FG Senators and TDs criticise Ross over Dublin Bus redesign
Minister says ‘legitimate’ concerns over BusConnects scheme will be remedied
Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been accused of being ‘seriously politically disinterested’ in the BusConnects scheme. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Minister for Transport Shane Ross was heavily criticised at a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and Senators on Wednesday night over his handling of the controversial redesign of the Dublin Bus network.
The Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting also heard fears that the BusConnects scheme had the potential to damage the Government.
The discussion came just after the Dáil debated a Fianna Fáil motion on the issue. Dublin North West’s Noel Rock tabled his own motion at the party meeting, and called BusConnects a “political landmine”. He also accused Mr Ross of being “seriously politically disinterested” in it.
The BusConnects scheme involves changes to bus routes into Dublin city, and a €2 billion investment in the network. However, elements of the plan have caused controversy, such as some areas of the capital losing a direct bus link to the city centre.
According to the National Transport Authority (NTA), bus services will be arranged along “seven cross-city super frequent spines” under the plan.
Former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald described the BusConnects issue as “extremely politically dangerous”. Senator James Reilly, who is trying to win back his seat in Dublin Fingal, Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell, Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell, and Dublin South West’s Colm Brophy also raised it.
Mr Farrell criticised Mr Ross for leaving the Dáil during Wednesday’s debate and Mr Reilly asked that the Minister come before the Fine Gael group to answer questions.
Mr Rock said Fine Gael was not treating the issue “appropriately seriously as a party”.
“The Minister appears to be politically disinterested too,” he said, adding that he did not want to sound “alarmist”.
“The intention is to shoehorn an American-style grid transport system into Dublin which, as I’m sure is obvious to most of you, is not a grid-like city.”
The NTA opened an initial consultation period, which runs until the end of the month, on the changes in July. An updated plan will be published in the new year, which will then be followed by another consultation period.
At a press conference yesterday, Fianna Fáil Dublin spokesman John Lahart and transport spokesman Robert Troy said people had repeatedly expressed concern that the entire plan had already been finalised. Mr Lahart said people were worried about losing direct access to the city centre.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Ross said both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin initially welcomed the BusConnects initiative. He accused Mr Lahart of being initially so enthusiastic about BusConnects that he wanted to have his pictures taken with brochures on it.
“The consultations will be taken seriously and there will be further consultations after that,” he said. “That is a serious business and it is not to be taken as there always are when one introduces a radical measure of this sort, but they are not insuperable and that is why the NTA is out there day and night with members of its staff listening to members and others speak about the difficulties they have.
“Those concerns which are considered legitimate will be remedied.”