Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (124)

Denis Naughten

Question:

124. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the steps he is taking to reduce the emissions profile of the public transport fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2965/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

A key objective of my Department is to secure an efficient and low emission public transport system. As public transport is responsible for less than 5% of our transport emissions, in absolute terms, converting public transport fleets to low carbon alternatives will have a limited impact on national emission reductions. However, greening the public fleet does fulfil a strong leadership and demonstration role as we shift towards a low-carbon economy. To this end, I am committed to continuing to green the public transport fleet, and to making each public transport journey less carbon-intensive. A comprehensive programme of work is already underway, and there is a clear vision to move towards zero emitting vehicles.

The national bus fleet, which carries the majority of public transport passengers, is already moving to lower emission alternatives. During 2020, a total of 280 diesel-electric hybrid buses were ordered, which are plug-in hybrids allowing overnight charging and which have capability of over 2.5 km continuous running in zero emission mode, allowing sections of the routes to operate in this mode. A number of these vehicles were delivered during December and will enter into service over the coming weeks. A total of 100 such vehicles should be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2021, with the remaining 180 vehicles to be delivered during quarter 3 and quarter 4 of this year.

The NTA is currently tendering for the supply of single deck fully electric buses, the first of which will be introduced into town fleets in 2021. In addition, further such vehicles will be assigned to other urban city routes that are capable of being operated with single deck buses.

In relation to double deck fleet, the number of manufacturers of right-hand drive double deck buses is very limited, which has impacted the level of development of such vehicles. However, the NTA is satisfied that the available product is now mature enough, and capable of a sufficient range, to allow the purchase of double deck fully electric fleet for some urban city routes. Accordingly, a tender process has commenced for the purchase of double deck fully electric buses, with the first order expected to be placed later this year, and the first vehicles under that order arriving towards the end of next year.

In terms of heavy rail, we are expanding electrification through the DART+ programme which will ultimately mean around 70% of journeys in any given year on the rail network will be on electrified services, while in the interim we’re continuing to expand rail capacity through the ongoing construction of the National Train Control Centre and the ongoing manufacture of 41 additional carriages for the Greater Dublin Area commuter rail fleet. I also intend to commission a review of the rail network which will consider the potential for high-/higher- speed rail, including of course the potential electrification of the inter-urban network.

As regards our light rail network, we are currently expanding capacity of the Luas Green Line with the ongoing arrival of 26 tram extensions and 8 new additional trams which I expect will have entered service by Q2 2021. We will also look at route options for Luas Cork, Luas Lucan and the preliminary design for Luas Finglas. This year, I also intend to seek Government approval in relation to MetroLink, a new largely underground electrified metro service in Dublin, and likely the largest public investment project in the history of the State.

Furthermore, in the most recent Budget, I was delighted to announce an EV scrappage scheme to enhance the supports available for taxi and hackney drivers switching to electric vehicles. I hope to see a steady greening of our SPSV fleet over the coming years.

Collectively, these measures will see us progressively modernise and lower the emission profile of our public transport fleets, as well as creating an attractive alternative to the private car. As the Deputy is aware, I am fully committed to a shift to public transport and active travel as a means of decreasing transport emissions. We’ve seen some great additions to active travel infrastructure and our public realm in recent months, as Local Authorities across the country have put in place emergency measures to support local communities and businesses through our current difficulties. We want to build on these types of initiatives and support them through our commitment of €1.8bn over the lifetime of Government for active travel. This level of investment along with our significant investment in greening public transport will help improve quality of life and reduce emissions and air pollutants from the transport sector.