Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 6.

Haulage Industry

Questions (27)

Verona Murphy

Question:

27. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he has had with the road haulage and transport operators with regard to the reduction of carbon emissions within the sector to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25251/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I recognise and welcome the valuable work that road haulage and transport operators have undertaken in the area of decarbonisation to date. I have been particularly encouraged by how well road haulage operators have streamlined operations and promoted working time, fleet and fuel efficiencies across the industry. Transport operators have shown a commitment to reducing emissions and have taken various initiatives including transitioning to low and zero-emission technologies. I recognise the value and vital importance of working with both sectors to support and accelerate the necessary decarbonisation of the sector.

To this end, my Department has engaged directly with members of the road haulage industry, including representative bodies. The establishment of the multi-stakeholder Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce in 2016 was an important initiative. The taskforce was jointly convened by the Department of Transport and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to consider the range of measures and options available to Government to accelerate the take-up of low carbon technologies in the road transport sector.

Following extensive stakeholder consultations, the Taskforce produced two reports, the second of which, published in November 2019, had a particular focus on the heavy duty vehicle sector. The Phase 2 report outlined a series of recommendations to Government to help accelerate the uptake of alternative fuels and technologies. Arising from the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Taskforce recommendations, a new reduced tolling incentive regime for alternatively fuelled Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) was introduced in 2020, and a new purchase grant scheme, also for alternatively-fuelled HDVs, is expected to be launched early in 2021.

Building on the framework established by the LEV Taskforce, my Department has also worked to maintain engagement with road haulage representative bodies and operators, particularly the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI) and the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA). This has facilitated dialogue and the sharing of information between Government and industry on the challenges and opportunities associated with decarbonising the freight sector. Through site visits, and other contacts, my Department has developed a greater understanding of industry and operator-led decarbonisation issues and initiatives. These include the use of solar energy to power battery-electric goods-loading vehicles at a major Irish logistics centre; the use of CNG vehicle technologies and renewable biogas to reduce carbon emissions from waste and road transport; and the promotion of emission-reducing eco-driving techniques for Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) by industry bodies.

Recognising the scale of the decarbonisation challenge facing the Irish haulage sector, my Department has also commissioned a number of studies to identify actions that haulage operators and companies can take to reduce carbon emissions. Involving the industry, academia and public bodies, these studies examine how best to maximize the emission reduction potential of the existing HDV fleet, and to identify the most viable decarbonisation options going forward, and also, in some cases, involve consultation with operators.

My Department has also co-funded, with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), a freight decarbonisation study, to better understand the policy and logistics contexts within which the Irish freight industry operates, and to identify the most efficient and effective decarbonising measures for the sector in the medium to long term. To date, and despite COVID-related disruption, the project has included a series of workshops that have drawn together industry members, academia, Government Departments and agencies. The overall aim of this engagement has been to identify and co-design effective and affordable interventions that will have a meaningful impact in real-world conditions. A final project report is being prepared and is to be published by the end of 2020.

In addition, the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”, includes a commitment to publish and implement a 10-year strategy for the haulage sector focused on improving efficiencies and standards and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future, and my Department is beginning to undertake this important work. It is envisaged that we will carry out a public consultation, and I look forward to working with the road transport sector.

Engagement with transport operators is of critical importance and the reduction of carbon emissions cannot be achieved without their buy-in and support. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is the lead agency for all matters of public transport and have been key promotors of the decarbonisation agenda. The NTA was a member of the steering committee for both phases of the LEV Taskforce. A clear roadmap has been developed for the transition to low and zero-emission vehicles of the public transport fleet. An alternative-fuels bus trial was undertaken, the results of which have informed the development of this roadmap. Recognising that all alternative fuel technologies must be explored, my Department, in conjuction with the NTA, has re-opened this trial to assess the viability of hydrogen as a fuel for our public sector fleet. My Department also has a monthly monitoring meeting with the NTA at which decarbonisation and alternative fuels is a standing item on the agenda.

Not only are our transport operators looking to reduce carbon emissions, they are committed to reducing all emissions and the NTA is a key member of the Urban Transport Air Pollution (UTRAP) Group looking at how air pollution, in particular nitrogen oxides and particulate matters, can be reduced in urban areas, where these pollutants are most detrimental to our health. Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), CIÉ and Dublin Bus also participate in the Group which is seeking to identify short, medium and longer-term solutions to the reduction of transport pollutants and which is considering various options including fuel efficiencies and appropriate technologies.

