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 Header Item Rail Services
 Header Item Public Service Obligation Services
 Header Item Labour Court Recommendations
 Header Item Cycling Facilities
 Header Item Rail Services
 Header Item Departmental Staff Recruitment
 Header Item Stadium Projects
 Header Item Tourism Promotion
 Header Item Regional Airports
 Header Item Haulage Industry Regulation
 Header Item Company Takeovers
 Header Item Driving Tests
 Header Item Tourism Industry Issues
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

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Rail Services

 1903. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will support a mattter (details supplied). [37694/12]

 1915. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the subvention made to CIÉ; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38168/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1903  and 1915  together.

The decision to increase the subvention to CIÉ was taken to ensure that the Group remains adequately funded for the immediate future and can continue to provide a sufficient service to the travelling public. The decision was only taken after detailed consideration of the consequences of a failure to do so, which involved an unacceptable risk to the provision of public transport services in the coming months. 

As regards specific queries raised by the Deputies, the issue was discussed by the Government at its meeting on 24 July and the decision was announced on the same day.  The provision of public service obligation (PSO) services by the CIÉ companies is subject to contract between the companies and the National Transport Authority (NTA). The allocation of the additional PSO subvention is a matter therefore for the NTA in conjunction with the companies.

The additional subvention relates to compensation for PSO contracted services and is required in order that the CIÉ companies could fulfil their existing PSO contracts in 2012.  There will be absolutely no subvention of any commercial services operated by the CIÉ companies.  Funding of PSO contracts is done in accordance with the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as amended by the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, and EU Regulation No. 1370/2007 of 23 October 2007 on public passenger transport services by rail and by road.

The reallocation involved includes savings on the public transport programme, Smarter Travel/carbon reduction measures and sports and deferral of expenditure in the maritime sector and on tourism product development.

Public Service Obligation Services

 1904. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when a decision will be made on the issue of Ireland's public service obligation services; the services that will be put out to tender among private bus companies; if he will comment on the possible savings for the State if PSO contracts were to be tendered to private companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37705/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The issue raised by the Deputy  is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct reply. He should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.  

Under EU law and the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as amended, existing public service obligation (PSO) bus and rail services can be procured by the National Transport Authority through direct award contracts and any other new subvented services must be procured by way of open tendering. At the expiry of the current 5 year direct award contracts for the provision of PSO services with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann the NTA have discretion to renew, modify or terminate the direct award provision of bus services following a consultation process with interested parties under which the NTA is obliged to justify its approach.

A  public consultation on 2014 Bus Public Service Contracts, as required by the legislation, commenced on 14th June and concluded on 11th July, 2012. The NTA is considering whether to undertake one or more procurement competitions for the award of part or all of these contracts, or it may decide to directly award part or all of these contracts to the existing contracted parties.

In accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government to explore the benefit to the public transport passenger of more diverse bus service provision, I will be consulting with my Ministerial colleagues on the future options for procurement of PSO bus services.

Labour Court Recommendations

 1905. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will supply a list of all Labour Court recommendations that have been issued in respect of his Department and organisations under his aegis that have not been complied with in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37761/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I wish to advise the Deputy that the Labour Court has not issued any specific recommendations in relation to my Department.   

  I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the organisations under the aegis of my Department for their direct response.  He should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

  Question No. 1906 answered with Question No. 1871.

Cycling Facilities

 1907. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will outline his policy under the Sustainable Transport Office in relation to the development of inter urban cycle routes and his views if these should be considered along bypassed national primary routes and the plans for County Laois under this plan and routes proposed to link midland towns to towns in Munster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37783/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The development of interurban cycle routes is being progressed through the National Cycle Network funding scheme. This scheme was launched in March 2012 with Local Authorities being invited to submit up to two project proposals for cycle route delivery in line with detailed assessment criteria. The exact routes submitted were entirely a matter for each Local Authority to decide. Over 50 applications for funding were received.

  Funding for successful projects was announced in June, with a total of €7.032 million being allocated to fund 16 projects, each in a different Local Authority area. A wide variety of route types have been allocated funding, including canal tow path routes, routes along disused rail lines and routes which make use of bypassed national roads. While Laois County Council submitted two project applications, neither application was successful. A full list of funded projects is available at http://transport.ie/pressRelease.aspx?Id=566.

