Sustainable Development Goals

Questions (5, 6, 7)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

5. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when a new national implementation plan on the sustainable development goals will be produced; when the associated national stakeholder forum process will be restarted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7560/21]

View answer

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

6. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the details of lead and stakeholder Departments for each of the sustainable development goals, as committed to in the national implementation plan on the sustainable development goals 2018-20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7561/21]

View answer

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

7. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of times and the dates on which the interdepartmental working group on the sustainable development goals has met in 2019, 2020 and 2021; the implementation plan actions and commitments addressed in each of the meetings of the interdepartmental working group in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7562/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, together.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a significant and ambitious policy agenda that concerns all Government Departments.

The first National Implementation Plan 2018-2020, published in 2018, set out Ireland’s strategy to achieve the SDGs. The complexity and interconnectedness of the SDGs requires continued and regular cross-government engagement to support effective and coherent implementation. To this end, a priority in developing the first SDG National Implementation Plan was establishing an effective governance structure that would oversee delivery of the 2030 Agenda from a whole-of-government perspective.  A Senior Officials’ Group on the SDGs was established, and is assisted by an SDG Interdepartmental Working Group, with both groups comprising representatives from all Government Departments. Ten meetings of the Interdepartmental Working Group have taken place to date, with six meetings in 2019 and four further meetings in 2020. Further details are set out in the table below.

An important element of the first Plan is the SDG Policy Map and SDG Matrix. The SDG Matrix details the lead and stakeholder Department for each of the SDGs and 169 targets. The SDG Policy Map identifies national sectoral policies against the 17 Goals and 169 related targets. Both are available as Annexes to the Plan at:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7cde9f-the-sustainable-development-goals-national-implementation-plan-2018-/.

The SDG Policy Map enhances the ability of stakeholders to track Ireland’s implementation of specific SDGs and associated targets, and to assess Ireland’s response to the SDGs for potential policy gaps. It also supports and enhances cross-Government engagement in implementing each of the Goals and targets.

Ensuring and improving policy coherence across the Goals is a critical feature and area for consideration in  developing  a revision of the National Implementation Plan. The SDG Policy Map is currently being revised and enhanced to facilitate further engagement and coherency. As part of this process, the lead and stakeholder Departments for each of the Goals and targets is also being reviewed. The enhanced SDG Policy Map will be a key feature of the new Plan.

A roadmap and timeline for completion of the new Plan is currently being finalised, with publication envisaged later this year. The SDG Stakeholder Forum will remain an important feature in the development of, and implementation of the next Plan.  Scheduling of the next Stakeholder Forum meeting will be informed by the finalised roadmap.

IDWG Meeting

SDG Implementation Plan Actions Discussed

10/01/2019

 

· SDG Stakeholder Forum

·Communications Strategy

· SDG Champions

· CSO Geohive SDG Platform

08/04/2019

 

· SDG Stakeholder Forum

· National SDG Champions

· UN High Level Political Forum in July and Head Of State SDG Summit

·SDG Communications Protocol

19/06/2019

 

·Communications Protocol

·UN HLPF

·SDG Stakeholder  Forum

16/08/2019

 

·SDG Stakeholder  Forum

·SDG Champions

·Communications Protocol

·UN Head of State SDG Summit

·CSO Geohive SDG Platform

10/10/2019

 

·SDG Stakeholder Forum

·Next National Implementation Plan

·Review of Actions

·SDG Champions

·SDG Working Groups

·Policy Coherence

11/12/2019

 

·SDG Stakeholder Forum

·Senior Officials Group

·Next National Implementation Plan

13/01/2020

 

·National Implementation Plan 2020

·UN High-Level Political Forum

·Stakeholder  Forum

16/06/2020

 

