19. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Taoiseach when the next meeting of the Cabinet committee on the environment is due to meet. [37534/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 1-76
Questions Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 13 to 18, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 20 to 42, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 43 to 52, inclusive, answered orally.
19. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Taoiseach when the next meeting of the Cabinet committee on the environment is due to meet. [37534/19]View answer
Following a Government decision on 25 July on the establishment of Cabinet Committees, Cabinet Committee structures were reorganised.
The Cabinet Committee on the Environment covers issues relating to the environment, including the implementation of the national Climate Action Plan.
Political and popular momentum for necessary climate action is growing. This was reflected in the Government’s publication of the cross-sectoral Climate Action Plan in June 2019. Given the cross-cutting nature of the plan that affects all aspects of the economy and society, the need for an all-of-government approach to climate action is obvious. This includes a deliberate and sustained focus at Ministerial level and at Cabinet.
The Cabinet Committee on the Environment will therefore focus on the implementation of the Climate Action Plan in the immediate term. It met for the first time on 30 September 2019 and is due to meet again at least once more before the year end.
53. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if Leap cards will be introduced for commuters in south County Kildare stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39910/19]View answer
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, nor decisions on fares. Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, the NTA is the statutory body with responsibility for the regulation of fares charged to passengers in respect of public transport services, provided under public service contracts and shared systems such as the Leap Card. However, I will pass on the Deputy's concerns in relation to commuters in south County Kildare stations to the NTA.
The NTA also has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of public transport services contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable.
The funding of those services comprises both the fares paid by passengers and the subvention payments from the Exchequer. The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between income from fares and the cost of operating services. In 2019, the Irish Exchequer will provide just over €300m in subvention for public service obligation (PSO) transport services and Rural Transport Local Link services.
The NTA have informed me that it is important to distinguish between two aspects when determining fares, i.e., the fare zone and the fare payment system.
Due to Dublin’s large population it is possible to achieve significant economies of scale in the operation of rail services. Accordingly, it is possible to have an urban fare zone, called the Short Hop Zone, offering discounted fares. This type of urban fare structure is common in many major cities internationally. The Leap Card can be used for rail travel between stations within the Short Hop Zone. This Zone includes all stations in the Dublin area from Kilcoole to Balbriggan and Commuter Stations from Dublin City Centre to Kilcock and from Dublin Heuston to Sallins and Naas.
However, the NTA has indicated that it is not possible to offer the same discounted fares across the rest of the rail network as that would put an unsustainable financial strain on Iarnród Éireann. Accordingly, the NTA has no immediate plans to extend the current boundaries of the Short Hop Zone around Dublin.
Leap Card is not an optimal system for the payment of rail fares in areas outside the Short Hop Zone as customers would need to maintain a significant balance on their Leap Card. Accordingly, the NTA have no plans to make Leap Card available across the national rail network. However, even if Leap Card was made available as a means of payment for rail fares nationally, it would not be possible to reduce fares in areas outside the Short Hop Zone for the reason I have already mentioned.
The mobile ticketing service is the first phase of the NTA’s Next Generation Ticketing (NGT) programme, which seeks to implement new and more flexible ticketing systems, provide additional ways of paying for travel and improve the overall customer experience. The NGT programme will eventually lead to the replacement of the Leap Card system with this improved alternative.
54. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if increased funding will be expedited for public transport and cycling infrastructure in the mid-western areas of Dublin, particularly areas adjacent to and in proximity of the M50, in order to mitigate levels of nitrogen dioxide that exceed the EU limit which has been recorded by Traffic Infrastructure Ireland at various locations in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39690/19]View answer
I am of course committed toward improving sustainability mobility options in all areas of the country, including within the Deputy’s particular constituency.
Heavily trafficked roads, such as the M50, can record higher levels of nitrogen dioxide, although the Deputy will know from the report that the highest levels are found within 10 metres of the motorway’s edge. Levels further than that distance typically fall back to within “background concentration” level.
Notwithstanding that important clarification, I am clear that we need to increase not just the sustainable options available, but also the numbers of people choosing to use those options too.
I am glad to say that Project Ireland 2040 provides for a significantly enhanced investment programme with measures to be funded in the short, medium and longer term.
In the short term, we have increased funding to support expanded bus and rail services throughout Dublin Mid-West, like for example the extra bus services in the Lucan area earlier this year or the increase in trains now serving Clondalkin-Fonthill and taking the Phoenix Park tunnel into the city centre. I have no doubt the Deputy has noticed a number of hybrid buses which Dublin Bus are now operating in the area as part of a trial and that is also very welcome. These improvements and expansions are resulting in increased levels of patronage and that's obviously important.
In the medium term we are rolling out BusConnects which will massively improve the bus infrastructure and active travel infrastructure in the area and result in much improved services. It will also mean we switch the entire bus fleet toward lower emission technologies and I have no doubt the Deputy supports the roll out of that programme as quickly as I do. On rail we are funding the electrification of the existing rail line in Dublin Mid-West as part of the DART Expansion Programme.
And we are planning for the longer term too through the funding of the appraisal, planning and design of a new Luas line right through the Deputy’s constituency.
I look forward to the Deputy’s continued support on the ground in relation to all of these improvements as we look to deliver improved and expanded public transport and active travel infrastructure across Dublin Mid-West.
55. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to enhance road transportation in County Meath. [39692/19]View answer
Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, development and construction of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
The National Development Plan (NDP), which has been developed by Government to underpin the implementation of the National Planning Framework, provides the strategic and financial framework for Tll's national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027. The focus of Tll's activities over the coming years is, therefore, being directed towards the development of the major national road improvement schemes that are listed in the NDP.
