Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (84)

John Lahart

Ceist:

84. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the absence of a reference to an e-bike strategy in the Climate Action Plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29564/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The recently published 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 address climate disruption.  A wide-ranging set of bold and challenging actions for transport are set out, particularly in relation to active travel (cycling and walking) and public transport. 

I want to make sure that we provide high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure as well as a reliable public transport system, to make public and active travel options a viable alternative for as many people as possible and for more of their journeys than ever before. In this way we will lower climate-harmful emissions, begin to tackle congestion and see an improvement in local air quality.

This Plan includes our commitment to deliver an additional half a million public transport and active travel journeys daily by 2035. This is a significant step up in our ambition and requires expanding the capacity and attractiveness of our walking and cycling networks as well as our public transport system. 

Under Project Ireland 2040, we have assigned €8.6 billion to support sustainable mobility. In addition to support for key public transport projects this investment will vastly improve the cycling and walking infrastructure in all our major cities. In fact, this €8.6 billion investment budget is well above what we will be investing in new roads, which is a reversal of the balance of investment in the past. 

Over the period 2018-2021:

- €110 million will be specifically dedicated  to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;

- €750 million is earmarked for the BusConnects programme in Dublin to include the delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes; and

- €53 million will be used to support the development of new Greenways. 

This will support the increasing numbers of people who choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport, including E-bikes users.  It is clear that prioritising investment in our cycling network is already working; the number of annual cycling trips is increasing, particularly within the Greater Dublin Area with surveys such as the Canal Cordon Count showing cycling numbers almost doubling between 2011 and 2018.

We need to build on this and do even more. Key actions under the Climate Plan underpin this commitment to increasing cycling as a mode of travel, including the establishment of a Cycling Project Office within the National Transport Authority and the development of implementation plans and increased cycling infrastructure for Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. The Cycling Project Office will ensure that the new cycling infrastructure is delivered optimally, in line with the significantly increased funding that is being provided.

The Cycle to Work Scheme also continues to encourage the use of bicycles and e-bikes to travel to and from work. Under the scheme an eligible employer can buy a bicycle for their employees and the employee pays the amount, less the tax relief, over up to 12 months through a salary sacrifice arrangement. Up to €1,000 can be provided for towards the purchase of a new bicycle or e-Bike which is a generous contribution towards any commuter bicycle, but especially towards an e-bike which are generally more expensive.

The climate challenge needed a step-up in ambition and a renewed determination across Government and society to tackle climate disruption - the Climate Action Plan has given us this required level of focus and drive. 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. Cycling will play an important role  in this decarbonisation effort and I am dedicated to investing and improving our cycling network.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (85, 97, 637)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

85. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the costings to build and run a national transport training centre; if due diligence and correct procurement procedure has been followed; the procurement procedure that took place; and the documentation and public notice in relation to same. [29512/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

97. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of consultation that has taken place with the wider disability community further to the announcement on 26 June 2019 that the National Transport Authority is to provide funding for the development of a national transport training centre by an organisation (details supplied); and the details of the consultation. [29513/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Collins

Ceist:

637. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the future for the training centres in Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and a company (details supplied) in view of the fact that Dublin Bus already trains persons with disabilities to use all public transport. [29531/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85, 97 and 637 together.

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

Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for promoting the development of an integrated, accessible public transport network.

The NTA is to provide funding towards the development by the National Council for the Blind Ireland of the National Transport Training Centre (NTTC) referred to by the Deputy.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have forwarded your questions to the NTA for direct reply to you.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Smarter Transport

Ceisteanna (86)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

86. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to promote car sharing to reduce demand for car ownership; and if projections are available for the extent of such ownership models. [29509/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, my Department recognises the role car-pooling or car-sharing can play in reducing the number of cars on our roads. The various transport strategies detail the measures to be taken across all modes of transport.

For example, the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2035 is the statutory framework for the development of public and sustainable transport in the Greater Dublin Area out to 2035. The Strategy states that the National Transport Authority will support the implementation and expansion of car club schemes, car-pooling and car sharing. The NTA supports the development of car-pooling through the Smarter Travel programme, which is funded by my Department. The Deputy may be aware that there are currently two car-sharing operators already providing services in Ireland.

