Aviation Industry

Ceisteanna (215)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

215. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Transport the consumer rights for persons who have booked flights to green list countries but now find out these countries are on the red list although flights are still operating; if such persons will be allowed to change their flight without being penalised with fees or else receive a voucher for the equivalent amount; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26365/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

In cases where a flight has been booked as part of a package holiday with an Irish licensed travel agent and the country has been moved from the green to red list, the consumer can seek refund under the EU Package Travel Directive 2302 due to "unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances." That should be sought from the travel agent, in the first instance. Such a refund must be made within 14 days. Where a flight has been booked directly with an airline, the relevant legal protections are different and fall under EU Regulation 261, which covers the rights of airline passengers in instances of flight cancellations. Under that Regulation, an airline has 7 days to make a cash refund to its customers when it cancels a flight. However, if a flight goes ahead and a customer either cancels or does not use their ticket, they are not entitled to a refund under EU law, irrespective of the circumstances. That said, I understand that the main Irish airlines have waived flight change fees in circumstances where a flight occurs and people are not able to present because of Government advice, although fare differences and date restrictions may apply.

Evidently, the existing consumer protections and legal obligations on airlines and the broader travel sector did not envisage the current circumstances of mass cancellations and stringent travel restrictions for countries that are not on the 'Green' list. That has, not surprisingly, put the entire system under immense pressure and it is causing real difficulties for people and businesses.

I am mindful that the options put forward by airlines may not be workable for customers in all instances. My colleague the Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton continues to engage with the airlines in respect to consumer rights issues, with calls for the airlines to offer fair and reasonable alternatives to passengers who wish not to travel at this time.

The Deputy will appreciate that there is no mechanism to compel airlines to cancel planned flights or to provide refunds or specific alternatives to refunds when there is no legal requirement to do so.

Marine Accidents

Ceisteanna (216)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

216. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Transport his views on the European Court of Justice ruling recently that Ireland is not fulfilling its obligations under Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/18 governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector; the steps that have been taken by his Department and-or the Marine Casualty Investigation Board to ensure compliance with the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26421/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Court of Justice of the European Union recently delivered its judgment in relation to Ireland's implementation of Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/18/EC.

Following that judgment, my Department obtained legal advice on the possible next steps to address the Court's findings.

As a first step to address the immediate issue regarding the membership of the Board of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), both the Chief Surveyor of the Marine Survey Office and the nominee of the Secretary General of my Department have resigned from the Board.

Furthermore, since my reply to your most recent Parliamentary Question on this matter, I can confirm that officials from my Department are currently engaging with colleagues in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in relation to the preparation of amending regulations to give further effect to Directive 2009/18/EC having regard to the findings of the Court and the requirements of Article 8(1) of the Directive.

There has also been an exchange of correspondence with the EU Commission regarding the actions taken and proposed to address the Court Judgment and the concerns of the Commission.

Every effort continues to be made to progress matters as quickly as possible.

State Assets

Ceisteanna (217)

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

217. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport the indicative cost to Exchequer to repurchase a shareholding in a company at percentage rates (details supplied), in tabular form. [26435/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Aer Lingus became a wholly owned subsidiary of the International Airlines Group (IAG) in 2015, with its shares delisted from the Irish and London Stock Exchanges.

The issue that the Deputy refers to is not under consideration by Government.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (218)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

218. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider adding a provision to the taxi regulations that would allow taxi and small public service vehicle owner-drivers to suspend their taxi plate for a year due to the current collapse of the trade in view of Covid-19 restrictions, and be able to reactivate their plate after a year without extra penalties or costs over and above a nominal administration fee. [26438/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including regulatory measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

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

Road Safety

Ceisteanna (219)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

219. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Transport the funding that will be allocated for the R178 Carrickmacross-Shercock road for the purpose of safety improvement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26471/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works is a matter for decision by the local authority.

The section of the R178 from Carrickmacross to Shercock forms part of the proposal to develop an upgraded East-West route linking Dundalk to Sligo, taking in Cavan, and involving linking elements of the national road network and regional roads.

Grant support has been provided to Cavan County Council, acting as lead authority for Councils in the area, to enable the Council to undertake work to update its appraisal of the scheme to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it can be justified in terms of the Public Spending Code and the Common Appraisal Framework. The Department is currently liaising with the Council in relation to carrying out a risk based analysis for the route between Dundalk and Cavan.

