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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-17
 Header Item Taxi Regulations
 Header Item Rail Services
 Header Item Cycling Facilities
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Rail Services
 Header Item Tourism Promotion
 Header Item Departmental Funding

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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Written Answers Nos. 1-17

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Taxi Regulations

 10. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans for taxi branding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57207/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for the regulation of the taxi industry under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003, and is also the lead agency with responsibility for implementation of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011, including the implementation of the taxi “branding” as set out in that Report.  

  Action 31 of the Taxi Regulation Review Report in 2011 proposed the introduction of a distinctive branding on taxis and wheelchair accessible taxis by means of a semi-permanent decal  to be applied to the doors on either side of the vehicle, incorporating the umbrella 'Transport for Ireland' design. The aim of the branding is to provide greater recognition of taxis, promote greater professionalism of the industry and to reduce the potential for unlicensed vehicles to operate as taxis.

The taxi door branding will be a requirement for vehicles from January 1st 2013 in order to renew a vehicle licence or change a vehicle on a licence. The details of authorised suppliers of the signage can be found on the NTA website.

Rail Services

 11. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on works being carried out on the Luas BXD project; the total spend on the project so far and current estimate for the cost of the completed project.  [57236/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The National Transport Authority was established on 1st December 2009 and responsibility for the provision of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area, such as LUAS Broombridge, now comes under the remit of the Authority.

There has been extensive engagement between the Railway Procurement Agency, Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus and other stakeholders over the last number of years aimed at minimising the construction impacts of Luas Broombridge on all road users, including pedestrians, and on businesses in the city centre area. A Traffic Forum has also been established, comprising representatives of the RPA, An Garda Siochana, Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus and the NTA.  This forum will play the key role developing the transport arrangements that will be put in place during the construction of the Luas Broombridge. Minister Varadkar has established a high level project group, to be chaired by himself, to include RPA, NTA and Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus, An Garda Siochana, as well as representatives of traders and businesses and which will  enable him to liaise directly with key stakeholders particularly in relation to traffic management issues.  The inaugural meeting of this group has recently taken place.

Funding has been included in my Department's capital allocation to 2016 to cover the cost of commencing the main construction works in 2015 and for pre-construction enabling works in 2013 and 2014.  Construction is expected to take 4 years.  The estimated cost of the project is €368m of which approximately €16m has been spent to date.

  Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 8.

Cycling Facilities

 13. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the funding that is being provided by the National Transport Authority for the expansion of Dublin Bikes this year and in follow on years; if he will be supporting the further expansion of the scheme; if he will be in a position to ensure this is implemented quickly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57255/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly This question is about the expansion of the Dublin Bikes scheme. Currently, I understand that the National Transport Authority is working with Dublin City Council  to enable the first phase of this expansion to progress.  I am informed that this phase is focussed on expanding the scheme eastwards into the Docklands and westwards to Heuston Station.  Discussions are on-going at present with the operator of the current scheme in relation to this phase of expansion and I understand that it is hoped that a suitable arrangement can be concluded early next year, following which the expansion works would then be undertaken. Regarding specific funding being made available by the NTA I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Roads Maintenance

 14. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the measures he will take to ensure the up keep of the State’s road network to maintain safety and quality conditions in view of cutbacks in Budget 2013. [57237/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly This Question concerns the maintenance and upkeep of the roads network.

  The Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport has responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Specifically, the improvement and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under sections 17 and 19 of the Roads Acts 1993 (as amended) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

  The maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended). The carrying out of works on these roads is a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded is also a matter for the local authority. 

  The NRA will be working within a very restricted budget for the next number of years. These funding constraints mean that it will not be possible to progress a range of worthwhile projects for now. Given these constraints the main priorities will be to maintain the existing road network and prioritise safety projects, followed by road improvements, and finally by new projects.  In this regard, the NRA have been provided with over €647 million in 2012 for maintenance and improvement works on national roads. This figure will reduce to €319.6 million in 2013 and these monies will be mainly focused on maintenance and repairs and safety works.

  This year, local authorities have been provided with over €377 million in regional and local road grants while the proposed grant in 2013 will be €346.3 million (a reduction of 8%).  The priority is to maintain the road network with the main focus again being the Restoration Improvement and Maintenance programmes. Local authorities were also provided with flexibility to change their programmes if necessary to ensure resources are targeted at the areas which need it most.

Rail Services

 15. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to put in place measures to increase the capacity of the Luas to deal with high volumes of passengers at the Heuston stop such as building a link between the Red Line and Green line filtering passengers off the Red Line before Heuston via Fatima stop.  [57243/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Alan Kelly): Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as LUAS, comes under the remit of the NTA.   

Given the limited availability of Exchequer funding, Luas Broombridge is the only major public transport project to receive funding under the Government’s 5-year capital investment programme for transport to 2016.  This project was prioritised as it was affordable, has a strong business case and links the two existing Luas lines thereby providing a Luas network. The limited funding available to 2016 does not allow for further extensions to Luas in that period.  

However capital projects such as further Luas extensions will be examined again in 2015 in advance of the next capital programme and projects which are affordable, have strong business cases and contribute to sustainable economic recovery will be shortlisted for consideration.

Tourism Promotion

 16. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide details of any new projects he expects to receive funding from the €56 million provided for tourism product development between 2013 and 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57266/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Government's Medium Term Exchequer Framework 2012-2016 includes provision for significant investment in tourism product development, in recognition of the contribution that capital investment in tourism can make to increasing visitor numbers in the medium term and to sustaining economic recovery. The allocation of funding to specific tourism capital investment projects is the responsibility of Fáilte Ireland, which operates the Tourism Capital Investment Programme, and final decisions in this regard are made by the Fáilte Ireland Authority.  Since the Government took office in 2011, funding of over €28 million has been approved by Fáilte Ireland under the Tourism Capital Investment Programme.  Significant projects already announced include Derrynane House, Killarney House, Trinity College Book of Kells, the Dublin Heritage Mile, the Kilkenny Medieval Mile, and the first phase of the Wild Atlantic Way in Connemara, as well as a range of other investments. Much of the funding available in the period 2013-2016 will be used to meet these and other prior existing commitments.

Given the level of existing commitments, there is limited scope for additional project approvals between 2013 and 2016.  Any such projects will be assessed by the Fáilte Ireland executive and by the Capital Investment Appraisal Group before being referred to the Fáilte Ireland Authority for final approval. 

Departmental Funding

 17. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the way the €7million allocated for the Gathering in the 2012 Budget will be spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [57262/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring This question relates to the funding allocated to Fáilte Ireland to enable it to deliver The Gathering Ireland 2013 initiative.

A total of €7 million has been allocated from within the 2013 budget of the Department to support the Gathering. The funding will be utilised in supporting festivals and events that are being staged as part of the Gathering; engaging with communities to ensure gatherings and initiatives come to fruition successfully; international and domestic marketing of the Gathering; digital and online promotion and work to maximise the long-term legacy of the initiative and to measure its economic impact and effectiveness.

The individual amounts to be allocated to these aspects of the initiative are an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. I have referred the matter to Fáilte Ireland for further information to be provided to the Deputy.  Please contact Minister Varadkar's private office if a reply is not received within ten working days.

As the 1st January draws closer, I am confident that the Gathering will be very successful in inspiring overseas visitors to come to Ireland next year. Starting with the New Year's Eve celebrations in Dublin all the arrangements are coming together to ensure a memorable year for Irish tourism.


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