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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 208-222
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Search and Rescue Service Provision
 Header Item Road Traffic Accidents
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Aviation Policy
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item Ports Policy
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Transport Costs

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 208-222

Driver Licences

 208. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of persons resident in Ireland who hold a UK driver licence that have not exchanged their licence for an Irish licence ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28161/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My Department and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) cannot state the exact number of people driving on a UK licence at any moment in time. There is no requirement or provision in law for EU member states to record the number of people driving in their territories on licences from other states, nor indeed would such be workable.

At the start of Brexit, the motor insurance industry provided estimated figures of UK licence holders resident in Ireland at between 50,000 and 70,000, based on their records. Since 2018, the RSA through the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) has exchanged 53,000 UK licences for Irish ones.

The NDLS are currently planning for demand for UK exchanges in the last quarter of 2020 in the region of 10,000 to 17,000. The RSA will commence a communication plan in the coming weeks that will include radio, social media and website messaging about the requirement for Irish resident UK licence holders to exchange their UK licences for an Irish licence.

Driver Test

 209. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if his attention has been drawn to the fact that driver instructors that are legally required to accompany their learner drivers to test centres for their test are refused access to the testing centre and its toilets and are forced to stand in the test centre carpark for 45 minutes while their learner drivers are undergoing their test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28163/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan While it is the case that a learner driver must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times, there is no requirement in law for driving instructors to attend test centres with learners sitting driving tests.

Operational arrangements at test centres are a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have therefore referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct response; please contact my office if no reply has been received within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 210. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if further supports will be made available to protect jobs in the travel agents sector; if a special range of supports are being reviewed; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28180/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I am aware of the serious difficulties arising for Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic collapse of overseas travel and tourism.

The sector continues to benefit from a range of State supports made available for SMEs - including the wage subsidies - and the State is also providing a special financial guarantee under a Refund Credit Note scheme for the sector, which makes the credit notes that licensed travel agent and tour operators issue to their customers a very secure proposition. Credits notes to the value of €17m have already been issued to consumers under the scheme – under which their value is guaranteed by the State - and this is money that the industry would otherwise have had to pay back in cash refunds.

I know that businesses in the sector are looking for more, and the Irish Travel Agents Association has made representations on behalf of its members for additional financial supports in the form of top-ups to business support schemes announced in the July Stimulus. These are being considered.

Search and Rescue Service Provision

 211. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if further details will be provided on the search and rescue carried out for two paddleboarders (details supplied) on 13 August 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28202/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan This incident attracted a high level of interest and fortunately had a most successful outcome in that the two casualties were successfully located and rescued.

  The Coast Guard was advised at 10;05pm on 12th August that two paddle boarders had earlier departed from Furbough Co Galway and failed to return. Galway Bay RNLI were tasked by the Coast Guard within three minutes of the initial call being received. The Lifeboat were recorded as proceeding to the scene at 10.25. The initial search was focused along the northern shore to ascertain if the missing persons were attempting to get ashore or had got ashore. The Aran Island All Weather Lifeboat was tasked at 11;19 pm. The Shannon based Coast Guard helicopter, which in accordance with standing arrangements was on 45 minutes notice after 10pm, was tasked to the scene at 11;02pm and was recorded as proceeding at 11.25pm

  The search planning tool used by the Coast Guard automatically utilises wind and tide conditions and subsequent checks confirmed that information for the locality was accurately recorded. Search planning had to be mindful of many potential changing scenarios in terms of the potential location of the casualties with regard to changing tides, local weather variations, size and type of recreational watercraft involved and whether the casualties might have been individually separated or separated from the boards. The possibility that they might have paddled ashore or got access to another stationary device had also to be considered. In that context a number of reports of potential sightings were also considered, most of which were investigated. The casualties were eventually located within the predicted search box, mindful that with the passage of time this box would have considerably expanded. Prior to the casualties being located the focus of the search was moving to the South West of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands. In the early hours of the morning of 13th   August, aerial and surface searches were conducted from Kilronan, to Inish meain and Inisheer. Further aerial, surface and coastal searches of the South West were similarly tasked. Participating units included Costelloe Bay and Doolin Coast Guard boat units.