Cycle to Work Scheme

Ceisteanna (220)

Steven Matthews

Ceist:

220. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Transport if consideration has been given to amending the cycle to work scheme in order to remove the potential barrier to accessing it, whereby employers can choose not to participate, and to facilitate an applicant in applying in circumstances in which an employer is not willing to participate. [26499/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy is aware the Cycle to Work Scheme, which I am very supportive of, is a tax incentive scheme administered by the Revenue Commissioners and governed by tax legislation and tax policy which are matters for my colleague the Minister for Finance. In that regard I very much welcome his recent announcement of increased thresholds under the existing scheme as part of the July Stimulus. The increases are in line with the commitment made in the Programme for Government in relation to the scheme.

In relation to the specific issue raised by the Deputy, and noting the Minister for Finance’s responsibilities in the area, I believe the issue can be considered more fully in the context of my Department’s review of Sustainable Mobility policy which is currently ongoing. I intend that the new policy framework will provide a strategic backdrop to the increased investment planned by this Government across the sustainable mobility programme, including active travel.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (221)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

221. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport if there will be a pause or extension to the National Transport Authority rules compelling taxi drivers to replace their cars after ten years in view of the crisis facing the sector due to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26558/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including SPSV vehicle standards and age limits for vehicles, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

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

Transport Infrastructure Provision

Ceisteanna (222)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

222. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport when approval will be given for the necessary works following the submission of a feasibility report for a footbridge over the Owenriff River, Oughterard, County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26560/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and securing exchequer funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the operation and upgrading of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. This is also subject to the Public Spending Code Guidelines and the necessary statutory approvals. In this context, TII is best placed to advise you on the status of this project.

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

Free Travel Scheme

Ceisteanna (223, 225)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

223. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person who holds a free travel pass cannot book an online ticket with Bus Éireann; his plans to change this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26567/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

225. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport the reason holders of a free travel card can book a seat online with Irish Rail but are unable to book a seat with Bus Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26569/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 225 together.

As the Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is an operational matter for Bus Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the company for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Free Travel Scheme

Question No. 225 answered with Question No. 223.

Ceisteanna (224)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

224. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Transport the counties for which passengers with a free travel card are allowed to book their seat online with Irish Rail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26568/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Question No. 225 answered with Question No. 223.

Aviation Policy

Ceisteanna (226, 227, 236)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

226. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the actions taken to implement the aviation recovery task force report; the actions from this document he plans to implement; and the timeframe in which they will be implemented. [26578/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

227. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport his plans to progress recommendation 6of the aviation recovery task force report in which the State should directly provide the airports with a common fixed sum per passenger which will be used by the airports with the aim of protecting the viability of the airports and protect air connectivity nationally. [26579/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

236. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the aviation task force recommendations; and if the recommendations will be implemented in their entirety. [26814/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226, 227 and 236 together.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce submitted its Report in early July in which it made a series of recommendations around how Government could help stimulate a return to growth in the industry. These recommendations included a loosening of international travel restrictions, the finalisation of safe air travel protocols for airports and airlines and the provision of Exchequer funding for airlines and airports.

Where it has been able to, the Government has responded positively to the Report's recommendations. The wage subsidy scheme - which benefits aviation companies - has been extended out to April next year, a safe air travel protocol document has been published and liquidity supports are available through the ISIF Pandemic Stability Fund. Moreover, the Government is working hard at European level to secure a common EU-wide approach to air travel that offers the prospect of easing some travel restrictions in a safe way.

Whilst we clearly have not yet arrived at a point where it makes sense for the Government to try to stimulate growth in air travel, as envisaged by the Taskforce Report, consideration is being given to what more needs to be done to protect key connectivity - including outside of Dublin - without undermining the central public health objective of reducing the spread of Covid-19. It should be noted that additional emergency funding has already been allocated to Shannon Airport, and the Regional Airports Programme is continuing to provide important financial supports for our regional airports.

Aviation Policy

Ceisteanna (228, 229)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

228. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the direct supports he plans to put in place for regional and international airports outside Dublin; if he has considered a passenger subsidy, either indirectly by way of airport charges or directly; and the proposals that have been considered. [26580/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

229. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport his plans to progress recommendation 6 of the aviation recovery task force report regarding funding for essential capital projects in line with European Commission rules on state supports to airports in such a way as to ensure airports with fewer than 3 million passengers are deemed eligible for capital expenditure support. [26581/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

All airports, including those outside of Dublin, are already benefitting from an extensive range of Government measures during this difficult time. These include wage subsidy schemes, grants, low-cost loans, waiver of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities.

