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 Header Item Bus Éireann Services (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item Trans European Transport Network Programme

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross] However, their challenge remains safety-related as a result of the significant constraints arising from the design and layout of a coach cab area, the high operating speeds of coaches and the driver's need for a clear and unimpeded view of the coach at high speeds.

Bus Éireann has further advised that the safety and welfare of employees are key priorities for it, that all assault and anti-social behaviour incidents are fully investigated and followed up with the Garda as required and that any employee involved in an incident is supported by the company through local management and the company welfare scheme. As already stated, while the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident I am concerned to make sure that the necessary arrangements are in place in order to ensure the safety of all passengers and staff travelling and working on our public transport network.

As a result, following representations from the NBRU regarding the establishment of a dedicated police force for public transport, my Department wrote to Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and the Railway Safety Advisory Council, RSAC, to seek their views on the issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport network. All three companies emphasised their strong and close working relationships with An Garda Síochána in the context of addressing anti-social behaviour.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins There have been 1,000 acts of anti-social behaviour against bus workers and drivers in the past 18 months. There have been four assaults on Bus Éireann services in the past couple of weeks. Until recently, I did not know that Bus Éireann does not record assaults unless the worker is absent for more than three days. A worker could be assaulted but it is not recorded if he or she comes back within two days. Each assault should be recorded so that there is a proper account of it.

There is a call for a dedicated Garda transport division that has the ability to arrest anybody who causes criminal damage on a bus or attacks a bus worker. That is what the bus workers are looking for and that is what the Minister should be seeking. He mentioned that the Minister for Justice and Equality had met the Garda Commissioner. What was the outcome of that meeting? The Minister for Justice and Equality would have to provide funding in respect of extra officers if there was to be a dedicated Garda transport division. Does the Minister have an answer in that regard? Is he at least willing to provide funding for certain areas initially and then extend them if necessary?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I think the Minister for Justice and Equality wrote to the Garda Commissioner. I do not think he met him; I am not sure. I do not know what the outcome of that was, but I think it was quite recent. I could find out and come back to the Deputy. I know it is a matter of some urgency.

In reply to the question about what is being done, I wrote to the RSAC. In its response it recommended the establishment of a dedicated unit of An Garda Síochána to police the rail network on occasions when the possibility of anti-social behaviour is high. Bus Éireann, in which Deputy Joan Collins is particularly interested, reported that the level of anti-social behaviour was relatively low and noted a declining trend. That does not make it acceptable for one second. However, the rate does seem to be coming down. Some of the measures seem to be having an effect. Bus Éireann confirmed once again that the incidence of assaults and anti-social behaviour is low but that safety and welfare of its staff is a key priority. Driver security screens are fitted to the entire low-floor single-deck and double-deck bus fleet.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I know they are fitted in the low-floor coaches, but the Minister made the point that other coaches are not fitted with security screens. There are safety concerns. I am sure that the health and safety committee could look at something like that. Where there is a will there is a way. If something needs to be done and can be done, it should be done. Assault screens should be fitted on all public transport to protect workers. As a stakeholder in these public bodies, it is the least the Minister can do to ensure that workers are safe.

I would appreciate it if the Minister could come back to me regarding the Garda transport division. The Minister responded to the NBRU on 26 June. Six months later we still do not have any clarity on that except for what the Minister has stated, namely, that the RSAC advised on the rail network. I would be interested to find out more about that.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Deputy. In addition to what I said about security screens being available on the low-floor single-deck and double-desk bus fleet, I note that according to Bus Éireann all assaults and incidents of anti-social behaviour are fully investigated and followed up with An Garda Síochána as required. Any employee involved in such an incident is supported by the company through local management and the company welfare scheme. Emergency support for drivers on the road is provided through their 24-hour control centres. The company has invested in extensive CCTV coverage throughout the bus fleet for the added protection of employees and customers. Bus Éireann has improved customer education with clear signage on buses regarding respect for staff as well as a customer safety video. An additional conflict management module has been included in Bus Éireann's employee training programme to help support employees in difficult situations and improved CCTV coverage has been put in place in the driver's cab area, with consideration of an additional camera over the entrance door fully covering the cab.

I do not want to make light of this problem. I agree with the Deputy that it has to be addressed. It is being addressed. It has come to the notice of the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and Equality and me. I would welcome any further suggestions.

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Trans European Transport Network Programme

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank the Minister. Before I move to the next question, I welcome the junior class from Rosses community school in Dungloe, County Donegal, the town of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher. Fáilte romhaibh go léir go dtí Leinster House inniu. As it happens, the next question is in the name of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

 6. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the status of the TEN-T priority projects for County Donegal; the timeline for these projects in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51966/18]

 41. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross his views on the priority TEN-T projects for County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51965/18]

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Ba mhaith liom cúpla soicind a úsáid chun fáilte a chur roimh na daltaí agus na múinteoirí atá anseo ó Phobalscoil na Rosann. Tá súil agam go mbainfaidh siad tairbhe agus sult as a dturas go Baile Átha Cliath, go dtí Teach Laighean agus go dtí Brother Kevin sna Capuchins.

  I wish to ask the Minister to update me on the TEN-T priority projects for Donegal and the timescales he sees for them.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I welcome the pupils from the school mentioned. They have a worthy representative speaking on behalf of Donegal today, who will no doubt give me and successive Ministers a difficult time if we do not deliver for Donegal.

  I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 41 together.

  First, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have overall responsibility for funding and policy concerning the national roads programme. However under the Roads Acts the planning, design and operation of individual roads is a matter for the relevant road authority in the case of local and regional roads, or for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, in conjunction with the relevant local authority in the case of national roads.

  The TEN-T priority improvement projects in Donegal consist of improvements and realignment of three sections of the national road network. These are the Ballybofey and Stranorlar bypass on the N13 and N15; the N56-N13-N14 Letterkenny to Manorcunningham route; and the N14 link between Manorcunningham and Lifford, Strabane and the A5.

  TII has advised my Department of the current status of the projects. Technical advisers are continuing to develop the schemes through phases 1 to 4 of the project management guidelines. A number of route options have been identified and it is anticipated that the preferred routes will be presented to the public in early 2019. The preferred routes will then be brought forward for further design and appraisal during 2019. The construction timetable is estimated to be in the region of approximately 36 months with an estimated completion date at the end of 2027. However I would like to stress that any timeframe is dependant on obtaining the necessary consents at various critical stages, including at the route selection, detailed design and tender stages. Meeting the requirements of the public spending code, obtaining planning consent from An Bord Pleanála and an adequate capital budget are also critical to delivering the project.

  These TEN-T projects will greatly improve journey times, improve safety and significantly improve local and regional connectivity which will help strengthen economic growth for Donegal.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I welcome the fact that progress is being made, and I realise that first of all a route must be selected. I would like to think that every opportunity would be given to those who are affected by the construction of the new road. I refer to Ballybofey and Stranorlar in particular. In my time in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport we had already decided on a route for a bypass. It has now moved to the other side of the town. My concern is that it may be so far from the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar that it may affect their economic development.


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