Noting the NTA's responsibility for implementation of the Transport Strategy , I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Bus Éireann Services

Ceisteanna (87)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

87. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects Bus Éireann and the National Transport Authority to implement changes to the 233 bus route; if he will request Bus Éireann and the National Transport Authority to prioritise the changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29583/19]

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 issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Bus Éireann 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.

Trans European Transport Network Programme

Ceisteanna (88)

James Browne

Ceist:

88. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the Trans-European Transport Network core status with particular reference to the Dublin to Rosslare railway line and Rosslare Europort connectivity to the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29113/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The TEN-T Core Network is a subset of the Comprehensive Network and represents the strategically most important nodes and links of the trans-European transport networks.

The TEN-T Core Network on the Island of Ireland links the main urban centres of Belfast-Dublin and Cork and encompasses the road, rail and other transport modes on this route. There is also an offshoot to  the Core Port of Shannon Foynes. The Dublin - Rosslare Europort rail line links to Rosslare Harbour, a harbour which is on the TEN-T Comprehensive Network but which does not meet the threshold for TEN-T Core port status. 

EU Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, wrote to Transport Ministers in February 2019 announcing that the Commission is considering advancing the review of the TEN-T Network, which was due to take place no later than December 2023. My Department is giving due consideration to this announcement and will very shortly make a formal submission to the Commission, as outlined in the Programme for a Partnership Government.  This submission will note that national developments since the TEN-T Network was established should be taken into account during the review, including the National Development Plan, the National Planning Framework, and the implications of Brexit.

Separately, the Deputy will be aware that Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) co-funding is available to projects on both the comprehensive and the core parts of the TEN-T Network, subject to such projects satisfying the eligibility criteria of a given call for proposals, and being selected in the evaluation process.

The current CEF programme finishes at end 2020. A proposal for a new Regulation of the Connecting Europe Facility for the period 2021 –2027 was published by the European Commission in May 2018. Ireland has advocated at EU level for projects on our comprehensive network to continue to be eligible for co-funding during the period 2021 - 2027.

Ireland submitted written comments to the European Commission in conjunction with two other island Member States, Cyprus and Malta, calling for projects on the comprehensive network in Member States which have no land border with another Member State to be included as eligible actions. This position was accepted by the Commission during negotiations, and as a result the latest text of the proposal retains this amendment. Subject to the proposed Regulation being adopted, this means that during the period 2021 – 2027, projects on Ireland’s comprehensive TEN-T network, including the rail network, will be eligible to apply for CEF co-funding through relevant calls for proposals.

Greenways Development

Ceisteanna (89)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

89. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress of the roll out of the Bearna greenway for Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29499/19]

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 and active travel. However, the development of individual projects, including the Bearna Greenway, is a matter for the relevant implementing agencies.

The Galway Transport Strategy was developed by the local authorities in co-operation with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and adopted by the elected members of the councils in 2016. As part of the Strategy's cycling network I understand it is proposed to develop a 5km greenway known as the Bearna Greenway between Bearna and Salthill. Implementation of the Strategy is a matter for the local authorities; however, funding from my Department is available to support its implementation under programmes administered by the NTA.

Noting the NTA's role, I have referred your question to the NTA for a more detailed reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (90)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

90. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to implement a phased approach to the BusConnects programme; and the timeline for the next phase of the consultation. [29510/19]

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 BusConnects.

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.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (91)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

91. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether legislative or regulatory change is needed in order to better protect taxi drivers from violence and antisocial behaviour in the course of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The security of workers, including taxi drivers, during the course of their work is important and criminal behaviour should be reported to An Garda Síochána who have a range of powers to pursue such matters. 

As the Deputy may be aware the regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry – which comprises taxi, hackney, and limousine - is the responsibility of the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. As my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, mentioned in a recent Topical Issue Debate in this House in May, all taxi drivers, as part of their initial training and preparation for examinations, are provided with the Official Manual for Operating within the SPSV Industry. This manual is produced by the National Transport Authority in consultation with the Garda Crime Prevention Unit and contains a chapter entitled Staying Safe. This chapter offers a range of information and suggestions on how to deal with difficult customers or dangerous situations.

