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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 13-33
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Military Aircraft Landings
 Header Item Rural Transport Services Provision
 Header Item Road Projects Status
 Header Item Integrated Ticketing
 Header Item Public Service Vehicles
 Header Item Road Network
 Header Item Public Transport Fares
 Header Item Public Transport Provision
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Traffic Calming Measures
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Military Aircraft Landings
 Header Item Transport Policy
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Traffic Management
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Road Projects Status
 Header Item Rail Network Expansion

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 13-33

Driver Licences

 13. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his views on whether a greater emphasis should be placed on disqualified drivers surrendering their licences and the enforcement of same by the Road Safety Authority; the reason there are so many driver vehicle databases; the differences between each; his views on which database is the most comprehensive for the road safety needs associated with such a database; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51959/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The requirement for a disqualified driver to surrender his or her licence is set out in the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 537 of 2006). Failure to comply with the requirement to surrender the licence is an offence in itself. As Deputy Broughan is aware, enforcement of the law is a matter for An Garda Siochána.

Drivers who are disqualified are required to return their licences to the Road Safety Authority, however, very few do. This is completely unacceptable, but it is not correct to give it the importance sometimes attached to it. The real problem is not disqualified drivers failing to return their licences, it is disqualified drivers who continue to drive.

I do not believe that the non-return of licences, unacceptable and illegal though it is, is the central issue. The number of disqualified drivers not returning their licences is not a proxy for the number of people who drive while disqualified. As I've said some people will return their licences and still drive, others will not return their licences but not drive. What we need is strong enforcement of the law against people driving while disqualified. In this context, the crucial legislative step was taken in the Road Traffic Act 2014, which empowered An Garda Síochána to arrest a person where they have reason to believe that the person is driving while disqualified.

The penalty for driving while disqualified is fine up to a maximum of €5,000 and or a prison term of up to 6 months. The penalty for non-return of a driving licence is the general penalty under the Road Traffic Acts, namely a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence, up to €2,000 for a second offence, and up to €2,000 and/or up to 3 months in prison for a third or subsequent offence in a 12 month period.

The Driver and Vehicle Computer Services Division (DVCSD) of my Department manages the computer records of all vehicles and drivers in the State, referred to collectively as the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF). This data is the definitive record in the context of motor tax collection, the issuance of driving licences, as well as enforcement initiatives and legal outcomes associated with these functions including the application of penalty points.

I am aware that Garda authorities are working to improve communication so that detail of specific drivers who are disqualified are readily available to the Garda on the ground and I understand that an initiative to that effect will be rolled out shortly. In addition the Garda Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 sets out a pathway so that each Garda has the technical tools that will give them direct access to all the information they need as they interact with the public on the ground.

Military Aircraft Landings

 14. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his views on the recently released figures which show that there has already been an increase in applications to allow civil flights carrying weapons to land in Irish airports; his further views on the impact on Ireland’s neutrality; his views on the need for more transparency regarding the items being taken through Shannon Airport and the locations the troops and weapons are going to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48013/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport my functions in relation to the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace are limited. Questions relating to Irish foreign policy, including Ireland's policy on neutrality, are for the Minister for Foreign Affair and Trade.

In accordance with the provisions of S.I. No 224/1973 - Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods)Order- my Department operates a procedure under which airlines wishing to carry weapons or munitions through Irish airspace or airports must apply for each individual flight at least 48 hours in advance. In processing these applications, my Department seeks the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to foreign policy issues and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to security issues.

My Department publishes statistics on its website summarising the number of applications processed on a monthly basis. I am not aware of any reasons as to why the number of applications may have increased this year.

An internal review of the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders, 1973 and 1989, is currently being finalised by my Department.

Rural Transport Services Provision

 15. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the status of the delivery of rural transport nationally; the way in which the existing system can be expanded and enhanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52203/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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 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.

These 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 increased funding has enabled the introduction of 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.

Furthermore, as the Deputy will be aware, following my engagement with key stakeholders last year, I tasked the NTA to examine how to extend existing Local Link services to provide additional services in the evenings. Subsequently, the NTA approved funding for 65 new pilot evening and late night Local Link services to operate on a 6 months trial basis to the end of this year. The results of the trial are currently being assessed by the NTA and the continuation of these services will be considered in the light of those results and the availability of funding in 2019. I wish to again acknowledge the Deputy's commitment to the development of these services.

