The recently published Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown sets out a whole-of-Government approach to climate action and maps a potential pathway to meet Ireland's 2030 emission reduction commitments. The Plan clearly recognises that Ireland must significantly step up its commitments to tackle climate disruption.
The transport sector, which accounts for about 20% of Ireland overall carbon emissions (and about 27% of Ireland's accountable emissions in the non-ETS sector), plays a key role in the national decarbonisation effort. My Department has worked hard to develop an ambitious, challenging and wide-ranging set of actions for inclusion in the Climate Action Plan, particularly in relation to public transport and active travel.
A critical challenge is reducing the 52% of transport emissions that come from private car use. Our aim in expanding the carrying capacity and the attractiveness of our public transport and active travel networks is to provide a viable sustainable alternative to private car use for more people for more of their journeys. Supporting a shift towards more sustainable transport in this way will help reduce congestion, lower climate-harmful emissions, and improve air quality.
Under Project Ireland 2040, an indicative allocation of €8.6 billion is assigned to support sustainable mobility. This will make public transport and active travel a viable alternative for more people for more of their journeys. The substantial investment will be used to support MetroLink, BusConnects, the DART Expansion Programme and vastly improved active travel infrastructure in all our major cities. In fact, the National Development Plan budget for new public transport/active travel projects is well above what we will be investing in new roads, which is a reversal of the balance of investment between these two areas in the past.
It is clear that prioritising investment in our public transport network is working; during the reporting period of 2017 alone, an additional 16 million public transport passenger journeys were made in Ireland while the number of walking and cycling trips also increased, particularly within the Greater Dublin Area.
To ensure that the carbon footprint of this significant modal shift is minimised we are committed to improving the energy and emissions efficiencies of the public transport fleet. Of course, because less than 5% of Ireland's transport-derived CO2 emissions arise from public transport, we need to realise that efforts to "green" the fleet will have only a limited impact in reducing emissions, but these measures are nonetheless important in leadership terms. In the urban bus fleet, a clear trajectory to low emission buses has been outlined in the Climate Action Plan. We are committed to no longer purchasing diesel-only buses for the urban public bus fleet from next month and by 2035 to only have low emitting buses in the urban PSO bus fleet.
For rail we’ve significantly increased the amounts of money made available each year to support the maintenance and renewal of the heavy rail network, which is now funded at the so-called ‘steady state’ level as measured on an annual basis. That means more investment in important works such as track relaying, ballast-cleaning and signal improvements all resulting in an improved passenger experience across the country. This year, I expect construction to start on a new National Train Control Centre which will be a state-of-the-art network management centre and it will lay the groundwork for the expansion of services planned in the years ahead.
It is equally important to consider the potential contribution of electrified rail to decarbonisation objectives. We plan to create a full metropolitan area DART network for the Greater Dublin Area; this is the part of the national rail network that carries over 75% of total rail passengers each year. It will mean high-frequency electrified rail services to Drogheda, Celbridge/Hazelhatch, Maynooth and M3 Parkway, as well as new interchange stations with bus, LUAS and Metro networks. In this regard, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann have recently commenced a procurement process for the establishment of a 10 year framework agreement for the purchase of additional lower emitting rail fleet required for the expansion of the DART network. These major rail projects will help supplement the range of viable low carbon alternatives to private passenger car travel and positively impact on our sectoral emissions profile.
Furthermore, as set out in the Climate Action Plan we have also committed to next year commencing an evaluation of the potential economic benefits associated with development of a high-speed network along the major inter-urban rail network against improvements to the existing network to deliver high speeds.