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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 80-98
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item VAT Rate Increases
 Header Item Regional Road Network
 Header Item Public Transport Provision
 Header Item Public Transport Issues
 Header Item Road Tolls
 Header Item Adventure Activities Regulation
 Header Item Public Transport Issues
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Air Services Provision
 Header Item Sports Facilities Provision
 Header Item Aviation Policy Review
 Header Item Tourism Promotion
 Header Item Light Rail Projects Status

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 815 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 80-98

Rail Network

 80. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to upgrade the western rail corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40884/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Due to the overall reduction in funding for transport infrastructure the priority in the capital plan to 2016  is to protect investments 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 for any subsidy would also be a key consideration for any new rail projects or extensions.  I would draw the Deputy’s attention to the Programme for Government and in particular the commitment that: "We will insist that major capital projects are subjected to proper cost-benefit analysis and evaluation, improving future productivity and growth prospects, and that the value-for-money obtained is significantly enhanced compared to the most recent period."

  Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor between Ennis to Athenry opened in March 2010 and to date its performance has been very disappointing even allowing for the recession. Oranmore station opened on 28 July 2013 and hopefully it will help to improve passenger numbers. CIE is in a precarious financial situation and is dependent on continued bank funding. Given the pressure on the public finances there  are no funds for new subsidies or to develop new rail links in any part of the country. For all the reasons outlined above, the Government has no plans to further extend or upgrade the Western Rail Corridor.

  Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 63.

VAT Rate Increases

 82. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has sought an extension of the 9% VAT rate applied to the hospitality sector from the Department of Finance; the benefits to the tourism industry resulting from the reduced VAT rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40815/13]

 96. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has had any discussions with the Department of Finance regarding the potential ramifications for the tourism and hospitality sector of an increase in VAT above the current 9% tax rate.  [40902/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to answer questions 82 and 96 together.

  I refer the Deputies to the answer to Priority PQ 58 which was answered earlier today.

Regional Road Network

 83. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide funding for bridge replacement on regional roads to support local and tourism infrastructure. [40889/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The improvement and maintenance 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.  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 is also a matter for the local authority. Future funding arrangements for regional and local roads are currently under discussion.

  Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 66.

Public Transport Provision

 85. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to introduce bus rapid transit routes in Dublin and other cities in Ireland; if he foresees the provision of capital funding for these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40831/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have 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 Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), comes under the remit of the NTA.  The NTA is also managing the Regional Cities Programme on behalf of my Department. Funding for initial design and planning of suitable BRT schemes in the GDA has been included in the NTA’s budget allocation to 2016 under the Government’s 5-year capital programme Infrastructure & Capital Investment 2012-2016 – Medium Term Exchequer Framework. Subsequent implementation of these schemes in the GDA  will, if prioritised in the next capital plan, be progressed on an incremental basis in accordance with available funding.

In relation to the regional cities while there has been some preliminary work undertaken in Galway and Cork on new public transport systems such projects are not prioritised in the current capital plan and consequently no funding is available to progress these projects at this time.  Funding is provided under the Regional Cities Programme to improve existing public transport services including for the development of bus lanes, green routes, other bus priority measures, rail and bus station improvements, integration and information measures  and also for safety measures for pedestrians & cyclists in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

I will of course  be reviewing  the public transport requirements and priorities for the regional cities in  preparing the transport programme for the next capital plan from 2017. Noting the NTA’s responsibility in this matter I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Public Transport Issues

 86. 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 if he will provide figures for the amount of money that vandalism and destruction of property at each public transport body under the aegis of his Department has cost the State in each of the past five years; the amount of money that has been spent on providing security services in the same periods; the measures he proposes to tackle this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40873/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This is a matter for the relevant transport operators and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to CIÉ and the Railway Procurement Agency for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive replies within ten working days.

Road Tolls

 87. Deputy Heather Humphreys Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on the proposed toll holiday for HGVs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40505/13]

 91. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on the proposed toll holiday for HGVs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40531/13]

 122. Deputy Helen McEntee Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to provide a toll holiday for HGVs; the motorways and toll roads he will include in a trial; and if he will consider using the M1 and M3 motorways as part of the toll holiday trial.  [40874/13]

 123. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans for a toll holiday for HGVs; if he plans to review toll charges in general for HGVs with a view to encouraging greater utilisation of motorway networks by HGVs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40506/13]

 135. Deputy Frank Feighan Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on the proposed toll holiday for HGVs. [40871/13]

 629. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on the proposed toll holiday for HGVs and in particular the desired effects it poses for an area (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40510/13]

 634. Deputy James Bannon Information on James Bannon Zoom on James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he proposes to lift the HGV toll on the M4 for one month to encourage motorway use in the interest of public safety and avoid damage to the regional roads network.  [40671/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 91, 122, 123, 135, 629 and 634 together.