The NTA is continually working with Bus Éireann to provide improvements on its contracted services across both its urban and non-urban networks. Changes already implemented this year or planned for 2019 include improvements in the regional cities of Cork, Galway and Limerick and town services in Sligo, Navan, Athlone and Drogheda, as well as to Bus Éireann networks in rural areas including to corridors in Mayo, Galway, Clare, West Cork, Kerry, Wicklow and Westmeath.

More generally, the Programme for a Partnership Government undertakes to examine how best to improve integration of services in the rural bus network within regions. This matter is being examined and developed by my Department in the context of the wider work on which it has embarked around a review of public transport policy, which is another commitment in the Programme for Government.

Road Projects Status

 16. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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. [51949/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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 development stages of individual road projects is a matter for

  (a) the relevant road authority (i.e. local authorities in whose functional area a road development is situated) 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.

  Overview

  Consequently, it is an operational matter for a road authority and TII to give an account of how a project is progressing within their functional areas of responsibility. However, having consulted with the relevant authorities, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on the Bonagee Link Road project, also referred to as the Letterkenny Inner Relief Road.   

  - In Co. Donegal the Trans European Network-Transport (TEN–T) Comprehensive road network runs from the Leitrim County Boundary in the South of the County (on the outskirts of Bundoran) to the Northern Ireland Border with Derry in the Northeast of the County at Bridgend (on the outskirts of Derry City) and involves Sections of the N13, N14 and N15.

  - In 2016 Donegal County Council commissioned a Corridor Needs Study on the TEN-T Comprehensive network within Donegal. The study identified projects in Donegal necessary to improve the TEN-T Comprehensive network to the required standard in compliance with the TEN- T regulations. The outcome of the Study identified a priority list of schemes. It recommended three projects for immediate advancement through Phases 1 to 4 of the Project Management Guidelines:   

  - N15/N13 Ballybofey – Stranorlar Bypass

  - N56/N13/N14 – Letterkenny Bypass and Letterkenny to Manorcunningham Dual Carriageway

  - N14 Manorcunningham to Lifford Realignment Scheme including the N14/N15 link to the A5 Western Transport Corridor in Northern Ireland

  The Bonagee Link Road, or the Letterkenny Inner Relief Road, forms part of the proposed N56/N13/N14 scheme.

  Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has provided an allocation of €2.4m in 2018 to Donegal County Council to progress planning work on priority national road improvements projects that were identified in the 2016 needs study report on the TEN-T Comprehensive Network in County Donegal, as I have just mentioned.

  These projects are identified as Strategic Investment Priorities in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and National Development Plan (NDP)

  Current Status

  TII has advised my Department of the current status of the projects, which is, technical advisors are continuing to develop the schemes through phases 1 to 4 of the project Management guidelines. Public consultations of identified route options for all these priority schemes were held in April and May this year in Letterkenny, Lifford and Ballybofey. In addition it is anticipated that the preferred routes will be presented to the public in early 2019. The preferred routes will then be brought forward for further design and appraisal during 2019.

   Timetable

  The construction timetable is estimated to be in the region of approximately 36 months with an estimated completion date of end 2027. However, I would like to stress that any time frame is dependant on obtaining the necessary consents at various critical stages including at the route selection, detailed design and tender stages. The necessity to meet the requirements of the public spending code and planning consent from An Bord Pleanála along with a continued adequate capital budget are also critical to delivering the project.

Integrated Ticketing

 17. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his plans to expand the use of the Leap card nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52206/18]

 45. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his plans to allow for commuters to use the Leap card to avail of discounts on journeys on expressway services which fall within a Leap card travel zone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52207/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 45 together.

As the Deputy is no doubt aware the Leap Card is currently available on Public Service Obligation, or PSO, services in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo and Athlone. The Leap Card is a convenient and cheaper way to pay for public transport services and I would encourage people in those areas to make the switch to Leap.

  The benefits of using the Leap Card are obvious -   

  - It provides fares that are up to 31% cheaper than cash equivalent single tickets;

  - It avoids the need to have change ready as you take your journey; and

  - It helps ease delays for all users of public transport as boarding and paying for tickets is so much easier and quicker.

