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61st CfIT Plenary Meeting - 13 - 14 May 2009 (Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

Minutes:

Present

Commissioners:
Peter Hendy (Chair)
Peter Hendy (Chair), David Leeder (Vice-Chair), Harry Bush, Philip Davis, Carolyn Dwyer, Garrett Emmerson, Paul Godier, Helen Holland, Shona Johnstone, Paul Plummer, Corinne Swain, Richard Turner.

CfIT secretariat:
Matt Coleman, Neil Williams, Ian Griffiths.

Apologies for absence:
Lynn Sloman (Vice-Chair), Gerry Doherty, Roger Jones, Andrew Sentance, Michael Roberts, Neil Betteridge, Neil Scales, Graham Dalton, Neil Bentley.

Day One

Commissioners convened at the Irish Department of Transport (DoT) on 13 May. Irish officials, who had been briefed on CfIT's past, current and future work programme, explained the Irish Government's approach to delivering transport policy and regulatory reform.

Welcome Address (Julie O'Neill - Secretary General, DoT)
Julie provided an overview of Irish transport policy. In common with other countries, Ireland faced difficult economic times. Aviation and shipping were particularly important sectors, with the Irish having the highest propensity in Europe to fly (reflecting the true island status of the nation).

The Dublin population had grown considerably, with commuting distances (60-70km journeys, predominantly by car) rising as a result. This exceptional growth was influenced, in part, by land-use and life-style choice. The Irish Government's response was to significantly enhance public transport patronage in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). As such, significant upgrades had been made to the road network and rail system, with safety being the overriding consideration. One significant initiative was the 'Transport 21' project which, among other benefits, would provide a metro link (17 mins) between Dublin Airport and the city centre.

A number of key challenges faced the Government. Among these were to:

The Government was now looking at ways to mitigate the negative impacts of the recent unprecedented growth in national infrastructure. These impacts were partly attributable to a lack of joined-up thinking on the location of housing (essentially, land-use). In having provided the necessary infrastructure, the Government's challenge was to change hearts and minds in terms of attitudes and behaviours. In planning ahead, the bus network would continue to provide the back-bone of transport services, and would remain in state ownership. Julie concluded by commenting on the formation of the new Dublin Transport Authority (DTA), a single co-ordinating transport body for Dublin and the GDA. A Chief Executive to head-up the authority was currently being recruited.

Sustainable Travel & Transport Action Plan (David Fadden - Principal Officer, National Sustainable Travel Office, DoT)
David outlined the background to the new Irish policy framework for transport. There was a clear correlation between economic growth, pollution and emissions. It was noted that the non-traded sector in Ireland was fairly sizeable, comprising transport, domestic emissions and agriculture (40% of the Irish population is rurally-based).

Better integrated spatial planning was needed in order to facilitate the ongoing impacts arising from the exceptional growth in housing recently witnessed - albeit, to some extent, the 'horse had already bolted'. However, it was anticipated that more could be done, such as:

Further discussion touched on, among other topics, potential Irish carbon taxes. Whilst politically unacceptable in the current economic climate, carbon taxes could be embedded now as a fiscal measure and used later as an environmental policy lever. This would be open to further debate.

Cork Area Strategic Plan (Andrew Hind - Senior Planner, Planning Policy Unit, Cork County Council)
Andrew began by explaining that Cork was Ireland's largest county, and host to the country's second city with a population comprising 185,000. Cork constituted a modern port city and which had attracted significant in-migration during the recent growth period.

In introducing the Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP), Andrew explained that the challenge was to deliver integrated land-use and transport planning within two new strategic transport corridors. This would initially be achieved through extensive modifications to the suburban rail network. The key was to identify and maintain a sustainable quantum of population and density.

The key to the success of CASP had been the clarity of language used. It had been clear and well written. People were able to understand its purpose, effect and message. As such, it had built consensus among the local population.

Andrew finished by emphasising and reinforcing the importance of long-term strategic planning. Horizons of, say, 2020 for local and national strategies were too short. A more realistic timeframe would be 2030, or beyond.

During discussion, Commissioners learnt that Councils offered lower priority to development plans submitted in areas not served by rail, and instead encouraged development plans incorporating sustainable development principles similar to CASP.

Reform of Public Transport Regulation (John Weafer - Principal Officer, DoT)
John informed Commissioners that the regulatory framework governing the licensing of commercial bus passenger services dated back to the Road Transport Act of 1932. The Irish Government was committed to opening up the bus market to competition via bus licensing reform. Rail and the majority of bus services were state-owned (operated by Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE)). CIE was currently exempt from licensing requirements. However, under new legislation, licenses would be required for all commercial and state-run bus services. The Irish Government intended to transfer operational control of state-run bus services to the new DTA which would be up-and-running in 2009. DTA would be responsible for implementing the new framework arrangements.

New public service contract arrangements (precipitated by the EU) were due to come into force in December 2009. The Irish Government has used this opportunity to separate state ownership of CIE from bus service operation. Under new legislation, the DTA (and not the Irish Government) would be responsible for awarding non-tendering public service contracts.

Day Two

Commissioners reconvened at the Irish DoT on the morning of 14 May. Mid-morning, Commissioners visited Fingal County Council to learn about the approach to integrating planning that had informed planning of the Metro North Project.

Transport 21 (Maurice Treacy - Principal Officer, DoT)
Maurice provided Commissioners with an overview of Transport 21 (T21). T21 was the Irish Government's framework for investment in transport, spanning 2006 - 2015, covering national roads, public transport and regional airports. The total projected investment cost of T21 amounted to €34 billion. T21 comprised a fundamental part of Ireland's national Development Plan (2007 - 2013).

The principal aim of T21 was to enhance the strategic transport system in the GDA. This was in response to significant growth witnessed in population, employment and car-use over the preceding years (private car ownership had grown by 50% between 1996 and 2005). Similar growth had been witnessed across Ireland, with previously increasing property prices in Dublin forcing people to purchase properties greater distances from the city, and thus having sizeable commutes. To emphasise the challenge, Maurice pointed out that 40% of the Irish population was now located in the GDA (comprising only 9% of Ireland's territory).

Key strategies forming the basis of T21, were:

The Irish Government had taken a political decision in 2005 to fund transport at greater levels than that for integral, key services such as health and education. As such, transport spending would amount, on average, to 5% of GDP during the lifetime of the T21 project.

Metro North - Integrated Land-Use and Transportation Planning (David O'Connor, County Manager, Fingal County Council)
David explained that given the extensive population growth in and around Dublin, future expansion must take place outside the GDA. Already, the population of Fingal had increased by 22%, between 2002 and 2006. The Council was committed to developing the region around Dublin Airport using sustainable development criteria and planning for future commuting patterns. The Council's vision was to become a carbon neutral city region, using the development of the Metro North Economic Corridor as the strategic context and prototype for doing so.

Planning Metro (Rachel Kenny - Senior Planner, Fingal County Council)
Rachel highlighted reasons why Swords and the surrounding area had been chosen for the Metro North development. Essentially, it enjoyed a high employment rate, possessed a large skills pool, and was accessible to mid-west markets and seaports. The development sites would be linked by Metro (funded by Transport 21) to Swords, Dublin Airport and Dublin city centre. Journeys from Swords to Dublin would be completed in under 30 mins, with a 4-mins frequency during peak times. Interchanges would be provided onto rail, light rail (LUAS) and respective bus services.