Driver Licences

Questions (103)

Patrick Costello

Question:

103. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Transport his plans for asylum seekers to obtain a driver licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6333/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Currently, Ireland does not issue driving licences to applicants for international protection (asylum seekers) as their residence status in the State is not yet determined.

Having said that, as set out in the Programme for Government, the current policy not to allow applicants for international protection access to a driving licence will be changed. To provide for this, there are a number of complex legal, administrative and technical issues to consider and resolve. Officials in my Department and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) are working on these measures at present, but it is not possible to give a definitive date yet for when these changes will be in place. However, I can assure the Deputy that my officials are working hard, in close cooperation with all the stakeholders, to make this happen.

Driver Licences

Questions (104)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

104. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport the status of a driver licence application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6339/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Specific details on an individual's application are held by the Road Safety Authority.

I am therefore passing the Deputy's question to the Road Safety Authority for direct reply. If a reply has not been received within 10 working days, the Deputy should contact my office.

Brexit Issues

Questions (105)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

105. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has reviewed the situation regarding travel and connectivity with Europe in view of Brexit realities given that there is demand for the direct services to Europe and limited capacity despite the quiet period due to Covid-19 and associated restrictions; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that if capacity is not increased the situation will deteriorate and the supply chain into Ireland will struggle. [6342/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

In advance of the end of the Brexit transition, my Department in conjunction with the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO), undertook a major communications campaign urging business using the GB landbridge to consider a switch to direct routes which would avoid the new control regimes. This campaign was also supported by the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Business Enterprise and Innovation and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This communication campaign served to reinforce the message that there is maritime capacity available to transport goods directly to Continental Europe and that these options are many and varied across different modalities (ro-ro, con-ro, lo-lo) providing both accompanied and unaccompanied options to exporters.

We have witnessed throughout 2020 and at the beginning of 2021 an unprecedented response from the shipping industry in terms of increasing capacity to match market demand. It has occurred across all relevant modes and has drawn from all available responses. These responses include (1) utilization of surplus capacity, (2) increasing capacity by altering schedules, (3) redeploying vessels within their fleets, and (4) adding new capacity in the form of additional vessels.

Number of Sailings

As of January 2021, there are around 60 RoRo freight sailings between Ireland and the Continent in a typical week. This includes five shipping operators, Irish Ferries, Stena Line, DFDS, Brittany Ferries and CLDN offering both accompanied and unaccompanied freight. This represents an increase of around 34 sailings per week, or around 130% increase in continental RoRo frequency compared to January 2020.

Specifically in relation to sailings between Ireland and France, in January 2020, there were 12 weekly sailings to and from Northern France. These were provided by Irish Ferries and Stena Line to the port of Cherbourg (not including the seasonal service operated by Brittany Ferries to Roscoff). In the last 12 months, the number of sailings to Northern France has increased by 25. Based on published schedules, there are now over 36 sailings per week to and from the ports of Dunkerque and Cherbourg, Roscoff and St Malo provided by Stena Line, Irish Ferries, DFDS and Brittany Ferries.

Freight Capacity

The increase in choice and frequency in the RoRo freight market over the past year has had a very significant impact on freight capacity to continental EU ports. Weekly RoRo freight capacity to continental EU ports has doubled in the past 12 months. There is now capacity for approximately 5,000 additional HGV’s & unaccompanied trailers on continental RoRo services per week in January 2021.

The largest increase in capacity has come on RoRo services to Northern France. In January 2020, capacity to Northern France represented 35% of all continental EU capacity. As of January 2021, it now accounts for 49%.

Unaccompanied RoRo freight is an essential component of continental RoRo capacity. In 2020, unaccompanied RoRo freight made up over 80% of all continental RoRo volume. The importance of unaccompanied RoRo volume is not expected to change.

Details of growth in direct services

There have been 22 separate interventions by Ro/Ro+ Lo/Lo freight operators in the past 12 months in response to Brexit.