Road Projects

Questions (28)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

28. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Transport the status of plans for the N11-M11 project in north County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25677/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the Public Spending Code Guidelines and the necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise you on the status of projects.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 8.

Questions (29)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport the role of the IAA in oversight of the health and safety of passengers and workers in airports in view of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25887/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The “Protocol for the management of air passengers in light of Covid-19” was published by the Department of Transport, in consultation with the National Air Transport Facilitation Committee, which includes representatives of the aviation industry, regulators, border control and public health authorities. The Protocol, published on 21 July 2020, is guidance for the coordinated implementation of EASA/ECDC – “COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol – operational Guidelines for the Management of airline passengers in relation to COVID-19 pandemic” (AHSP) (30, June Issue 2). The protocol has due regard to the EASA/ECDC COVID-19 Aviation Health Protocol Guidelines and national guidance in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has taken a pro-active role in promoting and ensuring the airports and airlines operate the guidelines contained in the AHSP. In addition to the AHSP, the IAA has written to each Irish airline and airport encouraging them to participate in the EASA industry Charter for COVID-19. The Charter establishes a feedback loop from industry directly to EASA on the performance of the measures implemented, to fine-tune and improve the guidance in the light of operational experience and of the expected increase in traffic volumes. A number of Irish airlines and airports have already joined or are in the process of joining.

EASA are performing an overall monitoring role in Europe and are using the information collected from multiple sources, including the charter participants, to identify areas where the protocols outlined may be ineffective or can be further improved. As such, the AHSP is a living document and the IAA expects ECDC/EASA to publish a further revision in the coming weeks.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 8.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (31)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

31. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the status of his plans to legislate for e-scooters. [25897/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I intend to legislate for e-scooters in accordance with the Programme for Government. This will involve identifying and developing appropriate amendments to primary legislation across a range of complex areas. The work must be carried out in such a way that it does not undermine the overall framework of Road Traffic Law or Road Safety in general, in which Ireland is now the leading EU member state.

My officials are currently looking at how a plan to progress work to meet the commitment can be made in light of the foregoing, noting that experience overseas has shown that a change of regime may have consequences for road safety, the management of roads and footpaths, the movement of traffic, public transport and goods, public health and the environment. In that regard, we are in the fortunate position of being able to learn from the mistakes of other jurisdictions, local, regional and national, which were more precipitate in responding to the commercial and other interests lobbying for this particular industry.

The Deputy will be aware that my predecessor asked the Road Safety Authority to look broadly at these issues, given the public debate on this sector, and the report from TRL consultants in the UK that they commissioned highlighted in particular the importance of appropriate and enforceable standards for both drivers and the devices, as well as the availability of suitable infrastructure. My Department subsequently carried out a general public consultation on the report, which attracted a range of views.

in light of those observations, I intend as a first step to ask the critical stakeholders in relation to road safety and urban mobility, including the Road Safety Authority, national and local transport authorities, and the Garda Síochána, what specific priorities and provisions should be enshrined in any new legislation. This is necessary to ensure that any new legislation can be effective in maximising the benefits and minimising the risks of legalising this form of transport.

It should be noted that, in the immediate term, the Government is prioritising the necessary measures to manage the Covid 19 crisis and to mitigate its social and economic consequences as well as those of Brexit.

Rail Network

Questions (32)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

32. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport the status of the development of a new DART station at Woodbrook, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25821/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including, in consultation with Iarnród Éireann, the planning and development of rail infrastructure.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, and to ensure the Deputy receives a detailed update of the status of the proposed project, I have referred his question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.

Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Public Transport

Questions (33)

James O'Connor

Question:

33. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport his views on the need to review public service obligation contracts within the Cork east region in the categories of destinations, frequency, unreliability and cost to passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25910/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (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 accordance with the terms of those contracts, the day to day operation of the services is managed by Transport Operator. The Transport Operator is required to meet performance obligations in relation to service delivery such as punctuality, services operated, vehicles in service and customer information.

The NTA also has statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services.

