Dublin set for radical public transport plan
STATE transport agencies will be stripped of their powers and CIE will lose control of Dublin Bus under radical new plans to transform the capitalâ€™s infrastructure.
Under proposals to be brought to the cabinet within three weeks by Martin Cullen, the transport minister, a new Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) is to be given control over the procurement and operation of all public transport in the greater Dublin area.
The DTA will incorporate the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA), the body with responsibility for Luas and other light rail projects, and lead to the closure of the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), the planning agency launched in 1995.
In what is likely to be a controversial move, the new agency will take control of services from Dublin Bus, the CIE subsidiary. This will see the companyâ€™s state aid of about â‚¬65m being channelled through the DTA. Under the changes, Dublin Bus will have to sell its services to the authority. Iarnrod Eireann, another CIE subsidiary, will also lose some of its responsibilities to the DTA.
The move will concentrate all decision making in one body instead of the current multitude of agencies, streamlining the roll-out of new infrastructure and the operation of existing services. The DTA will also take responsibility for Dublinâ€™s traffic management, which is currently carried out by separate local authorities.
The DTA will have the power to set fares and be responsible for the delivery of all public transport infrastructure from the date of its establishment. This will include projects already in the planning stage, such as Dublinâ€™s two metro lines and the provision of an underground rail interconnector between Heuston station and Spencer Dock.
These schemes are managed by the RPA and Iarnrod Eireann, but this will cease to be the case when the DTA comes into being.
The long-delayed plan to introduce integrated ticketing in Dublin will also become a priority for the new agency. This â‚¬30m project was being overseen by the RPA but, as The Sunday Times revealed recently, became bogged down in a feud with Dublin Bus.
Last month, Cullen indicated in the Dail that he had become increasingly frustrated with the delay and had â€œother optionsâ€ to ensure its delivery.
The DTAâ€™s powers will be enshrined in new legislation that the minister will attempt to have implemented within the lifetime of the current government.
Plans for the authority have been drawn up by a panel of experts appointed by Cullen after he announced the governmentâ€™s â‚¬34 billion Transport 21 initiative last November. The team, led by Professor Margaret Oâ€™Mahony, has to find an internationally recognised chief executive to run the body.
Cullenâ€™s plans are likely to be supported by opposition parties, many of which have repeatedly called for public transport in the capital to be overseen by one body amid concerns that infighting among separate agencies has delayed key improvements and reduced co-ordination of services.
Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gaelâ€™s transport spokeswoman, welcomed the move.
â€œWe have needed a transport authority for some time. Itâ€™s very important that we have one body with the powers to make all the decisions rather than the current situation where there are numerous agencies vying with each other for power and doing their own thing. At the moment everyone is paddling their own canoe and this is not in the public interest,â€ she said.
She said the â€œfiascoâ€ over integrated ticketing showed that agencies were not able to work together and there had been other instances where public transport agencies had hindered each other from providing services.
â€œThe agencies are in competition with each other and this prevents co-ordination. You have a case where the RPA wants to run the Luas somewhere and Dublin Bus complains it will interfere with its services and so on,â€ she said.
She warned that a transport authority should not be seen as an opportunity for government to distance itself from overall responsibility for the capitalâ€™s transport. â€œThe minister will still be responsible for overseeing the authority,â€ she said.
They have been on the block for a while; I wish John Henry and his team well
- PVC King