Up to the end of August, the regional airports of Cork, Donegal, Ireland West, Kerry and Shannon Group (including Shannon Airport) had collectively received, or were in the process of applying for horizontal supports to a value of approx €6.5 million.

The smaller of these airports, those that typically handle less than 1 million passengers, are also receiving €6m in Exchequer grants this year from Current and Capital Schemes under the existing Regional Airports Programme.

In addition to the grant aid, regional connectivity continues to be subsidised through Government funded PSO air services between Dublin and the airports of Donegal and Kerry. Over €7m is being provided to support this service in 2020.

A new Regional Airports Programme for a five year period starting in 2021 is also being finalised. This will help eligible airports remain viable as they begin to plan for recovery and transition away from the devastation of Covid.

Prior to Covid-19, the State-owned airports of Shannon and Cork had more than 1 million passengers. As a result, and because of their commercial status, these airports were never part of the Regional Airports Programme.

While State aid rules do not preclude these airports from receiving capital funding, it has been a matter of national policy to target limited supports at our smallest airports – those that would ordinarily struggle, because of their size, to finance projects/activities that would ensure ongoing compliance with safety and security obligations.

Notwithstanding this, as a result of Covid, an emergency Exchequer contribution of €6.1million was approved for a Hold Baggage Screening project at Shannon Airport in June this year.

In relation to any future support mechanisms for the aviation sector, my Department will continue to work closely with aviation stakeholders and continue to review options in the context of the Government’s plans for international travel, having regard to the recommendations of the Aviation Taskforce.

I cannot give specific commitments at this time because any further supports that may be considered will be part of the ongoing Budget deliberations, and there are many competing demands on the Exchequer. However, I can assure the Deputy that the importance of these airports to the regions is well understood by Government.

Airport Policy

Ceisteanna (230)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

230. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is essential for County Cork to achieve its growth targets within the Ireland 2040 document to have a viable international airport; and the way in which he plans to ensure Cork Airport, as the second largest airport, can be supported, to safeguard the jobs within the airport and to ensure the viability of the airport on a continuous basis. [26582/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his question in relation to Cork Airport.

Growth targets for all Irish airports as envisaged in Project Ireland 2040 and the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027, have been and will continue to be severely impacted by Covid-19. This is true for airports right around the world.

As the Deputy is aware, Cork Airport is an autonomous business unit within the daa. I have met with the daa and have been updated on the challenges facing daa Group, including Cork Airport. Minister of State Naughton has also recently met with the Managing Director of Cork Airport.

In order to assist businesses in facing the challenges of Covid-19 and further protect employment, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for companies of all sizes, including those in the aviation sector, which includes the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) (and its predecessor the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme), extended until April 2021, commercial rates waiver and deferred tax liabilities. daa is availing of these supports which are designed to assist businesses, including our airports in terms of the management of their companies during this unprecedented time.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce set out recommendations for consideration by Ministers and Government on what needs to be done to assist the Irish aviation sector to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The taskforce report contains a number of recommendations on how to support Irish aviation, which has been badly affected by the almost complete shutdown of international air travel. The recommendations include measures to sustain the industry for so long as travel restrictions are in place and also measures to help stimulate a return to growth, when the time is right. The Government has already implemented several recommendations, including the extension of the wage subsidy scheme and the publication of safe air travel protocols. We have also progressed a European slot rule waiver for airlines in consultation with the European Commission.

The other recommendations, including further targeted financial supports to help reinstate connectivity (including for Cork Airport), regional development and sustainability in the sector are being examined. Work is required to develop these recommendations into effective interventions, and that work is underway by my Department. It will feed into the Government’s further plans to aid broader economic recovery, including in the aviation sector.

The Government’s recently published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 specifically addresses the approach to international travel and proposes that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission’s recently published proposal to promote a common approach to travel restrictions and movement within the EU/EEA. This proposal will now be considered by the Council of Ministers.

In relation to any future support mechanisms for the aviation sector, my Department will continue to work closely with aviation stakeholders and continue to review options in the context of the Government’s plans for international travel, having regard to the recommendations of the Aviation Taskforce.