These questions relate to a toll free holiday for HGVs. I am concerned that large numbers of HGVs continue to use regional and local roads in order to avoid tolls, and are driving through towns, villages and rural areas with large populations. This has safety implications for other road users, residents and pedestrians. In addition by using local and regional roads instead of custom-built motorways, HGVs are adding to the wear and tear of the legacy roads network. For this reason I asked the National Roads Authority (NRA) to look at the feasibility of lifting tolls for heavy goods vehicles for one month on one or more motorways across the country, as a trial.

Based on the feedback I have received I have decided to go ahead with the toll free month on a number of routes - the M1, M3, M6 and Limerick Tunnel.  By trialling a toll free month on these routes I want to see if HGV operators can be persuaded to use the motorways more.  While there is a cost attached to this I think it is worthwhile to give us an opportunity to study traffic levels in detail and assess the implications and for HGV operators to evaluate the time and efficiency benefits of using these motorways. I have selected the routes for inclusion in the trial with the issue of regular avoidance of parts of the motorway network by heavy goods vehicles very much in mind. The M1 outside Drogheda is a good example, where large numbers of HGVs avoid the toll but have to pass through Slane in order to do so, which is hugely inconvenient to both the truck drivers and local residents. The M3 motorway from Dublin to Kells, the M6 from Ballinasloe to Galway and the Limerick tunnel are also good examples, with large numbers of trucks using the older road nearby to avoid the tolls.

I cannot say at this point that this trial will lead to any change in tolling policy.  While toll rates vary in line with consumer prices, the base rates are built into the PPP financing arrangements that enabled the high quality motorway network to be built. Any change to the financial arrangements would clearly have significant implications and would have to be carefully evaluated.

  Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 77.

Adventure Activities Regulation

 89. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on proposals to regulate the adventure sports industry and ensure safety in the sector. [40530/13]

 113. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide an update on proposals to regulate the adventure sports industry and ensure safety in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40532/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 113 together.

The Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act, 2001 made provision for the establishment by the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources of an Adventure Activities Standards Authority, which would have responsibility for the regulation of adventure centres. However, the Act was not commenced and the body was not subsequently put in place. Following detailed consideration of the matter it is now considered that the measures outlined in the  Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act, 2001 do not represent the most suitable approach to deal with this issue and it is proposed that this legislation will be repealed and the matter will be addressed by incorporating provisions in the forthcoming Sport Ireland Bill. The Sport Ireland Bill will provide for the merger of the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority and it is proposed that the new body, Sport Ireland, will be  required to maintain a register of all adventure centres.  The legislation will make it an offence to operate as an adventure centre if not on the register and allows Sport Ireland to set standards and charges for inclusion on the register.

I hope to bring the Heads of the Sport Ireland Bill to Government in the coming weeks and once the Heads of the Bill have been approved by Government, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications will be invited to consider the matter before the drafting of the Bill itself begins.

Public Transport Issues

 90. 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 his views on the reduction in services to Dublin Airport from Dublin city centre by private operators (details supplied); if he has had any communication with this private operator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40843/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The provision of the services referred to by the Deputy is a matter for the private operator concerned in conjunction with the licensing authority, the National Transport Authority (NTA). I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

  Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 87.

Departmental Expenditure

 92. 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 there was an underspend of the capital allocation in his Department; the capital projects that have begun by his Department since the beginning of 2013; the capital projects his Department has planned to commence before the end of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40826/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This year my Department's Gross Capital allocation is €900m. It is too early at this point to forecast underspend with any precision, particularly as the greater share of capital expenditure tends to occur in the latter part of the year. Capital expenditure to the end of August amounted to €513m. Most of my Department's capital expenditure programme is channelled through statutory agencies such as the National Road Authority who regularly publish details of projects underway.    With an early Budget Day this year, my Department is currently in discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the potential for carrying forward some capital funding into 2014 to cater for projects which have encountered delays for one reason or another and may not be in a position to draw down their allocation this year.

Aviation

  As regards the regional airports, over half of the €4 million allocated for capital projects in 2013 has been allocated for runway end safety areas (RESAs) and related works at Knock, Kerry and Waterford airports.  The balance has been allocated for a range of other safety and security projects such as airport screening equipment, navigational equipment, airfield ground lighting, airport boundary fencing, etc.