OPERATOR

ROUTE

INTERVENTION

DATE

1

CLDN

Cork – Zeebrugge

New Service

May-2020

2

CLDN

Santander – Liverpool – Dublin

New Service

June 2020

3

ICL (LOLO)

Cork to USA

New Service

June 2020

4

BG Freightline (LOLO)

Waterford -Liverpool Rotterdam

New Service

July 2020

5

CLDN

Leixoes – Dublin – Liverpool

New Service

September 2020

6

CMA-CGM (LO/LO)

Dublin / Rotterdam / Cork / Dunkirk

New Service

November 2020

7

Irish Ferries

Dublin / Cherbourg

Schedule Change

January 2021 – 7 day rotation

8

Stena Line

Rosslare / Cherbourg

Schedule Change

January 2021 – 7 day rotation

9

Stena Line

Rosslare / Cherbourg

Additional Vessel

January 2021

10

DFDS / EURoRo

Rosslare / Dunkirk

New Service

January 2020

11

CLDN

Cork / Zeebrugge

Additional Vessel

January 2021

12

Eucon

Dublin / Rotterdam

Additional Vessel

January 2021

13

Brittany Ferries

Cork-Roscoff

Additional Vessel

March 2021

14

Brittany Ferries

Rosslare to Cherbourg

New Service

January 2021

15

Stena Line

Dublin – Cherbourg

New Service

January 2021

16

Irish Ferries

Dublin - Cherbourg

Additional Vessel (Temporary)

January 2021

17

Irish Ferries

Dublin - Cherbourg

Vessel Change (WB Yeats)

January 2021

18

Samskip

Dublin - Amsterdam

New Service

January 2021

19

Stena Line

Rosslare - Cherbourg

Vessel Change (Embla)

January 2021

20

CLDN

Dublin – Rotterdam

Vessel Change

January 2021

21

Brittany Ferries

Rosslare -St Malo

New Service

February 2021

22

Brittany Ferries

Cork-Roscoff

New Service

February 2021

As shipping operators compete to understand new demand patterns, the market is currently in a state of dynamism, with a new equilibrium yet to be found. As a result, operators are changing schedules frequently and introducing new, often temporary services at short notice. If demand arises, operators have proved they stand ready to respond as necessary.

My Department, in collaboration with the IMDO, will continue to monitor demand and capacity closely to ensure the continuation of the essential supply chain for Ireland.

Ports Development

Questions (106)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

106. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Transport if facilities at Dublin Port will be improved given that TII does not have adequate facilities for drivers, particularly for the volume of drivers who now have to stay with loads for a long period of time; and if new fit-for-purpose facilities will be constructed at the port. [6343/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Facilities at border control sites within Dublin Port are a matter for the relevant agencies. I am aware that OPW have established welfare facilities on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners at the State sites within the Port which include toilets, showers and indoor waiting areas.

I am informed that the full list of facilities provided by OPW is:

- Terminal 7: 3 toilets with hand sanitising stations.

- Terminal 9: 2 toilets with hand washing facilities.

- Terminal 10: 2 toilets with hand sanitising stations.

- Terminal 11 East: Modular accommodation providing indoor driver waiting area with 2 toilets. Separate shower changing area with 3 shower rooms one of which is an accessible WC/shower room.

- Terminal 11 West: Driver Welfare cabin providing indoor driver waiting area with seating with 1 toilet and 3 shower rooms, one of which is an accessible WC/shower room. There is a food/drinks vending machine in the waiting area.

- Yard 3: 2 toilets with hand washing facilities.

There are also facilities, including hot food, available at a nearby commercial service station within a short walking distance from Yard 3 and from terminals 7, 10 and 11.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (107)

Dara Calleary

Question:

107. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport the tendering process for the antigen testing process for hauliers accessing Irish ports to travel to France; if consideration will be given to financially support existing test providers who are providing an antigen service in other parts of the country to provide free tests to users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6363/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Up until very recently, all EU Member States, including Ireland, exempted essential international transport workers (including HGV drivers and Light Commercial Vehicle drivers) not displaying COVID-19 symptoms from quarantine and testing requirements. However, in recent weeks, in response to new variants and growing Covid-19 numbers, several EU Member States introduced restrictions for transport workers.

