Transport, Tourism and Sport

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Questions on Transport, Tourism and Sport

Posted November 1st, 2012

Anti social behaviour in Dublin City and the negative impact on tourism – 28th November 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport how he intends to address the serious anti-social behaviour taking place in Dublin’s main tourism area, Temple Bar, and surrounding areas, and how this is impacting on the city’s reputation as evidenced by recent negative media articles in the foreign press; and, if he has confidence in Failte Ireland when it seems more interested in focusing time and money on how cobblestones impact upon high-heel use in shoes in this area where drugs are readily available and needles litter the laneways.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

Overall responsibility for tackling anti-social behaviour rests with my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.  For my own part, I am of course concerned about anything impacting negatively on our tourists’ experience and liaise on an ongoing basis with my cabinet colleagues on such matters.

Thankfully, Ireland remains a very safe destination generally for holidaymakers and the rate of crime against tourists is relatively low. Research has shown that the vast majority of our overseas visitors are happy to recommend Ireland as a holiday destination to others.

With specific regard to Dublin, in line with its regional tourism development functions, Fáilte Ireland is currently pursuing “Destination Dublin: A Collective Strategy for Tourism Growth to 2020″. This strategy was developed by the Grow Dublin Taskforce, representing all the key tourism stakeholders in Dublin. I have asked the agency to provide the Deputy with any further relevant information relating to this tourism strategy and its promotion of Dublin as a tourism destination. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Click here to see a copy of the response from Failte Ireland.

Fines for cyclists - 30th October 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider introducing mandatory on-the-spot fines for cyclists in breach of the rules of the road; and if he will provide that fines may be collected at the time of levying, as in other European countries, including where necessary, escorting the cyclist to the nearest ATM.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

The Road Safety Strategy (RSS) 2013-2020 contains a commitment to bring road traffic offences by cyclists within the fixed charge notice regime.  On a point of information, there are no longer ‘on the spot’ fines for road traffic offences.  The fixed charge notice system replaced on the spot fines under the terms of the Road Traffic Act 2002.

My Department is currently working on the preparation of a new Road Traffic Bill and I intend to include provisions to extend the fixed charge notice system to cycling offences, in line with the commitment in the RSS, in that Bill. I expect to submit the General Scheme of the Bill to Government for its consideration shortly and thereafter to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Partial footpath parking scheme – 6th October 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding his discussions with the National Transport Authority on the feasibility of a pilot partial footpath parking scheme for a limited number of specific locations in Dublin, as per previous replies.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

Further to the response provided by my predecessor to Dáil Question No. 205 of 18 June, officials within my Department wrote to the National Transport Authority (NTA) with regards a review of the issues arising from footpath parking and, in consultation with all interested parties, to consider the possibility of introducing a pilot partial footpath parking scheme.

I understand that the NTA is currently examining the matter and will issue a response soon.

Sports capital grants – 6th October 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there will be another round of sports capital grants in 2015.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

Under the Sports Capital Programme, funding is provided to voluntary, sporting and community organisations for the provision of sports and recreational facilities.

I was delighted to announce €31m in provisional allocations under the 2012 round of the Sports Capital Programme.  The Deputy will be aware that this had been the first round of the Programme since 2008.  The 2012 round of the Programme attracted a record number of 2,170 applications  With such high demand it was never going to be possible to fund all applications.

I was very pleased therefore to press ahead with a new round of the Sports Capital Programme in 2014.

2,036 applications were received under the 2014 SCP, the second highest number ever received, illustrating the continuing demand and need for investment in sporting facilities. In July I announced provisional allocations totalling €40.5 million.  A total of 821 of the provisional allocations were towards local sports clubs and organisations, with the remaining 59 provisionally allocated to regional or national projects.

No decision has been taken on the timing of the next round of the SCP.

Rugby World Cup bid - Update - 6th October 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Rugby World Cup bid.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

Last November the Government considered a Memorandum on the discussions and analysis to date on a potential bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023. In response to the Memorandum, the Government expressed strong support for the proposal and for the conduct of further work to get to the stage of making a formal decision to bid.

To progress the matter further, Minister Ring and Minister Varadkar met with Minister Arlene Foster and Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, who are the Ministers respectively responsible for tourism and sport in the Northern Ireland Executive, in Armagh on 22 January 2014. A working group was established to examine key issues further and to report back to Ministers in the Summer.

The working group, on which the IRFU and relevant Government Departments from both jurisdictions were represented, has now reported and, in conjunction with my colleagues in Northern Ireland, I am currently examining the report.

Bye laws regarding the trailing of leads - 24th September 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to introduce regulations that will permit local authorities to enact bye laws pertaining to the trailing of leads over public roads, footpaths and car parks (details supplied).., To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to introduce regulations that will permit local authorities to enact bye laws pertaining to the trailing of leads over public roads, footpaths and car parks (details supplied).

Details: For example when using a lead to connect an electric vehicle to a charging point, should the parking bay immediately beside the point be occupied by another electric vehicle.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Paschal Donohoe)

I have no plans to provide for legislation that will permit local authorities to enact bye laws pertaining to the trailing of leads over public roads, footpaths and car parks to deal with the circumstances as described by the Deputy in relation to the charging of electric vehicles.

Rugby World Cup bid - Update – 26th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the proposed bid for the Rugby World Cup.

Reply

Minister of State for Sports and Tourism (Michael Ring)

Last November the Government considered a Memorandum on the discussions and examinations to date on a potential bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.   While the Memorandum identified a number of challenges, the great potential of the event is also clear and I believe that hosting the Rugby World Cup on a cross-border basis in 2023 would be a great opportunity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.  In response to the Memorandum, the Government expressed strong support for the proposal and for the conduct of further work to get to the stage of making a formal decision to bid.

To progress the matter further, Minister Varadkar and I met with Minister Arlene Foster and Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, who are the Ministers respectively responsible for tourism and sport in the Northern Ireland Executive, in Armagh on 22 January. We established a working group to examine some key issues further and to report back to Ministers in the Summer.

The working group, on which the IRFU and relevant Government Departments from both jurisdictions are represented, has held a number of meetings to date and indeed is meeting again tomorrow.  I look forward to receiving their report later in the Summer.

Click here to watch the discussion in the Dail.

Tourism performance over the last 3 years – 26th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the performance of the tourism sector in Ireland to date in 2014, in comparison to the previous two years and projecting forward for the rest of the year, including the increased numbers in employment.

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

The most recent CSO figures for overseas visits to Ireland show that visitor numbers grew by 7.5% in the period from February to April 2014 when compared to the corresponding period of 2013. 2014 looks set to be the fourth year of consecutive growth in overseas visitor numbers according to these figures. Since the Government came to office, the total number of international visitors coming to Ireland per annum has increased by more than a million and is likely to exceed 7 million this year.

The recently published CSO Tourism & Travel release provides a breakdown of the purpose of visits, as well as expenditure and choice of accommodation for the first quarter.  The number of trips to Ireland in the key target market of holidaymakers rose by 7.5% in the first quarter of 2014, when compared with the same period in 2013. Although spending by overseas visitors remained more or less flat when compared to 2013, this may reflect the fact that Easter fell in the second quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2013. In overall terms overseas revenue has increased from under €3.7 billion in 2011 to over €4.1 billion in 2013 – an increase of over 12 per cent.

The buoyancy in the sector is also being reflected in employment numbers. By the end of last year, it was estimated by the CSO that 137,000 people were employed in the accommodation and food service sectors alone. This represented an increase of almost 14% or 17,300 extra jobs since 2012.  Fáilte Ireland estimates that total tourism employment is approximately 200,000 and could grow by 6-8,000 this year on current trends.

The most recent CSO Quarterly National Household Survey reported that seasonally adjusted employment in the accommodation and food sector increased by 14,000 from the first quarter of 2014 when compared to the equivalent period in 2013.  That is an increase of 11% in the year to Quarter 1 2014.  It is also equal to the highest ever employment figure for the sector in the first quarter, which was recorded in Q1 2007.

Pedestrian and cyclist safety on the Swiftway corridor – UCD route - 17th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the involvement he has, if any, in the introduction of the new Bus Rapid Transit between Blanchardstown and UCD; his views that the new BRT should be introduced in a way that makes the operation of the service compatible with pedestrian and cyclist safety in order that it does not have a negative impact on residents living in the city centre, particularly in the city’s historic Georgian quarter; and if he will consider the merits of a policy (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for developing public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects.

The NTA’s Integrated Implementation Plan 2013-2018 has identified that Bus Rapid Transit  schemes could play a significant role in the improvement of public transport in the Dublin region and has accordingly proposed three BRT schemes for Dublin, one of which is the Blanchardstown to UCD corridor.

The NTA has advised that work on the identification of  a preferred route corridor is ongoing in consultation with relevant bodies including the local authorities.  In the light of the NTA’s responsibility in this matter, I have referred the Deputy’s question and attachments to the NTA for consideration and direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.

Click on the links to see the response from the National Transport Authority NTA letter 1  NTA letter 2.

2014 Sports Capital Programme – 15th May 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the current position of the 2014 sports capital programme.