The issue raised, therefore, is a matter for the NTA and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (34)

Gino Kenny

Question:

34. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure that public transport is available to all those that need it during the Covid-19 crisis in view of the fact that most transport is running at 50% capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25891/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The continued operation of the public transport sector is important and, from a very early stage in the Covid-19 crisis, public transport was designated by Government as among the essential services that could continue throughout the emergency. Guided by public health advice, measures have been introduced across the system to enable the continued operation of services during the pandemic, including enhanced cleaning regimes and appropriate social distancing measures across the network.

With the commencement of Phase 3 of the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business on 29 June 2020, changes to the existing public transport social distancing restrictions were agreed, allowing a move from 2-metre social distancing to utilising 50% of the passenger-carrying capacity of bus and rail fleet. Alongside this change, new Regulations were introduced making mandatory the wearing of face coverings on public transport, with some limited exceptions. This has helped to underpin public transport services provided by both public and commercial licensed operators during these unprecedented times, with a view to safeguarding public transport capacity.

There is continued strong messaging that public transport capacity remains restricted and therefore should only be used for essential travel, with only those who have to travel at peak times doing so and encouraging staggered retail and office opening hours. People are being encouraged to walk or cycle where practical, and organisations are encouraged to continue to facilitate working from home.

The Government is also spending considerable additional Exchequer funds on the public transport sector in order to support the continued operation of necessary services, despite the reduced demand and the restricted capacity owing to the Covid-19 situation. The Exchequer is now funding the PSO (public service obligation) regime far in excess of the allocation that had been provided under Budget 2020. In addition, the Government introduced a new temporary funding support for the non-PSO (licensed, commercial) bus sector in respect of its continuation of necessary bus services.

The Government's newly announced Living with Covid Plan , clearly sets out the guidance and restrictions that will apply for all sectors, including public transport, at the 5 levels of the Plan, including strong messaging that people should use active travel as an alternative where this is feasible. This advice along with other measures (such as continuing to work from home where possible) is aimed at suppressing the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland. The advice is also aimed at ensuring public transport is safeguarded for those who need it most, most notably, frontline workers and students.

Both my Department and the NTA are closely monitoring public transport demand and will continue to be guided by public health advice.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (35, 50)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

35. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which steps can be taken to allow sea and air transport to operate within specific guidelines necessitated by the Covid-19 crisis in view of the need to recognise the important role of the transport sector in the economy; the extent to which he continues to have discussions with stakeholders in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25823/20]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he envisages facilitating a travel regime in which air and sea transport can be restored to reasonable levels; if he is satisfied that the airline industry has available to it necessary supports to offset the impact of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25824/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 50 together.

Ireland, as an island nation, is particularly dependant on air and sea connectivity both socially and economically, and both the aviation and maritime sectors play a critical role in this regard.

Measures implemented with regard to travel restrictions, due to Covid-19, are decided by Government as a whole, based on public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

The Government’s new “Green list” of countries for international travel came into effect on Monday 21 September. Travel to the seven countries on this list, which currently have a ‘normal precautions’ (“green”) security status rating, are exempt from the general advice against non-essential travel overseas and the request to restrict movements does not apply to individuals arriving into Ireland from these locations. This is a positive step in opening up international travel.

The Government has also taken the decision to broadly align with the European Commission’s co-ordinated approach to international travel, which is expected to be considered on 13 October at the General Affairs Council. With regard to countries other than those on the green list, the proposed new EU approach would involve graduated requirements for testing for incoming and outgoing passengers.

In this regard my Department is in consultation with the Department of Health, the HSE and maritime and aviation stakeholders, to consider the possibility of introducing testing for Covid-19 in the context of international travel, as an alternative to the current restrictions, which is consistent with public health requirements and cognisant of the resources and capacity available in our health sector.

The Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of generalised supports measures to help mitigate the effects of the crisis on our citizens and businesses, including the aviation and maritime sectors. These measures include the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the new Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, which will now run to April 2021.

In June 2020, the Government announced the formation of a Taskforce for Aviation Recovery, which delivered its final report on 10 July. The report, which is available on the Gov.ie web site, contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for as long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth at the appropriate time.

