Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Questions (58)

Thomas P. Broughan


58. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his policy on congestion charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39689/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Traffic congestion is an issue in Ireland’s cities and some towns; it can impose economic and social costs on residents, commuters and businesses, and it worsens emissions that impact on air quality and the environment. As our population and economic performance grows, more journeys are created only adding to the issue. Over time, rising travel demand coupled with a scarcity of space to expand road supply will exacerbate the issues that we see in our cities today. We estimate that, without intervention, by 2040 commuting trips nationally could rise by as much as 35% over current levels. So, my focus must strongly remain on ensuring sustainable and efficient movement of people and goods on the transport network, and pursuing suitable measures to safeguard against congestion.

In 2017 my Department estimated that congestion could have a cost of over €2 billion per annum by 2033 in the absence of appropriate intervention. Such a cost would have a substantial impact on our national economic competitiveness. There is also a social cost to our citizens spending more time in unnecessary traffic delays. In addition, congestion also negatively impacts on our national carbon emissions and can cause localised air quality issues. So there are many motivations to tackle congestion.

We are addressing some congestion issues by encouraging more people to move away from their private passenger cars to public transport and active travel where practical. To this end, a significant investment of €8.6 billion has been earmarked under the National Development Plan to increase the capacity and attractiveness of sustainable mobility. Major forthcoming projects such as MetroLink, the DART Expansion Programme and BusConnects will significantly increase public transport capacity providing a viable and attractive alternative to private cars for more people, for more of their journeys. And the substantial step-up in walking and cycling infrastructure investment will also increase the shift to active modes.

In parallel, demand management measures must also be considered, including the potential role of congestion charging. Indeed, under the Climate Action Plan my Department is committed to examining a range of demand management measures for Irish cities. The study will review international best practice and recommend the most appropriate responses for Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, taking into account overall transport strategies and the unique make-up of each of the cities. We will work in close collaboration with the relevant local authorities and I expect the results of this study are to be published next Autumn.