REPLY

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport (Michael Ring)

Applications received under the 2014 Sports Capital Programme are currently being assessed by officials in my Department. Every application will be assessed by one official and reviewed by another. Given the number of applications received and the detail contained therein, this process will take a number of months to complete. I hope to announce allocations later this year.

Applications are first checked to ensure eligibility. All eligible applications are initially assessed against five criteria:

1. Likelihood of increasing participation and/or improving performance and sharing of facilities,

2.   Level of socio-economic disadvantage in the area,

3.   Technical merits of the project,

4.   Level of own funding available,

5.   Level of Sports Capital Programme funding received in the past.

These criteria are designed to give higher scores to applications

- that will increase participation,

- where facilities will be shared,

- that are from designated disadvantaged areas,

- that have not received substantial funding in the past and

- are ready to be progressed as soon as possible.

In 2008, Local Authorities were requested to carry out an audit of local sports facilities.   Many of these Local Authorities and Local Sports Partnerships around the country have published online directories and/or databases of the sports and recreational facilities in their areas.

In deciding the final allocations within each county, Minister Varadkar and I may have regard to other criteria such as: population; performance during the assessment process; ensuring a geographic spread; a spread of rural and urban projects and a spread of projects among different sports.

LUAS cross city update – 15th May 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the progress being made on the LUAS cross city project.

REPLY

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

The National Transport Authority (NTA) which has responsibility  for the implementation and development of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), including the Luas Cross City project, reports regularly to my  Department on the progress of this project.

The current position is that the project is progressing to agreed timelines and the essential enabling works are well advanced.

The building condition works and the cellars infill works have been completed and the utilities works are progressing well.

Tender documents for the main infrastructure contract issued in early April. The closing date for receipt of tenders is 31st July and the contract award date is targeted for December following Government approval to proceed.

Work on the main contract is then expected to commence in early 2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. Following testing, commissioning and trial runs, the line is expected to be operational in Q4 2017.

Electric vehicles and car club parking regulations – 15th May 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 297 of 13 February 2014, when he plans to introduce regulations permitting local authorities to introduce bye-laws that would designate electric vehicle charging points on public roads as electric vehicle parking only, as well as permitting local authorities to assign dedicated public parking spaces as car club only spaces.

REPLY

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

I intend to introduce these regulations as soon as possible.

The Office of the Attorney General has been working on a draft of the regulations in question, and I understand that good progress has been made. I would be cautious about predicting a precise date for completion. However, I hope that the process of drafting will be completed very soon, and I can assure the Deputy that I intend to sign the regulations into law as soon as they are ready.

Trial of partial footpath parking in residential areas in Dublin – 8th May 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 1190 of 16 July 2013, if he will introduce a pilot scheme in Dublin City to trial the use of partial footpath parking in residential areas.

REPLY

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

As I explained to the Deputy in my response to the Question referred to, there are sound arguments against allowing partial parking on pavements.

The key concerns are that footpaths are provided for the safety of pedestrians and to segregate vulnerable road users from passing or parking traffic on the roadway; that footpaths are not constructed to the same specifications as roads and are not built to bear the weight of vehicles; and that pavement parking, if allowed in some areas, could become a matter of habit for many people and difficult to restrict to the areas where it is legally permitted.

I accept that there are also arguments which can be put on the opposite side, particularly in the case of very narrow streets where on-street parking would block traffic flow.

I am, however, willing to consider this issue further. The matter would need to be examined in some detail in consultation with key stakeholders and interested parties before any decision could be made with regard to the possibility of a pilot scheme. I propose to engage with the National Transport Authority which is the appropriate body to conduct such an examination.

Closure of national monuments, buildings and exhibitions on public and bank holidays – 30th April 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the policy of closing national monuments, buildings and exhibitions on public and bank holidays is counterproductive to our tourism strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 REPLY

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

Opening hours at our national monuments, buildings and exhibitions are a matter in the first instance for the boards and management of the Office of Public Works and the National Cultural Institutions. These organisations come within the remit of the Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht respectively.

As Minister with responsibility for tourism I am of course keen to see that everything be done that can be, to enhance the experience for visitors, having regard to available resources. The broader issue of how bodies such as those mentioned by the Deputy, as well as other government departments and agencies, can balance their important role in tourism with their other functions, and the priority that should be attached to tourism, is something that is being considered within the tourism policy review that is currently underway.

Update on the sports capital programme – 2nd April 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the sports capital programme.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I was delighted that Minister Ring was able to launch the 2014 round of the Sports Capital Programme earlier this year. €40 million is available for allocation.

The application period closed on Monday 10 March. A list of all applications, broken down by county, will be published on the Department’s website shortly.  In excess of 2,000 applications were received by my Department by the closing date.

The applications will first be checked by officials in the Department to see if they are valid and then assessed against criteria that are designed to give higher scores to applications that will increase participation, where facilities will be shared, that are from designated disadvantaged areas, that have not received funding in the past and are ready to be progressed as soon as possible.

Minister Ring will announce the allocations as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed later this year.

Extension of the city bikes scheme to Cork, Galway & Limerick – 2nd April 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the extension of the city bikes scheme to counties Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Reply

The Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport (Alan Kelly TD):

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to “look to extend the Dublin Bikes Scheme across the wider Dublin area and to other cities and integrate the scheme much more effectively with public transport links.”

I am pleased to report that my Department along with the National Transport Authority has made significant progress  on  finalising proposals for the provision  of public bikes schemes in Limerick, Cork and Galway. The NTA has recently undertaken a tender competition for the supply, installation, operation and maintenance of bike share schemes in those cities. Tenders sought from five shortlisted candidates were received by the NTA in February of this year. The assessment of the tenders is due to be concluded shortly. It is anticipated that construction of the bike schemes will commence shortly thereafter with the schemes becoming operational later this year.

Funding  to meet the capital investment costs of public bikes in other cities has been identified within the 5-year capital allocation for Smarter Travel and Carbon Reduction Measures announced in 2012.  The delivery of the Regional Cities Bike Scheme was also dependent on  a separate process to explore the potential for a sponsorship contract to defray some of the costs associated with the introduction of the Scheme.   I was delighted to be able to report last September that Coca Cola emerged as the successful sponsor for the Scheme.

The vision behind the Scheme is to develop an environmentally friendly means of public transport that is healthy, relatively inexpensive and will ensure an improved quality of life in each of the city’s natural and built environment.  Public bike schemes have the potential to enhance the city centres and provide a significant boost to the development of a cycling culture. They also add to the tourism offering in those cities.

It has been  over 4 years since the launch of Dublin Bikes.  It has been a resounding success with over 5 million rentals since its launch and 35,000 long term subscribers.  Dublin City Council has reported a 40% increase in numbers cycling in the city over the last four years.  I look forward to hearing of similar results when the  bike schemes are up and running in Limerick, Cork and Galway.

Iarnrod Éireann policy on operation of trains in residential areas – 18th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of the policy of Iarnrod Éireann regarding the operation of diesel trains that remain in stations in residential areas; if there is a policy of not allowing such engines to stand idle with engine running for longer than 15 minutes; is this policy observed; the way it is monitored; is it the case that the policy allows for engines to be turned off after 15 minutes, only to be re-started again; and if Iarnrod Éireann is aware that this is a particular problem in Grand Canal Dock.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy’s question to the company for direct reply.

Click on image below to see direct reply:

Latest on Rugby World Cup Bid – 18th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the proposed bid for the Rugby World Cup.

Reply

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport (Michael Ring TD):

In November last, the Government considered a Memorandum on the discussions and analysis to date on a potential bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

While the Memorandum identified a number of challenges, the great potential of the event is also clear and I believe that hosting the Rugby World Cup on a cross-border basis in 2023 would be a great opportunity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.  Aside from the potential economic boost, the tournament would raise our international profile, not just in terms of sport and tourism, but also more widely in terms of business, trade and investment.   Attracting major international events is a key element of tourism strategy on both sides of the border and cooperation between north and south can enhance such events.

In response to the Memorandum, the Government expressed strong support for the proposal and for the conduct of further work to get to the stage of making a formal decision to bid.

In order to progress the matter further, Minister Varadkar and I met with Minister Arlene Foster, who is the Minister responsible for tourism in the Northern Ireland Executive, and Minister Carál Ní Chulín, who is responsible for sport in the Executive, in Armagh on 22 January. At that meeting, we agreed to establish a working group to examine some key issues further and to report back to Ministers in the Summer.  The working group will hold its first meeting next Tuesday 25 February.

Discretion given to local authorities on road spending – 18th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether local authorities should have greater discretion on spending on local and regional roads.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities own resources supplemented by State road grants.  The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded from this additional funding is also a matter for the local authority.

Last month, I announced that a total of €331.9 million is being provided to local authorities for the maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads in 2014.  I am in fact giving local authorities significantly increased flexibility this year.  I have reduced the number of grant categories, increased the amount allocated under the Discretionary grant heading and will facilitate the transfer of funds between key grant categories where local authorities need this.  Local authorities can also reprioritise their road strengthening programme where necessary.  In addition local authorities can use up to 15% of their Discretionary Grant for the local improvement scheme covering non public roads.

