meantime, the use of e-scooters and other powered personal transporters on public roads or in public places will remain strictly prohibited.