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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 108-122

Public Transport

Questions (108, 122)

James O'Connor

Question:

108. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider making provision for free travel pass holders to guarantee them seats on Expressway and Intercity services especially for those persons who are not computer literate and would not be able to pre-book their seats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53660/21]

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James O'Connor

Question:

122. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Transport his views on the requirement of free travel pass holders to pre-book their seats for Expressway and Intercity services for those persons who are not computer literate.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53661/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 122 together.

As Minister for Transport, I am responsible for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in day-to-day operational matters. The Free Travel Scheme is a non-statutory scheme administered by the Department of Social Protection.

The query raised appears to relate to Bus Éireann's commercial service, Expressway, and intercity rail services operated by Irish Rail.

In view of the above, I have forwarded the Deputy's question to both companies for direct reply.

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

Road Projects

Questions (109)

Michael Collins

Question:

109. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Transport if he will increase funding for roads in west County Cork in 2022 to bring the area in line with other counties that have received funding ahead of the county for many years (details supplied). [45919/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Once funding arrangements have been put in place with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code and necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise on the current status and funding of proposed national road projects in west County Cork.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question, on this occasion, to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Regarding the R586, 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 Exchequer road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

The major cuts to funding for regional and local roads during the post 2008 recession resulted in the build-up of a substantial backlog of works across the country. As the length of the regional and road network in Cork is about 12% of the total, the Cork County share of the estimated backlog would be over €600 million.

Because of the pressures on the regional and local road network, over 90% of available Exchequer grant assistance to local authorities is being directed to protection and renewal works rather than roads upgrades.

Under the NDP there has been significant increases in grant support to local authorities in recent years. In this context Cork County Council has been allocated €68.5 million in grant funding this year. As grant funding for the maintenance of regional and local roads is allocated to local authorities on a pro-rata basis, determined mainly by the length of the regional and local road network in the county, the fact that Cork County Council has the longest road network is reflected in its grant.

As regards the R586, Cork County Council received an allocation of €325,000 this year under the Specific Improvement Grant Programme to progress the road re-alignment at Ilen Bridge on the R586. The drawdown of funds for a project in any particular year as well as implementation of the scheme is the responsibility of the Council.

Any projects proposed by local authorities for consideration under the Specific/Strategic Grant Programmes are assessed by the Department on a case-by-case basis. All projects put forward by local authorities for consideration must comply with the requirements of the Public Spending Code and the Department's Capital Appraisal Framework (CAF). Given the limited funding available for road improvement works it is important for local authorities to prioritise projects within their overall area of responsibility with these requirements in mind. Any projects put forward for consideration are assessed taking competing projects and available budgets into account. The Department has not received any further applications from Cork County Council for additional specific improvement works on the R586.

It should be noted that Exchequer funding for regional and local roads is intended to supplement realistic contributions from local authorities’ own resources. As the statutory road authorities for their areas, it is open to local authorities to reprioritise investment towards regional and local roads.

Rail Network

Questions (110, 147, 152, 234, 236, 240, 241)

Steven Matthews

Question:

110. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposed development of the DART to Wicklow town; the next steps required to progress this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53496/21]

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Cormac Devlin

Question:

147. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made towards the preparation of a railway order for DART+ fleet and DART+ coastal south; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53652/21]

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James Lawless

Question:

152. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made towards the preparation of a railway order for DART+ south west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53688/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

234. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date towards the extension of DART services to Maynooth, County Kildare and further afield in north County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53902/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which the relevant authority is willing to accept the concerns expressed at various stakeholder discussions with the public and public representatives with particular reference to the need to avail of the opportunity to extend electric rail services beyond Maynooth to Kilcock in addition to Hazelhatch and Sallins, County Kildare thereby investing for the future transport needs of the north County Kildare region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53904/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

240. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which it is anticipated the commuter rail network serving north County Kildare can be enhanced to meet the demand in the short to medium-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53908/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

241. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the preferred options for the upgrading of the rail network serving north County Kildare in the short to medium-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53909/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 147, 152, 234, 236, 240 and 241 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the Minister for Transport has responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including planning and implementation of the DART+ Programme.