In making adjustments to the regional and local road allocations in 2014, my primary aim has been, as far as is practicable, to strike an important balance.  On the one hand, local authorities will have more flexibility than ever before to target funding to appropriate repair and rehabiltiation schemes in local areas.  On the other hand, I want to ensure that key programmes that promote preventative maintenance and safety projects on public roads continue to be funded. Given funding constraints,  the Government’s priority has to be to protect previous investment in the road network.

It is also particularly important that local authorities do not reduce expenditure from their own resources in respect of roads this year in view of the current difficult situation and that they carefully reassess their planned road programmes for 2014 in the light of the impact of the recent storms on their road networks.

In principle I intend to give local authorities greater, possibly full, discretion over their spending of state grants for roads in 2015. I believe that local authorities and their elected members are best placed to make decisions of where and for what roads funding should be spent in their own county rather than that decision being made by central government. This however will depend on wider government consideration of the funding of local authorities.

Designated electric vehicle charging points & parking spaces for car clubs – 13th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he plans to introduce regulations permitting local authorities to introduce bye-laws that would designate electric vehicle charging points on public roads as electric vehicle parking only, as well as permitting local authorities to assign dedicated public parking spaces as car club only spaces.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Draft regulations to provide for charging points for electric vehicles and for on-street parking spaces for car clubs are currently being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General. These regulations will deliver largely the same outcomes as those envisaged by the Deputy’s 2011 Private Members Bill.   It is my intention to sign the regulations as soon as drafting is complete and I expect to do this within the next two months.

Traffic calming on the N11 as it enters in Donnybrook – 13th February 2014

A) To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will request the National Roads Authority to examine the bend in the road on the N11 as it enters Donnybrook to see what measures can be put in place to reduce the speed of vehicles as they come through this bend and enter Donnybrook village.

B) To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide emergency funding for raised traffic lights on the N11 at the existing pedestrian crossing by Leinster’s Donnybrook rugby grounds in view of the speed at which vehicles approach this pedestrian crossing from the dual carriageway and the high number of pedestrians crossing at this point.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The road mentioned by the Deputy no longer forms part of the N11 but was re-designated as a regional road.

The maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads including the installation, maintenance and operation of traffic lights and the provision of traffic calming installations are a matter for the relevant local authority. In this case the responsible road authority is Dublin City Council.

The default speed limits for different categories of road, including roads in built up urban areas, are specified in the Road Traffic Acts. There is provision in the legislation for local authorities to make bye-laws providing for special speed limits in specific circumstances.

Introduction of a congestion charge for the city centre – 11th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has been consulted in the past 12 months on the introduction of a congestion charge for Dublin city centre.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

No.

Freedom for tolls for electric vehicles? – 11th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is considering introducing any additional incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, for example freedom from tolls on motorways, tunnels and bridges.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The Government is incentivising the purchase of more energy efficient private cars through the motor tax and VRT systems. Specifically in relation to encouraging people to switch to more sustainable energy sources for private car users, my Department and the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources (as lead Department) are actively promoting electric cars and the ESB is supporting the deployment of these vehicles by expanding the number of publicly accessible charge points.

With regard to making electric vehicles exempt from tolling, the statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Roads Act 2007). There are no plans to make electric vehicles exempt from existing tolling points at present.

Addressing backlogs in National Driving Licence Centres in the Dublin area – 4th Febraury 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to open a National Driving Licence Service office in the city centre to deal with backlogs in the existing Dublin centres.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The subject matter of this question, which is the operation of the National Driver Licensing Service, is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority.  I have therefore referred the question to the Authority for direct reply.  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

Click here to see the response from the Road Safety Authority.

A low-tide walkway from Ringsend to Blackrock – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will investigate the possibility of creating a low-tide walkway and mountain-bike trail from Ringsend to Blackrock, along the seashore at low tide.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the provision of public and sustainable transport infrastructure, including walkways, in the Greater Dublin Area.

The NTA provides funding to local authorities for a range of schemes to benefit walkers and cyclists, including the provision of infrastructure, under the Sustainable Transport Management Grants Programme.

Accordingly, I have forwarded your Question to the NTA for direct reply.

Click below to see this reply:

Ireland’s bid to host Rugby World Cup – 19th Decmber 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the proposed bid to host the Rugby World Cup.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

My Department and Fáilte Ireland have been examining the potential benefits and costs that would be associated with supporting the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in submitting a bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.  I recently brought a Memorandum for the Information of the Government to the Cabinet on the discussions and analysis to date.  My colleagues expressed strong support for the proposal and for the conduct of further work to get to the stage of making a formal decision to bid.

While the Memorandum identified a number of challenges, the great potential of the event is also clear and I believe that hosting the Rugby World Cup on a cross-border basis in 2023 would be a great opportunity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.  Aside from the potential economic boost, the tournament would raise our international profile, not just in terms of sport and tourism, but also more widely in terms of business, trade and investment.   Attracting major international events is a key element of tourism strategy on both sides of the border and cooperation between north and south can enhance such events.

Minister of State Ring and I are currently making arrangements to meet with Minister Foster and Minister Ní Chuilín to discuss the matter further and I will be in a position to advise the House further following that meeting.

With regard to the the evaluation of the tourism potential of major sporting events more generally, where a detailed evaluation shows clear benefits, they are opportunities.  Such detailed evaluation is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland and I am referring the Deputy’s question to the agency for direct reply.

Funding for sport in 2013 compared to recent years – 19th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total funding being provided to sports in 2013 and to compare this to recent years.

Reply

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport (Michael Ring TD):

The total funding provided to sport by my Department in recent years is €81.9m in 2011, €77.7m in 2012, €72.3m in 2013 and an allocation of €93.4m for 2014.

This total contribution of some €325 million over the four years includes €177m in current funding which is channelled through the Irish Sports Council.  This supports the work of the National Governing Bodies of Sport and a wide range of programmes through the Local Sports Partnerships to increase participation rates.  Participation in sport can bring benefits in terms of health and well-being which can in turn produce an economic dividend through reducing costs to the health sector.

It also allows the Council to support our elite athletes through the High Performance Programme as they compete on the world stage. The performance of Irish athletes not only boosts the morale of the country but promotes our image internationally and draws tourism to Ireland from around the world.

The balance of the contribution comprises €148m in capital funding which supports  the development of sports facilities through the Sports Capital Programme, the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and funding for the National Sports Campus.

Registering to vote as part of driving license application process - 4th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on adding a section in the driving license application process where persons could ask to be added to the electoral register if they so wished.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

On the basis of representations made to me and to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), it appears that there is a view among the public that the current driver licence application form is already confusing and over extensive. Apart from normal information regarding driver issues, the form also provides for matters such as the organ donation wishes of the applicant.

The RSA is examining the possibilities for simplifying the application form at present and I would be reluctant to propose any changes that might further complicate requirements.

Extension of the city bikes scheme outside Dublin – 7th November 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the extension of the city bikes schemes to other cities outside Dublin.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to “look to extend the Dublin Bikes Scheme across the wider Dublin area and to other cities and integrate the scheme much more effectively with public transport links.”

In that regard, I am pleased to report that, led by my colleague Minister Kelly, work is well advanced within the National Transport Authority on finalising proposals for the provision of public bikes schemes in Limerick, Cork and Galway.  Significant progress has been made in relation to the award of the contract for the supply, installation, operation and maintenance of the bike schemes.  It is hoped that this contract can be awarded early in 2014 with construction to commence shortly thereafter.

Funding  to meet the capital investment costs of public bikes in other cities has been identified within the 5-year capital allocation for Smarter Travel and Carbon Reduction Measures announced in 2012.  The delivery of the Regional Cities Bike Scheme was also dependant on  a separate process to explore the potential for a sponsorship contract to defray some of the costs associated with the introduction of the Scheme.  This process has been completed with the recent announcement that Coca Cola emerged as the successful sponsor for the Scheme.

The vision behind the Scheme is to develop an environmentally friendly means of public transport that is healthy, relatively inexpensive and will ensure an improved quality of life in each of the city’s natural and built environment.  Public bike schemes have the potential to enhance the city centres and provide a significant boost to the development of a cycling culture. It also adds to the tourism offering in those cities as well.

It has been 4 years since Dublin bikes launched in Dublin city.  It has been a resounding success with over 5 million rentals since its launch and 35,000 long term subscribers.  Dublin City Council has reported a 40% increase in numbers cycling in the city over the last four years.  I look forward to hearing of similar results when the  bike schemes are up and running in Limerick, Cork and Galway.

Building on the Gathering – 7th November 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the work his Department and the agencies under his aegus are carrying out in relation to building on the legacy of the Gathering.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The Gathering Ireland 2013 aimed primarily to generate additional tourist numbers and revenue in 2013.  However, it also aimed to have a longer-term impact.  We set a target of 325,000 visitors and we are well on the way to meeting that. But The Gathering was never just about visitor numbers and revenues.  It is also about community pride and strengthening links with the diaspora.

The Gathering helped to strengthen existing links with Irish communities abroad and create new connections.  Tourism Ireland will continue to work with the diaspora networks and will include this global family as part of its future promotional work overseas.  The networks and databases created through The Gathering will also remain as a valuable asset to Irish tourism.

