DTI Recommendations: Motion.

Wednesday, 4 November 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 156 No. 17

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Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn I move:

Whilst welcoming the recently announced investment in public transport for Dublin, Seanad Éireann deplores the slowness with which the non Luas recommendations of the Dublin Transportation Initiative are being implemented; and urges the present Minister to accelerate the process so that Dubliners do not greet the Millennium with gridlock.

I welcome the Minister and the opportunity to debate this motion. We have approximately 422 days before the new millennium. In recommending this motion to the House I do not want to mislead anyone, but it is vital to accelerate the introduction of the measures recommended by the Dublin Transportation Initiative. If we do not go on thinking like dinosaurs and behaving like snails, we can avoid gridlock taking over Dublin streets. Permanent gridlock is inevitable unless we raise the game we are playing. I hope this debate will mark a first step in realising that and doing something about it.

Even before we raise our game we must play the hand we have as well as we can. It is obvious that we are not doing so at the moment. Except for Luas little attention has been given to the overall recommendations of the DTI which were presented to us in a balanced package. The non Luas recommendations are worthwhile and [1382] deserve to be implemented with energy and enthusiasm. The large, expensive and glamorous has grabbed all the attention and the less glamorous and certainly less expensive projects have become orphans as a result.

If anybody doubts that there has been a neglect of the non Luas ideas, let me mention quality bus corridors. After all these years we have only one quality bus corridor in operation. That hardly reflects a great deal of energy or enthusiasm. I do not want to be seen as bashing the DTI but the initiative in this area was developed for a Dublin of a different era. When the DTI report came out about four or five years ago the Celtic tiger was already stalking the streets but few of us realised it then. Nobody realised the far ranging impact the Celtic tiger would have on the single most critical factor to traffic congestion — the level of car ownership.

The explosion in car ownership together with the massive growth in our exports of manufactured goods rapidly created this situation. It would be ungrateful to bash the DTI for not foreseeing this because we were all blind to it. In fact, I compliment the DTI in that most of its strategy would still do more good than harm. For the most part, it put forward good, sensible ideas which we should implement as an immediate stopgap; hence this motion calling to accelerate their implementation. As I hinted, I see it as a launch pad only. We will not solve the congestion we face by implementing the DTI proposals alone. These proposals were geared to deal with a situation which is now history.

To deal properly with today's problems and with tomorrow's, which will be much worse, we need a new approach — radical thinking firmly based on a farseeing strategy. Let me briefly explore what that strategy might be. If we stand back far enough, Dublin's congestion has two main elements — traffic and the road network to carry that traffic. Congestion happens when traffic is more than the road network can take. The growth in traffic has swamped the capacity of our network and in the future further growth in car numbers will increase that city traffic in step unless we change the name of the game in a radical way.

Let us consider how flexible is each of these two key factors. In one sense, the network is relatively inflexible. We cannot address this problem with more roads. The mantra of the 1960s and 1970s was build more roads but we have been there, done that and the scope for building more roads is very slight indeed. Flexibility in the roads system will come from using the existing network more efficiently — for example, by using more space for vehicles and less space for stopped cars.

Much of the present congestion arises because moving cars cannot use the roads properly so it is in our interest to force parked cars off the streets. The more off-street parking the better. I do not subscribe to the crazy notion that off-street parking adds to the problem. Off-street parking is part of the solution provided we use that parking to [1383] clear the streets and not only to offer more parking spaces. By far the best way to use the existing network more efficiently is by increasing the density of people moving along the streets — in other words, more people per vehicle, and I have seen efforts made to get more people into each vehicle elsewhere. At one end of the spectrum we have a private vehicle with one person in it while at the other end, a public transport vehicle with 200 people. Even allowing for the different sized vehicles, the increase in passenger density is enormous. It is obvious that switching people to public transport is the primary way available to increase the efficiency of the road network. Making that happen is the key to this problem and that is where we have gone wrong.

Before I go into that, I would like to look at the other major factor in congestion — the number of vehicles using the streets. What determines how many vehicles are in the city is how many private cars people own. The more cars, the more traffic. As the number of cars has exploded so too has the traffic and this trend will continue. Unless we change the equation, traffic will increase — although we are still below European levels of car ownership. Putting these two elements together, we get a dilemma. The main opportunity to increase capacity in the road system is by shifting people from private to public transport.

The growth in car ownership has the effect of shifting people in the other direction, that is, using their own cars instead of public transport. The more people use their own cars, the worse the congestion becomes and the less attractive public transport is as an alternative. If we are honest, we must admit that so far we have failed totally to move people from private to public transport, that nothing on the drawing board so far, including Luas, is remotely likely to cause a major shift in public transport and that our present central strategy of forcing people on to public transport by making their life as motorist hell is doomed to failure. The psychology of this is simple — if traffic is hell, people would rather endure it in their own cars than on public transport. At present, travelling by bus is as slow as by car. It is also less reliable because one does not know when the next bus will arrive. One quality bus corridor or even a cluster of corridors will not change that. If one travels by DART at busy times, there is a different type of congestion in the carriage.

The psychology is simple but it has been completely ignored in traffic planning. When people own cars, they choose to use them even if it is unpleasant. We have only to look around to see the immensity of this reality and vision is needed to find a solution to the problem. This has been lacking up to now. While our goal of moving people from private to public transport is correct, the ways we have chosen to do it will never produce the desired result. I ask the nation, the Government, the House and the city to accept my [1384] message that we cannot reach that result from this point.

However, I suggest something can be done. The problem can be solved but the medicine will be hard to take and the only question is whether we are prepared to take it. The medicine has two forms. The first is that public transport is provided which offers a radically better way of getting from A to B to a motoring public that loves its cars. The second is that it is made significantly more expensive for motorists to use their cars by making them pay for the use of city streets on a pay as you go basis. I am very brave and courageous to make that suggestion in the city of Dublin.

The two elements interact and are inseparable. The main precondition for attractive public transport is that it is fast and reliable. This can only happen if a significant amount of traffic is removed from the streets. Quality bus corridors will bring us only a tiny part of the way. A mechanism which would cut the amount of traffic overnight is essential to get public transport to a point where it is an attractive alternative. The only mechanism that will be effective is road pricing. The technology now exists to charge people for using particular streets or parts of a city. I was in Singapore in June and I saw this system for the first time. I understand it is also in operation in Hong Kong and it works. It is not an untried idea. However, until now in Ireland it has been politically taboo.

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke What do they charge?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn I do not know the exact charges but high technology is used. Gadgets in cars are monitored by radio beacons and charges are calculated. The system works but I am not certain of the exact details.

It is felt that people believe they have a God given right to drive where and when they like at no extra cost. Our entire traffic strategy is based on that assumption and we see the dreadful consequences. The political taboo on road pricing is a hoary old myth waiting to be punctured. The country is crying out for a new strategy. I am certain that people would find a strategy of road pricing in the city centre acceptable.

However, road pricing on its own is not a solution if no proper alternative to private transport is provided. If road pricing is introduced, a fast, reliable public transport service to which people can switch must be provided at the same time. Otherwise, the pricing incentive has no effect except to increase the motorist's pain. The beauty of this approach is that the two aspects complement one another. Effective road pricing frees up space for public transport to work effectively and at the same time provides money to invest in quality public transport.