The DART+ Programme is a cornerstone programme of projects for the development of rail in the Greater Dublin Area. The Programme comprises of DART fleet, as well as the DART+ West, DART+ South-West, DART+ Coastal (South) and DART+ Coastal (North) projects. Collectively these projects will extend and enhance the current DART system and services west to Maynooth and Celbridge/Hazelhatch, south to Greystones and north to Drogheda. The NTA in consultation with Iarnród Éireann is progressing the various projects which are at varying stages of planning and development.

I can confirm that my Department has received a Preliminary Business Case for the overall Programme and that PBC is under review as required by the Public Spending Code. With the required reviews almost complete, the PBC will presently be brought to Government for its approval as required under Decision Gate 1 under the Public Spending Code and, if approved, that will permit the purchase of additional DART fleet and will also permit the DART+ West project enter the statutory planning process, subject to the completion of the necessary planning and environmental documentation. It will also allow for further progression of the other elements of the Programme.

With regard to DART services beyond that planned, while further extensions may be considered in the future, these are outside of the current scope of the DART+ Programme. To avoid delaying the progression of the current proposals, it is considered that the type of further extension of DART service beyond Greystones, Maynooth and Hazelhatch would fall to be assessed and evaluated as potential follow-on projects at a later date.

As the Deputy may recall, in addition to the DART+ Fleet element which being hybrid battery-electric trains may allow for the introduction of DART services in advance of electrification of lines, Government's approval was previously announced for the NTA and Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the purchase of 41 additional InterCity Railcars. This additional stock, for which delivery is expected to commence in Q3 next year, will also allow for enhanced services across the GDA rail network when introduced into service in 2023.

Public Transport

Questions (111)

Duncan Smith

Question:

111. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the roll-out of 50% public transport fees for under-24s; if he plans to pilot this scheme; if not, if the scheme will be fully introduced nationwide; if the scheme will be accessible through all modes of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53214/21]

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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 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.

As part of Budget 2022, I secured €25m of funding to provide for the introduction of a youth travel card (YTC). The YTC will allow any person nationwide who is between 19 and 23 years old to avail of an entitlement for discounted travel costs and to increase the level of discount over and above the current student discount to an average of discount of 50% across all services, including city, intercity and rural services.

The NTA have commenced work in relation to the implementation of the new fares structures for young adults. I have therefore forwarded the Deputies questions to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Transport Policy

Questions (112)

Joe Carey

Question:

112. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his Department or agencies under its remit are examining or support research into the use of hydrogen as a fuel to meet transport needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53593/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Programme for Government sets out the need for research and development of hydrogen from renewable sources, known as ‘green hydrogen’, for use as a fuel for power generation, manufacturing, energy storage and transport.

A Hydrogen Interdepartmental Working Group led by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications was established to inform Ireland's future policies in relation to hydrogen - concerning policy, regulation, and potential future use. The next steps concerning policy development concerning green hydrogen will be set out within the broader frame of the Climate Action Plan, expected to be finalised in the coming week.

My Department continues to provide policy support for industry led initiatives focusing on hydrogen for future transport use, for example, the hard to abate heavy duty vehicles sector. This includes the Hydrogen Mobility Ireland (HMI) multi-stakeholder group and the Galway Green Hydrogen Hub (G2H2) group.

HMI was established in February 2019 with the aim of developing and then overseeing the implementation of a strategy to introduce the use of hydrogen for mobility between 2019 and 2030 and understanding the policies required for the hydrogen mobility market to grow in Ireland.

The G2H2 Consortium will investigate the feasibility of a green hydrogen hub for Galway and includes stakeholders from SSE and Greencoat Renewables, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) and the Port of Galway.

