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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 95-107

Rail Network

Questions (95)

Steven Matthews


95. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposed development of the Luas to Bray, County Wicklow; the next steps required to progress this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53497/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is no doubt aware the recently published National Development Plan indicates that the forthcoming Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) will set out additional proposals for the development of future Luas lines to better connect communities and enable transport-led development.

I can inform the Deputy that the National Transport Authority (NTA) will very shortly publish a revised Strategy for public consultation. As part of that, the NTA will also publish a range of background analyses, including one related to Bray and its surrounding area. I am informed that a proposal for a Luas line to Bray will be recommended by the revised Strategy.

As the Deputy is aware the Strategy has a statutory basis and must be reflected in relevant land-use plans for the GDA. It is a requirement of the legislation that the Strategy be reviewed every six years and that is why it is currently under review.

The Strategy will address the future requirements for public transport in the GDA, including the requirement for Luas, both in terms of meeting the capacity requirements on existing lines, as well as the need for new Luas corridors.

In terms of process, the revised Strategy will be published shortly with a six-week period open for people to make their views known. Following the conclusion of the consultation process, the NTA will review and assess all of the submissions and once finalized, the Strategy will be submitted for Ministerial approval in accordance with the legislative requirements.

I would note that inclusion in any revised Strategy is the first step in what is a very detailed and often lengthy process to enable projects move from the strategic support, enabled by inclusion in a Transport Strategy, to being a project with a Preliminary Business Case seeking approval to enter the statutory planning process.

Consumer Rights

Question No. 97 answered orally.

Questions (96)

Pauline Tully


96. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Transport his plans to make a submission to the EU regarding the review of regulation 1107/2006 and regulation 261/2004 on air passenger rights specifically in terms of changes to the classification of mobility equipment and assistive devices for persons with a disability when travelling by air and the level of compensation that they are entitled to for damaged equipment as this is currently limited to approximately €1,400; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53705/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The rights of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility when availing of air transport services are set out in EU Regulation 1107 of 2006. This Regulation is one of a number of interlinked legislative measures at EU level in support of air passenger rights. These measures include Regulation 261 of 2004 which establishes common rules on compensation for air passengers, and Regulation 2027 of 1997 which brings EU law into line with the Montreal Convention on air carriers liability in respect of damage to baggage, including damage to special equipment such as mobility equipment.

The EU Commission and Member States including Ireland are supportive of making the necessary revisions to both Regulation 261 of 2004 and Regulation 2027 of 1997 to make them fit for purpose in terms of the current civil aviation market. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought consumer protection into sharp focus. There are lessons to be learnt to ensure that these regulations preserve the rights of consumers whilst being workable for the aviation sector both in times of normal operating conditions as well as in times of crisis. I therefore welcome the EU Commission's announcement that its work programme for 2022 includes recommencement of work on revision of both of these regulations.

Prior to the postponement of work on revision of these regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there had been general agreement at the Aviation Working Party on the EU Commission’s proposals to provide that the liability of air carriers with regard to mobility equipment should be increased to the actual value of the equipment. The Commission’s proposal is, in conformity with the Montreal Convention, to compel air carriers to automatically offer the option to make a special declaration of interest laid out within the Convention in relation to any specialised mobility equipment. Ireland is supportive of this approach. My Department will be an active participant at EU Council level when the negotiations recommence.

Question No. 97 answered orally.

Antisocial Behaviour

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 98.

Questions (98, 99)

Darren O'Rourke


98. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking to tackle serious antisocial behaviour, violence and threats made towards Irish Rail employees on trains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53692/21]

View answer

Neale Richmond


99. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Transport the steps he has taken to ensure passengers and drivers are safe on public transport from antisocial behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53482/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.

I would like to thank the Deputies for their questions and the opportunity to further discuss the very serious issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport systems.

As I outlined earlier to Deputy O’Rourke in response to a priority question, anti-social behaviour is a broad societal issue that we are currently facing to which public transport is not immune, and I recognise that those who work daily on board our trains, buses, trams, and in stations are most directly impacted by incidents which occur.

While it should be noted that the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am of course concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to protect the safety of all passengers and staff.

The safety and security of both public transport passengers and staff, including arrangements to deal with anti-social behaviour, are important matters that, first and foremost, must be managed by every public transport company, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, where appropriate. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is also engaged with public transport operators regarding the issue of anti-social behaviour.

