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Joint Committee on Climate Action debate -
Tuesday, 9 Mar 2021

Decarbonising Transport: Discussion (Resumed)

I apologise for the delay due to technical difficulties, but we are up and running now. I welcome Dr. Brian Caulfield, Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Torney, Dublin City University, and Ms Anne Graham and Mr. Hugh Creegan, chief executive officer and deputy chief executive officer, respectively, of the National Transport Authority, NTA. On behalf of the committee I welcome them all to today's meeting. I thank them for coming before it to share their expertise.

I remind witnesses of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege, and as such they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness physically present does.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I also remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located on the Leinster House complex. In this regard, I ask all members, prior to making their contribution to the meeting, to confirm they are on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.

For anyone watching this meeting online, Oireachtas Members and witnesses are accessing this meeting remotely. Only I, as Chair, and the necessary staff essential to the running of the meeting are physically present in the committee room. Due to these unprecedented circumstances and the large number of people attending the meeting remotely, I ask that everyone bears with us should any further technical issues arise.

I call Dr. Caulfield to make his opening statement.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for this invitation to speak about transport and emissions. I have been researching this topic for almost 20 years. I am a member of research committees at the Transportation Research Board in Washington D.C. and at the OECD, and I have published more than 75 papers on this topic. I was the lead author on a recent working paper for the Climate Change Advisory Council and I am also currently a member of the steering group on the review of the greater Dublin transport strategy with the National Transport Authority, NTA.

In 2020, in the midst of lockdowns, transport emissions dropped by just 17%. This gives a clear indication of the scale of the challenge we face to get a 51% reduction. It also needs to be considered against the backdrop of the following: population and employment growth predictions for the greater Dublin area, GDA, expect an increase in trips of almost 30%, 75% of our trips in Ireland are made by car, and the car population is expected to surpass 2.3 million by 2030. Decades of poor integration between transportation and land use planning have resulted in it being difficult to serve low density areas with public transport. This, coupled with an extensive motorway network, has almost locked us into car usage.

When we consider how to reduce our transport emissions there are two options: we can improve sustainable modes or change how they are fuelled. In 2019 the climate action plan saw electric vehicles, EVs, as the main way of reducing transport emissions. While I agree EVs will play a part in the overall strategy of reducing emissions, I would urge caution in over-reliance on this policy. There is a lot of uncertainty as to when price parity between electric vehicles and traditional vehicles will be reached. To reach our 2030 targets, assuming this price parity does not happen in the next nine years, it could require a State subvention of up to €10 billion. My research has shown the electric vehicles purchased to date tend to be in affluent, urban areas where there are alternative modes of public transport available. Equity and just transition need to be considered in this space.

Over the past 20 years, several large rail infrastructure projects have been discussed in the greater Dublin area. Projects such as metro and light rail expansion in Dublin will reduce our emissions profile. However, they may not do so before the 2030 deadline. These projects will be longer term in curbing our emissions, but their planning and construction needs to happen now if we are to stand a reasonable chance of reducing our emissions into the future.

When we evaluate these transport projects, we typically use cost-benefit analysis tools. However, this does not look at the opportunity cost of not doing the project. For example, metro initially saw a delivery date of 2007. The emissions that have been forgone in this example should be considered when making decisions on future infrastructure projects.

As I stated at the beginning, there is no silver bullet to this solution. A mixture of the following needs to be considered: the need to increase our public transport capacity, investment in active modes, the need to consider demand management measures, the role shared mobility has to play in this space, changing how we fuel our fleets, and looking at technology solutions. The target of a 51% decrease in emissions is a very daunting task for the transport sector and is happening against a background of increasing demand for transport.

I again thank the committee for the invite to talk today and I welcome any questions.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank the Cathaoirleach and members of the committee for the invitation to contribute to their consideration of how Ireland can meet its decarbonisation goals in the transport sector. I am an associate professor in the school of law and government at Dublin City University, DCU, specialising in climate change governance. In my opening remarks, I will focus in particular on how the transport sector in Ireland is governed and how this shapes our approach to decarbonisation.

Governance institutions are key enabling factors for decarbonisation across economy and society, but they can also serve as barriers to progress. The international literature on governance of low carbon transition points to the importance of top-down direction from government, but also, and importantly, mechanisms to facilitate bottom-up innovation and experimentation. The enactment of a strengthened climate action and low carbon development (amendment) Bill promises to significantly enhance Ireland’s climate change governance arrangements, but its focus is predominantly at an economy and society-wide level. It is also important to unpack how specific sectors of the economy and society are governed and how those arrangements help or hinder the transition to a net zero carbon future.

In research commissioned by the National Economic and Social Council that I undertook with my former DCU colleague, Dr. Laura Devaney, we sought to understand better how governance structures enable or constrain decarbonisation of the transport sector in Ireland. We identified three key sets of challenges facing the transport sector in pursuing a pathway to zero carbon and set out ways to overcome each of these challenges.

The first challenge concerns how the transport system operates. This system is inherently complex, characterised by tensions between public and private, rural and urban, and the role of special interests. There are also complex external interactions with broader policy objectives and systems, including planning, health and education. To overcome these challenges, transport governance should be built upon the following principles. We need to adopt collaborative, adaptive and reflexive approaches to policymaking that enable input from a diverse range of public, private, and civil society actors whose voices are not sufficiently heard at present.

We should support bottom-up approaches to decarbonising transport that take into account geographical and technical variations, including different requirements in rural and urban settings. Furthermore, transport should be understood as a social practice. This means going beyond a technical view of transport as an infrastructural problem to be solved and taking account of social, cultural, and governance forces that shape our mobility choices.

The second challenge we identified is that climate action as a priority is not yet sufficiently embedded in transport policy and planning. Contestation between different players has shaped the development of a carbon-intensive transport system to date. To address this, the following steps should be prioritised. Transport policymaking should be aligned with international sustainable mobility thinking that promotes an avoid–shift–improve framework for both passenger and freight transport. I welcome the fact that the committee's work is guided by this framework. The Government needs to do more to provide a clear and unambiguous commitment to decarbonisation. The forthcoming Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill is a significant step in this direction, but we should not fall into the trap of thinking that one Bill can do all the heavy lifting. In this regard, the mandates of transport governance institutions could be revised to include a statutory commitment to prioritise decarbonisation as their central goal, and the public sector should do more to lead by example.

The third key challenge we identified is that our system of transport decision-making is deeply fragmented, with authority spread widely among multiple institutions. A variety of institutional remedies could help to advance decarbonisation. Focused task forces can combine insights from public, private, academic, and civil society actors around specific transport challenges to unblock policy barriers. Forums for peer learning can enable villages, towns and cities across Ireland to learn from each other to scale up innovative decarbonised transport solutions. Deliberative forums for stakeholder and citizen participation can enhance transparency and moderate the impact of lobbying by special interests.

None of these solutions by itself is a silver bullet, but together they can provide a governance framework for the transport sector that adequately addresses the climate crisis. I thank the members again for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion today. I am happy to answer any questions they might have.

I thank Dr. Torney. I ask Ms Graham to make her opening statement.

Ms Anne Graham

I am grateful for the invitation to address the committee.

The aims and objectives of the NTA focus on the development of public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure and the supporting services nationally to achieve greater sustainability in transport usage, thereby enhancing the environment and people's quality of life.