  In addition, Leap Card users in the Dublin area also benefit from features such as Capping and the Leap 90 Discount.

  But I recognise there are areas outside of those already mentioned which currently are not served by Leap enabled services. However, I am pleased to say that the National Transport Authority is continuing to support the enablement of Leap Card on regional Bus Éireann services nationwide.

  This year a considerable number of newly purchased Leap compatible ticketing machines were introduced across PSO bus services operated by Bus Éireann on behalf of the NTA. In that regard the emphasis will be on providing Leap Card on PSO services that until earlier this year have not been able to accept Leap Cards due to a shortage of suitable ticketing equipment.

  I am now informed that all Bus Éireann PSO services will be able to accept Leap Cards within weeks, with some occasional exceptions where services are operated by contractor vehicles.

  This will be of benefit to people all across the country and will no doubt be welcomed by the Deputy, as I welcome it myself.

  As well as these PSO services, the NTA also works with commercial bus operators to make Leap compatible ticketing equipment available to those operators who wish to accept it. A total of 14 commercial bus operators now accept Leap and that means that passengers on commercial services in places such as Galway, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, and Wexford are all able to make their journey using Leap.   

  As the Deputy is no doubt aware, Expressway is a commercial bus service rather than a PSO service and it is a matter for Bus Éireann, in its capacity as the commercial operator of Expressway services, to engage with the NTA if it wishes to allow Expressway passengers use their Leap Card and what ticket price might apply.

  I very much welcome the extension of Leap enabled services across all of Bus Éireann’s PSO services and as already mentioned would encourage all public transport users to make the switch to Leap where possible.

Public Service Vehicles

 18. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the status of the ongoing review of small public service vehicles; and if he will consider changing regulations in order to permit executive hire vehicles to use bus and taxi lanes. [52199/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As the Deputy is aware, under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, the NTA is the independent regulator of the taxi, hackney and limousine sector. Technically, these are known under the legislation as small public service vehicles, or SPSVs. As the regulator, the NTA is responsible for the development and operation of a regulatory framework for this sector.

  In line with that responsibility the NTA is undertaking a review of key aspects of taxi, hackney and limousine operations with the intention of developing a five year strategy for the SPSV industry that will guide its regulatory development over that timeframe.

  With the assistance and input of the Advisory Committee on Small Public Service Vehicles, the NTA review is considering a variety of issues including issues like vehicle licensing, vehicle standards, driver licensing, wheelchair accessible vehicles, fixed payment offences and technological developments.

  The NTA intends to conduct a public consultation process in the first half of 2019 in relation to the proposals emerging from the review process. As part of that procedure, public representatives will have the opportunity to submit their views. If any recommendations emerging from the review involve a significant revision of a policy nature or if they require legislative change, then these would clearly be subject to full consideration by the Department and final decision by me.

  To answer the second part of the Deputy's question, the starting point for considering access to bus lanes is that they were created - at some expense to the public - to provide on-street priority for bus-based public transport. Their goal is to make bus transport faster and more reliable, thereby encouraging more people to switch from private cars to public transport. This will achieve the twin goals of reducing congestion and reducing pollution.

  In addition to buses, bus lanes may also be used by cyclists who, as vulnerable road users, are safer in bus lanes than in general traffic. The lanes may also, of course, be used by the emergency services. Finally, after the lanes were originally introduced it was decided to allow only one category of SPSV - namely taxis - to use them. This was a concession based on the fact that taxis are a form of public transport available for on-street hire.

  Since bus lanes were first introduced, there have been many requests to allow other classes of traffic to use the lanes. These have included requests on behalf of motorcyclists, multi-occupancy vehicles, electric vehicles, hired limousines, hackneys, and animal ambulances, among others. My predecessors and I have always rejected these requests. Any addition to the categories of vehicle permitted to use the lanes would inevitably reduce their efficiency for performing their original purpose of prioritising bus-based public transport.

Road Network

 19. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if discussions have taken place in his Department on providing funding for the east-west link road and rural roads in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49202/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross Proposals to deliver an upgraded East-West route linking Dundalk to Sligo, taking in Cavan, involve linking elements of the national road network and regional roads along as direct a route as possible. Essentially the route involves upgrade/realignment works on the regional routes from Dundalk to Cavan and on national routes from Cavan to Sligo.

