Deputy Broughan has consistently been asking about the accessibility of public transport and plans for the improvement of this essential public service. Most recently, Deputy Broughan asked about the accessibility of Bus Éireann coaches operating on expressway and regional services for wheelchairs and the accessibility of bus stops in regional areas. The National Transport Authority (NTA) replied to the Deputy on March 28th and gave a very disappointing response.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the report. I commend the Chairperson, Deputy O’Dowd, and the rest of the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on their work in holding hearings on accessibility to public transport and presenting us, as Deputy O’Dowd noted in his introduction, with the “experiences of disadvantage, exclusion and unequal treatment” endured by citizens with disabilities, which is a significant cohort of Irish society. When reading the report, I was struck by the comment of our colleague, Senator Dolan, who represents the Disability Federation of Ireland, in late 2017 that people with disabilities “do not have their basic right to free movement”. That is a profound statement on the level of public transport and all other types of transport in the country.
I had the opportunity to speak on several important issues this week. On Tuesday evening, I commented on Ireland’s Brexit negotiation guidelines and later I made a brief contribution to the Labour Party motion on AIB.
On Wednesday evening, I got an opportunity to again call for major investment in Dublin public transport including Metro North. Finally on Thursday, I questioned Minister Katherine Zappone on the grave deficiencies in aftercare services for young people and raised the urgent need to restore salaries for staff in Section 39 health and disability services organisations.
On Friday afternoon, I met the Director of the NTMA, Mr Conor O’Kelly, with his colleagues, Mr Frank O’Connor and Martin Whelan, on the refinancing of Ireland’s huge national debt in 2018/2020.
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.
I would like to ask the Minister about the consultation held on the College Green traffic management measures. I submitted views on behalf of constituents, as did other citizens and representatives. Are these views being taken seriously? A former Minister, former Deputy Noel Dempsey, who has some involvement with traders in the centre of Dublin believes Dublin City Council was proceeding to change traffic at the location without adhering to, listening to or reading the documents and submissions made.
Deputy Broughan was in contact recently with David Franks, Chief Executive of Irish Rail regarding the overcrowding on the DART to Howth during the increasingly popular Dublin Bay Prawn Festival. Deputy Broughan also raised a Parliamentary Question requesting that the number of carriages on the 4.55pm Bray to Howth DART service be increased from 4 to 6 in order to address the peak time overcrowding. In responses received from David Franks this week, confirmation was given that additional fleet came into operation on the 11th of April 2016.
Early this year I made a submission to the Public Consultation of the National Transport Authority (NTA) on their North Dublin Transport Study. I noted then that the study areas of Dublin Bay North and Dublin North West from Drumcondra to Dublin Airport and Swords had “a longstanding profound need for a fixed line public transport system”. I argued that “the preferred option of my Dublin Bay North constituents and myself has always been for the Metro North proposal.”