  Shortly after 11 Am on the 13th of August a member of the public on Inisheer alerted Valentia Coast Guard to a possible sighting South West of the island. A number of resources were tasked to the area. This communication was picked up by the vessel Johnny O, operated by the members of the Oliver family and they were requested by Valentia to also proceed to the area of interest. As is well documented the Oliver’s were first on scene and successfully located and recovered the casualties.

Road Traffic Accidents

 212. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if his attention has been drawn to the road collision reporting guidelines produced by an organisation (details supplied); his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28250/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Many other jurisdictions have reports, consultations and other forms of publication related to all aspects of travel. It would not be appropriate for me as Minister to comment on them, particularly in a case such as this, which relates to a consultation draft of a document produced by a particular research organization in another country. I also note that the document relates to media coverage within civil society in that foreign jurisdiction and does not relate to matters which are the responsibility of government.

Bus Services

 213. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if his attention has been drawn to plans by Bus Éireann to close a number of its intercity routes, including the x8 from Cork city to Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28256/20]

 215. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan his plans to ensure that Bus Éireann retains all of its expressway services and to improve regional connectivity following announcement of plans by Bus Éireann to cut services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28274/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 215 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the Covid-19 health emergency has had a profound impact on the public transport sector due to the fall in passenger numbers and associated drop in fare revenues.

While the majority of public transport in Ireland is provided by the publicly-subvented bus and rail services funded through National Transport Authority's (NTA) public service obligation (PSO) programme, the public transport system also includes non-subvented bus services provided on a commercial basis by bus and coach businesses of varying size.

The negative impact of Covid on the public transport system has been mitigated by several Government decisions particularly:

- to substantially increase the 2020 budget for the existing PSO system (4 June);

- to introduce new temporary financial support for non-PSO licensed services provided by commercial bus operators (25 June); and

- enhancements to certain PSO bus services announced under the Stimulus package (23 July)

The temporary funding supports for the licensed bus sector have been introduced for a period of up to six months, in accordance with EU and national legislation and are restricted to operators where a clear public interest justification supports such intervention. The NTA, as the public transport licensing agency, is administering the support package through the establishment of contracts between the NTA and the relevant operators.

Among the commercial operators that are being supported under the scheme is most but not all of Bus Éireann’s (BÉ) Expressway business. As is the case in many other sectors of the economy, despite these supports, Covid-19 has resulted in significant financial pressures for public transport operators.

BÉ has developed plans to address its critical financial situation by reducing the size of its commercial Expressway business over time in order to focus on the profitable routes. The decision by the BÉ Board to consolidate its Expressway route network was taken following extensive work within the company. the Board has decided to indefinitely suspend the Dublin/Belfast service and to cease services on the Dublin to Cork, Limerick and Galway routes over the following months. The Board decision will consolidate the commercial Expressway routes from 18 to 14. The company's decisions do not affect the over 200 routes that Bus Éireann operates under its normal PSO contract arrangements with the NTA; these will all continue as before.

I have been assured by the company that there will be no job losses as a result of its decision and that affected staff will be redeployed to new/enhanced services which were announced as part of the Government’s July Stimulus Package. In this regard, BÉ plans to introduce new bus services in Galway, Limerick, Cork as well as Louth and Meath, which will require more than 100 drivers

As regards regional connectivity, I would like to reassure the Deputies that I have asked the NTA to assess any potential loss of connectivity along particular segments of the routes to ensure there are no gaps in the network, and to assess if there is a need to provide any additional services.

The Government is committed to ensuring that essential transport services are protected and supported. Services that provide vital regional and rural connections will continue to operate.