I cannot give specific commitments at this time because any further supports that may be considered will be part of the ongoing Budget deliberations, and there are many competing demands on the public purse. I want to assure you Deputy that my Department is in continuous contact with the daa, in terms of both Dublin and Cork airports and that the importance of these airports to the regions is well understood by Government.

Aviation Policy

Ceisteanna (231, 250)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

231. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Transport the actions he has taken regarding recommendation 3 of the aviation recovery task force report; his views on whether a comprehensive testing, tracking and tracing regime is essential to ensure that travel risks associated with international travel and aviation are minimised; the discussions he has had with the Minister for Health regarding the need to have a high enough level of testing and tracing to allow for such travel; and the outcome of such discussions. [26583/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Carey

Ceist:

250. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to Fiumicino Airport, Rome, which is trialling a pre-departure Covid-19 testing system for passengers; his views on introducing a similar system in airports here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27082/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 250 together.

The Aviation Recovery Task Force Report acknowledges that maintaining restrictions on international travel is an unsustainable strategy in the medium to long term. There is a significant risk of loss of essential connectivity and market access opportunities for movement of goods and people this winter and beyond. Reduced connectivity leads to a rise in costs for essential travel and air cargo, with implications for the wider economy, competitiveness and investment, as well as a risk to the aviation industry itself.

The Government's approach to international travel to date has sought to protect public health and contain the disease while respecting that in certain circumstances travel will be essential. Under the plan for living with Covid-19, it is proposed that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission proposals for an EU common approach to COVID-19 and International travel, whereby testing would be considered as a viable alternative to travel restrictions.

The European Commission proposal would see the mapping of States by the European Centre for Disease Control according to the Epi data available, as a basis for applying a proposed common EU framework for COVID-19 restrictions, including testing for travel from higher risk locations for COVID-19. The details of the EU proposal are still being worked through by Member States at a European level. Ireland will continue to engage with Member States and the Commission to develop a regime that is consistent with the public health requirements.

The Government will continue to ensure that any proposed testing arrangements to facilitate international travel do not impact on resources and capacity available in the health sector for the testing and tracing of symptomatic patients and serial testing of high-risk groups or workplace environments.

My Department is engaging with colleagues across Government, including with Department of Health and the HSE, to explore the possibility of a robust testing and screening regime for international travel. In addition, my Department is continuing to engage with the aviation industry on the feasibility of airport testing, including pre-departures testing.

I hope to bring forward a Memo for Government concerning International travel within the coming fortnight.

Bus Services

Ceisteanna (232)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

232. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Transport the number of antisocial incidents on Dublin Bus by individual bus routes and by month in each of the past two years that did not result in bus curtailment, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26623/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

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

The safety and security of public transport passengers and staff, including arrangements to deal with anti-social behaviour, are important matters that, first and foremost, must be managed by every public transport company, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, where appropriate.

The issue raised is an operational matter for Dublin Bus and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Road Safety

Ceisteanna (233)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

233. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport when the next national roads speed limit review will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26647/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The most recent speed limit guidelines were issued in March 2015 following a review by a speed limit review working group. Local Authorities (in conjunction with TII in respect of National Roads) are able to amend and set Speed Limits as appropriate and in accordance with the Speed Limit Guidelines for different sections of the road network as required and adopt bye-laws under a reserved function.

This is an ongoing process for local authorities and this can require a review by local authorities when speed limit guidance is updated or when local authorities believe that safety can be improved by better matching certain speed limit zones to existing guidance/best practice. In this context, the 2020 Programme for Government has committed to review and reduce speed limits, where appropriate, to address both road safety issues and carbon emissions, and ensure greater compliance.

Ireland’s road network is extensive and inconsistent, which means that a ‘one size fits all’ solution for Speed Limits for the circa 100,000 kilometre road network is not always possible and queries will arise. My Department is currently developing a speed limit appeals process whereby a member of the public can query or appeal a speed limit to the local authority.

Regional Airports

Ceisteanna (234, 235)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

234. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Transport the status of the review that he is carrying out into a company (details supplied); and the timeframe for the completion of this review. [26750/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

235. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Transport the Department that is carrying out the review into a company (details supplied). [26751/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 235 together.

I would like to thank the Deputy for her questions in relation to the review of Shannon Group. I can confirm that work on the review is continuing in my Department and I will be bringing recommendations to Government shortly.

It is my intention that the Company, including Shannon Airport, will be well positioned for the future particularly given the importance of Shannon Airport to the economy of the Midwest region and indeed nationally.