Greenways Provision

Questions (234)

Joe McHugh

Question:

234. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications submitted for greenway projects in County Donegal in the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38033/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I can confirm that Donegal County Council made five applications to the Carbon Tax Fund call for pre-construction phase proposals in 2020.

Three of those five applications were successful and allocated funding based on their strategic potential to link into other related infrastructure in the region -

Greenway

Inishowen Greenway

€45,000

Route Options selection on an 8 km section from Muff to Quigley’s Point.

Inishowen Greenway

€180,000

Route options selection on a 32 km section from Buncrana to Carndonagh.

Foyle Valley Greenway

€115, 000

Route options for a 28.5 km section of the Foyle Valley Greenway from Carrigans to Castlefinn.

I look forward to these greenway sections being brought to construction-ready status so that they can be put forward for further support under the next round of Greenways funding.

My Department also contributes funding to the INTERREG Programme that is funding cross-border Greenways from Derry to Buncrana, Derry to Muff and Lifford to Strabane. The intention is that we can build on those projects with our carbon-tax funded projects to create an Inishowen Peninsula loop and also extend the Derry to Carrigans Greenway.

I firmly believe that in the coming years we can support the delivery of a network of well-connected routes which can act not just as visitor attractions but also facilitate a switch to active travel for local communities across the region.

Transport Policy

Questions (235)

Dara Calleary

Question:

235. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport the details of the active travel schools initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38018/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Deputy can be assured that I am very much committed to increasing the number of children who use active travel modes to and from school.

There are a number of existing supports already available, such as An Taisce’s Green Schools Travel programme and the Cycle Right training programme, both of which are funded through my Department’s sustainable mobility programme.

Complementing those existing supports, this year’s July Stimulus sought to fund the rapid roll-out of active travel infrastructure across the country and I know that a number of local authorities have sought to develop new infrastructure which supports active travel to and from schools in their areas.

In line with the commitment given in the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future I am very keen to bring these various strands of supports together and develop a Safe Routes to School Programme. I know that Minister of State Naughton met with the National Transport Authority recently in this regard and I look forward to working with stakeholders in the months ahead as we finalise and roll-out the programme.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Questions (236)

John McGuinness

Question:

236. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport the number of tribunals, inquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by his Department; the number that are in the process of being set up; the number in which the terms of reference are not complete or not agreed; the cost of all to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38051/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

There are no tribunals, enquiries or investigations being undertaken currently by my Department.

For completeness, I wish to advise the Deputy also of a Review Board established in line with Regulation 16 of Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents, Serious Incidents and Incidents) Regulations 2009 (SI 460 of 2009) to re-examine the draft Final Report of the investigation into the accident involving Rescue 116 at Black Rock, Co Mayo on 14 March 2017. The timeframe for the Review Board to carry out the re-examination is a matter for the Chairperson to determine.

Driver Licences

Questions (237)

Holly Cairns

Question:

237. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 144 of 12 November 2020, the rationale for the requirement to have a public services card to access the national driver licence service, NDLS, online system; the legislative or statutory provision on which the requirement is based; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38103/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

A person applying for a driving licence or learner is required to present photographic ID, evidence of their Personal Public Service Number (PPSN), evidence of address and evidence of residency entitlement. When an applicant presents in person at a National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) office, the required documentation is examined and a face-to-face verification is done.

The same information is required when accessing the online system, and the PSC satisfies this requirement as the information has already been provided and verified by another Government department. Without a PSC, it is not possible to access the online system.

Regulation 54 of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulation 2006 (S.I. No. 537 of 2006), as amended by Regulation 2(c) of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No. 98 of 2018) allows for the PSC to be provided as evidence of identity when applying for a driving licence.

Driver Licences

Questions (238)

Holly Cairns

Question:

238. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport if persons here with a UK driver licence that was issued in exchange for a Zimbabwean licence will be able to exchange their current driver license for an Irish driver licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38104/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Irish driving licensing legislation is based on a framework of European Union law.

A European Union driving licence is exchangeable for an Irish driving licence, except where the licence issued by the other Member State was itself issued in exchange for a licence from a state that is not a Member State, or a state that Ireland does not have a licence exchange agreement with.

As Ireland does not have a licence exchange agreement with Zimbabwe, a UK licence that was granted in exchange for a Zimbabwean licence cannot be exchanged for an Irish licence.

The Road Traffic (Recognition of Foreign Driving Licences) Order 2007 (S.I. No. 527 of 2007) refers.

Driver Test

Questions (239)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

239. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport the way in which the driving theory test backlog will be managed with reference to the experience of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38129/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service under Level 5. As a consequence, the service is closed, effective from midnight on Wednesday 21st of October, and for the duration of Level 5 restrictions. All appointments during that time have been rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

As I am sure you are aware, the Theory Test service was temporarily suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid 19 emergency. When the service resumed in June, there was an increased level of demand and a significant backlog developed. This was coupled with the need to significantly reduce normal daily capacity to comply with occupational and public health requirements.

