— There is legal provision for traffic camera enforcement, says Department of Transport.
— Cameras can be used if the “relevant people sit down to organise it”.
— Delay is “bizarre,” says transport campaign group.
The rollout of red light cameras has “some unknown reason this has been sitting with the NTA for the last 2 years and it is holding up the whole process”, a Department of Transport official told colleagues, according to records released after a Freedom of Information.
The issue of red light camera enforcement has been complicated by the involvement of so many different bodies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Transport, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the National Transport Authority (NTA), and the Gardai.
It also seems to now be tied up with bus and cycle lane camera-based enforcement linked to the BusConnects project.
The data from a trial of the red light cameras shows that more motorists than cyclists run red lights. Although more cyclists broke red lights after 4 seconds has past, motorists also keep going past long after traffic lights had turned red.
Around 1,300 motorists were fined for running red lights before the trial ended, some were not counted as “valid detections” because number plates were obscured, for example, by a bus in the bus lane.
In the last two years, there have been 19 incidents where motorists are believed to have run red lights before hitting Luas trams. In most cases, there were no or minor injuries but these types of injuries also disrupt the tram services and often put trams out of service until repaired and transport officials have warned of the potential for more serious incidents.
The trail data is from a single camera at Blackhall Place. Another camera mount was installed at the next signalised Luas junction to the east, Queen Street, but not used, and another traffic light camera was installed on Con Colbert Road, where the old N4 meets the South Circular Road, but it’s unclear if this was even actively used.
Freedom of Information (FOI) records also mention a fear expressed by an unnamed Garda superintendent that there would be an increase in rear-ends, but officials from TII, the State body with responsibility for national roads and light rail, wrote how there had been no rear ends collisions recorded where the red light cameras were successfully trialled where the Luas red line crosses Blackhall Place in Dublin.
According to documents released under FOI, a Department of Trasport official said that the Gardai and Dublin City Council have “identified a number of areas in Dublin where more cameras need to be installed, feeding directly into the PULSE system”, the Garda computer system.
The Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill 2021, which has completed the pre-legislative scrutiny stage in the Dáil, is expected to cover the use of body cams, extend the use of CCTV and allow for the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) by the Gardai. But the Department of Transport has said that camera enforcement for traffic offences is already allowed under existing law.
In email replies to requests for camera enforcement last year, transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “As this Department is responsible for the drafting of Road Traffic legislation, I am happy to clarify the legal status of such cameras. Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 does in fact already provide for the use of cameras, if so required, by the Gardai to assist in the detection of certain traffic offences under the Road Traffic Acts.”
Last year, Nora Butler, an official in the Driver and Traffic Regulation Division of the Department also said: “No legislative amendment required here, law already clearly allows for camera enforcement as long as Guards/Tii approve the cameras. So rolling out of camera enforcement requires stakeholders (LAs, NTA, Dublin Bus etc etc etc) to sit down and make arrangements with the Guards.”
She added that it “has been done before” with the trial of the red light camera at the junction of Benburb Street and Blackhall Place and “can clearly be done again if the relevant people sit down to organise it”.
Speaking about what Butler had told her, another official in the Department, Jeanette McGee at the
Public Transport Regulation Division of the Department, said: “She said they receive [parliamentary questions] regularly about the need for more cameras, and also Dublin City Council are crying out for them. She has advised for some unknown reason this has been sitting with the NTA for the last 2 years and it is holding up the whole process, and they are not sure why the NTA are involved.”
She added that the “power lies with the Gardai and Dublin City Council” and “the NTA have no legal requirement in the process” and that the NTA’s deputy chief executive, Hugh Creegan, was “involved in a pilot carried out in relation to this 5 or 6 years ago.”
A report into that pilot, also released under FOI, said that “The potential consequences of a tram collision are much higher due to the number of Luas passengers who may be injured, the damage to the tram, and the delays to the tram network. Red light running has emerged as a particular danger.”
It said: “TIl have focused primarily on engineering and education measures. However, the implementation of the Red Light Camera has added the critical element of enforcement to the safety of Luas operations.”
It said that the operation of red light cameras at Blackhall Place, the trial location, and Queen Street, nearby, is “paramount” to safety and it was hoped that the cameras would also be used at other problematic junctions. Tram priority has been cut back at these junctions due to motorists running red lights and hitting trams or forcing tram drivers to use emergency brakes which can result in unexpecting passengers being injured.
When asked about the internal Department of Transport email, a spokesperson for the NTA said told IrishCycle.com that the issue “was raised at the NTA’s recent appearance at the Public Accounts Committee on January 27” and linked to the parliamentary record covering the meeting.
Referring to BusConnects at the Public Accounts Committee, Hugh Creegan said: “We are confident that before the new infrastructure starts to get rolled out there will be delivery of additional camera-based enforcement.”
Dublin Central TD, Neasa Hourigan (Green Party) then said that the issue seems to cross lots of departments and nobody is “taking the bull by the horns”. She said: “There is rampant running of red lights in Dublin. Are there plans for red light enforcement, particularly cameras?”
Creegan replied: “Because a lot of technology needs to be developed we need to get the overall plan developed. It is not clear to us. If we just rolled out two or three other red light camera locations we might then find a bigger camera programme is to be put in place whereby we would start afresh. The wiser thing to do is to flesh out the overall direction of camera-based enforcement, inclusive of red light running, and then move forward to implement it in a much more coherent way.”
Feljin Jose, a spokesperson and acting chairperson at the Dublin Commuter Coalition, a sustainable transport campaign group, said that camera-based enforcement is badly needed and that it’s a bizarre situation there have been such delays.
Feljin said: “We would like to see urgent and widespread implementation of camera enforcement of red lights, bus lanes and other road traffic laws. In addition to the safety benefits, the success of massive capital projects such as BusConnects depends on drivers having a much higher respect for road traffic laws than they currently do.”
He added: “We understand that there was an agreement between state agencies in 2019 to install three red light cameras in Dublin and that the plan has been stuck in the NTA for over two years waiting to be implemented with no progress being made. That’s a bizarre situation to be in with the widespread red-light running and illegal bus lane usage that’s endemic in Dublin — these figures show that several vehicles have crashed into the Luas Red Line alone in that two year period.”
- Draft Pilot Programme Phase 3 Report (2016)
- Final Pilot Programme Phase 3 Report (2016)
- Pilot Programme – Phase 3 Closure Report presentation