Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
52. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will issue an order for HEPA filters to be used on all public transport while Covid-19 infection rates are at high levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62358/21]
87. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will issue an order for public transport to operate at 50% capacity while Covid-19 infection rates are at high levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62357/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 87 together.
As 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 operation of public transport. That is the responsibility of the National Transport Authority in conjunction with the relevant public transport operators.
The continued operation of public transport services has been a priority throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government is committed to ensuring that essential transport services, and passengers utilising these services, are protected and supported.
The Chief Medical Officer and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are responsible for the issuing of guidelines in relation to public health and these advices apply across all modes of public transport. Public transport operators have been advised of, and are guided by, public health instructions issued by the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in relation to COVID-19.
As part of the further easing of a range of Covid-19 restrictions, the Government decided that from 01/09/2021 public transport could return to operating at 100% capacity. This decision was taken as demand for public transport services had steadily continued to increase week-on-week, with the return of schools, third level education, and the return of more employees to the workplace. The National Transport Authority (NTA) continue to liaise with transport operators to monitor passenger trends and any challenges that may arise as transport returns to full capacity.
A number of measures have been implemented by public transport operators to ensure the safe operation of services, including:
- enhanced cleaning regimes for vehicles and stations;
- distribution of personal protective equipment to public transport staff;
- distribution of hand sanitizer on vehicles and at stations; and
- display of public health advice and guidelines on vehicles and in stations
In addition, notices have been applied within vehicles where windows can be opened, to encourage passengers to leave them open for ventilation purposes.
The NTA continues to engage with public transport operators regarding the safe operating of services during the pandemic. In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this area, I have also referred the Deputy's questions to the NTA. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.
54. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of, and position regarding, the steps he is taking to prioritise rural transport needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61604/21]
As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.
It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) that has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which operates under the TFI Local Link brand.
The Connecting Ireland plan is a major national public transport initiative developed by the NTA with the aim of increasing public transport connectivity, particularly for people living outside the major cities and towns. It will significantly increase both the number of routes and the frequency of existing services right across the country.
I joined the NTA to launch its Connecting Ireland consultation which ran from 2 November to 10 December 2021. The Deputy will be pleased to learn that Connecting Ireland proposes to specifically expand the public transport network in rural areas and to increase service levels. Under Connecting Ireland, the NTA is proposing an overall increase of approximately 25% in rural bus services as part of the five year Connecting Ireland plan. Hundreds of rural villages and areas will for the first time be served by a viable public transport link.
I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.
55. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will report on the fulfilment of the programme for Government commitment to develop hydrogen as a fuel for the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62066/21]