·UN High-Level Political Forum

·SDG Stakeholder  Forum 2020 

·SDG Champions Programme

23/07/2020

·UN High-Level Political Forum

·Stakeholder  Forum 2020 

·SDG Champions Programme

·Statements of Strategies – including SDGs

03/09/2020

·National Implementation Plan – Next steps

· SDG Stakeholder  Forum 2020 

Turf Cutting

Questions (8, 9)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

8. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the national clean air Strategy; if this strategy will contain a ban on the cutting, selling or burning of turf for domestic heating purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7605/21]

View answer

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

9. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the fact that many households, particularly in rural Ireland, still depend on burning turf as a heating source for their homes; if the cutting or burning of turf will not be prevented for domestic heating purposes in the absence of the State providing alternatives for these households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7606/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

My Department is currently working to finalise Ireland’s first National Clean Air Strategy which I intend to publish in the coming months. This will provide the strategic policy framework necessary to identify and promote the integrated measures and actions across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air. It will also describe the measures that will be taken to fulfil the Programme for Government commitment to move towards a nationwide residential solid fuel regulation.

The National Peatlands Strategy acknowledges that turf-cutting by citizens for their own domestic fuel needs is a traditional activity, and it is not the intention to end this practice. However, the provision of additional data from our enhanced National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme and Environmental Protection Agency funded research projects also indicates the extent to which solid fuels, such as peat and wet wood, contribute to localised high levels of particulate matter and other pollutants during the heating season.  

It is, therefore, appropriate that we consider a new approach to the broader regulation of all solid fuels, expanding our ambition with the objective of achieving greater reductions in air pollution levels.

The next step in this process will be a public consultation which will seek views in relation to the national application of the regulations currently applied to bituminous coal, as well as informing the development of appropriate regulatory controls for other residential solid fuels. This will be an opportunity for all parties - consumers, retailers, producers and industry - to consider the issues, input to the process at the earliest stage, and to consider alternatives as appropriate.

Ultimately in order to improve our air quality, we must reduce our reliance upon the burning of solid fossil fuels and assist households in transitioning to cleaner forms of domestic heating. This is being supported by an allocation of €221 million for home and community retrofitting provided for in Budget 2021. This 82% increase on the 2020 budget is being funded through carbon tax revenue and includes €109 million in additional supports for low income homes.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (10)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

10. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if representatives of the national broadband scheme will engage with a community group (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7657/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Question refers to premises located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led intervention.

I appreciate people's frustration when they are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is underway. 

I am advised by National Broadband Ireland that, as of 26 January 2021, over 166,000 premises across all counties have been surveyed. Further details for the Black Valley townlands of Derrycarna, Cloghernoosh, Dromluska, Cockow, Capparoe and Curraghmore are available through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans. NBI also has a dedicated email address, reps@nbi.ie, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 30 January, 260 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly accessible sites and the Department of Education for school BCPs. BCPs for County Kerry are installed at Gneeveguilla (Tureencahill), Cable Station, Saint Fiachna's Church, Railway Station Heritage Centre and Community Space, KilleenaghKillenagh, Kielduff Community Centre, Chapeltown and Cillín Liath. BCPs have been connected at Cable Sation, Kielduff Community Centre and Chapeltown. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/. I am advised that the BCP referred to in the Question that has been installed at Black Valley/Gap Of Dunloe National School is part of the BCP schools initiative and will have a fixed wireless connection for an internal school network without any external points of access. The BCP and schools connections that are being provided in advance of the national fibre network rollout, are dedicated connections to a single premises, that are in the main provided by a dedicated fixed wireless connection. 

Boheeshil National School and Coars National School have also been installed by NBI for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband, within the Intervention Area, for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was announced in December which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Further details are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Questions (11)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

11. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the hiring process by which he made the recent appointments to the CCAC. [7683/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Section 8 of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 established the Climate Change Advisory Council. In view of the statutory five-year term of the Council expiring; the need to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Council, including its intended mandate to propose carbon budgets under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill; and the need to ensure relevant deadlines relating to the development of carbon budgets as set out in the Bill are met,  I have made the following initial appointments as members of the new Climate Change Advisory Council:

- Ms. Marie Donnelly, Chairperson

- Professor John FitzGerald, Ordinary Member

- Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Ordinary Member

- Professor Peter Thorne, Ordinary Member

These appointments take into account the statutory requirements of the 2015 Act. I intend to appoint additional members shortly, taking account of the provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill. Further appointments will include experts in relation to biodiversity, just transition, sustainable transport, and climate communications, amongst other areas of experience.

