Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 8 to 52, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 53 to 60, inclusive, answered orally.

Trans European Transport Network Programme

Questions Nos. 62 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (61)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

61. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason his Department has not applied to the EU for the revision of the TEN-T core network, including applying for the reinstatement of the cross-Border Western Arc and the western rail corridor as stated in the programme for a partnership Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22913/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Under the Programme for Partnership Government, the Government committed to applying to the European Commission for the revision of the TEN-T Core Network, including in relation to the Western Arc. A submission is currently being prepared in this regard, which would seek to facilitate consideration of transport-related project proposals for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility for transport in the Western Arc region.

Importantly, the submission will also take into account national developments since the TEN-T Network was established, including the publication of our National Development Plan (NDP) and National Planning Framework (NPF) in 2018, as well as consideration of the implications for Ireland, including on western and north-west regions, stemming from the UK exiting the EU.

The TEN-T Regulation explicitly states that the European Commission should take into account national implementation plans when carrying out the review of the TEN-T Network. In Ireland's case, these would include both the NDP and the NPF. Both of these Government documents will shape the future development of Irish planning and infrastructure across a range of sectors, including transport.

Additionally, the UK's Withdrawal from the EU has been an evolving process over the last number of years, both in terms of the negotiations between the EU and the UK and in terms of contingency planning for a range of possible Brexit scenarios, which has been a whole-of-government effort coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The preparation and making of a submission calling for a review of the TEN-T network should be strengthened by the proposals under the NDP and the NPF and by the added urgency of the implications of Brexit.

Separately, in late February 2019, my Department received correspondence from European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, which stated that the European Commission is considering advancing the review of the TEN-T Network, which is due to take place no later than the end of 2023, as stipulated in the TEN-T Regulation. The Commission's review process will include: an evaluation study, which will conclude in spring 2020; a public stakeholder consultation process, which will conclude on 17 July 2019; and targeted consultation with Member States and a wide range of stakeholders, to commence in the coming months. My Department intends to be fully engaged as part of this review process.

With regard to the Western Rail Corridor, both the Programme for a Partnership Government and Project Ireland 2040 commit to an independent review of the costings for a proposal to extend the existing Corridor. Iarnród Éireann has appointed consultants to prepare a financial and economic appraisal, which will involve all relevant stakeholders, and the public consultation phase is underway. Upon completion, the review will itself be subject to a verification process by my Department to ensure requirements are met and in particular, that a wide consultation has taken place. I expect the findings of the review, which will advise as to the business case for an extension of the Corridor, in the Autumn. It is my intention to bring the findings to Government for consideration at that point.

Finally, I recently met with Minister of State Seán Canney, in his capacity as Chair the Atlantic Economic Corridor Forum to discuss the review of the Core TEN-T Network and the potential for EU funding in this regard. I am committed to working with the Taskforce and Minister of State Canney on this matter and will be sharing a copy of my draft submission with the Department of  Department of Rural and Community Development and the Taskforce in advance if its submission to Commissioner Bulc.

Questions Nos. 62 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (65)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

65. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in the national road network in County Meath. [29514/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  However, under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, development and construction of individual national road projects is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides the strategic and financial framework for Tll's national  roads programme from 2018-2027. The focus of Tll's activities over the coming years is, accordingly, directed towards the major national road improvement schemes listed in the  NDP.

Following consultation with TII, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on investment in the national road network in County Meath:

N2 Slane Bypass

The  proposed N2 Slane Bypass is included amongst a number of major national road schemes that are identified for development during the period of the NDP. The scheme is also contained in the NTA Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.

 An N2 bypass of Slane is required to alleviate traffic congestion in the village and to reduce the potential for serious incidents due to the steep approaches to the very narrow Slane Bridge and the high commercial vehicle content in the traffic flow. 