Following consultation with TII, I can provide an overview of national road developments in County Meath, to which the Deputy refers.
The proposed N2 Slane Bypass is included amongst a number of major national road schemes that are identified for development during the period of the NDP. The scheme is also contained in the National Transport Authority (NTA) Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.
The project is currently at route selection stage. Meath County Council have also commissioned a supplementary assessment of East-West options in relation to Slane. This process is well advanced and once the preferred route is identified, the scheme will be progressed through planning and design. A Business case will then be prepared for the approval of both my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. In addition, the statutory documentation will be prepared, including the environmental impact assessment. Meath County Council have indicated that the scheme will be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in 2021, post the adoption of the new County Development Plan. TII has provided an allocation of €1m to Meath County Council for the scheme this year.
The proposed N2 Rath Roundabout to Kilmoon Cross scheme is also included amongst a number of major national road schemes that were identified in the NDP for progression through pre-appraisal and early planning during 2018. In this regard, the Project Pre-Appraisal for the proposed scheme has been approved.
This approx. 6 km scheme will address the existing operational and safety problems on this section of the N2, which has an annual average daily traffic of circa 16,000 vehicles per day and experiences considerable peak time congestion.
Meath County Council has engaged the services of Technical Advisors to commence the planning and design of the scheme. I am advised that it typically takes three to five years from this point through Phases 1 – 4 of the Project Management Guidelines, in order to have the scheme ready to submit to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval. This year, TII has provided an allocation to Meath Co. Co. of €250,000 to allow the scheme to progress to planning and design.
The N51 Dunmoe Phase 2 scheme comprises the construction of approximately 4 km of single carriageway and associated ancillary and consequential works, including the provision of side roads, accommodation works/roads, junctions, from the townland of Blackcastle Demesne to the townlands of Cruicetown and Pighill in County Meath. An Oral Hearing was held on 12th July 2018 and An Bord Pleanala confirmed the CPO for the scheme in October 2018. Meath Co Co are currently progressing the final design and tender documents and intend to go to tender for this scheme in 2020.TII has provided an allocation to Meath Co. Co. of €150,000 for the scheme this year.
Regional and Local Roads
As regards regional and local roads, the maintenance and improvement of these roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the Council.
During the recession there were substantial cutbacks in the funding available for State grants for national, regional and local road programmes. Project Ireland 2040 does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network. Grants in the three main grant categories (Restoration Improvement, Discretionary Grant and Restoration Maintenance) are allocated based on the length of the road network within a local authority area and taking traffic factors into account.
I have been pleased to be able to allocate significantly increased grant funding to Meath County Council in respect of regional and local roads over the last two years. In this context grant allocations to Meath in 2019 total €19,676,500 which is an increase of over 45% compared to the 2017 allocation.
While the bulk of the funding for regional and local roads under Project Ireland 2040 is earmarked for maintenance and renewal works, provision has been made for grant funding towards the cost of 12 significant capital road improvement schemes. The upgrade of the Bettystown to Laytown Link Road is one of these projects. Following the confirmation by An Bord Pleanála of the Compulsory Purchase Order related to the scheme, the detailed project appraisal has now been submitted to the Department for consideration.
Funding has also been allocated this year under the Specific Improvement Grant Programme to progress proposed safety improvement schemes at Curragha junction and Phase 1 of the R162 Kilberry traffic calming scheme.
56. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to increase public transport provision in view of the declaration of a climate emergency; his further plans to make all public transport free of charge in budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39901/19]View answer
95. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on steadily increasing the State subsidy to public transport with the aim of providing free public transport to promote the decarbonisation of transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39752/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 95 together.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.
The NTA has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of Public Services Obligation (PSO) contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable. The NTA also has been given statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services.
The funding of those services comprises both the fares paid by passengers and the subvention payments from the Exchequer. The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between the income from fares and the cost of operating services. In 2019, the Irish Exchequer will provide just over €300 million in subvention for public service obligation (PSO) transport services and Rural Transport Local Link services.
I understand from the NTA that, in 2018, passengers paid €625 million in fares on subsidised bus and rail services. Therefore, if such services were to be provided free to passengers, then the expected cost to the Exchequer would be in excess of the €625m collected in fares in 2018. This amount would be additional to the 2019 Exchequer allocation of €300m for PSO support and the further amount (€95m allocation for 2019) that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays to public transport providers in respect of its Free Travel Scheme which provides free transport to almost 1 million people in the State, including all people aged over 66 living permanently here, along with some other qualifying people.
So taking round approximate figures, the Deputies idea would cost the taxpayer about €625 million per year, in addition to the €400 million that the Exchequer already spends on public transport services. And this is just the cost of the actual services; it does not count the Exchequer investment in public transport and active travel infrastructure which in 2019 is about €480 million.
These are just the estimates of the full year cost of providing a windfall of free travel to everyone who is an existing passenger. The figures do not factor in the cost of providing the additional fleet, depots, drivers, etc. that would be needed to meet the likely resultant substantial increase in passenger numbers if fares were reduced or eliminated. In summary Introducing free public transport for all users would require substantial additional funding by the taxpayer or from other sources; the Deputies have not indicated how they propose that this would be funded.
