Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Dublin Bus Fleet
62. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress being made to replace diesel buses in Dublin with alternative low emission vehicles; the type of buses that will replace diesel buses; the number of buses that will be replaced with non-diesel buses each year; the timeframe to replace all buses in Dublin with non-diesel buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6431/19]
What progress is being made to replace diesel buses in Dublin with alternative low-emission vehicles? I ask the Minister to indicate the types of buses that will replace diesel buses and the annual programme of replacement.
The Deputy is aware that Project Ireland 2040 commits to ending the purchase of diesel-only buses from July 2019 for all our urban bus fleets. This is an important commitment and one which we all are looking forward to commencing as part of this year’s PSO bus purchase programme by the NTA.
Of course we all know that this move alone it is not enough and that we need a fundamental shift away from the private car and onto sustainable transport options if we are really going to tackle the transport dimension of our climate change challenge.
That is where the significantly improved funding secured will have an important role to play through: increasing PSO bus and rail services; expanding PSO bus and rail fleets; and significantly improving our cycling infrastructure across the major cities and beyond. As the numbers of passengers using our PSO bus services increase, so too will the number of cleaner and greener buses.
To support the change, a comprehensive series of low-emission bus trials is under way in Dublin and Cork, funded through my Department’s green public transport fund and with support from multiple agencies, including the National Transport Authority, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. It is expected that the trials will conclude in April 2019. A final report will be produced which will further inform the best lower-emission option, or options, for our PSO services in the greater Dublin area and in the regional cities in the years ahead. In addition to this, a number of double-deck diesel-electric hybrid buses will shortly be delivered to Dublin Bus for a trial which will allow for a comparison of various manufacturers' offerings.
Complementing those trials, the NTA will soon commence a tender process for the purchase of diesel-electric hybrid buses as part of next year’s bus purchase programme. This new contract will be in place during the second half of this year but the exact date of delivery of the new hybrid vehicles will only be confirmed subsequent to the appointment of the successful tenderer.
I thank the Minister for his reply. He indicated that trials are ongoing. My understanding is that they should have started sooner. He concluded by saying that a contract will be awarded later this year. Will that contract be awarded on foot of the trials being completed analysed and reviewed? I understand 150 buses are on order and will be in situbefore July. The Minister has made the commitment that from July all the buses will be low-emission vehicles. I ask the Minister to confirm that the 150 on order at the moment are diesel buses. Will they be in use for the next decade or longer?
The Minister has indicated that they might be all electric or hybrid. The key point is that we are coming to this late in the day. For quite a period of time we have been listening to talk of trials and putting them on the road. Those trials are only taking place now. Why are we only at this stage with trials?
I thought the Deputy would take exactly the opposite view. I thought he would find it really welcome that bus trials are ongoing and that we are moving to the era of diesel-electric vehicles. The NTA is beginning a tender process for the purchase of diesel-electric hybrid buses. I thought the Deputy would welcome this.
Double-deck buses have an optimal life of about 12 years and the NTA’s current fleet strategy envisages a continual fleet replacement programme of about one twelfth of the fleet each year, which equates to approximately 95 buses being replaced each year out of a total current complement of 1,136 vehicles. Development of an overall medium-term and long-term policy will be informed by the conclusion of the work I have referred to already. However, July's deadline is an important one and very welcome.
I welcome the move to low-emission vehicles. However, the Minister has set a deadline of July, but the NTA has fast-tracked and is currently purchasing 150 diesel buses for 2019. Had the trials been conducted earlier, the fleet of buses we are buying today and which will be in use for the next decade might be something different. I am very appreciative and supportive of the move, not just to meet our carbon-emission targets, but also from the point of view of air quality in Dublin. I am very impressed by the idea of moving to low-emission vehicles, but the Minister has missed this year's deadline. He has set a deadline and will not be delivering low-emission vehicles in 2019 because 150 diesel buses are on order and will come in.