The National Transport Authority, which is the transport regulator, has selected six subsidised bus routes in Waterford city, including the Tramore service, for competitive tender from December 2016, along with a number of commuter services to Dublin.
There is a strong tradition of private operators in the Waterford/Southeast region who can bid for these contracts. Bus Éireann will also be able to tender.
The Department of Transport is of the firm view that should these six city routes be taken up by a private operator, it will not undermine the viability of Bus Éireann’s operations in Waterford.
The Waterford Public Service Obligation (PSO) services to be tendered comprise about 16 buses, or 15% of the overall operation of the Depot. Commercial intercity ‘Expressway’ services, which aren’t subvented, as well as school transport, will remain wholly with Bus Éireann.
This is not designed to be a downgraded service — rather the opposite. This controlled pilot competition aims to generate higher commuter take-up, better value for money, and a lower State subvention requirement.
As per Bus Eireann’s current contract, the NTA will set and monitor service levels, timetables and fares. It’s intended that free State travel passes will be honoured by any new operator.
July 2, 2014
Securing a bus shelter for Kilmacthomas has been made a public service priority by local councillor Liam Brazil and Waterford TD John Deasy.
The Fine Gael colleagues have made representations to Waterford City and County Council on the issue, which has come up repeatedly in their contacts with residents over recent years.
In reply to a letter from Deputy Deasy to County Manager Michael Walsh, the Council’s Director of Services Paul Daly confirmed: “We have investigated the matter and we are prepared to erect a bus shelter as requested. We are currently procuring same and seeking possible funding from the bus operator. It is hoped to have the funding in place in the coming weeks.”
The village is practically halfway between the city and the county town of Dungarvan and a lot of people, including senior citizens and parents with young children, use the Bus Éireann service between Cork and Waterford on a daily basis.
Pleased that progress is being made, Cllr Brazil said: “I have raised this at local authority level on a number of occasions and the need for a bus shelter was also brought up time and again on the extensive election canvass I did in Kilmac’. Last winter was one of the wettest on record and it’s long past the time when passengers should be expected to wait for a bus exposed to the elements.”
With a location earmarked at the end of Main Street, Deputy Deasy says it’s time to finally put this relatively small but still significant piece of infrastructure in place.
“I’ve been informed by the Department of Transport that a new €7 million fund for public transport improvements includes €1.5m for a major investment programme in bus shelters across the country.
“An estimated 40 additional shelters are to be provided under this measure, specifically targeting rural areas and I will be urging Waterford council officials to pursue this funding for Kilmacthomas if necessary,” he said.
Newgate planning design, investment brochure are both very advanced
NAMA is making significant strides towards reviving a more viable version of the proposed Newgate shopping complex in Waterford city centre.
In a letter to Waterford TD John Deasy (dated May 8), the agency’s chairman Frank Daly confirmed that Bannon Property Consultants “have been engaged by the borrower to examine the most commercially feasible options for the development of this site.
“As part of its work, Bannon is engaging with prospective anchor tenants and established commercial/retail developers with a view to ascertaining the level of interest in carrying out a development of the site, either independently or on a joint venture basis with NAMA,” he said.
Mr Daly added that “NAMA is funding the work by Bannon and we have also funded other significant expenditures relating to this site to date.”
The local Fine Gael deputy had raised the matter with Mr Daly at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee last September, and recently made a follow-up enquiry.
Previously, at the PAC, Mr Deasy had stressed the importance of securing substantial investment for the city centre given that the Waterford economy had been “devastated”, particularly the retail sector, over the past five years.
He noted that the 3-acre Michael Street site (a block also taking in New Street, Alexander St and Stephen St) had been identified in the then recently-published Waterford local authority merger implementation committee report, which included the project among its recommended high-level interventions.
At that time Mr Daly signalled that a fresh planning application would be necessary as the previous proposal — permission for which expired late last year — wasn’t commercially viable in the current economic climate; suggesting “a more simplified mix” would suffice.
Now, outlining the most up-to-date position, he wrote: “Based on the feedback from this process and presuming commercial viability, it is intended to finalise and submit a new planning application for the site. Work is significantly advanced in terms of design and layout of the new development and there has been significant and positive engagement with the planning authority.”
The chairman also pointed out that NAMA has part-funded, along with Waterford City Council, a marketing brochure — in the process of being finalised — which is aimed at promoting Waterford City as a retail investment opportunity. “The document,” he said, “highlights, inter alia, the opportunity at Newgate and is targeted at both retailers and developers.”
The €4 million made available to dredge the harbour in Dunmore East is “a critical infrastructural investment,” according to Deputy John Deasy.
The capital funding, a large proportion of the €14.63m allocated nationally by Marine Minister Simon Coveney last week, “will significantly assist fishermen and processors, as well as those involved in other marine activity such as vessel repair, with knock-on benefits for the services sector and the wider local community,” Mr Deasy said.
The Waterford Fine Gael TD has made numerous representations on the general development of the harbour in Dunmore. €450,000 was granted for a widening of the slipway at the West Wharf last year, in addition to a new wave wall pavilion, while the Minister has also confirmed funding of €220,000 for an extension of the State fishery harbour building. A major upgrade of the village’s water supply is also underway.
