Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Questions (141, 142)

Bernard Durkan


141. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the improvement, extension and upgrade of rural transport networks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10296/21]

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Bernard Durkan


142. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the provision of extra requested bus services in towns and villages throughout County Kildare in which no such service exists at present; the extent to which his Department has analysed the situation and can respond positively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10297/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 142 together.

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

From a policy perspective, there is a need for a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland and the Programme for Government, 'Our Shared Future', commits to making public transport and active travel better and more accessible.

The Deputy will probably be aware that my Department has already been undertaking a review of sustainable mobility policy, which incorporates a review of public transport in rural areas. In this context the Department held a public consultation process between November 2019 and February 2020, and included a stakeholder event in the course of that consultation. Over 250 submissions were received as part of this public consultation process and I published a report of the public consultation.

I intend to develop a new policy framework for the next 10 years that can provide a strategic backdrop to the increased investment planned by this Government across the sustainable mobility programme. The new policy statement will be informed by the review of the previous policy framework (known as Smarter Travel), submissions received during my Department's consultation process and the views and recommendations of other relevant stakeholders. It will provide a platform to advance the ambitions of the Programme for Government in the area of sustainable mobility, including active travel, and will replace the previous Smarter Travel policy, dating from 2009.

Our Programme for Government commitments in relation to public transport in rural areas will be progressed in the context of that new policy statement. Among the measures we will prioritise is a Sustainable Rural Mobility Plan to ensure settlements over a certain size can connect to the national public transport system, expanding the Local Link rural transport service and prioritising public transport projects that enhance regional and rural connectivity.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has responsibility for local and rural transport, including the management of Local Link services.

The NTA has undertaken a nationwide study to inform its approach to rolling out improved public transport across the country (excluding the GDA, Regional Cities and Large Towns) by providing better connections between villages and towns by linking them with an enhanced regional network connecting cities and regional centres nationwide.

Arising from this study, I am advised that the NTA is undertaking a two-phase consultation on its proposals, titled 'Connecting Ireland'; which began with local authority officials and other key stakeholders on the main concepts of Connecting Ireland, and will be followed by a wider public consultation in Q2 2021 on the proposals.

I have referred the Deputy's specific question in relation to improvements to rural transport in County Kildare to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you have not received a reply within ten days.

Questions Nos. 143 and 144 answered with Question No. 119.