DÁIL QUESTIONS WITH MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT ON METRO NORTH

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the metro north project, including if he will bring the start date forward; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15607/16]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I wish the Minister well and thank him for meeting the very important road safety groups in recent weeks and committing to a programme of action in this area. On the question before us, which is about metro north, as the Minister knows the north and west sides of Dublin and Fingal were totally shafted in the planning and construction of the Luas. There was to be a north side line but it never happened. Here we are 15 or 20 years later trying to get the whole project back on track. We had a pre-election promise from Fine Gael last September that metro north would happen and now we are told it will be in 2025 or 2026. Many things will have happened by 2026. What is the Minister doing in 2016 to get metro north, a fixed line connection between O’Connell Street and Swords and the airport, under way?

Deputy Shane Ross: I thank Deputy Broughan for his remarks about meeting the road safety group, whose cause I know he has championed for so long. We had a very constructive discussion. The group has done a huge amount of homework and has much to offer in this particular area through tragic personal experience I know but all the same, it is something which may prevent accidents of the sort they have suffered happening again.

The programme for Government includes a commitment to proceed with the new metro north project and funding is provided in the capital plan, Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021, to facilitate construction of the link commencing in 2021 with a view to delivery by 2026 to 2027.

The funding constraints that existed when the capital plan was being developed, and which continue to exist, mean that we are not in a position to deliver all that is required immediately. The first priority has to be ensuring that we maintain our existing transport infrastructure at what is termed steady state levels, so that it remains safe and fit for purpose after a significant period of underinvestment during the financial crisis. The funding that is being provided in the capital plan for public transport investment will see us reach steady state funding levels by 2020. In addition, funding is provided to commence critical transport projects, such as new metro north, to meet growing demand.

The National Transport Authority, NTA, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, have commenced preparatory work on the planning and design of new metro north and a dedicated project steering group has been established. In the meantime, the NTA has been asked to keep under review the interim public transport requirements of the Swords and airport corridor over the next ten years, with a view to ensuring adequate capacity to meet demand and to address constraints arising along the corridor.

In the event that additional funding becomes available in the next few years, the groundwork that is being done will position us to progress the project in line with available funding.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: All of us who made submissions to the national consultation by the NTA in January 2015 will be very disappointed with the Minister’s response. In the programme for Government, there is only a throwaway line. There is very little about transport generally speaking, so I am not sure what the Minister was trying to achieve in all of his long negotiations with Fine Gael. We got a commitment from the former Minister, Deputy Donohoe, that we would have a new metro north line with 14 stops, 30 trams an hour and 60 m long trams carrying 30 million passengers. The cost was put at €2.4 billion. What is the Minister telling us about the delivery of this? When will he get a report from the dedicated steering group? What type of funding will he spend on the project this year and in the forthcoming years? Many people on all sides of the House, the west and north sides of Dublin and, indeed, the whole of the Dublin region are very much committed to this. The Fingal county manager, Mr. Paul Reid, and Fingal County Council are very committed. Dublin City Council is committed. We want to see some action. What type of consultations has the Minister had on the various proposals made in the public consultation in January 2015? Has he met distinguished transport engineers, such as Mr. Cormac Rabbitt, who advocated very strongly that we should proceed with the Spanish system, as is found in Madrid, with a much lower cost-type development which would deliver much more quickly than 2026 or 2030. Many of us may not be in the House in 2026. It is way down the line. The Minister needs to give us something more concrete.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): The Deputy is eating into the time for his second supplementary question.

Deputy Shane Ross: I thank Deputy Broughan for his contribution. It has to be approached on an available money basis. As I said in my earlier response, we only have a certain amount of money to keep us in a healthy public transport financial sphere until 2020 and to keep it in a steady state condition. In other words, we will not be able to afford to spend money on more than design and planning of metro north until 2020. We have made this absolutely plain. I said in my earlier reply that in the event additional funding becomes available in the next few years the groundwork being done will position us to progress the project in line with available funding.

I am very hopeful that we may be able to advance it a little but that would depend on available funding.

The Government realises the problems, particularly in the area between St. Stephen’s Green and Swords and the airport as well as other areas in north Dublin and the need to meet the demand from the travelling public in these areas. We have instructed the relevant authorities to provide the necessary public transport in the interim, but I cannot make a promise here today that metro north will be advanced as the funding is not available. If the funding becomes available, however, the Deputy has a pledge from the Government that this would be taken into early consideration.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Has the Minister taken any view—–

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Sorry, the six and a half minutes are up, Deputy Broughan.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I just want to ask the Minister about the levies which were collected by—–

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): The Minister will respond to the Deputy.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: He might respond. Levies were collected by Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council. What is happening in that regard? Does the Minister expect a new levy system to be implemented regarding the development along the metro corridor—–

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): I ask the Minister to respond directly to the Deputy. The six and a half minutes are up. I am trying to stick to the Standing Orders. I know Deputies are finding it difficult to get used to them.