Public Transport Bill 2015 2nd Stage Speech Dail Éireann

30th June, 2015

I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.


This Bill provides for amendments to the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, the Road Traffic Act 1961, the Railway Safety Act 2005 and the State Airports Act 2004.


It is a short Bill comprising just seven sections, including one providing for the short title and collective citation, with one for each of four of the five Acts being amended and two for amendments to the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.


I will give an overview of the main amendments being proposed. However, I would like to emphasise that the amendments proposed are technical amendments to existing legislation and do not involve any new regulatory policy.




I will begin with Section 1 of the Bill relating to the public transport infrastructure functions of the National Transport Authority (NTA).


The proposed amendments to the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) Act 2008 will ensure that the NTA can develop and deliver public transport infrastructure such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), in the event that it is decided to proceed with such infrastructure, or other projects such as cycling schemes.


The amendments are required to address certain issues identified by legal advisers to the NTA as potentially precluding the NTA from providing such projects. The proposed amendment ensures that the NTA would have the necessary powers to deliver required public transport infrastructure but does not involve a commitment to the development of BRT.


Under the capital plan to 2020 funding to support and improve bus services will be a key priority. As well as ensuring a modern efficient fleet it is essential that the bus routes and supporting infrastructure facilitate the provision of attractive services.


There are 16 bus corridors forming the Core Bus Network within the Dublin region. These Priority Bus Corridors represent the key arteries of the bus system, with high frequency, multiple bus services using these routes.  As such they form the cornerstone of the overall bus network for the region.


Outside of the city centre, the overall length of these corridors amounts to about 174 kilometres, or 347 kilometres when each direction is considered separately.

Of these 347 kilometres, less than one third – 102 kilometres – have dedicated bus lanes.  The remainder, approximately 70%, require buses to co-run with general traffic.  In order to improve the efficiency of the bus services on these routes, and improve journey time performance and overall competitiveness, it is important to sequentially address the bus lane deficits on these routes and provide continuous bus lanes, to the extent practicable, along these key corridors.


If funding was available over the next 5 years, 30 to 40 kilometres of the required improvement works would be constructed each year.


Achieving greater levels of continuous inbound priority for example would make it possible to increase average bus speeds from a current average of 10 kilometres per hour at peak on certain routes to 15 or even 20 kilometres with resultant savings in terms of bus fleet requirements and drivers as well as a much improved service for passengers.


In particular, the amendments in Section 1 address a constraint in the existing legislation which creates a differentiation between public roads existing before the establishment date of the NTA and public roads which were developed after the NTA was established.


The advice of the Office of the Attorney General confirmed that a technical amendment would be required to the 2008 Act to address this differentiation and provide that the NTA would have equivalent powers to provide public transport infrastructure on public roads that were constructed either before or after the establishment date of the NTA.


Section 1 of the Bill also provides for an amendment to Section 44 of the DTA Act 2008 in relation to the performance of a ‘function’ by the NTA. The amendment removes a doubt that has arisen over whether it adequately addresses the situation where only part of the function is required to be performed by the NTA.


This means that a likely case of the NTA intending to undertake certain aspects of a function, while the other statutory party continues to carry out all of the remaining aspects, may not be permissible, or may carry a risk of a successful legal challenge.




Moving to Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill, these sections provide for amendments to the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. The Programme for Government contained the commitment to review and update the regulation of taxis to ensure that taxi drivers are recognised as a key component of the public transport system and to provide for a forum for discussion between the regulatory authorities and taxi providers.


The Taxi Regulation Review Report, 2011, identified 46 actions to address the key issues in the taxi sector in 7 areas – driver licensing, vehicle licensing and standards, accessible services for people with disabilities, compliance and enforcement, consumer and industry assurance, fleet management and rental controls and a rural hackney service to deal with very limited access in rural areas.


The Taxi Regulation Act 2013 was introduced primarily to give legal effect to recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report 2011 relating to increased enforcement measures, including a demerit scheme to deal with recurrent breaches of small public service vehicle (SPSV) regulations, the issue of on-the-spot fines for an increased range of offences and a proportionate system for mandatory disqualification from holding a licence on conviction for a serious criminal offence. The 2013 Act also repealed and replaced the Taxi Regulation Act 2003.


The commencement of the 2013 Act, and the introduction of new SPSV regulations by the NTA in tandem with that commencement,on the 6th and 7th April 2014 respectively, has delivered a significantly greater level of compliance, improved and streamlined the regulatory regime for driver and vehicle licence holders and provided an enhanced degree of professionalism in the industry.


Customers of taxi services also benefit from greater transparency and information availability on licensed services. A range of quality of service actions has been initiated and these have resulted in a renewed commitment to improving the utilisation of wheelchair accessible taxis.


The amendments in Section 2 can be grouped into those which (1) provide greater precision in the 2013 Act relating to certain provisions, (2) provide more specific enabling powers under the 2013 Act for certain matters which the NTA may provide for in regulations and (3) relate to punctuation and textual corrections and refinement.


In relation to those providing greater precision in the Act, the main amendments provide for:


  • the inclusion of a requirement that the licensing authority may only grant a licence to drive a small public service vehicle to a person who holds a driving licence to drive such a vehicle;


  • the automatic revocation of a SPSV licence on surrender of the licence by the licence holder;


  • the non-application of the representations and appeal procedures under the Act to decisions of the licensing authority to refuse to grant a licence or to revoke or suspend a licence, arising from a vehicle not meeting the required standard for SPSVs. Without this amendment the licensing authority’s decision does not take effect until the appeal procedures have been exhausted which takes a period of about two months during which the licence continues and the vehicle can be used as a SPSV despite failing the vehicle standards test;



  • the extension of the current 3 month timeframe to 9 months from the date of the death of a licence holder, during  which the nominated representative of the deceased licence holder may apply to the NTA for the grant of a licence of the same category.

