I am glad to hear a temperate and serious point being made. It is appropriate that we talk about electric vehicles, EVs, charging points and issues which are of importance to all of us and behind which we can all unite.
Travel demand is increasing in Ireland. It is imperative that we meet this growing demand in the cleanest manner to limit further emissions from the transport sector. Where feasible, increased demand must be accommodated on the public transport network or through walking and cycling. Improving public and active transport services and infrastructure is central to providing a greener alternative to the private car, reducing both congestion and emission levels. I was delighted to secure a 20% increase in capital investment in budget 2019 to support sustainable mobility projects and welcome the Government's commitment in the national development plan to invest €8.6 billion in public transport in the ten years to 2027.
The Deputy asked about electric vehicle charging points at two specific train station park and ride facilities. I note that responsibility for national charging infrastructure rests with the Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I strongly support the transition to electric vehicles as a necessary step-change for Ireland to effect a substantial reduction in transport emissions. In fact, through the national policy framework for alternative fuels infrastructure for transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030, I have firmly outlined an ambition that all new cars and vans sold in Ireland from 2030 onwards will be zero emission-capable.
In relation to the named train stations, I am not currently aware - the Deputy may be more aware than I am - of a charging point located at Ballybrophy train station, but I was encouraged to note high usage rates of the charging point at Portlaoise train station. I am informed that it was used 45 times in October alone. This charging point was supplied, installed and commissioned and is maintained by ESB Networks. I understand the ESB has in a recent announcement committed to expanding and carrying out upgrade and replacement works on its public charging infrastructure.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Park and ride facilities are an effective way of increasing the catchment area of the public transport network and encouraging a modal shift away from the private car. Where possible, the combination of driving to a train station in a low emitting vehicle to continue one's journey on public transport is a model I would like to see become widespread. I have no role in relation to Iarnród Éireann car parks, but I am informed that parking at both mentioned train stations is spatially limited and at peak capacity on weekdays. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that the expansion of car-parking facilities at train stations is subject to the conduct of feasibility studies to determine average occupancy and developing expansion strategies, as appropriate.
In relation to electric vehicles, I am happy to report that the uptake in Ireland has more than doubled this year compared to last year, albeit from a low base. The barriers to electric vehicles are increasingly being overcome with wider vehicle availability, in improving journey distance ranges, through better affordability and greater consumer awareness. The Government is playing its part. An interdepartmental low-emitting vehicles task force was jointly convened by my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to consider a range of measures to expedite the deployment of low carbon technologies, especially the uptake of electric vehicles. Recommendations from the task force were considered in the previous two budgetary processes and a generous package of measures to promote the uptake of electric vehicles is in place, including purchase grants, VRT and BIK relief, reduced tolls and a home charger installation grant. These incentives have resulted in there being approximately 6,500 electric vehicles on Irish roads today.
We are also seeing continued strong growth in heavy rail use. In 2017 there were an extra 2.7 million passenger journeys, a 6.3% annual increase on the figure for 2016 which brought the total to 45.5 million journeys, similar to the 2007 peak. New services such as those using the Phoenix Park tunnel in Dublin have contributed to this expansion.
These are welcome trends. It is only through the combination of cleaner technologies with more efficient, greener transport solutions that Ireland will be capable of catering for growing transport demand in a sustainable, low-emissions manner.