As the Deputy is aware, last year Government launched Project Ireland 2040 which sets out both the planned spatial development and investment framework for the coming years. Project Ireland 2040 recognises the need to put in place environmentally sustainable public transport systems in order to secure Ireland’s climate action goals.
The Deputy will acknowledge that there are short, medium and longer term responses to the issue of increasing public transport usage.
In the short term, this Government has increased the funding available to support both current and capital expenditure across both public transport and active travel.
That increased funding supports –
- An expanding PSO bus fleet for urban and for regional PSO routes;
- The move away from diesel-only buses in the urban PSO bus fleet;
- Improved and increased PSO bus services across the country;
- Expanded Local Link services for more rural areas;
- Increased maintenance and renewal of the heavy rail network resulting in an improved passenger experience;
- Expanded off-peak services on the GDA rail network; and
- Construction of a number of important cycling projects in the major cities.
In the medium term, Government has committed to major investments in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the public transport network and services. These investments reflect the needs which have been identified by my Department and its various agencies, during the development of Project Ireland 2040. The investment committed to within Project Ireland 2040, will result in the delivery of a number of significant projects and programmes over the next 10 years, such as –
- BusConnects, including the development of cycling infrastructure in all major cities;
- DART Expansion across the GDA;
- Additional rail fleet; and
- Strategic cycling networks in the major cities.
Those projects and programmes will be complemented by other planned investments, such as the development of a new National Train Control Centre, the completion of the City Centre Rail Resignalling Project and continued planning and design of potential extensions to the existing Luas network.
In the longer term, there are transport strategies in place for both the Greater Dublin Area and Galway, while a draft Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy was published for public consultation last week. Transport Strategies for both Limerick and Waterford will be developed this year and all of these strategies provide a 20-year horizon to the transport needs of their respective areas and will inform my consideration of funding requirements for public transport over the longer term.