Land Transport

  Details of funding for regional and local road projects are outlined in the 2013 regional and local road grant allocations booklet, available in the Dáil Library.  As regards national roads, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is however a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

  Public Transport Capital projects are undertaken by the relevant Agencies, ie. the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the CIE Group of Companies. Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA, the NTA and CIE for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days. In relation to Smarter Travel, the National Cycle Network seed funding programme has commenced in 2013 at a cost of €420,000.

Maritime Transport and Irish Coast Guard

  Under the Harbours programme, a total of €3.5m has been allocated to Wicklow County Council for remedial works at Arklow Harbour and €2.6m has been allocated to Cork County Council for remedial works at Baltimore and Kinsale Harbours.  In relation to the IRCG,  the Doolin Coast Guard Unit Building Project commenced in July 2013.

Sports

  My Department expects all of the Sports Capital Programmes and the Local Authority Swimming Pools Programme allocations to be spent this year.  Both the Programmes provide funding to external organisations to assist in the provision of sports facilities and as such my Department does not commence projects itself. In relation to the National Sport Campus Development Authority, the capital allocation is provided to the Authority and that agency undertakes the development of the campus projects. The Authority expects there will be no underspend in 2013.

Tourism

  The capital allocation for Tourism is provided to Fáilte Ireland to support capital investment in tourism, and to carry out essential works on the Fáilte Ireland network of offices.  Fáilte Ireland has advised my Department that there will be no underspend in relation to its capital allocation for 2013.

Air Services Provision

 93. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the actions he has taken to secure an air link between Ireland and China; if he has engaged with the Dublin Airport Authority in order to increase commercial airline activity in Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40823/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Ireland has a bilateral air transport agreement with China since 1998. The agreement provides the legal framework for scheduled air services between the two countries and under the agreement  it is open to any Irish, EU or Chinese airline to operate services between the two countries. The establishment of such a service, however, has to be market driven and is a commercial decision for the airlines entitled to operate routes under the agreement. Enhanced air access to key tourism and business markets such as China has always been a key element of Ireland’s aviation policy. I would very much welcome the prospect of direct services to China and have no doubt that such a service would be of benefit to trade relations between both countries.

The Irish airports and Tourism Ireland have attractive incentive and marketing programmes available to help support new services and I am aware the DAA have had discussions with Chinese airlines about the possibility of a service. Dublin Airport Authority recently signed a twinning agreement with Beijing Capital International Airport which will allow the two companies to co-operate to further commercial and tourism links between the two cities. The agreement is also designed to enable the two airports to engage in a joint marketing initiative to deliver direct airline services between Dublin and Beijing. In the meantime, Ireland does have extensive one-stop connectivity with many Chinese cities through the established European hubs such as Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt. In addition connectivity with China has improved considerably since the commencement of Etihad’s services to/from Abu Dhabi in 2007 and more recently Emirates services to and from Dubai in 2012.

Sports Facilities Provision

 94. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has had any discussion with the Department of Education and Skills regarding the potential for using that Department’s capital building programme as an opportunity to increase the provision of sporting facilities in local communities, in particular youth sports facilities, through co-location of sports facilities with educational campuses; if he envisages that savings could be made to his Department's capital expenditure in that regard; if he will outline those savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40890/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I have had no discussions with the Department of Education and Skills regarding the issue raised by the Deputy. Schools are eligible to apply for funding under the Sports Capital Programme when they apply jointly with local sports and community groups.  Under the 2012 round of the Programme, schools that showed that they were sharing facilities with local groups, through formal licence agreements, were awarded extra marks at initial assessment stage.  This incentive encourages maximising the use of facilities both inside and outside of school hours.  Facilities being developed by schools do sometimes use grant monies from both Departments to provide bigger and better sports facilities than would otherwise be possible with only one Department's funding. As the Sports Capital Programme is always heavily oversubscribed I cannot see how the Deputy's suggestion would result in any savings.

Aviation Policy Review

 95. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the current status of and future plans for the aviation policy review; and the implications of this policy for Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40770/13]

 143. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the aviation policy review; the next step in the process; his plans to develop a regional airport policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40527/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 143 together.

These questions are in relation to the development of a new aviation policy. The aviation industry is a key enabler of economic growth so it is important that there is a clear policy framework in place to facilitate its continued development and to optimise the contribution the sector can make to the Irish economy. Following on from the successful conference hosted by the IAA in December last an Aviation Policy Issues Paper was published on my Department's website in February 2013.  The paper poses a number of questions and covers eight broad areas: Airports; Air Services; Regulation and Governance; Aircraft Leasing and Finance; Aerospace, Education and Training; General Aviation; and Sustainability.