More money will be needed despite the welcome investment in buses announced by the Minister at the weekend. Charging motorists for [1385] the use of roads would be a quantum leap. However, the time has come to give it some consideration. This is what the House should be debating when we talk about traffic. We should discuss road pricing, not the band aid solutions of light rail lines and quality bus corridors. I hope I am not being foolhardy in putting forward this suggestion because it is political dynamite. However, it is worthwhile opening the debate. It is a solution but it will only work if both elements are introduced in tandem. The private sector should only have to pay if there is also a good, reliable public sector transport system.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry We all agree there is a very serious traffic problem in Dublin and we all have our own methods of dealing with it. I walk to work and the Garda Síochána has taken to horses. However, others have great problems getting in and out of the city. While car owners are a serious problem, I must defend them to some extent. Some people must take their cars into town because they need them during the day to travel to work elsewhere. It is essential that the situation is improved for such people.

A major feature of the Dublin Transport Initiative is the road building programme. As Senator Quinn said, it is well under way and it appears the plan will help. However, if one listens to the AA report on the radio each morning, one would think that the Firhouse roundabout was the centre of the universe because it is mentioned at least three or four times between 7.30 a.m. and 9 a.m. The enthusiasm in that area when the road continues beyond the roundabout will be incredible.

Roads in Ireland are built at a very slow rate. There are grave difficulties because they are not built on green field sites. There are long delays with planning permission and obtaining property which may need to be demolished before the road building can go ahead. I understand that in America roads are built with modern methods at a rate of approximately four miles a day. How often in Ireland is the lowest tender considered for road building projects without the disruption that may be caused being taken into account? A low tender may not have the best technology and equipment available and, therefore, work cannot proceed at night because it does not have floodlighting. This involves a cost to the community because modern technology is not used. A great number of road works close down as soon as it becomes dark.

If one considers the speed at which the Naas dual carriageway is progressing, the amount of disruption that is being caused and the cost involved, one wonders if there could have been a quicker method of completing the project. Work on the Balbriggan and Arklow bypasses was much simpler because they involved green field sites. The roads appeared to progress very rapidly but perhaps there is a need in more congested areas to use more sophisticated contractors to do the work even if the cost is greater.

[1386] The Minister appeared puzzled when I mentioned the American experience. A colleague of mine, Professor Frances Ruane, who is Professor of Economics in Trinity College, Dublin, wanted Dublin Corporation to know that the Santa Monica highway in California was rebuilt after the earthquake faster than the corner at the junction of Fitzwilliam Street and Baggot Street was fixed. Even economists are considering this area.

The Minister announced that more money is to be invested in buses. Senator Quinn mentioned the bus lanes. The quality corridor from Lucan is now open and the Malahide corridor is due to open shortly. However, there are very few buses in the corridors.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke I will tell the Senator all about that aspect later.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I am delighted about that because I carry out a one woman survey of buses. I walk the route of the No. 10 bus from Nassau Street, up Kildare Street, down Baggot Street and around by Waterloo Road. This takes me approximately 25 minutes but I do not see any No. 10 buses. This could be at a time during the day when a bus lane is supposed to be in operation, for example, in the evening when people are going home. There must be a dreadful backlog somewhere.

If there are not buses or taxis in the lanes, hackney cabs should be allowed to use them. This matter probably involves a dispute between taxi and hackney drivers rather than anybody else, but if bus lanes occupy half the road it would be advisable that as many vehicles as possible should be allowed to use them. It is very disappointing that hackney cabs cannot use bus lanes. Taxi drivers seem to be at loggerheads with the corporation about the number of plates that should be issued, but there is room for vehicles other than buses or taxis in bus lanes.

The Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business has discussed deliveries to retail stores. A small retail store can have approximately 150 deliveries per week, which is an incredible amount of traffic through one place. Centralised distribution will reduce the seriousness of this problem but perhaps deliveries to retail stores should take place outside peak traffic times because they are causing a great deal of disruption on streets, such as Leeson Street, Baggot Street, etc. where half the road can be taken up by delivery vehicles.

The suburban rail network is to be maximised. I do not know if the Minister saw “Prime Time” last night but it was hilarious.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke I believe one of the participants on the programme is sorry he appeared.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry A film was shown of commuters coming into centre of Dublin from Castleknock in luggage cars. Those interviewed said that people fainted on occasion; it was ridiculous. CIE has [1387] said that these carriages are safe but I wonder whether that is so given the number of people who stand in them and have nothing to hold on to, unlike DART carriages.

Serious consideration must be given to improving these lines. I am aware the Minister has problems regarding finance and, apparently, all rolling stock is in use. However, it is obvious commuters would use suburban rail lines in greater numbers if there was a better system. I do not know why DART platforms have not been lengthened because, apparently, they could take more carriages if necessary.

The introduction of integrated ticketing is very important. It could be done in a flash. I have been in numerous cities where one can buy a ticket which lasts for a number of hours so that one can travel freely. Bologna is the best example. The suggestion that 100 per cent tax credit be given to those who purchase annual transport tickets is good. There is time for the Minister to suggest this before the budget.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke That would be in the Finance Bill. However, I have been thinking about this.

Dr. Henry: Information on Mary E.F. Henry Zoom on Mary E.F. Henry I have reminded the Minister. It is unsafe for children to walk to school or use cycle lanes and that must be rectified. I am able to walk around but footpaths need to be repaired to improve safety because many of them are still in a bad condition. Competitions could be held whereby people would be given lottery tickets for walking the farthest distance.

I agree with Senator Quinn that restricted parking has made a huge difference in our locality and clamping has had a miraculous effect in Baggot Street. Three cars were clamped — one near Doheny and Nesbitt's, one a little further on and one at Baggot Street bridge — and the street has been clear since. If the Minister could introduce integrated ticketing and a 100 per cent tax free allowance for annual ticket purchasers, it would be wonderful and would create more space.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following:

“notes the conclusions of the Transportation Review and Short-Term Action Plan published by the Dublin Transportation Office, supports the early implementation of its recommendations and welcomes the Government's speedy action to put in place necessary capital funding to implement the Plan.”

I welcome the opportunity to debate this issue, which has been provided through the motion tabled by the Independent group. It is timely and relevant because this subject is on the lips of most Dubliners. It is increasing in intensity and controversy not just for Dubliners but also for commuters from outside the city. Nevertheless I support [1388] the amendment despite the terrible gridlock and difficulties on the city streets and the anger and frustration felt by motorists and public transport commuters.

I heartily endorse the amendment as the only immediate, realistic short-term measure available to the Minister and the Government to tackle this rapidly escalating chaos. I concur with many of the points raised by Senators Quinn and Henry and, while my analysis is similar to Senator Quinn's and others, I have extreme difficulty with one of the crucial planks of his solution to the problem, which is a road tax for motorists. He would say that was because it would be politically unpopular but I suspect it would be blatantly unfair and it would discriminate terribly and forcefully against those who must of necessity bring their cars to work. It would be a marvellous idea if it were possible to be so discriminatory as to identify those who do not have to bring their cars and could justifiably transfer to public transfer but I fear that is not the case based on Senator Quinn's contribution.