In addition to the broader financial supports for jobs and businesses set out in the July Stimulus package, the Government is also providing targeted supports for aviation, many of which arise from the Aviation Task Force Final Report recommendations. These are as follows:

- Subvention of air services to the regions is being maintained

- Some €2.5 million in Exchequer funding is being provided for capital investment in the areas of safety and security to the airports of Donegal, Ireland West (Knock) and Kerry

- A new Regional Airport Programme for the period 2020 – 2024, which will incorporate a number of support Schemes for our regional airports, is due to be published shortly

- Shannon Airport has been given an emergency grant of €6.1m to enable the Airport to complete its Hold Baggage Screen project – which is a safety and security requirement under EU Regulations.

- Legislation has been introduced to provide a State-guarantee for Refund Credit Notes issued to the customers of Irish licensed travel agents and tour operators who have had to cancel holiday bookings. This guarantee ensures that where a Credit Note is accepted by a customer then its monetary value will be secured until such times as it is used in the future.

My Department is also examining how best to help secure the future of the Shannon Group, including the Airport, and in this regard it is proposed that a Memorandum for Government will be submitted in the coming weeks.

Other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity, regional development and sustainability in the aviation sector, are being developed by my Department. This work will feed into the Government’s further plans to re-launch international connectivity and to aid broader economic recovery at the appropriate time, while being cognisant of prevailing public health advice.

The maritime sector is essential to the continued supply of goods coming in and out of the country, accounting as it does, for 90% of Ireland’s international trade in volume terms. It is, therefore, vitally important to ensure that Ireland’s ports, shipping operations and all the elements of that maritime supply chain continue to function.

In the earlier part of the year my Department provided for a financial intervention by way of the designation of five key strategic routes as public service obligation routes. This measure was taken in order to maintain continuity of service and to mitigate against some of the financial impacts of the crisis. However, as freight volumes have recovered somewhat and the “emergency” element has now gone, this measure has now been discontinued. My Department continues to explore all avenues available in terms of supports to ensure our strategic maritime routes are maintained. As we move to align ourselves more closely with the EU position on a more co-ordinated approach to international travel, I am confident that the clarity being provided will help in restoring consumer confidence in the maritime sector.

I and my officials have met stakeholders in both the aviation and maritime sectors and will continue to engage with them to determine what measures we can put in place to assist these sectors.

Rail Network

Questions (36)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

36. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport if he will allocate the funds required for a feasibility study on the Navan to Kingscourt rail line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25673/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As indicated in my reply to the Deputy's similar question yesterday, I am informed that Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) has no current plans to reopen this line, nor to undertake a feasibility study at this time. I am also informed that a potential re-opening of the line does not feature in the relevant Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies.

The issue of a potential extension of the existing Dunboyne/M3 Parkway line to Navan was considered by the National Transport Authority (NTA) during its development of the statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2035. This issue remains under review and will be specifically considered again as part of the statutory review of the current Strategy . I have recently been informed that work on the review has commenced, will be subject to public consultation next year and will be fully concluded during the next 18 months.

Rail Network

Questions (37, 42)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

37. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the reinstatement of the Dublin-Navan rail line would help reduce car emissions by taking thousands of cars off the road every day; his further views on this vital public transport project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16066/20]

View answer

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

42. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the status of the Navan rail line. [25879/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 42 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, the issue of a potential extension of the existing Dunboyne/M3 Parkway line to Navan was considered by the National Transport Authority (NTA) during its development of the statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2035.

I want to say firstly that I very much welcome the development of transport strategies for the major cities. We need to ensure a holistic, multi-modal approach toward transport planning and provision and, importantly, we need to see finalised transport strategies integrated into relevant land-use plans and acting as a catalyst for the adoption by local authorities of a much more sustainable approach toward the location of housing, employment and other centres of transport demand.

The analysis conducted at the time of the development of the original Strategy concluded that the level of travel demand between Navan, Dunshaughlin and various stations to Dublin city centre was insufficient to justify the development of a high-capacity rail link at that time.

However, the Strategy clearly states that the issue of a rail link to Navan should be kept under review, which will take into account the scale of new and planned development along the route, and that in the meantime the corridor previously identified for a Navan rail link should be protected from development.

I am glad to say that it is now time to review the Strategy and work has now commenced in that regard. The review will need to consider how the region has changed since 2016 and how we can best provide sustainable alternatives to the private car. A re-examination of the potential for a Dublin-Navan rail service will be an important part of that consideration and I look forward to its completion.