My Department has been engaging regularly with the NTA and the three CIÉ companies, on the issue of anti-social behaviour and in relation to the putting of measures in place to ensure the safety of passengers and staff.

As I previously mentioned, both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have reported that the level of anti-social behaviour is relatively low on their services, which is positive.

Iarnród Éireann have advised that they have been working extensively with employees and trade unions, with An Garda Síochána, and their private security personnel to ensure they both proactively put in place measures to address anti-social behaviour, and respond to specific incidents, to ensure as safe a travelling and working environment as possible.

An Garda Síochána has also provided specialist teams to support these operations including the use of the Garda Dog Unit for both high visibility public order patrols and the use of drug detector dogs when the rail network was being used to avoid the increase in Garda road policing checkpoints, particularly in the south and south-west of the country. A number of significant detections have been made where suspects attempted to use the rail network for the transportation of illicit substances.

,An Garda Síochána have also established regional quick response hubs at Portlaoise and Thurles to support our intercity services in order to address incidents of antisocial behaviour on-board our services and this has had a significant impact in reducing ASB and increasing compliance.

Iarnród Éireann also issue non-statutory prohibition orders to persistent offenders that pose a threat to both customers and staff members alike for criminal behaviour and ASB. These such orders have been served on persistent offenders to refuse them the use of Iarnród Éireann services until their behaviour improves. This has been a very effective approach in overall reduction of risk.

There have been several examples of joint operations with An Garda Síochána (AGS) & Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) targeting anti-social behaviour in stations and onboard with various checks with AGS at a range of stations. Irish Rail have also begun a programme to highlight risks of trespass including social media material targeted at younger people, and continue to monitor such issues and actions to prevent further incidents.

Further, as part of Iarnród Éireann’s 2021-2023 Security Strategy, the company has a range of measures in place to counteract and proactively prevent anti-social behaviour, such as;

- An Increase in security resources with up to 20 security teams operating daily on-board and in stations (spend on security has increased from €3.7 million to €5.2 million pa since 2016)

- Fleet-wide CCTV resources, including cab monitoring functionality on DART, InterCity Railcars

- DART text alert line established for discrete reporting of ASB incidents

- Several proactive Garda / IÉ operations for specific events, such as the mid-term and Halloween season, northside beaches in summer, concerts / sporting events

- Customer Service Officer role expansion on Intercity ensures point of contact for customers to raise issues, and to escalate to Central Control / Gardaí

- School visits and videos on safety and trespass in urban areas

- Respect, anti-racism and CCTV awareness campaigns undertaken

The measures in place and those planned are yielding and will continue to yield results, however this is an issue which will require continuing joint action. Iarnród Éireann have stated that they want to continue working with their employees and trade unions to address the scourge of anti-social behaviour and that disrupting, through industrial action, the overwhelming majority of customers who are law-abiding and rely on our services daily, will not achieve this.

As Minister of State for Transport, I will continue to work collectively with all stakeholders to ensure the safest possible travel environment for members of the public, and safest possible working environment for the employees providing our valuable public transport services.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 98.

Public Transport

Questions (100, 151)

Matt Carthy


100. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Transport the public transport consultation opportunities that will be provided by the all-island strategic rail review; and the capacity of the review to examine new rail infrastructure projects. [52456/21]

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James Lawless


151. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Transport the progress of the Strategic Rail Review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53687/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 151 together.

As the Deputies are aware, my Department, in co-operation with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, is undertaking a Strategic Rail Review. This Review, which Arup consultants have been appointed to undertake, will inform the development of inter-urban and inter-regional rail on the Island of Ireland over the coming decades. Following the appointment of Arup, work on the Review commenced in September with a view to completion in Q4 2022.

Included in the scope of the Review is a consultation process. This will allow for interested stakeholders and public alike to engage with and have their say in the Review. I understand the consultation process is planned to be launched before the end of the year and I would encourage all interested parties to participate in the consultation once the process is launched.

The Strategic Rail Review will review the rail network with regard to the following ambitions: improving sustainable connectivity between the major cities (including the potential for high-/higher speed), enhancing regional accessibility, supporting balanced regional development and considering rail connectivity to our international gateways - sea and air ports, which will include examining the role of rail freight.

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 decades ahead.