Motorists continue to pay a huge amount of tax in terms of their contribution to the Exchequer. Figures published in last week's newspapers concur and support that fully and to impose additional taxes on motorists who already believe they are overburdened is a pill that would not be too palliative. I agree with the measures proposed by Senator Henry. Road works should be confined to off peak periods. I also suggest to the Minister, and her colleagues with more direct influence in terms of Dublin Port, that it be opened at 5 a.m. and that all commercial vehicles should be barred from city streets between 7.30 a.m. and 10 a.m. That would lead to a significant opening up of the impossible, frightening nightmare gridlock which is contributed to substantially by commercial heavy goods vehicles during peak hours in the inner city. That proposal merits immediate consideration in addition to those which have been endorsed and funded by the Minister and the Government.

I fully support the Government's commitment to the accelerated implementation of the DTO's short-term action plan as an immediate part of a co-ordinated and integrated overall DTI policy. It is the only sensible way forward to take on and address the current nightmare on our streets. I am satisfied the Minister, her colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, and the Government are fully committed to providing the necessary capital funding to implement the most important elements of the DTO plan as well as the more long-term DTI programme. I am confident that the Minister will be making announcements tonight which will back up what I am saying.

The original text of the motion called on the Government to ensure that the new quality bus corridors on approach roads to Dublin actually have buses on them. The wording suggested a quick fix solution in that if one commandeered a significant number of additional buses and put [1389] them into service, one would significantly address the problems in the short term. Perhaps I am unfairly misinterpreting that. However, it would appear from Dublin Bus and independent media surveys that that is not the case because the roads are not ready yet for the additional buses, although they will be shortly.

Although the motion and the amendment deal specifically with the Dublin traffic problem and I, as a Dublin politician and Member of this House, do not intend to diminish that, it should be remembered that gridlock is not just a recent Dublin phenomenon. It is a phenomenon which has been occurred increasingly all over the country in recent times. In fact, there are tailbacks and bumper to bumper problems in nearly every city and town and, in some cases, village around the country. That is not a palliative for us Dubliners but at least it helps to put the matter in perspective.

The growth in traffic, which is the fundamental point, associated with strong economic growth and development as well as the phenomenal growth in the population are giving rise to this massive congestion problem. The problem is particularly acute in Dublin where traffic volumes are now at levels originally projected for the year 2001 and way beyond. In the case of the morning peak, I am reliably informed that demand for travel in Dublin is now close to the levels projected for 2011. The inevitable consequence of this increase has caused the present traffic nightmare.

There is no easy solution, particularly in Dublin. All experts agree that the centre of Dublin is guarded by the canals, whose bridges dictate to a huge extent the volume of vehicles which can gain access to the city. On the main radial routes into the town vehicular traffic consisting of cars in the main has grown by up to 30 per cent in just over three years but increased access over the past 20 years has been as little as 2 to 3 per cent. That is a frightening disparity. This inevitably leads us to the conclusion that the only realistic approach in the short term is the accelerated implementation of the DTO's short-term action plan, namely, involving the bus project and the suburban rail, including the DART, project.

I am delighted to welcome the commitment from the Minister and the Government to provide the necessary funds immediately — even the reallocation of funds from the Luas — for the bus project, suburban rail and the DART improvements and extensions. No doubt when all these improvements come on stream by the year 2000 and the quality bus corridors, on which I did not have an opportunity to comment in detail but with which I am familiar from my local authority work, come on stream, a significant enhancement of the delivery of public service transport will be seen in Dublin. As a result, no doubt there will be a significant increase in the numbers of people transferring from private cars to a higher quality public service.

[1390]Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke I thank Senator Quinn and Senator Henry for proposing and seconding the motion and for giving me the opportunity to come here this evening. As I have told you before, a Chathaoirligh, I always like coming to the Seanad. I began my political career here and I was glad to do so.

The debate was good. I applaud Senator Quinn for his courage in talking about road pricing. It did not form part of the motion so I know it was his idea. It certainly would be an innovative way of looking at the matter. The House will understand that I do not mind talking about roads but roads are not my brief. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, has developed his own strategy and we will work this together. However, due to the nature of the debate I will be talking about roads as well as public transport.

We are talking here about road pricing and we are working in the centre of Dublin but are we being hypocritical when we know we have free parking forever in the centre of Dublin? We talk with vicarious pleasure about those who are clamped every day. I saw four cars clamped behind the Setanta Centre this evening and they will not be on the street again for a while because £65 is a pretty hefty fine. However, the measure is working.

The area at Baggot Street Bridge close to where Senator Henry lives, has been freed up because the clampers have done their work and the illegal car parkers have gone. As the Senators were speaking and I was thinking about it, I thought of us driving — although Senator Henry walks here and sometimes I do too — to the Houses and parking our cars for nothing forever. It bears thinking about.

We want to get people out of cars and into public transport but there will be much pain in the form of clamping, etc., before that transfer takes place. Initially when I saw the motion, which made reference to bus corridors and not buses on them, I had a good giggle because that was the situation. Every Tuesday when we sit about the Cabinet table my colleagues tell me that there are no buses on the bus lanes and I have warned my colleagues that they cannot drive on a bus corridor because that is a sin which will not be entertained. We have taken steps to that end but, of course, I am not supposed to say all this until the Estimates are announced on Wednesday. As the House will be aware, we received 50 buses from the decommitted Luas, along with other things to which I will refer and the DTI study recommended another 100 buses and so they will be supplied. That will amount to another 150 buses.

The quality bus corridors must keep pace with that. There is only one operational at present and another one is nearly ready. Senator Henry spoke about them. The corridor to Lucan is finished and working; the Malahide corridor is almost ready. Senator Quinn referred to the delay in implementing this measure. Members of the local [1391] authorities will know that the bus corridors are delayed because people have put forward objections. These people must be listened to and brought along. We just cannot implement this measure without going through due process. I too sigh every so often because this is taking so long. Now I fear that if the quality bus corridors are not in place, all these new buses will be clogging the ordinary streets so one's last day will be worse than one's first. The announcement next week of the 150 new buses will mean that there must be an almighty push with the quality bus corridors so that the two can come on stream in tandem.

The Senator stated that we needed tough measures and I agree. There will be other measures as well as clamping. I do not know about road pricing but I will certainly convey what the Deputy said to my colleague, Deputy Dempsey. Senator Henry defended the use of cars because some people must use them. We cannot just strip the city of cars, but their use must be measured.

Road building is slow. At present work is being done at night but that is to lay telecommunications infrastructures all over the city.

Tax credits for season ticket holders is a good idea. I have been thinking about it but I have not conveyed my thoughts yet to anybody because the Finance Bill is some way off.

Senator Fitzgerald made a comprehensive contribution. Obviously his knowledge of what his local authority is doing has come to the fore. He considered road pricing unfair but he also said that gridlock is unfair. It is unfair. It is interesting to see so many cars with only one occupant. I am at fault in this regard also.

I talked to the British Transport Secretary, John Prescott, about this at a meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers. In the English city of Leicester a copy of an American system of road management has been introduced. Under this system a car with five occupants uses the fastest lane, a car with four occupants uses the less speedy lane, a car with three occupants uses the next slow lane and so on. The system is a copy of an American experiment and Mr. Prescott was not sure it was working effectively. It is extremely complicated to operate.

Everybody wants to get other people out of their cars but nobody wants to get out of their own car. It is that type of debate. There should be a place, but not a dominant place, for the car in the transport system. There has been progress with road construction. The northern section of the motorway C ring has been completed and work is now in progress on the Southern Cross route. More than 60 kilometres of cycle track have been built and there has been significant investment in traffic cells and traffic calming measures.