The existing four ex-officio members of the Council, the Director General of the EPA, the Chief Executive Officer of SEAI, the Director of Teagasc, and the Director of the ESRI, will remain in place on the Council pending the passage of the Bill.

Bord na Móna

Questions (12)

Joe Flaherty

Question:

12. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if local stakeholders and local authorities will be given an opportunity to apply for possible sites for the proposed €10 million peatlands knowledge centre of excellence and visitor centre for the midlands region (details supplied). [7692/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I am informed by Bord na Móna that the objective of the Peatlands and People project is to engage people in Ireland and across the European Union with the benefits of peatlands restoration, in particular to realise the power of peatlands to effect positive climate action, and to contribute to the long-term successful implementation of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan. The project announcement follows, but is distinct to, the recent announcement by the Government of funding of €108 million to Bord na Móna for a major peatland rehabilitation initiative.

This project will be coordinated by Bord na Móna and will involve the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Environmental Protection Agency, National University of Ireland Galway and ERINN Innovation Ltd, with additional co-financing from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The project will work with peatlands in Ireland’s Midlands region and with communities in the region to deliver capacity and support related to a low-carbon economy.

The €10 million referred to is the EU LIFE grant support for the whole Peatlands and People project. The project comprises three pillars, a Peatlands Centre of Excellence, a Just Transition Accelerator and a People’s Discovery Attraction.

The Peatlands Centre of Excellence will see the restoration and rehabilitation of Irish peatlands, following best practice, as well as a virtual ‘knowledge centre.’ The knowledge centre envisages the development, management and transfer of knowledge relating to peatlands ecosystems, climate change mitigation and adaptation among the partners and wider stakeholder community.  There is no plan for this knowledge centre to be situated within a physical building.

The overall project will separately include site screening and selection for a permanent site of the envisaged People’s Discovery Centre. Any subsequent work to construct this centre will not be incorporated into this project and this would require significant additional funding which is yet to be identified.

Waste Management

Questions (13)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

13. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the work his Department is undertaking to co-operate with local authorities in the roll-out of segregated waste bins by the local authorities in cities, towns and villages in each county; the work ongoing to reduce the waste going to landfill from local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7710/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

While waste management planning, including with regard to infrastructure provision such as on-street public bins, is the responsibility of local authorities under Part II of the Waste Management Act, 1996 (as amended), the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy contains a commitment to examine how segregated waste and recycling bins using uniform labelling could be provided on street, at public events and festivals. In this regard, Dublin City Council are currently conducting a pilot on the use of segregated on-street bins.  When completed, this will provide valuable insights and help inform the ongoing engagement between my Department and the local authority sector on how best to deliver on this commitment nationally.

In addition, the Waste Action Plan contains a commitment to formalise the role of civic amenity sites and agree a standard list of waste streams to be accepted at such sites. In this regard the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices, with support from my Department, have recently  published a  National Review of Civic Amenity Sites, which is available online at http://www.southernwasteregion.ie/content/national-review-civic-amenity-sites. Discussions have commenced with the local authority sector on implementation of the report recommendations.  This will allow civic amenity sites to play a greater role in our transition to a more circular economy through measures such as coordinated education and awareness programmes, greater use of reuse schemes, standardising a list of waste streams accepted at such sites and collective approaches to extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, and will assist in continuing to reduce the amount of waste disposed of to landfills.

Energy Efficiency

Questions (14)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

14. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the work his Department is undertaking to prioritise homes for retrofitting and insulation upgrades that are in receipt of the fuel allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7711/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. This scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). To date over 142,000 homes have received free upgrades leaving them better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. To qualify for the scheme recipients must be in receipt of a qualifying welfare payments from the Department of Social Protection, one of which is the fuel allowance.

