Greens call for revamped transport model to prioritise public travel

Published by Niall Sargent on

March 25th, 2019

All current transport programmes should be “immediately revised” to ensure that twice as much spending goes toward public transport as road infrastructure, the Green Party has said.

The Greens want the policy move included in the much-awaited report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to set out the trajectory to bring down Ireland’s emissions over the coming decades.

The report – set to be released this week – follows six months of scrutiny by committee members and contains over 40 priority recommendations based on a wish list outlined by the Citizens’ Assembly.

The need for urgent action to reduce emissions in the sector where emissions have grown 140 per cent between 1990 and 2016 is starkly laid out in the latest draft report seen by The Green News.

“Stabilising and then reducing emissions from the transport sector must be tackled urgently and aggressively if Ireland is to have any hope of reaching our 2030 obligations under the Paris Agreement,” the draft warns.

There were almost 2.7 million vehicles registered in Ireland in 2017, with over half of all transport emissions coming from private car journeys.

While the transport recommendations outlined are generally ambitious, the Greens want to insert a line stating that the committee recommends the adoption of the Citizens’ Assembly call for the State to spend at least twice as much on public transport as road building.

The draft report currently states that, while the Committee “notes the intention” of the Assembly, “such a ratio is not tailored to adequately guide all transport investment given that investment in a road can incorporate bus lanes, cycle lanes and footpaths”.

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More ambitious transport plans

Among key transport recommendations set to be outlined by the committee are greater prioritisation of public transport under Project Ireland 2040 and greater rural public transport networks.

Project Ireland 2040 includes a significant programme of investment in our public transport infrastructure including the Metrolink and Dart Expansion in Co Dublin and Bus Connects in counties Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.

The Committee, however, looks set to recommend that further public transport projects should also be re-evaluated with a view to their inclusion following Project Ireland 2040’s mid-term review.

The committee is also set to call on the Government to facilitate active transport, namely cycling and walking, as the “first priority for emissions mitigation” in the sector.

Active transport priority

The challenge in promoting active transport, the draft states, stems from the fact that cyclists and pedestrians are “given lower priority than vehicles”.

“As the population of the State is expected to grow by one million between now and 2050, it is clear that there will have to be a huge shift away from cars if we are not to see ever increasing gridlock,” the draft report states.

In this light, People Before Profit’s Brid Smith has tabled an amendment that, if accepted, would see the committee call for the Government to commit to introducing free public transport to reduce private car usage.

Another amendment proposed by the Greens would see the committee support an immediate revision of transport programmes to ensure that at least 10 per cent of expenditure goes toward cycling infrastructure.

The Green Party states that this policy shift would fall in line with a motion to promote cycling brought by Fianna Fail Deputy Robert Troy that was approved by the Dail in mid-January.

The amendments are set to be voted on in private session tomorrow, with the committee to consider the report in public session on Wednesday afternoon.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London