Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport Debate
Vol. 3 No. 48

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Tháinig an Comhchoiste le chéile ag 12:00

The Joint Committee met at 12:00

COMHALTAÍ A BHÍ I LÁTHAIR / MEMBERS PRESENT:

 Teachtaí Dála / Deputies  Teachtaí Dála / Deputies
 Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Imelda Munster,  Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Pádraig Ó Céidigh.
 Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Catherine Murphy,  
 Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell Kate O'Connell,*  
 Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Kevin O'Keeffe,  
 Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Robert Troy.  


* In éagmais / In the absence of Deputy Noel Rock.

I láthair / In attendance: Deputies Joan Collins, John Lahart, Jim O'Callaghan and Eamon Ryan and Senators Máire Devine and Kevin Humphreys.

Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Teachta / Deputy Fergus O'Dowd sa Chathaoir / in the Chair.

Business of Joint Committee

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Deputy Kate O'Connell is substituting for Deputy Noel Rock. Before we begin, I remind members to switch off their mobile telephones as they interfere with the recording equipment. We will now go into private session.

  The joint committee went into private session at 12 noon and resumed in public session at 12.19 p.m.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We are now in public session and I again remind members, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery to switch off their mobile telephones as they interfere with the recording equipment.

Before commencing our main business I wish to deal with correspondence and EU scrutiny. No. 307 is an email from Deputy Catherine Murphy deferred from the meeting of 11 July last requesting hearings in the autumn on the regulation of sales of second-hand aircraft to offshore commercial entities. I invite the Deputy to discuss it.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy There are almost 5,000 jobs in aircraft leasing in this country. We are one of the biggest operators in the aircraft leasing sector. However, there is a lack of transparency about who the aircraft are sold on to and that might compromise the industry. There has been evidence that some aircraft that have been sold have been used for purposes such as leaving remote airfields in Russia to go to Syria. That could cause us problems.  I ask that the Irish Aviation Authority as the body responsible for the aircraft register be invited in to discuss what protections need to be put in place.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The clerk will make that arrangement if it is agreed. Agreed.

No. 308 is an email from Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh. As the Senator is absent, we will deal with that when he arrives or at our next meeting.

No. 309 is a letter from Ms Maria McKenna, LocalLink requesting an opportunity to appear before the committee to discuss the opening up of LocalLink to public procurement. It is proposed that we convene a meeting on this matter in early autumn. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Nos. 310, 311 and 315 are emails and letters from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eamon Ryan and Senator Humphreys requesting that a Ranelagh residents group comes before the committee to give its perspective on MetroLink, which is the subject of today's meeting.

No. 312 is an email from Deputy Munster forwarding a request from Deputy Joan Collins regarding the BusConnects plan and requesting that the unions appear before the committee, which is also the subject of today's meeting.

No. 313 is an email from Mr. Tony O'Brien, aviation services division, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, in response to a query raised at a meeting of the select committee on 11 July regarding visa requirements for UEA citizens. It is proposed to note this correspondence. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 314 is an email from Mr. Michael O'Connor, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, requesting a timeline for the general scheme of the airport noise regulation Bill. Mr. O'Connor has been informed that the committee is happy to meet with the Minister on the Bill as soon as he is ready to do so. Is that agreed?

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I sent an email to the committee asking for a change in the running order of today's business. I presume it is not deliberate, but according to the schedule we are first meeting the National Transport Authority, NTA, on its proposals for BusConnects, following which we will meet the unions. This does not make sense. I do not know who thought it was practical to order the business in this way. The reason we invited the unions is they represent the workers who provide the service and we wanted to hear their concerns about the BusConnects plan and to be then flag them to the NTA. I do not know who oversees the schedule.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I have not seen the Deputy's email.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I am asking who thought it was practical to order the business in this way. We should be meeting with the unions first and then the NTA.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd It was agreed at the last meeting. If the Deputy wants to-----

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster This was not agreed. It is impractical. It was agreed that the unions and the NTA be invited in.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Yes.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster If we hear from the NTA first and then the unions we will not be able to raise the unions' concerns with the NTA.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That is fine.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Where is the logic in this?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I have not seen the Deputy's email.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster It was sent to-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I have every confidence in the professionalism of the clerk to the committee in every respect.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I am not questioning the professionalism of the clerk to the committee.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I want to move on. If the Deputy proposes that the order in which we meet today's witnesses be changed and that is carried I have no problem doing so.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I propose that the order in which the witnesses appear be reversed.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Are the union representatives here? If there is a going to be a big gap in the meeting that does not make sense.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I know the unions-----

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I see the logic of what Deputy Munster is proposing but the availability of witnesses may be an issue.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We will complete this section of our business first and if the union representatives are here early we can then deal with this issue.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I know that the union officials are here. They are scheduled for the second session of the meeting. I presume the NTA officials will be here at the time requested.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We have no problem facilitating the Deputy if it is possible to do so.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster It makes more sense.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Fine.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I would like to raise another issue. Last December, when we met the IAA and the Irish Air Line Pilots' Association, IALPA, which represents pilots, IALPA was deterred on two or three occasions from raising its concerns with the committee. The reason given for this was the dispute between Ryanair and IALPA which was before the courts. The committee agreed to hold off on the issues on the basis of a firm commitment that once that court case was concluded it would be so informed and another meeting could be rescheduled. This court case concluded last December. It is an absolute disgrace that this committee was not informed that this was the case. It was only when I queried it in light of the current Ryanair strikes that it came to light that the case concluded last December but the committee was not told.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Right.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster A response of "Right" is not okay. I want to know why the committee was not told. One cannot help but be suspicious given the IALPA representatives were prevented from addressing the committee on two or three occasions.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The clerk to the committee has informed me that Ryanair has appealed that decision.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Yes, but the committee was not made aware of that until, at my request, the committee secretariat sought clarification on the matter. There is no reason for the committee not being informed between December and last week.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I want to move on with the business of the meeting. Ryanair has appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The committee was not aware of that last week.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That is where the matter stands.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The Chairman is talking nonsense. I am telling the him - the clerk to the committee can verify this - that the committee-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We must move on with today's business.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster That is what we are trying to do.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I want to hear from the witnesses, if I can.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster With all due respect, we are dealing with correspondence now.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Yes.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster We have not moved on to the next business. I am raising issues related to correspondence and transparency.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd There is no correspondence on this matter.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The Chairman is saying-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I will have to adjourn the meeting if we cannot reach agreement. The Deputy can deal with these issues following this session.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster This is the session in which we deal with correspondence.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I know that but I want to hear from the witnesses.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I, too, want to hear from them. I am anxious to hear what they have to say.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Why then can we not move on?

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I am looking for clarity around the correspondence.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I do not see the correspondence.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I will ask the question again. Why was the committee not informed that the court case concluded last December?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I do not know the answer to that question.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Will the Chairman seek an answer to it?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I will ask the clerk to the committee to do so, if that is okay.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Okay. I would like the matter to be put on the agenda for our next meeting.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Okay.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I thank the Chairman.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Is the Deputy happy now?

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I will await the response.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I always try to work with people rather than against them.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I will await the outcome. The Chairman is delaying the process now.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I emphasise that I find the clerk to the committee and committee staff exceptionally helpful at all times.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I never said otherwise. I am just seeking clarify on a matter.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I just wanted to make that clear.

Scrutiny of EU Legislative Proposals

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We will now deal with EU legislative proposals which the committee considered earlier. Under Schedule A, COM (2018) 284, it is proposed that there are no subsidiarity concerns with this proposal. It is also proposed that this proposal does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

On COM (2018) 336, it is proposed that there are no subsidiarity concerns. It is also proposed that this proposal warrants further scrutiny and that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport be invited to brief the committee on the proposals with a view to the committee submitting a political contribution to the Presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament, if the committee deem it necessary. Is that agreed? Agreed.

MetroLink Project: Discussion

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd It is hugely important that community groups that have concerns can raise those concerns with their local representatives and Members of Parliament, be they Ministers, Ministers of State, Deputies or Senators. This meeting arises out of representations received by Deputies, Senators and Ministers from Dublin south city.

  Regarding the process, I would like to outline to the witnesses the information I have been given. The NTA has now concluded the public consultation process on its proposals. This committee awaits its final deliberations. Early this year we conducted hearings on the proposals and we also visited various sites around north Dublin, particularly Glasnevin and Drumcondra, which would be impacted by the proposed construction of the MetroLink. Today, we are hearing from resident representatives from the southside of Dublin, particularly the Ranelagh and Rathmines area, on their concerns regarding the impact of the MetroLink proposals on their area. In this regard, I welcome Mr. Peter Nash, Mr. Neil Murphy, Mr. Denis Kinsella and Ms Jennifer Gilmore of Rethink MetroLink South City Group. 

  Before we commence, I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence.  They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Before I call on Mr. Nash to make his opening statement, I wish to make it clear that we have no statutory role or function in this issue but it is important to facilitate the Oireachtas Members who request the committee to hear what the witnesses have to say on the record. That is the context in which we are having this meeting. The witnesses will appreciate that it is the policy issues we would like them to address and their concerns and worries in that regard.

Mr. Peter Nash: We thank members for the opportunity to address the committee. We also thank the Oireachtas Members in the Dublin Bay South constituency, who facilitated our presence here today. My name is Peter Nash and I am a representative of the Rethink Metrolink group in Ranelagh and Rathmines. I am joined by Mr. Neil Murphy, Mr. Denis Kinsella, Ms Jennifer Gilmore and Mr. Greg Ward. We represent a business and residential community broadly defined as living within the catchment area of the Luas green line between the Milltown and Charlemont stops.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I am sorry to interrupt Mr. Nash but a phone seems to be on and it is interfering with the sound recording. I may not have made that clear. We can all forget to switch off our phones. Could he please ensure his phone is switched off?

Mr. Peter Nash: Sure. Our comments represent a consensus of the views of a series of well attended public meetings. We wish to emphasise our support for capital investment in suburban and urban rail networks as a solution to Dublin's transport needs into the future. The existing Luas is a clear example of the transformative positive impact such investment can have on our communities. We summarise our concerns regarding the emerging preferred route as the three Ps. The first is people, meaning the negative consequences for the community.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I am sorry but there is a phone on somewhere that is interfering with the sound, or else there is a big bee in the room somewhere. I will check to make sure it is definitely not me. I think the bee is dead. I am really sorry for having to interrupt Mr. Nash but the sound system will not pick up what he is saying if there is interference.

Mr. Peter Nash: I understand. The second is policy, and our concern that this proposal represents a wasteful approach to transport infrastructure investment. The third is politics, which is about the public consultation on the project, which we feel has been inadequate to date. I will deal briefly with each concern in turn and, following that, my colleagues will address queries or questions from members.

The negative impact of the emerging segregated overground MetroLink solution has not been adequately considered in the process to date. Converting the current green Luas line to a segregated high-speed overground MetroLink southwards from Charlemont has significant adverse social, environmental and commercial consequences for the adjacent neighbourhoods. Because of its speed, frequency and inaccessibility, segregated high-speed overground rail necessarily creates a clear physical partition within communities. Notwithstanding its most recent response to our local politicians, the NTA has asserted that complete segregation of the line will be necessary as a design principle for the MetroLink. That will directly impact on local communities at not one but five separate locations, namely, Dunville Avenue, Cowper Drive, a smaller crossing at Albany Road, and two crossings in the Milltown and Alexandra College area.

As a result of the proposed MetroLink solution, traffic volumes on the remaining key Charleston Avenue link route between Rathmines and Ranelagh will increase hugely with significant knock-on effects. As pedestrian crossing of the upgraded line will not be permitted at any point, the proposed availability of a lift solution, in addition to overpasses, at crossing points as the only way of crossing is problematic. At peak times, in particular during school term, the volume of cyclists crossing the current Luas line could not in any practical way be facilitated by lifts. The displaced cyclists will have no choice but to reroute to busy alternatives compared to the quiet streets around the existing surface crossings. We are talking about safety and the threat to life, not about inconvenience. Our area had a cycling fatality in 2018 so it is a huge concern to us.

Equally, the implications of the proposed segregated rail solution for families with young children and persons with limited mobility are of particular concern. The existing Luas system facilitates those people well because it primarily operates at street level. The segregated solution will require lifts at all stations and experience to date with the Luas illustrates the constant technical problems with lifts and also the fact that they become a hub for antisocial activity.

The segregated line will partition both the Beechwood Catholic and Sandford Anglican parishes, which has implications for their parishioners and also place an additional burden on social services including, for example, the local meals on wheels distribution.

The construction of the MetroLink will have a significant impact not only on our local community but also on today's existing users of the green line. Given that it is proposed to shut down the green line while constructing the metro, it is concerning that the economic, environmental and social impacts have not been considered and clearly communicated. How are the 50,000 commuters who currently move in and out of the city every day going to get to work for that nine-month period? In addition, the management, logistical and health and safety aspects of hundreds of schoolchildren who currently cross the Luas line each day have not been adequately considered.

I will turn briefly from our community concerns to the subject of transport policy. We do not accept that there is a convincing case in favour of the emerging preferred route for MetroLink, especially on the southside of the city. The value of concentrating unprecedented amounts of transport capital investment in an area that is currently well served with a relatively recently completed light rail system is unproven and questionable. Under the current proposals, there are large geographical areas in south Dublin where major public transport deficiencies will remain unsolved in the long term.

Serious questions arise about the waste of public money in dismantling the existing Luas line, which has only recently been expensively constructed, as well as the waste and environmental irresponsibility associated with the destruction of recently constructed public transport infrastructure. We have yet to see a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the impact of the closure of the line during the upgrade. It is possibly the case that the economic and social cost to the city could amount to a multiple of the cost of the upgrade. In addition, from a risk perspective it is not evident that any professional risk assessment has been carried out, as demonstrated by the fact that the current proposal for capital investment in transport on the southside of the city is concentrated on one line, which also means that all of the flows of people are concentrated on one line. Accordingly, there is a single point of failure, which in business is considered to be a high-risk approach.

We believe that the current consultation process is inadequate. The community is concerned about the absence of real, interactive engagement and the absence of any commitment on the part of the NTA or Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, to meet local communities to directly address their concerns. We have been appreciative of the rapid and enthusiastic engagement of all our local politicians who have moved quickly to listen to our concerns. However, the implications of the proposed major investment requires a much more interactive and intensive consultation.

Since we submitted our documents for this meeting, the most recent proposal from the NTA and TII has been made available to us. Sadly, the latest partial proposal focuses exclusively on only one of the many issues we have highlighted, namely, the Dunville Avenue crossing.   The emerging MetroLink proposal has been compared to the imposition of a Berlin Wall on the southern part of the city. The latest proposal from MetroLink is akin to the opening of a Checkpoint Charlie on that wall. Even when Checkpoint Charlie was opened in Berlin, the wall remained intact and the community remained divided.

Members of the Rethink MetroLink group thank members of the committee for the opportunity to meet them today. We look forward to listening to their observations and my colleagues will address questions as they arise.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I thank Mr. Nash. I appreciate that the addition he made at the end relates to something that only happened recently. I would be grateful if he could circulate it to the staff and we can ensure that it is incorporated into all the members' portfolios.

The committee normally calls people who wish to question the witnesses the following order: Fine Gael; Fianna Fáil; Sinn Féin; Social Democrats; Independents; Labour; and the Green Party. I will call Members in that order. We will have five minutes' questioning for each person. We will see how the questioning goes and will ask people to respond at the end. Is that the best way to do it? I am in the members' hands on this. I call Deputy O'Connell.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell I thank the representatives of Rethink MetroLink for appearing before the committee. I also thank them for their work on behalf of people in the communities in the constituency of Dublin Bay South who could be affected by this emerging preferred route. I thank my constituency colleagues, Deputies Eamon Ryan and O'Callaghan, for engaging in a collective way. We do not necessarily agree on all topics but we are working together to try to find solutions for the area.

  Mr. Nash referred to the consultation process, which ended in May. Do the representatives of Rethink MetroLink have a view on the transparency of this process? Do they believe those who openly engaged with the process, in particularly at the event in the Hilton Hotel in Charlemont, were appropriately notified of the impact the emerging preferred route would have on the area, including, as mentioned by Mr. Nash, the potential closure of the Luas green line? At our meeting last week, we were told that closure could be for six months, but I do not see how that could be the timeframe. I ask for the witnesses' views on that.

  Do the representatives of Rethink MetroLink have a view on alternative routes? One of the proposals is the route out to UCD through the Morehampton Road area. Another is the route proposed by many people, including Deputy Eamon Ryan, on the Rathfarnham side. I ask for some detail on that.

  On the footbridge option, at last week's meeting it emerged - I do not want to misquote anybody - that bicycles were not considered during the consultation process. Those of us who live in the area know of the use of bicycles, particularly by children who attend Scoil Bhríde and Lios na nÓg. Even somebody standing outside Morton's shop for five minutes would realise bicycles are key to how people get around the area. Do the witnesses have any views on that matter?

  I gave information on the two other options of going over Dunville Avenue or going under it. Some people have mentioned that back in Victorian times there was a line over that area. However, we no longer live in those times and the area is quite different now. How does the group feel about going over the avenue as opposed to going under?

  If this was to proceed, the Luas green line would be closed, buses would bring people to their destinations instead and traffic would be rerouted through Ranelagh village. We need to consider the practicalities involved for people who bought homes in the Sandyford area and who are dropping children to school or to childcare facilities en route to their jobs in the city centre. Has the group received representations from those people? This will have an impact on their daily lives for what I imagine will be far more than nine months.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The Deputy took four minutes and ten seconds. I thank her for that. I call Deputy O'Callaghan.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan May I ask questions, get answers and then ask another question or does the Chairman want to-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I would prefer if the Deputy just asked his questions. I am in the hands of the committee, but I want to try to move matters on.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan Okay, it is the Chairman's committee. I thank him for facilitating this meeting. I thank the witnesses for their submission. It is apparent from what they say that they believe there will be very negative consequences for parts of the Dublin Bay South constituency if the proposal proceeds as planned. I ask them to elaborate on that.

The witnesses also clearly believe that we need greater investment in public transport - particularly rail transport - throughout the city. In the part of Dublin where we are, we are very lucky to have the Luas system operating. Are the witnesses concerned about changing the character of that rail system to a heavy industrialised rail link as opposed to what we currently have, namely, a safe light-rail link that complements the residential nature of not only the communities they represent but also all communities?

My next issue relates to policy and it comes back to what the Chairman stated earlier. This is not just about a micro local issue. The rail transport map of Dublin shows that the eastern part of the city is very well served by the DART link from Howth to Bray and by the Luas green line. Do the witnesses believe that, on a policy basis, the western and south-western parts of the city need to be further developed and accommodated with rail and Luas links?

The next matter might also be one for the committee. From recent research it is apparent that a socioeconomic divide is developing in Dublin along east-west lines. That is something that has occurred over the past 20 or 30 years. Part of it relates to the fact that the eastern part of the city has been extremely well served by public transport, much to the disadvantage of the western part of the city. If we want to ensure that western parts of the city have more home ownership and increased socioeconomic advantage, we should accommodate those parts of the city with better public rail links. I would be interested to hear what the witnesses have to say on that.

People living in this area and along the Luas line went through a period when heavy works were being done on the green line, as did people on the red line. The two lines cost approximately €770 million to build and we are now proposing to dig up the green line. What is the witnesses' view as to why this is being done? Do they agree that the primary reason the NTA is attracted to this line for MetroLink is that it is land that is owned already?

Are the witnesses concerned that the Luas system, which is highly successful, is to be replaced by a more industrial-type heavy-rail system? What impact do they think it will have on local communities?  Do they agree that when we are talking about rail development and public transport in the city, our first priority should be getting a fast rail link to the airport, whether underground, preferably, or otherwise? That is the primary objective. Do they also agree that if we are going to develop public rail links throughout the city, we should concentrate on promoting and extending the Luas red and green lines, which have been extremely successful?

On the local issues raised by the witnesses, the project is going to have a detrimental impact on their communities. This will not be like some rural rail line where a train will come every hour or hour and a half. It is going to effect a significant and permanent divide within the two communities. I would like the witnesses to elaborate on the practical impact that will have. I am probably close to the five minutes at this stage?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The Deputy has five seconds.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan I hope the committee will agree with my recommendation that, at the conclusion of this hearing, a report making policy recommendations on the extension of the Luas and the inappropriateness of MetroLink, notwithstanding the non-statutory role being played, be produced.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I thank Deputy O'Callaghan. He made some very good points, as did Deputy O'Connell. I call Deputy Munster.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Some of the negative impact this is going to have on the witnesses' community and the wider area was flagged. Do they have any proposals to counteract that and, if so, can we hear them? Information in that regard would be helpful to put to the representatives from the NTA when they come before us. The lack of consultation and engagement by the NTA is not surprising but it is still disappointing, as is its lack of enthusiasm to meet with communities and hear their points of view.

The witnesses should remember that the NTA, like the HSE, was set up to implement Government policy and to take the heat off of the Government. It has worked a treat. When an issue is flagged now with the health service, it is the HSE that is automatically attacked as opposed to the Government. The HSE only implements policy. That is its task and remit. On that note, I suggest the witnesses should meet with various Government Ministers next to raise their concerns. The NTA is coming in next. We cannot force it to do anything. Given the lack of consultation, however, would it be helpful if we requested that NTA examine the feasibility, specifically for this project, of setting up a liaison officer for the communities? Various community groups would then have direct access to that officer and he or she would be responsible for dealing with the groups, relating and responding to them, etc. Perhaps the witnesses will let us know if that is something which might be helpful because when the public consultation is over, it is usually just shut down and that is it. The announcement is made and there is no going back. If it would give another avenue, and the witnesses are in favour, let us know.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I thank Deputy Munster, who also made some good points. That was two minutes and 12 seconds. We are doing well on time. I call Deputy Catherine Murphy, followed by Deputy Joan Collins, Senator Humphreys and Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy First of all-----

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I have to go for five minutes but I will come back in if I can.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That is fine.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The witnesses are welcome. We all expected metro north to feature as part of the national development plan but I was surprised when MetroLink was announced, particularly in view of the profile of the public transport already available in the area. Ranelagh and Rathmines are vibrant areas with a high density in occupancy rates where people can easily cycle into town, etc. It surprised me that an already good Luas line would be upgraded so quickly.

On the information the witnesses feel they need, the consultation process was mentioned. Is it information that the witnesses require? I accept some of the points in respect of policy. In the context of what is proposed, however, what information is not coming forward from the NTA? The word "consultation" tends to be used very loosely and also to be in one direction with proposals outlined. Real engagement, though, means consultation is two ways. People are asked what they think to begin with, prior to the announcement. The need for consultation is also met afterwards, including how cyclists and people with disabilities are going to be handled, what lifts are going to be installed and so on. Will the witnesses outline what was deficient in the information required?

