The Deputy knows that I am committed toward increasing the share of persons using sustainable modes of transport – be that on foot, on bicycles or on public transport – and I am determined that this Government will deliver a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland as committed to in the Programme for Government. At the heart of that change will be the development, and, even more importantly the delivery, of a well-planned multi-modal transport network that can facilitate a switch to sustainable mobility for as many people as possible.
As the Deputy is aware the Metropolitan Area Transport Strategies have been, or are being, developed by the National Transport Authority, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders including local authorities. I very much welcome the development of these transport strategies to guide transport investment and the delivery of transport infrastructure in all the major cities. This move toward evidence based, plan-led transport planning for our major cities allows for consideration of the issues highlighted by the Deputy and the potential role all modes of transport can play in addressing them. I would also note that providing this type of long-term investment framework represents international best practice in the area of transport planning.
Obviously all strategies and plans produced by agencies must comply with relevant Government policy. In that regard, it is important to understand the fundamental role of transport strategies in setting out the infrastructure requirements needed in metropolitan areas to enable significant modal shift in line with overarching Government policy.
However, what transport strategies cannot do is make people use the infrastructure or assume that all people will simply switch to using the new and improved infrastructure. The issue of behavioural change is complex and, internationally, is recognised as an issue which requires considerable time to influence and significantly change in any meaningful way.
This interplay between infrastructure requirements and behavioural change can influence perspectives on the positive potential of transport strategies. As an example the draft transport strategy for the Deputy’s own city of Limerick proposes a cycling network capable of facilitating 33,000 cyclists per hour travelling to/from the city centre on vastly improved cycling infrastructure. The Deputy will acknowledge that this level of cycling in Limerick would represent an utterly transformed scenario than the current levels of cycling within the city today.
The Deputy can be assured that all of Government is committed to achieving the fundamental change in transport required in the coming years and I believe that the metropolitan area transport strategies, and their integration with relevant land-use plans, will have an important role to play in that regard.