In seeking to reduce transport emissions, there are three key areas to tackle: avoiding or reducing travel; shifting travel to sustainable modes; and improving vehicle technology to reduce emissions. The following sections address those areas within the ambit of the NTA. On reducing or avoiding the need to travel, Project 2040 is an important step in establishing the principle of integrating land use and transport planning to reduce travel demand. The plan places a key emphasis on enabling people to live closer to where they work, moving away from the current unsustainable trends of increased commuting, securing more compact forms of urban development in all types of settlements and regenerating rural Ireland by promoting environmentally sustainable growth patterns. Consolidation of development and the reduction of unsustainable car-based commuting are critical if a reduction in transport-related emissions is to be achieved.

The NTA's Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016–2035, while it predated Project 2040, has the same objective and sets out a detailed plan for transport infrastructural development and complementary measures to support a shift to sustainable modes. The NTA is obliged to review this strategy every six years, and the first review is under way. This review must take into account any new policy and Government objectives, such as the targets set for the reduction in carbon emissions. The NTA will have a draft strategy developed and public consultation on it commenced by quarter 3 of this year.

The NTA has also developed a transport strategy for Galway city and the Cork metropolitan area in association with the city and county councils for those areas. We are working with the regional cities of Limerick and Waterford to produce integrated transport strategies, all with the objective of supporting the consolidation of development close to existing and proposed public transport links, and improving the public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure to encourage modal shift.

On shifting to sustainable travel, the work of the NTA has many facets that together aim to improve the offer and attractiveness of walking, cycling and using public transport to effect modal change and enable the transport system to operate more effectively. We recognise, however, that the quality of our public transport services has to take a significant leap forward to meet the demand for travel in the future and support the economic growth of the country.

Under the national development plan, €8.6 billion has been allocated towards sustainable transport measures. The three largest projects are MetroLink, the DART+ programme and BusConnects. Strategies are also in place to deliver much-improved cycling infrastructure in our cities. The investment is now being made by the Government. It will see an acceleration in the delivery of that vital infrastructure by local authorities.

All three of the major programmes - MetroLink, DART+ and BusConnects Dublin - have been progressed to the extent that, subject to Government approval, the railway order planning process will be commenced later this year for MetroLink and for the electrification of the first DART+ line. The planning process for BusConnects Dublin bus corridors will also commence later this year, if approved by the Government.

Galway City Council has commenced many of the projects that make up BusConnects Galway. The NTA has appointed specialist teams to redesign the bus network in Cork and to commence the designs for bus priority measures. The NTA is also working with Transport Infrastructure Ireland on the identification of an alignment for the proposed Luas for Cork, which could be developed if the densification of development in Cork city occurs.

On improving the bus fleet, the NTA is committed to a transition of the urban bus fleet to low- and zero-emission vehicles. The NTA has a framework contract in place for diesel electric hybrid double deck buses and has ordered 280 of these buses to be operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. The first 100 of these vehicles have been delivered and are being commissioned, and they will be operating in Dublin and Galway shortly. The authority is completing the procurement of single-deck, fully electric vehicles and has published the tender for fully electric double-deck vehicles. The authority has also purchased three hydrogen-fuelled electric buses, which Bus Éireann will operate to trial this technology. While the battery technology has advanced significantly in recent years to enable longer bus trips in an urban context without requiring a recharge in service, the future fuelling of long-distance coach travel in an environmentally sustainable way is challenging because of the distances involved.

On the rail fleet, electrification substantially reduces the use of fossil fuels in public transport. There has been significant progress with the introduction of the DART and Luas, and the national development plan provides for further such public investment in the greater Dublin area. We are working with Iarnród Éireann on the DART+ programme. We are prioritising the purchase of fleet in this programme, which will add much-needed capacity to commuter rail services. It is proposed to purchase battery electric hybrid train carriages as part of the initial order. They can operate without the electrification of the lines and can then switch over to fully electric vehicles when line electrification has been delivered. It is planned, subject to Government approval, to place the first order in quarter 2 of this year.

With regard to other improvements, while the focus on this statement has been on meeting travel demand in the cities, because this is where the investment could return the largest modal shift, the authority continues to work on improving the Local Link rural bus services and the supporting infrastructure across the State. Connecting Ireland is the NTA's programme to address the gaps in connections to local and regional centres in rural areas and to allow for the possibility of access to local services without the need for a car. It is proposed to finalise the network of services on a county-by-county basis in consultation with local authorities and to undertake a full public consultation on the proposals commencing in quarter 3 this year. As resources allow, we will implement the final proposals. It is also planned to transition to low- and zero-emission fleet wherever practicable in these areas. The pilot operation of an electric bus on routes in Dingle will assist us in the development of those plans.

Transformation of the transport sector is vital to enable Ireland's transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy. This must be achieved notwithstanding the context of a recovering economy after the pandemic, with an increasing number of transport trips being generated every year. To achieve this aim, significant investment is needed in our public transport infrastructure and services, in addition to sustainable transport measures to promote walking and cycling as carbon-neutral ways of travelling. The NTA will continue to work towards promoting mode shift to public transport, walking and cycling and investing in the infrastructure and services necessary to achieve this. I thank the committee.

I thank Ms Graham and Drs. Caulfield and Torney for their opening statements and for participating. We are interested in their expertise in how we can achieve a modal shift away from the dominant private car and towards healthier and sustainable modes of active travel, public transport and multimodal options such as bike-rail-bike, as used in the Netherlands.

As this meeting is confined to a maximum of two hours, I propose that each member be given two minutes to address their questions to the witnesses in order to ensure that all members get an opportunity to contribute. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will start the questions while the clerk is noting the order of hands raised. My first question is for Dr. Caulfield, who outlined the urgent need to roll out sustainable transport infrastructure. Is the proposed infrastructure sufficient to shift people from the private car? Do we need to look at other measures in parallel to push people towards the use of more sustainable transport modes on the demand side?

I will go through my questions for Dr. Torney and Ms Graham and the witnesses can answer one after the other. Dr. Torney indicated the need to revise the mandates of the transport institutions. Is he suggesting to the committee that the legislation that governs the NTA and TII should be amended to prioritise decarbonisation explicitly as their central goal? Does he see more structural reform being required for these institutions?

This modal shift requires reallocation of road space. The NTA is involved in BusConnects and the roll-out of active travel networks, including providing direction and standards for local authorities. Does the NTA need to be far more explicit in its approach to modal shift by ensuring this road space reallocation is the basic starting point in transport planning and design? Does the NTA accept that to alleviate congestion the public and active travel networks need to be the most convenient modes of transport and the road space reallocated accordingly?

How does the NTA calculate where best to target transport emissions reductions outside of the electrification of the fleet? Specifically, is the NTA assessing to which parts of the country it is best to direct resources to achieve a modal shift that has the biggest impact on transport emissions? How is that calculated or assessed?