They might also outline their practical experience of how they were notified about this and the follow up. I cannot lose an opportunity to say that the solution to Dublin's transport crisis is the DART underground. We keep postponing that and thinking that we are going to add bits and pieces on and not bring it all together. I cannot for the life of me understand why that did not end up being the highest of priorities. It would have been disruptive but as disruptive as this. I will leave it at that. The main purpose of this meeting is to hear from the witnesses about their engagement and discover what questions we might pose if we take this matter up with the NTA.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I thank the witnesses for attending. I will be brief. I heard Mr. Kinsella making his points on "Morning Ireland" earlier. All the points have been made and there are many questions. Mr. Kinsella's main point relates to the project going underground. Does he have a figure for that or was it ever raised by the NTA as a concept? I agree with Deputy Catherine Murphy on doing that in the future.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I will be equally brief rather than saying the same things again. I will take up Deputy Catherine Murphy's point regarding the DART underground. It was suggested that the latter would run across the Dublin Bay South constituency. I was a great supporter of the proposal because it would have connected all our public transport needs in the city. It was objected to by a large number of residents. I am putting the matter in context. I do not support the current proposal but I did support another proposal that affected another community because it was balanced and the right idea for the city.

Public consultation is important because nobody expected the southside MetroLink proposal that has emerged. Will the witnesses tell us about their experience of the public consultation, how they were informed and how they were engaged with? The other matter not touched on is that relating to driverless trains and that brings us back to remarks in respect of the Berlin Wall. I refer to the fact that nobody will be in the engine at the front of the train and there being somebody on the line. The experience in Berlin was that large infrastructure had to be built on either side of the track to prevent people getting on. That has not been touched on at all. Do the witnesses have any views on driverless trains and the level of infrastructure - fencing, railings, walls or whatever - that would have to be built, from a health and safety perspective, in order to prevent people getting onto the tracks and the impact it would have on their communities?

I reiterate that looking at transport needs on the southside, starting on the coastal road, there is the DART line and then the Luas green line. Moving further inland towards Harold's Cross, Terenure and Firhouse, there is no line. That is a dense area of the city with high demand but there are no Luas or DART lines.  What is the view of the witnesses on the feasibility of putting a line in place in that area?

One matter that has not been highlighted is the financial impact on the city's southside. We can talk about the impact on residents and the community but closing the line for nine months will put 75,000 commuters back onto the roads. How will the Beacon Centre and Sandyford Industrial Estate manage to carry out their business? What will the impact be on the greater Dublin area? The alternative is to run it out through Rathmines, Terenure, Firhouse and the suburbs where there is a great need for public transport. Since this was announced and there was a public consultation involving 8,000 people, there has been a roll-out of information but no reopening of the public consultation. We started out with a dual-bore tunnel which is now a single tube, and with stations on the northside that now appear to have disappeared. There seems to have been no further public consultation on whether there is to be an underpass or a flyover at Dunville Avenue. It would be interesting to know if residents were given the drawings for the underpass or overpass by the NTA.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Deputies and Senators would not be here unless their communities had very serious concerns about this and they have the full backing of the Members of Parliament in respect of their concerns. Even if there is no statutory process by means of which we can address those concerns, it is important that whatever constructive ideas Deputies and Senators have are forwarded to the appropriate authorities on their behalf. Deputy Munster spoke about having an officer who would liaise directly with communities and that might be helpful, notwithstanding the fact that the statutory process is finished.

Ms Jennifer Gilmore: I thank the committee for allowing us to be here and for their well-informed questions. I will deal with the community impact as this is something I see personally as someone who lives in the area. On the southside, the proposal is for an overground line and for an underground metro on the northside. It will be a high-speed driverless train which will be travelling approximately every 90 seconds, straight through what is a lovely village community. It will be irreversibly detrimental to our community.

I have lived in Milltown and Rathmines for most of my life and I watched the Luas line being built. I travelled here on the Luas today and I see how it has enhanced our community. It revitalised it because it is accessible and really well integrated into the community. I have spent the past few months at home with my new baby and his buggy and I have used the opportunity to look around my local neighbourhood to observe how it works. It is a largely pedestrian community and people get to the shops or to school by foot or by bicycle.

I will deal with some of the issues raised by Deputy O'Connell. The project affects the Luas from Charlemont down to Sandyford but I will concentrate on my community. There are five pedestrian crossings in our small section of Luas line, two of which take cars, at Alexandra College and Dunville Avenue. Two of the crossings are not even mentioned in the metro submission, the one at Albany Road and the one at the back gate of Mount St. Annes. The community is a community of older people and young families and the area is well suited to those groups because it is relatively flat and has a lovely accessible transport system with flat crossings, as well as a nice array of local shops and businesses. At the Cowper stop, there is an old people's home which has a preschool in it so it suits both older people and young children. The children leave their schools every day on their buggies and their scooters and cross the Luas line, unimpeded. This has created a lovely village feel to the whole area and if one was planning an urban development this is what we would want to create but we are about to destroy it.

My next door neighbour is in his 80s. He had a very bad stroke last year and now walks with a walking frame but he can cross the Luas line. There are three preschools, five junior schools and three secondary schools in the area, all of them within spitting distance of our three Luas stops. There are almost 6,000 pupils going to those schools, many of them travelling on foot or by bicycle. There are 650 units in Mount St. Annes and they all use the back gate to get to town, on foot or by bicycle, or to go to Ranelagh, Rathmines, Rathgar and Terenure, and the same is true of the back gate at Alexandra College. If we replaced our flat pedestrian crossings with footbridges or lifts, this would deter people from walking or cycling. If a journey is made a bit longer, there is evidence that it stops people from walking or cycling, meaning that they use their cars instead. What is proposed will turn a pedestrian area into one in which more cars are used.

Anyone who uses the lifts on the Luas knows that, generally, they are not fit for purpose. They are frequently broken and I have been stranded in Dundrum with my buggy and a woman in a wheelchair. I got lucky because somebody helped me down the steps but nobody could help the lady in the wheelchair down the steps. I do not go to Dundrum on the Luas any more.

It is well known that underpasses and lifts do not create safe spaces. Last week, one of my neighbours in Ranelagh met two people shooting up in the lift there. We were all really concerned about a young child who was with its parent at the Charlemont Luas stop a couple of years ago and who was stuck by a needle when grabbing the handrail in the lift at that stop and who then had to go through the psychological trauma of HIV and hepatitis testing. Footbridges and lifts are not a good addition to small village communities.

We feel that this will sever our community and adversely affect our schools, churches, shops and businesses. It will force people into cars and create a giant wall with a lot of noise that will lead to urban blight, where currently there is a lovely village atmosphere across a number of different areas, along with an integrated and accessible transport system. We are very upset about it and we cannot understand how the NTA could choose this option when we already have functioning transport and when there are vast swathes of the southern part of city that do not. Buses are not going to solve the problem either.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Does anybody wish to comment?

Mr. Neil Murphy: I will address some of the points that arise from the issues surrounding consultation and, in order to be expeditious, will make straightforward points.

We fundamentally assert that the consultation process has been flawed. I recognise what Deputy Imelda Munster has been saying about the experience. There is a difficulty in that when consultation is not on a statutory basis, when it is almost as a courtesy and there are no rules, it can turn out to be a smokescreen.

Deputy Catherine Murphy asked if we would share our experiences of the consultation process. It arrived in our world sometime around April when the NTA went public on its plans. In short order there was a very short form of consultation available to us locally on the Charlemont stop at the Hilton Hotel. There were also occurrences on the north side, but, in effect, what it amounted to was a presentation on the boards of their its document. There were no answers to questions. If I asked a question about traffic flows, the data for Dunville Avenue or how they would impact on the tightly geared village of Ranelagh, I was simply told that it did not have that data. In very short order we were invited, with everybody else, to make a submission by 11 May. We met that date, having come together quickly as a community, but we have heard nothing back. We are entitled to rely on the NTA's document which states: "Following a full appraisal of the feedback, a public consultation report will be published by the end of 2018". Therefore, we think there will be serious concern that 8,000 submissions have been made and we have not heard anything about it.

It is not as if the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, are digesting the submissions alone, but it is rolling on in the manner of a headlong driverless train because at this committee on 20 June the deputy chief executive made a statement in reply to Deputy Robert Troy - I have the transcript - that it would publish a new upgrade proposal by June. At this point we are in consultations, but now it is jumping ahead towards a new publication date. As it happens, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, made a statement in the Seanad in which he referred again only to the notion of a digested or composite report coming out towards the end of the year. Nevertheless, the NTA is pushing on. On 9 July, in a letter to Senator Kevin Humphreys, its deputy chief executive stated baldly there would be no bore - the underground system - beyond Charlemont station into Ranelagh and all of the rest. How can he make statements such as this if we are still engaged in consultation?

The other side of consultation is communication and access in some form. On 11 May, when we made our submission, we requested a follow-on meeting with the NTA. We had a number of our representatives request that the NTA meet us. The Minister made a statement in the Seanad in which he said he felt it would be inappropriate for him to meet us but that he would convey our request for a meeting to the NTA, but we have heard nothing from anybody. The question was asked as to whether we had heard anything back about the new floated proposal which had been presented to Oireachtas Members. The simple answer is "No". We have heard nothing; it has been in the ether, but we have nothing with which we can deal.

Deputy Imelda Munster's suggestion of a liaison officer with the authority, who would access and could give us some data is useful because the further point we would make is that a number of members have asked whether there could be an alternative route through Firhouse or elsewhere. In a way we find that surprising because as far as we see it, there is only one game in town and that is the preferred route that has been published. We have no data with which to engage for any other possibility. For example, if we consider what Senator Kevin Humphreys said about the Firhouse route as an alternative, €800 million has been spent on the Luas green line. According to the NTA's stated position, the reason it must have a high speed, driverless MetroLink to Sandyford is that it must service the growing demand, with a link to Cherrywood. Here are some simple facts. As a concept, the development at Cherrywood is wonderful, but what is proposed, as per the description, is that within a decade there will be 30,000 people living there. There are actually 30,000 sons and daughters going to University College Dublin, UCD, to a campus of equal size. If the other direction was looked at to deal with the issues of people living in Terenure, Rathfarnham and Firhouse, the facts are that there are 46,000 people living in Lucan, as opposed to the 30,000 who will live in Cherrywood. According to the 2016 census, the Tallaght catchment area has a population of 287,000, the equivalent of the population of Galway, Waterford and Limerick put together, who survive on the equivalent of the green line, namely, the red line. There is no sustainable argument that Sandyford cannot be serviced by the green line. If there is new, fresh capital to spare, we argue that there should be a move to provide services to Terenure, Rathfarnham, Firhouse and Tallaght, where I worked for 30 years, to provide a new benefit. That is what people call a win/win.

The point Ms Gilmore is making is that there are two kinds of people. There are people who are resident adjacent to the current Luas line and somewhat aware of the proposal. They are increasingly becoming aware of it, but they do not all know because their communities are coming to life. There are others who use the Luas every single day and have built their life plans around it and they do not know at all. Let us take young people living in Charlemont or Ranelagh who say they want to buy a starter home. As they have a job with Facebook in Sandyford, they will take the Luas to get there. They do not need to buy a car, which is good for them and the city. They do not have an idea that they will lose this system on which they have built their life plans for nine or 12 months or however long it will be. We cannot say how long it will be because we have not been told. It is a major hit. Coming to Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's suggestion of collecting ideas and making a strong recommendation - we would welcome the committee doing so - if we, as citizens, want to change our front gardens to put a car in the driveway, we have to post a notice to let people know. In order to reach out to all of these people to let them know, why should the NTA not have to have a graphic at every Luas stop along the way detailing the current plan and explaining in three points or so what it plans on doing, indicating which crossings will be closed and for how long the Luas will not be available? Citizens are entitled to know this information, rather than waking up one morning and asking where is the Luas. In terms of consultation, the different parties involved truly deserve to have the information. It is not available and we cannot access the NTA. Therefore, we would appreciate any effort the committee could make on our behalf to tell the NTA that it has to respond to these questions.

On the August date, we assert that it is highly inappropriate. The Oireachtas is in recess. Many people have to take their break at this time.  To say they will come back and drop something on the table at the end of August when we are working to a schedule whereby, as they told us in their document, it would come towards the back end of 2018 is entirely premature. Part of the committee's recommendations should be that proper consideration should be given, the report should be given to us, and that this should happen in the autumn rather than in August.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd There are some very important points there about due process, clear process and everybody being on a level playing pitch as to knowledge, which is very important. Unfortunately, we are talking post the event.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My apologies that I had to do a radio interview on this same subject, which was reason I slipped out, and I am at a disadvantage, therefore, in that I did not hear what Mr. Nash, Ms Gilmore and everyone else had to say.

I have only one question. If the witnesses have answered it, they do not need to come back to me on it. I was looking for local knowledge on this issue of accessibility and about urban and community design. I am 100% in favour of the metro and I recognise that we have to increase public transport capacity on the south side as well as on the north side. We can do that best by running the metro line to Harold's Cross, Rathgar, Terenure, Rathfarnham and on to Firhouse and Tallaght. The driverless, automated, segregated system is an entire design concept from start to finish. The route I suggest means we do not have the difficulty we are having with this route where we are trying to integrate that driverless, segregated system onto an existing driver-accessible, low-floor, relatively low speed system. That is a real difficulty.

I grew up and have lived most of my life in the area and I know it down to the minutiae of what it means to have that crossing at Albany Road that no one would ever think about because it is only small number of people crossing. A person living on Moyne Road and who normally goes to Beechwood church for mass might not go to that mass and go to Rathmines instead. It would change the whole character just by losing this crossing. Mount Saint Annes is not featuring in any consideration but it is a loss. It is not just our constituency. It is as much an issue for Windy Arbour, Dundrum and Sandyford.

Perhaps the witnesses have mentioned it in previous examples, but if not, will they give some flavour as to what the local accessibility means, because it is an intangible thing. It does not appear in any balance sheet or any cost-benefit analysis. People might not even be going to mass. They might be going to St. Philip's.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Deputy felt the eyes on his back.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The loss will only be known when it is gone. This may have been addressed but that is my one question, because the witnesses bring that local knowledge to the equation.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I call Deputy Lahart. Given he was not here at the beginning, I advise him that we have a maximum of five minutes for questions. We have a fair idea of the issues, so if it is in order and if the witnesses are happy with it, I propose that one of them would address outstanding issues and we will then suspend, because we have two more long sessions after this. If there is anything that the witnesses wish to send us, we will make sure that it gets to the NTA.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I attended one of the meetings on behalf of Deputy O'Callaghan where the witnesses views were made known pretty emphatically. Mr. Murphy in particular made some points and I have done some research, so I want to focus on some points that might be more parochial. There are a number of fundamental points I want to make which play into the argument. One is about communication and consultation. We have BusConnects, for example, the public consultation for which is also running through the summer. We have extracted, fairly easily, an extension to that from the NTA. Public consultation through the summer months seems to be a favourite of State and semi-State bodies, whether by accident or design, and I cannot help but be suspicious that it is by design to catch or wrong-foot people.

Another point, assuming this has not already been made, is that it is regrettable that the NTA does not meet the group directly. I assure the witnesses that every one of their public representatives, all of whom I know well across parties, is ensuring that every point they make is being communicated to the NTA.

A further point is that this is ultimately a political decision. Politics changed the route of metro north, the interconnector and so forth, and I believe it will be politics that will change this decision. Given that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport weighs in on several other portfolios, I invite other Ministers to weigh in on his portfolio because that is the only way something tangible and change will happen in this regard.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is one of the few Deputies who requested that this meeting would take place. There is a Government meeting in Kerry today and he cannot be here. It was his intention to be here, in fairness to him.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The Chairman has defended him stoutly. I would expect nothing less. Another fundamental point, which I have made before and I will make to the NTA, is that investment in public transport must be democratic. In my constituency, the Luas red line serves Tallaght and there is a massive gap between that and the Luas green line. The demographics relating to Cherrywood, which Mr. Murphy pointed out, are very accurate. I know the Tallaght area and its catchment intimately. The purpose and design of Cherrywood is that people can work and live there and do not have to travel distances to get there.

  The democratic nature of investment in public transport is not evident in this. The Luas green line is barely 15 years old and the Government wants to double down with further investment of €500 million to upgrade it while there are suburbs such as Firhouse, Knocklyon and Ballycullen, which are burgeoning areas, along with Rathfarnham and Templeogue. There are a number of concepts which I know the Green Party representatives have spoken about, and although they do not exclusive rights to them, we are ad idem on one of them. There is a possibility of connecting the green and red lines for the same kind of money. There are a number of routes by which the green and red lines could be connected, for example, along by Marlay Park out to Old Bawn and Tallaght, or from Churchtown via Templeogue village, Greenhills and St. Peter's Road out to Ballymount and the Luas red line at the Red Cow. This would provide a circular Luas line connected with a metro line to form a T shape.

  My view, which I believe is shared by some of my colleagues, although I do not speak for them, is that the NTA ought to proceed with the metro north element of this and get going on it pretty quickly because everyone is in agreement with it, but it needs to go back to the drawing board on this other piece. That certainly would be our strong view, but it is politics that will make the decision on that.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I will ask Mr. Kinsella to wrap up on behalf of his group. Before he does so, I thank the witnesses for coming and making very cogent, articulate and very thoughtful points, something which was clear from their presentations.

Mr. Denis Kinsella: I thank the committee for affording us the opportunity to attend and speak. I will keep this brief as I know my colleagues have covered most of the points.

A specific question was asked whether we have concerns about the nature of this high-speed driverless train. Absolutely, that is the core of the problem. We believe fundamentally that that type of segregated rail is unsuitable for running overland through high-density residential communities. It should be underground if it is to be that type of rail service.

My colleagues touched on the alternative routes so I will not propose to do that again. We believe fundamentally that this is the wrong route. Any alternative route that is chosen, two of which we have discussed, has the following advantages. First, it will avoid the destruction of the very successful and only very recently upgraded Luas green line. Second, it will allow us to create a network of rail links which will serve Dublin and its commuting community far better. Third, it will avoid the commuter chaos which will be precipitated by the closure of the Luas green line to allow the construction works to go ahead.  Fourth, it will avoid the negative business impact that will affect all the businesses along the Luas green line from Sandyford, through Dundrum shopping centre and into the city centre due to the difficulty both staff and customers will have getting to those businesses during the closure of that line. Fifth, it will avoid the issue of a single point of failure. It will allow some flexibility within the system if there is an issue on a line as there will be some ability to allow displaced commuters to move to another line and still get to where they want to go. For all those reasons we believe an alternative route is a far better decision and a better way to invest taxpayers' valuable money.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I thank Mr. Kinsella.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I thank the Chairman for facilitating this meeting. All the local public representatives have written to the National Transport Authority and Transport Infrastructure Ireland asking them to meet the residents groups. Will the Chairman reinforce that request by writing to them and asking them to meet the residents?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd It is outside the statutory period and therefore-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys They have met other groups outside the statutory period.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I do not wish to fight with the Senator. I want to make sure that the committee does everything appropriately. We will send a transcript of this meeting to the NTA as soon as it is available and ask that it meets the residents, as the Senator has requested. We have no issue with that, but we cannot interfere with the statutory-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I am not asking for the Chairman to interfere.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I know. We will now suspend the sitting.

  Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 1.55 p.m.

BusConnects: National Transport Authority

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I remind members and those in the Visitors Gallery to turn off their phones completely as they can interfere with the recording equipment.

  During this session the committee will consider the National Transport Authority's proposal for a radical redesign of the Dublin Bus network, the BusConnects plan. The committee welcomes the representatives from the National Transport Authority, NTA, Ms Anne Graham, chief executive officer, Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer and Mr. Tim Gaston, director of public transport services.

  I wish to advise that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If witnesses are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

  I invite Ms Graham to make her opening statement.

Ms Anne Graham: I thank the committee for the invitation to attend. I am joined today by my colleague, Mr. Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive officer, and will be joined shortly by Mr. Tim Gaston, director of public transport services. I understand that the committee wishes to focus in this meeting upon the Dublin area bus network redesign proposals, which is part of the overall BusConnects Dublin programme. Last month we published our network redesign proposals which we believe will deliver a better bus system for the people of Dublin, for the city itself and for the region. Our proposed new network will be simpler to understand and use, will offer greater connectivity to more people and will provide for a substantial overall increase in bus services.

The existing bus system in the Dublin area has evolved on a route-by-route basis over many years and, indeed, many decades. We have reached the point where a complete and total review of the bus system is needed to position it to meet the growing transport needs of the Dublin region. To undertake this review, we engaged Jarrett Walker & Associates from Portland, Oregon in the United States of America to assist us. Jarrett Walker & Associates specialise in the redesign of public transport systems in urban areas and have worked in cities around the world, replacing traditional bus networks with revised networks that work better for more people. It is important to note that the objective of our review was to redesign the bus system to make it more useful to more people and to enable more people to go to more places than they can currently by bus. The report is a detailed and comprehensive document that draws on the local knowledge and expertise of planners and officials in Dublin Bus, local authorities and the NTA as much as it draws on the international experience of Jarrett Walker and his colleagues.

The first step in the redesign process was to review the existing network. This identified several issues, including complexity, overlapping routes, too many buses in the city centre and a poor orbital service. With regard to complexity, the sheer number of routes and branches is a barrier to understanding the network and discourages many trips for which the bus service could be useful. Many overlapping routes with differing frequencies prevent buses from being evenly spaced to minimise waiting. Along with very low frequency on some routes, this means many people wait longer than necessary. There are too many buses in the city centre. Many streets carry very high volumes of buses which produces major delay due to buses blocking each other. On the poor orbital service aspect there are too many services running directly into and out of the city centre, but poor service for travel between many other destinations away from the city centre.

On the point about complexity, it is worth looking at the map that we have included in our written submission that shows the existing city centre bus routings. It is beyond argument to say that it is virtually incomprehensible to most people; yet it is the best map available to describe the city centre bus network. This means that people become familiar with their one or two bus routes for fixed journeys and avoid using the network for anything else. In the case of visitors, most migrate to the Luas and DART system, which is much easier to understand and use, and avoid the bus system because of its incomprehensibility. We want to change that and provide a better system that is easier to understand and navigate and, most important, will get more people to more places sooner.

In June 2017, we published the Dublin area bus network redesign choices report which set out information on the existing bus system and proposed a number of strategies that could be considered in the redesign of the bus network. We sought public feedback on the simplification of the radial bus services to form high frequent spines, as they are called, the reallocation of some radial services to create frequent orbital services, and the use of interchange to allow connections between different bus services and between bus, DART and Luas.  A public survey was made available online and in paper format. More than 12,000 people responded to the survey, approximately 1% of Dublin’s population, which was an unprecedented level of response.

The level of support shown for the proposed strategies was extremely high. Some 80% agreed or strongly agreed that it is worth asking people to interchange in order to create a network that helps more people reach more destinations sooner. Some 89% supported the idea of consolidating routes into spines and 85% supported the reallocation of some radial services to create frequent orbital services. From this feedback, we proceeded to develop a detailed plan based on those strategies.