 Current Status

The project is currently at route selection  stage. This process is well advanced.  Once the preferred route is identified, the scheme will be progressed through planning and design.  A Business case will then be prepared for the approval of both my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. In addition, statutory documentation will be prepared, including the environmental impact assessment. Meath County Council has confirmed that the scheme will be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in 2020, after adoption of the new County Development Plan.

TII has provided €1m to Meath  County Council for planning work on the scheme this year.

N2 Rath to Kilmoon scheme

The proposed N2 Rath Roundabout to Kilmoon Cross scheme is among a number of major national road schemes identified in the NDP for progression through pre-appraisal and early planning. In this regard, Pre-Appraisal for the proposed scheme has been approved.

This 6 km Dual Carriageway scheme will address existing operational and safety problems on the N2, which has an annual average daily traffic of around 16,000 vehicles per day and experiences considerable peak time congestion.

Current Status

TII has issued approval to Meath County Council to procure technical advisors to commence design of the scheme. These Tenders have been received and are currently being assessed.  Once that contract is awarded, it typically takes three to five years from this point through Phases 1 to 4 of the Project Management Guidelines, to have a scheme ready to submit to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval.

This year, TII has provided an allocation to Meath County Council of €250,000 to allow the scheme to progress to planning and design.

Curragha Junction

Traffic problems at Curragha are exacerbated by traffic trying to avoid the delays at Primatestown and also traffic heading to Tayto Park.

The Ashbourne Municipal District  Engineer has been installing and maintaining signage at the junction as well as hedge-cutting. Meath County Council has also prepared a preliminary design to calm traffic and improve definition at the junction and safety on the approaches, including the R155 as it passes through the village of Curragh itself.

Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (66)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

66. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the Bonagee link road project in County Donegal; when the project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29429/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Firstly, I would like to explain that, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme.  Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design, construction and development stages of individual road projects is a matter for

(a)  the relevant road authority (i.e. local authorities) in relation to local and regional roads, or

(b) Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned, in relation to national roads. 

Overview

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides the strategic and financial framework for the national roads programme for the period from 2018 to 2027.  In the ten years, over €11 billion will be invested in the overall road network.

The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies two categories of national road improvement project.  The first covers projects to advance to construction, subject to the satisfactory outcome of project appraisal and development consent.  The second relates to projects at pre-appraisal and early planning to be assessed, to develop a pipeline of suitable projects.     Advancing projects in the second, pipeline. category will be subject to prioritisation within the overall national road programme and funding.

Having consulted with the relevant authorities, I can provide the following information and update to the Deputy on the Bonagee Link Road project, also referred to as the Letterkenny Inner Relief Road. 

- In  Co. Donegal the Trans European Network-Transport (TEN–T) Comprehensive   road network runs from the Leitrim County Boundary (on the outskirts of Bundoran to the Border with  Derry in the Northeast at Bridgend, on the outskirts of Derry City, and involves sections of the N13, N14 and N15.

- In 2016 Donegal County Council commissioned a Corridor Needs Study on the TEN-T Comprehensive  network within Donegal.  The study identified projects to improve the TEN-T Comprehensive network to the required standard under TEN- T regulations.  The Study identified a priority list of schemes.  It recommended three priority projects to advance:  

- N15/N13  Ballybofey – Stranorlar Bypass

- N56/N13/N14   Letterkenny Bypass, and Letterkenny-Manorcunningham Dual Carriageway

- N14  Manorcunningham-Lifford Realignment, including the N14/N15 link to the A5 in Northern Ireland

The Bonagee Link Road, or the Letterkenny Inner Relief Road, forms part of the proposed Letterkenny Bypass. 

Transport Infrastructure  Ireland  (TII) has provided an allocation of €2.5m in 2019 to Donegal County Council to progress planning work on priority national road improvements projects that were identified in the study on the TEN-T Network I mentioned.  These projects are identified as Strategic Investment Priorities in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the NDP.

Current Status

Feasibility Studies for the priority schemes commenced in 2017 and the route selection process is ongoing.  Public consultations on identified route options were held in April and May 2018 in Letterkenny, Lifford and Ballybofey. 