Rail Services

 1908. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he intends to re-open the Athenry to Tuam Railway line to passenger traffic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37803/12]

 1909. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he intends to open the Athenry to Claremorris railway line to freight traffic in view of the recently announced plans for the Port of Foynes and the potential for freight carriage on this line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37804/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1908 and 1909 together.

  The Government’s programme for the funding of capital projects to 2016 is set out in the "Medium Term Exchequer Framework 2012-16  ".   

  Due to the overall reduction in funding for transport infrastructure the priority to 2016 is to protect investment made to date and to maintain safety standards.   The limited funding available over and above this priority will only be provided for projects which are affordable, meet overall transport objectives and deliver the best return in terms of economic recovery and job creation. Moreover the ability to operate profitably and without the need of any subsidy would also be a key consideration for any new rail projects or extensions.    

  Phase 2 of the Western Rail  Corridor, Athenry to Tuam, is being deferred for consideration in 2015, in advance of the next Public Capital Programme. The extension of the Western Rail Corridor from Tuam to Claremorris, ie Phase 3,  for either passenger of freight services can only be considered after Phase 2 is completed.   

  In relation to the railway line from Limerick to Shannon Foynes Port any proposal regarding re-opening  is dependent on proposals from the  private sector to fund the necessary investment. It is not proposed to fund any such re-opening from public funds, as no such funds are available. The same is true for the re-opening of other lines for the purposes of freight traffic.

Departmental Staff Recruitment

 1910. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding recruiting persons with a disability; the number of persons currently employed in his Department; the number of persons with a disability that have been employed since 1 January 2011 to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37845/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are currently 466.94 staff employed in my Department (550 whole time equivalents), 5.1% of whom have a disability.  Due to a moratorium on recruitment, no recruitment has been permitted into Government Departments since 1 January 2011. 

Stadium Projects

 1911. Deputy Paudie Coffey Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar in view of the proposed bid by the Irish Rugby Football Union for Ireland to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and in view of the fact that County Waterford has transportation links with the UK and the passenger port in Rosslare, County Wexford, which is linked to France is also in the region and the region has strong road and rail links between County Waterford and County Cork and Dublin, if there are any proposals to develop a sports stadium facility in the gateway city in the south east so that it would be part of such a bid and so that the south east region will not be the only region in the country to be excluded from such a bid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37994/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The normal procedure in regard to the hosting of an international sporting event is that the Irish affiliate of the relevant governing body will bid to host the event in Ireland. In the case of the  2023 Rugby World Cup, any bid would be made by the IRFU. I have expressed my support to the IRFU for any bid that they decide to make.   

  In the context of any bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup the issue of stadia is a matter for the IRFU in the first instance.

Tourism Promotion

 1912. Deputy Paudie Coffey Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will indicate the initiatives and events that will be taking place in Waterford next year as a result of his Department's initiative The Gathering in order to attract and boost numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38037/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Gathering Team are currently holding a range of community meetings across the country to facilitate in the development of local and regional events. To date meetings have been held in a range of counties including Roscommon, Mayo, Clare, Kerry, Cavan, Leitrim, Carlow, Meath, Wicklow, Monaghan and Tipperary.  Meetings have recently been announced for Waterford in Dungarvan on 1st October and in Waterford City on 2nd October.  All the agreed events to date as well as those developed subsequent to the community meetings will appear on the website www.thegatheringireland.com. I have referred the Deputy's Question to Fáilte Ireland for further information and direct reply.  He should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Regional Airports

 1913. Deputy Paudie Coffey Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the plans he has in place to ensure that Waterford Regional Airport is utilised to its fullest potential in order that as many tourists as possible will use it throughout 2013 as part of The Gathering initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38038/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I presented proposals for "The Gathering Ireland 2013" at the Global Irish Economic Forum last October.  Fáilte Ireland is the lead agency for the implementation of  the initiative and has put in place a Project Executive Team to implement it.  Tourism Ireland has specific responsibility for promoting The Gathering in overseas markets and has also provided staff for the Project Team.     