As regards the regional road aspect of the proposal which are the subject of this PQ, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area is a statutory function of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

  My Department provided funding to Cavan County Council (acting as lead authority with Monaghan and Louth County Councils) with over €2m in the period 2007-2014 to progress the regional road element of the project to preliminary design.

  This year I gave an allocation to Cavan County Council to enable the Council to undertake a preliminary appraisal, in line with the current requirements in the Public Spending Code and the Capital Investment Framework, of the Cavan to Dundalk section of the route. The aim of this appraisal would be to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it can be justified in terms of appraisal and advanced for further consideration in relation to schemes for development post 2021. Preparation of the appraisal is the responsibility of the Council.

Public Transport Fares

 20. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the policy of his Department on equitable fare structures on publicly subsidised transport across the country; if it is policy as part of the national planning framework implementation to maintain fares at a much higher level per kilometre outside of the main urban conurbations compared to urban areas to discourage persons from living outside of the cities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51963/18]

 22. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his views on whether it is advisable that public transport fares are increased in view of Ireland's obligations under climate change agreements and the need to see an increase in the number of persons using public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51953/18]

 24. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if his Department has modelling on the impact on demand for public transport of fare increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51962/18]

 36. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if his attention has been drawn to the decision of the NTA to sanction a fare increase in public transport; his views in relation to same; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that cash fares have risen in some cases by 87% since 2011; and the way in which this decision is in line with measures to tackle climate change. [52103/18]

 56. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he will report on the recent changes to the fare structures in Dublin Bus which means that the shortest trip of 1-3 stages has increased to €3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51952/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 22, 24, 36 and 56 together.

  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 the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services.

  The NTA also has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of public transport services contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable.

  The funding of those services comprises fares paid by passengers and subvention payments from the Exchequer. The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between income from fares and the cost of operating services.

  The BusConnects programme for Dublin will see the transformation of Dublin's bus system, so that journeys by bus will be fast, reliable, punctual, convenient and affordable. Part of this programme is to simplify the fares structure, to encourage interchange between services and modes of travel and to reduce boarding times. A revised fare structure is required for transport in the city which will easily allow seamless movement between different transport services without financial penalty.

  The NTA points out in its recently published Fares Determination document that its fares determination adjusts fares both upwards and downwards, ensuring that the travelling public pays a fare relative to the distance they travel, such that the operators are in a position to provide a safe and reliable service.

  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) 2018-2027 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 led to an increase of almost 31 million journeys on subsidised public transport and commercial bus service since 2013, with an increase   of 16 million passengers in 2017 (a 7% rise on 2016 figures) with a further increase of 6.2% to 4 November 2018, across all public transport services.

  As Deputies are aware, in order to reduce the prevalence of the private car and encourage a shift to more sustainable forms of transport, a number of key policy measures to increase public transport capacity will be progressed over the next decade. The National Development Plan has earmarked €8.6 billion for investment in public and sustainable transport to 2027.

  I have referred the Deputies questions to the NTA for reply in relation to those aspects where it has statutory responsibility. Please contact 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

Public Transport Provision

 21. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the discussions he has had with either Iarnród Éireann or Dublin Bus on the reduction in service to north County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51988/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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 operation of public transport services by Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus is a matter for the respective companies, with oversight by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

  In relation to bus services, the NTA recently advised that four more bus routes switched from Dublin Bus to Go-Ahead Ireland from Sunday, December 2nd, in a move that will provide improved services, not just on these routes, but in other parts of the network too.

  In addition, the switchover of routes frees up resources, which has allowed the NTA to approve a programme of service improvements and modifications on Dublin Bus routes across the network.

  Changes to the 33, which continue to be run by Dublin Bus, and the 33A, run by Go-Ahead Ireland, mean a combined 30-minute frequency all day every day between Skerries, Rush, Lusk and Swords. This represents a substantial improvement on the previous service level.

  The frequency on Route 33A is significantly increased and for the first time connects Skerries, Rush and Lusk directly to Dublin Airport. Further interchange opportunities are available in Swords for onward travel to areas such as Donabate, Portrane and Malahide.

  Route 33 continues south of Swords to provide direct services to destinations along Swords Road and Drumcondra Road to the city centre.

