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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 138-152

Road Traffic Accidents

Questions (138)

Holly Cairns

Question:

138. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport the actions he is taking to address serious and fatal road accidents at accident black spots. [53597/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is responsible, in conjunction with local authorities, for the national road network and undertakes extensive analysis and intervention to mitigate against unsafe areas on the network.

Local authorities are responsible for the maintenance and improvement of regional and locals within their area of responsibility while my Department provides financial and technical support, including an investment of €571 million this year.

Local authorities can apply under the Department's regional and local road grant programme for funding for safety works. €10 million approx. in grant support has been allocated this year for lower cost safety improvement works schemes on regional and local roads based on collision analysis with a view to addressing potentially dangerous areas on the network. In addition, there is a significant number of higher cost safety schemes being funded under the Department's Specific Improvement grant programme.

When a fatality occurs or a serious injury likely to be fatal, An Garda Síochána and a local authority Engineer jointly complete an LA16 form to record any road deficiencies at the site of the crash which can then be rectified.

In addition, my Department has initiated work on collision analysis across the regional road network to identify areas of concern that will provide an order of priority for intervention.

As regards national roads, I have referred the question to Transport Infrastructure Ireland for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Budget 2022

Questions (139)

Alan Dillon

Question:

139. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Transport the details of the funding allocated as part of Budget 2022 to the Regional Airports Programme; if projects for Ireland West Airport Knock will be prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53568/21]

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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 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. The Programme also provides the necessary funding to support the Public Service Obligation air service between Donegal and Dublin.

In a substantial increase in funding available under this Programme in 2022, it will deliver €26m in current and €10m in capital funding to support regional airports of Shannon, Cork, Ireland West, Donegal, and Kerry and the Donegal - Dublin PSO service.

Capital 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. Ireland West Airport, along with other eligible airports, 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, including Ireland West Airport, in 2022 with funding allocations normally made by year end.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (140)

Duncan Smith

Question:

140. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he and his Department have had with officials in rail transport as of November 2021 with regard to lower emissions in rail transport and the overall emissions reduction in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53215/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

An efficient and low emission public transport system forms a key part of the Government's vision for sustainable mobility.

My Department has ongoing engagement with representatives from Iarnród Éireann and Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) to discuss operational emissions-reduction measures, such as fuel and supply-chain efficiency programmes, fleet replacement and optimisation, and driver training programmes.

In line with the obligations under the European renewable energy directive, my Department is also considering extending to rail the obligation for renewables in fuel supply, as currently applied to road transport. A renewable fuel for transport policy statement, due to be published by my Department, will set out the pathway to implement this change, as part of a suite of measures to meet European and Climate Action Plan targets.

Longer term rail infrastructure projects, such as the ambitious DART+ project, when completed, will reduce emissions and will also offer significant benefits in terms of multi-modal transit, active transport, and regional connectivity. My Department will continue to engage with Iarnród Éireann to progress this important project and to reduce emissions across the rail network as part of the necessary shift away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable modes of transport.

My Department is also firmly committed to ensuring that air pollutant emissions from transport remain low. Air quality in Ireland is generally good but recent air quality modelling activities by the Environmental Protection Agency suggest that in some heavily trafficked urban areas the dispersal of air pollutants can be challenging.

The interim report of the Urban Transport-Related Air Pollution (UTRAP) working group in March 2021, recommended that emissions in and around Irish terminal railway stations should be further investigated. My Department has commissioned an international best practice review of the localised and wider pollutant contribution of large railway hubs on air quality and further engagement with Iarnród Éireann is planned in the coming months to progress this study and to facilitate emissions monitoring in and around individual stations.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (141)

Duncan Smith

Question:

141. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he and his Department have had with officials in Irish aviation with regard to lower emissions aircraft and overall emission reduction in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53213/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

There are several major EU proposals relating to sustainable aviation currently under discussion as part of the Commission’s Fit for 55 legislative package. Cumulatively these measures have the potential to lower emissions from aircraft and significantly decarbonise the sector over the coming decades. They will also have significant impacts on airlines and the aviation sector more widely. Department of Transport Officials consult on an ongoing basis with industry through the Regulatory Working Group of the National Civil Aviation Development Forum (NCADF) and its environment subgroup. Both major airlines, Ryanair and Aer Lingus, are represented in this group as well as the Dublin Airport Authority and other Airports. The sub-group last met to discuss these proposals on 12 Oct. Officials from my Department have also met with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and are continuing to liaise with other relevant Departments and State Agencies, including the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) which has overall responsibility for climate action, and the National Oil Reserve Agency (NORA) who oversee Ireland’s fuel supplies, including in the area of aviation.

These EU proposals are currently progressing through the appropriate EU Council Working Parties. Staff at Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels have also held a series of engagements on the files with Aer Lingus, the International Airlines Group (IAG), IATA, Airlines for America, Ryanair and the European Express Association. Ongoing work on the files has also seen them engage with Members of the European Parliament and with the environmental NGO - Transport and Environment. Both Dublin and Brussels-based officials continue to engage with the directorate of the European Commission with responsibility for transport - DG Move.