The Deputies are correct in focusing on the need to reduce private car emissions and also to stimulate and support increased uptake of public transport. That is exactly the Government's approach as set out in our recent Climate Plan. According to 2017 emission estimates:
- Around 52% of transport emissions come from private car use;
- Just over 18% comes from the freight sector; and
- Around 4.4% of emissions come from the public transport fleet.
As such, it is clear that inroads must be made in reducing the dominance of the private car in Ireland’s transport sector.
Modal shift from the private car to sustainable means of transport remains central to the transport sector’s response to climate change. Investment in public transport has supported an increase of almost 58m journeys annually on subsidised public transport and commercial bus service since 2012. Last year we saw an increase of 16.3 million passenger journeys provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Irish Rail, Luas and Go-Ahead Ireland on PSO services. That is an increase of over 6.5% compared to 2017. I think the Deputies would agree that this increase in passenger growth is very positive. The growth in public transport services has been supported by higher levels of subvention in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and as I mentioned earlier it was increased again this year to provide a total allocation of over €300 million.
In order to reduce the prevalence of the private car and encourage a shift to more sustainable forms of transport, a number of key policy measures to increase public transport capacity will be progressed over the next decade. The National Development Plan has earmarked €8.6 billion for investment in public and sustainable transport to 2027. 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 thetransport sector, which is shifting more journeys from private motoring towards suitable alternatives in public transport and active travel.
57. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the removal of rail lines for the purposes of constructing greenways; if he has considered the negative ramifications of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39766/19]View answer
I thank the Deputy for her question and I know this is an issue she has raised with me before in relation to the old Navan to Kingscourt line.
As I have previously stated, the operation of the operation of the rail network, including former lines on the network, is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.
As the Deputy will also recall, the priority funding objective in relation to mainline rail is to maintain and renew the existing operational network. That objective is supported by the significantly enhanced funding now available to support that network as evidenced by the 23% increase in Exchequer funding provided in 2019.
Across counties Dublin, Louth, Kildare and Meath an additional objective is to start work on the DART Expansion Programme which will electrify the lines as far as Drogheda, Dunboyne, Maynooth and Hazelhatch and allow for expanded services across the wider region.
As part of the statutory review of the National Transport Authority’s Transport Strategy further analysis will be undertaken in relation to the existing M3 Parkway line to consider whether that line might be further extended to serve Navan.
So that is the broader context to the rail network in the region.
Specifically in relation to the disused line to Kingscourt, I am aware that the local authorities in the region are exploring options to develop a greenway and those options include the potential of using the existing disused rail alignment.
The most important issue to consider in terms of long term potential in the area of future rail infrastructure is not preserving old track bed, with all its potential unsuitability for future use; rather the important issue is about preserving the alignment of the route from intrusion by property.
So, in that respect, the exploratory discussions that I understand are underway between the local authorities and Iarnród Éireann adhere to that perspective and I do not believe that any such removal of track bed is inherently negative.
The long term potential of rail infrastructure and services in that area will ultimately be driven by careful analysis of the underlying transport demand in the area.
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]View answer
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.
59. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered introducing specific measures to incentivise and support the use of e-bikes on roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39747/19]View answer
Firstly, let me state that I am keenly aware of the potential role of e-bikes as part of our overall policy in supporting a greater shift to sustainable mobility in people’s daily lives.
As the Deputy is no doubt aware, that potential is found in a number of ways, most obviously in extending the potential “reach” of cycling as an attractive daily commuting option for people.
In the Netherlands for example, the relevant Dutch Ministry estimates that potential to be an additional 7 kilometres, so that cycling becomes really viable for those living up to 15 kilometres approximately from where they work, or go school etc. instead of the current 7 or 7.5km.
And that highlights the importance of the BusConnects programme with its 16 core bus corridors along each of the major commuting routes into Dublin from the outer suburbs providing around 200km of largely segregated cycling infrastructure.
I have no doubt the importance of BusConnects in that regard is recognized and supported by the Deputy.
In terms of specific measures and incentives, the Deputy is aware that there already exists a significant incentive under the Bike-to-Work Scheme.
That Scheme applies to e-bikes as it does to ordinary bikes and it represents a significant support to encourage greater use of cycling, including e-bikes. I think there might well be a potential for a communications campaign around its application to e-bikes to ensure people are aware of that fact.
The Deputy might say that the overall cap on the Bike-to-Work scheme should be lifted given the greater cost of e-bikes as opposed to other bikes; however, I would say that, as percentage of overall potential cost, it still represents a significant level of assistance.
I am about to launch a consultation on sustainable mobility policy and, as part of that, I would welcome engagement with the Deputy on any particular incentives he might have in mind. I think it important that any fiscal incentive is supported by appropriate analysis and forms part of an overall policy framework: an approach I would hope he supports.
60. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress to date with Metrolink; his views on whether the planning and construction of this vital infrastructure for Fingal and Dublin city will be expedited over the next three or four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39753/19]View answer
I thank the Deputy for his interest in this important project and his implicit support for its delivery.
At the outset, let us all be clear that any “megaproject” like this requires careful planning and design and must rightly conform to a very high standard of statutory requirements in areas such as environmental protection or procurement for example.
In addition to those statutory requirements, both Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the National Transport Authority have held two significant non-statutory public consultations on the project. I am sure that the Deputy welcomes the fact that the public has been consulted at this early stage in the project’s development and the level of engagement that has been facilitated by both agencies.
The submissions received during the last of those two public consultations are still being considered and will inform the overall development of the project as it moves into its next phase.
