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 Header Item Transport Policy (Continued)
 Header Item Rail Network Expansion

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan] The amount the Minister has provided in the national development plan for green transport or environmentally friendly transport is €8.6 million. We were supposed to have an all-of-government plan from the new Minister for the Environment, Planning and Local Government. Could the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport tell us what he is doing about this area, specifically in respect of transport?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As the Deputy is probably aware, in budget 2019 I secured funding of almost €790 million for sustainable mobility measures. This allocation will be invested in public transport infrastructure and services, cycling and walking initiatives and other measures designed to reduce our carbon footprint.

The framework for this significantly enhanced level of funding is of course the national development plan, which outlines a number of significant measures designed to support sustainable mobility. These measures include BusConnects in all major cities, MetroLink, DART expansion and increased funding for the heavy rail network generally.

In 2019 we will see expanded PSO bus fleets through the provision of around 65 additional buses to the bus fleet in Dublin alone, while we will also see around 85 older buses replaced by more modern and environmentally friendly buses as part of the bus replacement programme. This order also represents the last diesel-only order as, from 2019 onwards, the NTA will end the purchase of diesel-only buses for the urban PSO bus fleets. In support of that move, a comprehensive series of low-emission bus trials has just commenced in Dublin, with support from the green public transport fund and from multiple agencies, including the National Transport Authority, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. It is expected that the trials will conclude in April 2019. A final report will be produced which will further inform the best lower-emission option, or options, for our PSO services in the greater Dublin area and the regional cities.

Next year will also see consultations continue on the BusConnects Dublin programme with a second round of public consultation on the proposed new bus network and consultations continuing all through the first half of the year on the proposed new bus and cycle lanes. BusConnects is a significant programme, with an allocation of €2.4 billion over the lifetime of the national development plan, and will deliver improved journey times and expanded services that will benefit tens of millions of passenger journeys each year. In 2019, we will also continue to plan for the delivery of MetroLink.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Minister has dodged the hard decisions on having environmentally friendly transport. For example, there is a major shortage of rolling stock, which the Minister knows is one of the major reasons we have had chaos, confusion and serious and dangerous overcrowding on the north-side DART and west-side commuter lines. He dodged key decisions, for example in regard to the equalisation of diesel and petrol and the provision of significant sums for green infrastructure. Aviation has been a major contributor to carbon emissions over the years, and its contribution is growing. I noticed Ryanair now asks its passengers to make a contribution to deal with their carbon footprint. Nonetheless, the Government has not examined the issue of kerosine. There has been insufficient progress on the rolling out of an electric vehicle network. On a range of areas, all the Minister has done is mark time; he has done nothing significant.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I do not expect that the Deputy expects me to agree with that. Of course I do not.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I do.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross We have made some really significant and environmentally friendly decisions, some of which I have already explained to the Deputy. On electric vehicles, the Deputy is quite right that they have been very disappointing to some extent. Certainly up to this year, they were very disappointing but the Deputy will be aware that the number is now rocketing. Admittedly, this is from a low base but the number is rising very fast and we are very optimistic that electric vehicles will become a far more common and successful product. We are going to buy into them in a big way; we have to. The incentives we have produced have sent numbers rising very quickly.

On the other points, the Deputy has not given the Government due credit. BusConnects, MetroLink, the DART expansion, the work on the Royal Canal and the Dodder, and the greenway from Clontarf, near the Deputy's constituency, to the city centre all involve clean transport.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Minister has responsibility for developing environmentally friendly transport links. Unfortunately, he has failed in this. We now face fines ranging from €65 million to €130 million for each percentage by which we will not have met our 2020 environmental targets. This is a grave fiscal failure. I have a motion of the Dáil clár today relating to the devastating report of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council on the irresponsible and thoughtless fiscal approach of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and the rest of the Government. This is also the case in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The Deputy is correct that we have work to do. We have a lot of catching up to do. I do not make any bones about that. I spelt out in my initial response the plans we have to do what we have to do. I am very confident that major improvements and strides will be made. The Deputy is correct that we have catching up to do but he did not address the large projects to which we are already committed and that will be very progressive in the environmental sphere.

I want to sit down to facilitate Deputy Peadar Tóibín.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín I thank the Minister for his flexibility.

Rail Network Expansion

 12. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross when a rail line from Dublin to Navan will be provided in view of the fact that the commuting situation is deteriorating. [52212/18]

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín I have raised this issue with the Minister a number of times. Meath has a population that is now approaching 250,000. It is the fastest growing population in the country. Meath is now one of the most populous counties. It has the highest number of commuters per capita. The majority of workers this morning left the county to go to work. That happens in no other county in the country. Meath is unique in that regard. Meath residents commute farther than commuters from any other county, yet Navan is the biggest town in the country without a rail line. When will the rail line to Meath be built?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Deputy for the question. I believe it was raised before. I wish the Deputy well in his new venture. I welcome the fact that he has not lost sight of the home base while doing what he has to do.

As the Deputy is aware, the Navan corridor, or M3 corridor, is currently served by a commuter rail service that commences at M3 Parkway and serves Dunboyne before continuing through to Docklands. The service also allows for interchange with Maynooth line services at Clonsilla. Importantly, the service also benefits from two park-and-ride sites, with 1,200 parking spaces available at M3 Parkway and 300 at Dunboyne. These park-and-ride sites broaden the reach of the service and allow for people who might not live in the immediate vicinity of either station to make use of the service.

In 2016, the NTA published its statutory transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, in which the issue of a rail link to Navan was considered. The strategy states that based on current population and employment forecasts, the level of travel demand between Navan, Dunshaughlin and various stations to the city centre is insufficient to justify the development of a high-capacity rail link at the current time. Instead, the strategy proposes an enhanced bus service along the corridor and the development of a bus hub in Navan. In addition, the strategy also proposes enhanced bus services on the N2 corridor.

Late last year, Bus Éireann announced new services along the M3 corridor, known as the NX service, which starts in Navan and is scheduled to operate every 20 minutes during the day. While I acknowledge that the introduction of the new service has not been without problems, I believe the provision of an all-day service every 20 minutes operated by double decker coaches does represent a step forward in terms of public transport capacity on the route.

Meath County Council, in collaboration with the NTA, is currently progressing the development of a bus hub as provided for by the transport strategy. Importantly, the transport strategy clearly states that the issue of a rail link to Navan should be kept under review, taking into account the scale of new and planned development along the route. The strategy also clearly states that the corridor previously identified for a Navan rail link should be protected from development.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín The transport system, especially around the commuter belt, is at breaking point. Anybody using the M3 or roads such as the M50 will know they are chock-a-block from 7 a.m. If an accident occurs on those roads, the whole system becomes snarled up. This is a massive difficulty for commuters. Over the past ten years, we have had one of the lowest levels of expenditure on infrastructure in the European Union, and that has had its effect. Many are living in commuter hell. Many businesses are pouring millions of euro down the drain owing to commuters getting stuck in traffic jams.

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