Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Transport Policy

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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239. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he is taking to encourage active travel modes to and from work in his Department and public bodies and agencies that operate under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17382/22]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Department of Transport is the principal 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. In January of this year, the Minister of Transport announced that the NTA had allocated funds to Ireland’s local authorities with a view to spending €289 million on walking and cycling infrastructure in 2022. This funding covers approximately 1,200 Active Travel projects.

Project Ireland 2040sets 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) 2021-2030.

My Department is currently liaising with the NTA with a view to signing up to the TFI Smarter Travel programme to promote and encourage sustainable and active commuting. 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 in a number of our buildings 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 for routine bicycle maintenance is situated at the rear of the Government Buildings campus.

More generally, my Department is committed to a culture of staff well-being and this is reinforced by the Department’s Health and Well-being Strategy. It has been well documented that the health and well-being of staff directly affects employee engagement and performance and many of the initiatives under the strategy are focused on encouraging staff to be more active. My Department’s “PERsonal Wellbeing Calendar 2022” sets out a series of events and conferences designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and to mark various national awareness days. These include a Step Challenge and events to mark National Walking Day.

The position in relation to the bodies under the aegis of my Department is set out below.

Office of Public Works (OPW)

The OPW will continue to encourage staff to use active travel by approving employee applications on the Cycle to Work Scheme. The OPW provide secure bike sheds and 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.

Public Appointments Service (PAS)

PAS is committed to meeting their responsibilities to ensure that 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 five years, 11.5% of the PAS workforce have availed of the cycle to work scheme and the PAS has bike storage on-site where staff can store their bicycles safely. Staff are not encouraged to drive to work and only a very limited number of parking spaces are available on-site, which are reserved for staff who need them on an exceptional basis, including those who require them as a reasonable accommodation.

Where staff are not within walking or cycling distance of the office, they are encouraged to use public transport. Prior to the pandemic, 30% of the workforce availed of the annual travel pass scheme which encourages staff to travel to work using public transport and this is likely to resume from 2022.

As part of the Staying Well and Connected programme, PAS have run a number of step and fitness challenges which have all encouraged staff to build a walking commute into their daily routine and to walk on local journeys where possible.

National Shared Services Office (NSSO)

The NSSO provides showers and bicycle cages to facilitate and encourage staff to walk, run and cycle to and from work, and for those that wish to exercise during break times. In addition, NSSO staff have access to the Travel Pass Scheme and Cycle to Work Scheme. The NSSO also runs a series of health and well-being seminars and talks whose aims included getting people to become and stay active.

Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman provides showers, lockers and bicycle cages to facilitate and encourage staff to walk, run and cycle to and from work. Staff were also offered free bicycle servicing on a particular day during the pandemic. The Office has also ran a series of health and well-being seminars and talks whose aims included getting people to become and stay active.

State Laboratory

The staff of the State Laboratory have access to the Travel Pass Scheme and Cycle to Work Scheme. Secure and sheltered bicycle parking is available to staff, as are showers and changing facilities.

Office of the Regulator of the National Lottery Regulator (ORNL)

The ORNL supports staff who wish to cycle to work by facilitating participation in the Cycle to Work Scheme. The ORNL has secure storage available to staff cycling to work. Shower facilities are normally available which can be used by staff who want to cycle or run to work, although these facilities are currently unavailable due to refurbishment works.


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