The DART extensions to Greystones and Malahide are under construction and will open early next year. More recently, the director of traffic has introduced wheel clamping and an [1392] improved towaway service. Operation Freeflow has been a success and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform told me he will reintroduce the annual, more strictly enforced operation on 1 December. The public hearings process for Luas has commenced and Judge O'Leary is currently taking depositions.

Members are aware of the important statistics which contribute to the transport problem. The population has increased dramatically as has employment. Car ownership has increased drastically while passenger traffic in Dublin Airport has also increased. These statistics allow us to congratulate ourselves on how well the economy is doing but the other side of that economic success is that peak hour traffic grew by 36 per cent between 1991 and 1997.

The Senator referred to the lengthening of platforms. The short-term action plan recommended a range of measures which include the upgrading of the Maynooth to Clonsilla line, improved DART signalling and the lengthening of station platforms. These will be done between 1999 and 2000 with the decommitted Luas money which must be used in that period. The action plan also recommended the purchase of additional DART and suburban rail rolling stock, bringing the total on order to 26 DART units and 47 suburban rail cars.

All but one of the rail measures proposed in the action plan were included in the reallocation of the Luas funding and they will be put in place by the end of 2000. This involves a total investment of £63 million. Since the European funding for transport first came on stream in 1994, the EU contributed 65 per cent of it while CIE contributed 35 per cent from its resources. In 1999 and 2000, the Government will pay the CIE share of the funding. It is a huge change of policy which I will detail next week when the Estimates are released. I hope it will free CIE to invest money in response to the safety report recommendations, which I hope to discuss in the House next week.

Bus Átha Cliath is to acquire 50 additional buses and I expect to be able to make an announcement shortly on funding for another 100 buses. They will provide 9,500 bus trips in the peak hour. Hopefully, people will use the buses and the bus lanes will be free. They will be new, smart buses because that is what is needed. The action plan made proposals which Bus Átha Cliath itself could act upon. The company is committed to replacing its old stock with 120 new buses. Over the next two years every bus will be a new bus. That is an achievement, particularly when one considers the problems caused by the noxious fumes emitted by older types of transport. Dublin Bus is still in negotiations with its unions about subcontracting school bus services and this would release another 60 buses to meet peak demand.

Public hearings on the light rail system have commenced. Today I established a light rail advisory action group which will oversee planning and implementation of the expanded Luas system. [1393] The group is chaired by Padraic White and its members include Donal Mangan, Tom Wall of ICTU, Gerry Duggan of ESB International, Caroline Gill, the Insurance Ombudsman, Oliver O'Connor and Pat Mangan, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Public Enterprise.

“Gridlock” is a frequently used word to describe traffic in Dublin and other cities. When I was in Cork during the by-election campaign I travelled on the park and ride facility. The man in charge said that because of my presence he would give everybody else on the bus a free ticket. I did not know what to make of that or whether I would be accused of electioneering. I did not ask him to say it. In any case, we did not win the election. The facility is on the north side of the city and it works extremely well. Two more more park and ride facilities will be introduced for Christmas, one at Whitehall and one at Finglas. Passengers can park their cars and get the bus into the city to do their shopping.

In Cork I met the unions and management involved in Cork transport. They are extremely dedicated and committed to working the system. Their last plan was successful and they are currently working on a new plan which they will bring to me shortly. Other cities, such as Waterford and Limerick, are involved in similar work.

If we can survive the pain of the change and implement these measures it will be worthwhile. The 150 new buses will come on stream at a rate of a certain number per month. Obviously the order must be placed next week and buses cannot simply be taken off a shelf. They must be manufactured. I look forward to seeing these buses being used by the public on the quality bus corridors. Hopefully, the many bright new buses packed with fare paying passengers will help the transport situation.

People will not leave their cars unless they are sure of getting a bus or the DART or the Luas when it is available. They will decide to struggle on in the car and to get up an hour earlier each morning. As time passes they get up progressively earlier each morning to get into the city before everybody else. However, everybody else is getting up earlier too, which results in a cycle of reactions to beat the clock.

I appreciate Senator Quinn altering the wording of the motion. I had a good giggle when I read it because it was what I was hearing every Tuesday at the Cabinet table. Ministers saw bus corridors with nothing on them. I thank the Senator for altering the motion to render it a little smoother. However, I accept his point. I will see what comes of the Senator's road pricing suggestion. The availability of an alternative to road transport is clearly our objective.

Next year there will be an increase in bus traffic in the major cities due to the increased allocation of buses provided by the Government. The decommitted Luas funding will secure the upgrading of the Maynooth to Clonsilla line, the lengthening of the station platforms, the provision of more DART and suburban rail carriages [1394] and the opening of the new DART stations at Greystones and Malahide. These developments will make a difference.

I am aware of Senator Ridge's interest in the railway station in Adamstown. A group of concerned commuters approached me in connection with the opening of the railway station at Adamstown and I informed them that Senator Ridge raised the matter in the Seanad.

Luckily we are getting this provision for next year but it will only keep pace with the increased usage of the roads. An old city such as Dublin with many narrow streets was not constructed to cope with the present volume of people, cars and buses. All parties agree that more public transport is needed.

Mr. Ryan: The train service is getting worse.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke I hope the Senator made a complaint to Iarnród Éireann. Members blithely park their cars every day in the Leinster House car park free of charge so measures to keep cars off the roads might also apply to ourselves.

Mrs. Ridge: Information on Therese Ridge Zoom on Therese Ridge The Minister referred to the fact that Dublin is a very old city with narrow streets. Poor old Molly Malone would not be able to wheel her wheel barrow through streets broad and narrow because there would be no room for her. I do not take the Bernie Malone stance that Dublin is my city; it is not owned by anyone. Unfortunately we are all affected by this escalating traffic problem. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob, is weary, as we all are, of having to leave home two hours earlier than is necessary to reach our destinations. I had a terrible experience recently trying to get to Blackrock. I thought I would be clever and travel through the suburbs. My appointment was for 8.30 and I arrived at 9.30 having left home at 7.30. That taught me a lesson to stay on the main routes in future.

We are discussing the provision of public transport, in particular buses, bus lanes and the lack of buses for the bus lanes. I was pleased to hear the Minister announce the provision of an extra 150 buses. This number was not certain until today. She mentioned that 150 buses are not acquired in the same way as the weekly shopping. My information is that the buses will be introduced at the rate of ten per month. I am not sure that the year 2000 is a realistic timescale for the introduction of 12 bus lanes given that it has taken five years to introduce one bus lane. Consultations with residents and traders should have taken place before the plans were adopted.

It is acknowledged that the Irish motor industry has been very successful in the sale of new cars. Yesterday a spokesman for the industry said that they had expected a decrease in sales. However, the figures have increased and this is a great tribute to past and present Governments. As a young person I believed I would never own a car. Now I find the desire to own a car being [1395] rapidly replaced by the desire to access public transport. Driving is no longer pleasant unless one is lucky enough to come from a rural area and travel on the by-passes being constructed around the country. Driving in Dublin is horrendous. Last week the Evening Herald newspaper reported that the Dublin city marathon was run in approximately two hours 20 minutes. An ordinary car drove the same route and I do not need to tell Senators who came first. I appreciate we are not all runners but something is terribly wrong when a car takes as long as a runner to reach its destination.