On 14 January 2021, France notified Ireland that it was preparing to introduce a requirement that hauliers travelling from Ireland to France (including via the UK land bridge) must furnish a negative Covid-19 test result Given the extreme urgency involved, my Department issued a request for quotes and entered into a contract to provide the service by 27 January, as required. The service involved the provision of antigen testing for truck drivers in the vicinity of the roll-on roll-off ports. This arrangement is in place for an initial period of 12 weeks, should these requirements remain.

Given the extreme urgency involved, my Department relied on the negotiated procedure without prior publication, as set out in the derogation at Regulation 32(2)(c) of the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations S.I 284/2016 for this procurement.

It is my intention to run a full tendering process to provide COVID-19 testing services for freight drivers in the event that the French requirements for a negative test prior to embarkment remains beyond this initial period or other countries introduce such a requirement. Part of this process will address multiple locations for testing, to facilitate drivers. I would encourage any existing test providers to engage in that tendering process and full consideration will be given to any practical proposals.

Currently, there are four sites available to drivers. These have been situated close to ports. This service is being provided by the State to drivers at no cost to themselves or their companies.

It is open to any company to arrange testing directly with private testing providers and that is a commercial decision for each company. If they chose this option, I would advise that they ensure that all the requirements of the French authorities are met.

Driver Licences

Questions (108)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

108. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the reason the BE classification has been removed from certain driver licences (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6412/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Prior to 1989, the driver licensing system permitted a car and trailer to be driven under the car licence alone. Licence categories were then changed, with separate categories covering car (Category B) and car and trailer (Category BE). People licensed to drive with trailer before 1989 were allowed to keep their old entitlements, simply by ticking the appropriate box on the application form when renewing their licences. Where a pre-1989 licence holder did not tick the box they would no longer retain that entitlement. However, the entitlement could be restored up to ten years after last holding it. If they let the entitlement to drive with a trailer lapse for longer, they must apply as learners for the purposes of driving with a trailer.

In 2013, the then Minister for Transport received representations from the Irish Farmers’ Association suggesting that many farmers who had a car licence before the 1989 regulations came into effect, had unintentionally lost their trailer entitlement by not ticking the appropriate box on the renewal form. The Minister agreed, on a once-off, exceptional basis, to allow people in this position - whether farmers or not - to reclaim the trailer entitlement, where they could prove that they had previously held it. The Road Safety Authority made arrangements to accommodate drivers in this position for a limited period (i.e. up to November of 2013).

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (109)

Denis Naughten

Question:

109. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport the specific measures he plans to put in place for travel agents who not only lost their business in 2020 but went to considerable expense ensuring that travellers were repatriated and rebooking holidays for 2021; if specific measures will be put in place for this sector in view of the fact that it is now very unlikely that Irish residents will travel outside of Ireland in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6416/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am fully aware that the travel trade sector has not been able to reclaim any meaningful level of lost trade over the past year. It is largely an SME sector, and as such travels agents and tour operators have access to the various business supports made available in the July stimulus package and in Budget 2021, which contains historic levels of State support in the form of wage supplements, financial grants and waived commercial rates. I know this does not come close to replacing lost business, but it is significant nonetheless.

It has been brought to my attention that some travel agents and tour operators have been experiencing difficulties accessing the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), whereby some in the sector have qualified for CRSS because they have physical shop fronts, whilst others have not, typically because they operate wholly through online channels. Other small firms have been similarly locked out of the CRSS - for various reasons - and that is why the Government responded yesterday with further supports to target such businesses. The new €60 million Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme will provide grants to help cover some fixed costs such as rent and utilities for those firms not already in receipt of CRSS support.