This next phase is essentially composed of two elements –
1. Ensuring compliance with the Public Spending Code; and
2. The statutory planning process.
I would like to think the Deputy agrees both are of fundamental importance.
TII and NTA will in early 2020 present a business case for my consideration in line with the Public Spending Code. My Department will ensure appropriate and rigorous analysis of the business case as one would expect for a significant investment project.
A project of this scale requires Government approval and that approval will be sought once that analysis of the business case has been conducted.
The project is then expected to move into the statutory planning system during 2020 and again, given the scale and complexity of the project, it is probable that a decision will be made during 2021 which would allow the project move into its construction phase in 2021.
This is a huge and complex project with all of the requirements such scale imposes.
I am satisfied with progress to date and the timescale I have set out and am unclear as to what expedited measures the Deputy has in mind but am happy to hear of any suggestions.
61. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the recent initiative of Irish Rail to persuade workers to avoid rush hour DART times on weekday mornings; his further views on whether this is a reaction to a lack of infrastructure investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39728/19]View answer
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport. The operation and provision of services on the rail network are matters for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance, which, in consultation with the National Transport Authority (NTA), is currently examining how best to source additional rolling stock as efficiently and effectively as possible, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer in that regard.
I acknowledge the fact that at certain times of the day, some rail services are currently crowded due to the level of demand. The Deputy can be assured that the safe operation of the rail network and services is the overriding priority at all times of both the company and, of course, the Commission for Railway Regulation, which is the independent, statutory body charged with overseeing the safety of our network.
From late September to early December is the busiest commuter period of the year for all transport modes, given the return of third-level educational institutions. Iarnród Éireann launched the website peaktime.ie on September 23rd.
I am advised by Irish Rail that its intention in launching peaktime.ie was not to “persuade workers to avoid rush-hour DART times on weekday mornings”, but to equip those commuters who have flexibility in their travel times with information on demand levels on DARTs serving their stations, thus enabling them to decide their travel times based on the available options.
With one in six weekday DART journeys made between 8am and 9am, the morning peak is particularly concentrated. The information provided on peaktime.ie may enable some commuters to travel at a time when there is greater capacity, thus increasing overall the contribution of DART to providing sustainable transport options for a greater number of commuters and helping those commuters make the modal shift from private to public transport.
Iarnród Éireann increased DART frequency to a 10-minute weekday service from 7am to 8pm in September 2018, and is maximising capacity within its existing fleet at the busiest times. These changes mean that there remains scope for further growth in passenger numbers at the busiest times. However, capacity will come under increasing pressure, based on economic and employment growth forecasts. This is the case not only for DART, but also peak Commuter and Intercity services.
Currently, with the existing rail fleet fully deployed at peak times, the NTA in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann are examining options in the short, medium and longer term for additional train capacity to meet the increased commuter services demand across the network. I can confirm that my Department has now received a business case from the National Transport Authority-Iarnród Éireann in relation to the proposed purchase of 41 InterCity Rail (ICR) Cars. As the Deputy is aware, all public expenditure must comply with the Public Spending Code which sets out the requirements to which sponsoring agencies and sanctioning authorities must adhere, including the requirement that any project with an expected cost of €100 million or more must obtain specific approval from Government. In line with the Public Spending Code, that business case is currently being considered by my Department and once that consideration is complete I will seek Government's decision in relation to same. Pending Government approval to proceed, NTA-Iarnród Éireann anticipate delivery of the ICRs will commence in late 2021 and enter into service in early 2022. Separately, in May of this year NTA-IÉ began a tender process for up to 600 electric and battery-electric powered carriages over a 10 year period.
62. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to enhance public transport in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39691/19]View answer
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.
The NTA has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of Public Services Obligation (PSO) contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable. In relation to services in Co. Meath, the NTA has informed me of the following:
1. The contract for the Ashbourne to Swords service has been awarded to Go Ahead Ireland and the necessary arrangements for the introduction of that service are in progress. However, the schedule for the commencement of services has not been finalised at this time;
2. The NTA has approved a revised town service for Navan and services will be introduced following completion of associated infrastructure works by Meath County Council;
3. The NTA is planning an extension of the current Bus Éireann Dundalk to Ardee bus service. The extended service would operate to Mullingar via Carlanstown, Kells, Clonmellon and Delvin. The development of this extended service is at an early stage. The objective is to implement the extended service as driver resources become available later this year following the transfer of certain bus routes from Bus Éireann to Go-Ahead Ireland;
4. The NTA in conjunction with Bus Éireann is examining a number of options for services between Drogheda and Mullingar via Duleek, Navan, Athboy and Delvin. As this process is at an early stage, it is not possible to indicate when or if any specific service may be implemented;
5. The NTA is examining options to improve bus/rail integration between Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunshaughlin and the commuter rail line from M3 Parkway via Dunboyne, with a view to implement improvements before the end of the year;
6. The NTA has approved the extension of current bus services between Tullamore and Edenderry to Enfield as part of the transfer of certain bus routes from Bus Éireann to Go-Ahead Ireland;
7. The NTA is continuing to work with Local Link Louth Meath Fingal on its application for funding to secure the provision of a bus service between Duleek, Ardcath, Clonalvy and Balbriggan. As this process is on-going, the NTA is not in a position to provide more detail at this stage.
63. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the considerable capacity issues across the public transport system; and if he will take steps in the short to medium-term to address same. [39768/19]View answer
64. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the chronic overcrowding issues faced by commuters in the greater Dublin area, most notably on DART and bus services, at peak rush hour times; and the way in which he plans to address the matter without placing the emphasis on commuters to plan their journeys around busy periods. [39763/19]View answer
211. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he is taking to improve rail travel for commuters in particular regarding busy rush hour peak times and sufficient carriages and timetabling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40017/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 64 and 211 together.
As the Deputies are aware, the continued economic growth and increased employment levels have seen demand increase across the public transport networks and particularly in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).
Project Ireland 2040 commits over €8 billion to public transport and active travel projects over the next 10 years. This investment will transform our public transport network and enable more people choose sustainable mobility as their preferred mode of transport.
This increased level of investment allows for a range of short, medium and longer term responses as the Deputies have referred.
In the short term, the size of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) bus fleet has increased and that, together with service improvements, has meant increased and improved service provision. This is a significant development as the bus is by far the most important part of our public transport network.
On the Luas network, the first of the extensions to the Luas Green Line fleet has entered service with the remaining 25 extensions set to enter service on a rolling basis from now on. Next year will also see delivery of the 8 additional trams that have been ordered as part of the Luas Green Line Capacity Enhancement Project.
On rail while there have been improvements introduced last year in peak-time services, and this year in off-peak services, there are two fundamental constraints, namely the need to physically expand the fleet through the purchase of additional carriages and also the need to improve the overall management of the network.
And I am pleased to say there is progress underway in relation to both. In relation to the fleet, a business case for the purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars is currently under consideration by my Department in line with the Public Spending Code. That business case will be submitted to Government for its approval and it is expected that the new fleet will be delivered by 2021.
Separately, in May this year the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Iarnród Éireann commenced pre-qualifying in relation to a 10-year procurement framework for electric and battery-electric units which will massively expand the fleet.
In the summer, the Government approved the development of a new National Train Control Centre and contracts on this are expected to be awarded before the end of the year.
In the medium and longer term, the Deputies will acknowledge the on-going development of BusConnects, DART Expansion and MetroLink each of which will transform the capacity of the relevant public transport modes and create better linkages between them too.
I would hope that Deputies can see that there are a range of measures underway to improve our public transport network and services.
65. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the progress of the A5 project; the funding that will be made available for the project; when the funding will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39686/19]View answer
As the Deputy is aware, the planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities.
Following the conclusion in 2018 of the legal challenge to the approval of the scheme, the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure (DfI) updated the project assessments and undertook a public consultation on a number of environmental reports including an Environmental Statement Addendum 2019 and Reports of Information to Inform an Appropriate Assessment. DfI issued a project update in August which indicated that over 260 responses to the consultation had been received and that following on from consideration of the number and nature of the issues raised the DfI had concluded that a further public inquiry is required. DfI also indicated that it had written to the Planning Appeals Commission seeking a hearing in relation to the project.
The current funding arrangements in relation to the A5 are governed by the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan - A Fresh Start. Under this Agreement the Government is committed to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) towards the cost of Phase 1a of the A5 upgrade scheme once the statutory planning process in Northern Ireland is concluded.
66. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason Dublin Bus has opted for electric-hybrid low emission buses and not fully electric, zero emission buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39772/19]View answer
The movement to low-emission urban buses is central to the promotion and normalisation of cleaner fuels and technologies. A major shift to cleaner alternatives across the entire transport sector is necessary if we are to reduce harmful emissions. However, the switch to alternative fuels and technologies cannot be effected without a considerable State investment in supporting refueling infrastructure.
In order to meet our commitment under the National Development Plan to cease purchase of diesel-only buses from July this year, a decision was taken by the National Transport Authority (NTA), which is responsible for procurement of vehicles in the public service obligation (PSO) fleets, to purchase hybrid-electric buses in the short term. Hybrid bus technology acts to reduce transport emissions without the need for costly supporting infrastructure to be made immediately available. This enables the fleet replacement and fleet expansion necessary to support rising travel demand to continue uninterrupted; it also ensures that our longer-term procurement decisions will not need to take into account potentially hasty investment made in short-term infrastructure. Care must be taken to avoid investment in technologies which may be suitable for our current, but not our future public transport needs.
The Climate Action Plan sets out a clear commitment that, by the end of 2020, the first one hundred low-emission buses will have entered the urban bus fleet. Also, the NTA will prepare and publish a medium-term fleet technology pathway for the urban public bus fleet by year end, in line with the commitment set out in the Climate Action Plan. The findings of the Low-Emission Bus Trial are expected to inform this decision, taken together with ongoing market analysis and public fleet procurement requirements under the EU Clean Vehicles Directive. My Department will continue to engage closely with the NTA on the development of this longer-term procurement strategy, which will see our public transport sector become steadily cleaner and greener in the coming years.
Notably, the Clean Vehicles Directive at EU level will oblige Ireland to incorporate zero-emission technologies, such as fully electric or hydrogen, into the bus fleet as we move towards 2030, and consequently consideration of electric buses is ongoing. Indeed, and as I have mentioned, the findings of the Low-Emission Bus Trials show that electric buses performed strongly across a range of metrics. In addition, hybrid-electric technology, where deployed in conjunction with certain biofuels, also emerged as a potentially viable alternative, as did biogas. The overall results suggest that electrification represents a feasible option for fleet transition that could help us to tackle our carbon emissions, our air quality and increase our use of renewable energy in transport.
It is, however, important to note that double-deck full electric models were not available to trial and that these results refer to single-deck electric vehicles. There are a number of reasons for this; notably, right-hand drive vehicles (which Ireland would need) represent only a small part of the EU market, which can limit the number of suppliers and manufacturers open to us.