I will now address the network proposals and the key elements of the redesigned bus network. It is proposed to convert a complex network of overlapping routes to the city centre into seven high frequency “spines” designated A to G, with buses coming every four to eight minutes all day and even more frequently at peak hours. Moreover, a new network of high frequency orbital routes will be created. These will intersect with the main spines to form a web-like grid of routes where buses are always coming soon. As well as providing for easy movement between the spines and the orbital routes, the orbital routes will allow much more movement between different areas of the city without the need to travel into the city centre.

A further proposal calls for the implementation of a much larger overall network of frequent routes where the next bus is always coming soon, within 15 minutes or less, and with easy interchange wherever frequent lines cross. It is also proposed to introduce a new 90-minute fare that covers any combination of bus, DART or Luas trips beginning within 90 minutes so that no additional payment is needed to change buses or change onto DART or Luas. The journey can be longer than 90 minutes; the fare just requires the last leg to start within 90 minutes. Overall, the proposed new network will provide a 27% increase in bus services. Just as important, when we calculate the increase in accessibility, the average person in Dublin will be able to get to 20% more useful places within 30 minutes than they can under the existing network. The figure of 20% is the average across the region, with many people seeing higher increases. Under the revised network nearly 1 million Dublin area residents will be within 400 m of a bus service coming every 15 minutes or more frequently all day, an increase of 250,000 people.

Overall, we believe that the proposed network proposals are vastly beneficial for the Dublin region, but there are trade-offs. While most people will not need to change buses, some people will. In some cases, people who currently have a direct service may have to change buses to get to their destination. However, because these two buses will operate on routes with a much higher frequency of service, in most cases people will be able to get to their destination in a shorter overall time.

A public consultation process on these proposals has commenced and will run until 28 September. All of the network redesign information has been published on the BusConnects website. An online and printed survey is now available, allowing people to give their views and comments on the bus network redesign proposals. The online survey is at www.busconnects.ie.We will shortly be announcing a series of information sessions across the region where people will be able to come to have details explained and queries answered.

These proposals constitute a major undertaking to redesign our bus system to better cater for today’s needs and to be positioned to accommodate the region’s future needs.By its nature there have to be trade-offs in such a massive redesign task, and not everybody can be better off under the new network. However, the vast majority of people across the region will gain from these proposals, which will provide a network that will enable more people to get to more places sooner. That concludes my introductory statement. I trust that I can answer any queries that arise.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I thank Ms Graham. One question we had the last day concerned the total number of people transported by bus per annum. I think it is about 30 million. It is a very high figure.

Ms Anne Graham: Does the Chair mean the daily figure?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Does Ms Graham have the figure per annum?

Ms Anne Graham: Dublin Bus transports 136 million per annum on its public service obligation, PSO, services.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That is a huge number.

Ms Anne Graham: That is the number carried on PSO routes, the routes that are subsidised.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd For the sake of the debate, does Ms Graham have comparable figures for private bus services? That is a huge number of people who will get faster services.

Ms Anne Graham: We have a national figure.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Ms Graham can give it to me later on. It is just for my information.

Ms Anne Graham: Commercial bus services represent about 9% of total passenger journeys across the State. That is about 28 million passenger journeys right across the State, not just in Dublin.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I welcome the representatives from the National Transport Authority, NTA, here today. The opportunity to have this engagement is welcome. For the most part, BusConnects offers huge potential for a positive effect and an opportunity to enhance and improve the bus service that is currently operating in Dublin. As Ms Graham quite rightly said, the service has evolved over a period of several decades, although I think Dublin Bus did carry out a reorganisation of the routes in the early 2000s, so there has been some progress in recent years. It would be wrong of us not to acknowledge that.

I am struck by the point Ms Graham made that a public survey was made available and more than 12,000 people responded to it. To me, that indicates the pivotal role that Dublin Bus plays in transporting people around our capital. It is terribly important that this consultation process engages with the people who use this service. I welcome the fact that the NTA has extended the consultation process by two weeks to 28 September. However, the month of August is a write-off for a variety of reasons, such as school holidays and people travelling abroad. Moreover, unless the witnesses can change this today, we still do not know the times and venues of the public meetings at which people can tease out the various bus routes. Given these facts, I think there needs to be flexibility around the date of 28 September. That is something the NTA should bear in mind. If it does not see the same level of interaction that it did previously, the NTA should certainly be flexible around extending that further.

I think the NTA needs to very quickly publish the dates and venues of its engagements with communities. To my mind, it should have been able to do this already. I have heard a figure of 18 locations. Perhaps the witnesses can correct that. I do not think that is enough. I think the process needs to extend to every part of the greater Dublin area as well - Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and all the areas served by Dublin Bus. There needs to be a very strong presence on the ground. People need to be able to go in and interact with the representatives of Dublin Bus.

I have gone through the website on a number of occasions. It has been suggested to me that if it had a Google Maps add-on people could use the site to navigate the proposed routes, as opposed to merely looking at the maps. It might make it an awful lot simpler for people to engage with the process.

I would like to hear some reassurances that this is not a box-ticking exercise and really is about engagement with the people it is going to affect. Moreover, I would like reassurance that if a huge area of concern is identified it will be possible to change some of the proposals. For example, most of the direct city services from commuter towns such as Balbriggan, Skerries, Swords and even Dunshaughlin have all been eliminated. That has taken place even though there is a huge demand in the morning and evening, reflected in the number of people using the services. A witness said that additional services would be provided at peak hours to limit overcrowding. Perhaps that is an opportunity to look at retaining some of these services, for which there is quite clearly a huge demand.

It was said that the choices report came about as a result of consultation between the NTA, Dublin Bus officials and Dublin City Council officials. Were any of the bus drivers, who engage with service users on a daily basis, consulted or made part of that process?  I hope this works and I am certainly not wishing that it will not work but it may be that changes are introduced and we actually notice an increase in the number of people going back to their cars. People have become used to getting on to a bus and going from one point to a second point without the need to change over.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Deputy, you have five minutes now. I should have said that at the beginning.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I would be agreeable to the time being expanded. Five minutes is not going to be enough.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd How long do committee members want? I have no problem – please tell me what is required.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Let us extend it to ten minutes because we will not get much in otherwise.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd If committee members want to go for ten minutes, that is fine.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Thank you, Chairman. I have only one or two more points. The key point is to get the notion out into the wider public and give people the opportunity to have their say. Maybe we should schedule a further meeting with the deputations following the public consultation. By then we would know about the submissions that have come in and we could come back and discuss the matter further at that stage.

The National Transport Authority has said that under the revised network almost 1 million Dublin area residents will be within 40 m of the bus service and that a bus will come every 15 minutes or better all day. What is the current set-up? What percentage of Dublin residents are within 40 m of a bus stop?

The question of a changeover from one bus to another is relevant. What is the average distance going to be? Will people be able to get off one bus and move or walk to another bus stop? Will it be the same bus stop? How are we going to facilitate people with reduced mobility, those who may be visually impaired or elderly people? How are we going to ensure transfers for people who previously could go from one point to another without changing over? We could be forgiven for thinking following the past six or seven weeks that we have a fabulous climate in the country. Normally, we have a wet country, especially in the winter months. People will have to make the changeover. How can we ensure that when people have to make a changeover they will not be left out for long periods in inclement weather?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The NTA has acknowledged that some people will have to do that. Can the NTA deputation identify the routes? Reference was made to people losing a service that is being replaced with another service or an alternative service. That will help. That was seven minutes.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Thank you, a Chathaoirligh. I thank the NTA deputation for coming in. We had a discussion prior to the public session. I had proposed that the unions should come before the NTA in order that we could raise concerns with the NTA. I imagine that would have been the most practical way. I raised my disappointment with the Chairman on why that was not flagged and why we opted not to do that. I am not saying it was deliberate, but certainly it is not a proper way for any committee to do business. We should hear the concerns and then have the opportunity to raise them with the NTA. It certainly limits scrutiny and curtails questioning. I have made my views clear to the Chairman.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd On a point of order, did you send the email you referenced to me as Chairman?

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I have already said this three times. First, I sent it to the clerk to the committee.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Did you send it? You are attacking the clerk.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Second, I raised the matter with you this morning, Chairman. Your job as chairperson, a Chathaoirligh, is to oversee the agenda. Now, something like that on the agenda ought to jump out at you. We have the National Transport Authority before the committee for questioning. Then, we have the unions in for questioning. Yet, we bring the NTA in before the unions. That means the authority representatives have left the building but we have had no opportunity to ask them or raise the concerns highlighted by the unions. It ought to have jumped out at you, Chairman.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd We have already discussed this. I want to make one point clear to you, Deputy Munster. You can attack me if you want - that is your business - but you did not send me an email saying that you wanted the union in before the NTA.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I sent it to the clerk.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd You did not send it to me, Deputy. How dare you accuse me of not reading your email, when you did not send it to me in the first place.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster No one expected for a moment that we would see something as incompetent as that on a clerk. No one would have expected such an obvious failing.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Will you please continue with your contribution, Deputy?

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I will continue now but I simply wanted to raise that point. It is an obvious failing on behalf of yourself, as committee Chair.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd If you send me your email, I will read it.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster It should have been passed on. Anyway, you should have examined the agenda prior to the meeting, Chairman. That is your job. That is what you are given your position as Chairman for. If you did not look at the agenda, then you cannot blame everyone else.

I wanted to ask about the consultation undertaken during the drafting of the plan, in particular with disability groups and groups who work with elderly people in the community. What was done to ensure they were catered for as part of the process? Can the NTA deputation outline what was done? More than anyone, these particular groups are inclined to rely on and use public transport.

We had a delegation in from MetroLink this morning to discuss the public consultation process. The NTA has said that it would have more meetings. Most people have raised the fact that they believe there is little in the way of public consultation or that it is very much one way. I will ask the question again. We asked the question at the earlier meeting as well. Will the NTA agree to appoint a liaison officer specifically to deal with the public consultation processes? Such a person could be available for communities and members of the public who have serious concerns and who believe the process currently under way is not addressing them. I cannot imagine why the authority would be opposed to the idea. Would the NTA as a public body agree to set up an official public liaison officer to deal with community groups and others with concerns?

Other concerns have arisen. One relates to the severe reduction in direct services to the city. That is probably the greater concern. People may well have to get two or three buses to get to work. Does the authority believe that is reasonable? People place as much emphasis on convenience as on time or speed. What if a commuter has to get three buses and is entirely dependent on those three buses arriving on time and on the frequency of the buses? If that does not materialise or if a commuter is hassled because of the need to get three buses to work, then he or she may decide to take the car. That is the first thing that will come into the minds of people. They may take the view that it is simply too much hassle and too far to walk to the bus stop. Even then, the commuter will have to get two or three others. Alternatively, he or she could take the car. This could well backfire and be a retrograde step.

People have asked other questions. They may be localised concerns but they have been raised because people cannot get answers. One relates to the Luas extension to Lucan. The concern raised is that the route seems to be the same dedicated road space for bus corridors that is dedicated for the Luas track. Can the authority representatives confirm whether that is the case? If so, how in God's name is that supposed to work? There are numerous localised issues but if the authority had an official liaison officer, then the officer could deal with these issues and give clarity to people.

Another question relates to Lower Artane Cottages and the road being widened and how the change will affect those concerned. I know of a dozen or more who have been affected. The authority will need a contact person ahead of submissions to clarify how exactly the plan will affect them as well as to inform them and enable them to make submissions. The more information they have, the better.

That is about it for now. In particular I am calling for answers to those questions. Can the authority give details of the discussion undertaken with disability groups and representatives of elderly groups in communities? They are the people most likely to use public transport constantly.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I call Deputy Catherine Murphy. Before you speak, Deputy, I understand that Deputy-----

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Sorry, I am sharing time with my colleague.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Sorry, I did not hear you say that, Deputy.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I had indicated.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I did not realise that. I am terribly sorry. That is fine. My apologies, Deputy Murphy, you are not next but you will be after your colleague.  Senator Ó Céidigh wishes to give his time to Senator Dolan. I want to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to contribute in the right order. Senator Humphreys will speak for the Labour Party, followed by the Independent members and then Deputy Lahart.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I attended the presentation in the Royal Hibernian Academy; there was a bit of a to-do there also.

I have several questions. The consultation has been pushed out to 28 September. That is unacceptable because half of the people of Dublin will not be around for most of that time. The city is empty. If I want to be cynical I could say this happens frequently, either over the Christmas or Easter periods or the summer holidays. I do not know the reason that date was agreed. Is there a deadline we should be aware of? I plead with the witnesses not to ignore the request from Oireachtas Members or the public to revisit the cut-off point of 28 September because people are only settling back into their homes and jobs at that time.

I still have difficulty with the maps provided, despite having taken a microscope and a magnifying glass to them. I would love to have a detailed explanation of how these new routes will impact on the city street by street and house number by house number. There will be loss of greenery and, in some instances, loss of property in the surrounding areas of the city but it is very important that we know how the impact of that on a house number by house number basis. I would like to be provided with detailed maps covering the areas of Crumlin, the Liberties, Kilmainham and Ballyfermot because I still cannot read the ones provided, and I am not that dumb. I hope the witnesses will be able to provide that. Are they available in that detailed format online?

There was another question about the national children's hospital. It appears the national children's hospital will not have a direct bus route other than from outlying areas. That will be a loss to the people within the south side of city. There is talk of restricting general traffic in Mount Brown to public transport only. That is a very busy area already but when the hospital opens in 2021 or 2022, what will be the transport options to the hospital for people in the centre of the city, especially for those in the south side?

I note we are going back to a single deck fleet. I remember the City Imp, the 123, that served Inchicore down to the Liberties. We are returning to a single deck fleet but an electric vehicle fleet should be considered having regard to the environment and energy conservation in the future. Why was the single deck fleet chosen? Is it because the buses are more frequent? Why was the City Imp and similar buses withdrawn having been introduced in the 1990s?

Was a study done on the Luas, and perhaps the DART also? Despite a difficult start, the Luas has transformed the city. Unfortunately, the transformation has meant that the city is clogged with cars which are beginning to take over neighbourhoods around every Luas stop. One cannot park near my stop in Rialto because cars have taken over the area. Unfortunately, the residents are being penalised. They are being told that the only solution is paid parking but the problem is not of their making. It is the influence of the development of the national children's hospital.

Has consideration been given to connecting buses to each major Luas stop, where there is an outpouring of people from the Luas, to take them from there out of the city? That would mean people would not park their cars at the Luas stop all day or wait to collect somebody to bring them further out of the city?

Route 17 covering Rialto to the UCD area will no longer service any of the housing estates in Crumlin. I reiterate the need for a map outlining, step by step, the loss of property, trees and infrastructure heading towards the outskirts of the city centre. In terms of the city centre, it is clogged with traffic already. How will we manage to increase the speed of the bus service? We cannot tear down old Dublin to do that.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That was four minutes and 55 seconds. Well done. I could not manage that myself.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It has been said there are winners and losers in this proposal. There are some very big losers, and that will be my primary focus. People measure their journey from door to door. If they have to travel a distance from a bus stop, for example, they will drive, park their cars and clog up suburban roads and so on, which is an unintended consequence. That will happen.

I was involved in a major origin and destination survey, which was the first time CIÉ collaborated with a community. I did the groundwork in our local community in Leixlip. That was in the mid-1990s. The public transport was designed to match the results of that. There were ten major initiatives as a consequence of the survey and they have worked very well. All of them were implemented over a period of time.

The same happened in Celbridge and Maynooth. There are 50,000 people living in those three towns, and it is estimated that an additional 30,000 will live in them over the next six years. Some of that development will not happen but quite a bit of it will, and some of it is under way as we speak. It is not an insignificant sized community, which is served by rail as well as bus. There is very heavy bus use. Whether they are in the west, east or north of the city, we want to discourage the car user and make public transport more attractive. I believe the real losers in this proposal are those living on the fringes of the city or in communities that will not have the permeability some of them currently experience.

There is a huge dependence on the bus in the Dublin region. That is not the case in other cities that are served by trains, underground services and so on. It is not a normal feature and it is probably not comparable with other areas. I caution against trying to replicate that in this city because of the absence of connectivity to the various train lines.

The information sessions will be incredibly important because people require detail.

In Confey, in my area of Leixlip, the 66A bus goes into a housing estate of 700 houses. Essentially, people will now get some sort of feeder bus to Leixlip village where they will get on another bus. They will get off in Lucan and get on another bus, whereas they are used to travelling on to a City Speed into town. That is a description of something that could be very off-putting. To give another example, some of the Celbridge buses travel on the Dublin road and bypass Leixlip. They will now come into Leixlip. When they come out of the other side of Leixlip, however, because Celbridge has the priority on that junction, the buses will queue and cars will get priority. Have the junctions been considered? That is one with which I am very familiar.

I accept there are gains in the proposal but the City Speed buses coming from Maynooth, for example, bypass Lucan and Chapelizod.  Under the new proposal, however, the spine bus will now go in that direction. There is congestion in all these areas. There is no possibility of a priority bus lane or a bus lane because of the width of the road. Whatever about a bus lane, there certainly will not be room for cycle lanes. There is far too little detail. Has an origin and destination study been done? Is that done only when designing a timetable? I accept there are different versions of, or approaches to, this proposal depending on whether we are dealing with the routes, infrastructure or timetable. I accept there are different processes to be gone through. However, if I get on a City Speed bus in Leixlip, I can be at Heuston Station within 25 minutes and while the rest of the journey to the town will depend on congestion, it is quick enough after that. Under this proposal I would have to get off the bus that I got on in Leixlip, which is full leaving there, and get on another bus. Not everyone will fit onto the second bus. They would then have to wait for another bus and, as has already been said, the weather may not be particularly brilliant. I am familiar with Lucan and I do not know where bus queues could be accommodated there.

I have been describing my area, but the case would be exactly the same with the 37 bus, which comes from Carpenterstown. In a counterintuitive way, people would have to go up towards Blanchardstown to get a bus into town. In Bray, the 145 would be replaced with a 212 local bus from Ballywaltrim, which would come through the heavily congested main street in Bray. The bus would then have to do a loop to the train station and back around. To be honest, I cannot visualise why it would be attractive to get on a bus when one considers such scenarios.

Unless the periphery is got right it will generate even more traffic and people may well abandon their cars. They may well drive from parts of north Kildare to Lucan and look for somewhere to abandon their cars, rather than having to change buses twice before getting on the bus they sought in the first place. They will be the big losers and unless some of this loss is addressed, we will run into a situation where the exact reverse of what is proposed will happen, namely, that more traffic will be generated. With regard to the smaller buses that are proposed, what would the fleet be like? Would it be accessible? Are they low-floored? Have they been purchased? I seek some detail in this regard. Would they be run as part of the Dublin Bus fleet? How would that be arranged?

We have a good working relationship in north Kildare with the public transport providers because we have engaged in a way whereby we have said what our needs are and, in many ways, they have been matched. In recent years we have been told a business case has to be made for new route. A development of 1,000 new houses is being built on a non-existing road. What will be the arrangement for augmenting services? Will a business case have to be made on each occasion this happens? It is more likely to happen on the edge of the city, for example, in Fingal, north Kildare and Bray. The closer we get to the city, the greater the gain and the further we go from the city, the greater the loss. It is more attractive to use a car the further from the city one is.

This summarises some of the concerns I have. I do not believe a forensic look has been taken at some of the junctions, pinch points and areas where people would have to connect with the bus on the spine, or of the queuing conditions people would encounter when they got off one bus, which may be full. How would people be accommodated in this situation?

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Ní raibh mé le labhairt, I was not going to speak but I feel I have to. There are two reasons for this, the primary one being I fully support the Chairman in his role. He is doing a very fine job.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Go raibh maith agat.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh The colleague who spoke earlier was certainly not representing me. It was unfair and unbalanced, díreach é sin a rá. Tá cúpla ceist-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Tabharfaidh mé vóta duit.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Níl a fhios agam faoi sin, sin scéal eile. Níl agam ach cúpla ceist ginearálta. I am the kind of person who looks at the glass half full and not half empty. Unfortunately, sometimes in these Houses we look at glasses as being more half empty than half full. Like Deputy Troy, I believe a strong positive effort has been made here with regard to improving the traffic congestion in Dublin city. From my perspective, it is certainly worthy of being given every fair chance. Having said this, it is important that committee members and others question and challenge it to ensure it is robust and that it has a better chance of working effectively.

I am impressed by the fact that international consultants from Canada have been approached. Very often we do not necessarily have all of the expertise internally in Ireland, and it is useful to get the best practice we can from outside of our country and see how it fits into our requirements.

My questions are on public consultation. I agree that the timeframe should be pushed out by another couple of weeks given the time of the year, as many people may be out of the country on holidays. I would like a sense of where consultation with trade unions and other stakeholders is at. These include bus drivers and key people who make this happen on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour and route-by-route basis.

On integration, as Deputy Catherine Murphy noted, linking with the radial routes is very important for those who live outside of Dublin in terms of how they connect to the internal network in the city. Does the NTA have a sense of the direct and indirect financial implications? What are the environmental implications? How would we know when this is a success? What are the key performance indicators? What would tell us we have achieved the specific goals? It is only then we would be able to measure how successful or otherwise we are.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan I welcome the NTA. It will be important to future-proof this proposal. Not alone must it work but it must do so for many decades. It has to be something that can be built on. It is a new construct and foundation. However, it could end up not being future-proofed. I am concerned there is great pressure to conclude the project but it needs to be measured and measured again to make sure it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. The cost of not getting this right in terms of accessibility would be high.  I do not wish to be alarmist, but people with disabilities and their families have appeared before the committee and their growing sense of frustration in that regard is palpable. They understand that if they cannot use public transport or any other public service, they are being prevented from participating in the life of the country in education, employment, housing and so forth. Transport connects everything from sport to families, work, training and education. That frustration will not go without being expressed very strongly and it will not be expressed verbally. That is the sense I have of where people are. We are educating people very well and they are going to school with their colleagues, but if they cannot go somewhere after that, a price will be paid on the streets. That is my view. It must be done right.

With regard to the question about KPIs, it is unsuccessful if it is not accessible. What engagement has the NTA initiated, if any, with people with disabilities and their organisations on this project? If it has, when did it do it? What engagement has it initiated, if any, with the National Disability Authority, NDA, and, in particular, its centre of excellence in universal design? Does the NTA have an awareness of Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, on accessibility, which states state parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities have access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, transport and so forth? It states these measures shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles. We have an opportunity to eliminate some obstacles and barriers. Yesterday there was an invitation to engage in consultation from the NDA at which a series of complaints and issues were raised by people with disabilities. I have spoken to four of those people and two of them are in this room. The other two are not present. As they put it, without rehearsing it, there is a sense that things are going backwards. I have the same concern. How many vehicles have been built or constructed like the two bus types that were on display yesterday outside the NDA? One was a single decker and the other a double decker. To return to the NTA, has the board of the authority been advised of and/or engaged in any consideration of accessibility issues related to the project and/or its understanding and responsibilities in respect of Article 9 of the CRPD?

