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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 453 - 467
 Header Item Taxi Regulations
 Header Item Roads Maintenance Issues
 Header Item Road Projects Status
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Road Projects Status
 Header Item Coast Guard Services
 Header Item Roads Maintenance
 Header Item Road Safety Strategy
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item Public Transport Issues
 Header Item Cycling Facilities
 Header Item Air Services Provision
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item Public Transport Provision

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 817 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 453 - 467

Taxi Regulations

 453. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the position regarding the new Taxi Regulation Bill (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43187/13]

 463. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reasons he has relinquished control over the taxi industry; if he has concerns regarding maximum fares, driver standards, vehicle standards and road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43594/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 453 and 463 together.

The responsibility for taxi ranks is a matter for Local Authorities. Upon enactment, section 25 of the Taxi Regulation Bill 2012 will replace and restate Section 84 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 concerning the making of bye-laws by Local Authorities with regard to stands for taxis. Funding for taxi ranks may be awarded by the National Transport Authority (NTA) pursuant to section 69 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 as amended by the Bill (section 74).

The Taxi Regulation Bill 2012 is a vast improvement upon the legal provisions contained in the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. The Taxi Regulation Bill 2012 prescribes more precisely the scope of the regulatory powers for licensing, enforcement and regulation by the NTA, which already has responsibility for the regulation of the taxi industry as provided for under the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009. Within the legal framework provided for in the Taxi Bill the role of the regulator is balanced against the rights of the license holder or applicant and the rights and protections for passengers, thereby providing clear guidance for all concerned within the taxi industry.

The Taxi Bill makes provision under Section 20 for the NTA to prescribe in Small Public Service Vehicle(SPSV) regulations the standards for vehicles and for taxi drivers. This is a restatement and refinement of existing provisions under Section 34 and 39 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. There is ongoing improvement in the regulation of vehicle standards by the NTA on foot of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011. The prohibition on the transfer of SPSV licences provided for under Section 14 of the Taxi Bill together with the recent changes to vehicle age will, I believe, have a significant impact in this regard, with safety benefits for taxi drivers, taxi users and other road users. With regard to the standards for taxi drivers, as I explained in Dail Debates on the Taxi Bill it is my view that regulations made in this area can only improve and promote the standards of professionalism in the industry and, as with all of the powers conferred on the NTA, it is incumbent on it to ensure that these powers are exercised in a reasonable manner.

The provisions under Section 24 of the Taxi Bill provide for a restatement of existing provisions in the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 concerning maximum fares in the State. The setting of the maximum taxi fare is a statutory function of the NTA. A review of taxi fares is carried out every two years by the Authority. Under the fares review this year, the NTA put forward a proposal to simplify the overall fare structure and to provide an approximate 3.6% to 4% increase in the maximum allowable fares. However, following consultation with the taxi advisory committee and the various different taxi groups, it was decided not to make any changes to the existing fares structure.

Roads Maintenance Issues

 454. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to the fact that up to 50 HGVs per hour are using a residential street (details supplied) in County Kilkenny causing infrastructural damage and putting health and safety of residents at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43226/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded from this additional funding is also a matter for the local authority. Where excess HGVs in particular locations are deemed to be an issue then it is open to the relevant local authority to consider applying speed restrictions, traffic calming, or other traffic management measures they deem appropriate.

Road Projects Status

 455. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when the Kilkenny ring road will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43227/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within ten working days.

Roads Maintenance

 456. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a special allocation for the upgrade of roads will be made to those local authorities that will host a stage of the 2014 Giro D'Italia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43240/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding for the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects is a matter in the first instance for the NRA in accordance with Section 19 of the Roads Act. Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within ten working days.

With regard to regional and local roads, the improvement and maintenance of these roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded from this additional funding is also a matter for the local authority. I will announce the 2014 regional and local road grant allocations early in the new year.

Road Projects Status

 457. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the current progress of the southern distributor road in Athy, County Kildare, that was previously earmarked as the next big road project in County Kildare. [43254/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the Council. My Department received an application from Kildare County Council in November 2008 for 100% funding of the Athy Southern Distributor Road. The estimated total cost of the project is in excess of €34 million. While a grant of €150,000 was allocated to the Council in 2011 to allow certain design and planning work on this project to be undertaken it was made clear by my Department that there was no funding commitment beyond that.

As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, given the current financial circumstances, I am not in a position at present to give any commitment regarding the provision of further funding for the construction of this project. The limited amount of funding being allocated to development projects will focus on projects already under construction or to meet commitments already in place. I am aware of the importance of this road to Athy and to the south Leinster region. When the financial position improves I would like to be in a position to support the advancement of this type of project.

Coast Guard Services

 458. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of incidents the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter attended in the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the number of these incidents in each of these years that were deemed to be a hoax; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43383/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters were tasked to 470 incidents in 2010, 553 incidents in 2011 and 532 incidents in 2012. As at the end of September this year, the number of taskings was 637. None of these taskings were deemed to be a hoax.

Roads Maintenance

 459. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will release any extra funding to address the serious deterioration of roads here. [43432/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding for the national roads programme. The implementation of individual national road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants.

The 2013 road grants have now been fully allocated and there are no further funds available from which an additional allocation could be made. It is worth noting however, that an additional €50 million was provided to local authorities in June this year for works on regional and local roads under a mini-stimulus plan. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded from this additional funding was also a matter for the local authority.