An  Emerging Preferred Route Corridor for each section has now been identified.  Public Consultations on these Emerging Corridors took place in February.

It can typically take 8 to 13 years to bring a major project from conception to completion.  There is no timeframe fixed yet for completing the Bonagee link road project, as it will need to obtain both Business Case approval and Planning Consent and will be subject to the availability of funding in the future.

Rural Transport Services

Ceisteanna (67)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

67. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether there is sufficient public transport in rural Ireland; and the status of pilot projects in this regard. [29576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. I do not have responsibility for the day-to-day operations of public transport services. 

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of Local Link services funded under the Rural Transport Programme.

Public transport in rural areas of the country is primarily provided by bus and coach services, as well as rail and small public service vehicles (SPSV) services, which include Taxi, Hackney and Local Area Hackney services. 

The bus and coach services include Public Service Obligation (PSO) services operated by Bus Éireann and other operators, Bus Éireann Expressway services, licensed services provided by commercial operators and Local Link services. 

These services comprise conventional fixed services with regular routes, stopping places and timetables and Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services which respond to local demands and which constitute the vast majority of Local Link services.

I am committed to the further development of bus services in rural areas and that is why funding has been increased over the past number of years, for both PSO and Local Link services in rural areas.

The increased funding has enabled the introduction of 66 new commuter services into the Local Link network, operating five, six or seven days per week, as well as demand-responsive services. Key features of these new services include greater integration with existing public transport services and better linkage of services between and within towns and villages.

Following my engagement with key stakeholders, I tasked the NTA to examine how to extend existing Local Link services to provide additional services in the evenings. These new services, which are a mixture of extension to existing services and demand responsive services, have been operating on a pilot basis since last summer and 59 services are continuing until the end of this year.

I am aware that public bus transport cannot meet the demands for travel for many people in rural Ireland, either because it is not available at all or it is not available at the time needed. Taxis and hackneys play an important role in meeting the travel demand when public transport is not available. However, there are gaps in the provision of taxis and hackneys in many rural communities.

To address gaps in service delivery, the NTA is developing two pilot schemes for implementation this year.  Both schemes will be administered locally by the existing network of Local Link offices who will act as agents of the NTA.  The overall management, funding and regulation of both schemes rests with the NTA. The NTA has advised that it proposes to issue the call for applications for both the Local Area Hackney and the Community Transport Services together by the end of the summer.

 

Football Association of Ireland

Ceisteanna (68)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

68. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether it will be appropriate for an organisation (details supplied) to alter its governance structure following an internal review of governance in advance of the completion of other external reviews into the organisation, including that being conducted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. [29574/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I welcome the recent publication of the Report of the Governance Review Group, which was established by the Football Association of Ireland and Sport Ireland to develop reform proposals for the FAI.  I would like to recall that this Group had five members, three of whom were independent corporate governance experts appointed by Sport Ireland, including the Chair, Aidan Horan. The purpose of the Group was to review the existing governance arrangements within the FAI and to propose a governance framework which would support the Board and the organisation in achieving and observing good governance practice.

It is clear from their report that the Group conducted a very comprehensive review of governance practices and procedures in the Association.  This is a necessary first step for the FAI to rebuild public confidence in the association.

It has become increasingly evident over the last few months that the standards of corporate governance and financial management within the FAI currently were unacceptable.  The Review Group has presented a detailed set of proposals covering a wide range of issues including the association's Board, commercial partnerships as well as audit and risk management.  These proposals have been endorsed by Sport Ireland.  The proposals will now be considered by the FAI membership at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 20 July and at the Annual General Meeting on 27 July.  I hope that the members will seize this opportunity to adopt many of the proposals in this review.  

I am aware that there are a number of other reviews and investigations ongoing into specific matters at the FAI, including an investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.  Any determinations or recommendations made by the ODCE on foot of its investigation should, of course, be abided by.  I have no information on when the ODCE's investigation or any of the other reviews commissioned by the FAI will be completed.