I have some questions about the opening statement and the comment that while most people will not need to change buses, some will. What is the approximate percentage? Has the authority considered this in the case of people with disabilities? It is an inconvenience for anybody to have to make one or two interchanges, but it is well beyond an inconvenience for somebody who has a mobility or other impairment or disability. The impact of making one or two changes is very heavy. It is not simply an inconvenience and another routine that one gets into easily enough. The statement also mentions - Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said this was generally a positive move - that the authority engaged Jarrett Walker & Associates from Portland, Oregon. Did it question and examine the consultants on their record concerning accessible public transport before it commissioned them for the project? What is their record in that regard?

We tend to think of the person in the wheelchair or the person who is blind, but people have a range of disabilities, some of which are hidden. They might have head injuries, different neurological conditions or intellectual disabilities. Measures such as the livery and signage being changed have an impact. Many of the people concerned have had to be briefed, walked through, coached or trained, whatever one wishes to call it, to be able to use public transport. When that is done, they can get from A to B and know their interchanges. Dublin Bus provides that support service-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I must stop the Senator as his time is up.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan I simply want to say-----

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Any further question the Senator may have might come up in the discussion, but, if not, we can send communications directly to the delegates. I am conscious that other members wish to speak.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is fine.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The last sentence of the Senator is worth repeating as it might have got lost. It was about Dublin Bus providing training.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan Yes. Will it be standard across the system? There is a cost to doing these things.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Senator Kevin Humphreys is the next speaker. He will be followed by Deputies John Lahart and Joan Collins. We are dealing with the parties in the order we always use. Therefore, there is no slight intended on anybody.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I welcome the delegates whom I seem to be meeting more often these days. I will try to be brief and precise.

The information sessions are vital. We have entered a public consultation process without a list of where the information sessions will take place. They need to take place very quickly because there is a great deal of confusion among the public about indicative and exact lines. I will discuss one of the routes which I took two hours to walk through last night. It is the C route, which is the one closest to my home. When one leaves Ringsend, there is no clear indication as to whether Pembroke Street or Bath Street will be used. In walking the route I counted 50 car parking spaces that would have to go. I have no notion of to where they will be moved. That is why the information sessions are so important. I counted five disability parking bays. There is one woman with a severe disability and I do not know how she will be able to commute or gain access. I walked around her home for some time trying to find where the bay could be put in close proximity. Again, there has been no communication, which is a grave concern.

On the routes that will be lost, one is the No. 47. It travels infrequently, but people have adjusted to the level of service. Importantly, it takes people to their hospital appointments at St. Vincent's University Hospital and continues on to UCD for students. The document does not state clearly that the route will be gone, but it will be because it is on the C route. The authority is doing a great deal of work and has many balls in the air with regard to consultation on MetroLink, BusConnects, the idea of having 1,000 guards or 300 parking spaces or whatever combination there will be. How many staff are working on the projects? Is the authority fully resourced for the amount of work taking place in a very short period?

I will conclude with a comment. It was fantastic to see the French football team travelling along the Champs-Élysées to celebrate winning the World Cup. They were on an electric bus. Paris and France are way ahead of anywhere else in the use of electric buses, yet the delegates are still talking about hybrid diesel buses. We need to move on in that regard, especially given the concentration of buses in the city centre.  My questions about the C route may sound local, but if anybody in this room walked one of his or her own routes, he or she would probably come up with similar questions about people with a disability, parking bays and other issues and how they are to be addressed.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I will address a number of issues. Do I have five minutes?

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The Deputy has ten, if he wishes. Deputy Catherine Murphy will allow him to take ten.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I have a number of points to make.

The CEO needs to consider television and radio advertisements, if the issue has not already been considered. It is big. Dublin Bus has stated it conducted a review in 2011 that was almost equally as big. It is the second major review in a decade, but it is significant.

I reinforce all of the points made by Senator John Dolan. I am pleased he got to make them. There are penalties for connecting and they will have to be addressed at final report stage. They will come up in the public consultation stage. They will affect people with disabilities and people who have challenges with mobility, not necessarily older people. There is a penalty for having to disembark and connect with another bus service.

I like the idea of spines which I welcome. I have used the example of the 15 route, the service that serves a lot but not all of my area. Traditionally, if I hopped off the bus at Rathmines to go into a shop or the bank, I would have had to wait like an eejit for the next 15 bus to come along because 12 buses could pass me and I would not have been sure where they would have ended up. Under this system, it would be the A spine; therefore, I would know where any bus with the letter "A" on it would take me. That is very welcome and good news for commuters. People are going to be challenged. If one takes the far reaches of the constituency and beyond, for example, buses coming from Blessington, there will be a lot of connections in The Square. There are some pluses in that there will finally be a connection from Ballycullen, Knocklyon and Scholarstown serving the Luas red line. That is very much to be welcomed, but I have raised an issue which the NTA is taking up, namely, the lack of use of two really good quality bus corridors, QBCs, on Ballycullen Road and Firhouse Road which connect with the A spine on the Tallaght Road. In addition, one does not have the entire length of the N81 as a QBC, but it could be done very easily and it would also add efficiency.

I am not a member of the committee, but the challenge for it is whether it embraces the concept of BusConnects in principle. I do not wish to dictate to it, but that is the question it has to answer. SIPTU embraces it, but the NBRU has a lot of questions about it. I look forward to interaction with its members afterwards.

I have raised with the NTA the issue of localised park and ride facilities. I know that it has plans for large park and ride facilities on the fringes of the city, but there is a need for localised park and ride facilities to encourage those people who are a little further from bus routes to access them.

There is real concern about the withdrawal of services from housing estates. That issue is going to come up in more detail in the public consultation process. We are reflecting these concerns and there will be an opportunity to tease out the issue.

We must acknowledge what Dublin Bus is doing and what it has done with the network. Like the union representatives, I am a champion of the company and will defend it to the hilt, not just for the sake of it but also because it is a company that has turned itself around. It has an excellent culture, CEO and staff who deliver. It was back on the road first after the snow, quicker than any other form or mode of public transport. It is the most flexible public transport mode we have. As the infrastructure is developed for the interconnections, I hope it will provide things drivers do not have, such as basic bathroom facilities when they stop. It is so easy to overlook such an issue.

That leads me to another question. I think it is going to be really important, given the content of the NBRU's submission, that the other stakeholders engage with the NBRU. It should not leave it exclusively to Dublin Bus. I would like to see the NTA engage with the NBRU. There are many worthy issues raised in its submission, but having looked at the BusConnects proposal, I can see that there are some areas that require face to face engagement in order to explain them. I also think the NTA needs to meet the drivers, the front-line staff. We have talked about people with disabilities, customers and people with special needs, but it would be worthwhile and is necessary as part of the BusConnects process to speak to the men and women who are delivering the service every day in winning hearts and minds.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins My first issue is consultation. Last week in the Dáil during Leaders' Questions I asked about the consultation period being much too short. I note that it has been pushed out to 28 September, but it should be extended until October, given the extent of issues to be discussed. Last Monday week when I looked at the plan for my area, it was apparent that one would have to have the existing routes on one side and the proposed routes on the other and to examine them in minute detail to find out which areas had been affected. One can see it fairly well on the two big maps. I propose that the NTA further extend the consultation period.

Another issue about which I want to ask the NTA is the public survey that was carried out. It was said more than 12,000 people had responded, or approximately 1% of Dublin's population. Dublin Bus carries 140 million passengers every year. It was said that was an unprecedented level of response. What is the normal response level for such surveys carried out by the NTA? Does it ensure specific groups are included in surveys such as people with a disability, older people aged over 60 years, students who travel to college or drivers?

When I saw the map, I noticed that services along the coastline looked to be well connected. It looks really good in Rathmines and Rathgar and across the city, but as one moves out into working class areas, the difference between the current and proposed routes is evident. The service to estates is affected. The NTA referred to a 15 minute walk in the context of connectivity and jumping off one service and onto another. Services in certain areas are being wiped out. From what I can see on the maps, there is a real loss of service in areas on the periphery. Up to 99 people are to be brought on double-decker buses every five minutes and dropped off to interconnect with a 28 seater Mercedes bus service which will come every 15 to 20 minutes. That means huge queues of people will be dumped off in the connection area who will have to wait 20 minutes or more for the next bus which will only be a 28 seater. That is what it looked like to me initially, but I accept that I will have to look at the proposal in more detail.

I do not have a car and use the bus every day. I use public transport everywhere. There is good connectivity throughout the city. Bus stop No. 1987 is serviced by the 13, 69 and 68 bus routes. The 69 bus route serves Rathcoole. The 68 bus route serves Newcastle. It services the Bulfin estate and cuts through the South Circular Road all the way down into South Great George's Street. These three bus services are being taken off the route and will be substituted by the 63 bus which will come every hour. I will be at the bus stop in Inchicore waiting for the 63 bus every hour. I will be able to go to the Blackhorse tram stop and get on the Luas, but capacity on the Luas at peak times in the morning is inadequate. I do not know whether the NTA has checked whether capacity on the Luas can be increased to allow extra passengers to get on at that point and travel further into the city. That means that a lot of people will have a 15 minute walk to the next bus stop at the working man's club which people do not know is in Inchicore village. The existing 40 bus service has been changed to the G spine and will come every five minutes. We only made representations to Dublin Bus about four months ago because of the queues waiting at the bus stop at the working man's club. When I go there between 7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., there are 20 to 25 people waiting for a bus.  The 13, the 69 and the 68 will not go down that road but there will be a G-spine bus every five minutes at peak times. There will be problems for everybody further down the road as a result. In Drimnagh, there will be a complete clearout of 123 and 122 buses and there will be no connectivity with St. James's Hospital for any bus route. The 68 will be gone and students will have to go down the orbital route to Rialto Bridge and try to get access to a bus there to take them to the Synge Street schools.

This is the biggest change to have been proposed for this city and it has been done too quickly. Somebody said there would be a 15-minute walk but for older people that is a long walk, as it is for people with disabilities. Waiting times are long and I am not convinced that it connects people. In fact, it seems to disconnect people from public transport. Does the NTA view the big spinal routes as being privatised in the future, perhaps in four or five years' time? They are the areas where there is big capacity and usage. I hope the NTA can give a "Yes" or "No" answer to that.

There is no true connectivity to the national children's hospital as the 18 and 17 are being redirected. There will be no access to colleges such as UCD and buses have been taken completely out of the Crumlin area, now having to go around the periphery of the estates there. That has a serious impact on people and communities. We are having a public meeting at the Crumlin GAA club next Tuesday and we will see what response there is to that aspect of the plans. It should be interesting.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I have an appointment which I cannot avoid at 3.15 p.m. so I ask the Vice Chairman to take the Chair at that point, if that is okay.

Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe The Chair is lucky I turned up.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I wish the NTA the best of luck with this because it will not be an easy job but it is an extremely important job. We discussed the metro upgrade earlier on and that is difficult at local level but the number of challenges with BusConnects are a multiple of that. I have experience of many years' involvement in QBC designs. On every street the allocation of space is the most contentious local issue, whether it is because local retailers want car parking inside their shops or a traffic lane is going to be lost, and if we are to take out gardens it will be very tough. I agree that we need to consult on this but we also need a sense of urgency as our city is grinding to a halt and it will not be good for the country if our economy crashes on the back of a city in which one cannot do business.

There is also an urgency around providing the switch to public transport and making the system work, which will avert a cost of €2 billion per annum arising from gridlock. I agree also that public transport should be reorientated to places which do not have choices at the moment or where communities are more dependent on public transport because the level of car ownership is lower. I believe the NTA may need a dedicated office for that, something I spoke about with Mr. Creegan at a previous hearing. If we always contract consultants for the detailed design, we may not get the economies of scale we would get from doing it as a single project. From the point of view of engineering resources, we should switch money away from our road building and into this programme. We want less traffic coming into Dublin city but we cannot achieve that while we are carving up road space. It is up to the NTA to make the strategic decision to scale back all the road widening work in Dublin and reallocate engineers towards road design. We cannot continue doing both because one makes the other more difficult.

I will not go into the details of any one specific design but this is an opportunity for radical change and we should look at College Green, the Liffey Quays and the entire gyratory system around the city centre, which I describe as like the Ben Hur racetrack. The system around Westmoreland Street, Pearse Street, the Millennium Bridge and St. Stephen's Green disadvantages pedestrians and cyclists.

This is not just for the bus service but for the entire transport system and this is an opportunity to turn Dublin into a cycling city, at scale and with real ambition. The gyratory system in the city centre is antithetical to cycling and we are competing with other cities which are realising the importance of transport systems. Our nearest big competitor is probably Manchester, which has just decided to invest €1.5 billion in its cycling infrastructure. Our national development plan has some €50 million for greenways and it is an utter disgrace that we are completely ignoring cycling. There is money in the BusConnects project for cycling but I am flabbergasted at what we are suggesting for my constituency. We are suggesting, for example, that we take cyclists off the main street in Rathmines, which is beyond belief because cycling is the main mode of transport on that street, something people would see if they went down there at 5.30 p.m. or 6 p.m., where it is like downtown Beijing 20 years ago. None of the alternative route options seems workable in any way or at all connected with the idea of making Dublin a cycling city. I could get on my bike now and be on any point on the M50 within half an hour but everywhere within the M50 should be an entire cycling city.

We need the bus network, which is essential, but it is time to develop cycling. We have been talking about it for 25 years but we have done nothing. We have put in patches of lanes here and there and if this is another case of squeezing cyclists in as an afterthought, and not giving them priority, we will lose out to the likes of Manchester where they realise that urban design, urban permeability and urban villages are the way to go. If kids cycle to school, morning rush hour traffic is reduced by 30%. It will be tough but we should do it big and do it properly, with real vision and ambition so that we include cycling as well as walking. The hardest thing will be the politics of it because we will all represent constituents who will have concerns that their front door is being affected by a need of someone who is coming from five miles further out, or 30 miles in the cases of people coming in on the motorways. They will cry foul but we have to do it. We have no choice because car-based Dublin has to stop and a public transport-centred, cycling city is where we need to go. The NTA will have the Green Party's support and we wish it the best of luck.

Chairman: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I ask the Vice Chairman to take the Chair.

  Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe took the Chair.

Ms Anne Graham: I will be assisted by Mr. Creegan and Mr. Gaston in trying to get through the questions and points raised. We recognise the Dublin Bus system is important for delivery of public transport in the Dublin region and the role everyone plays in the delivery of the bus service, including drivers, the trade unions that support them and the management of Dublin Bus. There are many different stakeholders involved in the delivery of the service we have now. We are talking about trying to improve that service, which everyone would like to be able to do for the people of Dublin.

We will address the matter of engagement on locations. Mr. Creegan will comment on the consultation after which I will deal with some other questions.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: A number of members asked about the information sessions. We are arranging the venues and ensuring the personnel will be available to give the support needed at those venues. At the beginning of next week, we expect to have at least an initial, if not full, list of venues, which we will circulate to all the elected representatives, put on our website and start to roll out over the coming two months.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy How many venues will there be?

Mr. Hugh Creegan: The Deputy referred to a figure of 18, but I do not know how many there will be. It is probably in that broad order but we are flexible and if we miss something important, we will add it in.

Ms Anne Graham: We will ensure every Dáil constituency has a venue and at least one meeting will be held in every constituency as part of the consultation.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Will any of the meetings be held in August, or will it be left until September? That is critical.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: To fit them all in, it was our intention to start them in August.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy That is a disaster.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The plan is in the public domain. August is a traditional holiday month when everyone goes away for two weeks. There are no ideal circumstances, but the opening of the consultation period on Monday is a start. There is huge demand. I have been flooded with questions which I cannot answer. The maps do not provide the level of detail people want to know. The sooner it starts, the better. Two consultations may have to be held because of the demand. There should be two meetings in every Dáil constituency - one in August and one in September.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: As the Senator stated, we would like to make a start. We can be flexible and add to it afterwards. There is demand to start having some of these information sessions and get information out. We would like to start and then see if there is a need for follow-up engagement after that.

Ms Anne Graham: On whether this is a box-ticking exercise, I assure the committee that is not our intention. We want to engage in detailed consultation. It is not only Dublin Bus staff who will be present but also NTA staff to address any questions. Between both organisations we hope to be able to address people's questions and give them the information they require. We understand the maps are difficult. It is difficult to try to understand the impact of the existing network versus the proposed network. The information sessions are designed to give people the information they need.

A suggestion was made regarding a Google Maps add-on. We hope to develop other tools to make the process easier for people. I ask Mr. Gaston to explain what other tools may be available.

Mr. Tim Gaston: We have a plan to put a tool, which is largely developed, online and we will see what sort of reaction we get to it. It will allow the user to put in a precise location and it will show a 30, 45 or 60-minute journey that he or she can make from there in the current network and the new network. It will overlay the routes that are coming with the new network so people will be able to see what the new network gives them. If they go into the existing journey planner, they will be able to see what the existing bus routes are. It gets complicated if one wants to view them on the same screen or page. It is difficult to compare one with the other. We will provide maps of the existing and new networks on hard copy at all the face-to-face venues. This tool will also be available to allow people to click on their location and see what their options are.

Ms Anne Graham: A question was raised about how many people are close to the existing network. The measure we used was 400 m from the existing services. Based on that measure, the number of people close to the existing network is approximately 750,000 people. This figure will increase to approximately 1 million in the new network, which is a 25% increase in the number of people who are within 400 m of a public transport service.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Ms Graham referred to a figure of 1 million. To which population is she referring?

Ms Anne Graham: The current population of Dublin is approximately 1.6 million people.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy That figure includes the areas on the fringe.

Ms Anne Graham: The Dublin network area covers 1.6 million people.

We take the point about the interchange, how it is constructed and the need to make interchanges as easy as possible. One objective is to minimise the distance between the interchange from one service to another. Many of the services will interchange at the same stop. There are places, particularly when interchanging from an radial to an orbital route, where people may have to travel or cross the road to a different bus stop. At the key hubs, however, people will generally interchange in the same area. We want to improve facilities at interchange locations, for example, by providing shelter, rest facilities and the other facilities to which members referred, to ensure people have the best facility, especially at the busy interchange hubs.

Mr. Creegan will comment on the consultation during the drafting of the plan.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: Step one was the publication last year of a choices report when we went out to public consultation on the overall concepts we would use in developing the plan. The committee earlier heard the feedback we received on that report. The proposals were drafted by our designer, Jarrett Walker, and his colleagues, the NTA, Dublin Bus personnel and officials from the local authorities. We have now put out the document for public debate and consultation. It was important to develop something first before we could have the consultation on it and this is the document that was developed.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I read the NTA report which indicated there had been a two-week extensive consultation between officials from the NTA, Dublin Bus and Dublin City Council. My question was whether any bus drivers who interface with passengers on a daily basis were part of the consultation process.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: It was a design process. We used the word consultation in the report but we meant to say an intensive design process. We were locked in a room for a couple of weeks to design this. Dublin Bus had personnel there, some of whom may have been ex-drivers. There were schedulers and operations people, but I am not sure of the grades of all the personnel.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster I asked about whether the NTA had entered into discussions with disability groups, or groups which work with the elderly, at that stage in the drafting of the plan, given that the removal of services is under consideration.

Ms Anne Graham: As Mr. Creegan said, it was a design process. As such, we engaged with officials and people who are or were involved in the design of bus services. We have a network we want to consult on, and we are engaged with the National Disability Authority, NDA, about how we should go about engaging on the network with all the different groups, particularly those with a disability, while recognising this is a difficult message to get across in regard to the existing network versus the new network. We will take the NDA's advice on how we should carry out that consultation. We have engaged with the NDA about how we will go about that specific type of consultation.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Ms Graham said that was the design nature of the plan. Did the NTA not think it was relevant to engage disability groups at that stage of the design? Was their input not considered valuable or worth having at that stage?

Ms Anne Graham: It is appropriate at this stage, now that we have a network plan about routing and interchange. Given we now have a proposal, we will put it forward to those different groups. Now is the appropriate time to engage with different groups on the impacts of the new network and whether those impacts can be mitigated in any way.  The Deputy asked about the appointment of a liaison officer for the consultation. There is a liaison team in the National Transport Authority, NTA, who are contactable through the BusConnects phone number. She also referred to MetroLink. Its liaison is being done through TII which also has liaison officers. We can forward their details to Deputy Munster.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster That information is not in the public domain.

Ms Anne Graham: We will make those available.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster If a particular community group wanted a meeting to get responses to various queries and to get clarification on matters, would that liaison team make itself available?

Ms Anne Graham: MetroLink is engaging with communities where needs be. Generally, they can answer questions over the phone if they are able. We want to direct people, where possible, to go to public meetings and engagement. If they are not in a position to do that, we will try to take the query over the phone. If we need to do other engagements, we will consider that.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The reason we had a group in this morning about MetroLink was that they said that the public consultation was flawed. They are very aggrieved at what they felt was a one-sided public consultation which flies in the face of what public consultations should be about. A public meeting is well and good but there could be hundreds descending on a room and depending on the meeting's format, and so on, it will not address all their concerns. They were not even aware that there was a liaison team never mind its contact phone number. Is Ms Graham saying that even at this stage, given the concerns about BusConnects and MetroLink, that she would not allow a meeting were someone to request one?

Ms Anne Graham: I am not saying that I am not allowing it -----

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster Would the NTA facilitate it?

Ms Anne Graham: If we can facilitate it, and I do not want to speak on behalf of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, where meetings can be facilitated, we will do so. On BusConnects, we have to cover the full Dublin region. We will not be able to meet every community, it is simply not possible, which is why we try to meet as many people as possible at the public meetings. Where there are individual queries or if there is a particular group that is unable to get to the public meetings, I am thinking of elderly groups and those representing people with disabilities, of course we will make arrangements for them separately. As far as it is possible, we will engage at public meetings and do follow ups by phone if there are particular difficulties. If a meeting is required for a particular group, we will try to facilitate that.

The reduction in direct services will be around 10%. That is across the city region. We have always said there is a trade-off between growing the orbital services with a small reduction in direct services to give people a better service overall.

The Luas extension to Lucan is in our strategy. Within the ten years of the national development plan, TII will work on a design for that, but it has not yet commenced.

There was a question about Lower Artane Cottages. That will be picked up in the bus corridors detailed consultation to take place in October.

Senator Devine asked that the consultation be extended. We will consider that. I am not sure if she referred to the maps provided in relation to the network or to the bus corridors, which is a separate consultation, for which detailed maps will be available although we do not have them now.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine When will they be available?