The Revision of the ETS for Aviation, The Revision of the Energy Taxation Directive and the ReFuelEU Initiative.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (142)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

142. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the supports he has put in place for taxi drivers while their business remains disrupted. [53499/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I thank the Deputy for his question. I recognise that the SPSV industry has been very badly affected by COVID-19 which brought about an almost complete collapse in passenger demand for taxi and other SPSV services. However, based on figures from the National Transport Authority (NTA), I am pleased to advise that passenger demand for SPSV services is now rising as we progress through the next and final phase of the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic: COVID-19: Reframing the Challenge, Continuing Our Recovery and Reconnecting. NTA figures also show a steady increase in the proportion of SPSV drivers working over the last few months: from 36% of all drivers working in January 2021 to 86% working in October 2021. I expect these trends to continue as restrictions are lifted in line with public health advice.

As the Deputy may be aware, since the start of the pandemic, the Government has put in place a series of both horizontal and industry-specific measures that can be availed of by SPSV drivers. These measures are aimed at supporting the industry through this difficult period and ensuring that drivers are well positioned to take advantage of any improvement in demand as society reopens.

In this context, I understand that as many as 70% of SPSV drivers have availed of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment which, as the Deputy will be aware, has been extended to February 2022. Self-employed SPSV operators can continue to claim the PUP and earn up to €960 in a given 8-week period, net of expenses. As society reopens and passenger demand for taxis increases, this continues to be a very important support for drivers as they return to work. Drivers coming off the PUP can avail of the COVID-19 Enterprise Support Scheme, worth up to €1,000 to meet the costs associated with returning to work.

Support for SPSV operators also continues to be available through a number of measures designed to address statutory costs faced by operators which cannot be deferred. Standard licence renewal fees for SPSVs were waived in 2021 and I can confirm that they will be waived again in 2022 at an estimated cost of €3 million. The NTA has put in place schemes to refund the Motor Tax paid by SPSV operators in the period 1 September 2021 to 31 August 2022 and to waive NCT fees for the same period. Further details on these schemes are available on the NTA website. The NTA has also extended standard age limits for taxis and hackneys several times since the start of the pandemic, and these are now waived through to the end of 2022, thereby ensuring no operator exits the industry simply because of the need to replace a vehicle.

Recognising that the replacement of a vehicle is the single largest cost faced by any SPSV operator, and in view of this Government’s commitment to support the transition of the SPSV fleet towards zero/low-emission vehicles, the funding available to the Electric SPSV (eSPSV) grant scheme was increased for 2021 to €15 million, up from €1 million. The amount payable under the scheme was also doubled to €20,000 for operators who scrap older vehicles and make the switch to full electric models. The take up rate for this scheme has been exceptionally high and the 2021 scheme recently closed to new applications following the exhaustion of this year's allocation for the scheme. Further extensions for EV schemes have, however, been recently announced under Budget 2022.

Furthermore, Microfinance Ireland announced on 9 September that a loan finance up to €25,000 is now available to support the eSPSV Grant Scheme, as many SPSV owners are finding it difficult to secure finance from banks and other commercial lending providers. Further information on this facility is available from Microfinance Ireland.

Road Projects

Questions (143)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

143. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if a commitment will be made to liaise directly with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to assess the feasibility of Louth County Council’s Drogheda Northern Cross Route (PANCR) proposal through the urban regeneration fund from a joint perspective similar to the successful Waterford north quays project in which his Department committed €30 million towards the final project through the NTA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53495/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Louth County Council is the statutory planning and road authority for its area of responsibility. It is, therefore, a matter for Louth County Council to consider options regarding the development of the proposed Drogheda Northern Cross Route (PANCR) scheme.

It is my understanding that Louth County Council has engaged directly with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) concerning funding for the proposed Port Access Northern Cross Route (PANCR) under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

My Department also met with the Council earlier this year to outline the Public Spending Code project appraisal requirements for any proposed transport scheme, including the need for the preparation of a Strategic Assessment Report. No funding application has been submitted to the Department for the Drogheda Northern Cross Route project.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (144)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

144. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the engagement he has had with the road haulage and transport operators with regard to the reduction of carbon emissions within the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53205/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Reducing transport emissions in sectors that operate heavy duty vehicles (e.g. haulage, coaches and buses) is particularly challenging. Heavy duty vehicles, which accounted for 21% of land transport emissions in 2020, will continue to be a specific focus of the work of my Department under the climate action policy in collaboration with the operators and industry representatives who make up the sectors.

Following the Phase 2 Report of the Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce in 2019, a roadmap was developed and is now being implemented by the National Transport Authority with industry and transport operator engagement. A key objective is the transition of the public transport fleet to low and zero-emission vehicles. Also, in March of this year I launched the Alternatively Fuelled Heavy Duty Vehicle Purchase Grant to assist haulage companies and road transport operators to invest in lower carbon technologies.

Engagement with transport and haulage operators is also integral to my Department’s research into heavy duty vehicle sector emissions. For example, the Freight Decarbonisation Study’that my Department and Transport Infrastructure Ireland carried out in 2020 was structured around industry workshops and consultation.

