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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 237-256

Rail Network

Questions (237)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

237. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure that realignment of roads and bridges in the context of the extension and electrification of rail services throughout north County Kildare does not involve disadvantaging local communities and that road and bridge realignments outstanding for many years are satisfactorily dealt with in the course of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53905/21]

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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 responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including the DART+ Programme which includes the extension and electrification of rail services in County Kildare.

As the Deputy will be aware, projects of this scale and nature require extensive consultations with a range of relevant stakeholders including the general public. As an example of such engagement, Iarnród Éireann, in consultation with the NTA, have recently concluded the second of two Public Consultations in relation to the DART+ West project to enable them to identify a preferred option for upgrading the line. This consultation followed on from submissions received during the first consultation which resulted in some amendments following due consideration of that received.

In view of the NTA's statutory responsibility regarding the specific issues raised, I have referred the Deputy's question to it for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Public Transport

Questions (238)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

238. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which effective co-ordination of rail and bus services can be achieved to ensure the availability of the most cost-effective and convenient commuter transport in the future to facilitate the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53906/21]

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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. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the individual transport operators and I have 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.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 110.

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 110.

Question No. 242 answered with Question No. 235.

Question No. 243 answered with Question No. 239.

Question No. 244 answered with Question No. 239.

Questions (239, 243, 244)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

239. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which the transport sector can avail of bio or non-fossil fuels in such a way as to meet carbon reduction targets in addition to transport requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53907/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

243. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which bio-fuels are available to the transport sector at present; the extent to which such availability is likely to be extended over the short to medium-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53911/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

244. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which he anticipates the transport sector can gain access to bio-fuels that are capable of maintaining their industry in viable form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53912/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239, 243 and 244 together.

Renewable transport fuels are, and will continue to be, an important transitional measure in the decarbonising of transport. In 2020, biofuels in transport replaced c. 209 million litres of fossil fuels and avoided approximately 520ktCO2eq greenhouse gas emissions.

The biofuels obligation, provided for under Part V of the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007, requires fuel suppliers to include a certain proportion of biofuels in fuels for use in road transport. Currently, the biofuel obligation rate is 11% (i.e., not less than 11 litres in every 100 litres of road transport fuel is biofuel).

In 2020, over 239 million litres of such biofuels were placed on the Irish road transport fuel market, mainly biodiesel and ethanol and to a lesser extent bio-liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Small quantities of bio-methane were also placed on the market, but as a developing technology bio-methane does not currently fall within the biofuel obligation.

I intend to publish a Renewable Fuels for Transport Policy Statement shortly which will set out the future trajectory of increase in renewable fuels use in land transport, including future indicative blending rates for biofuels in diesel and petrol to deliver targets under the Climate Action Plan. This aligns to our international obligations to reduce emissions in the transport sector, which in the future will involve renewable fuels obligations for aviation and maritime as set out under the EU Fit for 55 proposals.

The Renewable Fuels for Transport Policy will seek to incentivise deployment of developing alternative fuels such as bio-methane and green hydrogen to a greater extent in the transport sector in the future. In the road transport sector, this will be complemented through existing supporting measures such as the alternatively fuelled heavy duty vehicles grant, the accelerated capital allowance scheme for natural gas propelled vehicles and related equipment, which will include hydrogen vehicles and equipment, and the reduced excise rate on natural gas.

All biofuels placed on the market are required to meet strict sustainability criteria as set out in the European Renewable Energy Directive. The Directive place limits on biofuels produced from crop-based feedstock, and a timeline for phasing-out supply of any biofuels produced from feedstock determined to be a high risk under indirect land-use change (ILUC). In addition, the European Commission is currently developing a central database to track and trace biofuel feedstock.

The National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), which administers the biofuel obligation, may only issue certificates for biofuels placed on the market in Ireland where the supplier can demonstrate compliance with sustainability and proof of origin criteria.

Implementation of the Renewable Fuel for Transport Policy will be subject to consultation with industry in 2022, and then every two years over the course of the pathway to 2030. My Department also intends, in 2022, to carry out an assessment concerning the future availability of renewable fuels, which will inform implementation of the Policy beyond 2025.

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 110.
Question No. 242 answered with Question No. 235.
Question No. 243 answered with Question No. 239.
Question No. 244 answered with Question No. 239.

