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 Header Item Penalty Point System (Continued)
 Header Item Transport Policy

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace] Some people are very concerned about problems in the system in terms of what it is lawful to terminate and what is not. What is required is a review of the system surrounding the discretion the gardaí use and the policy and processes within the Garda to oversee the exercise of that discretion. We must examine what is and is not lawful to terminate, what criteria are used, if any, what process is used, whether reasons are set out, if there is a paper trail, what monitoring and oversight provisions exist and what review or appeal mechanism exists to ensure that this discretion is exercised fairly. It is alleged that there have been almost 100,000 terminations in the last five years. Only a public inquiry by a specially appointed independent individual can respond to these allegations and the serious concerns raised, in order to restore public confidence in the force.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The penalty points system has contributed hugely to the number of lives that have been saved on the roads. I have a question about people who drive unaccompanied by a full licence holder. Section 54(c) must be activated, if I am not mistaken, and primary legislation is required. Will the Minister confirm that? Will he also comment on what is planned to deal with people who do not display learner plates? Once again, I believe legislation will be required. What is planned to deal with the people driving under the influence of drugs, as opposed to driving under the influence of drink?

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan On the penalty points system, earlier the Minister spoke quite passionately about how he intended to enforce the law for taxi drivers. That is very admirable. I hope he will be as quick to enforce the law when it comes to what is happening with the penalty points at present.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Minister and I are aware of the claims regarding the alleged quashing of penalty points for road traffic offences. When provided with the documents the Minister forwarded a list of all the allegations to the Minister for Justice and Equality expressing his concern and asked that the matter be fully investigated. The Government believes the matter must be fully investigated. I understand the Garda Commissioner has ordered an investigation of the allegations under the direction of Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney. They are allegations at this stage, although many Deputies have commented openly on them in the media recently. However, it would not be appropriate to comment further until the investigation is complete and the Government makes a decision on how it will respond to the investigation. This issue is being taken very seriously and will be investigated thoroughly, as it must be.

On the questions asked by Deputy Ellis, if a learner driver drives without appropriate learner plates, he or she will receive penalty points and on receiving six penalty points, he or she will have his or her licence revoked. That is an important new change. There will be roadside testing for drugs and a process will be put in place to achieve that. There will be two stages in the process. The first is to ensure that we can do roadside drug testing. Every Member would support that. At a later date we hope to be able to provide the mechanisms for doing that as well. Initially, we will carry out roadside testing. The Deputy asked some other questions and I will revert back to him on them.

Transport Policy

 7. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the implication for transport policy in view of the fact that the proportion of commuters using cars to travel to work has risen from 57% to 69% over the past 30 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57225/12]

 32. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar in view of the most recent data from the Central Statistics Office which show continued and marked increases in numbers commuting by car for both workers and school students, the measures he intends to introduce to reverse this trend in the lifetime of this Government; in particular, the initiatives he intends for the greater Dublin area where 55% of commuters travel to work by car; the measures he intends to implement to reduce the numbers of school students travelling to school by car; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57196/12]

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 32 together.

  According to the Census in 2011 around 1.14 million people drove to work or were passengers in a car, representing 69% of commuters. That was very similar to 2006 when around 1.18 million people drove to work or were passengers in a car. Despite the fall in car commuting numbers, due to lower numbers in employment, car mode share was higher in 2011, standing at 69% of commuters compared to 66% in 2006, which I noted with disappointment.  I was, however, heartened to note the cycling numbers, which were up from 36,000 in 2006 to 39,000 for people travelling to work, and up from 54,000 to 61,000 for travel to work and education. This increase, although from a modest base, reverses a long-standing trend of fewer people commuting by bike.

  This Government recognises the challenge ahead and remains committed to decreasing reliance on the private car.  We are taking a two-pronged approach to improving sustainable commuting rates: investment in public transport and infrastructure to facilitate cycling and walking, allied to support for programmes to encourage people to make smarter travel decisions. In addition to funding for facilities or infrastructure to make smarter travel safer and more attractive to users, my Department funds a number of schemes to encourage smarter travel, including the travel element of the Green Schools programme, which is proving successful in securing behavioural change on the school run, a new Smarter Campuses programme and Smarter Travel Workplaces, which helps employers to bring smarter travel to their workplaces.

  In the greater Dublin area, my Department works with the NTA to decrease reliance on the private car. Successful initiatives in the region include the dublinbikes scheme and continued investment in cycle lanes and pedestrian measures. The region is served by an extensive public transport network, greatly improved by the roll-out of RTPI and the Leap card over the last year. A reduction in car trips can only be achieved if we all make smarter travel choices.  The Government will continue to focus on facilitating and encouraging people to consider using public transport or walking and cycling, where possible.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Minister set out the headline changes and is obviously disappointed with them. Obviously, much more must be done to develop a strategy to get more people out of the car. Since 1981 there has been a serious reduction in the number of people using buses. Some of that is due to the fact that as the economy improved there was a greater propensity for car ownership to increase. People liked the freedoms associated with that. The transformation of our road network also helped in terms of the reduction in gridlock. People considered it more convenient to use their cars. The Government should encourage people to use public transport to a greater extent, although this cannot be laid at the Government's door alone.

Changes are taking place now that are having an impact on the use of public transport. Obviously, it must be recognised by the Government that there is a social good associated with the modal shift away from the car to public transport. That brings me back to the discussion we had in the past about trying to restructure CIE and funding it adequately and appropriately. Before the Minister says so, I am aware that the previous Government reduced the level of subvention. The Minister is following through on that. This year he had to provide an additional €35 million. It will put a huge strain on CIE next year if it will have to manage without that sum and without having an overall restructuring. I am concerned that the immediate response to the cutback in subvention - and the same comment could be made to the previous Government - will be to reduce service and increase ticket prices. While those two actions might resolve the economic imbalance that exists within the State companies, they act as a very significant disincentive for people using public transport. The Minister will have to come forward with ways to mitigate the worst effects of having to increase fares and reduce service in order to retain the network during the recession so there will be an adequate and appropriate public transport service when the economy recovers.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I have taken the Deputy's comments on board. Everything is being done to ensure the public transport network is maintained and enhanced from a qualitative perspective, in particular, to make customer journeys a better experience, whether that is through WiFi, the RTPI, the Leap card and many other adjustments. While I was surprised by some of the figures produced by the analysis, I was taken aback by those on cycling.

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