Ms Anne Graham: October. The fleet will remain as it is. Mr. Creegan might pick up on this.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: There are no plans to dramatically change the type of fleet. Most of the buses will still be double deck buses. Single deck buses will come into use in some of the outer routes. Passenger demand on some routes might result in the use of a single deck rather than double deck but the vast majority will continue to be double deck buses.

We think that we will end up with electric buses but the technology is still not at the stage where we can get long distance, reliable services although there can be shorter routes by electric buses without difficulty. Technology is certainly improving and in a few years, we see that it will be a viable option in Dublin.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Is there a deadline for implementation which would explain why the public consultation is so condensed or, perhaps more accurately, being held at the wrong time?

Ms Anne Graham: We aim to implement whatever is the agreed network around the end of 2019-start of 2020. It is such an important network for the Dublin region, we would like to see its benefit accrue to the people of Dublin as soon as possible. That is our current timeframe.

I refer to Luas, transforming the city and trying to connect the bus network into the major stops. That is something that we are trying to do with this plan but if there are other ideas around that we would be happy to discuss them. There are details on the 17 route and getting the buses through the city centre which I will follow up on outside of the meeting. One of the objectives is to reduce the number of buses that go through the city centre because we recognise that it is difficult to get the current numbers through. Providing more orbital movements may also take the pressure off the city centre.

Deputy Catherine Murphy asked about her area. We used data, including POWSCAR data which is CSO data on the people's origins and destinations and used boarding and alighting data from Dublin Bus. The research is data-based and the proposal is to meet the origins and destinations in the travel people are doing, particularly to address the growth in orbital movements, and desired orbital movements, to make a trip. There is an overlay of peak services in addition to all-day services which may address some of the issues raised by Deputy Murphy. Mr. Creegan might care to add to this.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: There are two things that can be lost when we are trying to put so much information on the maps. The first is that the maps we have produced are midday service frequency maps. They show the network in the middle of the day, that is, it is the all-day service. Two things happen in addition to that. One is that the service on many of those routes is dialled up to a higher level and the intervals between buses is shorter and the other is that during peak hours, there are additional peak hour only services or routes. From the Cellbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth area there are six different services added into the system during peak hours. They contribute much of the capacity there of the current express buses. If the Deputy requires more information, it is available on one of the maps that went out. The routes are 324, 323, 325, 322, 326 and I may have missed one.

Ms Anne Graham: That is replicated around the city, particularly on outlying areas. We presented the all-day service but there are peak services on top of that, to move people more directly into the city centre at peak times.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy They are direct and will not require passengers to change service.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: They are peak time only going into the city centre, south docklands, UCD and other different combinations. They do not require a change of service. The C route which comes from Lucan and Cellbridge has direct services without needing to interchange.  The C3 and C4 route extends past Lucan. The C spine does not stop at Lucan and there is no need to change buses - the branches continue to wherever their termination point is. There was also a suggestion of a delay on C buses going through Chapelizod village. The C route bypasses Chapelizod village.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It is going to be replicated in another place. I refer to Lucan. The Celbridge bus does not come through Leixlip. The proposal is that it will. There is no room for a bus corridor because it is a narrow congested street. There are cluster and junction issues. I am making a general point using specifics. Have the junction and pinch point issues been looked at? Is that the kind of thing that will be looked at in the public consultation?

Ms Anne Graham: We want to get those kinds of responses to highlight the issues we should look at in more detail. That is why we want the kind of feedback Deputy Murphy just gave us. Senator Ó Céidigh asked what success looks like. It is more people using public transport, buses in particular, and that is what we want to ensure happens. It is set up so we can provide for growth within the city and for more people using public transport.

On the financial implications, when we looked at the design initially we wanted to make the best use of the resources we have. We recognise now, though, that those resources may have to increase to deliver this network of services. There will be some financial implications but with the predicted growth in the number of people using public transport much of that will be covered by increased fare revenue. We also have to consider environmental implications in respect of greater use of buses but that will, hopefully, be offset by less use of cars and more efficient use of our road space. The key performance indicator is growth in public transport numbers.

On Senator Dolan's question, we mentioned earlier that we need to ensure this network of services also serves people with disabilities. We engaged with the NTA to see how we will engage with different disability groups on this network to explain the changes and to see what issues will arise for people with disabilities.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan When did that engagement start?

Mr. Hugh Creegan: I have been having discussions with the NDA about setting up a process of engagement, so it has only been in the last few days.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan Are there buses now on the production line or gone through the production line already?

Ms Anne Graham: That is engagement related to fleet-----

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan It is but fleet is fleet.

Ms Anne Graham: It is one part of the-----

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan Fleet is part of this.

Ms Anne Graham: Yes, but I was explaining that we were looking at engagement about the network which is going to be dealt with-----

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is fine. Correct me if I am wrong, but some or all of those buses are going to be part of this project.

Ms Anne Graham: Yes, the current buses in the fleet so-----

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan No, the ones that are coming, or have recently come, off the assembly line that people with disabilities - as will be known from yesterday - have serious concerns about. Those buses are going to be part of the rolling stock for this project, as things stand now.

Ms Anne Graham: Yes, they are.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan I am putting a big question mark around that. I am uncomfortable with having just heard that a consultation is going to be started.

Ms Anne Graham: I meant consultation on the network. We have started the consultation on the fleet. Mr. Creegan was at the meeting yesterday so he might update the committee on that.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: We are talking about two different things.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is fine.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: This is about bus services. Ms Graham and I were speaking about the need to work out a process of distributing this information appropriately and getting appropriate feedback on the services. On the buses, some have been purchased and manufactured. We had a large meeting yesterday at which there were some positives and some negatives about the new fleet. We have committed to making changes to address some of those concerns. We may not be able to address every one of them but we have committed to making changes - even to the buses that are already manufactured. It is down in many cases to colours, paints and things like that. The general type of double deck bus has not changed. It is down to finishes that we need to look at.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan To be clear, is Mr. Creegan saying that concerns raised on the specifications, as we will call them, will be addressed?

Mr. Hugh Creegan: I said we will be considering all the concerns raised and we will definitely be able to address some of those. We need to consider them first, we only went through it yesterday.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is fine.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: We will certainly see how we can address a considerable number of them.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan These are buses that have been built and now the NTA is hearing some of the concerns?

Mr. Hugh Creegan: That is correct.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is fine.

Ms Anne Graham: The other issue was whether our board has been advised. We continually advise our board on any issues with the fleet and any project we are working on. Our board is aware of the concerns raised about the fleet.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan My question was specifically on Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Ms Anne Graham: I am not saying to the board members that I have read Article 9 but that can be made available to them. Any issues raised with us as an executive have been raised at our board meeting.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan The Government and the Dáil have signed up to the Article 9 of the Convention. We are legally obliged to move in that way. Anything that does not move us in that direction, by a slip or whatever, is not a venial sin. It is unacceptable and we do not need to rehearse it any more.

Ms Anne Graham: I understand.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan That is the point. Ireland has signed up and ratified the Convention since 19 April, so every public body needs to take that overtly into account.

Ms Anne Graham: We will take that into account. We also fund the access officer in Dublin Bus and if we need to increase that level of service, particularly for issues on the network, and engagement, we will do that. Any help and assistance we need to put in place regarding these network changes will be put in place.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan I thank Ms Graham.

Ms Anne Graham: Senator Humphreys asked about the information sessions and trying to get them up and running. We will try to do that. If there are particular local issues, and specific questions in respect of the Senator's local area, we might address them here.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys In fairness, I was using indepth local knowledge as a general point to say these are the issues and they will be duplicated.

Ms Anne Graham: I understand that. We are not necessarily going to give responses today but we take on board the points Senator Humphreys has raised. We need to hear these local issues to make improvements where we can on what is proposed. Deputy Lahart had a question on advertising. We have a radio advertisement to put in place and we will use other means of advertising to ensure we get extensive engagement on this. It is an important issue for the people that live in, work in and visit Dublin city. We are going to look at some of the issues raised for the committee.

Turning to engagement with the NBRU, and the other unions, in respect of work in Dublin Bus, our engagement is generally with the management of Dublin Bus. We expect those managers to engage then with the people working in the organisation. We expect that to continue at this stage but if there is a request for engagement with us, we will certainly consider that. Deputy Joan Collins asked about the public survey, the 12,000 people and that being 1% of the population. I am trying to remember what the question was.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I asked about 12,000 people and 140 million passengers.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: It would be rare that we would have a survey or a consultation that exceeded 1,000 submissions.  Were people targeted specifically because they have disabilities, are over 60 or are students?

Ms Anne Graham: Not specifically.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: We asked questions about the age and demographic of the respondents. There was quite a spread across age groups and areas so we were satisfied that we got very representative feedback from the survey. It was not skewed towards students, for example. There was a good spread across the age classes.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Could we get detail on that to have a look at it?

Ms Anne Graham: Certainly.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Were people asked when they were on the bus or did it happen via an app?

Ms Anne Graham: It was an online survey.

The Deputy asked about the privatisation of routes in the future. There are no proposals to privatise routes. We do not consider that even the tendering we did recently relates to privatisation because the routes and the management of the routes still remain within the NTA. What is provided for is another operator operating within the Dublin region. In terms of the 2019 contract with Dublin Bus, we will be commencing engagement on it later this year to make a decision, as we are required to do under legislation related to the 2019 to 2024 contract.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy What does privatisation mean to Ms Graham?

Ms Anne Graham: Privatisation is selling off and commercialising a particular service. These are all PSO services we are talking about. All that has changed is it is now operated by a different company. It is a private company versus a State company. We do not consider that privatisation.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy When Ms Graham says that the NTA has no intention of privatising more routes, we can take it that she does not think any part of it is privatised. It is just that the terms and conditions of the employees will be changed by virtue of the change in operator.

Ms Anne Graham: Not necessarily. As is currently the case, where 10% of the services will be operated by Go-Ahead, there will still be a right of transfer for the employees of Dublin Bus to move to that operator if they choose to do so under the TUPE regulations. In terms of the services that are provided, they are managed and are under contract with the NTA. We provide the contracts with the different operators. Currently, we have a contract with Dublin Bus that runs up to 2019 and we have a contract with Go-Ahead to operate 10% of services. A decision has to be made - it is part of the legislation - about what will happen after 2019.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I just want to tease this out ever so slightly. Ms Graham is not excluding the prospect of another operator coming in between now and 2019 or 2020 in the same way as Go-Ahead has entered the frame.

Ms Anne Graham: Up to 2019, we remain with the current operator, which is Dublin Bus. Go-Ahead will commence operating services from this year onwards. The contract with Dublin Bus terminates because we are only allowed to put in a contract for five years. That is what is set out in our legislation. It is five years with Dublin Bus; it is a direct award. It means it does not go out to tender. We have to give notice by the end of this year whether we are changing that, whether there will be further competition or whether we will continue with the direct award. The process we have to undergo is set out in the legislation relating to the authority. We will commence it later this year.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Under the legislation, the NTA is entitled to continue that direct award contract post 2019 for a further five years. That is a choice the NTA will have to make.

Ms Anne Graham: Yes. The regulation and legislation allows for that but there is a process that has to be gone through before a decision is made by the board of the authority.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart This meeting is not about the matter I am about to raise but I will take the opportunity to tease it out a little. I have made the point about the livery, which caused a few chuckles. Perhaps people did not grasp the point completely. It was not about the colours - although the colours of the Dublin Bus livery, as Senator Dolan will know, are pretty significant - there was a great deal of investment and of communication with disability groups in designing it. When one drives around the city, Dublin Bus buses are instantly visible. That was one of the purposes of the choice of livery. We are not London, where the red bus is iconic. Dublin Bus is a semi-state, taxpayer-funded company. It is about ensuring that it is entitled to determine its own future as a taxpayer-funded company, notwithstanding the powers the NTA possesses. Theoretically, there could be a situation, if I am correct, whereby Dublin Bus could tender as an independent semi-State company for contracts outside this country.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys It is not allowed to do so under the legislation.

Ms Anne Graham: I could not comment on that. I would have to take advice on it. It is not something we have ever considered. Dublin Bus would have to answer that question. I cannot comment on it.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart It could tender for contracts outside of Dublin.

Ms Anne Graham: It cannot tender for contracts outside of Dublin.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins We need to get clarification on that but I think it can do so.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I will conclude in a moment. I thank the Vice Chairman for the latitude. The NTA needs to recognise - I am sure it does - that there is a huge amount of sentiment in Dublin towards Dublin Bus. That is where the colour scheme came in. It was thought that the buses ought to remain identifiable regardless of what colours Dublin Bus chose to use. It is in the interest of consumers and of promoting positive competition between providers that consumers know the bus they are getting on is a Dublin Bus bus or a Go-Ahead bus when they are considering the service they receive.

A few months ago, I asked Ms Graham about the pay and terms and conditions of the Go-Ahead drivers and whether they would be the same as those of their counterparts in Dublin Bus. She stated that it was her understanding that they would but it was a matter between the operators and the employees. What flexibility is there?

Ms Anne Graham: I am not sure whether I said that was my understanding. The terms and conditions of the Go-Ahead drivers is a matter for Go-Ahead, as the employer. If Dublin Bus drivers choose to move across to Go-Ahead under the TUPE regulations, as they may be entitled to do, their terms and conditions transfer with them. That is the situation.

We need to go through the other questions that have arisen. On the question about the livery, one thing we have to do on a statutory basis is create a single brand for public transport. It says we "shall" create a single brand. That is what is set out in our legislation.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Does it not say "may"?

Ms Anne Graham: It says "shall". The provision is that we shall present a single transport brand. The reason for that is based on consumers. If there are multiple operators - I am not saying that is what we propose but we now have two operators in Dublin - we feel the people and customers of Dublin would like to see a single livery across the Dublin region because it then looks like a more integrated service. That is why, as part of the BusConnects programme, we decided to consider a single livery. It is part of the discussions we are having with Dublin Bus.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Who will make the decisions after 2019 in the context of the next five-year contract and what goes out for what I will call privatisation? There seems to be disagreement about what constitutes privatisation.

Ms Anne Graham: The board of the NTA makes that decision.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Under the direction of the Minister?

Ms Anne Graham: No, under a recommendation from the executive following a consultation and in line with what is set out in our legislation and what we have to do.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Will it be subject to legislation?

Ms Anne Graham: It is subject to legislation. Legislation sets out the process we have to undergo in order to determine whether there is another direct award for Dublin Bus. It is set out in our legislation. We can come back to the committee and talk about this further at a later date.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy We will have a proper meeting about this in September.

Ms Anne Graham: Another point raised by Deputy Eamon Ryan concerned cyclists. They are not an afterthought in our plans. They are certainly very much part of the plans that we want to deliver for public transport. We already indicated that more than 230 km of segregated cycle facilities would be put in place as part of the BusConnects programme. I think that covers all the main questions that were asked.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The main question was about the number of staff working on the different public consultation projects at the moment.

Ms Anne Graham: We will have to get back to the Senator with the total number if we were to put them all together.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The NTA is undertaking three major public consultations. I am anxious for it to be properly resourced to carry out those consultations and to develop those plans. They will have huge impacts in the future.

Ms Anne Graham: We will ensure that we have the correct number of staff available to deal with the consultation. We are engaging with our Department on the number of staff required to build those programmes in the coming years.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I ask Ms Graham to come back to me.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan I have two other questions. The first concerns the inconvenience caused by transferring from one bus to another and then another. That is a bigger issue for people with disabilities. Does the NTA have an idea of the number of people with disabilities who will be affected? The other question is about the NTA's consultants, Jarrett Walker + Associates, and that firm's track record in designing and advising on accessible public transport systems. Sin a bhfuil.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I made a point on viewing the proposed network. The connectivity of the east coast is certainly very well catered for. As one moves out towards the west, however, one can see how working-class estates are particularly stripped of buses. In the outlying areas, one leaves the main routes and depends on 28-seat feeder buses. How does that constitute connectivity?

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I invite the Deputy to come down to Glanworth.

Ms Anne Graham: I do not know from where the idea of 28-seat feeder buses comes. There is no proposal to change the fleet operating in the Dublin area, which is primarily a double-decker fleet.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Are there areas such as Maynooth-----

Ms Anne Graham: There is no proposal to change the fleet.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Why have we have ordered 40 28-seat Mercedes buses?

Ms Anne Graham: They are for use on services where there is lower demand. They are on specific routes where we know the demand is lower than would require a double-decker bus. That is why the single-decker is appropriate.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart It is important to clarify this. The submission we received says that the plethora of local services suggested in this plan will use 40 new 28-seat single-decker buses, a big reduction on the current double-decker fleet.

Mr. Tim Gaston: Those are full-length single-decker vehicles. The 28-seat configuration allows more standing space. There are two main purposes for which we intend to use them. One is to reach areas double-decker buses will have difficulty servicing, areas with steep hills or on the fringes of Dublin. The other area where those buses may be used is in the O-ring, that is, the new concept of the inner orbital route. The reason for that is that there is a low bridge, so a single-deck vehicle is needed.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The buses are described as having 28 seats. Roughly speaking, what is their capacity?

Mr. Tim Gaston: It is between 50 and 70. Those are the typical single-deck vehicles seen in many other cities. They offer more standing space, which is particularly appropriate in O-ring, which is envisioned as a jump-on, jump-off service. That is the purpose for which those vehicles are earmarked. At the moment, 40 of those vehicles are on order. That is out of a fleet on the order of 1,000 vehicles. It is a very small percentage of the overall fleet.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The buses have 28 seats but accommodate 30 or 40 standing passengers.

Mr. Tim Gaston: They also have wheelchair space, buggy space and so on.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: Senator Dolan asked whether we know how many disabled people will have to interchange. The honest answer is "No". Part of this network design will bring in new people that are not able to use the current network. We simply do not know that figure. He also asked if we interrogated Mr. Walker's experience in accessible design. The honest answer is that he is highly experienced in designing public transport but we did not specifically inquire about the details of his experience in that area.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan All right. We know where we stand.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I wish to very briefly raise a couple of questions I asked earlier and that the witnesses have omitted to answer. One concerns the direct city service commuter town links. If the NTA omits them, what will be done to prevent a private operator coming in to fill this gap? There are a lot of commuter towns that are serviced by direct links at present. If passengers will now be obliged to interchange once or twice, there is an opportunity for a private operator to come in.

In regard to the branding of the buses and the legislation's use of the word "shall", are the witnesses aware that Dublin Bus has said it has no objection to other operators using the Dublin Bus brand? The NTA is proposing to change 90% of the fleet to accommodate 10%. Would it not be better to use the branding that is currently on 90% for the 10%? It would certainly make an awful lot more economic sense, given the fact that the Dublin Bus brand is so highly thought of.

When I made a suggestion about Google Maps, Mr. Gaston said that the NTA is in the process of developing a tool. I think Ms Graham used words to the effect that the NTA hopes to develop a tool that will enable users to take a virtual journey on the new network. When does the NTA hope to develop that? The consultation process has commenced. I would have thought that would be developed in advance of the consultation process, not midway through or, heaven forbid, at the end. I ask the witnesses to update us on that.

I thank the Vice Chairman for leniency. Finally, the witnesses said that only a certain percentage of journeys would need an interchange. They said that a percentage of those interchanges will be at the same hub. Do they know at present what percentage of journeys will need an interchange? Do they know what percentage of those interchanges will take place at the same hub? What percentage will require a walk of 100 m? What percentage will require a walk of 400 m? That distance is the parameter the NTA uses in saying that 1 million of its passengers will be within 400 m of a bus stop.

The witnesses will correct me if I am wrong, but I think they said that there will be no new fleet. I imagine there would be a huge demand for additional buses to ensure that this works. What additional buses will be required? Are the witnesses confident that a multi-annual capital budget will be put in place to ensure that the additional buses required to make this work will be available?

Ms Anne Graham: Mr. Creegan will address questions on the fleet.

Mr. Hugh Creegan: I should have been more precise. When I said there would be no new fleet, I meant there would no new type of fleet. The double-decker bus fleet will be the main workhorse for the future. Extra buses are definitely needed and the budget is in place. We are purchasing extra buses this year and we will be doing so next years. The fleet will be there to deliver this.

Mr. Tim Gaston: We are finessing the tool that is being developed. We hope to have that online within the next few days. If people have comments and want to see other things on it, we will certainly look at those suggestions as well. We will have a tool that gives a similar output to what is used in the report, that is, an isochrone map showing the area to which users can travel with the routes laid on top of that.

Ms Anne Graham: Finally, we do not know have the percentage of journeys that will require interchange and the percentage that will require a walk of 100 m or 400 m. That is not available at this stage. When we carry out a more detailed assessment the distance between interchanges will be much more apparent. For the moment, we have not put that level of detail in place for this network.

Deputy Troy posed a question about a commercial operators.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I asked about a commercial operator stepping into the gap where a direct bus route service is removed.

Ms Anne Graham: Operators are entitled to put forward applications at any stage. Even now they can apply for a licence to provide any particular service in the Dublin region and it will be considered on the basis of the network we currently have when they make their application. If we are to change the network, that may also be taken into account.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy However, the difference is that there is no incentive for a commercial operator to come in where a route is adequately serviced by Dublin Bus. If we change from a direct link route, various towns will not be adequately serviced and there will be an incentive for commercial operators.

Ms Anne Graham: There is a misperception that we will not serve communities. We want to ensure we service communities. We are talking about improving the service overall for the Dublin region. If an operator felt there was an opportunity where we are not serving, we would be disappointed with that because we would want to ensure we are serving the wider community with this proposed network.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I have a question on the interchanges. I find it hard to figure out where these interchanges will be located given that it will involve turning circles and queuing. Some of the locations look tight. Are they likely to be in places such as the Blanchardstown centre where there is already congestion getting in and out? When will the NTA have information on interchange locations and facilities?

Mr. Hugh Creegan: We have it at the moment. The report outlines where the key interchanges will be. For example, there will be an interchange at Liffey Valley on the north side of the shopping centre and, therefore, it will be possible to access the C route which is on the N4 corridor. Blanchardstown is also a key hub and will have an interchange - it already has at some level. We are conscious of the need to ensure speedy access for the bus in and out, and we will be doing that in parallel. We cannot overlook designing the right system just because we need to do something else; we will do the something else as soon as we are able to.

Other interchange locations are where the spines cross an orbital, for example where Collins Avenue crosses Swords Road. That is a place where people will interchange; it is a bit different from a shopping centre. In those cases we will move the bus stops as close as possible to the junctions because in some cases they are too far away. We will ensure there is a bus shelter at each location. We will ensure we have a pedestrian crossing at the shortest route we can get between each of those locations. We intend to put all that in place before we launch the network at the end of 2019 or the start of 2020.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I acknowledge that there is a congestion problem and it is the role of the NTA to try to alleviate that. There are some pinch points where Luas, buses, taxis, pedestrians, cyclists and motor cars are competing with each other. Deputies and Senators are looking for greenways and trying to provide clean air in Dublin, which we support. In the meantime our infrastructure is not up to the standard of other European countries.