Furthermore, given our rising travel demand and the predominant role of the PSO fleet in our public transport system, double-deck buses are the most appropriate vehicle type for Irish circumstances. The articulated single-deck vehicles deployed in various continental cities, which do not offer the same ratio of standing to seating passengers, are not a suitable alternative due to these capacity concerns. While fully electric single-deck buses have been commercially available for some time, electric double-deck pilot models are only now becoming available. Up until this year, Transport for London (TFL), which operates a fleet of about 4,000 vehicles, had just two electric double-deck buses in operation. I understand that TFL is currently in the process of acquiring a further 68 electric double-deck buses that will be deployed on two specific routes for in-service performance monitoring and evaluation. It is worth noting that Irish bus routes tend to be long and that battery capacity for fully electric vehicles may be a concern. However, it is expected that battery capacity will further improve over the next few years, making it feasible to fully transition to electric vehicles at that stage.
While we await the development of higher battery capacity double deck bus fleet, the approach the NTA is pursuing is to begin the electrification pathway by purchasing diesel-electric hybrid vehicles.
A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A
67. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason the NTA is not fining a company (details supplied) despite the fact it confirmed that the company is not fulfilling its contractual obligations in terms of the delivery of service on the 10% of routes it is running in Dublin; if it is open to the NTA to cancel the contract with the company in view of the failure to fulfil its contractual obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39900/19]View answer
96. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number and scale of services cancelled by a company (details supplied) on the routes it operates in Dublin; the reason these services failed to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39899/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 96 together.
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have overall responsibility for policy and funding in relation to public transport. The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.
68. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the efforts he is making to ensure that drivers in Northern Ireland will be permitted to drive legally here without additional paperwork or stickers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39904/19]View answer
Although the Deputy does not say so, I am assuming that he is referring to drivers from Northern Ireland being able to drive into this jurisdiction if Brexit occurs without a deal in place. The answer is that they will.
Specifically, driving across the border in a no-deal Brexit scenario will raise three issues. The first is the driving licence. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention on international road traffic, people will be able to drive here on their Northern Ireland licences, on a visitor basis. No additional documentation will be required in this regard.
Next, there is the question of insurance. There is a international system, pre-dating the EU, under which a so-called 'Green Card' acts as proof of motor insurance in international travel. This system was created to facilitate international road traffic by providing for a single standard document as proof of motor insurance across all participating countries, rather than requiring people to carry different documentation for each country they enter.
Under EU law, Green Cards are not required for travel within the EU. If the UK becomes a Third Country without a deal, the default position will be that Green Cards will be required for UK-registered vehicles entering the EU from the UK. EU law does, however, provide that the EU Commission should set a date after which Green Cards will not be required from a given Third Country, if the Motor Insurers' Bureaux of all the Member States so request. This request was made late last year. The Commission has yet to make a decision on setting a date. Ireland has continued to request that the Commission make a decision, so that Green Cards will not be required.
The third and final matter is whether vehicles should have a national identification sticker. These stickers are prescribed under international road traffic conventions, including the Geneva Convention which I mentioned, and which applies between Ireland and the UK. The purpose of the sticker is largely to identify a vehicle as visiting rather than as based in the jurisdiction, for tax purposes. However, there is no offence of not having a sticker of this kind in Irish road traffic legislation. While I need hardly point out that a person is unlikely to be made liable for vehicle tax simply as a result of not having an international sticker, this is essentially a matter for Revenue. I understand that there is likewise no offence of not having a sticker in UK law.
69. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the additional resources which will be provided to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to support the tourism sector in the face of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39907/19]View answer
The Government's Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update was published on 9 July. It is the Government's assessment that there is a significant risk of a no deal Brexit on 31 October and accordingly work on no deal Brexit preparations continue to have the highest priority across Government Departments and Agencies.
There is a high degree of uncertainty in forecasting the macroeconomic impact of a no deal Brexit. However it is clear that the impacts would be very damaging. The Contingency Plan Update confirms that in parallel to the predicted macroeconomic impacts, a no deal Brexit will have severe negative effects in a number of sectors and will be widely felt on a regional basis. The impacts will be felt most notably in many exporting sectors including tourism.
In 2019 the Government allocated almost €8 million in additional funding to the tourism agencies specifically to respond to the impact of Brexit. Tourism Ireland put in place a programme of marketing activity, post-Brexit research, and stakeholder information to ensure that potential visitors in relevant markets fully appreciate that it is "business as usual" for Ireland and the Irish tourism industry. It is also implementing a market strategy for growth in the British market.
Fáilte Ireland is supporting tourism enterprises to respond to the impact of Brexit. The ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme is helping businesses to assess the risk and respond to changes and will also assist the sector in diversifying into other markets. Fáilte Ireland’s work is focusing primarily on border counties and the South East region which have been most adversely affected by the drop in the value of sterling.
The Budget allocation for 2020 is subject to the annual estimates discussions and my Department, in engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is highlighting the exposure of tourism to a no deal Brexit.
70. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which tourism continues to be developed nationwide with particular reference to the regions in which it appears considerable scope exists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39956/19]View answer
My Department is primarily involved in the development of national tourism policy, while the tourism agencies have responsibility for the implementation of this policy.