Driver Licences

 214. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if the renewal of a driver licence will be expedited due to exceptional circumstances in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28267/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan In response to the Covid-19 restrictions introduced by the Government, regulations were brought in to extend the period of validity for all driving licences that expired between 1 March and 31 August 2020 for seven months. A licence that had an expiry date of 30 June 2020 is now valid until 30 January 2021.

New driving licences have not been issued, but the official driver record will be updated to reflect the new expiry date. A driving licence can not be renewed more that 3 months before the expiry date of the licence.

  Question No. 215 answered with Question No. 213.

Aviation Policy

 216. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if his attention has been drawn to the change in Dutch aviation policy in which a maximum aircraft movement cap was introduced on Schiphol Airport; if consideration will be given to introducing such a cap on Dublin Airport as part of the planned review of national aviation policy here in view of the dominance of Dublin Airport which handles 86% of all air traffic here the second highest figure for any airport in Europe after Schiphol (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28300/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My Department’s focus is on ensuring that we have the optimum network for Ireland given the importance of international connectivity for the wellbeing of the country. That involves having a strong airport in our capital city, as well as strong airports in Cork and Shannon, complemented by the smaller regional airports. I do not accept the view that there is a question of developing one airport, either Dublin or one of the other airports around the country at the expense of another. Ireland’s airports all have their roles to play in providing connectivity to their respective areas and for their contribution to the Irish economy.

Project Ireland 2040 supports high quality International connectivity investments consistent with sectoral priorities already defined through the National Aviation Policy. Significant investment in Ireland’s airports will play a major role in safeguarding and enhancing Ireland’s international connectivity which is fundamental to our international competitiveness, trading performance and attractiveness to foreign direct investment.

The National Aviation Policy also recognises the important role of Shannon Airport in the economic and social fabric of Mid-West Region. The airport enjoys the advantage of full US Preclearance as well as the longest runway in Ireland and the ability to handle all aircraft types. These features underpin the airport’s ambitions to develop niche opportunities in aeronautical and aerospace engineering. This was integral to the aim of Government in the separation of Shannon Airport from daa and the establishment of Shannon Group in 2014.

A maximum cap of movements at Schiphol Airport was stipulated by the Alders Agreement in 2008 and later modified. It is my understanding that the objective of the Alders Agreement was to balance the development of aviation and noise reduction measures to increase the quality of the living environment in proximity to the Airport. Substantive plans for the further development of Schiphol were therefore drawn up and a balance was struck between the further growth of the sector and local quality of life and safety.

In Ireland these would potentially be considered operating restrictions which are governed by EU Regulation 598/2014 and the provision of the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019 which was enacted on 22 May 2019. The Act provides a wholly independent aircraft noise regulation process, ensuring that all future development at Dublin Airport is subject to assessment and mitigation in respect of the impact of associated aircraft movements on the noise environment around Dublin Airport. Under section 4 of the Act the competent authority has exclusive competence in relation to operating restrictions at Dublin Airport.

The aircraft noise regulation process is tied in with the planning process, which provides safeguards against any award of planning permission until such time as the proposal has been screened and then may be fully assessed in relation to aviation noise impacts. Specifically, the Act provides that all planning applications at Dublin Airport are copied to the Noise Regulator to consider if there are any noise implications that would require an assessment under EU Regulation 598/2014. The Noise Regulator is an independent unit within Fingal County Council (ANCA - Aircraft Noise Competent Authority). If the Noise Regulator determines that there are potential noise impacts then it instigates a detailed noise assessment process – in accordance with the EU Regulation – and the planning authority cannot make any final decisions until there is a regulatory determination on noise.

For the daa, this new regime applies to all future development applications at the Airport, but also any amendments it may seek to existing planning permissions. These are statutorily independent processes, which include detailed technical assessments, environmental assessments and public consultation. For the new North Runway project at Dublin Airport, daa are expected to submit a revised planning application with regard to operating restrictions in the near future.

