Thu, May 4, 2023
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Having raised this issue an number of times before, Neasa sought an update on the implementation of camera enforcement as part of the upcoming BusConnects programme and if this measure will be brought forward as part of a Road Safety Strategy.
Neasa Hourigan TD: Will the Minister provide an update on the implementation of camera enforcement as part of the upcoming BusConnects programme and if this measure will be brought forward as part of a road safety strategy by his Department as outlined to us at the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts in 2022?
Minister of State, Jack Chambers: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 24 together.
With the State having incurred the investment required to deliver BusConnects, it is vital to ensure sufficient enforcement is in place to protect the benefits of that investment from widespread breaches of the restrictions applying to bus lanes, cycle tracks and junctions. To effectively ensure this outcome, camera-based enforcement will be required to augment the on-street activities of An Garda Síochána.
In addition to supporting BusConnects in its operational phase, camera-based enforcement also has a wider role to play in enhancing road safety, particularly at junction locations. This type of arrangement is in use internationally, where camera detection of certain breaches of regulation is linked to the issuing of fixed penalty notices. Feedback and evidence indicate that such provision is very effective in enhancing compliance with the relevant traffic legislation.
Action 67 in the Road Safety Strategy Phase 1 Action Plan 2021–2024 sets out the need to “further develop camera-based enforcement by the Gardaí, including at junctions and for management of bus/cycle lanes, building on existing and recent legislation through establishing suitable cross-agency administrative arrangements; and, where any legislative issues are identified, to consider and develop agreed proposals to remedy them”. The Department of Transport has arranged for the National Transport Authority, NTA, to undertake the first phase of this action, namely, to establish and chair a working group to make recommendations on how it should be progressed. It is intended that this group will report back on progress made to the road safety transformation partnership board comprising the relevant agency CEOs and senior officials from Departments involved in delivering the road safety strategy, which I chair. The subsequent steps for implementation, including addressing any legislative issues that may be identified, will be determined by the Department when this phase is completed.
Having established the working group, which is inclusive of representatives of An Garda, local authorities, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Department of Transport, the NTA has in tandem commissioned research on international practice in this area to inform the working group’s considerations. The NTA anticipates that the working group’s report will be finalised and provided to the Department in the third quarter of this year.
Neasa Hourigan TD: Can I ask the Minister of State for some clarification on that because this is obviously an issue on which I have gone back and forth quite a good deal with the Department? I have had at least seven or eight engagements with the Department on the issue in the past 18 months or so.
In June 2022, we were told that legislative measures might or will be required in due course. In September 2022, when he followed this up, we were assured the legislation required for these cameras is in place and that no further legislation would be needed. The Minister of State has just outlined that the working group might make recommendations for legislation, so it would be very useful if there was some clarification on that.
As the Minister of State knows, BusConnects relies on bus gates to work. In the same manner in which red lights are treated on bus lanes, the efficiency of BusConnects will be lowered if we cannot get the red lights working. It is very important. We had tender documents out in 2015 and 2016 for the pilot projects on Blackhall Place, Benburb Street, Con Colbert Road and Queen Street. We are now in 2023, so that is eight years we have been thinking about doing traffic red light stuff.
Minister of State, Jack Chambers: Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act provides for the use of camera apparatus to capture the constituent of an offence in the case of a number of offences under the Road Traffic Acts. Failure to obey a red light is a contravention of Article 30 of the road traffic regulations of 1997, and these regulations are made under section 35 of the 1994 Act. The offence of not obeying a red light is therefore an offence under section 35 of the 1994 Act and is therefore covered by the provisions of section 81 of the 2010 Act. As a consequence, I am informed that the law is already clear in providing for the use of cameras to provide evidence of violation of red light rules.
The Deputy also referred in her question to an update following an appearance at the Committee of Public Accounts, where I believe the Deputy was engaging with one of my officials on this issue in respect of the road safety strategy, how we can effectively implement BusConnects, the wider deployment around public transport, and establishing a structure to deal with this. I believe the National Transport Authority favour the overall direction around camera-based enforcement being fleshed out in terms of how we deal with that, inclusive of red light running. We intend to implement that in a more coherent way and that is what the working group will do. There is the wider operational piece, which is important, together with the investment around that, which the working group will also be dealing with.
Neasa Hourigan TD: It is very useful and good to know that there is a working group in place and that progress is being made. Could we get some more information around that working group, because one of the issues which arose in the Committee of Public Accounts is the fact that, like so much in transport, it falls between a number of agencies? Am I to take it the NTA is the lead point and will provide the leadership on this? The Minister of State mentioned that this working group report might come through in the third quarter. Will we be seeing the bones of a business case that will then go to the Department of Finance or to the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform? What would we expect to be the outputs from that working group?
Minister of State, Jack Chambers: I thank both Deputies for their thoughts on this. The working group is inclusive of representatives of An Garda, local authorities, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Department of Transport. The NTA is taking the lead in this phase, with the recommendation to be made in the third quarter of this year. We also need to look at international best practice if we are making significant investment and a transformation in how we embrace active travel within our cities and towns. Is important we ensure it is properly adhered to in the legislative context and within enforcement. The group will be doing that. It is positive that it is not to happen in the third quarter of 2025 or in the never-ever space. The working group is coming back, it has commissioned the research to look at the international best practice, and it will then move on its recommendations. I appreciate Deputy Hourigan’s engagement on this and her work on the Committee of Public Accounts as well as the input of Deputy Bruton on the Amsterdam experience.