The evaluation of the Hydrogen bus trial by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in collaboration with Bus Éireann, involving three new hydrogen-fuel-cell-electric double-deck buses on commuter services in the Greater Dublin Area, will help to inform the future potential of this new technology within our public bus transport system.

The Alternatively Fuelled Heavy Duty Vehicle Purchase Grant Scheme, administered by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) this year, was also aimed at supporting take-up of such new technologies to decarbonise the heavy-duty freight sector.

However, the transport market demand for hydrogen infrastructure for transport fuelling remains to be established, whether for national land transport modes or for international shipping and aviation. This is being kept under review by my Department with regard to informing future national and international policy development concerning renewable fuel and fuelling infrastructure for transport.

Rail Network

Questions (113)

Martin Browne

Question:

113. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the frequent closure of the Ballybrophy railway line for track renewal works is damaging to public confidence in the reliability of services on the line; his further views on whether carrying out all of the remaining track renewal works on the Ballybrophy railway line in one go would be more beneficial for this reason; if he will discuss the possibility with Irish Rail; the impact that frequent closures of the line has for the reputation of the rail line and public confidence in it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53638/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the 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 and maintenance of public transport. services.

As the issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann, I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Bus Services

Questions (114)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

114. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Transport when proposals in relation to the camera based enforcement of bus lanes can expect to be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53633/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The use of CCTV to monitor bus lanes, during their hours of operation and otherwise, for traffic flow purposes is a matter for the local authorities in whose functional areas the bus lanes are located.

The Road Traffic Acts already provide for the use of cameras to aid enforcement. Under section 81 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, electronic apparatus, including cameras, may be used to provide evidence in relation to offences under a number of provisions of the Road Traffic Acts. Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 is one such provision, and traffic and parking regulations made under this section set out the requirements governing the use of bus lanes. Section 81 provides the power for cameras and other electronic apparatus to be used to provide evidence in relation to these offences.

Road Projects

Questions (115)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

115. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the status of the progression of phases 1 and 2 of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road. [53438/21]

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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.

As regards strategic road improvement projects, at present funding under the Regional and Local Road Grant Programme is focussed on the implementation of a number of the larger schemes identified in the original 2018-2027 National Development Plan (NDP), which are at or near construction. This includes the Coonagh to Knockalisheen Distributor Road (sometimes referred to locally as Phase 1 of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road) but the NDP does not include the construction of the proposed scheme which is referred to locally as Phase 2 of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road.

Construction of the Coonagh to Knockalisheen Distributor Road is currently underway and while implementation of the scheme is the responsibility of Limerick City and County Council the estimated project completion date is 2024.

Pension Provisions

Questions (116)

Bríd Smith

Question:

116. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport if he has signed the statutory instrument that gives effect to changes in the CIÉ regular wages scheme pension; the changes that will take effect retrospectively for workers who have retired since June 2020; when these were accepted by the workforce in CIÉ; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53672/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

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.

In relation to the RWS, CIÉ has prepared and submitted draft Statutory Instruments (SIs) to give effect to the proposed changes to the scheme. These changes involve significant amendments to the Scheme which are necessary in order to address the Minimum Funding Standard requirements under the Pensions Act. These changes have been agreed by the trustees of the schemes, the employees and the CIÉ Group following extensive and prolonged engagement between all parties.

There are a number of steps involved before an SI can be made, including the statutory consultation process. In this context, I would like to again reassure the Deputy that my Department, in consultation with advisors in NewERA, are working on the draft SIs as expeditiously as possible.

Rail Network

Questions (117)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

117. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made on the Luas extension to Lucan; the timeframe for the delivery of the Luas; and when communities along the chosen route will be consulted and informed of the plans. [53591/21]

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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.