I know that there is a long and steep road ahead for the Association in terms of the transition that must be achieved for the good of the Association, its members and Irish football and I would encourage all of those who are responsible for enabling the transition to support and lead all necessary reforms.

Light Rail Projects

Ceisteanna (69)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

69. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects the response to the public consultation on the preferred route for MetroLink for south Dublin; and if the National Transport Authority will be directed to carry out assessments of two alternative route options (details supplied). [29508/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) have statutory responsibilities to develop and deliver MetroLink. 

In March this year, the NTA and Transport  Infrastructure  Ireland  (TII) launched a public consultation on what is called the “Preferred Route” for MetroLink.

This consultation period followed last year’s consultation held on what was then known as the “Emerging Preferred Route”. During last year’s consultation a number of specific issues were raised by members of the public, and indeed elected representatives, including issues in relation to the proposed upgrade of the Luas Green Line to a metro-style service.

These issues helped inform this year's development of MetroLink’s “Preferred Route”. I understand that approximately 2,000 submissions have been received during this most recent consultation period and those submissions are currently being considered by the NTA and TII and a summary report of submissions will be published by the NTA and TII later in the year.

As regards strategic transport planning for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), the Deputy is well aware of the well-developed, modern, statutory framework which underpins the development of public transport infrastructure.  It is a plan-led, long-term and integrated approach toward strategic transport planning with statutory links into land-use planning in the GDA and it reflects international best practice in the field.

The framework is underpinned by the development by the NTA of a statutory Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area.  The current Strategy was approved in 2016 and sets out a wide range of projects and programmes to be delivered across active travel, rail, metro, light rail and bus.  The increased funding made available under Project Ireland 2040 means that we can turn the ambition of the Strategy into reality and fund construction of the various prioritised projects over the next 10 years.

The Strategy is, however, flexible and allows for consideration of demographic and other changes over the period to be considered every six years. This statutorily required review period also allows for consideration of whether there are additional projects and programmes that warrant inclusion within any revised Strategy. I understand that the NTA will commence a review of the current Strategy toward the latter half of 2020 and that will allow for stakeholders to make their views known.  

Those who seek to overturn this plan-led approach toward strategic transport planning endanger the advances made in integrating transport and land-use planning in recent years, advances which are vitally important if we are going to deliver a more sustainable Ireland in the years ahead.

Public Transport Initiatives

Ceisteanna (70, 78)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

70. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to reduce the cost of public transport and increase its reach within rural Ireland in order to reduce congestion and pollution. [29562/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

78. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on making public transport free at the point of use in order to reduce the use of cars and carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29585/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 78 together.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. 

The NTA has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of Public Services Obligation (PSO) contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable.  The NTA also has been given statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services.

The funding of those services comprises both the fares paid by passengers and the subvention payments from the Exchequer.  The main purpose of the subvention payment is to meet the gap between the income from fares and the cost of operating services. In 2019, the Irish Exchequer will provide just over €300m in subvention for public service obligation (PSO) transport services and Rural Transport Local Link services.  The Deputy is suggesting an idea of abolishing fares.  One of the factors to take into account is that the amount collected from fares is approximately €600 million annually.  This means that the rough cost to the taxpayer of eliminating fares would be in the region of €600 million more every year - in addition to the amounts already spent on PSO and on capital investment.  And this amount would only enable continuation of the existing level of service and passengers, without factoring in the costs of catering for increased passenger travel demand.

The Deputy is correct in focussing on the need to reduce private car emissions and also to stimulate and support increased uptake of public transport.  That is exactly the Government's approach as set out in our recent Climate Plan.  According to 2017 emission estimates:

- Around 52% of transport emissions come from private car use;

- Just over 18% comes from the freight sector; and

- Around 4.4% of emissions come from the public transport fleet.

