Protected Disclosures

Questions (76)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

76. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to an outstanding protected disclosure (details supplied) made to his office in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2324/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Department’s policy is not to make any comment or observation on individual protected disclosures.

Any protected disclosure received in my Department is managed in accordance with the Department’s Policy on Protected Disclosures, which is aligned with central government guidelines, and the 2014 Protected Disclosures Act.

Road Safety

Questions (77)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

77. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the increase in road deaths in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2345/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Based on provisional figures, road deaths were regrettably 6% higher than in 2020, despite a large decrease in the volume of traffic on our roads.

However, it should also be noted that the number of our fatalities on our roads dropped by 30% since 2010, and Ireland is currently the second safest country in the EU in terms of road deaths.

Despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 restrictions which have been in place since March 2020, my Department will not relax its efforts to keep our roads as safe as possible for all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, the elderly and children.

The four main causes of fatalities on Irish roads remain speeding, intoxicated driving, the use of mobile phones and the non-wearing of seatbelts, and these are all areas where drivers must take personal responsibility for their actions, and realise the consequences of these killer behaviours.

The Road Safety Authority is the body tasked by the Government to develop and implement information and education campaigns to increase awareness of road safety and promote safer driving, to improve vehicle standards, to provide and monitor a standard for driver instruction, to oversee the driver licensing system, to carry out collision and road safety research in order to make recommendations to improve road safety, to work with all major stakeholders to promote road safety and to implement measures to make our roads safer, and to produce road safety strategy documents and monitor their implementation.

Officials in my Department, together with the Road Safety Authority, an Garda Síochána, and other stakeholders, are currently developing the Road Safety Strategy 2020-2030, and I expect this to be finalised within the next few months.

Road Safety

Questions (78)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

78. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the number of weeks of expected salt supplies for road gritting that each local authority has at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2349/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As of 8 January, there are 97,100 tonnes of salt available for use on the network of National Roads and Motorways. In addition, there are 68,900 tonnes available for use on the Regional and Local Roads network. To date, 24,700 tonnes of salt have been used this winter on the National Roads and Motorway networks, while a further 35,400 tonnes has been used in relation to the Regional and Local Roads network.

The number of weeks of salt remaining is dependent on the severity of the weather and the level of salt usage required. At present, based on typical winter usage, it is expected that there will be sufficient salt supplies to last the remainder of the winter season. However, salt stocks are monitored and assessed on a weekly basis. Should salt usage be significantly higher than normal over the coming weeks as a result of severe winter weather and colder conditions, additional stocks will be ordered under Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s Salt Purchase Framework.

Taxi Licences

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deput

under Standing Order 51

Questions (79)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

79. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2353/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including the administration of the SPSV Driver Entry Test, 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.

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

Rail Network

Questions (80, 83)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

80. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Transport when the all-Ireland strategic rail review will commence; when he expects to receive the findings of the review; when he will be in a position to make a decision on the future of the western rail corridor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2370/21]

View answer

Seán Canney

Question:

83. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Transport his plans to put in place an all-island strategic rail review; if the review will include the western rail corridor phases 2 and 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2453/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 83 together.

The Deputies are likely aware that there are two reports available on my Department’s website in relation to the proposed reopening of the Western Rail Corridor Phases 2 and 3. The Deputy can access the documents through this link:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/1174d-review-of-western-rail-corridor-phases-2-and-3-athenry-to-claremorris/

The first report is a financial and economic appraisal (sometimes referred to as a preliminary appraisal) of the proposal which was commissioned by Iarnród Éireann, in line with a decision of the previous Government. Following a competitive procurement process, Iarnród Éireann selected EY economic consultants to undertake the work and Iarnród Éireann submitted a final report to my Department in July 2020.

Secondly I have also published an independent review of the proposal which was commissioned by my Department. This review was conducted by JASPERS, an agency of the European Union / European Investment Bank, which provides advisory services to Member States (and other public authorities in the EU) and has extensive experience in relation to transport infrastructure proposals in European regions. This independent review noted a number of shortcomings in relation to the proposed re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor Phases 2 and 3 as presented, in particular around issues such as the need to demonstrate the strategic role of the proposal and how it sat within the broader proposed development of the network.

In light of the analyses conducted thus far, and in particular with regard to the findings of the independent review conducted by JASPERS as commissioned by my Department, I have requested my Department to prepare terms of reference for a Strategic Rail Review. This Review will consider all relevant issues in relation to inter-urban rail, inter/intra-regional rail and rail connectivity to our international gateways, with the latter considering the role of rail freight. Interestingly this Strategic Review will be conducted on an-island basis in co-operation with my Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister Nichola Mallon, MLA, and officials from both our Departments are now developing terms of reference for the Review.