A number of Gathering related events and festivals have already been identified as having potential to run again. Similarly, the success of the Emerald Isle Classic college football game, which was a key part of the marketing campaign for the Gathering, is being built on with next year’s game between Penn State – with the largest alumni association in the US – and the University of Central Florida in Croke Park.

The Gathering also made a vital contribution to the local community. The Gathering network provided extensive training to more than 2,500 people and these community engagement skills will endure and be available to support other local events.

The work of the agencies in this regard are operational matters for Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland and I am referring the Deputy’s question to the agencies for their direct reply.   Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

The promotion of safe cycling – 15th October 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to make it compulsory for children to wear bicycle helmets when cycling.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to make it compulsory for cyclists to have working lights on the front and back of their bicycles.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I propose to answer questions   445  and  446   together.

It is longstanding Government policy to recommend and promote the wearing of safety helmets by cyclists in general.

However, opinion is divided internationally on whether the wearing of helmets is best achieved through statutory requirements or through other strategies.  Making helmets compulsory would raise a number of difficulties.  In particular it would be necessary to have an enforcement system, with penalties for cycling without a helmet. The matter was considered during the preparation of the Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020.  Although the Strategy strongly favours encouraging the use of helmets, it stopped short of recommending making their wearing compulsory.

Promoting the wearing of cycle helmets is currently achieved by educational and publicity campaigns rather than by a punitive approach to the issue, particularly having regard to the large numbers of children and young people who cycle.  Consequently, I have no plans at present to make the wearing of bicycle safety helmets a legal requirement.

In the matter of lights, it is already a requirement to have lights at the front and rear of bicycles.  This is set out in Regulation 29 of the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963 (S.I. No. 189 of 1963).  The Regulations require both front and rear lights to be ‘duly lit’, therefore the lights must be in working order, as suggested by the Deputy.

Regulation of the adventure sports industry – 1st October 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on proposals to regulate the adventure sports industry and ensure safety in the sector.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act, 2001 made provision for the establishment by the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources of an Adventure Activities Standards Authority, which would have responsibility for the regulation of adventure centres. However, the Act was not commenced and the body was not subsequently put in place.

Following detailed consideration of the matter it is now considered that the measures outlined in the  Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act, 2001 do not represent the most suitable approach to deal with this issue and it is proposed that this legislation will be repealed and the matter will be addressed by incorporating provisions in the forthcoming Sport Ireland Bill. The Sport Ireland Bill will provide for the merger of the Irish Sports Council and the National Sports Campus Development Authority and it is proposed that the new body, Sport Ireland, will be  required to maintain a register of all adventure centres. The legislation will make it an offence to operate as an adventure centre if not on the register and allows Sport Ireland to set standards and charges for inclusion on the register.

I hope to bring the Heads of the Sport Ireland Bill to Government in the coming weeks and once the Heads of the Bill have been approved by Government, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications will be invited to consider the matter before the drafting of the Bill itself begins.

Penalties for driving without insurance – 18th September 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is considering increasing the current penalties for a driver caught driving without insurance, such as introducing a minimum fine of €10,000, imposing automatic penalty points and the automatic suspension of a persons driving licence.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Road Traffic legislation does not provide for minimum fines, as the level of a fine to be imposed following conviction must be at the discretion of the Judge hearing the case.

Furthermore, the fine suggested by the Deputy would mean that such cases could no longer be dealt with summarily in the District Courts. At present, District Court Judges have the discretion to deal with the offence of driving without insurance either as a penalty point offence, with 5 points being endorsed or one attracting a consequential disqualification following conviction. Both attract a maximum fine of €5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. I do not have any plans to amend the current legislation.

Penalties for driving without insurance - 17th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the minimum and maximum fine or reprimand for a driver caught driving without insurance.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The use of a mechanically propelled vehicle without motor insurance is an offence under Section 56 of the Road Traffic  Act, 1961 as amended. The maximum fine on summary conviction is €5,000, with the actual amount being at discretion of the Judge hearing the case.

In addition to the fine, where the Judge intends applying a consequential disqualification following conviction, penalty points are not applied. The minimum disqualification is for a period of 1 year. Otherwise, 5 penalty points will be endorsed on the persons licence record following conviction.

Pilot Scheme for Partial Footpath Parking -17th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 547 of 10th July 2012, if he will consider introducing a pilot scheme for partial footpath parking in a particular location as a trial.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

As I explained to the Deputy in my response to the Question referred to, there are sound arguments against allowing partial parking on pavements.

The key concerns are: that footpaths are provided for the safety of pedestrians and to segregate vulnerable road users from passing or parking traffic on the roadway; that footpaths are not constructed to the same specifications as roads and are not built to bear the weight of vehicles; and that pavement parking, if allowed in some areas, could become a matter of habit for many people and difficult to restrict to the areas where it is legally permitted.

 As all of these concerns would still apply, whether or not a pilot scheme was carried out, I do not have any plans to carry out such a scheme in the foreseeable future.

Allowing bikes on the Luas – 8th July 2013

The Programme for Government commits my Department to invest in the National Cycling Policy Framework.  Objective 8 of this policy framework is to ensure proper integration between cycling and public transport, with a specific action to provide for the carriage of bicycles on LUAS when services are of a frequency and at a capacity that allows for it, that is when they do not interfere with the capacity for passengers.

The Railway Procurement Authority considered the carriage of bicycles in 2012 as part of a review of all Luas operations. They concluded that bicycles could not be carried on Luas trams, because, for the most part, bicycles would interfere with the capacity for passengers, particularly those who are mobility impaired.

Folded bicycles may be carried on the trams at all times.

My Department is currently reviewing the National Cycling Policy Framework and as part of this exercise has re-opened the issue of the carriage of bicycles on LUAS with the RPA.  Consultation with the RPA on this matter is on-going.

It should be noted that while the RPA has not permitted the carriage of bicycles on trams they have provided over 750 secure bike parking places along the LUAS routes to enable LUAS passengers to ‘bike and ride’.

With regard to carriage of bicycles on other public transport modes, Irish Rail allows bicycles to be carried on intercity trains at all times and on DART and other commuter services during the off-peak period.

Merging the Leap Card with DublinBikes – 1st July 2013

The National Transport Authority is working with Dublin City Council and their supplier to develop links between the Leap card and Dublin Bikes schemes. The technologies deployed by the two schemes are not the same so there is a technical development required to enable smart cards issued by one scheme being read by the infrastructure of the other scheme. The two technical teams are discussing the best way to achieve integration.

Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup – 28th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the possibility of Ireland bidding to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or 2027.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I am fully supportive of the concept of hosting the Rugby World Cup in Ireland but it is, of course,  a matter for the IRFU to prepare and submit a bid.  The IRFU recently presented to Minister Varadkar and myself a feasibility study which they commissioned on the potential for hosting the tournament. The findings of that report are being considered.

The support of other sporting organisations would be an important element in the bid process and I am pleased to note that on 23 March delegates at the GAA Congress approved a motion which would allow the inclusion of Croke Park and other GAA grounds in the list of venues that would be used for matches if Ireland was selected as the host country for the tournament.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. As well as the primary purpose of bringing spectators to our shores, the hosting of sports events can provide a great showcase for Ireland.  Fáilte Ireland continues to support the holding of sports and other events that can boost tourism and, where appropriate, will provide advice and assistance to the sporting body which is seeking to secure an international event.  I understand that Fáilte Ireland has engaged with the IRFU in this regard and are considering the likely tourism impact of hosting the tournament.

The bid has also been discussed with the Northern Ireland Minister for Tourism, Arlene Foster MLA, and Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA. They have met with the IRFU and  have also indicated their support for a bid.

The Luas Cross City – 28th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress being achieved in the development of the LUAS cross city project.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), including the proposed Luas Cross City project.

Luas Cross City Line is a priority project under the Government’s 5-year capital plan – Infrastructure & Capital Investment Programme 2012-2016 – Medium Term Exchequer Framework. In November 2012, following consideration by Government, I asked the NTA and the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) to proceed with the procurement and contractual arrangements so that the enabling works for the project would commence mid-2013.

I understand that a building survey contract is now underway. Following the recent award of the two Cellars Infill and Investigation Contracts,  works commenced this week which will locate, and where necessary infill, cellars which may be under footpaths and road ways along the route. The contract for the Heritage Works Contract is scheduled for award shortly and initial works are planned for September 2013. Works on the Utility Diversions Contract are also planned to commence in September 2013. Procurement for the main contract will commence in mid-2014 with main construction works due to start in early 2015. The target date for commencement of services is end-2017.

The NTA are consulting with business representatives in the Dawson Street area with regard to the re-instatement of a northbound stop on Dawson Street. A report on possible locations for a proposed stop is expected to be available in late-July 2013.

The new project will create up to 800 jobs during the construction phase with a further 60 permanent jobs on completion. A breakdown by year is not available.

There are no plans in the current Capital Programme to further extend the Luas lines. However, the NTA is currently preparing an Integrated Implementation Plan for investment to 2018 in the GDA as required under the DTA Act 2008. This plan will address the investment needs of the Area to 2018 based on available funding and will be subject to public consultation later this year.