Irrespective of whether there is a traffic jam, pedestrians will now be stopped crossing the road when the light is red. Has the NTA considered putting in underground walkways in parts of the city? O'Connell Street was busy with fast traffic in its heyday. An underground pedestrian access from one side of the street to the other would take out one element of traffic lights and keep traffic moving.

Ms Anne Graham: It has not been considered as part of this project or on our infrastructure. The only place where we have looked at is related to the MetroLink project where we are bringing in a rail service at grade and where we need to provide pedestrian and cycling facilities to cross that rail line. An underpass or an overpass is part of the existing preferred route. However, we are not considering any proposals for underpass in the city centre.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Has the option ever been considered? If there was a pedestrian underground on O'Connell Street, it would take out one set of traffic lights.

Ms Anne Graham: There may be concerns about the safety of underground pedestrian routes. We would need to ensure it was short and well lit. Some people do not like to use an underpass and prefer to cross at grade. That would have to be considered.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe My colleagues picked other issues. I have seen underground walkways that work successfully. I ask the NTA to revisit it.

Ms Anne Graham: Okay.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe We were here when the NTA launched the core bus corridors project. I do not want to rehearse that. A month later we had a consultation about the network redesign. One of the first comments I read in the press was that every route would be affected. Did the two project teams in the NTA work hand-in-hand to put these two reports out? Ms Graham told Senator Devine that the core bus project would not come out until afterwards, which may be understandable. Why are the consultations not being held in conjunction with each other? The NTA seems to be putting the cart before the donkey. The NTA is proposing widening roads where people might lose their front gardens to find space for more car parking and upgrades for cyclists, which is welcome. Would it not have been better to hold that report back until the NTA had the routes finalised? What it has done has put the fear of God into three quarters of Dublin.

Ms Anne Graham: We put forward the bus corridor proposals as a discussion document to alert people that this was a project we were considering as part of the BusConnects programme. The Vice Chairman is right that we need to know what bus network we are talking about and what we want to deliver. The bus network and its main spines align with the bus corridors we are considering and the improvements we want to make on the bus corridors. The work on the bus network has been done and we wanted to get that out for consultation.

We also wanted earlier in the process to alert people that when we are talking about the bus corridors, which is a different part of the programme, there will be an impact along those corridors. We wanted to alert people and there will be more detail available in October, rather than waiting until October when we would have just completed the BusConnects network consultation and then start into the bus corridors. People would be alarmed if we suddenly launched the bus corridors proposal. It is all part of one programme of improvements. There is some confusion between the two. They form two separate parts of the programme, but they complement one another.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Residents and business owners in Dublin have been watching this closely. When they look at the bus corridors they will see these blue routes earmarked as being permanently in place. At the same time the NTA is asking for a redesign, which is causing confusion.

Ms Anne Graham: That was not our intention. We wanted to put forward both proposals so that when people were considering the network they know we will also look at the corridors, making improvements in the bus and cycling facilities, recognising that it will impact on the property of people living along those corridors.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe The NTA gave an indication of routes in the first project and now they are being changed again.

I thank the witnesses for their time. In particular, I thank the NTA officials who were waiting so long. They were here before lunch and sat idly outside even though I presume they were still working away.

We will take a sos for 15 minutes and return with the representatives of the unions.

  Sitting suspended at 4.09 p.m. and resumed at 4.31 p.m.

BusConnects: SIPTU and NBRU

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe We will resume in public session. I remind members, witnesses and the people seated in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones completely as they interfere with the recording equipment.

  We will resume our discussion of the NTA's radical proposals to redesign the Dublin Bus network entitled the BusConnects plan. I welcome Mr. Dermot O'Leary, secretary general, and Mr. Thomas O'Connor from the NBRU. I also welcome Mr. John Murphy, sector organiser for transport and Mr. Stephen Hannan, a Dublin Bus worker director, SIPTU. I thank them for waiting patiently.

  I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

  Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

  I call Mr. O'Leary to make his opening statement.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: On behalf of the NBRU, which is Ireland's foremost and only dedicated public transport union, I thank the Cathaoirleach and members of the committee for inviting us here today. The NBRU will always respond positively to any announcement that brings an increase to public transport accessibility and frequency, along with added jobs in the industry. Industrial relations issues do not feature in our analysis as we purposely sought to stay away from the area for now to concentrate on the effect the plan will have on those communities our members serve as part of the Dublin Bus family.

  The three issues of accessibility, frequency and jobs are fundamental to this debate. We contend that the NTA have got the BusConnects plan wrong in its attempts to correct perceived problems in the Dublin Bus network. First and foremost, members, as professional politicians, should not underestimate the reaction that will ensue from local communities should the plan, as announced, become a reality. No direct buses, isolated communities, and a necessity to use multiple buses to reach destinations that are currently served by one direct bus, are just some of the issues that will play out over the coming weeks and months.

  What do we mean by claiming the NTA's plan is wrong? To put it simply, the authority's suggestion that the notion of a direct bus to the city will disappear in many instances, and the name of the plan makes that point very clear. To us, the term "BusConnects" means that there will be a significant amount of interchange, quite an amount of walking from stop to stop, etc. Appended to our presentation is a detailed breakdown of the new routes versus the existing routes, which makes interesting reading. I suggest that all members, along with their local councillors and community representatives, give it their full attention. We, in the NBRU, remain willing and available to talk them through its content.

  Mr. Jarrett Walker is the consultant who was engaged by the NTA to oversee, redraw, refine and even rip-up the existing Dublin Bus network. Interestingly, he has a number of fundamentals that he uses to advise on changes to public transport providers and authorities. He applies the following seven principles: It takes me where I want to go; it takes me when I want to go; it is a good use of my time; it is a good use of my money; it respects me in the level of safety, comfort and amenity it provides; I can trust it; and it gives me freedom to change my plans. I know that members think Mr. Walker has described Dublin Bus because that is what Dublin Bus currently provides and Dublin Bus fits into every one of his seven headings.

  His view on elected officials and community representatives is:

The politics of these major redesigns are never easy. (“Beautiful people will come to you with their elderly parents and their babies and say the redesign will ruin their lives.”) But with a sweeping overhaul, the benefits should be substantial enough to win over elected officials and other community leaders.

Let me give the NBRU's translation of his view: Flood them, that is the people who have reams of information, embellish to the point that it is all about increased, high-speed corridors with more frequency and, hopefully, the devil in the detail will not be noticed. Fortunately for Mr. Walker, he does not have to get elected. He does not even have to drive a bus in Dublin. Consequently, he will not be around to pick up the pieces when his desktop plan is implemented. Let me outline what happens in reality. Behind every beautiful person, elderly parent and baby are real people who matter in our society and who rely on public bus transport. Dismiss the anger from those in society who depend on buses at one's peril. It is easy for Jarret Walker, and it maybe easy for those at the NTA, but it certainly will not be easy for the elected officials and community leaders that he referred to.

  Let us dwell on the original BusConnects document. There is not one mention of disabilities between pages 1 and 58. Of course, behind the description of people with disabilities are some of those "beautiful people" whom he referenced earlier. A significant number of our fellow citizens are not alone reliant on their bus but they take part in familiarisation and training on their bus route number, bus stop placement and colour coding, without which they would be unable to use public transport.

  What also appears to be lost thus far in the debate is the fact that the people who use Dublin Bus as their primary means of transport and those who may use it for recreation and leisure may not necessarily enjoy having to hop off one bus and onto another just to get to their destination. We contend again that there is an overemphasis on the speed test and little, if any, emphasis on the convenience test. The people who work or socialise in Dublin may place more importance on being able to get on their bus at their stop and get off either at, or adjacent to, where they want to go. We strongly contend that the new orbital routes should be introduced on top of the existing network and that they be monitored to establish their success or otherwise. At least such an initiative would ensure that those commuters who have bought their houses, sent their children to particular schools, etc., could maintain their commuting patterns without fear of major upheaval.

  I will outline a summary of the issues and problems associated with the plan. First, it is based on Parliament Street, which is a proposal that Dublin City Council has rejected, and a threat of a High Court action looms over any such proposal. Without that thoroughfare or the College Green thoroughfare the city bus services will collapse.

  Second, access to the new children’s hospital is poor for such a large national infrastructure project. None of the new high-frequency spines connects with the hospital. Route 123 serves Marino, Fairview, Ballybough, Summerhill, the Liberties, Drimnagh, Crumlin and Walkinstown. That route has been scrapped in favour of a link to Sandymount, Ballsbridge and Ranelagh.

  Third, outer suburban areas have in the main, under these proposals, had their direct services to the city replaced with local services. Dunboyne, Blessington, Skerries, Saggart and Newcastle are just some examples of the highly populated places that will be isolated.

  Fourth, our lack of high rise buildings has forced citizens into the hinterland. The BusConnects plan will take away their bus services.

  Fifth, these outer suburban areas will be left to the mercy of the private commercial bus operators who will charge a pretty penny and have vehicles that do not cater for our fellow citizens who have mobility difficulties.

  Sixth, the changes advanced by the NTA and Jarrett Walker will have a devastating effect on the elderly and those with disabilities both seen and hidden.

  Seven, working class communities like Crumlin, Drimnagh, Inchicore, Coolock, Tallaght, Saggart, Rathcoole and Cabra will, under these proposals, suffer far more than communities in more so-called affluent areas.

  The plethora of local services suggested in the plan will use 40 new 28-seat single deck buses. That is a big reduction on the current double-decker fleet. The concept of small single decker vehicles was tried and failed in the 1990s with the use of hail and ride buses called imps.

  The stripping of bus services away from areas where the Luas red line operates, or curtailing services to feed the red line, when that system is full to capacity at peak hours is a mistake.

  Curtailing direct bus services to feed an already crowded Dublin Area Rapid Transport, DART, is unsafe. The highly trumpeted ten-minute DART service will have no new fleet for at least three to four years. The service will be made up by splitting longer trains into more frequent shorter trains.

  A band called Bagatelle made the 46A bus route famous by mentioning it in its song, "Summer in Dublin". According to this plan, bus routes like the iconic 46A will disappear.

  The plan isolates rather than connects. The 140 million passengers carried by Dublin Bus in 2017 will be severely discommoded, possibly resulting in many additional car journeys that will be accompanied by chronic traffic congestion. The wholesale changes could lead to the permanent fragmentation and destruction of an integrated network.

  My presentation includes an appendix that shows the NBRU's initial analysis of the proposed changes to the current bus routes so I will not go into the changes in detail. The members of the committee have been supplied with a copy of my presentation, including the appendix.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I thank Mr. O'Leary for his presentation. I call Mr. John Murphy to make his opening statement.

Mr. John Murphy: On behalf of the SIPTU members in Dublin Bus, the CIE group, the wider transport industry and all sectors of industry and employment, we wish to thank the committee for this opportunity to outline the union's position on the impact of the BusConnects programme.

SIPTU views the BusConnects programme as a largely positive step in plans to achieve the goal of a fully integrated public transport system that will deliver a reliable, affordable, efficient service for the citizens of our society. We also view the programme as an opportunity to ensure Ireland develops a quality road transport service that is convenient for the travelling public, and those who are dependent on such services, and which can deliver decent secure and sustained employment for those that provide the service.

While SIPTU welcomes the programme and the many positives it strives to deliver, we must also comment on the negatives with the aim of having such addressed at the initial stages during consultation and planning in order that when the programme is rolled out, there will be support for the service from all stakeholders involved in, and reliant on, public transport. SIPTU has consistently called for the necessary investment in public transport and we welcome the fact the Department, through the NTA, is committing to such investment. This investment in the BusConnects programme can and must alleviate the extreme and increasing congestion faced by our citizens on the roads of Dublin and the surrounding area. CSO statistics relating to 2016 showed that private car usage accounted for 69% of all journeys while bus usage accounted for 4%. SIPTU believes the BusConnects programme, if delivered successfully, can dramatically change this statistic and this would have a positive impact for citizens, workers, business and the economy.

SIPTU believes the BusConnects programme can help reduce our carbon emissions and help Ireland tackle climate change. Not only can this strategy take private cars off our congested roads, the planned investment in low emission buses must be welcomed by all stakeholders.

The BusConnects programme can further improve the interconnectivity of our public transport system, which must be welcomed. With the recent commencement of LUAS cross city, the opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel rail service and the public bike scheme, along with the necessary further investment in additional services, increased DART frequency, new rolling stock for Irish Rail to increase capacity and new LUAS lines, etc, SIPTU sees this programme as a vital step in encouraging and attracting people to use public transport. SIPTU also views the proposals to introduce bus rapid transit and dedicated bus lanes on the entire length of radial routes as a positive step. While there has been increased services and frequency on such routes, the fact that approximately only one third of such radial routes have dedicated bus lanes results in unplanned delays where buses interact with other modes of transport. These delays discourage passenger usage as bus transport is viewed as unreliable. SIPTU contends dedicated bus lanes must be adequately policed to ensure they have the maximum opportunity to provide the intended reliable services.

The proposed redesign of the fares system and the future seamless interchangeability of tickets on the various modes of public transport are also welcomed to improve interconnectivity and encourage usage of all modes of Public Transport.

SIPTU welcomes the plan whereby the NTA and Dublin Bus will be jointly involved in the planned public consultation on the programme. While the NTA is tasked with delivering the public transport services, it is vital that Dublin Bus, with their experience and knowledge of the needs of passengers be part of this process. Dublin Bus has always met and exceeded the key performance indicators, KPI’s, set by the NTA in delivering road passenger transport services. Their proven track record in operating a reliable, efficient and high-quality service and the ability of our members to consistently deliver such a service needs to be retained and built on if this programme is to be successful. Dublin Bus has links in every community in the Dublin region and their staff are the first point of contact with passengers. This undoubted knowledge and experience must be to the forefront of delivering new services.

SIPTU must also comment on the potential negative impact of the BusConnects programme, and particularly the possible impact on passengers dependent on the services and indeed on the workers delivering the services. Under the provision of public transport, the NTA and the Department have an obligation to provide services which may not be economically viable but which are socially necessary. This obligation must be met under the BusConnects programme. The programme should not simply be about getting intended passengers from one point to another safely and efficiently. We need to also take into consideration the needs of the disabled and the people reliant on the free travel scheme: pensioners and social welfare recipients. Many of these passengers have no other means of transport and are reliant on their bus services. There needs to be widespread consultation with the representatives of these groups to ensure they are not left behind, and that the services that are needed for access to education, healthcare and to the community are considered and improved upon in any future transport service changes.

SIPTU also has reservations on the impact of the programme on workers who provide these services. We believe Dublin Bus is best placed to deliver the necessary services under BusConnects. Any plans by the NTA to franchise out such services will be resisted by SIPTU, as it will inevitably lead to a for-profit service which will not benefit the passengers, workers or those dependent on the services. SIPTU has been actively campaigning for the establishment of a sectoral employment order, SEO, for the public bus transport industry and we are again taking this opportunity to promote this agenda. SIPTU, arising from the previous agreement in 2015 between the NTA, the Department of Transport, the public bus companies and the trade unions, whereby 10% of public bus services were tendered, will continue to organise all workers in the industry, as we view this as a way to best protect all workers who provide the services. An SEO will provide a level playing field for all operators and workers in the industry and will provide security of services for the travelling public.

In conclusion, SIPTU is largely supportive of the BusConnects programme, with some reservations. The public consultation process is vital and this consultation must be all-encompassing and involve all aspects of our society to ensure our future bus services delivers for all potential passengers, for workers and for the country. I thank the Vice Chairman.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Did the representatives take any comfort from our deliberations with the NTA and members' thorough questioning of the authority's officials?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: Anyone who knows me and my trade union, in particular, knows that we have a fundamental objection to some of the interventions that the NTA have made over recent years. There is no point in saying that the NTA is going to be going anywhere any time soon. It is the national transport authority. A number of issues were raised during the previous session that we have concerns about. Nothing that was said brought any comfort in respect of our view on BusConnects.

If the changes being suggested and the orbital or radial routes are imposed on top of the current network, we will not have a problem. The NTA officials admitted that they will eliminate 10% of the direct routes to the city and we are interrogating this issue as can be seen from our submission. When one considers that there were 140 million passenger journeys last year, a 10% reduction means the loss of 14 million journeys. The vast majority of Dublin Bus journeys are made into the city. Deputy Lahart referred to Rathgar earlier. He took the 15 bus and there were 12 buses. He did not know where they were going but I know that all 12 of them were going to the city.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe We have no light.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I will keep going.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe We will suspend for a minute.

  Sitting suspended at 4.48 p.m. and resumed at 4.49 p.m.   

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe We are resuming now and Mr. O' Leary has the floor.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I was just commenting on Deputy Lahart's comments that the 12 buses go to the city and they go cross-city after that.

There were other issues raised by Deputies in the earlier session. I was encouraged about one or two comments to get the NTA to come back in some time soon regarding the PSO, and plans for 2019. We have major concerns about some of the commentary on 2019.

Regarding delivery, the NTA officials said the legislation says the authority shall have one brand. It does not say that. The authority can have a couple of brands as far as we are concerned.

What was significant about that contribution from them on disabilities is that it was a sad and appalling indictment on an authority that runs transport in this country that they did not defer to the people with the expertise in disability organisations before they designed buses.  The commission knows this. As my two colleagues can tell the members, there is a bus design committee in Dublin Bus. Drivers have an input into their comfort and needs before the buses are even built but people who are visually and physically impaired and travelling on the buses have no input and will not have any input, according to Mr. Creegan. That is appalling and a sad indictment. I will it leave it at this. The NTA is master of all it surveys. It seems to be answerable to nobody. It has all the authority but none of the responsibility.

Mr. John Murphy: Responding to those questions, we did not take any comfort from the comments we heard from the NTA. We went through a long process with it in 2014 and 2015 when it originally announced the tendering of 10% of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus routes. As my colleague, Mr. O'Leary, said, the NTA seems to have the wherewithal to make decisions but it is answerable to nobody. When we campaigned and lobbied the Department, the Minister and various other politicians, we got the answer that the NTA makes those decisions. When we engage with the NTA, it says that it is obliged by the Department to make such decisions. It does not seem to be answerable.

It is strange that the body designing and in charge of operating and laying out plans for future transport is also the body making decisions on who provides those services and who wins those services. I do not take comfort from what the NTA said. We hoped we would have been able to engage with it at this forum today, but perhaps we were naive to think that coming in. We are, however, seeking to engage. We believe the consultation process that takes place on any plans, whether it is BusConnects in the present format or in a changed format, needs to be widespread and to encompass the experts who deal with disabilities and free travel. SIPTU is not going to come here and say we are experts on the individual needs of various groupings of people with disabilities, old age pensioners or whoever it might be. Even if we did say it, I do not think we would be believed.

The representatives of those people need to be involved and engaged. It is no use having consultation on a one-to-one basis where individual needs are pushed to the front and the wider picture is not taken into consideration. Consultation is the important phase and we welcome that Dublin Bus is involved. As Mr. O'Leary said, my two colleagues here, who are worker directors and bus drivers, deal with people day in and day out and people identify them. People do not know the NTA, but they know Dublin Bus is providing the service. We want to see that continue but we also want to see the people providing the service having an input into how it is shaped and designed. We welcome the investment and it is badly needed.

Mr. Stephen Hannan: May I say something?

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Of course, Mr. Hannan.

Mr. Stephen Hannan: I would have loved to have had this conversation with the NTA but unfortunately it was not to be. Deputy Troy put it elegantly. This is madness that Dublin Bus livery is going to paint 90% of buses for the sake of 10%. Dublin Bus is painting Dublin Buses as we speak and it is a waste of money. This is all reliant on those bus lanes and corridors. I am a bus driver, Mr. O'Connor is a bus driver and we know that 90% of people ignore bus lanes. Roughly 10% of people in the city do not. What is it that suggests that because bus lanes and corridors are introduced, suddenly this plan is going to work?

In some cities this does work because closed-circuit television, CCTV, on buses is used to monitor bus lanes and capture images of vans and buses using them. Those people are prosecuted. I brought this up, perhaps ten years ago, to see if we could get this introduced. It fell on deaf ears. That is the type of thinking needed and that is what bus drivers are telling these people.

I will address wheelchair use. This drives me mad. There are buses that cater for wheelchairs. If I have two people on a bus with prams, however, and I politely ask them to fold them to let a wheelchair user on, they will tell me "no". It happens every day. I cannot enforce that. It should be enforced somehow.

I will give an example from Dunboyne, which is heavily populated. The 70 bus operates from there. People have been told that they can get the 70 bus into town but they will have to get off in Blanchardstown and get another bus. I have been told that the NTA figures show this will be faster. Any bus driver or anyone with a bit of common sense will say that getting two buses into the city centre is slower than staying on one bus. As Mr. Murphy said earlier, we have many reservations on the BusConnects project but we need to get into discussions similar to this with the NTA. That is the only way this will be sorted out.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Deputy Troy can take the floor first. We will group the questions and try to take them all together.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I thank the members of the unions for coming forward and providing us with a comprehensive breakdown of the BusConnects proposals. As has been said, it is unfortunate that we are speaking with the unions after the NTA because we could have raised some of the unions' questions directly with it. It is important that we engage with the ongoing public consultation process. We have received an assurance that it has been extended to 28 September and that there is a possibility of a further extension, if warranted. I do not need to ask that the unions support those public consultation meetings, and indeed any consultation meetings being organised, to ensure that the wider community is fully aware and appreciates the significance of the proposed changes.

Mr. O'Leary mentioned that we alluded to post 2019 in respect of the direct award contract. That is relevant to BusConnects because it is going to be a cornerstone of who is going to deliver it. BusConnects is going to come in at the tail end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. We need to know who is going to be delivering it and rolling it out. The clear message from the NTA today is that, under existing legislation, it has the power to change that away from Dublin Bus and put it out to tender. The NTA does not consider that privatisation. I would. I refer also to whether a direct award contract can be carried on with. I suggested we revert back to that in September this year. We will be backing that up and, as a permanent committee member I will be ensuring, as will my colleagues, that it is an item on our autumn agenda.

Some valid concerns have been raised. We will be raising those we did not get an opportunity to address earlier with the NTA. The overall objective is how we can ensure there is an improvement in the service to users. We are all united in that. Dublin Bus carried 140 million passengers last year. It is the workhorse of public transport in the capital. We have to ensure we continue to provide a good service to the people using it. Some elements within this proposal will improve that service and we have to welcome that.

Where elements are going to have a negative consequence, we will need to work within the confines of the consultation period to try to eliminate those. I do not know if the witnesses were in the Visitors Gallery earlier.  I referred to the fact that the removal of the direct route could leave it open for private operators to enter the market and operate on that timeframe. I would welcome hearing the opinions of the witnesses on the matter.