I understand this may be the first such Review to be conducted on an all-island basis and this will, I believe, allow for a fuller consideration of the potential role of rail and the network required to support that potential than perhaps has been allowed before.

I am hopeful that the terms of reference will be agreed and the procurement process launched by the end of Q1. The ultimate duration of the Review will be determined by the work programmes submitted in response to that process; this will be one of the most significant reviews of the rail network on the island in many years and will provide a framework to develop a much-improved rail network in the years ahead.

Driver Licences

Questions (81)

Matt Carthy

Question:

81. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Transport when a driver licence will issue to a person (details supplied) who has exchanged a UK driver licence for an Irish licence and who requires a physical licence for employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2377/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

This is a matter for the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS). The NDLS usually processes licence-exchange applications in approximately three weeks.

It must be noted that the service is currently experiencing unprecedented demand due to a Covid19 fuelled backlog.

The Road Safety Authority has worked with their providers to create additional capacity through a combination of additional staff, extended and additional operating hours (i.e. Sundays where needed), and the provision of overtime.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 80.

Questions (82)

Holly Cairns

Question:

82. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport if employees of his Department have received Covid-19 vaccines due to their role in the Department; if so, the rationale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2411/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Staff in my Department have not yet received COVID-19 vaccinations.

Staff will be vaccinated according to the schedule of vaccination as outlined in the National COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy. Staff may fall under different priority levels as defined under the Strategy, depending on the nature of their work, their age and health status.

The vast majority of staff in my Department have been working from home since March 2020 and will continue to do so in accordance with the advice under the Government's Plan for Living with COVID-19 during the currency of the Plan. Where staff are required to attend the office all necessary measures have been implemented to ensure appropriate physical/social distancing.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 80.

Brexit Issues

Questions (84)

Niall Collins

Question:

84. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter relating to Brexit customs issues (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2464/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Since January 1, following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK has been outside the EU Single Market and Customs Union and this means that a range of new formalities apply to goods moving to, from or through the United Kingdom, excluding Northern Ireland.

The Government has been working to prepare for Brexit for several years – with an intensive effort across my Department alongside all Departments and Agencies, working on legislation, stakeholder outreach and widespread public communications to promote readiness.

In light of the difficulties being experienced by businesses with regard to the new customs procedures, which impacts all those involved in the supply chain, my Department has been in constant contact with our industry stakeholders to ensure we have a full awareness of the current situation at our Ports and Airports, and we share this information with our colleagues in the relevant State Agencies.

While customs issues are a matter for colleagues in Revenue, I am advised that they fully appreciate that the new regulatory requirements and customs formalities present significant challenges and impose additional burdens on businesses. These requirements can be complex, but it is essential that Ireland fulfils its obligations as a member of the EU and that we protect public health, food safety and product standards as well as the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

As regards the performance of Revenue’s Customs IT systems, I am advised by Revenue that in most cases, further investigation of specific issues raised with them has revealed that the actual error has been as a result of incorrect data rather than a systems issue. However, there have also been some systems issues and, in such cases, Revenue issued clear and timely communications that enabled affected businesses to continue to move their goods. These notifications are available on the Revenue website but are also automatically issued to businesses that have signed up to receive Revenue eCustoms Notifications. I am assured by Revenue that it was not a systems issue that led to the introduction of a temporary easement measure provided to trade and business in regard to the import safety and security declaration (ENS) declaration. PBNs are being successfully filed on a daily basis by trade and business.

While recognising the frustration currently being experienced by business due to these new regulatory requirements, I fully support the Revenue approach of working with individual businesses and with the relevant trade representative bodies to assist them in building the understanding and knowledge of customs formalities and ensuring compliance with same. The aim of which is to ensure that goods movements between Ireland and Great Britain can be as efficient as possible, mindful of the fact that the trading environment changed irrevocably following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

Driver Test

Questions (85)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

85. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport if he has organised plans to address the lack of access to toilets, hand washing facilities and shelter for driving instructors at national test centres who are still working under level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2477/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Operational arrangements at test centres, including the availability of waiting and washing facilities, are a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

I understand that the Authority decided to temporarily close public toilet and waiting facilities in the interests of public safety - and particularly the health and safety of testers and other test centre workers - as part of its overall Covid-19 resumption of service protocols and in line with health and safety risk-assessment procedures which had to be adopted as part of the RSA's resumption plans.

It took account of guidance issued by the Health and Safety Authority and the return-to-work-safely protocol agreed by the Labour and Employer Economic Forum, LEEF.