With regard to the various regions, Fáilte Ireland develops and promotes their tourism potential in line with the relevant tourism experience brands – namely, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, Ireland's Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way and the Dublin brand – which are designed to boost tourism and drive visitor growth throughout the country, with consequential benefits for the local economy and jobs right across Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland also provides targeted capital investment in attractions and other tourism infrastructure throughout the regions, consistent with the objectives of Project Ireland 2040 to help support and grow tourism. Priority areas for tourism capital investment, as identified under the NDP, include the development and enhancement of tourist attractions and activity-based tourism to provide the type and quality of experience that visitors are seeking. This capital investment is further supported by Fáilte Ireland current investment in complementary programme supports – including festivals and events, business supports and training – aimed at enhancing, animating and promoting the regional tourism experience brands.
In this regard, the Deputy will be pleased to note the latest Fáilte Ireland estimates for tourism employment, which indicate that tourism now supports c. 260,000 vital jobs in communities around the country.
71. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his primary budgetary priorities in advance of budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39946/19]View answer
As part of the 2020 estimates process, my Department is currently engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to funding in 2020. When my Department's allocation is confirmed in the Budget, decisions will be made regarding the appropriate level of funding for all programmes under my areas of responsibility. Foremost in 2020 will be the ongoing consideration of the Government's commitment to the climate change agenda and how that is reflected in the spending at my Department.
In broad terms, my ongoing priorities will be to ensure that my Department has the necessary resources to deliver on strategic priorities in a number of areas. In broad terms these are:
- Continued investment in public transport, including further progression of the key BusConnects and Metrolink projects; continued investment in the public transport fleet; and the further development of sustainable cycling and walking facilities
- Ongoing significant investment in the national roads network, which entails completing some road projects currently under construction, due for delivery in 2020, as well as commencing construction of new routes in Transport Infrastructure Ireland's project pipeline
- Continuing the ongoing key maintenance programmes for National Roads, Rail and Regional and Local Roads
- Investment in the Tourism Sector to ensure that the sector continues to deliver a quality product, as well assisting the sector in mitigating the effects arising from Brexit, under different Brexit scenarios
- Continued investment in sport, including the ongoing allocation of the very successful capital grants scheme, and supporting planned major events, such as the 2020 European Championships, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
72. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to tender out parts of the public transport service that is currently the remit of Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39902/19]View answer
80. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he supports a continued policy of tendering out further routes operated by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39897/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 80 together.
As the Deputy is aware, it is a statutory function of the National Transport Authority, under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 and EU Regulation 1370/2007, to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services.
The PSO programme represents a significant expenditure of taxpayers’ money and has increased substantially in recent years. I secured €287m to fund our PSO services in 2019.
International experience indicates that introducing competitive tension into our PSO bus market (i.e. a mixture of direct award and then competitively tendered contracts) should allow us to capture potential benefits as regards value for money in terms of the use of taxpayers' money in securing the provision of PSO services.
We are always looking for ways to improve our public transport services and the NTA conducting an open, competitive process as part of providing enhanced and expanded services for passengers, and then monitoring and implementing its contacts, is part of that improvement process. Passengers are at the centre of our public transport policy and competitive tendering encourages everybody to focus on their customer’s needs. It also encourages innovation and improvements to service quality for bus passengers.
All public transport services - whether they are provided by direct award contracts or through competitive tender - will continue to be regulated by the NTA so that LEAP, Free Travel Pass, Real Time Information etc. will all continue to operate on these services and fares will continue to be regulated by NTA.
The NTA's current direct award public service obligation (PSO) contracts with Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus expire at the end of November 2019. The NTA is required to follow a statutory process underpinned by both EU and national legislation before the direct award contracts may be renewed.
As part of this process, the NTA launched a public consultation process in early October 2018 in relation to the bus services contracts. This consultation informed the NTA's decision on the renewal of the contracts, including in relation to the Direct Award / Competitive Tender balance of contracts for Bus Éireann.
Regarding the direct award contracts post-2019 in relation to Bus Éireann, the NTA has announced that it will:
- directly award an equivalent service level that the company has in December 2019;
- amend that contract in 2021 to reduce it by up to 5% of services; and
- provide the removed services through a separate contract following an open competitive tender process.
It will be open to Bus Éireann to tender for these services if they so wish.
The new direct award contracts proposed by NTA will provide a guaranteed level of PSO funding to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann up to 2024. The NTA decided that Dublin Bus should retain service levels at 2019 levels at least, and that there should be no further tendering processes during the term of the new contract which would reduce service levels by the company.
To conclude, the NTA has the statutory responsibility to award PSO contracts and to determine the appropriate mix of directly awarded and competitively tendered PSO services. Under the law, this is not an area in which I have a role.
73. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure that all public transport is fully accessible to disabled persons and those with mobility issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39903/19]View answer
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.
Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for promoting the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network.
Accessibilty features, such as wheelchair access and audio/visual aids, are built into all new public transport infrastructure from the design stage. Newer systems such as LUAS are fully accessible. However, there are legacy issues in relation to older infrastructure and facilities, for example our Victorian era railway stations. Significant investment has and will continue to be made to fund the retrofitting of older public transport facilities to enhance accessibility.
I refer the Deputy to my reply (Ref no. 46) earlier today.
74. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has applied to the European Union to designate the Dublin to Rosslare railway line with Trans European Transport Network, TEN–T core status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39688/19]View answer
The TEN-T Core Network is a subset of the Comprehensive Network and represents the strategically most important nodes and links of the trans-European transport networks.