Bus Services

Questions (101)

Bríd Smith


101. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport if the NTA imposes different criteria on a company (details supplied) against Dublin Bus in relation to the meeting of performance targets in the provision of bus services in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53674/21]

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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. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has entered into separate public transport service contracts with Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland for the provision of bus services in the Dublin area. Each of these contracts includes key performance indicators (KPI) for areas such as punctuality, reliability, service quality and fare evasion. Where an operator does not meet minimum performance standards relating to any given KPI, a deduction is made from their operating payment. For some KPIs (e.g. punctuality), an incentive payment is paid when the minimum performance standard is exceeded.

I am advised by the NTA that it imposes similar criteria in the contracts with Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead in relation to passenger service quality and scheduled kilometres operated. In the case of punctuality, the current Dublin Bus contract specifies route specific standards, taking into account factors such as the length of the route and the traffic conditions along the route. In the case of the Go-Ahead contract, which commenced prior to the current Dublin Bus contract, a single network wide punctuality standard applies. The NTA has stated that this standard is in general the same or higher than the route specific standards which apply to Dublin Bus.

Regional Airports

Questions (102)

Rose Conway-Walsh


102. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Transport the steps that are being taken to ensure the recovery of the Ireland West Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53695/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

A new Regional Airports Programme (RAP) for the period 2021 to 2025 was published on 4 February 2021. This Programme will continue to support Ireland’s smallest airports, including Ireland West Airport, that operate scheduled services and handle fewer than 1 million annual passengers. Capital supports under this Programme are targeted at grant-aiding investments in safety and security enhancements and also to assist the regional airports in ensuring they comply with international regulatory requirements in these areas. Funding will also support sustainability objectives, enabling these airports to identify and implement climate related efficiencies and build resilience against the likely impacts of climate change.

Funding of €21m is available under the RAP this year to support our smaller regional airports (Ireland West, Donegal and Kerry) and the PSO air service. €10m in capital funding is available, with €2.2m allocated to Ireland West Airport to date this year. €3.9m in operational supports is also available under the Programme this year with formal assessment currently underway for this funding. Subject to available resources, up to 100% of operating costs associated with providing essential, non-economic services in the areas of safety and security will be funded.

Additional capital project proposals with a sustainability focus, including submissions by Ireland West Airport, are also currently being evaluated for RAP funding in 2021. A decision in relation to these projects is expected to be announced shortly.

A further €6m was made available in 2021 under State aid approved schemes to help airports mitigate the effects of COVID. Almost half of this amount, which relates to losses in 2020, was allocated in July, with €1.9m allocated to Ireland West Airport. The remaining €3m will be disbursed in December following an assessment by the Department of eligible losses to end 2021.

Government has announced Exchequer funding of €36m for the Programme in 2022 to support regional airports and PSO Air services. This funding will continue to support Ireland West Airport, as well as the airports of Shannon, Cork, Donegal and Kerry, in 2022. In a substantial increase in funding available next year, airports will receive €26m in support for safety and security related current expenditure and PSO air services. €10m in capital funding will also be provided.

I can assure the Deputy that Government is committed to supporting the regions and regional connectivity. The funding which has been made available to regional airports, including Ireland West Airport, is a clear indication of the importance Government attaches to the Airports being well positioned to weather the current crisis and for recovery and growth into the future.

Road Projects

Questions (103)

Aindrias Moynihan


103. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport the plans that are being considered for improvements to the N22 between Macroom to Ballincollig, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53641/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Minister for Transport has responsibility for overall policy and exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the management and improvement of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The N22 Macroom to Ballincollig improvement scheme was suspended in the period 2006-2009 due to funding constraints and it remains suspended. It has not been identified as a project for progression under the revised National Development Plan to 2030. Given the competing demands on funding, it is unlikely that TII will be in a position to progress this project in the near future. However, TII have informed me that they recently approved funding to Cork County Council for a surfacing contract on the N22 at Coolcour, east of Macroom. A contractor has been appointed by the local authority and I understand that works will be completed this year.

In addition, there are a number of major new road projects under construction in the Cork area which should help reduce traffic congestion, as follows.

N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom

The N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom project consists of the construction of a 22km dual carriageway from Ballyvourney to Macroom, comprising a bypass of Macroom Town and the villages of Ballyvourney and Ballymakeera, at an estimated cost of €280 million. Works are approximately midway through construction with the dual carriageway expected to open by 2024.

