Tue, Nov 9, 2021
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Following a 18-month trial in the Smithfield area which identified 1,300 road users breaking traffic lights, Neasa questioned the Department for Transport about their plans to introduce a broader traffic light enforcement system.
Neasa Hourigan TD: How many red light enforcement cameras are in operation and how many are planned to be rolled out in the remainder of 2021 and into 2022?
Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton: As Minister of State in the Department of Transport, I have no role in regard to the installation of cameras. Road traffic legislation sets out the standards for the use of such cameras and their effect in terms of road traffic law. Under section 81 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, electronic apparatus, including cameras, may be used to provide evidence in regard to offences under a number of the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts. The enforcement of road traffic law is a matter for the Garda Síochána, with some powers provided for local authorities in respect of parking controls. The installation of cameras for traffic management is a matter for the relevant road authority.
Regarding the installation of cameras to detect red light offences, in 2015 to 2016, a pilot was successfully carried out at the intersection of Blackhall Place and Benburb Street in Dublin, on the red Luas line, under an agreement between the NTA and the Garda Síochána. The NTA operated the system and provided images to An Garda Síochána, which had responsibility for processing violations. The aim of the pilot was to reduce collisions at that intersection between cars and trams on the red line. Following a review of the project, two further locations have been selected for red light cameras, namely, Con Colbert Road and Queen Street. My Department has been advised the NTA will be developing system design and technical specifications for tenders to install and operate the three sites.
Separately, the role of additional camera-based enforcement and its potential road safety benefits is being considered by the Department and transport agencies.
Neasa Hourigan TD: I thank the Minister of State. As she said, the NTA has a role to play in this. It relates to some of the discussion we have had in recent weeks about the possibility of a transport police force, which is an idea that has merit. We can no longer divide the issue of enforcement from the proper operation of our transport systems.
I get consistent feedback from my constituents in Dublin Central that cars are increasingly pushing the limits of amber lights and outright breaking the red lights, sometimes at speed. An Garda Síochána does not have the proper resources to deal with this issue and it is not practical for it to do so. I can think of better ways for it to use its resources in Dublin Central. Many EU countries operate this red light traffic system very well. The initial trial over an 18-month period in that area of Smithfield mentioned identified 1,300 road users breaking the lights, and I suspect that was a rather conservative estimate. From that trial in 2015 in Smithfield, in 2019, those three additional cameras were installed. That progress seems quite slow.
Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton: Following the completion of the pilot, a review of the overall system was undertaken, and in 2019, An Garda Síochána confirmed acceptance of the review recommendations and that the pilot installation could be confirmed as permanent. However, it was necessary to retender the technical and operational parts of the project, as the original installation was a pilot project only. Under procurement legislation, the larger permanent operation requires a new, publicly advertised tender process. Due to Covid commitments, the NTA has not progressed the retendering process. It intends to develop the system design and technical specifications for the Blackhall Place site, as well as the additional sites at Con Colbert Road and Queen Street and seek tenders in the next year. While the Blackhall Place site is not currently operational, it is expected to be reactivated following the appointment of a specialist service provider. During 2023, it is expected the additional two sites, Con Colbert Road and Queen Street, will be activated.
Neasa Hourigan TD: We will need quite a bit more additional capacity than that. While movement on it is encouraging, it will have to be rolled out nationwide. Suitable enforcement will have to be part of our transport solutions in moving towards a lower carbon strategy. It is also an issue around a rights-based strategy for those with disabilities and making the urban sphere much more accessible. For those who want to move towards active travel in terms of cycling and multi-modal trips, enforcement on our roads is incredibly important. Speeding and the breaking of lights has a huge impact on people’s perception of the road, their right to it and their use of it. That is no more relevant than to those vulnerable groups, such as younger children and those with disabilities. Until the perception is out there that people will be seen, called out on and held to account for breaking the rules, the rules will continue to be broken.
Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton: I hear the Deputy’s concerns. There is no legislative barrier to this. The Department does the legislation and it is up to the agencies - the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, An Garda Síochána and the local authorities - to roll out these projects. I take her points on accessibility on public transport. We have increased Garda resources in this budget. The Deputy made reference to antisocial behaviour on our public transport services. This came up earlier, with other Deputies. The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has spoken to the Garda Commissioner and the Garda is engaging extensively with public transport service operators in ensuring we can make certain both staff and passengers are safe. The work is ongoing, but I will relay Deputy Hourigan’s comments to the Minister, Deputy Ryan.