The Deputy may be interested to know that the NTA undertook a public consultation a few years ago on the question of making safety equipment a mandatory requirement for taxis. Such equipment could include screens between the driver and passenger and closed circuit television cameras. I understand that the overwhelming response to this consultation was that such safety equipment should not be mandatory and should instead be left to the discretion of the individual driver.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (92)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

92. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has had discussions with his counterparts across Europe or sought reports from his counterpart in Luxembourg on plans to introduce free public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29573/19]

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 the statutory responsibility for the regulation of fares in relation to public passenger transport services.

The NTA also has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public transport services by way of public transport services contracts in respect of services that are socially necessary but commercially unviable. 

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 income from fares and the cost of operating services.

I understand that free public transport is available in some European cities and towns to encourage increased use of public transport.  The objectives of such initiatives can be to reduce traffic congestion, to attract people into cities for leisure purposes, and to provide environmental benefits.  

In 2019, the Irish Exchequer will provide just over €300m as subvention for public service obligation (PSO) transport services and Rural Transport Local Link services.  I understand from the NTA that, in 2018, passengers paid €625.5 million in fares on subsidised bus and rail services.

Therefore, if such services were to be provided free to passengers, then the expected cost to the Exchequer would be in excess of the €625.5m collected in fares in 2018.  This amount would be additional to the 2019 Exchequer allocation of €300m for PSO support and the further amount (€95m allocation for 2019) that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays to public transport providers in respect of its Free Travel Scheme which provides free transport to almost 1 million people in the State, including all people aged over 66 living permanently here, along with some other qualifying people.  So taking round approximate figures, the Deputy's idea would cost the taxpayer about €625 million per year, in addition to the €400 million that the Exchequer already spends on public transport services.  And this is just the cost of the actual services;  it does not count the Exchequer investment in public transport infrastructure which in 2019 is about €350 million and will be rising sharply over the coming years.

The above estimates of the full year cost of providing free travel do not factor in the cost of providing the additional fleet, depots, drivers, etc. to meet the likely resultant substantial increase in passenger numbers if fares were reduced or eliminated.   

In summary Introducing free public transport for all users would require substantial additional funding by the taxpayer or from other sources.  While I currently have no plans to meet my counterparts throughout the EU to discus this particular subject, I am interested in hearing about innovative, radical and cost-effective ideas that would meet the needs of passengers, and  encourage more people out of their cars and onto public transport, thus alleviating congestion and helping to tackle climate challenges.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (93)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

93. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the taxi share pilot scheme being run by a company (details supplied); if he has had discussions with the company or representatives of taxi drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29572/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and statutory frameworks in relation to public transport.  The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry - which encompasses taxis, hackneys and limousines - is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013

Therefore, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days

Road Network

Ceisteanna (94)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

94. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding will be considered for the extension of the M3 motorway to Cavan town and the east-west link which are urgently needed in the north-west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29214/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Proposals to deliver an upgraded East-West route linking Dundalk to Sligo, taking in Cavan, involve linking elements of the national road network and regional roads along as direct a route as possible. Essentially the route involves upgrade/realignment works on the regional routes from Dundalk to Cavan and on national routes from Cavan to Sligo.

As regards the regional road aspect of the proposal which are the subject of this PQ, the improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area is a statutory function of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993.  Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.  

My Department provided funding to Cavan County Council (acting as lead authority with Monaghan and Louth County Councils) with over €2m in the period 2007-2014 to progress the regional road element of the project to preliminary design. 

This year I gave an allocation of €100,000 to Cavan County Council to enable the Council to undertake a detailed appraisal, in line with the current requirements in the Public Spending Code and the Capital Investment Framework, of the Cavan to Dundalk section of the route.  The aim of this appraisal would be to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it can be justified in terms of appraisal and advanced for further consideration in relation to schemes for development post 2021.  Preparation of the appraisal is the responsibility of the Council.

Regarding the reference by the Deputy to extending the M3 motorway to Cavan town, 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 operation  of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. 

Noting the above position, I have referred the question to TII for a direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Sports Organisations

Ceisteanna (95)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

95. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on proposals to create a single all-Ireland soccer league; if the required funding will be provided; and if he has had meetings or interactions with groups or persons on the matter. [29565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The organisation and delivery of sport in Ireland is mainly a matter for National Governing Bodies of Sport (NGBs).  NGBs are independent and autonomous bodies and any proposals regarding an all-Ireland league would be a matter for the relevant NGBs.  