“The key thing though is the dredging,” Deputy Deasy stressed. “The harbour there hasn’t been dredged properly for 20 years and the build-up of mud and silt has got to the point that boats over a certain draught just aren’t able to get in to dock, particularly at spring tide.”
Acknowledging the campaigning role played by Cllr John Carey in highlighting this issue over the past decade, Mr Deasy added: “While the Department had recognised that major dredging was needed, it was a question of finding the money. The trick was extending the harbour maintenance programme budget, which was only around €7m for the whole country; and so the answer we kept getting was that there weren’t sufficient funds available.”
Arup, who were commissioned to provide consultancy services in November 2012, have had the tender documents in relation to the dredging contract — involving the removal of some 16-17,000 cubic metres of sediment from the harbour bed — ready to release for some time.
“I know from Minister Coveney’s office that the Department is anxious to proceed as soon as possible and the plan is to go straight to tender, with a view to having the dredging contract in place by early to mid summer,” Deputy Deasy added.
Meanwhile, a total of €468,000 has been allocated to Waterford under the Local Authority-owned harbours, piers and slipways programme arising from the recent storm damage. This comprises €315,000 for Boatstrand pier, €135,000 for the Tramore seawall, and €18,000 for the storm wall in Dunmore.
Deputy John Deasy has said the broadening of the Living City Initiative announced in the 2013 Finance Bill in today's Budget should benefit more Waterford property owners and businesses.
“I explained in the Dáil and the Public Accounts Committee that the scheme, as it was defined initially, would have limited it to Georgian houses built up to 1840,” the Fine Gael TD said. “When I looked at the proposal it made sense but from a practical point of view Waterford wouldn’t have benefitted greatly unless there was some significant enough leeway and the Minister has taken that on board.”
Following further consideration, including a cost-benefit analysis, Michael Noonan has broadened the eligibility criteria to include all buildings built prior to 1915. The scheme, piloted in Waterford and Limerick, has also been extended to Kilkenny, Cork, Galway and Dublin. It will be commenced after EU state approval is secured.
The Initiative is designed to encourage renovation of business premises and period properties in the designated cities by offering tax incentives to eligible owner-occupiers, and will also create jobs in the construction sector locally.
The news that sufficient funding will be released to complete the refurbishment of Abbeyside beach comes after four years of lobbying central government.
In 2009 Dungarvan Town Council asked the National Building Agency to draw up a master plan for the Abbeyside waterfront which has fallen into disrepair over the past number of years.
Deputy John Deasy said: “The €183,000 being grant aided should be enough to complete the project as submitted by the Town Council. This summer the beach was busier than it has been for years but the state of the infrastructure is just not good enough. The Town Council did well to identify this grant scheme and apply for the money.”
The Abbeyside Waterfront development – covering an area from the Pond to Lands’ End; a linear shoreline length of 1.3km – will consist of:
“I am told by Town Council officials that it is ready to go after tendering and specification. The overall spend should be in the region of €0.25 million, with 75 per cent of the money coming from the grant scheme.”
::: Speaking about rates at the PAC on June 20
John tells Public Accounts Committee that revaluation process could leave local retail businesses on brink
Fine Gael TD John Deasy has called on the cabinet to immediately consider the potentially “catastrophic” implications of the rates revaluation process for retailers throughout Waterford city and county.
The Valuation Office has begun a systematic National Revaluation Programme based on a 2011 analysis of non-domestic rental values. Proposed Valuation Certificates have been issued to thousands of commercial and industrial ratepayers across Waterford over the past month.
With the average rateable increase in the retail sector locally around 40–50 per cent, “Make no mistake – people will be put out of business due to this revaluation,” Mr Deasy warned this week. “Many retailers are facing a doubling or even tripling of their commercial rates.
“The South East region has been worst affected by the recession, and the sector worst affected within that region – retail – is in danger of being crushed by this process.”
“In my home town of Dungarvan they are also potentially facing an increase as a result of the abolition of the Town Council and the harmonisation of Town Council rates with the higher County rate. Then there’s Waterford City, where there’s an enormous unemployment rate; approaching 30 per cent in parts.
“The South East region has been worst affected by the recession, and the sector worst affected within that region – retail – is in danger of being crushed by this process,” added Mr Deasy, who met the Commissioner for Valuation in Waterford at the weekend.
He also raised the issue at the Public Accounts Committee last Thursday, where he agreed with retail ratepayers that there’s “a massive disconnect between Dublin and what’s going on on the ground.”
While accepting “the people in the Valuation Office are merely doing their jobs,” Deputy Deasy maintains that “the legislation allowing for the revaluation doesn’t taken into account what’s after happening to the business community these last six or seven years.
“Self-employed people have ended up with massive personal debt and a far smaller customer base. This legislation made no provision for the changing economy. It was written in a different time economically.”
Deputy Deasy also points to the “macro-economic policy issues arising from this revaluation process. In many cases businesses have come to me and said, ‘We’re going to have to leave people off if I have to pay this bill’. That has an effect on the State spend when it comes to unemployment benefits and so on.”