A total of 74 submissions were received in response to the consultation, from a wide range of stakeholders. The number and quality of the submissions received is very encouraging and demonstrates the strong interest there is in shaping future aviation policy. The submissions are currently being reviewed and the intention is that a draft National Aviation Policy Statement will be issued before the end of the year. This will provide a further opportunity for stakeholder input before the adoption of the new policy document in early 2014.

Cork airport is an important part of Ireland's civil aviation infrastructure and this will be taken account of as part of the review process. The Government has already decided that the future of Cork airport is best safeguarded by it remaining for the present as part of the DAA. Cork Airport provides a quality service of value to the region and the country. It recently achieved the highest customer satisfaction in a survey conducted across 61 regional airports worldwide by the Airport Council International. This is a fantastic achievement by Cork Airport and both the management team and the staff deserve credit on their world-beating performance in this survey. The Airport has introduced a number of initiatives in recent months to enhance the passenger experience and I look forward to growth in airport traffic in the period ahead.

  Questions Nos. 96 answered with Question No. 82.

Tourism Promotion

 97. 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 the targets he has for emerging tourism markets, in particular China, India, Brazil, Russia and south-east Asia; and the strategies that exist to ensure Ireland increases its penetration of these markets.  [40892/13]

 99. 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 the reasons for the decline in tourist visitors from the UK between April and June of this year; and the steps he is taking to address this decline. [40879/13]

 116. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on the State's performance in attracting repeat visitors to Ireland; the way we compare to other European countries in attracting repeat visitors; if there is any strategy in order to ensure that we increase the proportion of visitors to Ireland who return to visit. [40894/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take questions 97,99 and 116 together.

I understand that figures published by the Central Statistics Office last week show that Irish tourism is enjoying a very good year and all of our main overseas markets are showing growth. For the eight month period between January and August, the number of overseas visits to Ireland increased by 6.5% to 4.75 million. Visits from North America were up by 16.5%; visits from Mainland Europe were up by 4.8%; visits from Great Britain were up by 3.7% for the eight month period while total visits from other areas increased by 11.3%. I was particularly pleased to note the increase in visits from Great Britain over the peak summer months of June to August of 4.7% over 2012.  Of course, the second quarter figures reflected the changing date of Easter in 2012 and 2013.

Tourism Ireland is the agency with responsibility for the overseas marketing of the Island of Ireland as a holiday destination. The agency continues to roll out major marketing campaigns in all of our main overseas markets including a brand new plan specifically in Great Britain called "GB Path to Growth" which was developed in conjunction with tourism industry partners. The agency is also working hard to put Ireland on the map in emerging markets and this year's activity in this regard includes arranging familiarisation visits for leading travel agents and tour operators from these markets and also cooperative campaigns with airlines and tour operators serving these regions.

In terms of our ability to attract repeat visitors, we welcome all visitors whether first timers or repeat visitors. Having said that, it is primarily a matter for the tourism industry itself to ensure that the visitor experience is an enjoyable one thus increasing the likelihood of such repeat visits.  It is estimated that up to 40% of our overseas visitors last year were repeat visitors.

With regard to tourism strategies for the medium to longer term, Tourism Ireland  is currently finalising its three year Corporate Plan to cover the 2014 -2017 period which will, inter alia, contain targets for each of our main overseas tourism markets. I also launched a comprehensive Review of Tourism Policy in recent weeks and the outcome of this Review will ultimately influence the future direction and strategy for Irish tourism.

Light Rail Projects Status

 98. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the progress to date of work on the new Luas line, including current money spent on project; the numbers employed at present; and projected time of completion. [40908/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have 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 light rail projects, comes under the remit of the NTA. I am however carefully monitoring progress and can advise that the project is progressing well and that the essential advance works are underway.  The building condition works along the Luas Cross City corridor have been completed and the Cellars Infill works are underway. The contract for the Heritage Works has been awarded with works expected to commence in the coming weeks. The Utilities Works contract will be awarded shortly with the aim that substantive work will commence in January 2014. The numbers employed by the various contractors will vary from week to week depending on the work underway at any given time.

The EU Official Journal notice seeking advance expressions of interest for the main infrastructure contract will be published shortly. This is the start of the procurement process for the main contract and the aim is to appoint the contractor in quarter 4,  2014.  Work on the main contract is expected to commence in early 2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. Following testing, commissioning and trial runs the line is currently targeted to open in quarter four 2017. My Department has provided funding of €24.3 million to date to the NTA for the project.


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