The Fee for the Driving Licence Application form- 26th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason note 9 on the D401 application form for driving licences does not indicate the fee associated with renewing a driving licence (details supplied).

 “My current driving licence has been lost and I have reported it to my local Garda station. Today I took a day off work in order to renew/replace my driving licence so that I can insure my car. I also went to an post yesterday and got a postal draft for e55 as per note 9 on the D401 application form, understanding that cash or cards could not be accepted in the motor tax office. Today I waited over an hour to have my application processed. I asked if I could just renew my licence seeing as my current one is due to expire next year and I didn’t think it was fair to pay e55 twice within a year for a driving licence. This was refused – I would have thought in this instance a bit more flexibility could have been offered. Not only that, the lady refused to process my application because I didn’t have what she described as valid ID (my passport is with the passport office as it’s currently up for renewal) and my only other ID is a Garda iD which she said wasn’t acceptable as they can be altered. Why are the guards continuing to issue IDs that they know can be altered? She also said that my postal draft should be for e35 for a renewal (which is not detailed on the application form). I’m now left with a postal draft that can’t be used and I probably can’t get a refund on. I feel extremely frustrated and let down by the service I received and the lack of common sense by the motor tax office. I’ve wasted an entire day off work and I’m still without a driving licence.”

Reply:

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar)

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for the issuing of driving licences. Noting this I have referred the Deputy’s question to the Road Safety Authority for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.

Local Authorities Expenditure on Local Roads – 21st June 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has estimates of the own resource expenditure by local authorities on regional and local roads over the past three years.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Details of local authority own resources expenditure on regional and local roads over the past three years are outlined here.

 

 

 

The Top 10 Tourist Sites in Ireland – 30th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport  if the Office of Public Works will list the top 10 tourist sites here; the pricing structure for each site and the number of visitors that each site receives per annum.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Fáilte Ireland compiles figures annually on the visitor numbers to free and fee-paying visitor attractions.  These figures are published on the Fáilte Ireland website.  I have provided a web link to the relevant document below.  As the matter raised is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland, I am referring the Deputy’s question to Fáilte Ireland for further details.  Please contact my private office if a reply is not received within ten working days.

http://www.failteireland.ie/FailteIreland/media/WebsiteStructure/Documents/3_Research_Insights/1_Sectoral_SurveysReports/Visitors_to_Tourist_Attractions_2007-2011-(Revised-Oct-2012).pdf?ext=.pdf 

The Harmonisation of the Penalty Points Regime on an All-Island basis – 15th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on measures to harmonise the penalty points regime on an all-island basis.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The work on the mutual recognition of penalty points is focused on the four road traffic offences of speeding, drink/drug driving, non – wearing of seatbelts and using a mobile phone while driving.  A detailed timetable for the process was agreed last October at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council.  It includes the key milestones for the drafting, passage and enactment of the required parallel primary legislation in both jurisdictions by the 31 December 2014 to allow for the introduction of the process across the island of Ireland.  Although widely accepted as challenging, officials on both sides are committed to the agreed timetable.

Steering and working groups comprising representatives of the relevant stakeholders in both jurisdictions are continuing to meet to bring the required work forward and decide on how the necessary key deliverables will be achieved legislatively and operationally.

Both groups are confident that, despite the fact that disqualifications arising from the accumulation of penalty points are dealt with differently in both jurisdictions, provision can be made in the required primary legislation to deal with such disqualifications.

To achieve the December 2014 deadline, a significant volume of work is required, including putting in place the necessary administrative arrangements and IT systems and agreement on data sharing protocols and procedures.     Complex issues will also have to be addressed in both jurisdictions with a view to establishing a workable system which is perceived as proportionate and equitable and which attracts widespread public support throughout Ireland

Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup - 15th May 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update in relation to the possibility of Ireland bidding to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or 2027.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I am fully supportive of the bid to host the Rugby World Cup in Ireland. It is a matter for the IRFU to prepare and submit a bid.  A feasibility study commissioned by the IRFU on the potential for hosting the tournament was recently presented to me by them and the findings of the report are being considered.

I am pleased to note that the GAA has given its support for the bid by allowing the inclusion of Croke Park and other GAA grounds in the list of venues that would be used for matches if Ireland was selected as the host country for the tournament.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. As well as bringing spectators to our shores, the hosting of sports events can provide a great showcase for Ireland.  Fáilte Ireland continues to support the holding of sports and other events that can boost tourism and, where appropriate, will provide advice and assistance to the sporting body which is seeking to secure an international event.  I understand that Fáilte Ireland has engaged with the IRFU in this regard.

The bid has also been discussed with the Northern Ireland Minister for Tourism, Arlene Foster MLA, and Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA. They have met with the IRFU and  have also indicated their support for a bid.

Tourism and Dublin – 13 March 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason Dublin is not more prominent in tourist advertising information, with Dublin not even featuring in the official website of Tourism Ireland website (www.ireland.com) in the first 13 Places to go and if he plans to rectify this.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas. I have referred the Deputy’s Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

To view Tourism Ireland’s response please click here.

Spending by Tourism Ireland in Dublin - 13th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason there is a disparity in the spending of Tourism Ireland in Dublin with only 6% of all advertising spend in 2009 spent in Dublin, compared to the 32% of national tourism revenues that are generated in Dublin and the future potential in Dublin to expand the tourism market.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas. I have referred the Deputy’s Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Clamping companies - 7th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to examine the operation of clamping companies and the practice of clamping by local authorities.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Section 101B of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, (inserted by Section 9 of the Dublin Transport Authority (Dissolution) Act, 1987) provides for the clamping and/or towing of vehicles illegally parked on a public road or in local authority car parks by either a member of the Gárda Siochána, a person appointed in writing by a local authority for said purposes, or a traffic warden. There is currently no regulation of clamping companies nor of the activity of clamping on private land.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to regulate the vehicle clamping industry, I presented a discussion document to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht in which I outlined the principal issues to be addressed in regulating the industry, my proposals on the shape of appropriate legislation and invited their views. The Committee responded to me in a comprehensive report which contained a number of recommendations, many of which I hope to include in the resulting legislation.

Preparation of the General Scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage in my Department and I hope to be in a position to bring legislation before the Oireachtas in 2013.

Taxi regulation – 19th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there is any inequality in the application procedures applied to persons applying for a taxi PSV licence based on whether or not they were born in this country.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The regulation of the taxi industry is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009. The skills development programme, including the area knowledge test, for the purposes of SPSV driver licensing is administered by the NTA. The NTA also administers the SPSV vehicle licensing application process with regard to SPSVs including taxis, wheelchair accessible taxis, hackneys, wheelchair accessible hackneys and limousines.

An Garda Síochána is currently the authority responsible for the licensing of drivers of Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSVs) in accordance with Regulations prescribed by the NTA. In order to maintain high standards in the industry and encourage the general public to use SPSV services, the SPSV driver licence is granted only to people who meet set criteria. All applicants for the SPSV driver licence are vetted by the Gardai to ensure that they are a fit and proper person to hold an SPSV driver licence. In order to qualify for an SPSV driver licence, a person must hold an Irish driving licence or a driving licence from another EU, EEA or other recognised State, and the person must hold a current tax clearance certificate.

The regulatory framework is in accordance with EU internal market requirements relating to the provison of services and mutual recognitionarrangements are long established in relation to driving licences.

I am not aware of any conditions under the current SPSV licensing system that would give rise to inequality purely by virtue of a person’s place of birth.

Update on the Smarter Transport Bill 2011 – 19th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide information on the status of the Smarter Transport Bill 2011 and any forthcoming legislation from his Department that might include elements of it.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to further encourage the use of more sustainable transport solutions by allowing local authorities to create bye-laws to regulate the use of electric vehicles, car clubs and so on.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I propose to answer questions 139 and 165 together.

I strongly support measures to promote sustainable travel.  In this context I am keen to facilitate both growth in the use of electric cars and the development of car clubs.

As the law currently stands, there is no provision for on-street charging points for electric cars, and no provision for car clubs.  Last December the Government approved my proposals for a new Road Traffic Bill, which is now being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.  Among other measures, I have included in this Bill a provision to allow for the making of regulations in relation to electric parking bays and car clubs.  This will be in the form of an amendment to the existing powers under which I, as Minister, am enabled to make regulations in relation to parking in public places.

The effect of this amendment will be that regulations can be made regarding the allocation of on-street parking spaces as recharging spaces for electric vehicles and as spaces for car clubs.  Local authorities will then be able to make resolutions providing for such spaces in conformity with the regulations.  It is proposed that the making of resolutions by local authorities pursuant to these regulations will be a reserved function.

Public Service Obligations - 19th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way costs are apportioned by the National Transport Authority to companies operating Public Service Obligation routes such as Dublin Bus and CIE, and the process used to decide the amount of money that goes to each company.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way financial performance of the CIE companies are monitored to ensure that they are able to deliver on their Public Service Obligation requirements for the duration of their contracts.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a private operator were to propose to operate a fully commercial service where an existing Public Sector Obligation subvention service is operated, if the National Transport Authority will consider withdrawing the PSO support for the existing service.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a breakdown of the amount of the subvention paid to each of the publicly financed transport companies by the service they offer for example how much of the Public Service Obligation goes to each of the routes in each company and the way this is determined.