Funding for the SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased to over €109 million in 2021. This is an increase of €47 million on the 2020 allocation and means that almost half of the total SEAI residential and community retrofit budget will support people vulnerable to energy poverty.  This funding will mean that more households can receive free energy efficiency upgrades making their homes warmer, healthier and cheaper to run, in line with the Programme for Government. In addition to the increased budget, capacity by the industry to deliver more activity has also increased due to a new, broader contractor panel to provide works which commenced at the end of 2020. I also secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to allow it drive the various grant programmes that it operates, including the Warmer Homes Scheme, and to ensure that level of activity envisaged under the Programme for Government is delivered. My Department is also in regular contact with the SEAI at official level in relation to the operation of the Scheme.  Recommendations on the implementation of changes to the scheme to better target those most in need will also be finalised shortly.

Warmer Homes Scheme

Questions (15)

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

15. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of applicants awaiting the installation of SEAI warmer homes scheme upgrades by county; the national average waiting time in tabular form; the average waiting time for applicants in counties Limerick and Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7712/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty.

To date over 142,000 homes have received free upgrades under the scheme, leaving the occupants better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. There are currently over 7,800 homes awaiting works on the Warmer Homes Scheme work programme. This includes homes that are: currently undergoing works; have been allocated to contractors for works; have completed an initial home survey and are awaiting allocation to a contractor or are awaiting the initial survey of their home.

As indicated in the table below, there are currently 252 homes in Limerick and 283 homes in Tipperary on the Warmer Homes work programme. SEAI data indicates that for homes completed in 2020, a year which included COVID-19 restrictions, the average time from application to completion was approximately 18 months.  The information requested on wait times on a per county basis is not readily available. The scheme operates nationally on a first come first served basis.

The SEAI has advised me that the average wait time quoted above should only ever be used as a general guide and that wait times vary, based on the demand for the scheme at the time of application as well as other factors including the scale of works to be completed, access to the property, availability of materials and the weather.  The COVID-19 public health restrictions fully halted works under the programme for a time last year and again since January this year so are particularly relevant in that regard. 

It is important to note that funding for the SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased to over €109 million in 2021. This is an increase of €47 million on the 2020 allocation and means that almost half of the total SEAI residential and community retrofit budget will support people vulnerable to energy poverty.  This funding will mean that more households can receive free energy efficiency upgrades making their homes warmer, healthier and cheaper to run, in line with the Programme for Government.

In addition to the increased budget, capacity by the industry to deliver more activity has also increased due to a new, broader contractor panel to provide works which commenced at the end of 2020. I also secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to allow it drive the various grant programmes that it operates, including the Warmer Homes Scheme, and to ensure that level of activity envisaged under the Programme for Government is delivered. 

The table below shows a county by county breakdown of the national total work programme.

County

Count of County

Carlow

82

Cavan

95

Clare

143

Cork

743

Donegal

364

Dublin

2625

Galway

364

Kerry

222

Kildare

252

Kilkenny

97

Laois

84

Leitrim

89

Limerick

252

Longford

72

Louth

154

Mayo

375

Meath

251

Monaghan

69

Offaly

124

Roscommon

139

Sligo

122

Tipperary

283

Waterford

205

Westmeath

169

Wexford

271

Wicklow

231

Grand Total

7877

Climate Change Policy

Questions (16)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

16. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he plans to raise the borrowing limits of semi-State companies under his remit to permit higher borrowing for climate-focused investments; the proposals being examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7767/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

ESB's borrowings are governed by a Statutory Borrowing Limit, as set out in the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act, 1954. Following analysis by NewERA, the Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and I, it was agreed to introduce legislative amendments to increase ESB's Statutory Borrowing Limit to €12 billion. This will be brought into effect as part of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill.