The State is also providing a special financial guarantee under a Refund Credit Note scheme for the sector, which makes the credit notes that licensed travel agent and tour operators issue to their customers a very secure proposition. Credits notes to the value of €19 million have already been issued to consumers under the scheme – under which their value is guaranteed by the State - and this is money that the industry would otherwise have had to pay back in cash refunds.

It is a terribly difficult time for this sector, who I know just want a chance to trade their way out of the current situation. I am ensuring that my Department is maintaining an open and continued dialogue with the industry, and I will be joining Minister of State Naughton in a virtual meeting with the Irish Travel Agents Association next week.

Road Network

Questions (110)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

110. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport the status of the options for development of the proposed Narrow Water Bridge between counties Louth and Down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6427/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Following on from the Fresh Start Agreement, the "New Decade, New Approach" document indicates that the Government is ready to jointly progress consideration of options for the development of the Narrow Water bridge project at the North South Ministerial Council.

Options for the development of the Narrow Water Bridge project are under examination at present, taking into account other proposed projects in the area including the Newry Southern Relief Road. Consideration of options for a bridge has not yet reached a sufficiently advanced stage where there is a clearly defined and costed scheme.

Driver Test

Questions (111)

Noel Grealish

Question:

111. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport the number of driver test examiners; the number of driver tests passed and failed in 2020; the age of those least likely to hold a full driver licence in any given year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6455/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The details requested are held by the Road Safety Authority. I have therefore referred this question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days

Córas Iompair Éireann

Questions (112)

Noel Grealish

Question:

112. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport the reason there has been no increase in CIÉ pensions since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6456/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

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

The CIÉ Group has two pension schemes, namely the Regular Wages Scheme (“RWS”) and 1951 superannuation scheme (“1951 Scheme”); and issues in relation to CIÉ pension schemes are primarily a matter for the trustees of the schemes, the CIÉ Group and their employees.

I have therefore referred the Deputy’s question to CIÉ for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Driver Licences

Questions (113)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

113. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the status of a driver licence expiry extension for a person (details supplied); and the way in which the person can apply for an extension without a public services card. [6467/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

This is an operational matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

Driver Test

Questions (114)

Michael Collins

Question:

114. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter regarding driver testing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6476/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am aware that the RSA has experienced a number of delays and operating issues since the launch of their new customer portal. Officials in my Department have raised these matters with the RSA who have taken action to address them. The RSA has assured the Department that the situation has now improved and that customers should now be able to access the portal without any undue delay.

As you are aware under the current Level 5 restrictions only essential workers can sit a driving test. We have brought the matter relating to Essential Driver Training (EDT), where driving tests were provided without customers having completed EDT, to the immediate attention of the RSA. The RSA have confirmed that they have now addressed this matter to prevent any recurrence.

My Department will continue to monitor the situation.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (115)

Alan Kelly

Question:

115. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport when a new chairperson will be appointed to the Shannon Airport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6489/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to the appointment of a new Chairperson to the Board of Shannon Airport Authority. As the Deputy may be aware Shannon Airport Authority is a subsidiary of Shannon Group and the position of Chairperson of Shannon Group was advertised by the Public Appointments Service.

I am currently considering a shortlist of candidates and I hope to be in a position to appoint a new Chairperson to Shannon Group shortly.

Driver Licences

Questions (116)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

116. 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. [6493/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

This is an operational matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

Road Safety Authority

Questions (117)

Michael Collins

Question:

117. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the RSA website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6497/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am aware that the RSA has experienced a number of operating issues since the launch of its new customer portal and officials in my Department have raised these issues with the RSA. We have been reassured by the Authority, these technical issues are gradually being resolved. Performance improvements have recently been implemented meaning customers can now access the portal without any undue delays. Delays in contacting the customer care call centre have also been addressed and waiting times are improving.

The RSA will continue to give priority to addressing the remaining issues as they seek to improve the overall portal performance and restore the service to the highest possible standards. I am assured that the measures being put in place will have the desired effect. My Department will continue to monitor the situation closely and we thank the deputy and others for bringing these matters to our attention.