The organisation of sport on an all-island basis has worked very successfully for many sports, such as cricket, Gaelic games, hockey and rugby.  I am very supportive of cross-border sporting initiatives and collaborations between sporting organisations.  Such approaches have excellent potential to enhance relationships on both parts of the island of Ireland.  The Football Association of Ireland and Irish Football Association have created a new cross-border competition called the Unite the Union Champions Cup. It is a welcome addition to the football calendar, which has received a warm welcome from clubs and supporters. I fully support this initiative which has the potential to bring people together and enhance relationships in both parts of the island of Ireland.

While I am aware that there are proposals regarding an all-Ireland soccer league, I have not had any meetings or discussions on those proposals with the groups or persons involved.   

Any such proposals would be a matter for the NGBs concerned and if the organisations were to bring forward any proposals, Sport Ireland would be happy to offer guidance and assistance where appropriate.

Greenways Development

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 85.

Ceisteanna (96)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

96. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the impact which recent greenway announcements will have on tourism in County Kildare and nationally; his future plans for funding in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29568/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I hope that the recent funding announcements for Greenways, including for the section of the Grand Canal in Kildare, will have a substantial impact on tourism in Kildare and the country as a whole.  In Kildare specifically I expect an increase in numbers visiting Sallins and Hazelhatch and enjoying this extension of Arthur’s Way particularly given its proximity to Dublin.

We have seen the impact the Waterford Greenway and the Great Western Greenway have had on their communities, in towns such as Dungarvan, Kilmacthomas and Newport. Waterford Greenway alone attracted over 250,000 users in its first twelve months of operation. It is my hope the likes of Sallins will see the benefits of this investment, as well as towns such as Listowel, New Ross and Blessington which will also be gaining new Greenways.

The inclusion of Greenways in Project Ireland 2040 shows the importance attached to them by Government in terms of tourism and rural regeneration as well as for health and wellbeing.  I am aware of the widespread interest across the country in developing Greenways as evidenced by the recent funding call and to subject the allocations in annual Estimates process I will explore options for further funding calls over the coming years.  In regards to funding in the Kildare area, greenway funding schemes are competitive processes and therefore I cannot guarantee funding for any specific greenway.  

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 85.

Cycling Policy

Ceisteanna (98)

John Curran

Ceist:

98. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the target set for the increase in cycling; and the initiatives set to encourage more persons to take up cycling and e-cycling in view of the fact under the Climate Action Plan 2019, a target of 950,000 electric vehicles was set by 2030. [28532/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sustainable mobility clearly has an important role to play if we are to reduce congestion, lower climate-harmful emissions, and improve air quality. In the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 this Government has committed toward an additional 500,000 daily journeys by 2035 being made by sustainable modes as compared to today.

To support that ambition, I have secured significant increases in funding which will deliver improved and expanded sustainable transport networks.

The Deputy will welcome the fact that Project Ireland 2040 provides indicative allocations toward sustainable mobility measures which are well above what we will be investing in new roads over the period. This rebalancing of investment priorities is a reversal of the balance of investment between these two areas in the past and is very much welcome.

Active travel, both walking and cycling, have an important role to play, particularly in our larger urban areas, in supporting the shift toward sustainable mobility and the increased funding being made available will support people’s choice in making the shift.

This increased funding is significant and over the period 2018 to 2021 amounts to approximately:

- €110 million specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;

- €135 million for sustainable urban transport measures;

- €750 million towards the BusConnects programme in Dublin which will include the delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes, where possible; and

- €53 million to support the development of new Greenways.

This year alone a number of important active travel projects are under construction or scheduled to start construction and I am keenly aware of the need to ensure timely delivery of new infrastructure to facilitate ever greater numbers of people making active travel part of their daily lives. As stated in the Climate Action Plan the National Transport Authority will later this year establish a new Office within its organisation to work with local authorities in making sure that the increased investment now available results in increased activity on the ground.

At a policy level I will shortly launch a public consultation in relation to our current public transport and active travel policy and this consultation will inform the development of a new policy statement which will then provide the policy backdrop for the years ahead. I look forward to the Deputy's engagement in this review and hearing his views on what measures should be considered.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (99)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

99. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he is undertaking to increase the attractiveness of electric vehicles; his views on whether his Department can meet the targets laid out in the Climate Action Plan 2019 regarding electric vehicle take-up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29578/19]

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. As the transport sector accounts for a little over one quarter of Ireland's non-ETS emissions there is no question that it must feature strongly in the national decarbonisation effort.