I am a member of the steering committee of the DTO. The action plan for the DTO made these suggestions. I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that no one foresaw the present increase in car ownership. We must all share some of the blame in this regard. Some families with young adults living at home now have four cars where at one time there was one car, usually a second-hand banger. I attended a transport conference in Italy recently and they have small electric-powered environmentally friendly two-seater cars. They even have single-seater cars that are no wider than a narrow motorcycle. They can travel at 40 m.p.h. and take up no more space than the width of bicycle handlebars. It is not a Rolls Royce but there is room to carry shopping or a briefcase. This type of transport should be looked at.

Dublin Bus needs more money to replace its fleet. However, this will take a long time to achieve. In 1986 Dublin Bus was allocated £15.5 million and this year it was allocated only £7 million. I do not think the Minister is being realistic about improving the service while leaving Dublin Bus to raise its own finances. That is not a realistic approach to ensuring a quality bus service.

Sometimes I long not to be in a car. There are days when you see a walker, whom you passed half an hour earlier, arriving before you. All the initiatives should be considered. No one wants to travel on buses and trains which are in such a poor state of repair. Senator Henry described a television programme where the commuters from Castleknock were herded into a luggage van. They travel like that regularly. There is no point waiting for a bus if you are midway between the outer suburbs and the city because it will be full by the time it arrives. You will stay in your car, suffer the gridlock and the fumes and spend up to an hour looking for a parking space. We are lucky that we have parking spaces here. We are all of the opinion that this problem must be solved. There is no point in apportioning blame but Dublin Bus is not well enough funded to do the job we ask it to do.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an méid atá ráite ag an Aire agus molaim é as ucht an iarracht dhíchealleach atá a déanamh acu chun an ábhair seo a chur i bhfeabhas.

[1396] D'fhág mé mo theach cónaithe ar maidin ar fiche nóiméad chun a hocht agus shroich mé an ostán nua, Ostán Westpark, ar Bhóthar Nás na Rí amach timpeall deich nóiméad tar éis a naoi i ndiaidh 80 míle a thaisteal in uair go leith. Bhí ocht míle le taisteal agam go dtí Teach Laighean ach níor shroich mé í go dtí cúig nóiméad chun a deich, 45 noiméad tar éis sin. Ní bheadh éinne sásta leis sin.

The Minister should be complimented on taking the initiative. In my opinion she has taken control of a situation which should have been taken more seriously 20 years ago. When you travel 80 miles in an hour and a half and then spend three quarters of an hour travelling eight miles, it defeats the purpose of the huge investment in improving the road infrastructure throughout the State. Upgrading roads to motorway and dual carriageway standard is meaningless if there is then a bottleneck in Dublin.

There is much to be done in this regard. There is no single solution. This report lays out a framework and if pursued with commitment it will improve the situation over time. The quality of the bus corridors has been outlined by a number of speakers. There is a need for such corridors and everyone welcomes the significant investment which is to be made in rolling stock in buses. The Minister understated the improvement which is likely to take place. There are to be 110 new buses immediately, 50 of which are funded by the Minister, and a further 100 will follow after that, a total of 210 buses. Obviously that is overdue.

Investment in suburban rail is also long overdue. One hopes that Bus Átha Cliath and Iarnród Éireann will rise to the challenge. While I was travelling this morning I listened to “Morning Ireland” and one caller complained about delays at a station where a train scheduled to leave at 8.04 a.m. consistently over the last two months left up to 40 minutes late. A service will not attract customers without quality. I have raised this before but I have a fear that, given the past performance of CIE, Iarnród Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath, one could not be overcome with a great degree of confidence in their ability to deliver the quality of service essential to change people's habits.

Senator Quinn outlined the necessity of the change from driving our own cars to using public transport. There are ways to do this, including, as he mentioned, introducing disincentives for people to use their cars. In tandem with any initiative taken must be a proper, efficient and upgraded public transport system upon which people can rely. Anyone trying to get to work cannot afford to hang around at bus stops or train stations for 30 minutes past the time the vehicle is due to arrive.

There is a need for a change in the culture of public transport management if improvement is to be achieved. I would like to see competition. That is the yardstick and motivation for quality improvement in any service. How that is to be achieved I do not know, but generating some [1397] element of competition into the Dublin transport system would be desirable and would provide a means to improve the existing system.

The statistics are startling. Public transport accounts for 50 per cent of the people transported in Dublin — a surprising level — but buses only account for 3 per cent of the vehicles on the street. Cars account for 30 per cent of vehicles but a much lower ratio of the people travelling. The shift will require imaginative and innovative implementation.

I do not disagree that people should pay for the miles travelled. That would discourage people from using their cars. I have, however, sympathy with the remarks made by Senator Fitzgerald. The motorist in this State is heavily taxed. One of the benefits many people expected from our membership of the European Union was the harmonisation of motor taxation. The vehicle registration tax overcame the Exchequer's difficulties with losing the revenue but did nothing to assist the motorist to find a more economic mode of transport. If we are trying to reduce the number of miles driven, reducing tax might fly in the face of that but could be effective if the disincentive mentioned by Senator Quinn were introduced in tandem. It could be coupled with adjustments elsewhere in motor taxation. The take from the motorist could be reduced in one area and then the person who decides to use public transport could be rewarded.

The increased number of taxis in Dublin is to be welcomed. If you travel to other countries you are often impressed by the quality of the taxis. They are clean and in good condition. It is hard to say the same of the Dublin taxis. I drove behind one today, and although my own car was filthy and I was in no position to criticise, his car was at least as bad as mine. If you are selling a service and trying to attract people, presentation is important. Many cities have very distinctive taxis. It would assist the process if an initiative was taken so that we have distinctive taxis which are well maintained, well presented, efficient and provide a better service than at present. The number of taxis is the problem and some liberalisation is required.

Some 5 per cent of people travel by bicycle. This is a fairly significant figure and higher than I anticipated. Dublin is a fairly level city like much of Holland. If we adopted the same propensity as the Dutch it would encourage many people to use bicycles. People are health conscious and cycling would enable them to get around the city more speedily. Much infrastructural investment is required. A start has been made which must now be accelerated. I compliment the Minister on the initiatives she has taken.

Mr. Ryan: As a mere citizen of Cork I probably should not be involved in this debate. However, as I have criticised colleagues for turning the House into a greater Dublin county council by regularly complaining about the traffic, I should at least participate in the debate.

[1398] There are short term details and fundamental questions involved in the issue of transport. It is a profound issue in terms of the environment. Transport emissions are contributing to global warming, as is becoming more evident by storms which are causing damage on an unimagined scale. Because transport is the cause of so much greenhouse emissions, I am glad that, for the first time in ten years, the rigid ideology of the Department of Finance has been got at and the State is funding some of the cost of the new buses and rolling stock for Bus Éireann.

Like every other public service, public transport should be run to the same standards as those adopted by providers of other customer related services, such as those provided by Senator Quinn. There are enormous external issues involved in private transport which make it appear cheap and make public transport appear expensive because the State has to provide the subsidy. We have the least subsidised public transport system in Europe. We will not get a good public transport system until we move away from the ideological fixation which demands that it should come close to paying for itself, and the use of criteria which do not include the contribution made by public transport to environmental and social quality.