Mr. Hannan alluded to the fact that I referred to branding. I did make the point that if the legislation contains the provision for just one brand, which Mr. O'Leary disputes, there is nothing that states what the brand should be. The Dublin Bus brand has been rated as highly satisfactory and Dublin Bus has said that it would not object to another operator using the brand. It makes sound economic sense that 10% of the buses would change, as opposed to changing 90% of the buses to reflect new branding.

Mr. O'Leary made a valid point about a matter that I was unaware of. He said that before a bus is ordered, a Dublin Bus committee ensures that the buses are fitted out and adapted adequately for the drivers, and rightly so. The drivers have the very responsible job of ferrying between 60 and more than 100 people to their destination and ensure that is done in a timely and safe environment. Therefore, it is only right that the drivers are comfortable in their working environment. Likewise, it would be important that disability advocates would have an opportunity to have an input into the design of buses to ensure that when new buses are ordered, they are properly adapted and fitted out to cater for people with varying levels of ability and disability. I do not just mean physical ability. Some people are visually impaired. Some people are autistic and are sensitive to the colours and textures that are used on buses. It is important that we consider these matters as well.

I have a final point to make but I cannot recall it right now. If I recall it later, I will rejoin the debate.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I thank the representatives of the unions for their opening statements. There is a contrast between both presentations but there is probably a contrast in the views of the committee members in terms of the plan having positives and negatives. We, as public representatives, will first consider how this matter will impact on our communities. In terms of my community, there are more negatives than positives, unfortunately. We must address the public consultation aspect because there is a high level of having to change buses the further out one goes. As many as 50,000 people live in the Leixlip, Celbridge and Maynooth area, there is a lot of development happening and there is a projected additional 30,000 people planned to relocate there up to 2024. It is not a small area in terms of the consideration that it requires. While I am a member of this committee, I must consider the needs of the people who live in the region in addition to the wider needs of making the transport needs of the greater Dublin area work efficiently and effectively so that we reduce the amount of traffic congestion.

Presumptions have been made about capacity levels. I am aware of other transport providers. I refer to the 6.20 a.m. train from Maynooth to Dublin. One will get a seat as far as Leixlip but one will not get a seat from there on in. The capacity on the way back at peak time in the evening is so bad that we have nearly reached the Japanese scenario of train staff having to wear white gloves and push passengers onto trains while hoping that the train doors will close. Presumptions have been made about capacity in terms of other transport providers. The capacity simply does not exist and it will take several years before it is sufficient to deal with existing demands, let alone future demands.

The loss of permeability within communities is a matter that will definitely arise as part of the public consultation aspect, and it should do so. I wonder about online consultation. That presupposes that people are comfortable going online and filling out forms and questionnaires. The success of the consultation process also depends on the type of questions that are asked. I will give some examples. Would I like to be able to connect with other areas? Of course, I would. Would I like orbital services? Of course, I would like orbital services. When I analyse the detail of the questions, however, I discover that they mean something very different. I have real concerns about some of the synopses that have been conducted, as per the NBRU's opening statement, on the loss of some of the routes and changes to some of the routes. There are positives because other options have been put in that will bring balance.

Today we heard that there would be no privatisation. A person who works for the company called Go-Ahead is not working for Dublin Bus and it is not his or her employer. Let us have an honest engagement when we discuss these matters. We will have to return to this matter in the autumn because it may well be seen as a bit of a Trojan horse as well. If this project happens then it must take place and all of the stakeholders must understand what is involved rather than discover something halfway through the project that is at variance with what we expect.

I know that the people who live in Celbridge and Lucan require bus connections for their children to reach second level schools in Leixlip. Such transport will happen in other areas due to capacity being available but, unfortunately, there is no capacity in the other two areas. When we look for buses for schoolchildren, for example, we are told that a business plan is required. Schoolchildren do not make for a good business plan as there is less money in the business for the public transport provider. We could find ourselves in a situation where categories are not adequately considered in terms of their transport need.

I am concerned about another matter. A person leaving town may well end up in a situation where the buses that are going directly to the farther places are occupied by people who are not going as far and there could be delays on the way back. The biggest problems are with areas on the periphery and with the services in existing communities closer to the city being lost. They are the two areas that I am most concerned about. The idea that the witnesses would be available for part of the public consultation process would be very useful.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I am conscious of the time. I will commence with the questions asked by Deputy Catherine Murphy as she has said that she must rush off.

I will start by replying to the last point that she raised. I live near Clonee in west Dublin, and the other night people asked me about this matter because they read about it and know who I am. I made the point that there was a negative response from me and my submission reflected same. The people pointed out to me that they bought their houses very recently. Almost 7,000 houses will have been built where I live between last year and the end of this year. Some of those people found their way to the local pub and had these conversations. They said that they bought their houses because the 39A, 39 and 38 buses were available and frequent. Let us not forget that some people only have one car now but years ago people had two cars. The good bus service in the area means that people can commute to the city for work and their children can attend various schools, which are very important issues.

Deputy Murphy asked the NTA about some of the peak services that go beyond Lucan. The NTA indicated that some services will travel directly to the city at peak times. Yes, but not as much as they are now and that is a fact. Some of the services that the NTA thinks go beyond Lucan will go to Adamstown. Of course, the NTA did not tell the Deputy that fact.

In terms of the public consultation, the NBRU will be involved. The Deputy made a very good point that elderly people do not engage online and have no notion of ever engaging online.  It is okay to say there are public meetings. I have a slight reservation about Dublin Bus. It is positive that it is involved from one perspective, but from my experience I fear that Dublin Bus is in a type of Stockholm syndrome where it is beholden to the NTA and the NTA is the master of all it surveys. That said, it is involved and we will take the positive from that for now. We on the union side will keep an eye on its contribution to ensure it is not going to be negative.

There is a high level of change in buses. The population increase in Deputy Murphy's area is going to be significant. There is no extra capacity in Irish Rail. My understanding, and I am open to correction on this, is that the next time there will be an increase in the Irish Rail fleet will probably be 2021 or 2022. There is little point in having a BusConnects plan kicking in during December 2019 and January 2020 that pushes people towards trains if they are already full. That is contradictory.

With regard to the privatisation debate that took place, I have covered some of that. Deputy Troy put the same question. Obviously, there was much uneasiness in these chairs when that question was being asked. People can call it franchising, tendering or whatever they wish, but for us in the working community and the trade union family, it is privatisation. My colleagues represent people in the private sphere and, of course, they will endeavour to improve those conditions. That is what trade unions do. Dublin Bus's tender for the 10% it lost was 5% cheaper. That is on the public record. Given its actions, it shows the NTA is determined, and the ideology demands, that it will move further if it is let go further. As Deputy Troy said, this committee should have a role to play in how it moves forward in 2019.

Regarding the public consultation, the unions will make themselves available. Who knows the industry better than us? People should not lose sight of what we said in our submission. In the middle of all the negatives, we did not go near industrial relations issues. There might well be industrial relations issues following this in time, but we do not know. At this juncture, however, we are getting involved with the communities we serve and looking out for them. The people who drive buses are in the community, and we could not deliver the service without the people who work in maintenance depots and the offices.

On Deputy Troy's other question, there is a concern about the potential commercialisation of Dublin Bus. We fear that is what will happen, and what better way is there to create an environment where private operators will step in than to create a mess or come up with a plan such as BusConnects? It creates corridors directly into the city from places such as Celbridge, Balbriggan, Greystones, Bray and Blessington by creating a new service called BusConnects and creates that gap. There is a fear that commercialisation is at play here.

I will make a last point before letting my colleague speak. It is about the bus design, and Deputy Troy took up this point. My two colleagues have sat on that committee from time to time over the years. Without labouring the point it is an absolute disgrace that people with disabilities, who use the service and need it more than most, were not consulted.

Mr. John Murphy: I will not go over every point Mr. O'Leary addressed but I wish to comment on a few important issues raised by Deputies Troy and Murphy. We have said that we regard the consultation as key. SIPTU and the trade union movement generally have been calling for significant investment in public transport and all public services for years. We welcome anything that will invest money in public transport. It is a service. It is not a for-profit service but a service for the public, so there should be investment from the Government. I welcome the fact that the NTA has indicated it is willing to consider extending the consultation process. August is probably the least favourable month one could pick to carry out this consultation. Even in Dublin Bus there are reduced schedules agreed for the summer weeks, which shows there is a reduced number of passengers and reduced usage. If the NTA is going to consult people in the various shopping centres and elsewhere, it will only get certain answers if people are not there. It has to consult when there is peak usage and peak passenger numbers.

In fairness, Dublin Bus has advised us it will be part of the consultation and it will consult drivers and workers in the various locations. Most of the people who use these services do not identify with the NTA. They do not know what the NTA is. They are not going to be people going online, using social media and commenting on proposed changes or network redesign. They will bring their frustrations out on the drivers they meet each day, so if that is the position, at least the drivers can give feedback. Perhaps consideration could be given to some type of access on the current services for people to be part of the consultation through a mechanism for that on the bus, such as a survey that could be filled out. As Deputy Murphy said, the questions are important. One can ask questions to get the answers one wants so there must be ample opportunity to give an opinion and not just answer questions.

Deputy Murphy said there appeared to be a contrast between our submission and that of the NBRU. There is a contrast in certain respects. I will not say we do not want investment in public services because we do. I will not say that we do not want to remove congestion and improve the environment and climate through changes in the city centre because we do. I will not say that we do not want better fare systems and interconnectivity of transport because we do. However, it must be done right. That is the reason our main issue is the consultation, the protection of people depending on the services and the protection of the workers delivering them.

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: Mr. Gaston said he wanted the new inner orbital O service to be a jump on, jump off service. We had that back in the 1990s. It was the hail and ride yellow and red imp buses. The slogan on the back of those buses referred to Dublin Bus serving the entire community. We are now going to do the same thing except this time we will not be serving the entire community. I will outline what is indicative of the plan. There is a garage in north County Dublin at Harristown which provides many bus services at present. Under this proposal, not one bus will serve it so bus drivers will have to use their car to get to the bus garage. There are many similar issues throughout the plan. It has not been thought through. Howth is a big tourist attraction but the direct bus, the No. 31, will be taken away. It will be local services. In the case of the national children's hospital, a direct bus will be gone from many of the estates. I could spend an hour going through the plan and dealing with little details such as those. I do not believe proper thought has been put into it and the impact it will have on people.

I am a bus driver and have been driving for 20 years. I drive the No. 1 bus. There are two ladies who suffer from MS in Larkhill and they spend their day going up and down on the bus to Sandymount. They have to get the No. 44 out of Larkhill to the road and then the No. 1. That is their entertainment and how they get out. They will be stranded under this proposal. They will have no bus. How many thousands of such people are suffering in silence because they are unable to attend public consultations or use online surveys?

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Dublin Bus still has the slogan of "serving the entire community". It is still on the back of the double deckers in Dublin. I remember the imp buses very well too. The witness referred to the national children's hospital - I live in its shadow - and how it will be impacted. There are stops on the Luas red line in Rialto and in St. James's Hospital. The hospital is packed with cars probably because the buses have been removed from it. They are being removed further with this and it is ignoring the interconnectivity with the Luas in the city.

There are also to be interconnective hubs and it refers to places such as Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley, which are busy areas. I expect it will try, as did the national children's hospital, to use the Red Cow for staff who had to travel when a car park was removed. Every morning we are told by the "Morning Ireland" programme to avoid the Red Cow, so how will that work given the overflow and chaos that occur there?  I am delighted that the representatives continually refer to a public service and a social service within that. This is very important. It is a disgrace and it is unacceptable to not have this infrastructure designed in from the get-go and that persons with a disability, such as the guy mentioned by the bus driver, are unable to access the bus. As an able-bodied person I can jump on and off the bus but a person with a disability will find it absolutely impossible. This could lead to more isolation. There are swathes of areas, especially in the inner city and in housing estates, where bus stops have been removed. We are told that the distance from a housing estate to the nearest bus stop is now nearly 400 m. An older person or a person in a wheelchair must now travel nearly half a kilometre to access public transport, never mind trying to get onto it if a person is disabled. It is an awful long way to go and people will just stay in their homes.

I am not a permanent member of this committee. I am standing in for Deputy Munster but a suggestion for this committee would be to do a press release with all of this information. The most important thing to do is not let the NTA away with the short timeframe allowed for the public consultation. We attended the meeting at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the deadline was extended to 28 September. It is completely unacceptable. Dublin is empty in August and we need to ask for it to be extended. A press release might be a way to give the NTA a bit more of jolt into respecting that.

By 2040, the population of Dublin will be almost 2 million. We need to do something about our transport, 69% of which is private car use, compared with 4% public transport. Compare and contrast this with other European countries. The population of Dublin will reach 2 million and we have to plan for a lot more capacity. As a councillor, I was on the Dublin Bus forum for a long time. The threat of cherry-picking of routes for privatisation was an issue that came up constantly. I am not sure of the figures but the people are putting billions of euro into our public services and by God, it will not be privatised. It is ours. It is a gem and we need to make it more accessible to everybody and get this city moving.

I thank the representatives for their presentation because it sheds a better light on it. Can I clarify that the unions are agreeable to inserting the orbital routes but keeping the rest of the structure there? Perhaps the witnesses will tease this out a little for me as it is quite important.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins This is probably the biggest public transport proposal we have seen in the city in decades. I am concerned that is has been presented as a fait accompli. Jarrett Walker has already said that anything more than a 15% change to this plan would render it unworkable. They are trying to contain the potential changes.

  That the plan tries to push so many people onto the seven spines rings alarm bells with me. In September we will have to push the whole question of the legislation around the public service obligation, PSO, and what it means. If a person, for example, wanted to use the 123 bus to get to St. James's Hospital from Walkinstown, and if the route changes and goes in a different direction of Suir Road Bridge, the person is then forced into one of these proposed spines. This prepares the ground for a very lucrative route for a private company in 2019 or 2020. I am very suspicious of the trajectory of the NTA and what it pushes, no matter what it says. This is the way of the world now and what it wants. Big business wants access to our public services. This is what I am wary about but I feel the plan is a fait accompli.

  We will get into the public consultation aspect of this and there will be public meetings informing people about what is going on. If an older lady from Galtymore Road cannot access a bus until she goes out onto the Crumlin Road to get a bus on one of the spines, it will cause huge problems for people with issues around disability access and for people with younger children. These issues were raised nearly five years ago also and we managed to keep those inner estate routes in the estates to a certain degree. We must raise these points again. It raises a suspicion in my mind around how genuine is the consultation process.

  I live beside the Blackhorse Luas stop. It is packed in the mornings and one needs to cram to get onto the Luas. If there are any difficulties or stoppages on the Luas line it always stops at the Blackhorse stop and all the passengers must get off the Luas to go to the bus stop on the nearby Tyrconnell Road. One can see up to 200 people getting off the Luas and trying to wait for a bus. They must wait for a 63 bus, which comes every hour. The proposed plan would be a disaster from that perspective.

  I question the genuineness of the consultation, whether or not it is a fait accompli and if the NTA is going to just railroad the plan through. We had this experience with the 19a route in Inchicore. The NTA wanted to change this route and get rid of it. We launched a big campaign in the community and a lot of people got involved with petitions. The concession we got was an extra three 68 buses in the mornings to cater for the schoolchildren going to Synge Street and now those extra buses have been taken out of the estate. There are huge questions around this.

  We have done a lot of our own work in the area and have linked in with the unions, that is, the NBRU and SIPTU, as well as with drivers in this regard. This consultation has to go beyond September. It has to go into October and there must be serious negotiations and discussion with Age Action, with the student unions and other groups that have an interest in getting from A to B and to and, for example, from UCD on the 17 and 18 routes. The plan is a fundamental game changer for Dublin Bus but it has taken "public" out of public transport. It moves the public transport away from the hearts of the communities. I understand that Ireland subvents the least amount of money to public transport of any country in Europe. It needs investment, absolutely, but this is a sneaky way to try it. The plan is, as Deputy Catherine Murphy has described it, a Trojan Horse.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I will start where Deputy Joan Collins finished. The plan is, of course, the biggest change. In 2009 we had a big change with a major network review when Dublin Bus went from 180 routes down to 111 routes. This is approximately the current number of routes. The biggest change before that was, dare I say it, the disappearance of the tram. Again, there is a connection. In my submission I referred to us pushing Dublin out. We can talk about successive Governments, but Dublin has been pushed out and unfortunately an urban sprawl has been created. Linked to that, a situation has been created where it is commonplace for frequent services to be pulled out.

  Deputy Joan Collins spoke of the plan being a fait accompli.  I put it to every elected representative - and I meet lots of them, be they in this room or outside - that it is only a fait accompli  if people believe it has become a fait accompli . I do not want to stretch too far outside the subject matter, but people power has worked before in this State on lots of occasions and for different reasons. It is up to people themselves and community leaders. Jarrett Walker said the plan should be substantial enough to win over elected officials and other community leaders. I suggest that Jarrett Walker does not know the Irish political system and how engaged people are with politics. I hope I am right when I say this.

  The members' suspicions about the PSO have come through every contribution so far. There are major suspicions in this regard. I am glad to sit in the committee today with my colleagues and hear that elected representatives also have this concern. It means that something will be done and at least questions will be asked. Conversations can take place and hopefully we will contribute in a major way.

  Senator Devine spoke of cherry-picking, which also comes through in every contribution today.  Sometimes people do not believe me when I say that there is no compulsion on the NTA to privatise, franchise or tender. There is no law in Europe that says it has to do it. Despite what people might say, there is no EU directive or regulation that says the Irish Government or any of the 28 EU member states must privatise or franchise any service. The Irish Government and Irish legislation dictate that the NTA has a choice. Senator Devine is right that this amounts to cherry-picking of a public service.

The Luas red line is packed at peak times. Taking out bus services and putting them up against the red line in the hope that the bus services will take people will not work. Deputy Joan Collins mentioned working-class areas, which I mentioned in my submission also. The 63 bus only comes once an hour now. She mentioned Crumlin, Drimnagh and Inchicore and services are being stripped out of all those areas, as they are in Rialto. The public representatives and ourselves will have to ensure that this is not a fait accompli. Ms Graham referred earlier, in what may have been a Freudian slip, to the "existing network" as opposed to the new network. That is the language of a fait accompliin anyone's game.

Mr. John Murphy: I have a few comments on the questions raised by Senator Devine and Deputy Joan Collins. The Senator is right that we have a fear about the cherry-picking of services. If the example of Bus Éireann and the services it has been providing for a long number of years is considered, its obligation to provide services whereby they must stop in the smaller towns and villages, which the private operators do not service was partially to blame for the near-extinction of Bus Éireann in the past 18 months. The company simply could not compete with the private operators and we do not want to see Dublin Bus being used as a last provider for public and social obligations. That cannot happen and the NTA need to accept that. The NTA come in here talking about what it must do on tendering. At times the NTA states quite clearly that it can, if it chooses, fully award a direct model to whoever it chooses and that needs to happen. The one thing the NTA cannot get away from is that under legislation, it is tasked with providing services which are uneconomical but socially viable. That needs to continue and that is what the consultation is about.

I read the article to which Deputy Joan Collins referred on Jarrett Walker's comments to the effect that were more than a 10% to 15% change made in respect of the public consultation, then the system would collapse. If the proposed system is not suitable, however, then it should collapse and if the system that is needed for Dublin and its citizens is not something with which Jarrett Walker can assist, then we need to get the right people. Figures of up to €2.5 billion have been touted for investment and that needs to be kept in place for public transport. We have an opportunity, the population of Dublin is growing, there is urban sprawl and the city is going outwards. These people have to be serviced and have a right to be serviced, whether they are commuting to work, seeking community access or seeking access to health services or education. We need to grow and expand the network in the right way and in consultation with the people who need the service.

On disability, I cannot say for sure if it is still there but at one stage, Dublin Bus had disability assistants who were employed and placed to help people where there was recognised need for assistance. I do not know how widespread or well known that was but it is something that needs to be looked at and the NTA should be funding such initiatives.

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: Deputy Joan Collins spoke about the PSO subvention. The subvention of Dublin Bus is the lowest in Europe bar none. The company is 85% self-funded and only gets 15% of its revenue from the State. That figure is not matched anywhere across Europe, even where there is privatisation.

Senator Devine spoke of the orbitals. When Dublin Bus changed its network between 2009 and 2012, it did not have the funding to introduce these orbitals. Some of the orbitals in this plan replicate existing routes such as the 17A, the 75 and the 76 but there are new ones like the north 6 and the west 4. They are needed and they should be introduced on top of the existing network and monitored. However, trying to introduce changes of this magnitude all at once is a recipe for disaster.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I am quite suspicious about whether it is a question of having this plan or no plan and whether the money would then disappear. The committee should tease that one out with the NTA as well because it is almost akin to a threat-----

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: It is up to the elected representatives to ensure that the funding stream that is now available is maintained. It should not be for the NTA to decide whether to turn the tap of funding on or off. That is the job of legislators.

I did not answer the Senator's question earlier and Mr. John Murphy touched on it. She talked about the population of Dublin increasing to 2 million-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Almost 2 million yes.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: -----and here we have a plan, read it and investigate it thoroughly, that does not even talk about decongesting the streets of Dublin at all. We should be decongesting rather than facilitating the motor car. Deputy Troy said in the earlier session with the NTA that there is a distinct fear that the car could become more prevalent or used because people do not want to go into a hub and get off, walk across the road and get on another bus. Rather than decongesting we could end up encouraging more travel by car.

Mr. Stephen Hannan: The key to this is through the consultation process, whether we like it or not. Deputy Joan Collins hit the nail on the head as well when she said that elderly people do not go online. They just do not understand it and they do not use it and they are some of the most affected people. The NTA is not an honest broker and is not serious. One only has to look at the questions that will be asked online because they lead people one way and they do not lead to the necessary information. If the NTA was serious about this and wanted to listen to people, it should quite simply go out to the people who are losing their bus services and do surveys on the buses. That is how simply it can be done but it does not want to do that because it knows it will not get the answers it wants.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I thank the representatives of the NBRU and SIPTU for their attendance today. Is it correct that broadly speaking, SIPTU welcomes it?

Mr. John Murphy: We welcome the concept of improving the service and investing in it.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Do SIPTU welcome the concept of BusConnects?

Mr. John Murphy: Yes, of some design change.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I accept that. Has the NBRU set its face completely against it?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: We have done quite of bit of interrogation of the plan thus far, as the Deputy can see from our submission, and we are continuing to do that work. Some of our fears were raised by Deputies in isolation from us, despite what people may think. There are fears about commercialisation and the withdrawal of services. I can tell the Deputy about Dublin South-West, for example. As I had prepared a description for Deputy Rock in case he had been present as well, it is not exclusive to Deputy Lahart. In Blessington, Ballymore Eustace and Ballyknockan, there will be no direct service under this proposal over route 244E. I am aware that Deputy Lahart has done some study himself on this proposal and I have been following what he is saying online. Killinarden Heights would have no direct bus to the city but only the local bus route 240. Routes 65B and 77A would be gone. Tymon North, Seskin View and Tymon Castle would have no direct bus to the city. I know some of these routes myself.