In 2017 the passenger car fleet accounted for approximately 52% of land transport emissions and accordingly electric vehicles (EVs) are a prominent mitigation technology in the Plan, with a target of almost 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030. This is a very challenging target; however, as technology improves and becomes cheaper, and if we continue to incentivise and invest in EVs and the associated recharging network, we are ambitious that we can make real progress towards getting the electric vehicles we need on the road 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. The target is a very challenging one and is indicative of the scale of transformation required across all sectors if Ireland is to reduce national emissions and reach its legally binding emission ceilings.

Globally, electric vehicles are the leading solution to the decarbonisation of private car transport. It is the Government’s job to ensure that conditions and policies are in place to support citizens in making the greener choice and selecting electric vehicles now and in the years to come.

To that end, an interdepartmental Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce,  co-charied by my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE), was established to consider the range of measures and options available to Government to accelerate EV take-up. Preliminary recommendations from the Taskforce were considered ahead of Budgets 2018 and 2019 and a suite of continued and new EV supports were subsequently announced. Principal supports, such as the EV Purchase Grant Scheme, the Domestic Charger Grant and the roll out of an extensive recharging network, fall under the remit of the Minister of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. In tandem, I am responsible for two further initiatives: the Electric Vehicle Toll Incentive (EVTI) Scheme and the Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme.

The EVTI was designed to encourage private car commuters who regularly use tolled roads to consider switching to an EV. It is estimated that there are approximately 400,000 heavy toll users in Ireland so reduced tolls act as a meaningful incentive for a large number of vehicle owners. I have committed to continuing this incentive until 2022 or until a threshold of 50,000 registrations has been reached.

The eSPSV Grant Scheme promotes the use of EVs in taxis/hackneys/limousines. Recognising the important role that the SPSV sector can play in demonstrating EV technology to a wider audience I have agreed, under the Climate Action Plan, to improve the value of the eSPSV grant to those transitioning to wheelchair accessible electric SPSVs to make EVs available to a greater number of our citizens.

Finally, support from the Department of Finance has also been fundamental in establishing the current positive policy environment under which we have already seen electric vehicle sales rise steeply over the past year, albeit from a low base. According to the latest figures, approximately 11,500 EVs were under taxation at the end of May 2019. This is double the amount that was on Irish roads at the end of May 2018. In order to continue this trajectory I will continue to work closely with Ministers Bruton and Donohoe and their respective Departments to map out the new policy pathway that will be necessary to ensure that Ireland is well positioned to avail fully of increased supply of EVs, of improved technology and falling prices that are expected worldwide.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (100)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

100. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions he has had regarding the relaunch of the local area hackney scheme; the specific proposals planned to simplify the application process; his plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22794/19]

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 securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which now operates under the Local Link brand.

Under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, NTA has statutory responsibility for the regulation of the small public service vehicle sector.

The NTA is also responsible for the recently announced pilot schemes relating to the Local Area Hackney Scheme and the Community Transport Service.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Rail Services

Ceisteanna (101, 646)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

101. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when a feasibility study will be carried out on the reopening of the Navan to Dublin rail line. [29561/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

646. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when a feasibility study on the reopening of the Navan to Dublin rail line will be carried out. [29693/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 646 together.

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.

 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 and the issue of the Navan rail line will be specifically considered by the NTA as part of the statutory review of the current Strategy.  

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (102)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

102. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his targets to convert the public transport fleet to electric vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

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 address 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. 

It is estimated that public transport (bus, rail and taxi) accounts for a little over 1% of Ireland’s overall non-ETS carbon emissions, and less than one-twentieth of the emissions from the transport sector. Accordingly, converting our public transport fleets to lower-carbon alternatives including electricity will have a limited, though positive, impact on reducing national CO2 emissions. That said, I believe that moving to low-emission alternatives for public transport is important so as to promote and normalise the use of non-conventional lower-emitting fuels and technologies.

