The recently published Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown sets out a whole-of-Government approach to climate action and maps a potential pathway to meet Ireland's 2030 emission reduction commitments. The Plan clearly recognises that Ireland must significantly step up its commitments to address climate disruption. A wide-ranging set of bold and challenging actions for transport are set out, particularly in relation to active travel (cycling and walking) and public transport.
I want to make sure that we provide high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure as well as a reliable public transport system, to make public and active travel options a viable alternative for as many people as possible and for more of their journeys than ever before. In this way we will lower climate-harmful emissions, begin to tackle congestion and see an improvement in local air quality.
This Plan includes our commitment to deliver an additional half a million public transport and active travel journeys daily by 2035. This is a significant step up in our ambition and requires expanding the capacity and attractiveness of our walking and cycling networks as well as our public transport system.
Under Project Ireland 2040, we have assigned €8.6 billion to support sustainable mobility. In addition to support for key public transport projects this investment will vastly improve the cycling and walking infrastructure in all our major cities. In fact, this €8.6 billion investment budget is well above what we will be investing in new roads, which is a reversal of the balance of investment in the past.
Over the period 2018-2021:
- €110 million will be specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;
- €750 million is earmarked for the BusConnects programme in Dublin to include the delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes; and
- €53 million will be used to support the development of new Greenways.
This will support the increasing numbers of people who choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport, including E-bikes users. It is clear that prioritising investment in our cycling network is already working; the number of annual cycling trips is increasing, particularly within the Greater Dublin Area with surveys such as the Canal Cordon Count showing cycling numbers almost doubling between 2011 and 2018.
We need to build on this and do even more. Key actions under the Climate Plan underpin this commitment to increasing cycling as a mode of travel, including the establishment of a Cycling Project Office within the National Transport Authority and the development of implementation plans and increased cycling infrastructure for Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The Cycling Project Office will ensure that the new cycling infrastructure is delivered optimally, in line with the significantly increased funding that is being provided.
The Cycle to Work Scheme also continues to encourage the use of bicycles and e-bikes to travel to and from work. Under the scheme an eligible employer can buy a bicycle for their employees and the employee pays the amount, less the tax relief, over up to 12 months through a salary sacrifice arrangement. Up to €1,000 can be provided for towards the purchase of a new bicycle or e-Bike which is a generous contribution towards any commuter bicycle, but especially towards an e-bike which are generally more expensive.
The climate challenge needed a step-up in ambition and a renewed determination across Government and society to tackle climate disruption - the Climate Action Plan has given us this required level of focus and drive. I am personally committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and I hope to see transport emissions levels continue to fall as they did in 2018. Cycling will play an important role in this decarbonisation effort and I am dedicated to investing and improving our cycling network.