Thursday, 26 September 2019

Questions (173)

Róisín Shortall


173. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding provided in the National Development Plan 2018-2027 specifically for the greening of public transport. [39148/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The transport sector has a critical role to play in the national mitigation effort and I am acutely aware of the specific challenges we face in transport where fossil fuel use is firmly established. An efficient and low emitting public transport system is a key priority in helping the transport sector contribute towards meeting our climate change goals. As part of a comprehensive programme of work to ‘green’ our transport system, investment in public and sustainable transport to support modal shift and accommodate growing travel demand has been substantially increased in recent years.

In Project Ireland 2040, €8.6billion has been indicatively allocated over the period 2018 to 2027 towards the delivery of an integrated and sustainable national public transport system. Improving public transport services and infrastructure is central to providing an alternative to private car travel, not only to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions, but also to enable the sector to cater for the increasing demands associated with growing population and employment in a greener and more environmentally sustainable way.

This funding will be provided for major programmes and projects, including MetroLink, the DART Expansion programme and BusConnects, with continued investment in bus fleet expansion, Local Link services, maintenance and renewal of heavy rail, as well as the multi-annual urban cycling and walking infrastructure investment of over €110 million underway for our main cities.

Within the umbrella figure of €8.6 billion, it is estimated that c. €2 billion will be spent on the delivery of the Dublin BusConnects programme, with a further c. €200 million respectively to be spent to deliver Cork and Galway BusConnects. This programme is expected to have a transformative effect on the operation of public bus services, enabling more people to travel by public and sustainable transport than ever before.

My strong commitment to transition our public transport fleet away from fossil fuels towards cleaner technologies was recently reaffirmed in the all-of-Government Climate Action Plan. The first one hundred low-emission buses will enter the urban bus fleet by the end of 2020. By 2023, under the BusConnects Programme, approximately half of the public urban bus fleet in the Greater Dublin Area will be low-emitting, with full conversion by 2030.

A similar comprehensive programme of work is underway to move the commuter rail fleet to low-emitting alternatives. We plan to electrify key heavily-used elements of the rail network by creating a full metropolitan area DART network for the Greater Dublin Area, which is the part of the national rail network that carries over 75% of total rail passengers each year. It will mean high-frequency electrified rail services to Drogheda, Celbridge/Hazelhatch, Maynooth and M3 Parkway, as well as new interchange stations with bus, LUAS and Metro networks. The NTA and Iarnród Éireann are undertaking a procurement process for the establishment of a 10-year framework agreement for the purchase of the additional lower-emitting rail fleet required for this expansion of the DART network.

Our movement to low-emission alternatives for public transport will be important in helping to promote and normalise the use of alternative fuels and technologies in the transport sector. The measures will mitigate the carbon footprint of the public transport fleet, which currently accounts for less than 5% of Ireland's annual transport sector emissions (or roughly 1% of our overall emissions). By maintaining a focus on expanding the carrying capacity of our public transport over the coming years, we can help address the largest sustainability challenge in the transport sector - which is shifting more journeys from private motoring towards suitable alternatives in public transport and active travel.

Question No. 174 answered with Question No. 172.