  In relation to rail services, the NTA has advised that following changes to timetables in September, one commuter service in the morning peak period was subsequently re-timed to provide additional capacity in Portmarnock.

  Further timetable changes, which were introduced on Sunday, December 9, provide for additional peak-time commuter services stopping at Portmarnock and new off-peak services on the northern line, the Maynooth line and Kildare line services through the Phoenix Park tunnel.

  Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 20.

Bus Services

 23. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he will report on the implementation of the BusConnects programme for the bus service in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52196/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As the Deputy is aware BusConnects is one of the flagship investments to be delivered under Project Ireland 2040 and the 10-year National Development Plan (NDP).

  BusConnects Dublin is currently well underway and importantly the NDP also provides for the implementation of BusConnects programmes in the other cities over the NDP's lifetime.

  BusConnects Dublin forms part of the statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area and, as that Strategy notes, around two-thirds of all public transport trips in Dublin are taken by bus. Bus-based public transport is a key component of the planned approach to addressing our current congestion problem and to meeting our future transport needs.

  BusConnects has been developed to do just that and will see –

  - The introduction of next-generation bus corridors and Bus Rapid Transit routes;

  - A redesign of bus network across the city;

  - A new state-of-the-art ticketing system with a cashless payments and a simpler fare structure;

  - The roll-out of new bus-stops with better signage and information;

  - The provision of new park and ride sites;

  - Cleaner technology through ending the purchase of diesel only buses; and

  - A new integrated bus livery across the network.

  Each of these measures is important in their own right while collectively they have the potential to significantly improve people’s journey experience.

  In relation to the Bus Corridors project, the NTA launched a public consultation process on the first 4 of the corridors on 14 November and this consultation will run until February. The 4 corridors are: Clongriffin to City Centre; Swords to City Centre; Blanchardstown to City Centre; and Lucan to City Centre.

  The new bus lanes which will be developed along these corridors will improve journey times by up to 40-50% on each corridor and will greatly improve cycling infrastructure as well, through new, largely segregated, cycle lanes. The improvements will require some reallocation of existing road space and impacted property owners across these first 4 corridors have been contacted individually by the NTA and offered one-to-one meetings.

  There are 16 corridors in total and it is envisaged that consultations on the next 6 will start in January and run until April, while consultations on the final 6 will start in February and run until May. Phasing the consultations in this way will allow for the appropriate level of engagement with property owners and communities along each route.

  The NTA will also establish a community forum for each corridor as well as a city-wide business forum. It also plans to engage with relevant stakeholders throughout all the public consultation processes, including accessibility and disability groups, cycling groups, transport companies, business organisations and academics.

  In terms of the Bus Network Redesign, we are all aware of the significant public consultation that has taken place in recent months. There was a huge response to that consultation and the NTA are currently considering all submissions received with a view to issuing a revised network design for further public consultation in 2019.

  The objective of these proposals under BusConnects is to -

  - improve bus journey times that will benefit many millions of passenger journeys each year,

  - provide a bus service that is easier to use, understand and more attractive to customers and enable more people to travel by bus than ever before, and

  - also provide a network of cycling infrastructure that will enable more people to cycle.

  Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 20.

Traffic Calming Measures

 25. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if electronic speed signs will be put in place in villages in local authority areas to measure effectiveness and changing driver behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51960/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads (including the provision of signage) is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities' own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded in its operational area is also a matter for each local authority.

Each year the Department invites applications from local authorities for safety improvement schemes. Under this programme it is open to local authorities to seek funding for works (including electronic speed feedback signs) which can assist in reducing vehicle speeds and improve road safety. In this context, it is a matter for each Council to determine and implement appropriate signage within its operational area.

In relation to national roads 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 and operation of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred the question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise 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

 26. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he will consider the policy of fully devolving to local authorities the role of providing bus shelters as provided in local government legislation. [51956/18]

 51. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he will allocate funding directly to local authorities to provide bus shelters in their functional areas in which they are deemed appropriate. [51957/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 51 together.

The Deputy is probably aware that the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as amended, provides that the National Transport Authority (NTA) 'shall have the function to secure or provide public transport... infrastructure in the State in relation to bus stops, bus shelters, bus stations, stands and bus fleets'. The Act also states that the NTA may enter into agreements with other persons for the purposes of achieving its function in this regard.