ESB’s Statutory Borrowing Limit has only been increased twice since 1954, once in 1982 and again in 2004. The proposed increase is to ensure that ESB has access to the funds needed to allow the Group to help decarbonise the energy sector. ESB’s Strategy 2030, which is aligned with Government policy and sets out the Group’s ambition to lead the transition to low-carbon energy, requires a significant level of investment by the Group in its business, in particular in electricity network assets and renewable generation assets. 

Bord na Móna have also submitted a proposal to increase their Statutory Borrowing Limit as set out in the Turf Development Act 1998. This proposal is currently being examined.

I expect all commercial state bodies to contribute  to achieving the emissions reductions targets set out on the Programme for Government. This issue will be examined as part of the update of the Climate Action Plan which is currently underway.

Telecommunications Services

Questions (17)

Gary Gannon

Question:

17. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to support Wi-Fi access for students without access while school buildings are closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7796/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Providing telecommunication services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator.

I recognise how vital telecommunications services are to citizens for so many aspects of their daily lives, including remote working, studying and staying in touch with family members during the Covid-19 crisis. In April of last year, all major telecommunications providers in Ireland committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, a number of operators have implemented further supports for consumers, such as for students in education, who require a high data usage package, by increasing data limits on many existing packages and by the introduction of new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings. As a result, the market for mobile packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, is becoming increasingly competitive, which is a positive development for consumers.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (18)

Noel Grealish

Question:

18. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if a detailed map and timeline for the roll-out of the national broadband scheme will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7836/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the areas which will be included in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention as well as areas targeted by commercial operators. The map is colour coded and searchable by address and Eircode.

- Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high speed broadband through the State led Intervention to be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract signed in November 2019.

- The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. For this purpose, the Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload.

The deployment plan forecasts construction commenced in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

Further details are available on specific areas through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans. NBI also has a dedicated email address, reps@nbi.ie, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.

National Development Plan

Questions (19)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

19. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport if new environmental criteria are to be applied to existing or new transport projects as part of the review of the national development plan; if so, if he will outline the new criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7607/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The review of the National Development Plan (NDP) - which is being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with input from all Departments involved in capital development - is intended to take account of evolving conditions since the present NDP was published in 2018, and to strengthen alignment of the next NDP with the National Planning Framework and the Climate Action Plan. The review is considering impacts arising from the formation of a new Government, the outcome of Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and represents an opportunity to revise and update cost estimates.

Work is currently underway on phase 1 to form part of the evidence base for the revised NDP and which is addressing the key impact of sectoral strategies. For transport, a key input here is our revised sectoral strategy for investment, which is nearing completion and will replace the 2016 Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport (SFILT). This is intended to ensure that investment in transport is aligned with and supports overarching Government policy, including the spatial strategy for the coming decades - as established by the National Planning Framework and articulated by the 10 National Strategic Outcomes - and our increased national ambition around combatting climate change as committed to in the Programme for Government.

The draft investment framework sets four priorities for future transport investment, and projects will need to align with one or more of these priorities if they are to be considered for funding. These priorities are: (1) Decarbonisation; (2) Protection and Renewal; (3) Mobility of People and Goods in Urban Areas; and, (4) Enhanced Regional and Rural Connectivity. Furthermore, the proposed investment framework establishes modal and intervention hierarchies to guide investment; these hierarchies seek to ensure that project sponsors deploy the most environmentally sustainable solution to a given transport issue and that investment is proportional to the issue at hand. Where projects under consideration propose solutions that are ostensibly less aligned with these hierarchies, they must demonstrate that solutions from further up the hierarchies are unsuitable or not feasible.

I have approved the draft investment framework for public consultation. The framework is sufficiently advanced that my Department and its agencies are applying the investment priorities and hierarchies to support and inform our consideration and prioritisation of investment as part of the NDP Review. This means that planned and prospective investment is being considered through the same lens at a high level and in a standardised way, including in respect of its contribution to decarbonisation of the transport system.

Road Safety Authority

Questions (20)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

20. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 134 of 27 January 2021, the number of tenders submitted for both contracts (details supplied). [7718/21]

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.