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank the Chair for the question. There are extensive plans to increase the volume of public transport not only in the greater Dublin area but also around the rest of the country. When that investment has been put in place and there is the capacity in the public transport network then of course we will have to look at demand management measures and road pricing. We will also have to look at the level of parking we provide in cities. The two will have to go hand in hand and it is the traditional approach of carrot and stick. We just need to line up more carrots before we start to take out the stick.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank the Chair for the question. The governance context in which Ireland and other European countries operate is one whereby for more than 30 or 40 years we have essentially hived off policymaking functions from central government Departments to State agencies. Ireland is by no means unique in this regard. This comes to the question about structured reform. Ms Graham might have different views to me on this. Suggestions have been made in the past about a potential merger between the NTA and TII to bring more coherence between the roads and public transport.

In terms of the mandates, the challenge is that we have a legacy of governance institutions that were set up in a period before climate change was the central priority in policymaking that it is now. There are good reasons for setting up governance bodies at arm's length from government. However, when we then fundamentally or significantly change the goals of policymaking it makes it harder for central government to steer the various governance bodies. In this context, consideration could be given to revising the legal mandates of the governance actors in the transport sector. It would need to be done with caution, with a view to avoiding unintended consequences. I would not recommend simply taking a red pen and striking out or adding new language in an ad hoc way but revising these legal mandates would be a useful step to consider.

Ms Anne Graham

In terms of the allocation of road space and what that will do for carbon emissions and a reduction in emissions, it is a key part of the BusConnects programme. We have demonstrated that as part of the consultation we carried out in terms of the bus corridor proposals and the priority measures we are proposing for BusConnects in Dublin, which will also feature in the BusConnects programmes in other cities.

As a country, we have to look at how we allocate our valuable road space and whether, or what, priority should be given to that road space for walking, cycling and public transport ahead of the car mode but still recognising there needs to be space for the car mode for business and social activity. In the BusConnects programme in Dublin in order to get priority and space for walking, cycling and buses the proposal we are bringing forward is to introduce one-way systems on key radial routes into the city. This shows where we have demonstrated that where the reallocation of road space is available it should be prioritised for those modes.

There was an add-on question.

Ms Anne Graham

The work relating to prioritising is ongoing. Obviously, particularly as we are looking at connecting Ireland, we have a list of locations in which we want to deliver additional new or improved services and they come at a cost. At present, we are in the process of trying to allocate priority given that we cannot provide additional services everywhere. This would be on the basis of getting the best return in terms of the number of people who would use the transport service, while also recognising that we have to spread the services throughout rural Ireland in particular, where we may not get the best return but where a social benefit will accrue associated with the delivery of services. This social benefit methodology is being developed so we can put some priority in terms of delivery of services.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations, which were very interesting. I will pick up the point on which Ms Graham ended, namely, that relating to the social benefit. In terms of the social and environmental benefit, it is the question of push and pull again. Given the extent of the scale-up we need in terms of new transport and sustainable transport, does Ms Graham agree that we cannot wait for it to be market demand led but that it needs to be something whereby, to paraphrase Mr. Caulfield, we look at the pull as well as the push and that we are creating it?

Has it been the experience, as it seems to be in the cases of which I know, that where public transport is provided, the demand follows when the offer is made? In this regard, I would like the witnesses to comment on two specific parts of the infrastructure. Is there vision or scope for looking at new rail infrastructure additional to what we have, particularly given the concerns with regard to electrification and longer runs for bus transport? What steps are being taken to include greater integration between rail and bus services, for example, more use of feeder buses to rail points and rail networks and more bicycles on those buses and rail services? This is the interlocking piece in the context of transport. Specifically, I am thinking of the west of Ireland where we have a lot of forced car usage.

The other item of infrastructure I would like the witnesses to comment on relates to what Mr. Torney said about the social cultural governance forces.

What of those parts that are not just about new allocation of the road but around creating new pedestrian and cycle infrastructure and perhaps making more use, for example, of rights of way powers that are there at local level in terms of creating pathways and routes that make towns permeable and which are not necessarily only on the road?

Finally, a technical question for Ms Graham. I am aware there are a number of active travel jobs planned in local authorities but is there a question there of what kind of terms of reference they will have? Specifically on the regional design offices, the new 18 posts, how much seniority will they have? Will the national cycling manual be something they are really empowered to insist on being implemented in local planning? Is there a danger that rail gets lost when we look at a county-by-county consultation rather than a joined-up approach?

I think most of those questions are for Ms Graham. I should say at this point that we have asked and allowed witnesses to send in written submissions to supplement the answers they give us here. If the witnesses wish to follow on any of those questions with a written submission we would certainly appreciate it.

Ms Anne Graham

We would not really seek to be market-led. Obviously, where we have the greatest population we have the largest benefit or potential for using public transport and moving more people to sustainable transport. However, we are very conscious we must be careful to focus not just on the areas of high population but that we also need to provide, as I said, the social benefit associated with public transport. We therefore need to balance it between where the cost is lower because we can get some return in the form of fare revenue, but also ensure we have, through our Local Link services, the widest spread possible of delivery of services for rural Ireland. Thus, it is about balancing the cost associated with it as well as the social benefit we can get and it is about putting some kind of formula across that that will allow us to prioritise. It is not easy to do because obviously our ambition is to get services all around the country but we must continue to prioritise.

On new rail infrastructure, we as an authority fund the infrastructure associated with the greater Dublin area only. We do transport strategies, statutorily for the Dublin region but on a non-statutory basis with the local authorities for the regional cities. We can therefore comment on what is required in the metropolitan areas where infrastructure is concerned. The infrastructure that is there can be built on and can be built to deliver better services in terms of the existing infrastructure, with some small interventions particularly in the metropolitan area.

On better integration between rail and bus services, that is the core of the work we do, by means of ensuring any new bus services we are providing feed into rail services and vice versa. We are involved in looking not just at the bus services but also, because we contract the rail services as well, we work with the different operators to ensure we get better integration between those.

I will pass over to Mr. Creegan for a comment on the active travel jobs.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

There has been an announcement that a large number of posts are now going to be assigned to active travel in the various local authorities across the country. The key focus is the city regions, for the obvious reason that there is more network to develop but also covering every single other county. For some of the rural counties the intention is that the regional design office is operated by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and that its resources are augmented so it can also provide the service to deliver these cycling and active travel projects. The Senator asked how much seniority they will have and will they be fully empowered to deliver the national cycle manual. There seniority level will be a case-by-case thing but overall there will be a proper team in place to deliver the projects that are needed in every county across the country. On getting the standards we need, we are updating our national cycle manual, we will be providing training to all the local authorities starting later on this year and all of those units that are being set up will be tasked with fully applying the quality standard set out in the cycle manual with the projects they deliver.

Ms Anne Graham

I have one last point in response to Senator Higgins. On the county-by-county piece, while we engage with the local authorities on a county-by-county basis in relation to their bus services it is looked on as a whole. Therefore, it is about the whole country's bus services and how they integrate with one another and with the rail services as well. That is the approach being taken but the consultation will be on a county-by-county basis.

I am conscious we only have a couple of minutes so I have a question for Ms Graham. I welcome the NTA's approach to the development of rural links which have been very good through Local Link. I would like to hear her views on some of the more detailed planning that must be done with those routes to ensure we are going to get that modal link, if we can call it that.