Airport Policy

Questions (38)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

38. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to support Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25670/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to Cork Airport. I am aware of the challenges that Cork Airport and indeed that all of our airports are currently facing and will continue to face over the coming months as the country adjusts to the new reality of living alongside Covid-19.

As the Deputy is aware, Cork Airport is an autonomous business unit within the daa. Both myself and Minister Ryan have met with the daa and have been updated on the challenges facing the daa Group, including Cork Airport. I have also recently met with the Managing Director of Cork Airport.

In order to assist businesses in facing the challenges of Covid-19 and to further protect employment, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for companies of all sizes, including those in the aviation sector, which includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) (and its predecessor the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme), a waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. The daa Group is availing of these supports which are designed to assist businesses, including our airports in terms of the management of their companies during this unprecedented time.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce set out recommendations for consideration by Ministers and Government on what needs to be done to assist the Irish aviation sector to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce report contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation, which has been badly affected by the huge reductions in international passengers travelling by air due to the travel restrictions which remain in place on public health grounds. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for so long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth, when the time is right. The Government has already implemented several recommendations, including the publication of safe air travel protocols. We have progressed a European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission. The wage subsidy scheme was aso extended to April 2021.

The other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity (including for Cork Airport), regional development and sustainability in the Sector are being examined. Work is required to develop these recommendations into effective interventions, and that work is underway by my Department. It will feed into the Government’s further plans to aid broader economic recovery, including in the aviation sector.

The Government’s recently published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 specifically addresses the approach to international travel and proposes that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission’s recently published proposal to promote a common approach to travel restrictions and movement within the EU/EEA. This proposal will now be considered by the Council of Ministers.

I want to assure you Deputy that my Department is in continuous contact with the daa, in terms of both Dublin and Cork airports and it is my intention that Cork Airport will be well positioned operationally to contribute to the economic recovery.

Light Rail Projects

Questions (39)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

39. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport when a feasibility study for light rail in Galway will be undertaken and or commissioned by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25894/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, transport investment in all the major cities is now guided by the development of metropolitan area transport strategies.

Since 2016 transport strategies have been published in respect of the Greater Dublin Area, Galway and the Cork Metropolitan Area, while development of a transport strategy for the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area has commenced and work on the final strategy in respect of the Waterford Metropolitan Area will commence this year.

This move toward evidence based, plan-led transport planning for our major cities is to be welcomed and allows for consideration of all relevant issues and the potential role all modes of transport can play in addressing those issues. I would also note that providing this type of long-term investment framework represents international best practice in the area of transport planning.

In relation to Galway, the issue of light rail in Galway city was comprehensively examined as part of the development of the Galway Transport Strategy. The Strategy concluded that a bus based public transport system, supported by various active travel and public realm improvements, represents the most appropriate system for Galway over the period considered by the Strategy.

I do know that in recent times interest has been expressed by some in a new light rail technology emerging in the UK. However, I also know from meeting many different stakeholders in the region in recent weeks and months of the urgent need to focus on delivering the key elements of the Galway Transport Strategy, and I am committed to supporting the local authority in that regard with funding and other support offered through the National Transport Authority.

Bus Éireann

Questions (40)

Pa Daly

Question:

40. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Transport the factors used to decide the creation or depreciation of rural bus stops by Bus Éireann. [25660/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of bus stops.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 37.

Questions (41)

Paul Murphy

Question:

41. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has considered providing masks and hand sanitiser at public transport stops and hubs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25913/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is an operational matter for the operators in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 37.

Airport Policy

Questions (43)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

43. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the supports in place for Shannon Airport. [25668/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to Shannon Airport. I am aware of the challenges that Shannon Airport and indeed all of our airports are currently facing and will continue to face over the coming months as the country adjusts to the new reality of living alongside Covid-19.

As the Deputy is aware, Shannon Airport is part of Shannon Group. Myself and my colleague Minister Eamon Ryan have had engagements with the Chief Executive of Shannon Group and have also held a meeting with the unions who represent staff at the airport. We are therefore fully aware of the challenges faced by the company including Shannon Airport.