And he insisted: “Someone in Government needs to attempt to understand the implications of rates revaluation. The Government can’t wash their hands of a measure that has the potential to wipe out another chunk of the retail sector.”
Deputy John Deasy, Waterford international athlete Kelly Proper, Minister for Sport Michael Ring, and Mayor of the City, Cllr Jim D’Arcy, at the opening of the all-new RSC track at Kilbarry last Thursday, which was undertaken thanks to a near-€500,000 Government grant.
Waterford City Council’s application under the Sports Capital Programme was also supported by John Foley, CEO of Athletics Ireland, County Athletics Board PRO Fintan Walsh, and Brid Golden, Secretary and Head Coach of Ferrybank AC.
The state-of-the-art 400m rubber surface was laid by Mondo, the Italian global leader in track & field flooring, who have been responsible for the main running arena at the last 10 Olympic Games as well as the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
Photo: Noel Browne
On track for June completion
John Deasy TD, and the Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Jim D’Arcy, check out the track upgrading works at the Regional Sports Centre, Kilbarry on Friday last.
Contractors Mondo are the global leader in track & field flooring, being responsible for the main track at the past nine Olympics, including the London Games, and the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Moscow. The top-of-the-range blue rubber base is the same surface on which the likes of Usain Bolt and Sebastian Coe set world records.
The track was manufactured at Mondo’s plant in Italy and delivered to Waterford in hundreds of rubber rolls. The meticulous installation process is being done by hand, and the resurfacing includes the high-jump area. Work is now scheduled to be completed on-site next month. Weather-permitting, lining is to begin the first week of June and will take a fortnight.
Deputy Deasy said: “I really want to thank Michael Ring, Minister for Sport, whose Department provided the funding to Waterford City Council, for his help with revamping the RSC track to a world-class standard. He’s taken a personal interest in this project and knows how important it is to hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the area.” [Photo by John Power]
::: Dungarvan town: well run
The impact of higher commercial rates after the merger of Waterford’s local authorities could place an intolerable burden on small businesses, Fine Gael Deputy John Deasy has warned.
The Waterford TD wants the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to clarify the situation facing businesses in soon-to-be-abolished Town Council areas post-amalgamation.
“In this economic environment, which has been disastrous for retail in particular, an increase in local authority rates would sound the death knell for many businesses,” he fears.
Mr Deasy raised the “problematic” area of rates equalisation with senior Department officials at Public Accounts Committee level last December and they acknowledged it is a concern.” He pointed to the “massive divergence” in Annual Rateable Valuations among local authorities around the country, confirmed in figures gleaned by way of a Dáil question earlier this year.
“So far the Department response has been about achieving ‘rates harmonisation’ on a county-wide basis – possibly, but not categorically, around the lower commercial rate in contiguous council areas. However, when you see the huge difference between the rateable valuations in Dungarvan and Waterford City in 2012 [60.37 and 66.22 respectively], the local business community are rightly concerned. That Waterford County Council’s ARV is 69.92 has hardly helped Tramore,” he noted.
Deputy Deasy has called on his party to live up to the pledge in its 2011 pre-election small business policy document to ‘continue to freeze local authority business rates and reduce them where possible.’ Furthermore, Fine Gael members on councils controlled by the party were instructed by headquarters to keep rates at existing levels for three years after the last local elections (2009).
At that time, Fine Gael said “to restore competitiveness we need to lower business costs to help them through the recession.” The party coupled a “commitment to freezing local business rates” with radical local government reform, and a “wish to see savings and efficiencies rather than new taxes and charges.”
“If shops in towns like Dungarvan can’t afford to keep going, the cumulative effect on the wider community is huge. It means more people on social welfare, less money in circulation, a smaller local rate base to support council services, and a lower tax take for the Exchequer."
Deputy Deasy explained: “When I brought this up at the PAC before Christmas, I cited the danger of effectively penalising Dungarvan, where the Town Council has been well run for many years, helping to maintain business and jobs. In other words, efficiency would not be rewarded if rates in Dungarvan are equalised towards the higher City or County Council figures.”
He says a significant number of business people – barely surviving as it is due to collapsed footfall and high overheads – are “facing a double whammy in that the Valuation Office is currently revised the rates liability attached to their properties, in some cases upwards; now they could now be hit with a general rates hike as well.”
Deputy Deasy added: “If shops in towns like Dungarvan can’t afford to keep going, the cumulative effect on the wider community is huge. It means more people on social welfare, less money in circulation, a smaller local rate base to support council services, and a lower tax take for the Exchequer.
“Striking a fair balance in setting commercial rates will be a major test of whether this government’s reform agenda can be both pro-business and cost-effective,” he concluded.
That's why I'm glad to see Minister Phil Hogan has finally released €90 million to kick start projects and investments around the country that have the required approvals in place.
Upcoming events associated with The Gathering and the tourism season generally are greatly dependent on LEADER assistance. I've been in regular contact with Waterford Leadership Partnership and have stressed the importance of sanctioning this funding as quickly as possible to officials in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.