When the Driver Theory Test Service closed on the 21st of October due to the latest restrictions, the majority of testing centres had almost full bookings up to end December and some into January too as it worked its way through the initial backlog. The decision was taken by the service provider that those whose appointments were cancelled due to the latest restrictions would be rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to examine ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints for when services are resumed. This will help reduce and, over time, eliminate the backlog.

While I regret the inconvenience caused, public safety is of paramount importance. My officials and I are working hard to ensure the resumption of services as soon as Level 5 is lifted.

Driver Test

Questions (240)

Martin Browne

Question:

240. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport his views on the cancelation of theory tests as part of the level 5 restrictions; and his plans to process the backlog as swiftly as possible once level 5 restrictions are lifted. [38169/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service under level 5. As a consequence, the service is closed, effective from midnight on Wednesday 21st of October, and for the duration of level 5 restrictions. All appointments during that time have been rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

As I am sure you are aware, the Theory Test service was temporarily suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid 19 emergency. When the service resumed in June, there was an increased level of demand and a significant backlog developed. This was coupled with the need to significantly reduce normal daily capacity to comply with occupational and public health requirements.

When the Driver Theory Test Service closed on the 21st of October due to the latest restrictions, the majority of testing centres had almost full bookings up to end December and some into January too as it worked its way through the initial backlog. The decision was taken by the service provider that those whose appointments were cancelled due to the latest restrictions would be rescheduled to the next available appointment date.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to examine ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints for when services are resumed. This will help reduce and, over time, eliminate the backlog.

While I regret the inconvenience caused, public safety is of paramount importance. My officials and I are working hard to ensure the resumption of services as soon as level 5 is lifted.

Taxi Licences

Questions (241)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

241. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport if he will allow taxi drivers who have little or no work as a result of the Covid-19 crisis to suspend their licences or to obtain a rebate for the unused period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38249/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including suspension arrangements for SPSV licences , is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

Given the role of the NTA as regulator, I have referred your question to the Authority for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days.

National Car Test

Questions (242)

Michael McNamara

Question:

242. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person (details supplied) has not been facilitated with a 12 month NCT certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38252/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

While I am unable to comment on individual cases, as the operation of the National Car Test (NCT) is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority, I hope the following explains the relevant procedure with respect to the problems identified with vehicle lift equipment earlier in the year.

The Deputy will no doubt be aware that all Member States of the European Union are required by law to carry out a periodic roadworthiness inspections on motor vehicles at regular intervals throughout the vehicle's lifecycle. The applicable dates for periodic testing are provided for by national legislation. Under Regulation 3(2) of the Road Traffic (National Car Test) Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 415/2017), the initial test due date for a vehicle is determined using the date of registration of that vehicle and subsequent test due dates fall on anniversaries of that date. Accordingly, all test due dates are predetermined based on the date of registration of a vehicle.

The NCT certificate relates solely to the condition of testable items at the time of testing and does not constitute a warranty for their future condition. Earlier in the year, problems with vehicle lift equipment used by NCT Test Centres meant that, in certain cases, partial NCT inspections were undertaken with the omission of an underbody inspection. In general, when drivers presented their vehicle for the subsequent underbody inspection later in the year, and thereby completing the NCT inspection, the items tested as part of the initial NCT inspection were not retested. Accordingly, it is inappropriate, and indeed potentially unsafe, to attest to the roadworthiness of items inspected earlier in the year at the time the latter inspection took place.

Departmental Reports

Questions (243)

Joe Carey

Question:

243. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport the status and details of the proposed study to be taken on by his Department with a view to connecting Shannon Airport to the rail network via a spur to Sixmilebridge, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38385/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I can inform the Deputy that following Government’s recent decision in this regard, a study will be undertaken to assess the potential for a rail connection to Shannon Airport.

Officials in my Department have commenced engagement with relevant stakeholders with the view to the study being commenced.

Greenways Provision

Questions (244)

Alan Kelly

Question:

244. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport the funding in place for the south Kerry greenway; if a commitment will be made to funding it fully; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38428/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware An Bord Pleanála’s decision on the application for the South Kerry Greenway was published on 12 November 2020. The Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) was approved subject to a modification in the order schedule. Two sections of the route – between Reenard Point and Cahirciveen and at Cloghanelinaghan - were not granted permission, owing to concerns about coastal erosion.

My Department is working with Kerry County Council to examine the full implications of this decision and how to address issues associated with the two sections that were not given approval.

As Sponsoring Agency, Kerry County Council is required to prepare and submit an updated business case to the Department in line with the requirements of the Public Spending Code. The business case will indicate the level of funding required to ensure the greenway is developed. I understand that it likely to be Q1 next year before the Council is in a position to submit that updated business case as issues such as the non-approval of the two aforementioned sections need to be considered and addressed.

