Wednesday 24 May 2017

Successful candidate will have no say on city transport policy

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE new Dublin mayor will not have a say over key areas of the capital's transport system, an Irish Independent investigation has learnt.

The mayor will not be able to force through changes to the running of city transport -- which leading candidates have described as essential to the viability of the job.

The mayor's ideas and proposals can be completely ignored by the National Transport Authority (NTA), which effectively runs transport in the city and greater Dublin area.

The revelation comes after potential candidates for the position criticised the powers granted to the mayor in other areas such as planning, waste and water services, claiming that they are weaker than in other capital cities.

The mayor will not be able to improve the frequency of bus, Dart, suburban rail or Luas routes, or introduce new routes. And he or she will not be able to:



  • Interfere in the day-to-day running of bus or rail services in the capital.
  • Increase or decrease public transport fares.
  • Put new taxi ranks on the streets.
  • Introduce congestion charges.


The actual details of Environment Minister John Gormley's plans fly in the face of Green Party claims that the mayor can transform transport infrastructure similar to the mayors in London and Barcelona.

Unpopular

And the Greens' likely candidate, Paul Gogarty -- who is also embarking on a campaign to inform Dubliners about the position -- has admitted he isn't entirely sure what the mayor will do regarding transport.

The mayor's bill is due to be debated in the Dail this week and is already widely unpopular in Fianna Fail. The vast majority of its TDs and councillors in the capital think the position is another toothless bureaucratic layer of local government.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern -- who was initially mentioned as a possible candidate for the post -- has dismissed it as a "non-job".

But even though it is seen as a Green Party pet project, disgruntled FF TDs are unlikely to vote against the plan, promised to the Greens by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The Dublin mayor is based on the London model, but the transport provisions are significantly weaker. And Dublin Bus and Irish Rail say proposals for a new mayor will have no effect on their day-to-day services.

It had been initially speculated that the mayor would chair the NTA, but legislation published by Mr Gormley last month reduces the mayor's input to the chairing of a different council within the NTA structure.

The mayor will chair the Greater Dublin Area Transport Council, to be made up of five mayoral appointees, five appointees from central government, and the cathoirleach of the mid-east regional authority, which covers counties Meath, Kildare and Wicklow.

But the council will only "approve" the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, a 12- to 20-year plan, which is the NTA's most important function. It will also only "approve" the NTA's six-year traffic management plans for the Dublin region, which have to be followed by local authorities.

The council will also "consider and make recommendations" to the NTA about how its transport plans and strategies are implemented. The funding of these plans will be dictated by the transport and finance ministers of the day.

But the NTA can completely ignore the opinions and recommendations of the council, according to legislation establishing the mayor's position.

"The council shall monitor the implementation of the transport strategy, the integrated implementation plan and the strategic traffic management plan in respect of the greater Dublin area and make recommendations it considers appropriate to the authority," the legislation says.

"The authority shall consider the recommendations of the council ... and may accept or reject, in whole or in part, any such recommendations. Where the authority rejects in whole or in part a recommendation of the council ... it shall notify the council of the reasons for the rejections."

The Department of the Environment has described the mayor's role as "a strategic, leadership and overall policy one".

"The role proposed for the mayor and transport council in relation to transport is one of strategic oversight," the department said.

"It would not make sense to involve such an office in day-to-day details for which other agencies have operational responsibility.

"The objective of bringing greater coherence to land-use and transportation policy in Dublin will be supported by the mayor's role as chair of Greater Dublin Area Transport Council."

Irish Independent

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