There will be no direct bus from Killininny Road to the city. Route 65B would be gone, with only the 58 orbital to Dún Laoghaire left. Ballyboden and Whitechurch would have no direct bus to the city and route 61 would be gone. Route 69 would be gone in Rathcoole and Saggart with no direct bus to the city, only the 242 local service. Ballinteer is interesting in terms of the 16 bus that is used by people going to the airport from inside of those housing estates. They will have no direct access to the city any more and only a local route. The 16 is one of the iconic routes. Access to Ringsend Road and Pearse Street for Tallaght buses would be gone. Lots of customers use the 77A, the 56A and the 15B from Dublin South-West to access Google, Amazon, Facebook and construction jobs and those routes would be gone at the stroke of a pen. There would be no direct access from Killinarden to Citywest shopping centre, which is currently serviced by routes 77A and 65B. The main bus route from Templeogue is now an airport bus, which is good for connectivity but without the 15B, 65B and 65 bus routes, there would be capacity issues as are currently experienced on the 16 bus at present and this would impact railway commuters.  There is no direct rail link to the children's hospital. The people of Tallaght have a children's hospital on their doorstep, but they have no connectivity to access the children's hospital at St. James's Hospital. There will be no direct bus link to the city from Monastery Road and a new local service, the 255 bus, will replace the 68 and 69 buses. That is only one constituency.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I appreciate the work the NBRU has done on this issue. In spite of what Mr. O'Leary said about public representatives, I am the only public representative from my constituency present. Let us consider some of the positives before going into the negative because I agree with much of what Mr O'Leary said. When we enter the public consultation process, people will need to see both sides. I will address some of the points made by him.

I think Mr O'Leary took me up wrong when I said the 15 bus route would be the A spine. If I catch it from Knocklyon and get off on Rathgar Road and all of the buses on the route carrt an "A", I will know that they will all take me to approximately the same destination. We do not need BusConnects to do that, but it has come up with that suggestion which is positive. The 15 bus service was rerouted because of the Luas cross-city line. The closest I can get to Leinster House is the Bleeding Horse. With the proposed introduction of the 90 minute Leap card, I could get off at the Bleeding Horse and get on board the Luas to Dawson Street. There was not that connection before this plan.

I do not see how this proposal can work within the existing infrastructure. If the bus corridors are not built outwards and there are regular bus spines, a place like Terenure village will clog up. The cart cannot be put before the horse. Work on infrastructure has to be undertaken. There may be alternatives such as the Stillorgan dual carriageway, on which there are dedicated bus corridors all the way into town which can carry more buses.

There is, undoubtedly, a penalty for connecting. The stereotypical senior citizen boards the 15A bus at Limekiln to travel directly to the city. He or she will have to connect at Crumlin to travel to the city. They might be first on the bus at Limekiln and last off at Crumlin. The National Transport Authority, NTA, states it does not matter whether he or she is first on or last off as there will be multiple buses every five minutes. There is, however, something undemocratic about it.

One of the weaknesses in the Jarrett Walker design is that he describes it as a metro style system, but on a metro or a Luas tram many doors open at one time and there is equality of access. Even if the bendy buses are introduced, there will be a maximum of two doors opening at any one time and on regular double-decker buses only one door opens. That issue has to examined.

My party has proposed a transport police force for public transport. That issue needs to be factored into the plan. Deputy John Curran raised it in the case of the service from Rathcoole into the city. The Rathcoole bus service runs on the hour to the Red Cow from where there is a bus every five minutes. It is great going if someone is travelling into the city, but in coming out where will a person wait if they miss the hourly bus service? Some of the interchanges will have to have accommodation, perhaps even somewhere someone can get a cup of coffee but certainly somewhere someone will be secure and have shelter. Even in the shopping centres such as Blanchardstown and The Square, the existing infrastructure is not adequate. If people are expected to connect, they need to be able to shelter, particularly single people at night who need to know they are secure and in a lit up place. That is definitely a factor. There is a Dublin Bus–Luas forum that meets once a month and in which I acknowledge its role.

Everybody has said the public consultation process is critical. I trust Dublin Bus to run it. It has run consultation processes in my time as a public representative and I trust it. In a constituency such as mine where there are several centres, Tallaght, Templeogue, Knocklyon, Rathfarnham and Greenhills, two venues will not be enough. It will have to sweat the maximum out of the number of venues. The NTA is to write to Deputies seeking suggestions for the location of venues.

From places on the periphery such as Ballymoreustace and Blessington, people will not have a direct route to the city. They will connect at Tallaght. We need to hear what they have to say about this. Deputy Darragh O'Brien talks about everything connecting into Swords and has said there are a couple of direct routes into the city. That opens the opportunity for a private operator. My party is committed to public transport and Dublin Bus, on which we could not have been clearer, particularly in the past six or eight months. I am a strong champion and supporter of Dublin Bus. It is a terrific company which has turned itself around in the past ten years. I hope the delegates are reassured that there are legislators here who, if necessary, will curb the powers and enthusiasm of the NTA for privatising, contracting and franchising out routes.

Deputy Thomas Byrne was concerned about the direct services from Dunboyne through Ongar. That issue was addressed recently. It was also mentioned by Senator John Dolan, which is why I mentioned the Dublin Bus forum. I know about the bus services provided for the summer camps in Killinarden and Jobstown. Dublin Bus provides outreach services for the community, even in the event of incidents. Its staff go into schools to lets kids or teenagers who are causing problems know that their mothers and grandparents will suffer if a bus has to be withdrawn.

Senator John Dolan has made the point that the livery was designed after consultation with people with disabilities and special needs, particularly young people with a visual impairment, in order that it could not be missed. He specifically adverted to the training provided for people with disabilities on how to access a bus.

I disagree with Mr. O'Leary on decongesting. He said it could lead to more congestion, but it will not if it is built outwards right. The basic principle of BusConnects is to encourage people to leave their cars behind and opt to use public transport. The only way to do this - it is the chicken and the egg - is for the infrastructure to provide a seamless and unobstructed route. The second way is to provide enough buses to persuade and give people confidence that if they choose to leave the car at home, there will be a regular bus service, that it will be efficient and that it will take them on an unimpeded and I hope segregated route to their destination. One cannot work without the other, but this does not address the mum or dad who may have a school run to make in the morning to different schools. The bus service does not offer that flexibility.

The NBRU has given us a lot of food for thought and done a lot of work on this issue.  However, there is not one positive thing about it. Mr. O'Leary is asking me, as a public representative, to take this on board. I will do so and it will influence the kind of questions I ask. I ask the NBRU to leave the National Transport Authority, NTA, out of it and look at some of the ideas in the report by Jarrett Walker & Associates and see that there are some positives and wins in this. However, there are issues that need to be addressed and it is our job to ensure the public is informed about what is being lost. We must point out that this cannot happen and that tweaks are necessary. The NBRU is an influential voice and stakeholder in the matter, and reading Mr. O'Leary's presentation it is clear that this is a no-no. The Services Industrial Professional And Technical Union, SIPTU, is saying it embraces the concept. I embrace the concept, but I take on board Mr. O'Leary's point that this must be tweaked. I have to listen to what I am told by the men and women who use the bus service every day. Is there nothing in this report that the NBRU would recommend to the public?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I could say easily answer "No" to the Deputy's last question. However, that would be unfair given the effort he made to provide context for the question. The NBRU disagrees fundamentally with the concept of BusConnects, where people have to get off one bus and get on another. Furthermore, the public consultation should be named for what it is. We have to get down and dirty on this. If I go to Ballymore Eustace and, without saying who I am, tell a person who uses the bus that the service is to be reduced significantly and that he or she will have to get a bus to Tallaght and get off again, I know what answer I will get when I ask what that person thinks of that. If I ask someone else what he or she thinks of a plan to increase the frequency of a service from every ten minutes to every five minutes, I will be told it is fantastic. We can carry out the public consultation from here.

Regardless of whether Deputy Lahart agrees with me on addressing congestion, many submissions have been made by the NBRU, colleagues and other organisations to the NTA and the Department over several decades. One of the central planks of the submissions about a reduction in congestion was to build park and ride hubs, north, south, east and west in this city. Some day, someone will listen to me and others who have made similar submissions. People have to get into bus rapid transit, BRT, and use it. I will not mention the metro plan because I do not know how many iterations of it we have seen at this stage. I have no doubt we will see another such plan in my lifetime. BRT would reduce congestion. We have done significant work on this already, but we have to do much more work on it. We will not do this for the sake of it. The Deputy and I are both in the business of representing people. I represent those working in the industry and those who are using the industry. My colleagues here do the same thing, under different banners.

This committee has to ask what the problem is with the current system. Our submission was not entirely negative. Senator Devine picked up on one line in our submission which suggested that we put the new orbital routes on top of the existing service. What is wrong with the current service? The bus lanes do not go far enough. Those that are built are blocked by traffic and no sanctions are applied to those who block them. Infrastructure has to be created to facilitate the current network. I do not understand the current approach and I certainly do not accept it. The NTA has decided that it will change the current network because it is not working. Can it show me what is not working? The infrastructure is not working but that is a different debate altogether. The services that exist, their frequency, and the fact that they go to housing estates in working class areas and peripheral towns such as Ballymore Eustace, Balbriggan, Greystones, Skerries and Malahide, are all to be welcomed. Why are those places different from a place that has a regular service every five minutes? People are not different because of where they live.

If the mistakes caused by decades of bad planning are to be corrected, houses cannot be knocked down in order to build them higher, even though that is what should be done in Dublin, and that is something that Dublin will have to grapple with at some stage. Jarrett Walker stated that if 15% of this plan is changed, it will all unravel. My colleague, Mr. John Murphy, picked up on that point. How dare Mr. Walker come to our city and tell us that if we do not agree with his plan, or remove 15% of it, everything will collapse? What gives him the right to say that? That is wrong and it is also wrong that we are beholden to people who have no responsibility, for example, the National Transport Authority. I am sorry for getting emotional about this, but I represent people working in the industry and people who use the industry. How dare we tell an old person or a person in a wheelchair to get off a bus and cross the road to get another? Who are we to do that?

I am sorry for using Deputy Lahart as a battering ram, but I fundamentally disagree with BusConnects because it is based on people being discommoded. That is not what public service is about. It is about helping people get from A to B conveniently, not running and racing around. Dublin is not London or Tokyo. Someone mentioned white gloves. People have to work and commute, but we should not insist that they get off the bus in all kinds of weather. The reference to building facilities is a joke. Bus drivers are here. Bottles are being thrown into bins full of you-know-what. There is nothing wrong with the current network; the problem is the infrastructure. We should fix that.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I share much Mr. O'Leary's passion about this issue. Members are always parochial. I was a councillor when a number of roads were widened and quality bus corridors, QBC, were put on the Ballycullen Road and Firhouse Road. They are the most underutilised QBCs, and I saw an opportunity for the people of Ballycullen and Oldcourt to acquire a speedy exit from their communities. I contacted the NTA on this and it indicated it will visit the area in September to examine the issue. I told it that this has not been incorporated into BusConnects. I would like Mr. O'Leary to convert his obvious passion into using this as an opportunity to make changes. I have been making the same point he made about infrastructure. It does not matter how many buses are run along the Templeogue Road because once they reach Terenure village-----

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I know Terenure village.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart -----the traffic stops. The same is true in Rathmines. Dublin Bus uses the term "resilience". The route is not resilient, and I disagree with the NTA on this. If the infrastructure is not in place in the first instance, this plan will not work.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: There is a petrol station and a car sales room in the middle of Terenure. We all drive cars and we are all reliant on cars. Forgive me for speaking across the Deputy. Deputy Noel Rock, who is not here, will have a problem in Dublin North-West. There is talk of the proposed metro being changed to accommodate Cumannn Lúthleachas Gael Na Fianna. Under BusConnects, no buses will pass Na Fianna GAA club or the Collinstown pitches because routes 27B, 13 and 4 are to be removed and no replacement bus services are proposed. That will not happen. Fine Gael was in Government the last time I checked. Buses will continue to run out there; I can tell the Deputy that for nothing. The proposed metro will be realigned because of Na Fianna. This is a serious issue.

I apologise for venting, but people are relying on those services. Kids playing matches on a Saturday morning get the bus at Ballymun and Whitehall and their matches. If the bus service is removed, we will effectively tell families that their children cannot go and play football or hurling on a Saturday morning.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I am as passionate about public transport as Mr. O'Leary is. In my area we were able to live with traffic congestion in the early 1990s when it was at its peak because we saw the M50 being built. All the ring roads and other infrastructure was put in place. I now have tell people at public meetings that there is no silver bullet now and no outer ring road that could be built. Even if it could be built, it would take 20 years to deliver it. We need a solution that is deliverable in a much faster timeframe, and public transport is the only way to do that. Mr. O'Leary and I have the same view on that issue and I am a strong advocate for public transport. However, transport infrastructure, by which I mean obstacle-free, segregated buses - essentially a Luas on rubber wheels - travelling into the cities or orbitally around the cities are the only solution. I champion that idea.

Mr. O'Leary is the first person to make the point that his basic objection to BusConnects is that a person will be asked to get off a bus and to get onto another bus as part of his or her journey. That approach will not work. I am not defending this or playing devil's advocate here. We are having a to and fro on a committee, which is not always possible. However, people connect with different modes of transport all the time. The example was given of getting off at the Bleeding Horse pub and walking around the corner to connect to the Luas, which can be done in 90 seconds.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Jarrett Walker & Associates did not consult about London. I am sorry for mentioning Mr. Walker's name, but it is out there and I did not bring it into the equation.  It consulted in cities that are gridded like the Melbournes and the Aucklands of this world, with big boulevards. It did not consult in London. What was done in London was very simple; they took the car out of London. We look at things and they are very complicated. London had public services to replace he car, which is what is needed here. The infrastructure here is broken in many cases and absent in other cases. Instead of fixing it where it is broken or introducing it where it is absent, we are damaging the very fabric of the public transport service that we are providing to citizens. That is what we are doing, if we are honest about it. It is proposed that we break and smash up what people have been used to doing for God knows how long. I do not get it and I think it is madness.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Will the NBRU make a submission to the consultation?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: What does the Deputy think?

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart This would be a huge missed opportunity because there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the proposals. However, the rubber has not hit the road yet because there has not been proper and full engagement. Deputies and councillors are all looking at the maps. I see some positives and negatives. Mr. O'Leary referred to the 15B route. I understand the point he makes that the route will no longer serve Rathmines or Pearse Street. However, it will connect with the A spine in Terenure, where buses will run every five minutes.

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: If I can respond, the National Transport Authority has spent a fortune on shiny maps and brochures.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart They are not shiny maps actually-----

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: We have to look at the detail. Tallaght will be on the D spine, with routes 1, 2, 3 and 4. According to the legend for the spine, a bus will operate every six to seven and a half minutes. That does not mean that I will get the D3 to Jobstown every six to seven and a half minutes. It means I get a D bus. I could be standing-----

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart People watching the proceedings will think I am defending the plan, which is not the case. We are having a conversation about it. Mr. O'Connor should not shoot the messenger when I am only teasing it out. The NTA made clear that those maps are mid-day as opposed to peak-time timetables. That is a critical point. Buses will operate on Route 15 serving Knocklyon every 15 minutes, whereas they operate every five minutes at the moment and sometimes every four minutes at peak times. I asked the NTA about that. These are mid-day-----

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: The NTA said it was all day.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart It reflects the average throughout the day.

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: The D bus will operate every six to seven and a half minutes. I could wait 15 minutes for the D3. Buses currently operate on that route every ten minutes. People have to look into the detail.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I am not answering for the NTA. We will have more conversations on this issue and I thank the Chair for the leniency he has shown. I thank Mr. O'Leary.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: Apologies if the Deputy thought I was shooting the messenger.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart That is fine.

Mr. John Murphy: If I can respond briefly to Deputy Lahart, at a risk of repeating myself, I commend the submission made by the NBRU on the proposed changes and their effects. We did not come here today to get into that detail. The NTA will not accept an argument just because SIPTU makes it. We have tried that tack numerous times in the past when engaging with the authority. When we meet a roadblock, the NTA hides behind legislation, obligations and the Department. The NTA will not engage with us on specific routes and how they will be serviced or how social factors will be addressed to ensure people can use the bus service to meet their needs.

Mr. Jarret Walker stated that if 15% of the plan is removed, the entire plan will collapse. If BusConnects needs to collapse, it should collapse. The money needs to be provided and we cannot accept the NTA deciding to take the ball and go home because the rest of the players would not accept its game. These are the conversations we need to have. We are in favour of looking at the whole network and properly funding and protecting public transport.

As I said to the Chair earlier, I got no comfort from the NTA's view on privatisation or franchising out. I do not want to see a scenario where Bus Éireann was driven into the ground by some of the decisions and the policy made by the NTA. We are trying to get the company back on an even keel and the position is improving but there is a lot of work to be done. That should not happen to Dublin Bus, which is an iconic company. I would put it on a par with the red buses of London. People have become used to Dublin Bus serving communities. Its services have links in the communities and need to be protected. We need, however, to have the conversation on investment and how best to use that.

People with disabilities, pensioners and others who depend on bus services will not like the idea of having to reconnect from one bus or mode of transport to another. Many others, including young people in the workforce, colleges and education, will not have an issue with this. The social aspect needs to be protected and built on but we should not be afraid of the conversation.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I am very much aware of the issue of discommoding commuters on existing routes. Will the new or revised routes reduce travel time? As I stated earlier, under BusConnects, the core bus corridors will have a free run and only traffic lights will get in their way. My concern is that we need to discuss the whole project. Ms Graham stated the core bus project will conclude after BusConnects, which will confuse people again.

People get used to having the same bus routes. If someone told me tomorrow morning the bus from Cork to Dublin would stop in Limerick, there would be war.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: Not in Limerick.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe If free-flowing bus routes and corridors were introduced, would there be time savings?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I reiterate that if the proper infrastructure is put in place and proper incentives, such as park-and-ride facilities, are introduced to keep people out of their cars, if all of these elements are put in place, when the time comes one will go hand in hand with the other. A few months ago, we heard of plans to take people's gardens. If too many things are thrown into the mix - I will be generous and say I am not arguing that this is being done deliberately to confuse people - something will give somewhere. It goes back to the fundamental point that we are not protecting the infrastructure we have, namely, bus lanes, and we are not building extra infrastructure, namely, more bus lanes and park-and-ride hubs. The answer as far as I am concerned is to get people out of their cars and into public transport and to do that we need to build infrastructure.

If the whole plan is to come together, the investment required will amount to roughly €2 billion. We could build an awful lot of park-and-ride facilities and do a considerable amount of work on bus rapid transit, BRT, with €2 billion. My solution is to create the infrastructure because it will deliver speed.

Mr. John Murphy: I do not disagree with Mr. O'Leary. The infrastructure needs to be in place. A plan cannot be rolled out without infrastructure. BRT is a great idea. As I stated in the submission, only one third of these routes have dedicated bus lanes and they are not policed to the degree they should be and there is interaction with other modes of transportation on them. If we are serious about this and if there is investment being made in that direction, complete quality bus corridors are needed and they must be used for the purpose for which they have been introduced.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe On the disability issue, I read recently that the Porsche car manufacturer wanted to access to the Chinese market. Porsche is obviously an expensive car brand. The company remodelled the car by extending the wheel base by a couple of inches because our Chinese friends like to be chauffeur-driven.

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: I would not know about that.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I would not either, but I came across it and it is a fact. Mr. O'Leary and Mr. Murphy raised the issue of access for people with a disability. It is becoming a big thing. We are being quoted EU directives and so forth. Surely to God the bus manufacturers are complying with these requests and directives. We are told the French love this and love that, and are ahead of us. Do French bus manufacturers-----

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: Like any manufacturer, they will build to spec, as ordered. I was in San Sebastian a number of years ago. Bus Éireann uses a large number of buses manufactured by a company called Irizar. I visited the factory, which is in fact a co-operative venture.  We could learn lessons from it. One goes into the back of the warehouse where one finds a steel beam with wheels, a kitchen chair and a steering wheel. The bus is built to a specification. Whatever specification the NTA has ordered it will get, including with wheelchair access. There is not a manufacturer in the world that would not do this. I draw members' attention to Ryanair which squeezes in an awful lot of seats into its Boeing 737 aircraft. Our contribution on the disability issue is that the NTA - in fairness to it, it will admit this - did not consult disability groups in advance of ordering the fleet of buses referred to by Senator John Dolan. That is a fact.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Is there any bus yet in operation which provides for compatibility?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: The Dublin Bus fleet is 100% wheelchair accessible. All of the buses in the Bus Éireann public service contract fleet are wheelchair accessible, as are Expressway buses. The problem with Expressway buses is that the accessibility infrastructure is not available at rural bus stops, but that is not Bus Éireann's issue to resolve. It needs to be addressed by the NTA and the local authorities.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I know. What point is Mr. O'Leary making about the existing level of access to buses for people with a disability?

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: The point we are making about the BusConnects plan is that people will be asked to get off one bus to get on another. Able bodied people can do this, if they want to, and have the choice. However, people with a disability have a difficulty in that regard. My colleague spoke about two people in Larkhill.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I know

Mr. Dermot O'Leary: That is the issue we have with the plan. Senator John Dolan raised a point about the new buses not being specified properly.

Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart That was the Vice Chairman's point.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe It was about the new specification-----

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: For the purposes of ensuring clarity, we are referring to the 40 new Mercedes 28 seater buses.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe That is double Dutch to me. I come from the country.

Mr. Thomas O'Connor: There are 900 double-decker buses in the Dublin Bus fleet. I believe the NTA is buying another 93 to cover BusConnects routes. It also purchased 40 single-decker vehicles. These are the vehicles with which Senator John Dolan has a problem. There are only two single-decker vehicles in the Dublin Bus fleet which cover the 44B bus route up the mountain to Johnny Fox's pub. As we do not generally operate single-decker buses, this is new for us.

Mr. Stephen Hannan: What is the use in having wheelchair accessible buses if people with disabilities cannot use them? I am going through this issue every day of the week, but people are not listening to me. If a person in a wheelchair tries to get onto a bus, if there are two people with prams already on it who refuse to fold them, the person in the wheelchair cannot gain access. That is how simple it is. The people with prams should be made to fold them. It may need legislation, but something needs to be done to protect people with disabilities in that regard.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I apologise that I was unable to be here for all of the meeting. It has been a mad day here. I shall certainly read the transcript of the meeting.

Vice Chairman: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe The previous delegates received as much attention and we are just finishing up. The committee will request the NTA to extend the public consultation process period in order that more people will be able to access it. That is the big issue that has come from this engagement.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I thank the delegates from SIPTU for hanging around for so long.

The joint committee adjourned at 6.15 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 September 2018.


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