I have no problem with charging for road usage, increasing the price of hydrocarbon fuels or redistributing excise duties on cars in favour of those which are more environmentally acceptable. I have no problem with any scheme of incentives which encourage people to use public transport. However, we must accept that no country has succeeded in running a good public transport system which is not heavily subsidised.

I travelled around poor, impoverished Lisbon last week on a daily ticket which cost £1. This allowed me to travel as often as I wished on the quite extensive and growing metro in that impoverished city. The £1 fee is nothing like the commercial cost. The benefit of the system is a considerably reduced level of traffic in Lisbon. It also benefits the significant proportion of the population which cannot afford a car and who hopefully, as affluence grows, will be discouraged from using cars by the availability of a very good public transport system. Unfortunately, we have to catch up with such a system but we will not do so if we only respond by occasional measures. We have to accept that public transport is a public good which needs to be provided for from public moneys.

In many cases, the fact that transport systems are publicly owned has become an excuse for complacency on the part of management and staff. We need very rigid criteria for efficiency, performance and customer service. Senator Quill may confirm that we have not got such standards yet. What is supposed to be the country's premier train service between Cork and Dublin is going backwards. It is inevitable that this will happen as the average age of the locomotives is 23 years and the average age of rolling stock is 13 years. These [1399] vehicles get old like the rest of us and break down more often just as we do. There is no way around this problem unless money is invested. It is not long since we had a school of economics which wanted to close all railways. We must be wary of those who look at limited perspectives.

There are a number of shorter term issues which I am not sure we are yet addressing. Between July and September, the traffic situation deteriorated spectacularly in the part of Cork in which Senator Quill and I live. Delays increased by up to 40 per cent. This continued for six weeks until continuing protests led to Garda intervention. I do not blame the Garda as they can only take such measures when told to do so. The situation has now returned to something approaching order.

There is a difference between gridlock and traffic which moves excessively slowly. Gridlock is caused by those who insist on driving across junctions for which they are not penalised. It is also caused by people who park vehicles in such a way as to close a traffic lane. It is caused by people who decide that in principle they are in favour of measures to improve the situation, but their business is so important that no one will mind if they leave their hazard lights flashing, even though they have blocked an entire lane of traffic.

One lane of MacCurtain Street in Cork is permanently blocked. In spite of the vigilance of a garda and a traffic warden, it is blocked for half the clearway period. We have to enforce existing regulations. This will not solve the problem. Having driven into Dublin during the rush hour, I know that the reason traffic stops is because people block junctions, entrances and exits.

Car ownership rates in Dublin are now 20 per cent higher than was forecast for three years' time. Dublin port is handling twice as much traffic as forecast for three years time. I am very enthusiastic about the middle and long-term plans, but we must regulate the situation which now exists. This means providing extra funding to ensure that there are more traffic police available to enforce the law and to ensure that people observe the rules. John Maynard Keynes said that in the long term we will all be dead. We might be dead sooner because of the traffic. We need to invest resources to regulate the existing traffic. As was shown in Cork, this can make an enormous difference but it costs money and personnel. We will have to spend the money to make an unsatisfactory situation a little less unpleasant.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill I am glad to have the opportunity to take part in this debate and I commend Senator Quinn for introducing this subject. I enjoyed listening to his elegantly crafted presentation at the outset of the debate. I beg his forgiveness if I seek to broaden the debate and speak about public transport issues in general terms. The problems he raised in regard to Dublin are experienced in every other city in this [1400] country, the only difference being the degree and scale of the problem.

The Government must seek to confront and surmount the challenge of providing a proper public transport system. Unless that happens, excessive motor car use and all its associated problems will persist. It has been said time and again that people will not make the switch from private cars to public transport unless they can be guaranteed a reliable, clean and efficient service. If we can provide that kind of transport, we can justifiably go to the motorists and present them with an alternative. We will then be justified in introducing any system of incentive or disincentive to take the huge numbers of private cars off our city streets. Unless and until a viable alternative is available, we cannot do that.

I have a great grá for railways and great respect for the Victorians who gave us such a fine network of rail lines and architecturally wondrous railway station buildings. One of the major mistakes made since we gained independence was the closure of many branch rail lines. Sleepers were taken up and clever farmers extended their fields over what were once railway tracks. We should have had the vision to keep the railway network intact and left the possibility for a future generation with a different view on public transport to reopen the lines.

With a few exceptions, principally on the intercity services, our public transport system has the neglected look of a Third World country. People regard the Irish as a clever and intelligent people, yet they see our failure to implement and maintain a public transport system which keeps apace with developments in every other arm of the public service. Telecom and other public bodies have improved their services, yet CIE and Bus Éireann seem to be stuck in a groove, gridlocked in their own minds.

I travelled to Cork last Friday week to attend the by-election. I had a quick cup of coffee in Buswells prior to getting my taxi to the station. I had intended to have my breakfast on the train but half an hour after boarding, it was announced there was no dining car service on the train due to a shortage of staff. In a country with approximately 9 per cent unemployment, this was unbelievable. Passengers, tourists among them, were filled with puzzlement. That was bad management. A casual approach seems to have built up in regard to the transport system which I wish we could break free of.

Not alone do we require massive new investment, we also require a change of attitude. We need to put in place a quality service which is consumer-driven so that it will become smart and civic minded to travel by bus and train. People could be proud to travel on clean and efficient public transport. There must be a change in attitude on the part of the providers of public transport, as well as on the part of commuters.

During school mid-term breaks I visited many cities which had fantastic tram services, cities whose GDP would only be a fraction of ours. The [1401] various elements of public transport were linked together and it was possible to purchase a ticket at one's hotel or at a shop which took one from the tram to the underground and so on. Because the service was efficient, people used it and the streets were not clogged with gridlocked traffic and polluted with car exhaust emissions. There was a definite quality of life. I am putting that idea forward not just as an aspiration but as a challenge which we, as a country, have the capacity to grasp.

Putting a bus corridor here and there will not change anything. There must be radical investment in the provision of proper public transport and a change in attitude. In recent years in Cork, a park and ride system was introduced at Christmas to prevent our city centre streets from becoming clogged. Parking space is provided at the entrance to the city in the west and a bus picks up passengers and transports them around the city for a standard fare of one pound, less than it costs to park a car for a couple of hours in the city. That demonstrates that if a service is satisfactory and efficient, people will use it.

Mr. O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I congratulate Senator Quinn on tabling this motion. Although I welcome the announcement of increased investment in public transport, the Minister's speech was inadequate in many ways. There is no new thinking on transport policy, nor is there reference to using modern methods of communication to help people work at home. Thousands of people clog up the motorways and public transport system every day of the week travelling to work in Dublin, Cork and other cities. Many of those people could work at home as the first thing most of them do on reaching the workplace is switch on their computer. Modern technology and communications allow people to work from their homes and thousands could be working from remote locations. The Government has not addressed the matter in the debate. There should be a very practical, realistic, pragmatic policy to encourage people to work at home, with tax incentives for companies to get employees to work from home. There should be a dynamic within the Civil Service to encourage people to work at home through the use of modern technology and communication. They would be very happy to do so and our roads would have far fewer people on them.

