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Thursday, 16 Sep 2021

Written Answers Nos. 126-139

Driver Licences

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 106.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 89.

Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 83.

Questions (126)

Duncan Smith

Question:

126. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport if he will further extend the deadline for expiring learner driver permits due to the continuing effects on the service due to the pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43937/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Further extensions to the validity of learner permits are not being considered at this time.

The latest extension to the validity of learner permits, granted because of the difficulties in applying for and renewing a learner permit while services were unavailable under Covid 19 restrictions, was introduced on 24 June 2021. It applied to permits expiring between 1 March 2020 and 31 July 2021.

Following the easing of restrictions, NDLS centres are now open to all applicants and measures have been put in place to align with the Government's Return to Work Safely Protocols. In addition, the online application system is available to applicants with a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID account.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 106.
Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 89.
Question No. 129 answered with Question No. 83.

Public Transport

Questions (130)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

130. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 53 of 17 June 2021, his plans to commission a stand-alone feasibility study of light rail in Galway which would feed into the upcoming review of the Galway Transport Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43905/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy knows, I believe that a feasibility study for light rail in Galway would best be considered within the context of the review of the Galway Transport Strategy, which will commence next year, rather than a stand-alone study.  This will allow for a multi-modal perspective and integration within an overall land-use plan.  

The review of the Strategy will be led by the National Transport Authority in cooperation with Galway City Council and Galway County Council.  As with the current review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area, the review will include a comprehensive analysis of changes to population projections, development density, employment forecasts and future travel demand patterns since the finalisation of the current Strategy in 2016.  This analysis will be utilised to reassess the public transport needs across Galway city and the potential role all modes of transport, including light rail, can play in meeting those needs.

Public Transport

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 121.

Questions (131)

Duncan Smith

Question:

131. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport if he will commit to a study of the benefits of free public transport in his Department such as have taken place in Estonia and Luxembourg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43939/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

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

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services  and also has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of public transport services contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable.  The funding of those services comprises both the fares paid by passengers and the subvention payments from the Exchequer.  The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between income from fares and the cost of operating services.

The provision of public transport services nationally is heavily dependent on passenger fare revenue as it normally contributes about 65% of the operational cost.  The remaining 35% of cost is covered by the PSO grant and the Department of Social Protection grant under the Free Travel Scheme.   In Budget 2020, and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a total of €304 million was provided for PSO and Local Link rural regular services.  Due to the impact of Covid-19, which resulted in the collapse of fare revenue on public transport, a further €370 million was allocated to enable the continued operation of public transport services in 2020.  My primary focus is to ensure that public transport services continue to operate during this pandemic and I secured almost €659m for PSO services in 2021, of which €30m is to support the licensed bus sector.

In addition, the cost of providing the additional fleet, depots, drivers, etc. to meet the likely resultant substantial increase in passenger numbers if fares were reduced or eliminated would also have to be factored in.  Introducing free public transport for all users would require substantial additional funding by the taxpayer or from other sources.

Any assessment of a proposed change to public transport fare structures would be a matter for the NTA to consider in the first instance. I have therefore 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.

Question No. 132 answered with Question No. 121.

National Development Plan

Questions (133)

Dara Calleary

Question:

133. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport the status of the preparation of the NDP review and the inclusion for a commitment on the development of the western rail corridor within that review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43218/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Discussions are ongoing in relation to finalising the National Development Plan (NDP) review and I understand there will be an announcement in that regard in the near future.

I think it is important to highlight the priorities which have shaped my approach to the NDP review and the outcomes that I want to see the revised NDP deliver.  I’d like the revised NDP to set the groundwork for the fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland as committed to in the Programme for Government.  I also want to see the NDP support the investment needed to support the objectives of the National Planning Framework, particularly in terms of enhanced regional accessibility, strengthened rural communities and compact growth in the five cities.  Finally, my view is that the NDP needs to set us on our way to reduce emissions in line with our 2030 and ultimately 2050 ‘net zero’ commitments. 