By reducing traffic volumes on the existing N22 by approximately 12,000 vehicles per day, this project will improve journey times and allow for safer and more reliable road journeys. With traffic redirected to the new bypass, existing roads may be developed to facilitate better cycling and walking routes in the town of Macroom.

M8/N40/N25 Dunkettle Interchange Upgrade

The Dunkettle Interchange is undergoing a major upgrade to a free-flowing junction at an estimated cost of €216 million. This will include a new interchange for local traffic movements. This upgrade will facilitate economic growth and result in improved journey times for road users and quality of life benefits for residents of Cork. It is expected the new interchange will be in operation by the end of 2024.

Airport Policy

Questions (104)

Violet-Anne Wynne


104. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Transport the funding Shannon Airport will have access to in the €126 million aviation package announced for Budget 2022; if it is being categorised as both a regional airport for the €36 million pool of funding and a State airport and will have access to the €90 million tranche; the breakdown of this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53630/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, on 12 October 2021 the Government announced a €126m aviation funding package. It is anticipated that €90m of this package will be provided to State airports (Dublin, Shannon and Cork) in 2021. While this funding remains subject to State Aid approval, the intention is to distribute the funding to the three State airports on a pro-rata basis based on 2019 passenger numbers. This same methodology was used for the €20m funding already provided to the State airports this year for the purposes of rebuilding connectivity.

Additional funding of €36m will be provided in 2022 to support regional airports and PSO Air services through the Regional Airports Programme (RAP). A new RAP for the period 2021 to 2025 was published on 4 February 2021. This Programme will continue to support Ireland’s smallest airports, those that operate scheduled services and handle fewer than 1 million annual passengers.

Due to reduced passenger numbers, as a direct result of COVID, both Shannon and Cork airports are eligible for supports under this Programme, along with Donegal, Ireland West and Kerry airports, in 2022. In a substantial increase in funding available in 2022, €26m will be available to support safety and security related current expenditure and the Donegal - Dublin PSO service. €10m will also be provided for capital expenditure targeted at projects which support sustainability objectives, enabling these airports to identify and implement climate related efficiencies and build resilience against the likely impacts of climate change. Capital expenditure will also be targeted at safety and security related projects.

Funding under the RAP is allocated to eligible airports annually following an assessment of project proposals submitted by airports at the start of each year. Airports, including Shannon Airport, will shortly be given the opportunity to submit their capital project proposals for consideration for funding in 2022. Invitations for current funding will issue to airports later in 2022 with funding allocations normally made by year's end.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (105)

Richard Boyd Barrett


105. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport when he will be reopening the grant scheme for taxi drivers wishing to purchase electric vehicles; the funding that will be made available for such a scheme; if the €9 million underspend from the recently closed scheme will be carried over; the additional funds that will be made available for same; the reason a threshold for the cost of an electric vehicle of under or above €60,000 appeared to apply to some extensions on the eligibility for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53655/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The aim of the Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme 2021 is to increase the uptake of fully electric SPSVs and zero-emission capable wheelchair accessible SPSVs. It is aimed at improving air quality in urban areas, together with influencing the uptake of zero emission passenger cars by improving general perception and awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles. The SPSV industry is regarded as a champion in the normalisation of electric vehicle use. The Scheme is funded by the Department and administered by NTA acting as agents of the Department with delegated authority and as the licensing authority for SPSVs.

€15m was allocated to support taxis to switch to electric. Over €8m has now been paid out to applicants under the scheme with the remaining funds committed in the form of provisional grant offers.

Per the Terms and Conditions of the eSPSV Grant Scheme 2021 the scheme may close if funding has reached capacity. The funds have reached capacity for 2021 and therefore the scheme closed as of 30th September 2021.

The Department has funded an eSPSV scheme in previous years and as part of the Budget 2022 it was announced that there will be a scheme available in 2022. The details of this scheme are under consideration and will be announced in due course.

In addition, per the Terms and Conditions of the eSPSV Grant Scheme 2021 any Grant Offer Letter issued to an applicant is valid until the earliest of three calendar months from the date of the Grant Offer Letter, the Scheme End date or 31 December 2021. The three calendar month period has been selected to allow reasonable time for vehicle delivery and completion of the vehicle licensing process.

However, any eSPSV which has an existing grant offer and was due to be delivered in 2021 but has met unforeseen delays due to semi-conductor shortage, may avail of an extension to 31st March 2022. This applies to an eSPSV of any value. Grant applicants should contact the NTA to arrange for this extension in relation to vehicles purchased and due for delivery in 2021.