Another area where the Government is lacking input is in getting people to work flexi-time in their workplaces. The biggest problem is peak traffic hours, but these could be staggered if the time people come and go from work was staggered. In private enterprise there is much staggering of work times and there may well be examples of it in the Civil Service. However, I have personal experience of one tax office which closes at lunch hour. I would like to see much more dynamic action in the Civil Service in terms of flexi-time, with people coming to work early in the morning and working late in the evening. This is what is required to break the gridlock. Gridlock [1402] exists because everybody wants to get to work at 9 o'clock and get home at 5. 30 p.m. or 6 o'clock.

The Government's policy towards investment in the regions is inadequate. There is no policy of radical investment in the regions and to stop Dublin growing day after day, week after week, month after month. We must spread our investments in industry and business and bring investment away from the Dublin region which can take no more people. It cannot house those on the housing list and people cannot buy houses privately in the city. The Government must encourage investment by companies in counties outside Dublin. Counties such as Louth would be very happy to welcome such investment. Five hundred new jobs in Dublin city means 500 more people clogging up the motorways. However, there will not be the same impact on public transport and the motorways will not be clogged if the jobs are located in Drogheda, Dundalk, Mullingar, Athlone, Donegal, Tralee, etc.

There are clear directions in which the Government has not yet moved. It is time the Government got its act together and examined other ways of ending traffic jams and gridlocks. Throwing money into Dublin is part of the answer but it is not the only answer.

People are shifting their method of transport from private cars to railways. I wish to acknowledge in particular the commitment of Iarnród Éireann to changing things. It can only work with the tools it has and the money it is given. I know the people in Iarnród Éireann are honourable and forward thinking. However, the reality is that hundreds of people are standing on trains from Pearse Street to Balbriggan every day of the week as there is nowhere for them to sit. I wonder why this is happening. I welcome the fact the Minister is putting more money into rail transport, but the reality is that people are shifting everyday from private cars to public transport which is totally inadequate and downright dangerous. If a train travelling from Drogheda to Dublin has an accident hundreds of people will be killed as an alarming number of passengers stand all the way.

Trains are delayed at mainline stations because people are being packed into them. We may not like this but it is the reality. People can go and see this for themselves. There is no point in being an armchair politician. The situation must change immediately. I welcome the increased investment in rolling stock. People from my town who are coming to meet me tonight will spend over two hours on the road because traffic is chaotic.

I welcome the commitment of the Government to park and ride facilities at locations outside the city. It makes sense to have 1,000 cars stopping, for example, at Whitehall with people using the quality bus corridor to get to the city. This makes sense and is good and positive. However, the backlog every morning from Murtagh's pub in Lusk on the main Dublin-Belfast road right into Swords is not positive. It is absolute madness that every week morning there is gridlock from 7.30 a.m. and that must change. The Government [1403] must do its homework properly. While I welcome the improvements, the public is very unhappy and they want change now.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy I support the amendment which notes the conclusions of the transportation review and short term action plan published by the Dublin Transportation Office, supports the early implementation of its recommendations and welcomes the Government's speedy action to put in place necessary capital funding to implement the plan. I also welcome Senator Quinn's thrust in bringing this before the House. It is timely that we are discussing the motion prior to the budget.

I wish to make a few short constructive comments. I welcome the news from the Minister that 150 new buses will be in place in Dublin in a very short time and that 60 new buses have been ordered by Dublin Bus. I also note that the rail safety report was published in recent days. It is my intention to have statements and a debate on this report within the next ten days. It is something which must be discussed and on which we can make an enormous amount of progress.

For 11 years I was the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on transport, energy and communications in the Seanad and I have done an enormous amount of research, particularly in Europe. I was most impressed by the French rail system which is reliable, comfortable and safe. This is what we are all looking for in an alternative means of transport. As many speakers have said, much can be achieved on the roads through the great progress which has been made by the National Roads Authority and the investment made by former Taoisigh — I recall former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, returning with £8 billion from Edinburgh. Those responsible for bringing in the money we have received from the EU are to be congratulated.

For well over 14 years I travelled 60,000 miles per year as part of my livelihood and I know what the roads were like through the years. I do not need anybody to lecture me on this matter as I know exactly what I am talking about. However, I have also been to 27 countries and have seen how they have coped. In many countries people have to wait quite a bit longer than we do to get to work in their capital cities. It is not good enough, but it is happening in countries which are supposed to be prosperous and which have had civilisation, education and independence for centuries.

The big problem created by the Celtic tiger is the enormous increase in transportation. There has been an increase of 6 per cent per annum in the purchase and ownership of vehicles over the past seven years, resulting in 50 per cent more vehicles on the roads in a short period.

I commute between Dublin and Castlepollard every day. In Boston there is a system where, in the morning, three lanes of four lane roads are used by traffic going to the city with one lane being used by traffic leaving the city. In the afternoon [1404] three lanes are used for traffic leaving the city and one for traffic going in. I have costed this bollard system and the wages of fewer than ten people could pay for it. Workers in teams of two could change these bollards in an hour on all major routes into the city. If this was implemented on a pilot basis from now until Christmas it could transform every city in Ireland. There is not that much traffic using the roads in and out of our cities, but management of that traffic does not seem to exist.

Another option is the San Diego system, where three road lanes are used. The inside lane is the slow lane and is for cars with one passenger. The middle lane is for cars with two passengers and cars move slightly faster. The fast lane is the outside one, but one needs more than two passengers to use it. That system is reversed in the evening. There is no traffic gridlock in San Diego although there are more people living there than in Dublin.

Let us have some common sense. We do not have money to throw around just because of the Celtic tiger. We should be reducing the national debt and looking after the underprivileged. All of us who have cars are slightly privileged. We do not need to send people to other cities to see how they deal with their traffic. A common sense approach should be applied immediately. I ask the Minister of State to ask the Minister for Public Enterprise to discuss with our city authorities the possibility of introducing this scheme.

I welcome the thrust of this motion. We will have statements on rail safety soon, and we can discuss what can be done for the Mullingar-Sligo and Mullingar-Westport lines, which are in urgent need of upgrading. We must spend our money on the rail lines and work on the roads in the long term.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I compliment Senator Quinn on this motion. It is a timely debate as Dublin is paralysed for considerable periods every day by traffic chaos. This sours people's minds, damages their health and undermines business. The nation cannot afford it and it is hindering the development of the city of Dublin. Dublin City Council discussed this matter last Monday and concluded that the Minister for Public Enterprise and the National Roads Authority had far more authority and power to deal with Dublin's traffic than the councillors or Dublin Corporation itself.

It has been said that we have brought in quality bus corridors but that we do not have buses for them.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy There are now.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello It is a bit like asking how the figs are put into the fig roll. The work Dublin Corporation is doing is very desirable, and the Minister's speech was excellent. The Dublin Transport Initiative and Dublin Transportation Office are also doing good work. The transportation review and the short-term action plan cannot be faulted. However, the problem is not going to lessen and [1405] the millennium will be well upon us before we are likely to see any change.

Dublin Corporation is desperately trying to do something about traffic in as far as it can within its remit. It has put in two quality bus corridors and there will be ten in all——

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn There is one.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello There are two, one on the Navan Road and one on the Malahide Road.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn Malahide Road is not open yet.