Our ability to deliver on those outcomes will be determined by the allocations we receive as part of the review, but my approach to the review has been framed by these considerations.

The Deputy knows I believe in the potential of rail infrastructure and services. I believe that potential is not currently realised.

That’s why I broadened the terms of reference of what was a proposed high-speed study between Belfast, Dublin and Cork, so that it is now an all-island Strategic Rail Review. This Review will be conducted in co-operation with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive and will examine all aspects of inter-urban and inter-regional rail.

It will set the type of strategic backdrop to rail investment in our regions and on our mainline network that the recent JASPERS Review of the Western Rail Corridor noted was lacking. We need this type of strategic analysis to inform our consideration of specific projects such as the Western Rail Corridor. I very much look forward to the completion of the Strategic Rail Review next year and implementing its recommendations in the coming years, supported by the new NDP.

Transport Policy

Questions (134)

Verona Murphy

Question:

134. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the proposals in place to address the personnel shortage in the HGV driving fraternity to ensure supply chains are not interrupted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43840/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I am very live to the growing problem of HGV driver shortages in the road haulage industry.  The dedicated work of these professional drivers during the pandemic kept our supply lines open, highlighting the importance of their work. 

At lot is already being done to help address the problem and in July I asked the National Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Group, which is chaired by my Department, to examine the issue and to make recommendations as a matter of urgency. All relevant Departments and agencies, as well as the haulage and logistics sector, are represented on the Group.  I expect to receive their report by the end of the month.

The HGV driver shortage issue is not confined to Ireland – it has been a growing issue across Europe and globally for a number of years. The pandemic and Brexit have had a huge impact across the labour market.

Among the issues being considered by the Skills Group and where action might help alleviate the driver shortage are:

- promoting the profession and the training available in order to increase the numbers qualifying as HGV drivers in Ireland,

- improving the profession as a fulfilling life long career,

- increasing the number of non-EU/EEA countries with which Ireland has entered into HGV driver licence exchange agreements, to allow drivers from these countries to apply for Irish employment permits,

- helping Irish employers to recruit drivers from overseas.

My Department is actively considering these issues with other relevant Departments and agencies and the industry itself through the  Skills Group and I look forward to receiving its report shortly.

Road Safety

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 123.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 87.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 123.

Questions (135)

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

135. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to carry out a review of the implementation of slow zones in accordance with Jake’s Law nationwide; if data has been collected on a county-by-county basis of county speed limit reviews; if there are plans to put in place a streamlined speed limit review process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43909/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities' own resources supplemented by State road grants, where applicable.  In the case of the Dublin local authorities,  these authorities largely self-finance their regional and local road maintenance and renewal grant programmes.

30 km/h and slow zone signs have been provided in 7,321 housing estates between 2015 and 2020 in local authority areas funded under my Department's Regional and Local Road Grant Programme at a cost of €5,623,840. Funding of €817,125 has been allocated by the Department for the installation of 30 km/h and slow zone signage in 2021.   

Under the Road Traffic Acts, the setting and managing of speed limits in accordance with speed limit guidelines is a matter for each local authority. Local authorities (in conjunction with TII in respect of national roads) are able to amend and set speed limits as appropriate and in accordance with the speed limit guidelines for different sections of the road network as required and adopt bye-laws under a reserved function. 

In an effort to further improve the setting of speed limits, the Road Safety Authority has been tasked with examining and reviewing the framework for the setting of speed limits including 30 km/h speed limit zones in keeping with the safe system approach being adopted by Ireland and other EU member states. In addition and in an effort to improve appropriate speed limits, my Department has developed a speed limit appeals process which would allow a formal procedure for individuals to appeal a specific speed limit to a Review Board where the speed limit is considered to be inappropriate.   This process is expected to be live in Q4 this year. 

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 123.
Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 87.
Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 123.

Bus Services

Questions (139)

Pauline Tully

Question:

139. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Transport his plans to extend the LocalLink service throughout County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44147/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

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

It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) which has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which operates under the TFI Local Link brand.  

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

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