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of times CIE companies have not met the quality benchmarks in their Public Service Obligation contracts.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I propose to answer Question Nos. 759, 8229, 8230, 8231 and 8232 together.

The issues raised are matters for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy’s questions to NTA for direct reply:

Authority responsible for N11 in Donnybrook Village - 7th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will confirm which authority is responsible for the maintenance of the N11 as it passes through Donnybrook Village, including traffic sequencing of lights on the road at this section and speed levels.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The road mentioned by the Deputy no longer forms part of the N11 but was redesignated as a regional road.  The maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993.  In this case the responsible road authority is Dublin City Council.

Employment practices in the civil service - 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

There is one retired civil servant on the payroll of my Department. The Department has reengaged a former Principal Officer of this Department in connection with the preparation and attendance at the State’s defence of High Court proceedings that are due to come to court hearing in 2013.  The individual is being paid a ‘per diem’ rate of €260 under the pension abatement principle.  The position was not advertised as the officer was appointed specifically for his extensive knowledge and involvement in the development of the legislative regime relating to the regulation of the area subject to challenge in the case.

Advertising promoting safe cycling – 5th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Road Safety Authority will consider using some of its safety advertising budget on a campaign that encouraged cyclists to follow the rules of the road and to cycle safely.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The subject matter of this particular question, i.e. how the Road Safety Authority spends its budget, is a matter for that Authority and I have referred the question to them for direct reply.  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.

Events confirmed for the Gathering – 27th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an outline of the events confirmed for the Gathering in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The full list of committed or pledged events for the Gathering Ireland 2013 is on the www.gatheringireland.com website and has already exceeded 1,300 events and activities.  An announcement of the key headline events will be made in the coming week.

On the Gathering Ireland 2013 generally, there has been a fantastic response to the initiative across the board, from local communities, voluntary bodies, public bodies, businesses and Government.  For example, a special fund of €2million has been made available to support local Gathering events by IPB Insurance Ltd matching a contribution from my Department via the Gathering team. The funds will be distributed via the 34 city and county councils and the applications process is open until 30 November. The key qualifying criterion is the ability of the event to attract overseas visitors.

Meanwhile, Tourism Ireland has commenced a major promotional drive for the Gathering in markets across the world and has worked with business networks, clans, cultural and sporting associations, Irish Clubs and societies, encouraging them to promote The Gathering to their networks and to mobilize members to organise events in Ireland during 2013.  The second stage of Tourism Ireland’s strategy commenced in autumn and will continue into 2013 with a major consumer campaign to promote The Gathering Ireland 2013 in key markets including Britain, the US, Canada and Australia.  Minister Ring, the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and I have attended events during the year to promote the initiative overseas. I saw myself in Australia last week the tremendous response to the call to come and join in the celebrations, from those with Irish roots and those with none.

Tourism is a valuable service export.  Encouraging those from overseas, whether Irish or not, to sample our tourism offering is not a shakedown – any more than exporting other goods and services.  With the hotel and accommodation sector already generating additional employment since this Government came into office, tourism can offer jobs to those who might otherwise face a choice between emigration and unemployment and I apologise to nobody for seeking to increase that employment still further by investing in the Gathering .  There is also a parallel aim to further strengthen our connections to all of those overseas who have a kinship with Ireland and I saw myself in Australia how much our diaspora values that objective.

Finally, as well as regular briefings from the project team, the Gathering is on the agenda in many, indeed most, of my meetings, with the tourism industry, transport operators, sporting bodies, other Ministers and indeed overseas representatives.  Even if some are carping, I am determined to continue to promote this unique opportunity for us to show the world all that is best about Ireland and I know the vast majority of Irish people, at home and abroad, will do so.

A museum for Irish sport? – 27th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the establishment of a museum for Irish sport; the efforts he is taking to establish such a body; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport

I believe that a sports museum would be an excellent addition to Ireland’s sporting and cultural experience and  has the potential to attract widespread public interest.

A committee, which is being chaired by Minister of State Michael Ring, has been established to examine the feasibility of developing a Museum of Irish Sport. The first meeting of the committee took place on 24th October.

Who is responsible for clean up if there is an oil spill - 22nd November 2012,

To ask the Minister for the Transport , Tourism and Sport the agency that would be responsible for the management and clean-up of any oil spill in Dublin Bay that resulted from drilling by a company or any other such entity; the persons who would pay for this and the way it would be done.

Reply

The the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The oil exploration site off Dalkey is the subject of an exploration licence awarded by the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources. The exploration company is required to comply with all the Rules and Procedures of the Petroleum Affairs Division of that Department prior to commencing operations at the site. These provide for the recovery of clean-up costs by individual or Unified Claims.

Part of the conditions on the development of the site is the requirement to have in place an Oil Spill Contingency Plan approved by the Irish Coast Guard which would include measures put in place by the Company to avert or deal with an Oil Spill incident. The Irish Coast Guard is reponsible for the “At Sea Response” while the Local Authority / Port Authority have responsibility for the clean up in their areas, the Coast Guard also have an oversight role in this regard.

The requirements of the Contingency Plan are outlined in Section 2.2 of the Sea Pollution Amendment Act 1999 and addresses issues such as the responsibilities of personnel  reporting arrangements including on site operational control, time criteria for cessation of production and  shut off of pressure, risk assessment and prediction of various pollution causes, consequences and areas under threat, taking into account the maximum volume of pollutant that could be released and the composition and properties of the pollutant,  response to worst case and most credible likely emergency,  clean-up facilities, for first strike  response and back up equipment,  disposal of  recovered oil, training of personnel,  surveillance of and reporting on oil slick extent and movement, contact lists and site data.

 Subvention to Iarnrod Eireann for travel passes – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way subvention to Iarnrod Eireann for free travel passes is calculated and determined.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in conjunction, as appropriate, with the Department of Social Protection, who administer the free travel pass scheme.  I have referred the Deputy’s question to the company for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Changes in train speeds over the last 30 years – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide information detailing changes in train speeds and times over the past 30 years, for example, the average journey time by train from Dublin to Cork; the average speed of trains on this line; and the power of engines used by trains on this line; his views on whether the current work practices are an impediment to achieving greater improvements in journey times on this or any other line.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in conjunction, as appropriate, with the National Transport Authority. I have referred the Deputy’s question to the company for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Retired buses – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the average age of a bus that is retired from the Dublin Bus fleet and if buses retired from the Dublin Bus fleet are made available for purchase by private operators in the Irish market.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The issued raised is an operational matter for Dublin Bus and I have referred the Deputy’s question to the company for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Dublin Bus Reply:

Currently buses retired are 12 and 13 years old and yes they are offered for sale by open tender.

Public Sector Rostering - 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

There are two areas in my Department with rostered attendence patterns, the Irish Coast Guard and the Driver and Vehicle Computer Services Division, where staff work shift patterns.  The rostered work patterns are necessary in the case of the Irish Coast Guard to provide a 24 hour/7 day rescue service for the State 365 days a year.  The shift patterns in the Driver and Vehicle Computer Services Division are to provide technical support for the National Vehicle and Driver Computer system in particular outside of the normal 9 to 5 working hours. There have been no plans submitted to me to change this system.

Construction of the Luas BXD – 18th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects construction on LUAS BXD to commence; when he expects the project to be concluded; the measures he will take to ensure that the impact on traders is minimised to the greatest extent possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Tranpsort, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) on 1st December 2009, the provision of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as LUAS BXD, now comes under the remit of the NTA.

Luas BXD to Broombridge was designed to be a key element in an overall  integrated transport network for Dublin.  It will create a Luas network by joining  the Luas Red and Green Lines and will also link with  rail services from Maynooth and Dunboyne and with existing Quality Bus schemes which enter or cross Dublin City Centre.  It will also, in time, interchange with future key projects such as Dart Underground and Metro North.

The project has been prioritised under the Governments’s 5-year capital plan – Infrastructure & Capital Investment Programme 2012-2016 – Medium Term Exchequer Framework – which was published in November 2011. Funding has been included in my Department’s capital allocation to 2016 to cover the cost of commencing the main construction works in 2015 and for  pre-construction enabling works in 2013 and 2014.  Construction is expected to take 4 years.

An Bórd Pleanála gave approval to the project on 2nd August 2012 and, following the statutory 8-week appeal period, the railway order (RO) is now operational. I understand that the business case for the project is now being updated by the RPA having regard to conditions attached to the RO and other information updates.

There has been extensive engagement between the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) and both Dublin City Council (DCC) and Dublin Bus aimed at minimising the construction impacts of Luas BXD on all road users, including pedestrians, and on businesses in the city centre area.  The ongoing engagement between the relevant agencies on these important issues, which now also includes the NTA, will intensify both prior to and during the construction of the project.