Mr. Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello It is functioning, though it is not finished. One might say the Navan Road is not finished either, but it is open. The problem is that it has been impossible to create a model by taking one quality bus corridor, and, through trial and error, determine the best way of dealing with the situation. The quality bus corridor on the Navan Road, for example, has reduced the laneways. It is now more difficult for commuter traffic to come in and there is a bigger pile up all the way out to Blanchardstown. People are finding it impossible to get out of neighbouring estates and onto the road, and there will be more road rage in the future. Dublin Corporation is doing this with the intention of providing better public transport, but it needs buses urgently. I am glad the Minister is going to provide buses, as they are badly needed, but that is just one area.

We have introduced clamping and towing of vehicles in the city centre, which are proving tremendously effective. There are some hiccups in city centre areas where there are a lot of hotels and guesthouses, as no doubt Senator Cassidy will be aware. People having breakfast at 8 a.m. on Saturday can find that their car has disappeared from in front of their guesthouse because clamping begins at 7 a.m. The service has eased progress through the heart of the city. Cycle lanes are being introduced and we are also grasping the nettle regarding the taxi issue. A huge number of new hackney licences have been given out, and, as was announced on the news yesterday, 300 more taxi licences will be given out this year, with 300 more to be given out in the next three years.

Dublin Corporation has done all of this to clear the clogged streets, but it has no power to determine the full package of proposals and has no authority over the Luas project. That is dealt with by ministerial order, the Minister deals with the matter. The corporation has no authority over the port tunnels projects either, so these matters are out of the hands of the elected city councillors and the city manager, who have direct responsibility for the running of the city. We urgently need to complete the eastern by-pass on the south side as there is little sense in having a port relief tunnel if we have not dealt adequately with traffic beyond that. We must continue this by-pass to the south side and finish the C ring around Dublin so that it becomes a D ring. There are no plans for [1406] that so it is not likely to take place, though we on the city council want to initiate it.

We also need a Liffey tunnel from Heuston Station to the port. Traffic coming into the port from Whitehall and the Swords road should be allowed quick access to the south and west of the city. That traffic could pick up the motorway by Heuston and head for the Chapelizod by-pass. These areas must be addressed.

We should also have authority to regulate the city's activities. The city is a huge buzzing area with 1.25 million people living here. There are vast members of people coming in to schools, offices, industries and businesses in the city. Why should we not have the authority to stagger that huge mass of people who arrive at the same time every morning? Everything in Dublin starts at 9 a.m. or 9.30 a.m. — nothing starts at 8 a.m., 8.30 a.m. or 10 a.m. Anyone driving in the city last week when the schools were on holidays would have noticed how easy it was to get through the city.

No matter how welcome the plans are, we will not have the necessary infrastructure — the Luas, the port tunnel or the quality bus corridors — ready in the short term. We need a full package to manage the existing situation. There is no reason we cannot manage it more effectively. I do not see why the schools could not be given a choice between starting at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. or why businesses could not be given a choice of starting between 8.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. There is no reason we could not decide that odd and even registration numbers should come into the city on different days of the week. There will always be too much traffic in the city of Dublin because of the way the city has developed. Most of the people migrating back to Ireland are lodging in Dublin or its vicinities.

We must manage the existing situation much better in addition to our plans for the future. If we are to be serious about this we must give a proper subsidy to public transport. Dublin is at the bottom of the European league on public transport subsidies by national government — it is the 51st of 52 European cities, many of which are regional rather than capital cities. Dublin is the capital city and must be taken seriously. Far greater powers should be given to Dublin Corporation to regulate Dublin's traffic.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn Zoom on Fergal Quinn I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob. I had experience on one occasion of being in a people jam, rather than a traffic jam, in Sao Paulo. The police had to come because we were so jammed in that there could be no movement on the street — it was like coming out of a football match.

The reason I tabled this motion, on which I appreciate the input of so many speakers, is that I believe we are in danger of taking too short term a view. There is a very good document called the Short Term Action Plan by the Dublin Transportation Office; however, it is short-term rather than long term. Some of the words I have [1407] heard tonight concern me because I fear we are still taking that short term view and there is a danger of us being accused of being ostriches. We are burying our heads in the sand and hoping this problem will go away as a result of some of our tinkering — I used the term “band aid”. We must be quite courageous on this occasion.

The Economist devoted 17 pages in early September to an article on gridlock around the world. It examined cities such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Kuala Lumpur and Atlanta and said they had become gridlocked because they had not taken action. It then examined some other cities and said they had succeeded. The Leader of the House referred to San Diego, which may have been one of them.

I tabled this motion in order to open the debate on road pricing. The Economist took the example of Singapore, a city I visited not so long ago. The Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, asked me to describe how road pricing operates there. I was not able to answer offhand but I now have the answer with me. The article states:

Every car in Singapore now has a small transponder installed just behind the windscreen, designed to hold the driver's pre-paid cash card. Since April, motorists using the East Coast Parkway in the morning rush are debited with a toll as they pass beneath electronic gantries: S$2 between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and S$1 just before and after the peak period. The rest of the day is free.

That is quite clever. It is not disastrous and it encourages people to do exactly what Senator Costello talked about, which is to come earlier or later into the city. It does not need the Government to tell people they must go to work early or late.

Senator Walsh spoke about the possibility of using this money to reduce motor taxation. It would certainly help to restore the balance about which so many Senators spoke. Senator Quill spoke about the need for a good public transport system. If we establish a good public transport system and, at the same time, create a deterrent against coming into the city at peak times, we will achieve that balance. There would be a disincentive to use cars and an incentive to use buses because the traffic would be moving as a result. As Senator Fitzgerald said, a bus carries hundreds of people but it is possible for a car to carry only one person — there is no comparison.

Senator Cassidy spoke about San Diego and the one, two and three bus lanes. Those are great ideas but it is not possible to do that on most Dublin approach roads and we cannot build new roads. We cannot do any more than tinker with the existing situation.

I fear we are adopting the ostrich approach and are tinkering with rather than solving the problem. We have seen other cities fall down in this regard. I am disappointed the Government has tabled an amendment to the motion because I [1408] think the original motion is worthy of support. I welcome the recently announced investment in public transport for Dublin. I urge the Minister to accelerate the process. I thought the motion was worthy of support and that I had worded it so that there would not be an amendment. Perhaps the Leader will consider not pressing the amendment because I would hate to see it go through.

I will give another instance of why I am concerned. I had a visitor to Dublin the week before last. He came to Dublin to visit hotels because he was considering the possibility of holding a convention here in June 2000. I think we lost that convention of 1,500 people for two reasons: first, he was jammed in traffic and asked me if this was how we live, and, second, he could not get a taxi because there were not enough taxis around. It is not only in our own interest as citizens to ensure our capital is a city which works, but it is also our responsibility as legislators.

When the question of toll bridges arose none of us would have said we should have to pay to use bridges. However, look at what has happened. The East Link and the West Link toll bridges are busy because people have a choice — they can go another way for free but they opt to pay 60p or 80p to use the toll bridge because it pays them to so do.

I urge the Minister and the Government to note the words spoken here tonight by so many Senators and I appreciate their input. We should grasp this nettle very soon. We have very good short-term measures, on which I compliment the Government. However, instead of taking band aid approaches we must take the long-term approach of facing up to the problem and recognising that we can become a city in which the traffic works rather than one with gridlock. I want to ensure Dubliners do not face gridlock in the new millennium but we must take immediate action if we are to solve this problem.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly Zoom on Brian Mullooly When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy Zoom on Donie Cassidy At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

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