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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 727-741
 Header Item Departmental Properties
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Road Tolls
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme
 Header Item Industrial Disputes
 Header Item Aviation Industry Regulations
 Header Item Airport Policy
 Header Item Bus Éireann Services
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Sports Capital Programme Applications
 Header Item Programme for Government
 Header Item Ferry Services
 Header Item Road Network

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 727-741

Departmental Properties

 727. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the amount spent across his Department in the past five years on maintaining vacant or unused State-owned properties, including security arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18723/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten All property occupied by my Department is either leased by or owned by the Office of Public Works.

  No expenditure has been incurred for security or maintenance of vacant or unused properties over the last five years as no property allocated by the OPW for use by my Department has been either vacant or unused during that period.

Driver Licences

 728. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if actions by his Department could be considered with regard to assisting persons that are living abroad who lose their driving licenses in view of the fact that the current situation of having to travel home for a replacement is causing difficulties for persons living in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17514/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I am pleased to advise that what the Deputy is asking can already be done.

In most circumstances, where a person is applying for a driving licence including a replacement for a lost or stolen licence, they would be expected to appear in person at a centre of the National Driver Licensing Centre. However, a person who is overseas may apply by post for a replacement licence without returning home. The application must be accompanied by a letter from the local police confirming that they have reported their licence lost or stolen.

Road Tolls

 729. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross his plans to reduce the rate of tolls in order to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice (details supplied); the arrangements in place for motorists to reclaim VAT on tolls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17903/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy in relation to roads. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects on national roads are a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII, formerly known as the NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 in conjunction with the relevant local authority. For regional and local roads it is a matter for each respective local authority.

  More specifically, the statutory powers to levy tolls on national roads as well as regional and local roads to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors are vested in TII (for national roads) and each local authority (for regional and local roads) under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007).

  The position with regard to VAT on tolls is that TII absorbed the imposition of VAT within the pre-existing toll charge. By that I mean VAT was shown as part of the total toll charge. From 1st April 2017, the toll charge will no longer show a VAT element. There is no variation in the overall cost and there has been no variation in the overall toll cost since 2010.

  Noting the above position, I have referred the matter to TII for a more detailed reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

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

Sports Capital Programme

 730. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross when the sports capital grants will be allocated; the basis upon which the applications are reviewed in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17485/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan 2,320 applications were submitted under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme. Details of the full  assessment process and scoring system for the 2017 round of the Programme are available on my Department's website at http://www.dttas.ie/sites/default/files/publications/sport/english/sports-capital-programme-scoring-system-and-assessment-procedures/assessment-manual-2017-scp.pdf.

  Over the coming months, all of the applications received will be assessed by officials in my Department in accordance with this process. Once the assessment process is completed, an announcement regarding allocations will be made later this year.

Industrial Disputes

 731. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if he will appoint a respected intermediary to bring the parties involved in the Bus Éireann dispute together for mediation and suspension of the current industrial action; the measures he is taking to assist in bringing about a just solution for the 2,600 workers involved and for an agreement to end the strike action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17521/17]

 735. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if he will meet with Bus Éireann staff in counties Cavan and Monaghan regarding the resolution of the ongoing strike; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17560/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I propose to take Questions Nos. 731 and 735 together.

I am of course disappointed that an  intensive series of WRC discussions have ended today without agreement on the Bus Eireann dispute. I am aware that issues have now  been referred to the Labour Court and both sides will now engage with the Court as it seeks to resolve the outstanding issues. I hope we will see an acceptable and fair deal emerge and that the disruption to people's travel arrangements will end as soon as possible.

I have consistently stated that I will not intervene in areas where Ministerial intervention is not appropriate and I am clear that negotiations relating to the internal organisation of a company is such an area.

However, I have acted in areas where I believe it to be appropriate to do so. I have increased the amount of funding available for socially necessary but financially unviable PSO services and I have committed toward further increasing that funding as resources allow. I have instructed my officials to work with the Department of Social Protection in examining the funding associated with the Free Travel Scheme and I expect a satisfactory conclusion to that examination. I have assured rural Ireland that the NTA has the statutory powers and resources required to ensure transport connectivity is maintained where commercial bus services are altered. I have invited members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee to submit their views on the commercial bus licensing system and stated my willingness to consider amending current legislation in cases where improvements can be identified. I have stated I am open to meeting all relevant stakeholders on issues relating to public transport.

Aviation Industry Regulations

 732. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross the detail of the licensing and invigilation of the operation of drones by the IAA; the current number of drones weighing above 1 kg and below that weight in view of recent concerns for passenger aircraft safety in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17522/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has statutory responsibility for aviation safety regulation in Ireland, including the regulation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (drones), as provided for under the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993.

  Accordingly, I have referred the Deputy's questions to the IAA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

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

Airport Policy

 733. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if his attention has been drawn to plans to change the categorisation of Shannon Airport from category nine to category seven in view of the fact this was not part of the plan for the airport at the time of its separation from the DAA; the reason this is under consideration now; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17529/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross Shannon Airport Authority (SAA), a subsidiary of Shannon Group plc, has statutory responsibility for the management and operation of Shannon Airport and as such the issue raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for the company.