The harmonisation of penalty points – 18th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the timeframe for the harmonisation of penalty points with Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The mutual recognition of penalty points between Ireland and Northern Ireland is being dealt with under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC). This work involves the mutual recognition, rather than harmonisation, of certain road traffic offences, along with the penalty points associated with those offences in each jurisdiction. Harmonisation would be a much more complex issue to address and is not envisaged at this time.

It was agreed at the NSMC Transport Sectoral meeting on 21 October 2011 that officials would work together to bring forward proposals for the introduction of the mutual recognition of penalty points for speeding, drink/drug driving, non-wearing of seatbelts and using a mobile phone while driving.

The detailed timetable agreed at the North South Ministerial Council Meeting held on 5 October 2012 includes the key milestones for the drafting, passage and enactment of parallel legislation, North and South, by 31 December 2014 to allow for the mutual recognition of penalty points across the island of Ireland.

Steering and working groups, comprising of representatives of the relevant stakeholders in both jurisdictions, have been established to bring the required work forward and decide on how the necessary key deliverables will be achieved legislatively and operationally.  Both groups have met on a number of occasions to date.

To achieve the December 2014 deadline, a significant volume of work will be required, including putting in place the necessary administrative arrangements and IT systems and agreement on data sharing protocols and procedures.  In taking the work forward, complex issues need to be addressed by the two jurisdictions with a view to establishing a workable system which is perceived as proportionate and equitable and which attracts widespread public support throughout the island.

Indenting footpaths for parking – 18th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 33353/12, if he will consider the possibility of indenting footpaths where practicable to allow more space for cars to park, without disrupting the traffic flow on a road, and still allowing the use of footpaths.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Local authorities currently have the power to indent pavements to allow for parking.  In correspondence I have had with local authorities, including Dublin City Council, in regard to the issue of partial parking on pavements, I have pointed out that this option exists.

Partial footpath parking -10th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to make it possible for local authorities to introduce partial footpath parking in urban areas.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I corresponded with Dublin City Council on this matter on a number of occasions in the past year.  In essence, the argument for allowing partial parking is that it would alleviate certain parking difficulties in the city, while the arguments against relate to safety.  I believe the arguments against a change substantially outweigh those in favour of change.

Footpaths are provided for the safety of pedestrians and to segregate vulnerable road users from passing or parking traffic on the roadway.  Footpaths are not constructed to the same specifications as roads and are not built to bear the weight of vehicles.  Local authorities could face problems such as potential damage to kerbs, paths and utility access covers.  Finally, if pavement parking is allowed in some areas, it could become a matter of habit for many people and difficult to restrict to the areas where it is legally permitted.

In the absence of any new evidence or arguments for allowing partial parking on pavements, I have no plans to change the law in this regard.

The Smarter Transport Bill – 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider incorporating the Smarter Transport Bill 2011 into upcoming legislation.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

This question relates to the Smarter Travel Bill which was introduced last year by Deputy Murphy as a Private Members Bill and the related matters of electric vehicles and car clubs.

The purpose of the Smarter Travel Bill is twofold.  First, it aims to promote electric car use by allowing local authorities to make bye-laws for the provision and use of charging bays on public roads.  Second, it aims to promote the development of car clubs by allowing road authorities make bye-laws for the control and regulation of parking by car club vehicles on public roads.

I support the promotion of electric and hybrid vehicles as one of the ways to reduce pollution and improve our environment.  With the current state of technology – which is advancing all the time – there are limits on the distance electric cars can travel before recharging.  The provision of recharging points is, therefore, an important component in encouraging the use of electric cars.

Car clubs have proven very successful in other jurisdictions, particularly in Germany and the UK.  A particular benefit is that families often find that by joining a car club they can avoid the need for a second family car, especially in cases where they might need a second vehicle only occasionally.  As with electric cars, I am also in favour of car clubs as a way of reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.  I am, therefore, very happy to support appropriate measures to promote electric cars and car clubs.

I have met with the Deputy on the subject, and conveyed my support from the principle of promoting electric cars and car clubs set out in his Private Members Bill.

My Department is now engaged in work on the development of the next Road Traffic Bill, which I hope to publish at the end of 2012.  This Bill will address a number of issues, and will provide an opportunity to consider proposals for facilitating electric cars and car clubs.  As far as is possible, I intend to include the proposed measures from the Smarter Travel Bill in the Road Traffic Bill.

The Luas BXD project – 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the LUAS BXD project.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) on 1st December 2009, the provision of infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), such as LUAS BXD, now comes under the remit of the NTA.  Luas BXD to Broombridge was  designed to be a key element in an overall  integrated transport network for Dublin.  It will create a Luas network by joining  the Luas Red and Green Lines and will also link with  rail services from Maynooth and Dunboyne and with  existing Quality Bus schemes which enter or cross Dublin City Centre. It will also in time interchange with future key projects such as Dart Underground and Metro North.  The project has been prioritised under the Governments’s 5-year capital plan – Infrastructure & Capital Investment Programme 2012-2016 – Medium Term Exchequer Framework – which was published in November 2011.  Funding has been included in my Department’s capital allocation to 2016 to cover the cost of commencing the main construction works  in 2015 and for  pre-construction enabling works in 2013 and 2014.  Construction is expected to take 4 years.   However, key decisions and actions which will determine the precise construction start date must await the outcome of the planning process which is currently ongoing.   Pending the outcome of the planning process there has been extensive engagement with key stakeholders such as Dublin City Council , Dublin Bus, taxi representatives and the business community in relation to such issues as traffic management during construction. Subject to the grant of the railway order this engagement will intensify both prior to and during construction.

The advertising contract for Tourism Ireland - 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the person that holds the marketing and or advertising contract for Tourism Ireland; the location of the office; the number of staff in the office; the amount of funding the agency receives from Tourism Ireland; and where the advertising or marketing production work is subsequently contracted out to and by whom.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas. I have referred the Deputy’s Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Contract for Tourism Ireland – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the person that holds the marketing and or advertising contract for Tourism Ireland; the location of the office; the number of staff in the office; the amount of funding the agency receives from Tourism Ireland; and where the advertising or marketing production work is subsequently contracted out to and by whom.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas. I have referred the Deputy’s Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

The number of overseas visitors to  Ireland – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the number of overseas visitors to Ireland in 2011; and his targets for 2012.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The target for overseas visits in 2012, set out in the Marketing Plan of Tourism Ireland, the agency with responsibility for marketing Ireland as a holiday destination overseas, is to increase visit numbers to Ireland by a further 4.5%. This will build on the growth in visits achieved in 2011, for the first time since 2007.  While final statistics in relation to overseas visits to Ireland in 2011 are still being compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), figures for the first 11 months of 2011 were published by the CSO on Monday 9 January.

These show that there were just over 6 million overseas visits to Ireland in that period, an increase of 6.8% compared to the corresponding period of 2010. Numbers of visits to Ireland grew from all our main market areas, including Great Britain, our largest and most important tourism market.

To help achieve the targeted growth, I have allocated over €39 million this year for overseas tourism marketing which allows Tourism Ireland to implement its Plan, as well as funding Fáilte Ireland’s enterprise supports and product development.   Prioritising tourism marketing investment, along with continued implementation of other measures in the Programme for Government and the Jobs Initiative to support levels of access and enhance competitiveness, such as the Visa Waiver Scheme, the lower VAT rate for tourism services, and continued investment in tourism infrastructure and product, will provide the platform on which the tourism industry, working in partnership with the tourism agencies, can deliver this growth.

Our targets for 2012 will in turn be built on by The Gathering 2013, the largest ever tourism initiative for Ireland, which aims to deliver an additional 325,000 visitors to Ireland in 2013.

Essential driver training legislation  - 31st January 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on legislation regarding essential driver training introduced in April 2011; and if consultation was undertaken in advance of introducing this piece of legislation.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

Essential Driver Training (EDT), which I introduced last April, requires learner car drivers to undertake a course of compulsory lessons before taking the driving test.  EDT is one of nine components in the development of a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system for Ireland.  Taken together, these components will contribute significantly to the quality of driving on our roads, and so to road safety.

The development of detailed proposals for the GDL was undertaken by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and the process included extensive consultation during 2009.  EDT was one of the specific proposals to be developed following this exercise.

I understand from the RSA that it engaged extensively with Approved Driving Instructors during the development process for the EDT programme itself.

Minister’s opinion on replace clamping with fines – 9th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to investigate the possibility of replacing the local authority car clamping system that currently exists in Dublin with a fine and emergency clamping removal system as has recently happened in Cork City.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

While current legislation permits local authorities such as Dublin City Council to clamp vehicles in public places, either directly or by contract with a clamping company, there is no legislation covering clamping on private property.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to regulate the vehicle clamping industry, I recently presented a discussion document to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht, outlining the issues involved in regulating the industry, my proposals on the shape of appropriate legislation and inviting their views.

When the Committee’s views have been received, I anticipate that appropriate legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas.

Standards in the tour guide sector - 7th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Government body for educating tour guides is going to continue in this role and if not if it is proposed that some other body will take its place; and his views of the possibility of introducing a diploma for tour guides.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

There are no legislative provisions governing operations and standards in the tour guiding sector in Ireland. Like the provision of any other service, the consumer is protected by consumer protection legislation.