As such, it is clear that inroads must be made in reducing the dominance of the private car in Ireland’s transport sector.

Modal shift from the private car to sustainable means of transport remains central to the transport sector’s response to climate change.  Investment in public transport led to an increase of almost 58 million journeys on subsidised public transport and commercial bus service since 2012.  Last year we saw an increase of 16.3 million passenger journeys provided by Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Irish Rail, Luas and Go-Ahead Ireland on PSO services.  That is an increase of over 6.5% compared to 2017.  I think the Deputies would agree that this increase in passenger growth is very positive.  The growth in public transport services has been supported by higher levels of subvention in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and as I mentioned earlier it was increased again this year to provide a total allocation of over €300m.

In order to reduce the prevalence of the private car and encourage a shift to more sustainable forms of transport, a number of key policy measures to increase public transport capacity will be progressed over the next decade.  The National Development Plan has earmarked €8.6 billion for investment in public and sustainable transport to 2027.

I am committed to the further development of bus services in rural areas and that is why funding has been increased over the past number of years for both PSO and Local Link services in rural areas. The increased funding has enabled the introduction of new commuter services into the Local Link network, including new evening services. Key features of these new services include greater integration with existing public transport services and better linkage of services between and within towns and villages. The NTA is also developing two pilot schemes for implementation this year for both a Local Area Hackney and a Community Transport Service, to be administered locally by the existing network of Local Link offices throughout the country.

Fáilte Ireland Funding

Ceisteanna (71)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

71. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the new capital fund of Fáilte Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29570/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department is primarily involved in the development of national tourism policy, while the tourism agencies have responsibility for the implementation of that policy.  While my Department provides capital funding to Fáilte Ireland for investment in tourism product development, it is not directly involved in individual tourism projects or programmes and has no role in the administration of the agency's grant programmes.

As part of the Project Ireland 2040, the Government has committed to invest in the development and enhancement of tourist attractions to provide the type of experience that visitors are seeking. 

In line with this commitment, on 29th May, Minister Ross launched Fáilte Ireland's new capital fund to which the Deputy refers - the Platforms for Growth Investment Programme.  Under the programme, Fáilte Ireland intends to allocate in the order of €150 million in the development of major new visitor attractions of scale across the country.  The first targeted funding call under the programme focuses on large capital projects with a minimum cost of €2.5 million that can provide a "platform" for future growth of the tourism sector in that region.  The theme of this funding call is "Immersive Cultural and Heritage Attractions".  These are attractions that build on our culture and heritage in an engaging way that allows the visitor to get involved and not just be a passive recipient.

This first funding call will close for expressions of interest (Stage One of the process) on 17th July.  There is a deadline of 7th August for the submission of project ideas (Stage Two) by those applicants who have successfully passed Stage One.  There are three further stages in the process, culminating in a project delivery phase for successful applicants.  

I am aware that Fáilte Ireland has held a series of workshops around the country to support applicants, which I understand have been very well attended.  Workshops continue to be held every week in Fáilte Ireland's offices both in Dublin and Limerick and will run until the first closing date of 17th July, at which time all expressions of interest must have been received. 

Tourism Policy

Ceisteanna (72)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

72. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of efforts to support the rural tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29580/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department is primarily involved in the development of national tourism policy, while the tourism agencies have responsibility for the implementation of this policy.  In line the Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021 Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland aim to grow Irish tourism in a sustainable manner, having regard to both the regional and seasonal spread of tourists.  

Under the Action Plan, Tourism Ireland's international marketing will place a greater emphasis on regional growth and season extension.  Tourism Ireland’s new global marketing campaign – ‘Fill your heart with Ireland’ – features lesser-known attractions and regions, in order to spread the regional benefits of our growing tourism economy. This campaign will also focus on seasonal growth by timing marketing campaigns to drive bookings outside of the peak tourism season.

