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Transport Policy

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 22 April 2021

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Ceisteanna (40)

Holly Cairns


40. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the way in which his Department and agencies under his remit encourage and facilitate employees to use active travel to commute to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21057/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is the principal Government Department with responsibility for active travel.  Among a broad set of responsibilities across the transport area, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has certain statutory objectives and functions in relation to the promotion of active travel.

Project Ireland 2040, which was launched in February 2018, sets out the Government’s policy on spatial planning and infrastructure development over the period to 2040.  Active travel is a feature of the two overarching policy documents – the National Planning Framework and the ten-year National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027.

My Department recognises the environmental, health and well-being, economic and social benefits of active travel.  In this context, staff in my Department have access to the Cycle to Work Scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners.  In operation since 2009, the Cycle to Work Scheme is a tax incentive scheme that allows employers to purchase new bikes and related safety equipment for employees who repay the costs through an agreed schedule of deductions from their gross salary.  The amount of salary sacrificed is exempt from tax, employee’s PRSI and income levies.  

My Department also provides secure bike sheds, shower facilities and dry-rooms where feasible for staff who travel to and from work by bicycle or by other modes of active travel.  In addition, a bicycle repair station for staff use has recently been installed at the rear of the Government Buildings campus.  This repair station will contain basic tools and consumables to assist cyclists should they encounter routine maintenance issues.

More generally, my Department is committed to a culture of staff wellbeing and this is reinforced by the Department's Health and Wellbeing Strategy – “Your PERsonal Wellbeing”, which was launched in November 2020.  It has been well documented that the health and wellbeing of staff directly affects employee engagement and performance.  Many of the initiatives under the strategy are focused on encouraging staff to be more active, including, for example, a recent 'step challenge'.  

I am advised that the position in relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department is as set out below.

Office of Public Works (OPW)

Due to the current Covid 19 health pandemic, the OPW, in line with Government policy encourages staff to work from home where possible and does not currently encourage employees to attend the workplace.  The OPW will continue to encourage staff to use active travel when it is safe to return to the workplace by approving employee applications on the cycle to work scheme, where 79 applications were approved in 2020.  The OPW provide secure bike sheds / storage facilities, shower and changing facilities and lockers for staff in the main offices who choose active forms of travel.  The OPW will continue to encourage the use of the Travel Pass for all TaxSaver Travel Pass Tickets which will contribute to active travel.  There was a 6 month extension of the 2020 Travel Pass for all TaxSaver Travel Pass Ticket Holders due to Covid 19 and this brings current Travel Pass Tickets up to the end of June 2021.

Public Appointments Service (PAS)

With society’s increasing concern for the sustainability of our natural resources, the Public Appointments Service is committed to meeting their responsibilities to ensure that their services are delivered through the efficient use of resources with minimal environmental impact.  In collaboration with their Corporate Social Responsibility committee, PAS encourage staff to travel to work using their own energy where possible.  In the last 5 years, 10% of the PAS workforce have availed of the cycle to work scheme and the Public Appointments Service has a bike shed on-site where staff can store their bicycles safely.  Staff are not encouraged to drive to work due to a limited number of parking spaces on-site which are reserved for staff who need them on an exceptional basis, including those who require them as a reasonable accommodation.  30% of the workforce avail of the annual travel pass scheme which encourages staff to travel to work using public transport.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Public Appointments Service has prioritised the health, safety and wellbeing of PAS people and, as a result, all staff have been working remotely since March 2020.  As part of the Staying Well and Connected programme, PAS have run three step challenges and a 40 day fitness challenge over the past 12 months which have all encouraged PAS staff to increase their daily step count and also to build a walking commute into their daily routine.   

National Shared Services Office (NSSO)

The NSSO supports and encourages active travel by providing secure parking for bicycles, promoting walking options, and providing changing and shower facilities on-site for staff.  Staff do not have guaranteed access to car parking in any of the NSSO sites.  In addition, the NSSO encourages staff to avail of the Cycle to Work Scheme.  Currently during the pandemic, 95% of NSSO staff are working from home and public transport is reduced to 25% capacity so active travel is promoted for health and wellbeing reasons and reduction of risk during the pandemic. The NSSO also has an Employee Engagement programme in place that promotes and organises staff activities, including active travel, for example over 100 NSSO staff completed 7,000 miles as part of a 56-mile challenge in the month of February.

Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman encourages staff at every available opportunity to walk or cycle to work, most recently in the Office’s April 2021 ‘Green Team’ bulletin which issued to all staff.  Walking and cycling to work are also included as one of the aims of the Office in its ‘Resource Efficiency Action Plan 2020’.  The Office facilitates employees to use active travel through reminding staff of the existence of the cycle to work scheme and also by providing showers and lockers for staff who choose to walk or cycle.  The cycle to work scheme is advertised to all new staff members as part of the Office’s induction programme.  Staff are made fully aware of the details of the scheme, the terms and conditions and the application process. It is also regularly promoted to existing staff through HR updates and health and wellbeing initiatives organised by the by the Office’s Wellness Committee.  The level of uptake in the scheme since its introduction has been consistently high.  In addition, other methods of promoting an active workforce include the setting up of running and walking clubs in the Office.

State Laboratory

The Cycle to Work Scheme is available to all State Laboratory staff and over 25% of staff have availed of it. The State Laboratory provides showering facilities, wet gear drying facilities and secure, sheltered bicycle parking on its premises to facilitate staff who require it.

National Lottery Regulator (ORNL)

The ORNL facilitates employees to use active travel to commute to work by enabling them to avail of the Cycle to Work scheme.  In addition, shower facilities can be used by staff who may wish to run/cycle to work and shower before reporting to work.  As part of the ORNL’s Covid 19 response, all ORNL staff have been facilitated to work from home and typically do so.