Rail Network

Questions (118)

John McGuinness

Question:

118. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport his plans to upgrade existing railway track to new bigger sleepers and rails to assist the speed and safety of trains; if the relaying process is put out to tender or carried out by Iarnród Éireann staff; the funding spent on this work over the past ten years; the planned funding for the next five years; if all machinery contracted to carry out this work in the past represented value for money; if the machinery contracted in was used every day on site; if the machinery used for this type of work is fully owned by Iarnród Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6501/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy may be aware, the provision of funding for the protection and renewal of our railway infrastructure is governed by EU and Irish legislation. This legislative framework requires a contractual agreement, known as the Infrastructure Manager Multi-Annual Contract (IMMAC), to be entered into between the Minister and Iarnród Éireann, in its designated role as Infrastructure Manager of the network. The legislative framework also designates the Commission for Rail Regulation as the independent monitoring body to monitor the performance of Iarnród Éireann in regard to its obligations under the IMMAC.

A detailed review of IMMAC 2014 to 2018 was published in December 2019 as part of the finalisation of the new IMMAC 2020 to 2024 contractual agreement. The review is available to view on my Department’s website: https://assets.gov.ie/41983/0dacd748329049bba8ce37b4f97d755a.pdf and provides detail in relation to all expenditure and outputs over the relevant period, including in relation to track and associated works. The published review also contains details in relation to the proposed expenditure planned over the period 2020 to 2024 and a high-level summary of work, which, as noted in the review, is elaborated upon in an annual programme of work developed by Iarnród Éireann.

In addition to the IMMAC programme, I would note that last year’s July Stimulus provided €18m toward track improvement works and that was further supported by an additional allocation of €25m in Budget 2021, these additional allocations were largely directed toward works on the Dublin – Cork line.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility regarding the specific issues raised, 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.

Taxi Regulations

Questions (119)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

119. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport the reason the National Transport Authority taxi model report database is not regularly updated (details supplied); if this database will be updated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6503/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

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

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

Motor Tax

Questions (120)

Bríd Smith

Question:

120. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport his plans to lower the cost of road tax in 2021 given the reduction in car and road usage during the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of restrictions on unnecessary travel to work and leisure and intercounty travel; if his attention has been drawn to the refunds made by motor insurance companies to reflect this; if he will make similar road tax adjustments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6504/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Motor tax is payable if a vehicle is being used in a public place.

I understand that refunds of a proportion of motor insurance paid last year were given on the basis of reduced risk due to a reduction in the number of vehicles on the road given the restrictions put in place due to Covid. Motor tax is not linked to the level of use on the road, rather it accrues to the Exchequer as an excise duty. Motor tax receipts are a significant contributor to Exchequer finances and form part of the means in ensuring that Covid-19 supports can continue in the short-term, in helping the re-building of the economy in the medium term, and in ensuring the ongoing provision of public services. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that the Government has, over the course of the last year, channelled significant Exchequer resources towards an extensive range of supports for Covid-impacted businesses including rates waivers, re-start grants, lending facilities, equity injection, business advisory supports, and supports for sectors particularly affected by Covid, such as the recent introduction of the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme. In terms of social protections, supports include the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes.

Changes to the rates and banding structures for motor tax take place in a Budgetary context. You may be aware that changes to some rates and to the banding structure for new cars were announced in Budget 2021 and recently legislated for in the Finance Act 2020. There are no plans to amend motor tax legislation further at the present time.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (121)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

121. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an organisation (details supplied) has decided not to proceed with the next transport management CPC examination scheduled for 31 March 2021 despite the fact that a full online course is available; the way in which he plans to address this matter given the fact that course participants are being prevented from advancing their careers, improving compliance and creating further employment as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6515/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

My Department has been in communication with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in view of the potential difficulties arising for candidates arising from their proposed cancellation of the Transport Management CPC examination on March 31, and we have received confirmation from the Institute that the examination will now be held on that date as an exceptional measure for 2021.