In order to assist businesses in facing the challenges of Covid-19 and to further protect employment, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for companies of all sizes, including those in the aviation sector, which includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) (and its predecessor the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme), a waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. Shannon Group is availing of these supports which are designed to assist businesses, including our airports, in terms of the management of their companies during this unprecedented time.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce set out recommendations for consideration by Ministers and Government on what needs to be done to assist the Irish aviation sector to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce report contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation, which has been particularly badly hit by the crisis. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for so long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth, when the time is right. The Government has already implemented several recommendations, including the publication of safe air travel protocols and the progression of the European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission. The wage subsidy scheme was also extended to April 2021.

The other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity (including for Shannon Airport), regional development and sustainability in the sector are being examined by my Department.

The Government’s recently published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 specifically addresses the approach to international travel and proposes that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission’s recently published proposal to promote a common approach to travel restrictions and movement within the EU/EEA. This proposal will now be considered by the Council of Ministers.

As already mentioned, Shannon Airport is part of Shannon Group, which operates in both the aviation and tourism sectors and as such has been particularly severely affected by the impact by Covid19. For this reason I committed to undertaking an examination of Shannon Group. This review is currently underway in my Department and I will bring recommendations to Government in this regard in order to secure the future of the company.

It is my intention that the Company, including Shannon Airport, will be well positioned for the future particularly given the importance of Shannon Airport to the economy of the Midwest region and indeed nationally.

Road Safety

Questions (44)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

44. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport his plans to deal with the issue of illegally driven scrambler bikes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22243/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The legislation under my remit in relation to the regulation of scrambler bikes, quad bikes and other similar small vehicles, falls under Road Traffic legislation, and relates solely to their use in a public place. It does not extend to private property, or to public parks which are under the jurisdiction of local authorities.

Scrambler motorbikes, quadbikes and other small similar vehicles, are mechancially propelled vehicles, which means that they are vehicles intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical power. As such, irrespective of engine capacity, under Road Traffic legislation, the user of a scrambler motorbike, a quad bike or similar vehicle, in a public place must have insurance, road tax and a driving licence, and must also wear a helmet, with severe penalties under the road traffic laws (including fixed charge notices, penalty points, fines and possible seizure of the vehicle) for not being in compliance with these requirements. It is also, incidentally, and offence to supply a mechanically propelled vehicle to a minor.

For the purposes of the Road Traffic Acts, a “public place” means any public road, and any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge. Road traffic law does not extend to the use of mechanically propelled vehicles on private property. Certain places, such as parks under the control of local authorities, can be subject to bye-laws, which those authorities have the power to introduce, to prohibit the use of vehicles. Gardai can also prosecute scrambler and quad bike users in these areas under public order laws.

In April 2018, the Department of Justice convened a task force comprising representatives from an Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice, my Department, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the local authorities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to examine the current legislative provisions in place and to examine whether further laws need to be enacted to deal with the problem of quads and scramblers.

The taskforce concluded that there is a wide suite of legislation available to an Garda Siochana, including road traffic legislation (for using these vehicles illegally in a public place), and public order legislation (for using them on public land). There is no jurisdiction for using quads or scramblers on private land. Consideration was given to whether an extension of the concept of 'public place' in the Road Traffic Acts to cover parks would assist in this area. However, it was concluded following legal advice that the extension of such a fundamental concept in road traffic law in an attempt to address one particular issue would have wide-ranging unintended consequences, and would not be a viable solution.

The Task Force has since met to consider other more precise legal avenues, and will be meeting again shortly to follow up on the options being considered. Any solution will need to involve a combination of legisaltion - whether new or existing - enforcement, public awareness campaigns, and approaches to local youth groups, to educate teens on the dangers of using such vehicles. I will be happy to consider any recommendations resulting from this process which fall within my remit.

I would add that, whatever the legislation and whether we are talking of a 'public place' or a park, there remains a major difficulty of enforcement. A Garda giving chase to a youth on a scrambler must be mindful of the safety of other members of the public in the area, and this makes it more difficult to detain the scrambler drivers, whatever the legislation in place.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (45, 55)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

45. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the status of plans for the electrification of the bus and rail fleet. [25880/20]

View answer

Duncan Smith

Question:

55. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the status of the proposal in the Programme for Government for new buses to be electric or hybrid after 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25667/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 55 together.