Fáilte Ireland develops and promotes tourism in line with the relevant tourism experience brands including Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, Ireland's Ancient East, and the Wild Atlantic Way.  Priority areas for tourism capital investment include the development and enhancement of tourist attractions and activity-based tourism.  As set out in the Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021, the aim of this investment is to increase regional spread, extend the season and promote sustainable growth with consequential increases in visitors and benefits for the local economy and jobs right across Ireland.  This capital investment is further supported by Fáilte Ireland's current investment in festivals and events and supports and training for tourism businesses across the regions.

Separately, Minister Ross and I recently announced €40m in funding to develop greenways projects across Ireland in counties such as Offaly, Cork, Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Mayo and Wicklow.  By the end of this year, the Maynooth to Athlone Greenway is scheduled to be completed bringing walkers and cyclists from just outside Dublin across the Midlands to the River Shannon in both Westmeath and Longford.  These tourism focused developments have proven in the past, particularly the greenways in Waterford and Mayo, that they can be strong magents for visitors.

I have asked both agencies to provide the Deputy with further information.  Please contact my office if you have not heard within ten working days.

Sports Capital Programme

Ceisteanna (73)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

73. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the sports capital programme will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29567/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Sports Capital Programme (SCP) as operated by my Department  provides funding to voluntary, sporting and community organisations for the provision of sports and recreational facilities. The programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in virtually every village, town and city in the country.  

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme closed for applications on Friday 19th October last.  By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding. 

186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents.  These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January. 

619 equipment only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8m were announced in May.

Work is now underway in assessing the remaining applications for capital works. 

For the first time applicants who submitted incorrect documentation under this round are being given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, it is likely to be towards the end of the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations are announced. 

As soon as allocations have been made, my Department will carry out a review of all aspects of the 2018 round of the programme to include any possible improvements for the future. This review will include consideration of the timing and scale of the next round but I fully expect that the SCP will again be open for new applications before the end of this year.   

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (74)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

74. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects the transport and tourism sectors to comply with the climate change objectives set out in the Climate Action Plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The recently published Climate Action Plan 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’s overall carbon emissions, plays a key role in the national decarbonisation effort. It is worth noting that transport emissions are classified under both the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and non-ETS systems. Generally, non-domestic emissions such as those from international aviation within Europe are accounted for under the ETS system while domestic transport emissions fall under the non-ETS system. The Climate Action Plan deals primarily with the non-ETS sector, where Ireland has a legal binding emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels).  Accordingly, the focus of the transport elements of the Plan relate mainly to reducing land transport emissions and not those generated by international travel and in-coming tourists.

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. Under Project Ireland 2040, an indicative allocation of €8.6 billion is assigned to support sustainable mobility ensuring that public transport and active travel become more available and attractive alternatives.

A switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is a key mitigation measure of the Plan, with a target of almost 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030. While this level of transition is incredibly challenging, as technologies improve and become cheaper, and if we continue incentives and invest in the recharging network we are ambitious that with a real push we can make real progress towards this target by 2030. Concerted efforts across several Departments will be essential if we are to maintain a supportive environment to assist citizens in making the greener choice and switching to an EV. My Department and I will work closely with Ministers Bruton and Donohoe and their respective Departments to map out the roadmap that will be necessary to achieve our collective ambition.

In terms of tourism, while there are no specific actions in the Plan, climate change can have direct and indirect impacts on Ireland’s tourism industry. Urban tourism may be less affected than coastal tourism where sea level rise, increasing ocean acidification and coastal erosion can threaten Ireland’s coastal tourism infrastructure and natural attractions. It is difficult to predict possible changes to Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination as a result of climate change and the impact of this on the economic value of tourism in Ireland and tourism demand. Destination attractions such as Skellig Michael and the Burren could be especially vulnerable; therefore the role of the tourism sector in adaptation planning is extremely important.