Fáilte Ireland operates a number of Tour Guide Training Programmes – A National Tour Guide Training programme certified by HETAC at Level 7 and a Dublin and Environs Tour Guide Training Programme certified by FETAC at Level 6.  Tour Guides who successfuly complete one of these programmes as well as completing a specified number of tours, which must be evaluated by a tour operator or employer, and who hold a current Occupational First Aid Certificate can become a Fáilte Ireland Approved Guide and apply for a Fáilte Ireland Tour Guide Badge.

I am satisfied that these programmes and the qualifications awarded are sufficient not only to provide participants with the communication and information skills necessary to offer a quality tourist guiding service, but also to reassure the tourist as to the quality of the service on offer.

The operation of these training programmes is a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland. I have asked the agency to advise the Deputy of its future plans for these programmes. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Turning off public lighting at night as a cost saving measure – 14th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered a proposal (details supplied) to request local authorities to turn off specific public lighting at night time in rural locations as a cost saving measure which he estimates could save the State somewhere in the region of €10 to 11 million annually, and as is the current practice in some European cities.

(Every night with most people in bed there are approximately 20,000 sets of individual stand alone pedestrian traffic lights consuming expensive electricity for no purpose. The majority of these are in rural locations, one or two sets per village. I estimate such lights(six bulbs and relays) use one unit of electricity per hour – about 20 cents + VAT. Say these lights were timed to turn off between 22.00 and 6.00 hours when not needed. Savings would be :- 20 cents by 8 hours by 365 days by 20,000 sets of lights which comes to 11,680,000 Euros in a full year. The actual figure would be a bit lower as local authorities probably get a good discount from ESB, Bord Gais, Airtricity etc. However it would not be far off 10 million. I would urge yourselves to look into modification to such sets of lights – inclusion of a mains timer in control box would cost about a tenner per installation at most. Such thinking could be applied to larger complex sets of lights during the dead of night(say 2.00 to 5.00 hours). While the time period here is much shorter the savings would also be considerable as power consumption on more elaborate sets is much higher than a stand alone pedestrian traffic light set.)

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

As Minister for Transport, I have responsiblity for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads projects are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each road authority within its area, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993.  Works on such roads including the installation, maintenance and operation of traffic lights are a matter for the relevant local authority. The safe operation of traffic lights and the potential for energy savings are also a matter for each local authority

Regarding the potential for energy savings on national roads, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you don’t receive a reply within 10 working days.

The Gathering launch – 16th february 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the gathering will be formally launched; the mechanisms for community groups; and members of the public to get involved.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I presented proposals for “The Gathering 2013″ at the Global Irish Economic Forum last October. Fáilte Ireland is the lead agency for the implementation of  the initiative while Tourism Ireland Limited will have specific responsibility for promoting “The Gathering 2013″ in overseas markets.

The event is intended to be the biggest tourism initiative ever staged in Ireland and will consist of a year-long programme of festivals, events and other gatherings throughout the country, all of which will aim to attract overseas visitors.

The initiative is being overseen by a small, tightly-focused Project Board. This project board brings together representatives of the tourism bodies and my Department and includes other members with relevant expertise. The Chair of the Board is Ann Riordan (formerly Chair of Tourism Ireland and of Dublin Tourism, as well as previously working as Country Manager for Microsoft in Ireland) and the Board will oversee planning and delivery of the Gathering, supported by a small executive team drawn mainly from the tourism agencies alongside graduates under the JobsBridge programme.

They will be supported by a Council of Champions, which will act as a forum to engage the wider community at home and abroad.  Tim O’Connor, former Secretary-General to the President, will act as Chair of the Council of Champions and is also a member of the Project Board.  The Project Board is currently finalising the Business Plan for “The Gathering 2013″ which will cover the scope of the event and detail how interested parties can participate in it. It is planned that the event will be formally launched internationally over the course of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities next month. It will be launched domestically in April at which point a mechanism will be put in place to allow communities and members of the public to contribute to The Gathering.

An additional €5m is being provided to Fáilte Ireland this year and is being ring-fenced for preparations for The Gathering. This additional allocation will more than reverse the original planned cut in Fáilte Ireland’s current expenditure budget for 2012.

The national speed limit audit – 19th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide further details about proposals for a national audit of speed limits; the way the audit will be conducted; and the way he plans to implement its proposals.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

My Department will shortly engage with the National Roads Authority and local authorities throughout the country with a view to ensuring that a nationwide audit of speed limits takes place. The aim of this audit is to examine and improve, where appropriate, the application by local authorities of speed limits and speed limit signage throughout the country, in accordance with my Department’s “Guidelines for the Application of Special Speed Limits” issued last year.

As this work will involve extensive input from and engagement with the NRA and road authorities to reduce inconsistencies and the potential for driver confusion, it will take some time, but it is my intention to complete this project during the course of this year.  I am determined  that the necessary improvements should be implemented as soon as possible so as to further enhance road safety, saving lives and reducing serious injuries.

Electric vehicle access to bus lanes - 18th April 2012,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider granting access to bus lanes for electric vehicles, as has happened in Norway, as a means of effectively promoting the purchase and use of electric vehicles on Irish roads.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The primary purpose of providing bus lanes is to facilitate and promote bus based public transport.  The regulations generally limit the use of bus lanes to buses and, in the case of with-flow bus lanes, to cyclists.   Having regard to the role of taxis in providing on-street immediate hire services, an exemption is allowed in respect of taxis when they are being used in the course of business.

There have over the years been a number of requests to my Department to consider amending the legislation to allow other categories of vehicle to use bus lanes.  These include hackneys, limousines, multi-occupancy cars, and motorbikes, among others.  I have received a number of such requests since becoming Minister.  The overriding concern in considering these applications is the carrying capacity of bus lanes, and the potential that their primary role to provide bus priority could be undermined if other vehicles were allowed access.  As a result, I have taken the view that the current restrictions on use of bus lanes should be maintained.  These lanes were introduced at some expense to the taxpayer in order to provide priority on our roads for public transport.  This is in line with our aim of making public transport more efficient and attractive, and so reducing congestion and pollution.

I do, of course, support the development and promotion of electric cars as an environmentally friendly means of transport, a policy which is within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.  However, changes to the bus lane legislation in regard to electric cars, or other modes of transport, are not in my view the appropriate way to promote them.

The Minister’s views on The Smarter Transport Bill - 19th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views regarding the Smarter Transport Bill 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I welcome the Smarter Transport Bill 2011 which the Deputy recently published. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to make bye laws for the provision and use of charging bays on public roads for electrically powered and plug-in hybrid vehicles and for the control and regulation of parking by car club vehicles on public roads.

I believe the Deputy’s bill is important as it will, if enacted, provide the legislative basis to encourage greater and more widespread use of electric cars as well as making car clubs a more viable option for members of the public.  Therefore, I look forward to the Bill being debated in the House in the coming months, and giving general support to the proposals contained within the Bill.

How much will the department spend on consultancy fees - 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount the Government intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in Government Departments.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The latest estimate of expenditure by my Departement on consultancy fees for 2011 is €463,000. Much of the expenditure is related to policy reviews which are broadly oriented towards the objective of achieving improved economic outcomes in the transport, tourism and sport sectors.  Expenditure on specific studies under the value for money review programme for the year is €2,800.

A safe place to park bikes – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered opening bike parks in the city centre to provide commuters with a safe place to leave their bikes, thus encouraging more persons to cycle to work.

Reply

The Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport (Alan Kelly):

The provision of public bike parking is a matter in the first instance for the local authority concerned utilising either their own resources or financial assistance that may be available from either my Department or the National Transport Authority. A good example of local authority provided city centre bike parking is the secure bike parking made available by Dublin City Council on the ground floor of Drury Street multi-story car park in Dublin 2.

Airport bus services stops at midnight – 19th July 2011

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that public bus services operating to and from Dublin airport terminate at midnight, hence there is no public mode of transport available after that time for those with bus passes depending on a public service.

Reply

The Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport (Alan Kelly):

The issues raised are operational matters for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.  I have referred the Deputy’s question to them for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Reappointment of the DAA board - 7th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will be reappointing the board of the Dublin Airport Authority after it expires in 2011.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

I appoint directors to the board of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in accordance with the provisions of  Section 13 of the State Airports Act 2004 and Section 22 of the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998, as amended by paragraph 9 of the Schedule to the Act of 2004, as the need arises.

There are thirteen director positions on the board of the DAA, four of whom are Worker Directors. Currently the position of Chairperson is vacant and six director posts fall due to be filled before the end of the year. I will be appointing a new Chairperson in the near future and will make the other appointments as the vacancies arise.

The Olympics and the effect on tourism in Ireland - 21st April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will expand on plans by the tourism agencies to target tourists from London who may wish to leave the city during the Olympic games in 2012; the amount of money being invested in these plans including marketing campaigns and, the expected tourist numbers and revenue.

Reply

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar):

The matter raised is an operational one for Tourism Ireland Limited, in the first instance, as the body responsible for promoting the island of Ireland as a visitor destination overseas, working together with Fáilte Ireland where appropriate. I have referred the Deputy’s Question to Tourism Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.