Dublin Transport Authority by 2009

It seems Dublin is a step closer to getting decent public transport co-ordination, in the form of an overarching Dublin Transport Authority (DTA), or Údarás Iompair Bhaile Átha Cliath in Irish (and spelled incorrectly on the Oireachtas site), something that has been desperately needed for many years. Seamus Brennan promised to deliver this but failed, in 2005 Martin Cullen went as far as to begin a process to establish the ground rules for such an authority, only to later reject it on the grounds that the Government didn’t want the DTA to be able to put a stop to major construction without first considering public transport implications.

Now it seems thinking has changed and Noel Dempsey is finally publishing the bill for the establishment of the DTA and with it the simultaneous dismantling of the Dublin Transportation Office. One wonders if the DTA will be as woefully underfunded and undersupported as the DTO was by the Government (remember the traffic sign fiasco?). Having said that, the powers set out in the bill seem to be exactly the sort of thing we’ve been crying out for and and it’s commencement date of 1st January 2009 is sooner than we might have hoped. So, it will be interesting to see how much money the body gets in the next Minister for Finance’s budget.

“The public have a right to expect a world class, integrated public transport system and this new Authority will have the powers to make that happen. Under Transport21 Government is spending over €100 a second between now and 2015 on new buses, trains, Metros, Luas lines and roads. The DTA will ensure that these projects are delivered to the highest standards in the shortest time period possible,” said Minister Dempsey yesterday.

The authority will be in charge of all transport related infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) which, for purposes of the DTA includes Dublin City & County and also the commuter belt of counties Wicklow, Meath and Kildare. Louth, which is not considered part of the GDA is conspicuous by it’s absence.

As one of it’s first tasks the DTA wil come up with an integrated transport plan for a period of between 12 and 20 years. The authority will, it seems, take over many of the functions currently undertaken by the Department of Transport, such as the funding of transport funtions in the city in addition to some other functions currently handled by Dublin Bus, the RPA and Irish Rail. In addition the body will become the transport brand for Dublin, in a similar fashion as Transport for London.

The DTA will supervise many of the so-called Transport21 projects, such as the proposed metro and the DART interconnector and can give mandatory directions to implementing bodies (RPA, etc) if it deems it appropriate.

One interesting proposal it the apparent move to London style bus services, whereby the DTA will specify fares, routes and general service obligations and then tender these functions out to transport providers. In practice most routes will be provided by Dublin Bus, but this will allow privateers to provide services alongside Dublin Bus (in theory at least) and opens the door to real integrated ticketing between the services. There is always the risk that this is an attempt to introduce privatisation through the back door, so it will be interesting to see who gets what bus routes and if private operators are placed under the same public service obligations as Dublin Bus currently is.

In addition to public transport, the authority will be in charge of sorting out Dublin’s traffic situation, allowing for the first time proper co-ordination of all construction & road works and the effect they have on traffic. The DTA will also be heavily involved in the planning process and public transport provision will be a key part of any major planning application in the future, potentially leading to private financing of rail and light rail extensions by developers.

All in all it all sounds like very positive and overdue stuff, hopefully it amounts to something. We’ll be watching with interest.

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