Road Safety Strategy

 460. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to raise the speed limits on specific parts of our motorways and national routes. [43433/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I announced last year that I had established a Group, comprising all relevant stakeholders, to carry out a review of speed limits in the country. This Group, which is chaired by my Department, includes representatives from the local authorities, the Automobile Association, An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority, the National Roads Authority as well as the National Transport Authority. As the Deputy will appreciate, this is an issue which requires detailed consideration. I anticipate that the group will report to me shortly, and while I will give careful consideration to any recommendations contained in their Report, it would be premature for me to speculate at this stage on the manner or timing of their implementation.

Rail Network

 461. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the works planned by the National Transport Authority on the level crossing at Ashtown Pelletstown. [43434/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA)  in December 2009, the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as the development of new train stations, comes under the remit of the NTA. Noting this I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Public Transport Issues

 462. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will address the serious issue of overcrowding on the Sligo to Dublin train which occurred on 6 October 2013. [43470/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to both the company and the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive replies within ten working days.

  Question No. 463 answered with Question No. 453.

Cycling Facilities

 464. Deputy Seán Kenny Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide funding to Fingal County Council for the provision of a Baldoyle to Portmarnock cycle lane. [43605/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, funding for the delivery of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of cycle lanes in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) is a matter for the NTA. The NTA are best placed to provide details of any plans to develop a cycle lane between Baldoyle and Portmarnock. Accordingly, I have asked the Authority to reply to you directly on this matter.

Air Services Provision

 465. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the last time his Department carried out a review of the need for the PSO air service between Dublin and Donegal Airport under regulation 1008/2208 of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43646/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Deputy will be aware, the Department completed a Value for Money Study on the Regional Airports Programme in 2010 which, following consideration by then Government, was published on the Department’s website in January 2011. The Value for Money Study, which included a review of the need for PSO air services in Ireland, was the basis on which it was decided to renew the PSO air service between Donegal and Dublin airports that year. In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community, a report on the PSO air services from Donegal and Kerry airports, which was primarily based on the Value for Money Study, was sent to the European Commission in June 2011 prior to the renewal of the PSO air services to those two airports in November 2011.

The current contracts for these services are for a three year period to November 2014. The future of the current Regional Airports Programme, including a review of the need for PSO air services in Ireland, will be examined in the context of the National Aviation Policy for Ireland which is currently being developed, following a public consultation carried out earlier this year. I intend to publish a draft National Aviation Policy Statement by year end and this will provide a further opportunity for stakeholder input before the adoption of the new policy document in early 2014.

Rail Network

 466. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he intends to apply for funding under the Trans European Network–Transport (Ten-T) 2014-2020 for the development of a rail network linking Derry to Limerick, Shannon and Cork, or any part thereof, along a western arc corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43651/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As I have indicated to the House previously, I have no plans to develop a so-called "Western Arc" rail line from Cork to Belfast as this would require both the re-opening of the remaining phases of the Western Rail Corridor and also the development of new rail lines to connect with the rail network in Northern Ireland. It should also be noted that the Northern Ireland Executive has no plans to provide such new rail lines. The Government’s policy in relation to the funding of capital projects to 2016, including the development of rail and road links, is set out in the "Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16: Medium Term Exchequer Framework".  Due to the overall reduction in funding for transport infrastructure the priority to 2016 is to protect investment made to date and to maintain safety standards. The limited funding available over and above this priority will only be provided for projects which are affordable, meet overall transport objectives and deliver the best return in terms of economic recovery and job creation.

  I would draw the Deputy's attention to the Programme for Government and in particular the commitment that: "We will insist that major capital projects are subjected to proper cost-benefit analysis and evaluation, improving future productivity and growth prospects, and that the value-for-money obtained is significantly enhanced compared to the most recent period."

  The Irish Rail commissioned AECOM/Goodbody “2030 Rail Network Strategy Review” examined the potential for new and re-opened lines and it did not recommend the development of a rail link between Sligo and Derry or between Donegal and Derry. Likewise its predecessor, the “Strategic Rail Review” in 2003 did not recommend such rail links. The performance of Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor between Ennis to Athenry to date has been very disappointing even allowing for the recession. Given the pressure on the public finances there  are no funds for new subsidies or to develop new rail links in any part of the country. Moreover CIE is in a precarious financial situation and is dependent on continued bank funding. For all the reasons outlined above, the Government has no plans to further extend the heavy rail network. In these circumstances the question of applying for Ten-T funding to develop a rail line between Cork and Belfast via Shannon, Limerick and Derry does not arise.

Public Transport Provision

 467. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the details of correspondence between his Department and the EU Committee on Petitions to date in 2013 regarding the European Regional Development Fund, the western rail corridor and the Atlantic corridor; his proposals to address the issues raised by the committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43652/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I received a  letter earlier this year from the Chair of the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament regarding a complaint in relation to the allocation of EU funding for transport. I will arrange for a copy of my response to be sent to the Deputy. In my response I refuted the claim by the Petitioner that the Government, and my Department in particular, has discriminated against the West/North West of Ireland in terms of capital infrastructure investment and EU funds. I pointed out that  neither the BMW Region nor the Irish exchequer has lost out on or under-claimed ERDF funding. In fact the allocation for public transport in the BMW region was increased during the programme period. I also confirmed that Phase 1 of the Western Rail Corridor (WRC) has been included in the revised Ten-T Comprehensive Network from 2014 which was agreed with the European Parliament under the Irish Presidency.

I pointed out in my response that a priority for the West is to continue progress on the Atlantic Corridor motorway which will also link to the Dublin-Galway motorway. The section from Ennis to Gort was completed in 2010 and earlier this year I gave approval to progress the Gort to Tuam section as a PPP project. In relation to public transport, I recently opened a new rail station at Oranmore. I have no plans to extend the Western Rail Corridor as there are no funds to develop new rail links in any part of the country or to provide subsidies for loss making routes.


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