The reference of a threshold for the cost of an electric vehicle of under €60,000 relates to the EV Purchase Grant Scheme administered by the SEAI for private car purchasers and not to the eSPSV scheme.

The allocation of funding to be carried forward into the next year is at the discretion for the Minister for PER, and I am engaging with him on this matter.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (106)

Cormac Devlin


106. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport his plans to expedite the electrification of Ireland’s private car fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53653/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Providing a sustainable, low-carbon transport system is a key priority of my Department. The Programme for Government commits to 7% average annual emissions reduction to 2030; and this is further reinforced through the implementation strategy set out in Climate Action Plan being published this week. Ultimately, the goal is for a zero-emission mobility system by 2050. Electrification will be key to achieving this objective in the transport sector.

Ireland has set an ambitious target of 936,000 EVs on our roads by 2030 that reflects the scale of the transformation needed to achieve its climate targets in the coming years. Under the National Development Plan €1bn has been allocated to specific carbon reduction measures, including vehicle electrification.

On foot of the Electric Vehicle Policy Pathway Report published in September, the Government will continue to provide a generous suite of EV supports until end 2022. In support of this, €100m has been allocated in 2022 to ensure the continued transition to electric vehicles. This is an almost doubling of the provision made available in 2021 and underpins the Government’s commitment to making electric vehicles accessible to all. This funding will continue to incentivise the switch to electric vehicles as well as enabling the expansion of a fast and rapid electric vehicle charging network to stay ahead of demand.

The full report of the EVPP Working Group is now available online.

Considerable progress has been made, as a result of the work of the Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce, to ensure that conditions and policies are in place to support citizens in making greener vehicle choices. As the Deputy will be aware, a comprehensive suite of measures is available to EV drivers, including purchase grants for private car owners and taxi drivers, VRT relief, reduced tolls, home charger grants, favourable motor and BIK tax rates, as well as a comprehensive charging network. These measures have collectively contributed to increased take up of EVs in Ireland in recent years, albeit from a low base, to over 45,000 now.

In the meantime, in order to support the transition to EVs, the EVPP Group recommended that:

- The generous suite of EV supports already in place in Ireland should be retained until at least end-2022. Additional measures to further incentivise EVs and/or disincentivise fossil fuelled vehicles will also be necessary. Cost-effective, targeted policy supports should continue to be developed and strengthened over the coming years; and

- An Office for Low Emission Vehicles should be established, as a matter of priority, to co-ordinate the implementation of existing and future EV measures and infrastructure. The new Office should also take charge of developing and launching an extensive communication and engagement campaign, whole of Government in coverage, to drive the availability and understanding of key information regarding EVs, tailored to household, business and public sector consumers.

In support of EV adoption, a National EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy is in development which will seek to prioritise the delivery of fast and rapid charge point infrastructure over the next 5 years. Having an effective and reliable recharging network is essential to enabling drivers to choose electric. Charging at home is the most convenient and cheapest way to recharge. Targeting the installation of smart home chargers is a priority as we look to moving towards more energy efficient and sustainable ways to charge.

There is also a need for a seamless public charging network that will provide for situations or instances where home charging is not possible such as on-street and residential charging, destination charging, and workplace charging.

Overall, both for me and my Department, the expedition of electric vehicles take up is a key priority. To this end, electric vehicle policy and expenditure is kept under continuous review to endeavour to make low emission vehicles a realistic option for individuals purchasing a vehicle.

Public Transport

Questions (107)

Fergus O'Dowd


107. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his plans to make public transport more affordable and accessible for other age groups particularly in view of changed travel patterns including the introduction of a three day commuter ticket option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53494/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport, nor decisions on fares.

Following the establishment of the National Transport Authority (NTA) in December 2009, the NTA has responsibility for the regulation of fares charged to passengers in respect of public transport services, provided under public service obligation (PSO) contracts.

In relation to the possible introduction of alternative tax saver commuter ticket options following the Covid pandemic, the NTA is currently evaluating such a proposal and my Department has commenced discussions with the NTA and the Department of Finance on the matter. The NTA is proceeding with the detailed technical work associated with introduction of a more flexible Taxsaver product, whilst discussions with the Department of Finance continue.

In light of the NTA's responsibility in the matter raised by the Deputy, 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.