I believe that assignment of this function to the NTA is entirely appropriate given its central role in both the contracting and funding of Public Service Obligation (PSO) bus services and its regulatory role in relation to commercial bus licensing.

It is extremely important that our public transport network develop in an integrated and coordinated manner and the role of the NTA in providing bus shelters is entirely consistent with that ambition. Obviously I expect the NTA to work closely with local authorities in that regard and I am aware that it collaborates with local authorities in the performance of its function in relation to bus shelters across the State.

Military Aircraft Landings

 27. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his views on reports that 423 planes carrying munitions have landed in Shannon Airport in 2018; if these reports are accurate; and if his Department retains such data. [48347/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross Exemption permits for the carriage of munitions on board civil aircraft in Irish airspace are granted by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport in accordance with the provisions of the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders (1973, as amended). The Order applies to civil aviation only.

I can confirm that my Department recently released the figure that the Deputy is referring to on its website. This relates to the number of munitions of war applications granted to aircraft landing at Shannon Airport in accordance with the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders , 1973 and 1989.

My Department publishes statistics on its website summarising the number of applications processed on a monthly basis.

Transport Policy

 28. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the steps he is taking to promote the use of natural gas as a fuel source for the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52109/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross A transition away from conventional fuels to cleaner alternatives is a necessary step change if Ireland is to begin to decarbonise the transport sector. In transport, natural gas can offer a cleaner alternative to oil and biogas can offer a lower carbon emitting alternative.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is an established source of transport fuel predominantly suited to larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, travelling short to medium distances. Liquified natural gas is more efficient on longer road journeys with minimal start-stops such as transcontinental freight movement and in the shipping sector.

As outlined in the National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport, which my Department published in May 2017, natural gas, particularly CNG, is envisaged as a key alternative fuel in the heavy duty sector in Ireland. CNG is reported to emit few emissions, particularly NOx, SOx and particulate matter. Importantly, it is a pathway fuel to renewable biomethane which can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions in transport.

Under the Programme for a Partnership Government, a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Taskforce was established to consider the range of measures and options available to Government to accelerate the take-up of low-carbon technologies in the road transport sector. The Taskforce is jointly chaired by my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. It includes representatives from across the public sector and consults widely with industry, stakeholders and representative groups. Phase 1 of the Taskforce focused specifically on electric vehicles, while Phase 2, which began its work in September, is examining the role of other alternative fuel technologies including natural gas in both its compressed and liquefied states. Working Group 4 of the Taskforce is considering the range of incentives and infrastructure requirements to encourage the take-up of such low emitting fuels. I envisage that Phase 2 of the LEV Taskforce will report to Government next summer.

It is also important to note that a number of valuable measures are already in place to encourage uptake of gas vehicles in Ireland. In Budget 2015 the excise rate for natural gas and biogas as a propellant was set at the current EU minimum rate (€2.60 per GJ) and a guarantee given that this rate would be held for a period of eight years. This rate puts CNG in a competitive price position with diesel. Budget 2019 saw the introduction of an accelerated capital allowance scheme for gas-propelled vehicles and related equipment. This will enable businesses to write down the cost of such vehicles or equipment up-front in the year of purchase rather than spread over 8 years.

Finally, Gas Networks Ireland has received funding from the European Commission, under the CEF Transport Fund, to install 14 public CNG refuelling stations (including a station at Dublin Port which is due to open shortly) and a large scale renewable gas injection point under the “Causeway Project”. The provision of refuelling infrastructure will support greater uptake of gas vehicles while the installation of a biogas injection facility is essential to enable indigenous renewable gas to become part of Ireland’s future transport fuel mix.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 29. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the status of applications received from County Kildare for the sports capital programme; when he expects allocations to be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52202/18]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Brendan Griffin): Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme opened for applications on Friday 7 September and the application period closed on Friday 19th October. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding.   Sanction has been received to make allocations with a total value of €40m under this round.

98 applications were submitted for projects in County Kildare seeking €7m in grants. A list of all applications submitted, including those from County Kildare, are published on my Department's website   http://www.dttas.ie/sport/english/sports-capital-programme.

  186 of the total applications relate to projects deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme who have now submitted corrected documents. These applications are being assessed first and I hope to make allocations to this category of application later this year or early in 2019.

