Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (79)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the steps in hand to encourage public road transport towards the use of non-fossil fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26245/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

An efficient and low emitting public transport system is a key priority of my Department. A comprehensive programme of ‘greening’ our public transport system is already underway with a vision to move towards zero emitting vehicles where and when possible. Under the National Development Plan, €8.6 billion has been indicatively allocated over the period 2018 to 2027 to develop sustainable mobility options, including BusConnects, DART+ Programme and MetroLink in tandem with transitioning the public transport fleet towards lower emitting alternatives.

In our bus fleets, Ireland has committed to no longer purchasing diesel-only urban buses for public transport services and I expect 100 diesel-electric hybrid buses to enter into service by year end, although this may be delayed a little due to the impact of Covid-19. Under the BusConnects Programme half of the public urban bus fleet in the Greater Dublin Area will be low-emitting by 2023, with full conversion expected by 2030. The NTA will also pilot hydrogen buses in 2021. Outside of urban bus services my Department is funding a number of NTA electric vehicle pilot projects in more rural areas using Local Link services.

Transitioning the taxi and hackney sector to cleaner vehicles is another area of focus for my Department due to their disproportionate impact on air quality and emissions. My Department established an Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme which offers up to €10,000 towards the purchase of an eSPSV, with a further €2,500 available to convert the vehicle to a wheelchair accessible model. Since its launch in 2018, almost 90 SPSV drivers have availed of the grant and changed to an electric vehicle. The first zero-emission wheelchair accessible taxi in Ireland was also purchased with assistance from this grant scheme. In addition, my Department is currently funding the installation of SPSV-dedicated EV chargers at Dublin and Cork airports and train stations in Dublin, Cork and Limerick to help support the sector in moving to electric.

Similarly, progress is being made to decarbonise our rail network. Significant electrification is envisaged, with proposed expansion of the DART out to Balbriggan, Maynooth/M3 Parkway and Hazelhatch. A 10-year procurement framework for electric and battery-electric train units has also been established and the Climate Action Fund is supporting Irish Rail in a year-long trial of hybrid powered intercity diesel trains, which, if successful, could be rolled out across the fleet.

It is estimated that the entire public transport system accounts for fewer than 5% of all land transport emissions; nevertheless, I am committed to reducing this further due to the important leadership role the sector can play in Ireland’s decarbonisation effort. Greening public transport will remain a key priority for the Department of Transport.