  A series of Gathering Community Meetings are being held throughout Ireland to engage and mobilise local communities, providing an opportunity for people to learn more about ‘The Gathering’ and how they can be part of it.  A website has been established with information on how people can play their part in the event, including online support for potential organisers to submit queries and download promotional material. In addition, social media channels are on stream to promote the event.    

  In terms of resources, a specific ring-fenced additional €5m allocation has been provided to Fáilte Ireland this year primarily for establishing the support structure and for marketing.     

  Waterford Airport and the other regional airports are privately owned entities and it a matter for the owners and management of those airports to use all the means available to them to ensure that they maximise the benefits of the wonderful opportunity presented by The Gathering initiative.

Haulage Industry Regulation

 1914. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will consider the very genuine concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38152/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The licensing of operators for the carriage of goods for hire and reward using heavy goods vehicles is provided for in the Road Transport Acts and EU legislation.  The licensing of operators engaged in the carriage of their own goods is the exception across the EU.  I am aware that it is the case in Great Britain and more recently in Northern Ireland with the enactment of the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010.

The licensing of such operators is one of a number of issues that will be looked at in the context of the planned review of the Road Transport Acts, to determine if a change of policy is needed.

The Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Act 2012 has already been enacted.  As regards effective enforcement, one of its key components is the establishment of a new risk rating system for the purpose of the effective and targeted enforcement in respect of standards of roadworthiness, tachographs and driver’s hours rules. It is proposed that operators with higher ratings will be checked more closely and more often than those with lower ratings.  Priorities for my Department and the Road Safety Authority in relation to the Act in question are to finalise the necessary secondary legislation to give effect to the various provisions contained in the Act and to implement the various components of a commercial vehicle reform programme as quickly as possible so as to improve the roadworthiness condition of commercial vehicles on our roads and road safety.

  Question No. 1915 answered with Question No. 1903.

Company Takeovers

 1916. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on a matter (details supplied). [38287/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This question concerns the recent Ryanair takeover offer for Aer Lingus.

The paper prepared by the Central Representative Council, which is enclosed with the correspondence referred to in the question was sent directly to me by the CRC. The CRC represents the trade unions in Aer Lingus and I am familiar with the arguments they put forward against Ryanair's offer. 

The European Commission conducted an initial examination of the takeover offer under EU merger control rules, (a Phase I examination) and announced on 29th August 2012 that it has opened a more in-depth examination (Phase II examination) of the offer because the Phase I examination indicated potential competition concerns.

The Commission now has until 16 January 2013 to take a decision on whether the proposed transaction would significantly impede effective competition. Ryanair’s Offer has now lapsed in accordance with the Irish Takeover Panel Rules. However, Ryanair has declared its intention to re-bid for Aer Lingus in the event that the European Commission approves of the merger. My Department will continue to closely monitor the competition case over the coming months.

Driving Tests

 1917. Deputy John Paul Phelan Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the arrangements in place or planned to ensure that the same standards are implemented by driver testers across the country to ensure that the large differences in test outcomes throughout the country do not continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38367/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Responsibility for the operation of the driver testing service is a matter for the Road Safety Authority (RSA).  I have therefore referred the question to the RSA for direct reply.  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Tourism Industry Issues

 1918. Deputy Peter Mathews Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if any funding is available to a person (details supplied) who has set up a company to promote heritage sites, national monuments and architectural wonders here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38448/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department’s role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of national policy and it is not involved in the administration of tourism funding programmes. 

  Fáilte Ireland provides a range of business supports to individual tourism businesses throughout the country. The supports assist businesses in matters including financial restructuring, business mentoring, productivity improvement, sales and marketing, ebusiness and customer care, but they do not directly fund business expansion.  

  To access these supports the company should contact their local Fáilte Ireland Client Services Officer. Contact details for these officers are available in the booklet "Your Guide to Fáilte Ireland Services 2012" which is available under Publications on the Fáilte Ireland corporate website, www.failteireland.ie.

Departmental Staff Training

 1919. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount of money spent on an annual basis on education and training of staff in 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of staff who availed of each course; if he will provide a list of the courses staff undertook and the cost of each course per person. [38493/12]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.


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