The Core TEN-T network on the Island of Ireland links the main urban centres of Belfast-Dublin and Cork and encompasses the road, rail and other transport modes on this route. There is also an offshoot to the Core Port of Shannon Foynes. The Dublin to Rosslare Europort railway line is on the Comprehensive TEN-T network. Rosslare Harbour is also on the TEN-T Comprehensive Network and doesn’t meet the threshold for TEN-T Core port status. The European Commission's methodology for establishing the core and comprehensive layers of the network are available online. I have not applied to the Commission to designate the Dublin to Rosslare railway line as part of the Core Network.
With regard to the amending the TEN-T network, the EU Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, wrote to EU Transport Ministers in February 2019, announcing that the European Commission is advancing the review of the TEN-T Network, which was due to take place no later than December 2023. This review process will include: an evaluation study, due to be completed in spring 2020; a public stakeholder consultation, which was open for contributions from April to July 2019; and targeted consultations with Member States and a wide range of stakeholders expected to take place later this year. Following the conclusion of the Commission’s review, a legislative proposal to amend the TEN-T Regulation may follow.
In August 2019, honouring a Programme for a Partnership Government commitment, I made a submission to Commissioner Bulc on the matter of reviewing the TEN-T network in which I outlined national policy developments since the TEN-T Regulation came into force in 2013. These developments include the Government's National Development Plan and National Planning Framework, jointly referred to as Project Ireland 2040, and the implications of Brexit on Ireland's international connectivity. In relation to Rosslare Europort, while State investment is not permitted under EU Regulations on State Aid, Project 2040 sets out the Government's plans in relation to roads projects such as the recently opened Gorey to Enniscorthy stretch of the M11 and the planned Oilgate to Rosslare stretch of the N11/N25.
As regards the potential for EU funding for the development of Rosslare Europort going forward, the Deputy will be aware that Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) co-funding is available to projects on both the comprehensive and the core parts of the TEN-T Network, subject to such projects satisfying the eligibility criteria of a given call for proposals, and being selected in the evaluation process.
While the current CEF programme finishes at the end of 2020, a proposal for a new CEF Regulation for the period 2021 –2027 was published by the European Commission in May 2018. Ireland has advocated at EU level for projects on our comprehensive network to continue to be eligible for co-funding during the period 2021 - 2027.
Ireland submitted written comments to the European Commission in conjunction with two other island Member States, Cyprus and Malta, calling for projects on the comprehensive network in Member States which have no land border with another Member State to be included as eligible actions. This position was accepted by the Commission during negotiations, and as a result the latest text of the proposal retains this amendment. Subject to the proposed Regulation being adopted, this means that during the period 2021 – 2027, projects on Ireland’s comprehensive TEN-T network, including the rail and road networks, will be eligible to apply for CEF co-funding through relevant calls for proposals.
75. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has allocated specific funding or resources to attracting tourists from the Chinese market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39767/19]View answer
Under the Government's Global Ireland Strategy, we are committed to developing tourism from new and emerging tourism markets with potential for Ireland. This year, Tourism Ireland has commenced the implementation of a strategy for growth in these markets. In Budget 2019, I provided almost €4 million in additional funding to Tourism Ireland for this purpose. China, as the largest source of outbound tourism in the world, is one of the main emerging markets we are targeting.
While the resources allocated to any particular market is an operational matter for Tourism Ireland, I am aware that the additional funding I provided has allowed the agency to substanitally increase its activity in the Chinese market this year. It has doubled its investment to €1 million and increased its on the ground marketing team to 12, including a presence in Hong Kong. It has also increased its publicity, digital and social media activity in the market and continues to interact with the travel trade in the market.
In order to make the most of the potential from a market such as China, it is important that the industry here is sufficiently prepared in order to be able to offer visitors a quality experience which meets their requirements. To this end, Fáilte Ireland is working with Irish tourism businesses across the country to help them capitalise on this potential by training them in how to meet the specific needs of the Chinese visitor. Its Get China Ready programme was developed in partnership with Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland and is jointly delivered with the support of the Centre for Competitiveness, which is the licensed provider of China Outbound Tourism Research Institute programmes in Ireland.
With the support of Government, the work being done by the tourism agencies both in China and here in Ireland, together with the industry, leaves us well placed to attract increased tourism from China in the coming years.
76. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the ordering of new rail carriages; when Irish Rail will receive delivery of same; and when passengers will see increased capacity in services. [39940/19]View answer
As the Deputy is aware, all public expenditure must comply with the Public Spending Code which sets out the requirements to which sponsoring agencies and sanctioning authorities must adhere, including the requirement that any project with an expected cost of €100 million or more must obtain specific approval from Government. In addition to that there are also procurement requirements which must be complied with in line with relevant legislation.
There are two active proposals in relation to the purchase of additional rail fleet.
I can confirm that my Department has now received a business case from the National Transport Authority-Iarnród Éireann in relation to the proposed purchase of 41 InterCity Rail (ICR) Cars. In line with the Public Spending Code, that business case is currently being considered by my Department and once that consideration is complete I will seek Government's decision in relation to same. Pending Government approval to proceed, NTA-Iarnród Éireann anticipate delivery of the ICRs will commence in late 2021.
Separately, there is also a proposal to significantly expand the commuter rail fleet through establishing a 10-year procurement framework in relation to a minimum of 300 electric and battery electric units, with the potential for that to increase to 600 units over the life of the procurement framework.
The NTA and Iarnród Éireann commenced procurement pre-qualifying in May and I expect a business case will be submitted early next year. This is a significant procurement and later construction project and I understand delivery lead-in time would be in the order of 3 years.