My Department has this year commenced the consultation process on a significant review for a Ten-Year Road Haulage Strategy. Sustainability of the sector is among the themes being examined as part of this Strategy, and industry engagement will be crucial to its success.

The first phase of the Strategy’s two-phase public consultation closed on 16 July. The consultation results are being reviewed by my Department and will provide a pathway to help the sector to lower its carbon emissions.

My Department and my officials will continue to work with both the road haulage industry and transport operators to determine how best to achieve our climate ambitions.

Transport Costs

Questions (145)

Emer Higgins

Question:

145. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to make public transport more affordable for other categories of persons, specifically renters given the plan for half-price public transport for younger persons. [53544/21]

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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.

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

Departmental Offices

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 110.

Questions (146)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

146. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the status of the provision of a delivery office for the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy in Cork. [53498/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to active travel and public transport. The provision of a delivery office for the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy in Cork is a matter for the relevant local authorities and the National Transport Authority (NTA).

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.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 110.

Rail Network

Questions (148)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

148. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the timeframe for Metro North; when the railway order for same is expected to be issued; the reason for the delay in the delivery of same to date; if the service will be built in tandem with Metro South; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53592/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

MetroLink is likely the largest ever public investment project in the history of the State. It faces imminent and important milestones in the coming months and these milestones will determine its progress in the coming years.

Firstly, there is Government’s approval of the Preliminary Business Case and secondly there is the submission of a Railway Order application to An Bord Pleanála. On that first milestone, my Department has received draft Preliminary Business Cases for MetroLink. This represents Decision Gate 1 under the Public Spending Code and the Preliminary Business Case is currently under review.

For major projects, like MetroLink, the Public Spending Code requires a Government decision and I expect to seek such a Government decision in the near future. If approved by Government, that will allow MetroLink to move into the statutory planning system, subject to the completion of the necessary planning and environmental documentation.

The second impending milestone is the submission of Railway Order applications for MetroLink. That application requires the finalisation of an extensive set of documentation, including environmental impact assessment reports, and that work is ongoing in relation to this project.

I understand that an extensive body of work remains in relation to finalising the preliminary design, completing the required environmental impact assessment reports and closing out property referencing issues. This should be completed during Q1 next year and, subject to the Government decision mentioned above, the project will then be ready to seek planning permission.

An actual construction start date will ultimately be determined by the planning process and Government approval to proceed to construction at that time.

In relation to upgrading capacity on the Luas Green Line, the Deputy will welcome this year's completion of the Luas Green Line Capacity Enhancement Project which has significantly increased capacity through the extension of the original 26 trams and the purchase of 8 additional 55metre long trams. Future capacity increases over the medium term will be considered in the context of the revised Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area which will shortly be published for public consultation.

I trust this clarifies the current position.

Air Services

Questions (149)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

149. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if his Department is working on a national policy to support and sustain air connectivity to Ireland’s regions. [53437/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Before the Covid-19 crisis, officials at the Department of Transport had commenced scoping work on a revised version of the National Aviation Policy. The principal goals of that policy are to enhance Ireland's connectivity, to foster the growth of aviation enterprise and to maximise the contribution of aviation to Ireland's sustainable economic growth and development. This work was paused during 2020 to focus on the fall-out for aviation from the global pandemic and the measures to promote recovery. Work on a new National Aviation Policy will begin again towards the end of the year.

The restoration of international connectivity and competitiveness is a priority for Government and in November 2020 a dedicated funding package for Irish aviation totalling €80 million was announced. As evidence of our continued commitment to the restoration of connectivity, on 12 October 2021 Government announced a further aviation funding package of €126 million. This includes -

- €90 million in support provided to Ireland’s State airports (Dublin, Cork and Shannon). The intention is that this fund, which is subject to state aid approval, will be distributed to the state airports in 2021 on a pro-rata basis based on 2019 passenger numbers. It will then be a matter for the airport authorities themselves to establish route incentives and appropriate charges rebates, the aim of which is to restore connectivity. It is anticipated that the provision of these incentives, by the airports to airlines, will have the desired effect of further stimulating the recovery of the aviation sector.

- €36 million will be provided in 2022 under the Regional Airports Programme (RAP) in 2022 to support regional airports and PSO Air services. Under the programme, €26 million is available under the programme in support of safety and security related current expenditure and PSO air services. €10 million will be provided for capital expenditure targeted at safety and security projects and those which support sustainability objectives, enabling these airports to identify and implement climate related efficiencies and build resilience against the likely impacts of climate change. 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.

Government also provides funding under the Regional Cooperative Market Access Scheme which is administered by Tourism Ireland. Funding available under this scheme has increased from €1.25m in 2019 to €3m in 2021.

Road Projects

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 100.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 110.

Questions (150)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

150. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure the continuation of the N86 major improvement scheme in 2022 given its vital requirement for the Dingle peninsula; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53434/21]

View answer

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. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the operation, management and upgrading of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code and the necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise you.

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

Question No. 151 answered with Question No. 100.
Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 110.
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