An example would be the route from Kilrush to Ennis. It takes two hours and 30 minutes to get to the train station, even though it goes relatively close by it after about an hour and a half, but because of the routing there is not an opportunity to get to the train station easily. Therefore, any of the services being rolled out will need more connectivity to the other public transport links. I know the NTA has been trying to do that but I would like to hear Ms Graham's thoughts and views on how journey times can be reduced. I ask because the difficulty with some of the rural link stuff is that we want to catch every village along the route between two distinct points but in doing so we then increase the journey time from one larger point to the other. That is a disincentive in the first instance. Is there perhaps a greater level of services that can be put in, different days perhaps or whatever, in order to try to get that journey time down and give a better experience? Quite frankly, people in rural areas are not going to spend two and a half hours to travel what they could drive in 40 minutes and that is an issue.

We must also be careful in our long-term planning of public transport and the transport networks, that we do not disenfranchise to too great an extent people who have already chosen, or are already living in, dispersed rural communities. They too will need improvements in infrastructure. There are certain significant pinch points like bridges and river crossings that will need investment. It cannot all be about providing a public transport solution to their travel needs.

Ms Anne Graham

The Senator is right that journey times are an important part of the review of transport services in a county. What we are trying to do is ensure the journey times from people's towns and villages are around 30 minutes from their next largest metropolitan centre and then an hour and a half away from a regional centre. That is the kind of timeframe in which we think it is reasonable for people to make a journey to there and back and that is what is going into Connecting Ireland. That means changing the services to possibly being more regular services on key routes and then feeding in demand-responsive services, whether it is every day or a number of days per week. That is the kind of design we are looking at at the moment.

We will certainly be engaged on the Kilrush to Ennis route and be looking at that as part of Connecting Ireland for County Clare. We must realise that there will be a proportion of people living in very isolated rural areas who obviously will not get a bus to their door but we have to balance it. If we can provide a demand-responsive service, particularly for those who have no access to transport, that should be part of the delivery of services. It is not going to be that we will have a regular service to some parts of very rural Ireland but they should be close enough that they can get to a regular service that will bring them to their local centre with reasonable regularity during the week.

I will be brief and will not spend much time thanking people. Given Dr. Torney's point about the embedded prejudice around change in public bodies, which is very valid, how can the Minister effectively deliver the climate budget, for example, whatever is given to the transport sector? The Minister is the head of the pile but how does one get it done? Dr. Torney seems to be suggesting collaborative processes that would start in every village. It does not sound very swift.

In my experience with the national broadband plan, there is tremendous resistance within the system to any grand project, even though I believe the plan is a no-brainer but maybe that is prejudice. How do we move from the very tight cost-effectiveness model that is being used in public service project evaluation to something that would take a longer-term perspective where things become possible? It does not seem to be embedded in the current system.

From where does Dr. Caulfield believe the relative contributions for 2030, the first two climate budgets, from the transport sector can come? How much, respectively, will be delivered by new public transport infrastructure, switching to shared ownership of vehicles, e-bikes and electrification of our fleet? Perhaps Dr. Caulfield will write to the committee to explain how he came up with the figure of €10 billion for electric vehicles. Is he making an assumption about diesel pricing and including that? The subsidy for electric vehicles of €10,000 has gone and is falling. That would be for an entire fleet of 2 million vehicles. I do not know how Dr. Caulfield reached the figure of €10 billion but I am quite happy to learn how he did.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

Before I address Deputy Bruton's comments, I will say a quick word on Senator Higgins's point. I direct her to some research by the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, conducted a couple of years ago, in the area of transport-oriented development. This is the idea that rather than transport infrastructure following urban development, one does it the other way around by building the transport infrastructure first, with the urban development coming afterwards around the high-quality transport infrastructure. That work by the NESC built upon a wider international body of research on transport-oriented development. I encourage the committee to look at that work, which I believe was published in 2019.

Deputy Bruton is right that if we leave it all to a bottom-up process. it will almost certainly be too slow for the kind of transformational change that we need to deliver. What I was trying to suggest in my opening statement and what we try to suggest in our research in this area is that we need a combination of a top-down and bottom-up process. The fear I have with the very strong focus on the climate action Bill and the carbon budgets process is that we think that is the end of the story, the carbon budgets are self-enforcing and as soon as we have a system-wide constraint, it will deliver the change. That is not the case. We need to think through, sector by sector, what governance arrangements we need to deliver the transformational change that will add up to the targets to be set out in the carbon budgets. We need an element of bottom-up approaches but we need to infuse those bottom-up initiatives with the scale of ambition set out in the carbon budgets. It is a question of trying to marry the top-down and bottom-up processes.

On the question around resistance within the system, I agree with Deputy Bruton that we have a legacy of a culture of decision-making that is not very well-equipped for the scale of transformational change. I do not have a magic bullet to overcome that. We need strong political leadership but we also need strong leadership within the Civil Service. We are seeing elements of this emerge but we do not have the luxury of time. We cannot wait for the next generation of civil servants coming through the system. We need to find ways to reinvigorate the policy system to deliver this transformational change.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank Deputy Bruton for the easy questions. The first was on what percentages the different modes of transport can bring. It is going to be incremental. Public transport will bring the majority of the share. Walking and cycling will have a certain amount also. It is probably 2% from each of these different modes of transport combined. To get to the 2030 target of 51%, there will be a large reliance on electric vehicles, if that is achievable by 2030.

On the figure of €10 billion, many of the figures came from a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform report arising from a cost-benefit analysis it did on the policies around electric vehicles. It found a cost-benefit ratio of 0.144 to pursue the benefits of electric vehicles. That type of ratio would never get anything funded. I will be happy to send the figures to the Deputy. Another point about the electric vehicle is that it is still a car and it still leaves us with a transport problem. In 2019, Dubliners spent nine extra days of their lives stuck in congestion. That also needs to be rolled into the whole cost of electric vehicles.

I thank our witnesses for their presentations. With regard to the scale of the transformational change that is needed, perhaps Dr. Torney will say a word on controversy around planning and the planning system and if he has any comments on the types of approaches. I note he referred to different deliberative forums for engaging the population on the type of change that is needed on transportation. Is there a model that might best suit that?

Ms Graham has experience with major transport reform through BusConnects and in other areas. I ask her to comment on that experience and whether she sees an opportunity to improve the planning process to deliver on the type of reforms that are needed. Perhaps she could also comment on the National Transport Authority's capacity. In fairness, there is huge ambition on the part of the Government. What is the nature of the change for the NTA and how does the future look for the NTA in the context of the organisation and its capacity?

Will Dr. Caulfield address the issue of travel to school and the modal shift? What are his ideas and suggestions on opportunities to get people to move away from car transport to schools? Many of the journeys to school by car are comparatively short distances. Does this offer an opportunity to deliver a modal shift in a significant way? Does Dr. Caulfield have ideas or recommendations on that?

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank Deputy O'Rourke. He raised a really good point. In undertaking the scale of transformational change that needs to be delivered there is a real challenge and risk of turning local populations against decisions and further against the political system and the Government. We are living in an era where there is declining trust in public institutions, governments, the media and experts not just in Ireland, but across the world. We need to be very careful in how we undertake this transformation and make sure that people feel like they have a stake in the decisions because a significant amount of research points to the importance of the procedure of justice. People are much more likely to accept decisions that disfavour them if they think that the process through which those decisions were taken is fair.