In response to a formal request from Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton to review these arrangements, the Authority wrote to the Department in November outlining the absolute necessity of retaining these safety measures.

While the Authority recognises that this may be inconvenient for partners, family members and indeed driving instructors who accompany learner drivers to their tests, the fact remains that the more people who enter a building, the greater the risk of Covid spreading.

The safety of staff and the public in general must remain the Road Safety Authority's number one priority at this time.

Driver Test

Questions (86)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

86. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the lack of access to toilets, hand washing facilities and shelter for driving instructors at national test centres who are still working under level 5 restrictions; the action he will take to rectify this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2478/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Operational arrangements at test centres, including the availability of waiting and washing facilities, are a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

I understand that the Authority decided to temporarily close public toilet and waiting facilities in the interests of public safety and as part of its overall Covid-19 resumption of service protocols. These are in line with health and safety risk assessment procedures which had to be adopted as part of the RSA's resumption plans and took account of guidance issued by the Health and Safety Authority and the return to work safely protocol agreed by the Labour and Employer Economic Forum, LEEF.

In response to a formal request from Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton to review these arrangements, the Authority wrote to the Department in November outlining the absolute necessity of retaining these safety measures. While the Authority recognises that this may be inconvenient for partners, family members and indeed driving instructors who accompany learner drivers to their tests, the fact remains that the more people who enter a building, the greater the risk of Covid spreading. The safety of staff and the public in general must remain the Road Safety Authority's number one priority at this time.

Driver Test

Questions (87)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

87. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the action being taken to clear the growing backlog of driver theory tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2487/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Under current level 5 restrictions, the Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service. As a consequence, the service is closed while level 5 restrictions remain in place. While I regret the inconvenience caused, I think you will agree with me that this decision was necessary for public health reasons.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to maximise capacity to offer tests while adhering to occupational and public health requirements for when servicers are resumed. In this regard, they would, for example, be opening on additional days at some centres and extended hours also provided to allow additional capacity for appointments.

The Driver Theory Test service has launched a pilot phase of a new initiative, which offers a Remote Testing service for specific categories of Theory Test (C, D, CD, BMT, TMT, ADI, CPCB, CPCT). Following a review of the pilot phase, I understand the RSA expect the initiative to be extended for car and motorcycles in the future. As remote testing facilitates additional capacity whilst also enabling the service to continue in the event of further lockdowns, it would be expected this would greatly help in returning the service to normal waiting times.

The safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time. In all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department continues to be guided by National Public Health Emergency Team and the relevant national experts in relation to the provision of services.

Driver Test

Questions (88)

Thomas Gould

Question:

88. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Transport if the family of essential workers will be considered for driver tests currently, given that they are necessary to transport essential workers to and from work. [2535/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Under Covid 19 Level 5 Government restrictions effective from 31 December 2020, candidates can attend their scheduled driving test appointment provided they are an essential worker involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail outlets. This will not be extended to the family of essential workers.

While I regret the inconvenience caused, I think you will agree with me that this is the correct decision for public health reasons. In a climate where only limited services are being provided in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19, coupled with the inherent risks in a service which inevitably involves testers and test candidates in close proximity in a confined space, I believe it is in everyone's interest that driving tests are suspended for all but essential workers.

Public health must come first and my Department continue to be guided by NPHET and other national experts in relation to the provision of services.

Bus Services

Questions (89)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

89. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport if funding will be allocated for a bus shelter at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2547/21]

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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 and shelters.

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.

Driver Test

Questions (90)

Neale Richmond

Question:

90. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he had with the Road Safety Authority RSA, to ensure that front-line and essential workers can access driving tests in a timely manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2548/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Under Covid19 Level 5 Government restrictions effective from 31 December 2020, candidates can attend their scheduled driving-test appointment provided they are an essential worker involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail outlets.

The Road Safety Authority has also asked that if someone is not involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail outlets, that they please cancel their appointment. The slot will then be reassigned to an essential worker.

A customer who has an appointment for a driving test during Level 5 restrictions, and who is an essential worker should attend their driving test as normal.

Anyone looking for an urgent driving test appointment and falls into either of these categories can apply to book a driving test at www.myroadsafety.ie. If there is no available slot and they have made an application, they can ask to be prioritised by accessing https://www.rsa.ie/en/RSA/Learner-Drivers/The-Driving-Test/Request-an-urgent-driving-test/ and providing the relevant details.

Anyone travelling to a driving test centre to sit a driving test, and is an essential worker, is exempt from Level 5 travel restrictions.