In the urban bus fleet, a clear trajectory to low-emission buses has been outlined. We are committed in Project Ireland 2040 to no longer purchase diesel-only buses for the urban public bus fleet from this month. In preparation for both this immediate transition and the development of a longer-term low-carbon bus procurement strategy, my Department, together with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, has undertaken a comprehensive series of low-emission bus trials which are expected to conclude in the coming weeks. Under the BusConnects Programme it is expected that approximately half of the public urban bus fleet will have moved to lower-emitting alternatives by 2023 with full conversion by 2030.

The NTA has recently initiated a tender competition to award a “Framework Agreement for the Supply of Double-Deck Diesel-Electric Hybrid Buses” with the number of vehicles to be purchased being decided on an annual basis in line with replacement requirements, capacity needs and funding availability, in addition to taking into account developments in other vehicle technologies.

Electrifying key, heavily used elements of the rail network must also be considered if the transport sector is to achieve its decarbonisation objectives. We plan to create a full metropolitan area DART network for the Greater Dublin Area, which 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. 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 our sectoral emissions profile.

Finally, in the small public service vehicle (SPSV) or taxi sector, the Electric SPSV Grant Scheme opened to applicants in February 2018 and provides purchase reliefs of up to €7,000 for battery electric vehicles and up to €3,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The Scheme was continued into 2019.

I am happy that a comprehensive programme of work is well underway to reduce the public transport sector’s carbon footprint.

Aviation Industry

Ceisteanna (103, 613, 614, 624, 656, 657)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

103. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the issuing of a permit to an airline (details supplied) to operate a service between Dublin and Madrid under the fifth freedom; his views on whether this provides the airline with an unfair competitive advantage over domestic and European airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29581/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

613. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way in which he will ensure that the recent fifth freedom agreement with an airline (details supplied) protects competition and consumers here. [29226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

614. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the recent fifth freedom agreement signed with an airline (details supplied) will undermine or threaten EU airlines operating here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29227/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Frank O'Rourke

Ceist:

624. Deputy Frank O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason for the recent granting of a fifth freedom permit to an airline (details supplied) to operate a service between Dublin and Madrid in view of the fact that the Dublin to Madrid route is already served by three EU airlines that are cumulatively providing over 39 services per week; his views on whether the granting of routes under the fifth freedom is commercially damaging to domestic airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29454/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

656. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason for recent decision to grant fifth freedom rights to an airline (details supplied) to operate commercial flights from Dublin to Madrid; if unions that represent workers in the aviation industry were consulted regarding the change; if not, the reason; his views on whether unions in cases of this nature should be consulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29755/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

657. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the granting of a fifth freedom licence to an airline (details supplied) to operate a Dublin to Madrid service will place EU based airlines at a competitive disadvantage; the reason for issuing the licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29763/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103, 613, 614, 624, 656 and 657 together.

The Ireland - Ethiopia Bilateral Air Services Agreement, signed in 2014, allows for the granting of fifth freedom air traffic rights for airlines of both countries, on a reciprocal basis and subject to the approval of the relevant aeronautical authorities.

Ethiopian Airlines applied to both the Spanish and Irish Aeronautical Authorities in 2018 for approval of their Addis Ababa - Madrid - Dublin (return) route. Following confirmation of approval by the Spanish Aeronautical Authorities and having consulted with Irish air carriers, the Department authorised the route as it conformed to the rights provided under the Air Services Agreement.

Ireland traditionally has a liberal aviation policy and remains positively disposed towards the development of competitive air services. In that context, my Department will continue to consider applications for fifth freedom air traffic rights under bilateral air services agreements, on a case-by-case basis.

Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (104)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

104. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the progress of the A5; the funding made available for the project; when funding will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29428/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities.  

The current funding arrangements in relation to the A5 are governed by the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan - A Fresh Start. Under this  Agreement the Government is committed to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) towards the cost of Phase 1a of the A5 upgrade scheme.  The aim of this funding commitment is to facilitate the delivery of this phase of the scheme as soon as possible once the planning process in Northern Ireland is concluded.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (105)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

105. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the preparations the maritime transport division of his Department is making for a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29459/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Brexit has been identified as my Department’s highest strategic risk and the Department along with other Government Departments and key Agencies, has been preparing for Brexit for three years.   The maritime side of my Department has participated extensively in these preparations.  Consultations regarding Brexit on the maritime side with key maritime stakeholders have included a Transport and Logistics All Island Sectoral meeting in Dundalk in January 2017, three Brexit Maritime Transport Workshops / Seminars (in April 2017, March 2018, and January 2019) with a further Maritime Transport Workshop / Seminar planned for September 2019. 

