Senator Sharon Keogan — Short Hop Zones for the Greater Dublin Area
I am delighted the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, is here because I think a Green Party Minister will actually make this happen. I thank my Fianna Fáil colleagues for putting forward this motion, which is very important for many colleagues in this House. I felt it was so important that, a number of weeks ago, I contacted Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour Party and all other Senators in this House who are affected by this motion to see if we could get together collaboratively and work to make this a tangible goal and make it happen.
I welcome the motion. The 50 km and 70 km zones look very pretty but I wonder if that is practical. I would certainly be happy to see it happen but we are talking about hitting Carlingford with that, and a few more kilometres and the medium hop zone would actually be in the North of Ireland. The Department should conduct research to see where the need really is for these services. I know that Gormanstown in County Meath has the infrastructure to handle much higher use of train services, and the need is there too. We could be stretching up as far as Laytown and I know that Newbridge down south would benefit greatly from being included in the short hop zone.
The pricing structure must be right, however. I know that many people travel to Balbriggan from counties Meath and Louth because of the fares. A Dublin to Balbriggan return is €8.90 whereas a Dublin to Drogheda return is €19.50, which is 122% more. Dublin to Gormanstown is €15.10 and Dublin to Laytown is €16.90 return. If people are living in Meath, it costs 100% more in fares, and if they are living in Louth, it is 122% more, so it is practical to include these areas in the short hop zone.
My colleague spoke earlier about Julianstown. More than 25,000 cars pass through Julianstown every day, with most travelling to the train station in Balbriggan and with commuters parking in Balbriggan and getting the train there. Some of them are parking up in Gormanstown and they are not parking in the car park there but along the side of the road, which is a problem for the residents living on the station road. When I was on the council, the cost of public parking near these stations was a massive issue. It is €30 to €35 per month and people cannot afford that on top of the fares. It is something we need to look at and the price structure also needs to be looked at. The Meath and Louth area would definitely welcome these short hop zone fares.
There are other issues I want to raise. The fact we do not have a train or tram from the airport into Dublin city centre is unbelievable. It is ridiculous at this stage that, as a First World, European nation, we do not have a train or tram route from our national airport into our capital city. It is a complete anomaly when we look at almost all other European capitals. I understand no Government wants to do it because of the cost and because it will have to disrupt business, traffic and all of that, but, realistically, it should be done so a way around that must be found.
I spoke earlier about parking charges at stations.
Not everyone lives within walking distance of a station, so we should not be punishing people for driving to stations and using public transport.
Most people do not want to drive for 45 minutes or an hour, getting stuck in traffic on the way, in order to get to work. They would love to take the train. We need to encourage that. We can do so by making public transport physically and financially accessible, safe and pleasant. The fare reductions across public transport have been wonderful. It will be interesting to see the data relating to that, and any increase in people using public transport. I would love to see more innovative policies to make our public transport networks more attractive to users and prospective users. If Fianna Fáil is going to make them affordable, maybe it is the Green Party that will make them first class. Exchequer funding would be well spent if that can be done. I thank my colleagues in Fianna Fáil for bringing forward this motion.