Programme for Government

Questions (21, 38)

Patrick Costello

Question:

21. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Transport the actions that have been taken to carry through on the commitment in the programme for Government that each local authority will be mandated to carry out an assessment of its road network to examine the reallocation of space for pedestrians and cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7465/21]

View answer

Cathal Crowe

Question:

38. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider making funding available to local authorities in order that they can recruit active and sustainable travel officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7703/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 38 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future sets out an ambitious range of commitments in relation to active travel as part of our shared desire to fundamentally change the nature of transport in Ireland.

I am pleased to say that good progress has been made against most of these commitments since the formation of the Government last summer and I am keen to ensure that this progress is maintained in the coming years.

In relation to the specific commitments referred to by the Deputies there are a number of positive steps undertaken or underway in relation to it. Last summer guidance issued to all local authorities in relation to improving the allocation of road-space in urban centres – be they villages, towns or cities – as part of the response to the COVID-19 but also seeking to ensure a multi-disciplinary approach to street design and the promotion of the principles of universal design.

That guidance was in turn supported by financial supports made available by my Department to local authorities under Government’s July Stimulus and the benefits of schemes rolled out under that Stimulus can already be seen in many areas across the country.

As part of Budget 2021 significant additional financial supports have been made available to support active travel and as part of those supports a new Active Travel Fund was announced toward the end of last year. This funding is being used to develop a new stream of funding support for those local authorities outside of the main cities and the announcement stipulated the type of projects envisaged under the Fund, and included the development of active travel strategies in areas where none exist, as well as other potential projects for actual construction.

Finally, another important strand of this overall commitment was the announcement a few weeks ago in relation to establishing and resourcing active travel teams in local authorities across the country. The Deputies will, I am sure, acknowledge that the lack of sufficient resources within local authorities to oversee and deliver the design and roll-out of new infrastructure has been a real constraint in recent years, so I was particularly pleased to see progress made on this front.

As the Deputies can see from the above, there are a range of complementary measures underway which collectively will ensure that Government’s ambition in this area of active travel is realised in the years ahead.

Bus Éireann

Questions (22, 23)

Neale Richmond

Question:

22. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport if he has engaged with Bus Éireann following its decision to end discounted travel rates for passengers with epilepsy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7467/21]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

23. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the decision by Bus Éireann to end discounted travel rates for passengers with epilepsy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7468/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 23 together.

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 regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services. I have not engaged with either the NTA or Bus Éireann in relation to this matter.

I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's questions to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Bus Services

Questions (24)

Martin Browne

Question:

24. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 81 of 3 February 2021, the details of the increase in frequency of services in County Tipperary; the additional services that will be provided; when these services will become available; the basis on which the decisions to provide these services were made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7473/21]

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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. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Bus Services

Questions (25)

Martin Browne

Question:

25. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport his plans to provide a further extension of temporary emergency support for the commercial bus sector via the commercial bus operator direct award contract, which includes Expressway services once the current three-month extension expires; and his views on the importance of this funding for the continuation of the X8 Expressway service for County Tipperary. [7474/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The position remains as outlined in my response to the Deputy on the 3rd February 2021 - PQ 5016/21.

On 26 January 2021, Government agreed to extend the temporary funding supports for the licensed bus sector for a further period of 3 months, with an option to extend contracts on a monthly basis thereafter. I very much welcome the extension of these supports which are in addition to the suite of other financial support measures that the Government has introduced including the pandemic unemployment payment and the CRSS.

Concerning the X8 Cork/Dublin Route operated by Bus Éireann as part of its commercial Expressway business - no cessation date has been confirmed by the company for this route and it continues to operate with the Government's temporary funding supports, albeit at a reduced service-level in line with the reduction in demand. The NTA are currently undertaking an examination of the route corridor to ensure there are no gaps in the network, and to assess if there would be a need to provide any additional services when the Expressway service ceases. I am assured that this will be done prior to these services ceasing operation.