The Deputy is right to highlight the active travel potential in rural towns and villages across the country and this issue is something I have been raising with my Department in recent months. It is my view that we need to shift our current focus on greenways as primarily tourism and leisure orientated facilities, and instead consider how they can act as facilitators of active travel in their local communities and link people with local shops, schools and workplaces.
As well as that, I am also keen to ensure that local authorities across the country - and not just the five main cities or urban areas - can access multi-annual funding to deliver improved active travel infrastructure in towns and villages. As the Deputy is aware, the new Programme for Government: Our Shared Future sets out an ambitious and wide-ranging set of commitments in relation to walking and cycling, supported by an increased multi-annual budgetary allocation amounting to some €1.8 billion over the lifetime of the Government.
I am determined that an element of this increased funding will be made available to local authorities outside of the five cities and would hope that this year’s allocations under the July Stimulus demonstrated my intent in this regard.
Next year, local authorities will be able to access funding to help develop active travel network plans to assist with the roll-out of infrastructure in the years ahead, and they will also be able to apply for funding to deliver improved infrastructure next year. Details of this funding package will be made available shortly and I very much look forward to working with local authorities as we look to deliver fundamental change to the nature of transport across Ireland.