The range of implications of climate change on the transport, tourism, and even sport sectors means that I and my Department is fully committed to achieving the climate change objectives set out in the Climate Action Plan. I am personally committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and I hope to see transport emissions levels continue to fall as they did in 2018. Indeed, every sector must step-up if Ireland is to meet our emission reduction targets in 2030 and beyond.

Ports Policy

Ceisteanna (75)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

75. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason it is more appropriate for responsibility for Galway Port to transfer to the local authority rather than its present structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29110/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Galway Harbour Company, as a Port of Regional Significance, is designated under National Ports Policy 2013 to transfer to local authority control.

The transfer process has been on-going for a number of years and the due diligence process is moving towards completion.

National Ports Policy recognises that the five Ports of Regional Significance, which collectively represent less than 4% of total market share, retain important roles as facilitators of their regional economies and, in some instances, as centres of marine-related amenity and tourism activities. However, the scale and nature of these activities are not such as to warrant continued central Government involvement.

Transport Policy

Ceisteanna (76)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

76. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to review the Galway transport strategy and plans for a light rail system in view of the declaration of a climate emergency and the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, the Galway Transport Strategy was prepared by the National Transport Authority in partnership with Galway City Council and Galway County Council in 2016.  The development and Implementation of the Strategy is primarily a matter for the local authorities in line with their statutory roles and responsibilities. 

The Galway Transport Strategy supports opportunities that will reduce congestion and car dependency through increased capacity of reliable and sustainable public transport and the promotion and facilitation of cycling and walking.  This in turn promotes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Deputy will also be aware that during the development of the Strategy, it was concluded that bus-based public transport represents the most appropriate system for Galway over the period of the transport strategy.  The Strategy found that a light rail service would provide capacity far in excess of what is practically required.  It determined that a high-quality bus-based public transport service will cater for the forecasted passenger demand and will provide significant flexibility in terms of network options and the ability to integrate with other modes.

The Strategy also commits toward much improved  active travel infrastructure across the city through improvements to the public realm and increased investment in cycling infrastructure. Funding to support the development of this infrastructure is available through the indicative allocations provided under Project Ireland 2040 and administered on my Department's behalf by the National Transport Authority.

Project Ireland 2040 provides an indicative allocation of €200 million to support the development of a BusConnects programme in Galway.  Under the BusConnects programme, the bus fleet will transition to low-emission technologies.  The recently published Climate Action Plan also contains actions to accelerate the decarbonisation of the public bus fleet with the objective to only have low-emitting buses in the urban PSO bus fleet by 2035.  These are part of a wide-ranging set of actions for transport in the Climate Action Plan particularly in relation to public transport and active travel.  These actions will be implemented in line with the commitments given within the Plan. 

Waterways Issues

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 70.

Ceisteanna (77)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way in which communities that wish to develop blueway projects should pursue their projects; the funding available for such projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29571/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Waterways Ireland, which is under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is the lead agency in developing Blueway trails in Ireland.  They are defined by Waterways Ireland as network of multi-activity recreational trails, based on or alongside idyllic lakes, canals and rivers in Ireland that provide scenic routes into the heart of rural Ireland by canoe, bike or on foot.   Those seeking to develop a Blueway should contact Waterways Ireland for guidance in the first instance although a number of partners including the local authority may be involved in the delivery of the eventual Blueway.  If the proposed Blueway incorporates a Greenway, then it is open to the project promoters to apply to my Department for Greenways funding for that element when there is an open funding call.  I announced the allocations for the most recent Greenway funding call last month.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 70.

Ports Policy

Ceisteanna (79)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

79. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to review the National Ports Policy 2013 in view of the changes in the economy and particularly in view of the impending implementation of Brexit and the proposed development of Galway port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29111/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The core objective of National Ports Policy (NPP), which was published following Government approval in 2013, is to facilitate a competitive and effective market for maritime transport services. The implementation of the key measures outlined in the policy document is still on-going. 

NPP introduced clear categorisation of the ports sector into Ports of National Significance (Tier 1 and Tier 2) and Ports of Regional Significance.