Bus Services

 217. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if routes 51, Galway to Cork, will be maintained on the current route. [28312/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As the Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

  The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Bus Éireann. I understand from the NTA that no change is planned to the PSO subvented route 51 from Galway to Limerick to Cork.

Driver Test

 218. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan when a person (details supplied) will be allocated an appointment for a driver test. [28318/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The scheduling of candidates’ driving tests is the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority and I have no information on any individual cases.

However, my Department is remaining in close contact with the RSA as they deal with the increased demand for their driver testing service since operations resumed following its temporary closure due to the COVID emergency. In addition to this, due to the social distancing requirements, normal daily capacity is considerably reduced. This means that customers will experience longer waiting times than was the case before the service was suspended. The public’s patience and understanding in this regard is requested.

It is my understanding that those who had appointments cancelled due to Covid 19 are being prioritised in the first instance. Priority then will be given in order of application date. While there is some capacity for urgent test slots, the Road Safety Authority (RSA)'s capacity to make these available in all cases will be limited. Therefore, initially those who are frontline healthcare workers will be deemed eligible for an urgent test slot. This approach for prioritising customers will be kept under review as the RSA moves through the service resumption.

Driver Test

 219. Deputy Paul Murphy Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will consider instructing the Road Safety Authority to install sheltering facilities such as ultra cabins at driver test centres in which approved driver instructors can await the return of their vehicles which are being used by driver test candidates for the duration of the practical exam (details supplied). [28328/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct response. Please contact my office if no reply has been received within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Ports Policy

 220. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the position regarding a possible development of a free-zone at Rosslare Europort, Rosslare, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28347/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan My Department was first informed about this suggestion by Rosslare Europort in late July 2020 when the Company forwarded a short document to my Department on the development potential for available lands adjacent to Rosslare Europort which included a suggestion that a Free Zone area could be located there as well as at the port itself.

The issue is therefore at the very early stage concept as any formal proposal would have to have a comprehensive business case setting out the analysis, pros and cons, etc.

The development of a Free Zone would be a matter falling within the broad area of industrial policy and would require liaison with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in the first instance, who have responsibility for industrial policy (including the Shannon Free Zone located adjacent to Shannon Airport) as well as with the Department of Finance.

My Department is happy to continue to engage with Rosslare Europort in relation to its development of a business proposal for a free zone at Rosslare, and to assist in the examination of the issue to determine what would be involved in such designation and the benefits, if any, that would accrue from same.

Driver Licences

 221. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if an exchange agreement exists between Ireland and the UK regarding recognition of driver licences; if licences from the UK but that originated in other countries with which Ireland does not have a pre-existing agreement with the original country can be accepted here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28537/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Under EU and Irish driving licence legislation, driving licences issued by Member States are mutually recognised. An EU driving licence is exchangeable for an Irish driving licence, except where the licence issued by the other Member State was itself issued in exchange for a licence from a state that is not a Member State, or a state that Ireland does not have a licence exchange agreement with.

During the transition period of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK licence is still valid to drive in the EU and therefore no driving licence exchange agreement can be entered into nor is one needed.

After the transition period ends on 31st December 2020, the UK (including NI) driving licences will no longer be valid to drive in Ireland. Irish residents who hold a UK or NI licence are encouraged to exchange such licences for an Irish one in advance of this deadline. Legislation exists to allow for the recognition of foreign driving licences for exchange purposes in the Road Traffic Acts. After the transition period, and as the UK is a third country, the potential then exists for arrangements to be made under those Acts. Ireland will be pursuing this option.

It is expected that the licence exchange arrangements with the UK (including NI) will be in place, if required, as soon as practicable following the transition period.

Transport Costs

 222. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the estimated cost of BusConnects for the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28541/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport, and the Programme for Government - Our Shared Future prioritises plans for, among other projects, the delivery of BusConnects.

  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including BusConnects. An estimated cost for the project will be provided when the preliminary business case for the project is submitted to my Department by the NTA later this year. The preliminary business case will then be brought to Government for its approval in line with the Public Spending Code.


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