Brexit was a key focus in discussions between the maritime side of my Department and individual Irish ports in 2018 and 2019 to date.  Two Dublin Port Brexit Workshops have been held (in February and May, 2018), and 18 meetings have been held by the maritime transport side of my Department at individual ports where Brexit has been discussed during 2018 alone.  Ports have continued their preparations for the UK’s departure from the EU by examining all possible options to avoid delays to goods transiting through their facilities, and by adjusting their infrastructural plans and they, as well as shipping companies, continue to examine possible new trade routes to mainland Europe, avoiding the landbridge through the UK.

Eight meetings have been held with shipping companies and shipping interests in January and February 2019, and these discussions with shipping companies have been continued by my Department since then, while the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) have been consulting extensively with the Maritime sector, including shipping, port and other maritime interests, regarding Brexit issues on an ongoing basis.

Five ‘Brexit-related’ Marine Notices have been published by the Maritime side of my Department.  These are Marine Notice No 7 of 2018. (March 2018) regarding Industrial Products, Seafarers Certificates of Competency, and Maritime Transport, Marine Notice 23 of 2018 (June 2018) regarding Maritime Transport / EU Ship Recycling Regulations, Marine Notice No. 34 of 2018 (September, 2018) regarding Preparedness in general, including legislative changes necessary at EU level regarding the Connecting Europe Facility, and regarding the transfer of the assessment of two recognised ship inspection and survey organisations from the UK, Marine Notice 37 of 2018 (October 2018) regarding Maritime transport security, and Marine Notice 1 of 2019 (January 2019) regarding monitoring and verification  of CO2 emissions from maritime transport post-Brexit.

The Maritime side of my Department has drafted legislation regarding pilotage exemption certificates which was included in Part 9 of the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019, and which is ready to be commenced in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  This legislation will enable the continued efficient operation of Dublin Port and Port of Cork in a no-deal Brexit scenario and will minimise delays for vessels such as ferries which make regular visits to a port enabling harbour pilots to concentrate on more difficult pilotage assignments.

Amending secondary legislation has been prepared by the Maritime side of my Department to give full effect to a new Brexit-related EU Regulation relating to the assessment arrangements for ship inspection and survey organisations recognised at an EU level so as to facilitate the continued assessment of such recognised organisations by the Commission and any Member State that has authorised a recognised organisation to act on its behalf.    

Extensive contingency planning and stakeholder engagement by the Maritime side of my Department, in conjunction with and in close consultation with the IMDO, is continuing to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. This will include a focussed awareness campaign from early September aimed at shipping companies, importers and exporters to facilitate further a dialogue between them, for example, to identify as early as possible the extent of new or additional market demands for direct connections to continental Europe.

Tourism Policy

Ceisteanna (106)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

106. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for a wild Atlantic walkway; the potential impact such a walkway could have on tourism in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29569/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department's role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of national policy development.  Implementation of that policy is a matter for the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as other bodies.  The management and development of the tourism experience brands, including the Wild Atlantic Way, is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland.

I have, however, engaged with Fáilte Ireland in progressing a feasibility study on the development of a Wild Atlantic Way Coastal path, the first stage of which was a pilot study in 2018 to examine linking the existing Kerry Way and Dingle Way routes.  Early indications from the study show that there is strong economic value to rural hinterlands for developing long-distance iconic walks.

I am also aware that the Wild Atlantic Way Journey Review, which is reviewing the entire route, is currently at draft stage and that Fáilte Ireland will be consulting with Local Authorities to agree recommendations.

As these matters are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland, I have referred the Deputy's question to the tourism agency for further reply to the Deputy.  Please contact my private office if you have not received a reply within ten working days.    

Light Rail Projects Status

Ceisteanna (107)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

107. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a report on the plans and timetable for MetroLink; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29461/19]

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 MetroLink.

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.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (108)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

108. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in public transport infrastructure in County Meath. [29515/19]

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, which includes Co. Meath.

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.