The Deputy referenced deliberative democracy. Something like a citizens' assembly is probably too big and costly for individual planning decisions but the principle underpinning the citizens' assembly, which gives ordinary members of the public access to relevant information and time to deliberate on it, is a model of decision-making and involving the public that we could usefully consider in other contexts as well.

Ms Anne Graham

From the perspective of the National Transport Authority, we have not quite entered into the strict planning process at the moment. What we have been involved in is much of the pre-planning work in terms of BusConnects and TII with MetroLink and Iarnród Éireann with DART+. I suppose it follows on from Dr. Torney's points on getting buy-in from the public in terms of planning. We have put a lot of time and effort into the public consultation around these major transformational programmes, particularly BusConnects. A really significant amount of effort has gone into that engagement, which we hope will result in a very effective formal planning process. While it does take time to do that, we think it is of great value and benefit to any transformational programme and it has been highly significant in respect of the BusConnects Dublin project. We will be applying the same approach in respect of any major infrastructural project in other cities.

I refer to my question regarding the capacity of the NTA.

Ms Anne Graham

Obviously, we are growing as an organisation. We are very thankful that the Government has recognised that we required and require additional resources in order to be able to deliver on the ambitious programme of works that we have. We have been successful in getting additional posts both last year and this year and we continue to look towards other agencies to assist us in delivery of projects such that we are not just reliant on ourselves as a delivery agency, but also on local authorities. As was referenced earlier, the Government has approved significant resources for local authorities to deliver on the very ambitious programme for walking, cycling and active travel. In the context of the response of the Government to the request for additional resources, we have been very successful in getting that approval.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank Deputy O'Rourke for a really interesting question. There are a couple of things we can do to improve the situation in respect of travel to school. In one way, it is where habits start to be made. For students who use less active modes of travel and do not walk or cycle, that may progress throughout their life. There is a significant amount of research that looks at the generational consequences of that. As for the funding that has been earmarked for the active travel side, while it is very important to deliver infrastructure on that, it also needs to deliver social change and these kind of ground-up approaches. We have seen during lockdown, after lockdown and even before lockdown with the Green-Schools initiative that there are several really good concrete examples from across the country that could be scaled up, such as cycle buses and low-emission zones or no-idling zones around schools. That is something that could reduce emissions, especially given that these short trips involve cold starts, which mean the engine is burning far more carbon.

I thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee. My questions are primarily for Ms Graham. Mr. Creegan mentioned that the national cycle manual was being updated. When will that be completed? There is significant funding going into infrastructure and cycleways at the moment and there is a fear that it is being used to create cycleways based on a document that is ten years old. There are concerns about the designs in that document not being particularly safe for children or new cyclists. In the context of speaking about a social change, that is really where we need to be focusing. When will that manual be completed?

Specifically on the issue of plans and the upgrading and expansion of the NTA's existing capacity, has the NTA modelled the expected level of emissions reduction? Assuming all its plans are in place according to the planned timeframe, what is the modelled reduction in emissions that is expected? When is it expected to see those reductions coming in? In the context in particular of the work the NTA is doing, there are long lead-in times to purchase buses or trains, for example, and if we are looking at a target of 2030 that must be borne in mind. What percentage reduction has been modelled and when is it expected that it will be achieved?

The fact that €10 billion could be required is particularly interesting. That amount of money going into subsidising one particular aspect of the jigsaw that we need would certainly focus the mind. This is a question for all of the witnesses. If it was within their remit to decide where that €10 billion would be best placed, where would they like to see it spent in order to meet our transport emission reductions?

I ask Ms Graham to respond to the Deputy's first two questions and then we will go to the question regarding the €10 billion and how it could be spent.

Ms Anne Graham

I ask Mr. Creegan to respond to the question on the national cycle manual.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We hope to start updating the national cycle manual later this month. It will take approximately four or five months to do so. In the meantime, we have the existing cycle manual, most of which is still rock solid in terms of what it is doing. More detail is needed in respect of certain places, such as junctions, and that is what we will provide. We have interim guidance from BusConnects that various local authorities have used. It will take us approximately four or five months to complete the manual.

Ms Anne Graham

I do not wish to give the impression that anything that is in the cycle manual is unsafe. They are safe cycling facilities. It is more about improving safety than making unsafe provision safe.

On the issue of the modelling of emissions, the only work on the modelling of emissions that is complete is work that was done on the transport strategy back in 2016. That showed that with the expenditure at that stage, at the introduction of all the infrastructure and without changing any of the fleet, particularly the bus fleet or car fleet, there would be a reduction in emissions of approximately 3%. The work that is currently ongoing is updating the transport strategy. Obviously, we have to take into account whatever decisions the Government makes regarding targets for carbon emissions. That will certainly be something that has to be considered as a key part of the transport strategy. There is work ongoing at the moment to do further modelling to ascertain the impact of changes to the transport fleet and car fleet.

The work is under way and we do not have any results to share with the committee today. I do not know whether Mr. Creegan wants to add anything on that.

Does Ms Graham not have to specify the anticipated reduction in emissions as part of the approval process for Government when developing a plan or going for tender?

Ms Anne Graham

When we developed the transport strategy in 2016, a Government target on what carbon emissions should be achieved across the 20-year lifetime of the strategy had not been set out. It is different now for the review of the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area. It will have to be taken into account because it will be Government policy as part of the review of the transport strategy we are drafting and which will be out for consultation later on this year.

We are setting out to reduce our transport fleet's emissions in parallel with that. We have already purchased a hybrid fleet. They are considered clean vehicles which will contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions. We have an ambition to go to a zero fleet in our urban centres as quickly as possible but we are beginning the procurement of that fleet to be introduced in our urban services.

It seems we have this plan to reduce our emissions without calculating whether we are investing in the right things and have no idea when it will happen. There are long delays and lead in times. I find it unusual we are not taking that into account.

Ms Anne Graham

We do not have it at present. It is not that we are not doing that work; it is just that I cannot give the Deputy that information now. We will have it very soon. The transport strategy drafted and approved in 2016 had an investment in infrastructure such as DART, MetroLink and Luas and the modelling of that showed even with that investment, there would only be a 3% reduction in carbon emissions taking into account the growth in travel demand.

The challenge is quite large in terms of what we can achieve in reducing transport emissions. Modelling was not carried out on what carbon emissions would be given by changing the bus fleet, or public transport fleet, to being low or no carbon emissions and what would happen with the number of electronic vehicles being introduced in the car fleet. It all needs to be modelled and we do not have that work done at present.

Deputy Whitmore's point is critical. If our ambition is to reduce transport emissions by more than 50%, and it more than likely has to be more than 50% in transport emissions, the modelling surely has to be aligned with that challenge. We will need to see some progress on that very soon because the challenge in transport is phenomenal. If our model is not right, we are off to a bad start. We will not get there.

Ms Graham said the national cycling manual was safe. Many people would take issue with her on that. If we are designing infrastructure for everybody, from a four- or five-year-old child to elderly people and people with disabilities, the existing national cycling manual and its contents are not safe.

Ms Graham or perhaps Dr. Torney or Dr. Caulfield might briefly answer the question on the €10 billion. Where would they spend it if not on electric vehicles?

Ms Anne Graham

We have a number of regional models that can model carbon emissions reduction we will get for different interventions. There is nothing wrong with the model and a significant amount of work has gone into developing it. The modelling is taking place. The work is under way at present but it is a significant piece of work and takes time to deliver. We do not have the information available for the Chair at present but we can make it available to him when the work is complete.