It is considered that in the circumstances 3 months is too short a period; and


  • the applicability of the dispatch operator licensing requirements to technological intermediaries – an argument has been put forward that such intermediaries do not provide a ‘booking service’ (the term used in the 2013 Act) but rather they provide a ‘platform’ where intending passengers can directly contact vehicles. The proposed amendments to sections 2, 7(2)(c) and 22(5) of the Act will bring certainty on this issue.


As regards those amendments providing for more specific enabling powers for certain matters which the NTA may provide for in regulations, the key amendments relate to section 7 of the Act and provide for the requirement for prescribed written declarations/undertakings to accompany a licence application e.g. that he or she has not been convicted of certain offences specified in the Act, that his or her health or mobility does not affect his or her ability to drive a SPSV.



Section 3 of the Bill provides for the substitution of section 48 of the 2013 Act relating to fixed payment notices for small public services vehicles. Section 48 provides that when a person is issued with a fixed payment notice he or she has 28 days beginning on the date specified in the notice during which he or she may pay the prescribed fixed payment amount – this is the ‘first payment option’.


If they do not pay the prescribed fixed payment amount during that first 28 days period, he or she may make a payment of an amount 50% greater than the prescribed fixed payment amount – this is the ‘second payment option’.


However, the timeframe for this ‘second payment option’ is not currently prescribed in Section 48 – it is prescribed in the fixed payment notice issued to the alleged offender. Legal advice is that it is preferable that the period for the ‘second payment option’ be prescribed in Section 48. In providing for this amendment the opportunity has also been taken to provide for greater precision in certain aspects of the wording of section 48, e.g. the addition of the words ‘specified in the notice” to subsection (1)(a), the addition of the words ‘duly completed’ to subsection (1)(b).




Section 4 of the Bill provides for an amendment to the Railway Safety Act 2005 to change the name of the Railway Safety Commission to the Commission for Railway Regulation.

The Railway Safety Commission was established under the Railway Safety Act 2005 to foster and encourage railway safety and to enforce legislation relating to railway safety.


Directive 2012/34/EU establishing a single European railway area which  requires each Member State to designate a Regulatory Body to monitor competition in the rail services market in the State to ensure non-discriminatory access to railway markets.


The Regulatory Body will have a monitoring function and a role to hear appeals made by railway undertakings and other interested persons.


Regulations were made recently to transpose Directive 2012/34/EU and provide for the assignment of the functions of the Regulatory Body to the Railway Safety Commission.


The effect of this is that, in addition to the regulation of railway safety, the Railway Safety Commission now has statutory functions in respect of the regulation of the rail services market.  It is considered therefore that it would be appropriate to change the name of the Commission to Commission for Railway Regulation to best reflect the broadening of its remit.


It is proposed that the date for the change of name would be appointed in an Order to be made by me to ensure that the timing of the change of name can be carried out in a planned and organised manner.




Section 5 of the Bill provides for a purely technical amendment to section 27 (as inserted by section 51 of the State Airports (Shannon Group) Act 2014) of the State Airports Act 2004.


The amendment will bring the provisions of section 27 in line with similar provisions under the Road Traffic Acts, as operated by local authorities and the Garda Síochána, and clarifies that the payment accompanying the notice cannot be accepted unless all the required information has been completed on the notice.




Section 6 is essentially a technical amendment, correcting section 106 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, which deals with duties on occurrence of an accident.


It was amended in 2014 to introduce new offences for hit and run incidents causing death or serious injury.  The Attorney General’s Office has since advised the Department that the amended version of the section contains an implicit contradiction.


The new hit and run provisions are indictable offences, but they come under a section heading referring to summary offences.

The Attorney General’s advice is that the intention of the law is clear in spite of the error, and the DPP is continuing to take prosecutions under this legislation.


However, it is also the AG’s view that the error should be corrected at the earliest available opportunity, and that is what we are doing here.


At the same time, we are rectifying an omission in the 2014 provisions.  When the new hit and run provisions were introduced, there should have been an associated amendment to state that there would be a consequential disqualification for those who were convicted under the new provisions.


As this was not done at the time, we are doing it now though section 6(b) of the present Bill.




I am also giving consideration to the inclusion of two further amendments in the Bill, which I intend to introduce at Committee Stage.


At present, the NTA is required by virtue of the Roads Act 1993 to make an application for development consent in relation to public transport infrastructure, such as the development of the Sutton to Sandycove Cycletrack scheme (S2S), to An Bord Pleanála as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required for such development.


However, I have been advised that the NTA is also required to seek planning permission from the relevant local authority.


The objective of the possible amendment will be to clarify that the NTA is required to engage in one statutory approval process for development in accordance with whatever legislation applies to the particular development, and not be subject to two different and parallel processes.


My Department is consulting with both the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and the Office of the Attorney General in relation to this proposed amendment.


I also propose to amend the Bill at Committee Stage in relation to rail.


International rail travel is governed by a set of procedures and rules drawn up by the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail Carriage.


These rules are formally set out in a Convention known as “COTIF”.


Ireland is one of only a small number of members of the Organisation yet to fully ratify the COTIF Convention. This failure to ratify has led to infringement proceedings being taken against us by the EU Commission.


As a result, and following advice from the Attorney General’s Office, I have decided that Ireland should expedite the ratification of the Convention by means of primary legislation.

Irish Rail has been fully consulted on this matter and it should be noted that the enactment of legislation in this area will not have any significant practical impact on rail operators or rail passengers in the State.




This is a technical Bill but, as is often the case with technical Bills, an important one.


I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to Deputies’ contributions.