Galway port as a Port of Regional Significance is designated under NPP to transfer to Local Authority control. The transfer process has been on-going for a number of years and the due diligence process is moving towards completion. Although the economy is growing, the scale of existing commercial shipping in the port represents only approximately 1% of national traffic. Galway port plays an important role as a facilitator of its regional economy and the port has capacity to continue to grow trade within its existing facilities.

The two ports that will be most affected ports by Brexit are Dublin Port Company and Rosslare. Preparations are underway in those ports in relation to Brexit.   

Light Rail Projects Provision

Ceisteanna (80)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

80. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on extending light rail and metro to large population centres such as the Dublin 15 area in view of the pressures on the existing transport infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29586/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including light rail and metro projects.

The Deputy is aware that public transport infrastructure planning within the Greater Dublin Area has a statutory basis as set out in the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 (as amended). This Act requires the NTA to prepare a transport strategy for the Greater Dublin Area which sets out the proposed infrastructure development for a period of up to twenty years and it is also a statutory requirement that relevant land-use strategies in the Greater Dublin Area are consistent with the approved transport strategy.

This is a vitally important link between transport planning and land-use planning and is a key enabler of a plan-led approach toward sustainable development in the Greater Dublin Area.

The current Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area was approved in 2016 and sets out the current infrastructure proposals up until 2035. The Act requires the NTA to review the Strategy every six years and I understand that such a review will commence in the latter half of next year. Any new or additional projects can only be considered within the framework provided by the transport strategy. 

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.

Roads Maintenance

Ceisteanna (81)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

81. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether local and regional roads are in a satisfactory and safe condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29575/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Each local authority is the statutory road authority for its area and has primary responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of its regional and local roads.  Within available budgets and where applicable, my Department does provide grant support to road authorities while emphasising the importance of local authorities’ prioritising expenditure on roads when allocating their own resources.   

As well as providing grant support to local authorities, my Department has been supporting the development of a Road Asset Management System for regional and local roads over the last number of years.  The Road Management Office, which has been established as a shared service between 31 local authorities, together with my Department, has been working with local authorities to ensure that this road pavement management system includes a record of all pavement-related works and information on road surfaces and pavement condition.

The objective of the MapRoad pavement management system is to provide the data needed for evidence-based prioritisation and management of road work programmes by each road authority.

My Department has also produced a Pavement Survey Standard for Regional and Local Roads for use in respect of road pavement management by Local Authorities. This standard requires Local Authorities to carry out a Pavement Survey Condition Index (PSCI) visual survey on regional, local primary and local secondary roads every two years and every five years for local tertiary roads.

A road condition survey of the whole regional road network was commissioned by my Department and undertaken in 2018.  The results of the survey have been conveyed to local authorities via the MapRoad system.

Rail Services Provision

Ceisteanna (82, 83, 667)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

82. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans and timelines to increase the capacity of the rail network through the acquisition of new trains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29563/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

83. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the considerable capacity issues being experienced across the rail system; if there will be additional capacity delivered within the next few years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29577/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

667. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans and timelines to increase the capacity of the rail network to Ceannt station, Galway, through the acquisition of new trains and new lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29908/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 83 and 667 together.

I refer the Deputies in the first instance to my reply earlier this afternoon to Deputy MacSharry's Priority question on this matter.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport.  The operation of the heavy rail network and for assessing rolling stock requirements for the rail network including Galway, are a matter for Iarnród Éireann in consultation with the National Transport Authority (NTA) which also has statutory responsibility for the development and implementation of public transport in the Greater Dublin Area and regional cities.

As explained in my earlier reply, Iarnród Éireann in consultation with the National Transport Authority, are currently examining how best to source additional rolling stock as efficiently and effectively as possible and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. 

Noting the responsibility of the agencies, I have referred the Deputies questions to the NTA, for a more detailed direct reply on the issues raised.  Please advise my office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.