Transport Policy

Questions (245)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

245. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his vision for the future for enabling the transport sector to meet its obligations while complying with international agreements affecting the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53913/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

My vision for the transport sector is very much reflected in the Climate Action Plan 2021, which was launched by Government today. It sets out concrete actions to deliver on the overall objective of reducing transport emissions by 2030 in line with our national and international obligations.

The actions focus on four key areas:

- Sustainable Mobility – helping people choose sustainable options and delivering 500,000 additional daily public transport and active travel journeys - a 14% increase

- Electrification – accelerating the pace of EV take-up, almost 1 million EVs in the private transport fleet by 2030. Increasing public transport, including rail and bus electrification, to reduce reliance on fossil fuelled transport.

- Demand management – introducing measures at national, regional and local level to manage travel demand more efficiently and reducing the remaining fossil fuelled car kms by approximately 10%.

- Increased biofuels mix - increasing the proportion of biofuels to a 20% blend for diesel and 10% for petrol, to reduce emissions from existing fleet.

The recent revision of the National Development Plan (NDP) also aligns transport investment plans with climate objectives. Funding is being prioritised to encourage a shift from private cars to active and public transport options and to encourage greater take-up of EVs over the next ten years.

My Department will also publish a National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland (NIFTI) which sets out four strategic priorities for investment in land transport, one of which is decarbonisation. Investment proposals will be expected to demonstrate how, and how well, they align with one or more of these four high-level priorities.

When taken together, these plans, along with a wide range of Government supports, will enable the transport sector to meet its international obligations on climate change.

Traffic Management

Questions (246)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

246. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the degree to which it is possible in conjunction with Kildare County Council to update the traffic management plan for Celbridge area with a view to ensuring major improvements without the closing off of existing routes; if he will coordinate efforts to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53916/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

My Department was a major stakeholder in the design of Traffic Management Guidelines, which can be accessed at this link assets.gov.ie/30277/e3faaeaef9f74832947150bd6de1fae2.pdf.

Using these guidelines, responsibility for formulating a traffic management plan for a specific town or area lies within the remit of the local authority, working closely with the National Roads Authority and Transport Infrastructure Ireland in the case of national roads and motorways. I have no role in the specifics of local traffic management plans.

Public Transport

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 155.

Question No. 249 answered with Question No. 155.

Questions (247)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

247. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the amount that was spent by public transport companies on private security in 2018, 2019 and 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53937/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

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 query raised is a matter for the individual transport operators and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, GoAhead and the Luas operator for direct reply.

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

Question No. 248 answered with Question No. 155.
Question No. 249 answered with Question No. 155.

Fuel Prices

Questions (250, 252)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

250. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will address a series of matters in relation to the increases in the cost of fuel (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53951/21]

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James O'Connor

Question:

252. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take to reduce rising costs to bus companies due to the increase in fuel prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53790/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 252 together.

The price of petrol and diesel is determined by a number of factors including taxation, the price of the raw materials, the prevailing exchange rates as well as the fact the different wholesalers can enter into forward contracts at different rates for the purchase of oil. The price of fuel on the forecourt is set by the individual retailer and would likely take into account the costs associated with the retail of the product such as those mentioned above together with the cost of having oil delivered.

The current spike in energy prices arises principally from the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and is being witnessed across the European Union as well as many other regions.

For large scale diesel consumers such as those involved in the road haulage and public transport sectors, the Deputy will be aware that the Diesel Rebate Scheme was introduced by my predecessor in 2013. This Scheme offers a partial excise refund to qualifying operators based on the retail price of diesel. The scheme is designed to provide a level of support when the retail price of auto diesel is relatively high. The rebate kicks in when the price at the pumps goes above €1.23 per litre; increasing gradually to a maximum rebate of 7.5c when diesel reaches €1.43 per litre. In Budget 2020, I provided for a temporary enhancement to the scheme in light of the challenges arising from Brexit uncertainty facing the industry. This involved a doubling of the marginal rate of compensation at prices over €1.32 (VAT inclusive) up to the maximum repayment rate of 7.5 cents per litre. In recognition of the vital role that the haulage sector plays in the economy, I have maintained this enhancement to the scheme which offers more generous conditions to essential users. This measure is aimed at maintaining the competitiveness of the road haulage sector and minimising the impact for the sector and related businesses which rely on road haulage services. Passenger transport is also benefitted by this scheme which is available to passenger bus operators.

