Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
21. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the commitments in the programme for Government to examine the development of national tourism trails linking ferry ports and the rail network and to work with the ports and ferry companies to increase the number of foot and cycle passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62256/21]
The Deputy refers to specific commitments under the Programme for Government. These two commitments relate to the examination of "the development of national tourism trails linking our ferry port and rail network”and working "with the ports and ferry companies to increase the number of foot and cycle passengers”.
In relation to the first commitment, the development and promotion of tourism product experiences, such as tourism trails, are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland – the National Tourism Development Authority. Queries on such matters should be addressed to my colleague Catherine Martin, TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
I understand from that Department that the new National Development Plan 2021-2030 (NDP) provides for the delivery of enhanced amenity through investment in tourism product development. Accordingly, the new NDP supports the delivery of projects – such as the Wild Atlantic Walkway – that will support a tourism sector that is sustainable from an environmental, social and economic perspective, with the development and enhancement of quality tourist attractions/experiences and activity-based tourism amongst the priority areas for tourism capital investment.
In relation to the second commitment under my remit as Minister for Transport, as well as another commitment to "work to ensure that ferry companies provide access for foot passengers without cars", my officials undertook a review of the services and facilities available to accommodate foot and cycle passengers at our seaports and on ferry services out of Ireland. While the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and the impacts of Brexit delayed this work for a time, a resumption of engagement with the shipping operators on the issue of foot passengers will commence shortly.
The Department will also engage with the passenger ports at Dublin, Rosslare and Cork on their plans for ensuring continued access to ferry services for foot passengers, working with the ferry companies in this regard. Based on the outcome of that engagement, the Department will assess what changes need to be encouraged to enhance the passenger experience and make it a more attractive option for the travelling public.
A key priority for all Government departments, including Transport, is meeting the carbon emissions targets under the Climate Action Plan. It is acknowledged that both rail and shipping contribute a smaller proportion to the total volume of atmospheric emissions compared to road vehicles and air transport. As such, increased use of these modes is a more sustainable form of transport and should be encouraged.