Thursday, 4 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
88. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for developing a strategic framework for the development of sustainable transport modes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53657/21]
The Minister, Deputy Ryan, aims to publish the sustainable mobility policy framework before the end of this year. It will set out a strategic framework to 2030 for walking, cycling and public transport to support Ireland's overall requirement to achieve a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by the end of the decade. The framework will primarily focus on measures to promote and facilitate active travel and public transport for all and, in so doing, encourage less private car usage nationally to support our climate commitment. The climate action plan for 2021 sets out additional measures to promote other complementary transport mitigation measures such as the switch to electric car usage and greater use of renewable transport fuels.
A collaborative approach has been taken by the Department in developing the sustainable mobility policy framework through public consultation and extensive stakeholder engagement. It will set out a comprehensive set of actions to increase active travel infrastructure provision and improve public transport capacity and services throughout the country. These actions will be supported by behavioural change and demand management measures to make sustainable modes the preferred choice for as many people as possible. Transport needs are not uniform throughout the country and we recognise that tailored solutions will be needed for both urban and rural areas.
The new framework will be underpinned by funding under the national development plan, NDP, which provides €35 billion for transport over the next decade. This will enable significant investment in active travel, bus and rail infrastructure and the expansion of sustainable mobility options in our cities, towns and villages. This will be complemented by expanded public transport services throughout the country, as supported by the public service obligation, PSO, programme. The target of the policy framework will be to cater for daily travel needs in a more sustainable manner and deliver an additional 500,000 daily active travel and public transport journeys by 2030.
I am heartened by the commitment to deliver the sustainable mobility planning framework by the end of this year. The framework is a successor to the smarter travel policy, which brought us up to 2020. There was a very good consultation on that policy, which finished around the time of the general election. As we move forward with the new plan with increased ambition, it will be critical to our success. One of the weaknesses of the smarter travel policy was that it very much focused on commuting to work, whereas we really need to address transport in the round. The Minister of State has done very good work on safe routes to schools and school streets. Those types of journeys will be critical to the policy we deliver. I look forward to the consultation on the plan. If we can deliver an holistic approach to transport and the modal shift, we will see benefits across air quality, public health and for the economy.
The Deputy is entirely correct that this will require an approach across a number of areas, such as the safe routes to school initiative. However, it is not just about children in primary and secondary school having safe access; it is about local accessibility in towns and villages. It is not just an urban programme but one that will also work for rural areas. It is about enabling schools to work locally with their local authorities, particularly in tricky rural settings, to come up with solutions and models that can be replicated in other parts of the country. That was the call we put out through the National Transport Authority, NTA, when it was engaging with An Taisce on its Green-Schools initiatives with the local authorities. The message was that we were not just looking at urban areas but also at solutions for our rural towns and villages. The sustainable mobility framework will be closely aligned with the climate action plan and the strategic outcomes of the national planning framework, which will be especially important for regional accessibility, strengthening rural economies and ensuring we have sustainable mobility in the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society.
I am very happy to hear the Minister of State's emphasis on rural transport. If we are to solve the challenge of the rural-urban inequity divide generally, we simply have to tackle the challenge of rural transport provision. We should look to pursuing what the Germans and Swiss are doing, with the model of every village, every hour. I acknowledge the Connecting Ireland launch last week, which was fantastic. It will deliver huge benefits to villages and towns across rural Ireland and will give people an alternative to using the car and, for those who do not have a car, a means of getting about.
We need to make very hard decisions around the reallocation of road space, particularly in urban areas. I would like to see that addressed in the sustainable mobility policy framework. Will the Minister of State comment on that?
The Deputy is right to mention Connecting Ireland. When we talk about public transport, there is the issue that people have a vision focusing on urban Ireland and our cities. Connecting Ireland is about delivering public transport in rural towns and villages throughout the country. That is key if we want to ensure people in rural Ireland have connectivity. However, we also need to be practical and realistic in recognising that not every rural area will have a public transport option. The aim is to maximise the potential of those routes and have evidence-based policy in regard to public transport services in rural areas throughout the country.
The draft policy framework is looking at issues like ensuring continued mobility safety, decarbonising public transport, expanding the metropolitan area sustainability options, expanding rural and regional sustainable mobility options, and encouraging people to choose sustainable mobility over the private car. We want transport-led development. This is about an all-of-government approach to ensuring we are building in the right areas and, where we have housing developments, that there is a sustainable, integrated transport system aligned with them.