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

At a policy level, the Deputy has highlighted the Programme for Government commitment that all new urban buses be electric or electric hybrid and I am glad to say that commitment is built into this year's bus purchase programme and obviously remains an integral part of all future bus purchase programmes.

Again at a policy level, in terms of the potential, or further, electrification of the rail network there are three important strands to that -

- extension of the existing DART network as part of the DART+ programme;

- future introduction of electrified services on the Cork commuter network as set out in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study; and

- options for the major inter-urban network which will be considered as part of an imminent Departmental-led major review of speeds on the Belfast-Dublin-Limerick Junction-Cork line

In terms of the current status of the bus purchase programme, DART+ programme and roll-out of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy I have referred your question to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days

Rural Transport Services

Questions (46)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

46. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Transport his plans to increase funding for LocalLink services in the upcoming budget 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25676/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The allocation for Local Link services for 2021 will be subject to the annual Budgetary process and therefore is yet to be determined in the context of the Estimates processes.

However, for the information of the Deputy, I wish to advise that there has been a substantial increase in funding for Local Link services since 2016, going from €12.2 million in 2016 to over €21 million in 2019. In 2020 the total amount allocated for Local Link services is €23.4m, comprising Rural Transport Programme funding of €14.9m and €8.5m for Public Service Obligation funding for regular commuter services.

The additional funding since 2016 has enabled the introduction of over 75 new rural regular services to end 2019 and improvements to Demand Responsive Transport services. It has also enabled the piloting of evening/night-time services which have now been mainstreamed to address social isolation and unmet transport needs in rural areas. These new rural regular services operate at least five times per day over a 5, 6, 7 days per week schedule. They are specifically designed to ensure connectivity with other public transport services and better linkage of services between and within towns and villages.

Rail Network

Questions (47)

Duncan Smith

Question:

47. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport his plans to expand our national rail network to further reduce emission via high speed low emissions rail as the programme for Government states a plan to further invest in new roads infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16049/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Deputy is aware that the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future commits toward a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland.

In relation to inter-urban rail, I can inform the Deputy that my Department is currently finalising the terms of reference for a comprehensive review of rail speeds, including the potential for high-speed rail, along the TEN-T Core Corridor of Belfast-Dublin-Limerick Junction-Cork.

This study will be a comprehensive assessment of the potential for high-speed rail on the island of Ireland and will be conducted in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure Northern Ireland. Importantly the study will also examine and consider the interactions and implications between the TEN-T Core Corridor and the wider rail network.

I look forward to the launch of the procurement process in the coming weeks and commencement of the study itself in due course.

Rail Network

Questions (48)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

48. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the status of plans for a rail stop in place in Crusheen, County Clare. [25669/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister of Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport. The operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network and stations on the network including the former station referred to at Crusheen, Co Clare, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility in this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Airport Policy

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 35.

Questions (49)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

49. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he has had with the DAA in relation to protecting jobs at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25888/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am aware that Covid 19 has had a devastating and sudden impact on daa’s business and can confirm to the Deputy that both I and Minister Eamon Ryan have engaged with daa Senior Management, including its Chief Executive Officer, with regard to the challenges facing the Group.

In order to assist businesses and further protect employment, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of generalised supports for companies of all sizes, including those in the aviation sector, which includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (and its predecessor the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme), a waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. The daa is availing of these supports which assist the Group in addressing some of the impacts of Covid-19.

These supports notwithstanding, our airports and other aviation stakeholders have had to implement significant cost saving measures. I am aware of the very difficult decisions daa Group, as a commercial State body, has had to take in response to the impacts Covid-19 has had on the Company. These decisions were taken in order to best ensure the airport’s long-term commercial viability as a key piece of State infrastructure.

Looking to the future, the Aviation Recovery Taskforce set out recommendations for consideration by Ministers and Government on what needs to be done to assist the Irish aviation sector to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The Taskforce report contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation, which has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for so long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth, when the time is right.

The Government has already implemented several recommendations, including the publication of safe air travel protocols, the progression of a European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission, and the extension of wage subsidy scheme to end April 2021.

The other recommendations including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity, regional development and sustainability in the sector, are being developed by my Department.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 35.