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced significantly improved funding allocations to a number of greenways across the country and South Kerry Greenway should soon be in a position to access the funding needed to deliver this iconic project

Road Projects

Questions (245)

John Lahart

Question:

245. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport the status of the Athy southern distributor road; if all the funding and approvals are in place; when construction will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38440/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. State grants, where applicable, are intended to supplement the funding allocated to the maintenance and improvement of roads by local authorities from their own resources.

The National Development Plan (NDP) does provide for the gradual build up in funding for the road network but funding is not yet at the level needed for the adequate maintenance and renewal of regional and local roads. For this reason the primary focus for capital investment continues to be the maintenance and renewal of the network with some limited investment in road improvement schemes. In this context 12 regional and local road improvement projects were identified for development, subject to necessary approvals, in the NDP and the construction of a Distributor Road to the south of Athy connecting to the N78 is one of those schemes.

Under the Public Spending Code and the terms and conditions applying to regional and local road grants, capital projects are subject to review and approval at a number of stages. In this context Kildare County Council has submitted the contract documentation for the main Athy scheme construction contract to my Department for review.

As the project will be subject to further consideration before a decision is made on whether the tender process proceeds, I cannot give an indication at this point on when construction might commence.

Cycling Facilities

Questions (246)

Alan Dillon

Question:

246. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Transport his plans to improve the standard of urban and rural cycle lanes for active travel in County Mayo; the criteria he defines as urban and rural; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38490/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

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.

Rural Transport Services

Questions (247)

Alan Dillon

Question:

247. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Transport the number of passengers on each LocalLink route in County Mayo in each week for the past year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38491/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

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

It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) which has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which operates under the Local Link brand.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Traffic Management

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (248)

Alan Dillon

Question:

248. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Transport if his Department and Transport Infrastructure Ireland will provide an update on a speed limit (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38492/20]

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 operation and management of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. In this context, TII is best placed to advise you.

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.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Driver Licences

Questions (249)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

249. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for UK driver licence holders to be able to maintain their insurance eligibility post-Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38510/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Holders of UK driving licences who are resident in this jurisdiction are allowed to drive here on those licences until the end of the transition period 31 December 2020. They will not be entitled to drive here on those licences after that date.

Since before the original Brexit deadline in March 2019, the RSA has been encouraging holders of such licences to exchange them, and many have done so. I would encourage any holders of UK licences who are resident in this jurisdiction and who have yet to exchange their licence for an Irish one to do so as soon as possible.

Insurance companies are private bodies, and neither I nor my Department has any power over their decisions. However, as holders of UK licences who are resident in the jurisdiction will not be able to drive legally on UK licences after the end of the transition period at the end of this year, it is understandable that insurance companies would not cover them to drive on those licences. The solution for people in this situation is therefore to exchange their licences as soon as possible.

Where a person is the holder of a UK licence and resident in the UK, they may still drive here on their UK licence after the end of the year on a visitor basis. They will need insurance, and should check with their insurance provider to confirm that their cover extends to this jurisdiction.

School Transport

Questions (250)

Seán Haughey

Question:

250. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Transport if it will be ensured Dublin Bus has enough capacity to ensure that children can get to and from school during level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38557/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Continued operation of the public transport sector is important, and it has been designated among the essential services that have carried on during the Covid crisis. I would like to thank both public and commercial operators and their staff for their continued dedication to providing this vital service in such challenging times.

The Government's "Living with Covid" Plan sets out capacity guidance for public transport at each of the 5 risk levels identified in the Plan. Due to the rising incidences of Covid-19 in the community, An Taoiseach announced that for a period of six weeks from midnight on Wednesday 21st October, the whole country would move to Level 5 of the Plan. At current levels of risk, public transport operators are restricted to using only 25% of the passenger-carrying capacity on their vehicles. Importantly, the Plan's guidance on working from home where possible and on the closure of social, leisure and other facilities has reduced the demand for public transport well below normal levels. The advice is aimed at ensuring public transport is safeguarded for those who need it most, including 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.

Since the move to Level 5, the NTA and bus operators in Dublin (Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland), have re-allocated a number of vehicles and drivers across the network to enhance the capacity in areas where they were experiencing capacity issues.

Approximately 43 buses have been redeployed by Dublin Bus since October 22nd to help mitigate the impact of the capacity restrictions and reduce the number of passengers being left at stops. Where possible, these vehicles are being deployed during peak demand times, particularly for school travel. These measures have also assisted in reducing passengers' wait times at stops. Currently, all available vehicles are in use, so whilst the re-allocation has eased the situation, it remains the case that there may still be instances of people having to wait for another bus.

The NTA continues to monitor the effects of the reduction in capacity very closely in conjunction with public transport operators.