It will inform the type of questions being asked. If one has €10 billion, where does one put it to achieve the greatest reduction in carbon emissions? I want to see as much public transport infrastructure developed as possible. It is our remit. Of course, I would say the €10 billion should go into public transport infrastructure but there has to be a consideration of where to get the best reduction in terms of carbon emissions for the investment. The modelling work we are doing will help to answer those questions.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I agree with what Ms Graham has said. We need another an analytical basis for making that decision. On the face of it, €10 billion in subsidies for electric vehicles does not seem a prudent investment but it is not a once-off, irreversible decision in the way an investment in a large public transport infrastructure project is. If I understand Dr. Caulfield's analysis correctly, we could end up spending €10 billion on subsidies over the course of the decade. However, we can change course at any point in that decade unlike if we decided to build a metro system or something like that, in that we could not change course and we would need to follow through once it is started.

The problem Dr. Caulfield is pointing to is not as severe as the headline figure suggests because we can revisit the level of subsidies at any point during the decade if cost projections do not turn out as expected.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

It is a great question and I agree with my two co-witnesses. Public transport is where we should be putting the lion's share of our money. Certain public transport projects in the greater Dublin area have made sense for more than 20 years and have been at various stages of planning over that period. Much of it would go there.

We need to consider how we use public transport in regional cities. We can consider many good examples from around the world. We just need to go up the road to look at the glider system in Belfast. A trial of that type of bus in Cork, Limerick or in any of the cities would go down well and would change how people perceived bus transport in regional cities.

I would then spend money on electric cars. Recent research, which I conducted in Trinity, considered areas of the country in forced car ownership. People in those areas are travelling long distances in more polluting vehicles. The subsidies given to somebody living near high quality public transport should be different from somebody living in rural Ireland. I would put money into that as well.

I thank the witnesses for their contributions. Dr. Caulfield made an interesting point about considering different subsidies depending on where a person is. The call for more roads and bigger roads has been from rural areas and the problems they have been having. While I take Ms Graham's point that the emphasis is on urban areas, and I am in one of those areas in Galway, the focus on roads is coming from commuter belt and satellite towns experiencing problems.

I ask Ms Graham what is being done there. People stand in the rain in Spiddal with no bus shelter or real-time information and an infrequent service.

That then adds not just to the congestion in the area, but to the mindset that we need more roads. It is, therefore, critical to address that point.

Dr. Caulfield talked about the two choices facing us, namely, a modal shift and changing fuel. He did not really speak about the planning implications in that context. Even if we were to change fuel and rely on that approach, the resulting planning implications will mean that people will have to move farther and farther away from public transport. I see that as meaning that we must do more on the modal shift element. Is the NTA also considering and planning for the use of combined modes, such as the multimodal bike-rail-bike approach used in the Netherlands? How can that approach be used in an Irish context for urban, suburban and rural areas? It would again address some of the concerns people have about living so far away from a hub of the public transport system.

My next question is for Dr. Torney. One of the problems with the roll-out is the local authority aspect, as I see it, which he mentions in his research. There are specific governance issues which he suggests could address some of the lead-in times, while also ensuring that, importantly, people have their voices heard in the roll-out of initiatives such as BusConnects, for instance. Moving cars and parking from the roads, for example, is also a decision which is in the hands of local authorities. The larger roll-out of the infrastructure, however, is in the hands of the NTA, which has more influence in that context. How would Dr. Torney see those kinds of problems being addressed together?

I thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly. I think most of those questions are for Ms Graham.

Ms Anne Graham

Regarding looking at public transport services, I want to be clear that we are not just focusing on metropolitan areas. We are looking at service provision on a national basis, and that approach includes our cities and also our towns which do not now have a public transport system, such as Carlow, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. Those towns do not have bus services and we have ambitions to provide those services. We are also looking at the delivery of bus services in rural areas and that is what Connecting Ireland is about. The initiative is concerned with ensuring there is an appropriate level of service which allows people to make journeys at different times during the day and to access their local and regional centres, including from places like Spiddal. We are undertaking that assessment and we will be engaging publicly in regard to those proposals later this year. Our ambition is to ensure that we have greater coverage of bus services especially to serve our rural and urban populations.

A multimodal approach and ensuring good connections from bike to rail and from bike to bus is part of that ambition. We must ensure we have an integrated system, including providing bike parking at rail and bus hubs. We will be up for ensuring that investment is put into such improvements, in addition to providing investment for the type of infrastructure Senator Pauline O'Reilly spoke about in regard to real-time information and the provision of bus shelters. We know there is an under-provision of such elements across rural Ireland.

Another point made by the Senator concerned the local authorities and the roll-out. It is important we understand that local authorities are the roads authorities. In respect of the provision of bus infrastructure and improved cycling infrastructure, it is the local authorities which will be delivering those projects across the country. We have taken on a role with BusConnects in the Dublin region because we are in a statutory position to do so. We have those powers in Dublin, but we do not have those powers outside of the greater Dublin area. That is the reason we are in a position to take on more of the planning role and to lead the planning aspect for BusConnects in Dublin. We do work closely with our local authority partners to deliver the same level of service across the regional cities and our towns and villages.

I thank Ms Graham. On the last question, does Dr. Torney have anything to say regarding the role of the local authorities and governance?

Ms Anne Graham

I would like to offer some clarification on this issue. When I talk about local authorities, I am as much as anything talking about public representation as well as the executive and how those aspects work together. I state that because some of these decisions are made by the councillors who are representing people. I am referring to how we can make this process flow more easily to ensure we can get things over the line but that people also have their voices heard.

That is fine. I call Dr. Torney.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly for her question. A few issues are involved when we think about local government and local authorities in an Irish context. As I think was hinted at, one of the strengths of local government is its connection to the local population. Local councillors, and local authorities more generally, are in some ways closer to local populations than the national Government. Structures like the public participation networks, PPNs, provide pathways for tapping into local community groups etc. It is welcome, as far as I understand it, that one of the strands of the forthcoming consultation on the revision of the climate action plan is tapping into that network of PPNs. Using such an approach in the context of climate action is to be welcomed. Those are the elements on the strengths side of the ledger.

Moving to examine the weaknesses in this context, by international standards we have very weak local government. I refer to the powers and competencies of our local government bodies, their funding and especially their ability to raise their own revenue. Local government in Ireland is weak by international standards and that is a challenge in this respect. I do not think there is a one-size-fits-all solution, but in my opening remarks I spoke about the idea of particular institutional forums to solve policy blockages. It could be that in a particular context it would be possible to bring together the staff of the local authority, the national agencies and central Government to figure out and try to align the different aspects of the decision-making process. I do not, however, think that there is a one-size-fits-all model that would do that.

I thank Dr. Torney and I call Deputy Alan Farrell.

I thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee. Many of the questions I was going to ask have been well covered at this stage, but I do have one query for Dr. Caulfield. I understand he co-authored a report in 2019 in regard to something called the DiSTRaCT project. I think it might be very helpful to the committee if Dr. Caulfield could provide us with a copy. I just read the abstract and the contents appear to be applicable, so I wonder if the report would be something which could be useful to the committee in its deliberations.