  For the first time, applicants who have submitted incorrect documentation under this round will be given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, it is likely to take a number of months to have all applications assessed. Accordingly, I expect that it will be at least the second quarter of next year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced.

Traffic Management

 30. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he has considered the promotion of car sharing technology to reduce gridlock in Dublin city; and the policies he will implement to incentivise the take up of such technology. [52046/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross As the Deputy is aware, the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area is the statutory framework for the development of public and sustainable transport in the Greater Dublin Area out to 2035 and it details the measures to be taken across all modes of transport.

The Strategy states that the National Transport Authority will support the implementation and expansion of car club schemes, car-pooling and car sharing. The NTA supports the development of car-pooling through the Smarter Travel programme, which is funded by my Department. The Deputy may be aware that there are currently two car-sharing operators already providing services in Ireland.

Noting the NTA's responsibility for implementation of the Transport Strategy, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed 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

Bus Services

 31. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross if he has been notified of ongoing difficulties and the failure to deliver the promised levels of service on the bus routes recently handed over to a company (details supplied) in Dublin; if the service failures are a result of revised and shortened travelling time allocated by the company on these routes; if the ability to operate these routes with reduced running times formed part of the winning bid by the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52104/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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 response within ten working days.

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

Road Projects Status

 32. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the status of the progress of the A5; the details of his engagement with his counterpart in Northern Ireland on this project; the funding that will be made available for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51950/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities. In this context it will be for the Northern Ireland authorities to consider how to proceed in light of the recent outcome of judicial review proceedings regarding the scheme.

The current funding arrangements in relation to the A5 are governed by the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan - A Fresh Start. This Agreement reaffirmed the Government's commitment to provide funding of £50 million for the A5 project and committed an additional £25 million towards the cost of Phase 1 of the project (Newbuildings to north of Strabane).

The funding allocated to my Department as part of the Capital Plan Review last year includes financial provision for meeting the Government's commitment regarding the A5 in three tranches over the period 2019 to 2021.

In the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive, the Deputy will be aware that I currently do not have a counterpart and the North South Ministerial Council has not been meeting. However, the Senior Officials Group comprising Northern and Southern officials, including from my Department, established to oversee implementation of the Fresh Start Agreement, has been continuing to meet. Similarly, my Department attends the ongoing meetings of the North West Strategic Gateway Group.

Rail Network Expansion

 33. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the role of his Department in the decision-making process and consideration of the final route of the MetroLink project on the south side of Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51961/18]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross 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 MetroLink.

The Deputy is aware that there is a statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area. That Strategy was subject to a full public consultation, appropriate environmental assessment and appropriate programme level appraisals.

The Strategy provides a comprehensive and integrated framework for the development of public transport in the Greater Dublin Area out to 2035 and details the measures to be taken across all modes of public transport, including active travel. Its development, publication and status as a statutory document is a very welcome approach toward planning and implementing the improvements needed in relation to our transport network as a whole.

That Strategy noted and explained the required development of what it then termed as New Metro North and also what was then termed as Metro South. Under the National Development Plan these projects have been combined as MetroLink which will provide a 26km high-capacity metro service between Sandyford and the Swords and which will benefit tens of millions of passenger journeys each year.

As noted in the Strategy, capacity on the current Luas Green Line will not be sufficient to deal with the forecasted growth in housing and employment along the corridor. The ongoing Luas Green Line Capacity Enhancement project will provide for extended trams across the Green Line but that is essentially an interim measure and a fundamental issue remains as regards the capability of a Luas type service to provide for the forecasted level of demand by 2027, hence the Strategy’s provision for an upgrade to a higher-capacity Metro service.

Implementation of the Strategy’s various projects is a matter for the NTA, in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) as appropriate; however, all public expenditure is of course subject to the Public Spending Code and my Department’s Common Appraisal Framework for Transport Projects and Programmes.

The NTA and TII have already published an 'Emerging Preferred Route' for public consultation earlier this year and a further round of public consultation will take place in early 2019 on a 'Preferred Route' before any decision on a Final Route and later submission to An Bord Pleanála, at which stage statutory consultation periods will of course take place.

I look forward to the development of the Metrolink project by the NTA and TII, as provided for by the Transport Strategy and in accordance with the requirements of the Public Spending Code and the Common Appraisal Framework.


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