  That said, I am informed that the need to evaluate business processes and practices in Shannon Airport in the context of productivity and competitiveness was identified in the run-up to the separation of the airport from daa back in December 2012. Like any business, SAA is conscious of the need to control its costs so that it can remain competitive and continue to attract new airline business in an increasingly competitive international marketplace. In this regard, one of the proposals that the company has had initial discussions with staff and union representatives about is to operate at Category 9 on a flexible basis rather than operate permanently at that level, 24/7, all year 'round. This would contribute to a more efficient operating model at the airport without any material impact on flight operations.

  I understand that this arrangement will arise in any event, at nightimes, for a temporary period of about 26 weeks as a consequence of the resurfacing of the main runway at Shannon which is due to get underway on 25th April next.

  I have forwarded the Question to SAA for direct reply. If the Deputy does not receive a reply within ten working days, please advise my Private Office.

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

Bus Éireann Services

 734. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if bus route X7 from Clonmel to Dublin was revoked; if it was revoked by Bus Éireann or the National Transport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17549/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I am aware that Bus Éireann has announced changes to a limited number of its Expressway services, including the X7 Clonmel to Dublin service. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has published an assessment of the transport impact of those changes and invited feedback on that assessment from any interested parties. I would encourage the Deputy to submit any views he might have to the NTA in that regard.

  Commercial bus routes, such as the Expressway X7, are licensed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009. Issues regarding revocation of licenses are a matter for the relevant transport operator in consultation with the NTA and I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive responses within ten working days.

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

  Question No. 735 answered with Question No. 731.

Public Transport

 736. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if an evaluation has been carried out into the fitness to drive guidelines in respect of public service vehicle drivers; if so, if standards will be applied equally between public and private operators; if no evaluation has been undertaken, if he will consider implementing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17579/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I take it the Deputy is referring to driver licensing for bus drivers.​

  Rules on fitness to drive are set at EU rather than national level. The fitness to drive rules for bus drivers are set out in Directive 126 of 2006, as amended, and transposed into Irish law in the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 537 of 2006) as amended.

  These rules apply to all holders of a driving licence for buses, and are the same whether the driver is employed in the public sector, employed in the private sector, or is the holder of a licence to drive a bus but not employed as a bus driver.

  In this light I have no plans to conduct an evaluation of the kind suggested by the Deputy.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 737. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross the status of an application for a sports capital grant by a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17602/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan I can confirm that an application has been submitted by the organisation referred to by the Deputy under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme.

  All of the 2320 applications received under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme will be assessed by officials in my Department over the coming months. An announcement regarding allocations will be made later this year.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

 738. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross the status of an application for a sports capital grant by a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17608/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan I can confirm that an application has been submitted by the organisation referred to by the Deputy under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme.

  All of the 2320 applications received under the 2017 Sports Capital Programme will be assessed by officials in my Department over the coming months. An announcement regarding allocations will be made later this year.

Programme for Government

 739. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross his plans for potential investment projects to be submitted to the EU's special task force on investment in the EU for the European fund for strategic investment with a view for investments in infrastructure surrounding advancing the Atlantic corridor economic commitment provided under the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17642/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross My Department actively encourages all the transport agencies and operating companies to explore all avenues of finance available including domestic banks, Trans European Network - transport (TENT),  Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), European Investment Bank (EIB), Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), to secure the most suitable funding instrument at the most favourable commercial rates. In many cases, a mix of funding instruments is used for capital projects by ports, roads aviation and public transport sectors.

  There are no specific transport projects that have been assisted under the EFSI but some have been co-funded and assisted through CEF, the EIB and Interreg (a European Territorial Cooperation programme that aims to stimulate cross border and inter-regional cooperation in the European Union) including Shannon Foynes Port and the Derry Hub on the Atlantic Economic Corridor.

Ferry Services

 740. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if he will meet a cross party delegation from Donegal county council to examine options for funding the Rathmullan to Buncrana and the Greencastle to Magilligan ferries (details supplied). [17646/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O'Donovan): Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan My Department provides capital funding to Fáilte Ireland who administer and award capital grants to develop a wide range of tourism attractions. The Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects administered by Fáilte Ireland does not fund infrastructural projects such as car ferry services which fall outside the scope of projects eligible for grant aid assistance under the scheme when such services are not an integral part of a tourism activity, product or attraction. It is also the case that my Department has no function in the provision or subsidisation of ferry services for these or any other routes. However, I am happy to meet with a delegation from Donegal County Council if the Deputy believes it would be of benefit to the Council.

Road Network

 741. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if he will ensure that funding for the N56 Letterkenny relief road will be included in the updated Government capital plan 2016 to 2021. [17647/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross As I outlined to the Deputy in my reply to a similar PQ (Ref: 1195/17 of 17 January 2017, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Within its annual budget the planning, design and implementation of individual road projects (such as the N56 Letterkenny relief road) is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Decisions on the transport elements of the Capital Plan 2016-2021 were framed by the conclusions reached in my Department’s Strategic Investment Framework for Land Transport. Based on the findings in that report it is envisaged that maintenance and renewal of the road network will continue to be the main priority over the next period and the bulk of the roads capital budget, approximately €4.4 billion, is earmarked for such essential work with a further €600 million allocated for implementation of the PPP road programme which is already underway. In this context the N56 Letterkenny Link Road was one of the projects that it was not possible to include given the overall funding envelope available.

As regards the possibility of additional funding within the Plan period, the Capital Plan Review process is underway. My Department is making a strong case for additional funding, including the development of a project pipeline for national road schemes. The final decisions on allocations are, however, matters for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Government as a whole.


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