I also welcome the statement in regard to EVs and the replacement of cars now on the roads as not being a solution to curbing the nine extra days it was mentioned that Dubliners spend in traffic. The solution instead is pumping billions of euro into public transport. I am interested in the paper Dr. Caulfield co-authored in the context of looking at strategies such as carpooling, among other things, and how that might work in the Irish context.

I thank Ms Graham for her contribution. My question in regard to the modelling referenced earlier was already covered by Deputy Whitmore.

Is our public transport fleet capable of reducing its carbon emissions by 51% in nine years? That is critical to the overall discussion. I appreciate Ms Graham's responses thus far. I have another question that is not related solely to the fleet. Are capital projects sufficiently carbon-proofed to provide the reductions we require, notwithstanding the NTA's lack of modelling at this point in time?

To be very parochial, Dr. Caulfield mentioned the metro as a 20-year project, one that has been in train for 20 years. In fact, it is 47 years since it was first proposed by Forfás in 1974 as a rail link to Dublin Airport. Ms Graham mentioned it will be important to all Dubliners not only those living on the northside. The development of that project has taken many years in many different forums, including a more recent one. I will be very interested to know if it will be big enough to cater for the growth we can expect, particularly with changes in land use. That might be a difficult question. However, if we are to build up rather than out, will the metro be large enough at 20,000 persons per direction per hour to serve the corridor proposed and potentially other lines?

I will call Dr. Caulfield to respond first.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank Deputy Farrell for reading the work we produced in Trinity. That work was funded by the SEAI and the Department of Transport. We looked at a number of low cost options to reduce emissions. Several of them were examined. The first iteration of it happened just before the pandemic. Working from home and home-shopping were two elements we examined. We also looked at providing electric vehicle charging points at workplaces. We considered the issue of tyre pressure in terms of there being a national policy or campaign for motorists to check their tyre pressure to determine how that could reduce emissions. Working from home and electric vehicle charging points at work turned out to provide the biggest bang for one's buck in terms of a low cost investment. The final report is with the SEAI and I am very happy to share it with the Deputy. I stand corrected on metro north.

I thank Dr. Caulfield for that response.

Ms Anne Graham

I will ask my colleague, Mr. Creegan, to comment on the modelling, the fleet and the MetroLink size.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

The Deputy asked if our public transport fleet was capable of reducing its emissions by 51%. I would break that down a little. The Luas is already electric, so that is fine. The answer in respect of our heavy rail is "Yes"; we are expanding our electrification in Dublin, as the Deputy will be aware. The Cork commuter service will be electrified and has the potential to go further than that, including the use of battery technology, which was mentioned earlier. On the rail side, we are equally comfortable that can be achieved. We will be able to transition the urban bus system to meet those targets over the coming years. The technology for double that fleet is there or thereabouts to do a large proportion of our routes but not all of them. The challenge is the long distance regional routes connecting our cities and our towns. The technology is not available to run it electric at present. We are trialling some hydrogen vehicles, as was mentioned, so there is a question mark over that. That is challenging and the answer to that in not yet fully clear.

On the Deputy’s question as to whether our capital projects are sufficiently carbon-proofed, the answer to that in our area is "Yes". We are building sustainable transport projects, either public transport or active travel projects. All of them are focused on moving people on to more sustainable modes. They are carbon-proofed.

In terms of MetroLink and its sizing, we can only build a tunnel like MetroLink once. A great deal of effort has gone into trying to predict the land usages and the travel patterns into the future along the corridor. We and TII, which is intimately involved in it, are satisfied we have sized it appropriately and that it can cater for development in the longer term. Much work has gone into that. Time will tell if we are right or not but a great deal of work has gone into trying to size it properly.

I thank Mr. Creegan for that response.

I call Senator Boylan.

I thank the speakers for their presentations. Like Deputy Farrell, many of the questions I had have been answered at this stage, but I might expand on them. There has been much talk about moving away from a cost-benefit analysis and striking a balance right between what the cost, social benefit and emissions will be. Is a set of criteria or best practice used for those transport projects, or is that already being used by the NTA? Have we established a set of criteria that helps us to come to those decisions? For example, building on the figure of €10 billion, what would we do with it and how would we make those decisions?

With respect to getting people out of their cars, BusConnects has done a great deal of work in Dublin on that. It is not only about connecting bus routes, it involves multimodal connections and getting people to different modes. Is any work being done on the gendered aspect of shifting people out of cars, particularly on trip chaining, given that women tend to take on more care-giving roles and have to make short trips to school and to care for relatives? Is the NTA examining that gendered perspective?

On the issue of councillors and their closeness to the public, that is a double-edged sword. Without a head person driving the strategy, we can have a push and pull in two different areas of the city with one councillor saying his or her constituents do not want it and another saying his or her constituents want it, and we see that repeatedly. Given we are talking of having directly elected majors, that could be one of the powers that would fall into that role. It would be a role for a person who has a strategic vision for an urban centre who could bring stakeholders around the table to co-ordinate those decisions. We have seen the difficulty involved with the pedestrianisation of the College Green area in Dublin due to different stakeholders pulling in different directions.

The first set of questions are for Ms Graham.

Ms Anne Graham

I will ask Mr. Creegan to comment on the cost benefit associated with large infrastructure projects and I will comment on the services side.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

The Senator's question related to the criteria we use to choose between projects. We are probably coming off under-investment in public transport for a couple of decades. We need all the projects to go ahead and proceed. We have a very well developed methodology that assesses projects under a number of different headings, including the environment, climate change and the benefit-cost ratio. While the benefit-cost ratio is important, it is not the bee all and end all. It is worth mentioning also that all our projects assess carbon reductions as part of them and our modelling work for each of those projects brings that to bear on them. The tools to choose between projects are pretty well established. There is a particular set of and key headings used across the transport spectrum, which have been set by the Department of Transport and have been in place for a number of years. We use those to assist with the choices between projects. After that, the policy around them sometimes gets built into the various national development plans and that in a way sets the prioritisation also but the two things come together to determine the running order of the projects.

Ms Anne Graham

I spoke earlier about how we prioritise service delivery. Rather than it being about infrastructure, it is more about how we choose to provide new services where there are no services currently. We are trying to develop a methodology to give us some means of prioritising the service provision side. That work is under way currently but it will very much have a social aspect in terms of assessment and not only a cost aspect and the number of passengers that may be derived from that service.

We are very much focused in particular on those areas that would require access to public transport to improve their economic activity as being a core part of the delivery of public transport services, especially when State money is subsidising those services. That would be a core part of that analysis. It is really updating the methodology we have, which is a social-benefit methodology that we used more in the bad times when we were looking at reducing services. We hope we will not be in that position again. We now want to use it in terms of a growth scenario where we want to grow services across the country. We will use a similar type of methodology to prioritise service delivery.

In terms of the gender aspect of service planning, it is something that is included, in particular in bus services planning where a key part of BusConnects was ensuring that people get to more places more easily. Even though there was a bit of a negative response to this, part of that was about integrating the bus services so that one could ensure that one could make those shorter trips a lot easier by introducing more orbital routes so that one could get to more places quicker. That certainly benefits those shorter trips that women tend to make in their care-giving role. The gender aspect is very much included as part of the service delivery. In earlier years in transport planning one focused primarily on the work commute as the driver of in-service planning, but now we look much more across the whole day and at how services are used not just for access to work and education but also for social activity as well because a higher percentage of trips are made for retail and social activity than for access to education and work.