As the Deputy is aware, the National Development Plan 2021 - 2030 confirms that appraisal and planning will continue in relation to Luas Lucan

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the light rail network.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Rail Network

Questions (118)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

118. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the full assessment report on the Navan rail line as part of the NTA updated transport strategy for the greater Dublin area; the reason for the delay in its publishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53689/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware the issue of a rail connection to Navan is being re-examined as part of the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) review of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area. The Strategy as we all know is a multi-modal, twenty year transport strategy for the region and one that must be reflected in relevant land-use strategies across the GDA.

As part of their overall review, the NTA has engaged external expertise to specifically re-examine the feasibility of a Navan Rail Line and provide an evidence based assessment of the proposals to inform the review of the overall Strategy.

I understand that the draft Strategy will be published next week along with all of the background papers that informed its development. The publication of the documentation by the NTA will coincide with the launch of a public consultation process on the revised Strategy and I would encourage all interested parties to participate in that consultation process.

Departmental Programmes

Questions (119)

Alan Dillon

Question:

119. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Transport the details of the funding allocated as part of Budget 2022 to the Safe Routes to School Programme; the projects that are progressing in County Mayo as part of round one; when further rounds are likely to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53569/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

In March, I was delighted to launch the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programme which will support Active Travel infrastructure for selected schools around the country. The programme aims to support walking, scooting and cycling to primary and post-primary schools and to create safer walking and cycling routes within communities. This will help alleviate congestion at school gates and increase the number of students who walk or cycle to school by providing the necessary infrastructure.

All schools were eligible to apply to the programme and information was circulated from the Departments of Education and Transport to schools nationwide. By the deadline of 16th April, 931 applications had been received from schools in every county in Ireland. 170 schools were notified on 21st June that they have been selected for inclusion in the first round of the SRTS Programme.

€15m has been allocated for projects at the 170 schools included in Round One. The subsequent schools will be engaged with on a rolling basis in each local authority. This money is being provided from the €1.8 billion funding earmarked in the Programme for Government to support sustainable transport. The required investment at each school will be dependent on the changes required in each particular case. The €15m budget covers a period longer than 2022 as most interventions at/near every applicable school will take time to implement and if they require planning may take a number of years to progress. The budget for cycle parking element of SRTS in 2022 will be €3m.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the 7 schools listed below in County Mayo are included in Round 1 of the Programme, as folllows:

- Brackloon NS, Brackloon, Westport

- St. Colman's College, Claremorris, Claremorris

- Cong NS, Nymphsfield, Cong

- Carn NS, Killeennashask, Garranard, Ballina

- Scoil Iosa, Convent Hill, Ballina

- Davitt College, Springfield, Castlebar

- Gaelscoil Raifteirí Faiche an Aonaigh, Castlebar

The schools selected were assessed against a range of criteria including school type, location and the school’s commitment to sustainable travel.

Schools that have applied this year which have not been included in the first round of funding will not be required to reapply as they will come into the programme on a rolling basis. Hence there are no plans for an additional call for schools to join the SRTS programme at this time.

Bus Services

Questions (120, 167)

Emer Higgins

Question:

120. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the status of the roll-out of BusConnects in Dublin. [53545/21]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

167. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Transport the progress on the implementation of the Dublin area BusConnects programme; if he will clarify the plans the NTA has to tender out for competitive tendering any of the routes designated in the BusConnects system or plans it has for future tendering of these routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53673/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 167 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 planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the BusConnects programme.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Bus Services

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 108.

Questions (121)

Brian Stanley

Question:

121. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport when approval and funding will be provided for the local bus service in Portlaoise town. [52541/21]

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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. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally, and for the allocation of associated funding to the relevant transport operators.

As part of Budget 2022, I secured c. €538m of funding for Public Service Obligation (PSO) and Local Link services provided by State operators and under contract by the NTA. This includes over €200m of COVID-19 emergency funding in 2022 to counter the continuing impacts of the pandemic on fare revenue across transport operators. Included in the overall funding, I secured almost €1m for new town services commencing with Carlow. The planning and implementation of new town services is a matter for the NTA.

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.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 108.
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