Sport Bike Road Photo: Max Pixel

Sustainable transport has been “a major public policy failure”

17 July 2020

The failure to achieve sustainable transport targets by the State over the past decade represents, “a major public policy failure”, An Tasice told the OECD this week. 

In its submission to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Ireland’s environmental performance review, An Taisce highlighted numerous goals governments have failed to meet in the 2009 Smarter Travel policy.

The policy aimed to have reduced work-related travel, to oversee a 20 per cent drop in car commuting, and ensure that the distance cars travelled by 2020 would not, “increase significantly from current levels”. 

As a result, the state hoped to bring emissions from the sector back to 2005 levels, a policy that failed to actualize, An Taisce pointed out.

Referencing the 2016 Census, the environmental charity goes on to note that Ireland has failed to achieve a meaningful shift to car-alternative transport as the share of car journeys to workplaces has risen significantly since 2005 and in fact, “surpassed the Smarter Travel baseline”. 

An Taisce attribute this to investment that was “wasted in over-scaled road projects, such as providing extra lanes on the M7 from Naas to Newbridge and entering into a contract for a dual carriageway from Castlebar to Westport, which will simply increase car traffic and congestion”. 

The effects of these failures will now, “bear cost in greenhouse gases, air and noise pollution, congestion, car-based sprawl, and inadequate safe walking, cycling and public transport investment,” according to An Taisce Advocacy Officer Ian Lumley. 

“Walkers and cyclists will face increased injury risk,” Mr. Lumley said. 

Eamon Ryan Photo: Kayle Crosson
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan addressing a crowd outside the Dáil Photo: Kayle Crosson

Lessons must be addressed 

In implementing the Programme for Government, the new coalition of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party must address this “lost decade” in sustainable transport policy, An Taisce stressed. 

The document committed to a 2.1 ratio of public expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over its lifetime, a target that was called for by the Citizens’ Assembly in 2018.  

Achieving a sustainable transport policy must be an overarching strategic priority for this government and it must be subject to “timetabled and target-based actions”, An Taisce said. 

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Kayle Crosson