I thank Ms Graham. Does Dr. Caulfield wish to address the question on cost-benefit analysis? I saw his hand go up.

Dr. Brian Caulfield

Yes. I thank Senator Boylan for some very interesting questions. I have worked with the NTA model and cost-benefit analysis is something I teach in Trinity. I can say that the modelling approach that is undertaken by the NTA is world class. It is what other cities do.

Mr. Creegan rightly said that the benefit-cost ratio is not the be-all and end-all, and that we do need to look at social aspects. There was some really nice work done on the Limerick strategy where the NTA looked at the number of new public transport services that were going into deprived areas. When something like that is integrated into this type of analysis it is very effective.

I teach cost-benefit analysis to students in Trinity and one of the things that we did recently was we looked at the cost of carbon as part of a road investment project. One has to tweak the cost of carbon very high before it makes any difference to the benefit-cost ratio, so that is something that does need to be looked at in terms of transport appraisal. I suspect the last question on directly elected mayors was for Dr. Torney, but my answer to that is "Yes" if the mayor has power and a budget.

I thank Dr. Caulfield. Could Dr. Torney respond to the question on more regional and local governance in the form of directly elected mayors?

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I echo what Dr. Caulfield just said. It is important not just that a mayor would be directly elected, but that he or she is given appropriate powers and resources. Otherwise, we just repeat some of the existing difficulties with local councillors, which is that they are elected, but they do not have the powers to deliver the things that their constituents want. I am strongly in favour of directly elected mayors at least for the cities, provided that they are granted sufficient authority and resources.

I thank Dr. Torney.

I bid the witnesses a good afternoon and thank them for their time. If I could pick up on some of Dr. Caulfield's opening remarks, he referred to equity and just transition. I heard his responses to some of the questions on electric vehicles and also on car sharing. Where is the best balance between the two? The just transition is required but we want people to look at and explore alternative modes of transport, including the targets that we have set for electric vehicles? Where does he think the best spot is in terms of delivering on our targets?

Dr. Brian Caulfield

I thank Deputy Devlin for what is again a very interesting question. One of the striking statistics I often use with my students on sharing vehicles is that cars spend 95% of their time parked, so it is an extremely wasteful asset. On how we would use it for a just transition and shared mobility, I do see that there is a space there whereby cars could be used almost as a public good in the same way as public transport, and that there would be networks of people that could use the vehicles. On the road I live on, one could ask if the eight cars that are parked there are required all the time - perhaps they are not. When one looks at just transitioning and the budgets that people will have to pay to transfer to a low-carbon economy, sharing these types of assets will become much more prevalent in the future. I think it will definitely be a way of reducing the burden on households.

I thank Dr. Caulfield. If I may, I will ask a few questions on BusConnects and other issues. Ms Graham mentioned that there was a review of the transport strategy from 2016. When is that likely to be concluded? Will it be this year?

Ms Anne Graham

Yes, it will go out to consultation later this year, in about quarter 3, and I hope it will conclude by the end of the year.

Sticking with that, we have seen a major change in public transport and other modes of transport since the start of the pandemic, will that be taken into consideration in the context of BusConnects which has been extensively discussed this afternoon? Does that change the model in any way given that people are working from home and changing their patterns?

Ms Anne Graham

Yes, obviously that has to be taken into account in particular in terms of the sensitivity of the modelling work that we will do. I might ask Mr. Creegan to respond as he is engaged in it at the moment.

Mr. Hugh Creegan

In terms of trying to predict future transport use and patterns, we are adopting an approach of developing a spectrum of possibilities because nobody really knows what the future holds. One version is what we call business as usual, where what we expected to happen in 2019 continues, and then at the other end of the spectrum we have developed a scenario whereby something like 25% of certain categories of worker, work from home; there is a certain movement away from on-street retail to off-street and online; tertiary education is delivered through a hybrid mode and there is less on-campus use, and so on through the various participants that make up the transport arena. For all of our large projects we are testing our proposals under the two ends of the spectrum and we suspect we will probably end up someplace in the middle. Each project is being tested that way.

What was the original target for the reduction in emissions if BusConnects, as proposed, was delivered and how does that vary across the spectrum?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We did not set a target to reduce emissions by a specific amount. It was always going to be an output of whatever we developed. The final output will depend on the final scheme design we are currently grappling with. It is a tiny bit too early for us to be definitive and say this is what it is or this is what it changed by.

I know the NTA is reviewing it at present, but what is the timeframe for the delivery of BusConnects now given the pandemic and have the costs changed for the overall scheme?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

No, the costs are still broadly in line with what the expectations were.

There was a large allocation of €2 billion given in the national development plan towards BusConnects and we still see that as being the right allocation. One factor affecting the timeline is that there are a large number of corridors, as most people are aware. All of them will be ready to go to An Bord Pleanála in the coming months. Later on this year they will all be ready for submission to An Bord Pleanála. After that, the timeline is dictated by what happens then and how quickly the approval process completes at that stage.

Ms Anne Graham

That is related to the infrastructure. In the meantime we are going to deliver the new BusConnects network commencing this year. We had hoped we would have started phase 1 around now. Obviously, with the pandemic we have pushed that out until we are in a position to be able to communicate properly with customers about those changes. That is likely to push it out. The earliest really would be May but we hope to achieve two phases of delivery of the BusConnects network for Dublin this year.

I wish to comment on something Mr Creegan said in terms of the routes going to An Bord Pleanála. Are they going collectively? I had thought there was consideration for a staged process. Are all 16 routes going together?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

We are trying to decide at the moment whether they are going all together or whether they are phasing slightly for everyone's convenience.

Good luck with that.

We are running out of time so I am going to finish up. I have a quick question for Mr. Creegan on the modelling and how the NTA factors health into appraising projects. Is there a parameter or a formula for assessing the impact of projects on the health of town and village centres and so on? I am seeking a comment from the NTA on another matter following from Dr. Caulfield's point about factoring in carbon pricing to projects. To what extent does the National Transport Authority do that in its work?

Mr. Hugh Creegan

Our modelling exercises all incorporate carbon pricing. The pricing used is set by the Department of Transport as a parameter for everyone in the transport arena and obviously we use that. I concur with Dr. Caulfield's view that on certain projects it takes a large adjustment in the number for it to make a perceptible change. I wish to repeat that the pricing used is the standard costing provided to us and is used across the public sector.

There is a methodology available to us for the health benefits which we use in particular for active travel projects to ascertain the benefits we get from them. I declare I am not familiar enough to explain it eloquently in a couple of sentences, but it is a methodology we have imported from elsewhere. It has been used elsewhere and is applied in the modelling work we do.

Thank you for that. If the NTA officials could find out more information on that, I believe the members of the committee would be interested to read about it.

We have gone beyond time and we need to vacate the committee room. I thank all four witnesses who have appeared before us today. I believe it was a worthwhile engagement and it will help us significantly in our deliberations as we go into the next session and the compiling of our report in a few weeks.

The joint committee adjourned at 2.45 p.m. until 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 23 March 2021.