The Deputy may also wish to note that businesses that are registered for VAT may deduct the VAT charged to them on the purchase of business inputs, such as road diesel and other motoring costs.

Tax Exemptions

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 250.

Questions (251)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

251. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance if a local property tax exemption on an unfinished estate (details supplied) in County Kerry will be extended to 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53749/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended) provides for certain properties to be exempt from LPT during the current valuation period (2013 to 2021) and the next valuation period (2022 to 2025) where they meet certain qualifying conditions.

However, certain exemptions will expire on 31 December 2021 and as such will not be available for the new valuation period. These include properties in unfinished housing estates, properties purchased as a home during 2013, unsold properties held by builders or developers and new or unused properties purchased from a builder or developer.

I am advised by Revenue that the property in question is exempt from LPT for the years 2013 to 2021 (inclusive) on the basis of being located in an unfinished housing estate. In accordance with the legislation, the property will become liable to the tax from 1 January 2022. I have no plans to extend any of the exemptions that are due to expire on 31 December 2021.

Question No. 252 answered with Question No. 250.

Cross-Border Co-operation

Questions (253)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

253. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the details of the cross-Border Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure projects and the funding allocated for 2021, 2022 and 2023, in tabular form. [53844/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I can inform the Deputy that the Department of Finance has no record of funding allocated to cross-Border Project Ireland 2040 infrastructure projects in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The Deputy will note that my response refers only to Department of Finance records and I cannot comment on behalf of other Departments.

Cross-Border Co-operation

Questions (254)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

254. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance the details of his Department’s current cross-Border initiatives, goods and or services committed to and the funding allocated to each for 2021, 2022 and 2023, in tabular form. [53862/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I can inform the Deputy that the Department of Finance has no record of spending on current cross-Border initiatives and has no commitments to funding goods or services related to cross-Border initiatives in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The Deputy will note that my response refers only to Department of Finance records and I cannot comment on behalf of other Departments.

Tax Code

Questions (255)

Michael Lowry

Question:

255. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if provisions will be provided to community groups that are not VAT registered to reclaim the VAT payable on defibrillators and defibrillator equipment given that many of these community groups have to undertake significant fundraising to purchase and maintain community defibrillators and under current guidelines it is not possible for them to reclaim the VAT payments on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53924/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Defibrillators, other than implantable defibrillators, are liable to VAT at the standard rate, which in Ireland is 23%. Parts or accessories are also liable to VAT at the standard rate. There is no provision under existing VAT law that would make it possible to apply a reduced rate or zero rate to the supply of such products. Under the EU VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rate on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. As such a zero rate cannot be applied to defibrillators.

The EU Commission published a proposal on the reform of VAT rates in January 2018 which would allow Member States more flexibility in how they apply VAT rates. In negotiations leading up to this proposal Ireland specifically recommended to the Commission to include defibrillators and other emergency-medical and rescue equipment. Discussions on the proposal are ongoing.

In advance of any change that might be made at EU level to the VAT rating of defibrillators and other products that pose difficulty for community groups, I am happy to draw your attention to the VAT compensation refund scheme, which compensates charities for the VAT they incur on their inputs, in recognition of the work undertaken by the charities sector. It will be open for six months from January 2022 for charities to make a claim for VAT costs arising in 2021. Charities will be entitled to a proportion of VAT based on the level of non-public funding they receive. A capped fund of €5 million will be available to the scheme.

Detailed information regarding the VAT Compensation Scheme for Charities is available on the Revenue Commissioners website at the following link:

www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tdm/value-added-tax/part12-refunds-and-repayments-of-tax/vat-compensation-scheme/vat-compensation-scheme-guidelines.pdf.

The Government is very committed to supporting community groups and we will continue to press for a reduction in the VAT rate on defibrillators at EU level. In the meantime, Irish VAT law must comply with the current VAT Directive and therefore defibrillators remain liable to VAT at the standard rate, currently 23%.

Office of Public Works

Questions (256)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

256. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a schedule of works undertaken by the OPW at each Garda station in the past three years to date in respect of telecoms and dispatch services; and the amount expended by the OPW in respect of the upgrade of Garda station communications nationally in the past five years to date. [53781/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

An Garda Síochána Telecoms provide an internal service to An Garda Síochána on this matter, therefore this is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

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