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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 193-207
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item Public Service Obligation Services
 Header Item Greenways Provision
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item Driver Test
 Header Item Public Transport
 Header Item National Development Plan
 Header Item Taxi Licences
 Header Item Taxi Data

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 193-207

Departmental Staff

 193. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the number of staff in his Department on sick leave between March and September by month in 2019 and to date 2020; the pay arrangements that exist for staff on sick leave for an extended period of time; the number of sick days accounted for by his Department over the period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28933/20]

Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table:

MONTH YEAR No of Staff on Sick Leave No of Sick Leave Days
March 2019 40 255
  2020 22 224
April 2019 27 267
  2020 9 178
May 2019 27 251
  2020 8 159
June 2019 30 229
  2020 12 139
July 2019 28 212
  2020 15 178
August 2019 25 222
  2020 10 143
September 2019 29 241
  2020 10 141


  All sick leave absences are paid in line with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Circular 12-2015 Arrangements for Paid Sick Leave, a copy of which is attached for the Deputy's convenience.

Rail Network

 194. Deputy Neasa Hourigan Information on Neasa Hourigan Zoom on Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan his plans to install continuous welded rail along Stoney Road, North Strand, Dublin 3, as part of the DART expansion programme. [28099/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the DART+ programme (until recently referred to as the DART Expansion programme).

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Public Transport

 195. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the amount of current Exchequer funding provided for 2019 and forecast to be provided for 2020 and 2021 for the provision of public transport via the National Transport Authority, NTA; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28124/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The total amount paid for Public Service Obligation (PSO) services and Local Link services in 2019 was €308m. The amount allocated for 2020 was €304m. As is normal, the precise allocations to the companies are decided by the NTA in exercise of its statutory mandate and in accordance with the various contractual arrangements that it has in place with PSO service providers.

  Public transport’s designation as an essential service throughout the pandemic means that, although fare revenues have collapsed, most of the cost of operations remains and must continue to be met in order to fulfil Government’s broader policy objectives. My Department began consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform from the beginning of April and, with their agreement, were able to draw down PSO funding ahead of what was profiled.

Estimates in early June suggested that continuing to fund the existing PSO system, including the cost of additional cleaning measures and adding extra services where possible,   could require up to an additional €460m to year end, depending on the level of easement of social distancing measures as the phases of the Roadmap progressed.   Government approval in June to enable considerable additional expenditure on PSO has provided much needed financial assurance that enables continuation of the normal and essential PSO services.

  For future years, as the Deputy is aware, the Exchequer allocation for PSO public transport services is subject to the annual Budgetary process. I am engaging regularly with Ministerial colleagues as Budget 2021 is prepared, and PSO subvention is one relevant area of expenditure which forms part of this engagement. I am sure the Deputy will agree that the PSO is a large expenditure area, and one which requires careful scrutiny to ensure the taxpayer receives value for money in respect of the services delivered given the considerable expenditure incurred.

Public Service Obligation Services

 196. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if the emergency designation of five strategic maritime routes as PSO routes for a period of three months will be extended; if so, the Exchequer funding provided for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28125/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan On 7 April 2020, the Irish Government announced the temporary designation of five strategic maritime routes into and out of Ireland as Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes during Covid-19 for a period of up to three months. These routes were Dublin/Cherbourg and Rosslare/Fishguard, Pembroke, Cherbourg and Bilbao. The Government also approved the emergency provision of a maximum contribution of €15m toward the costs involved in the continued operation of passenger ferry services on these routes in the three month period.

The decision was based on the strategic importance of these routes for their contribution towards the robustness and resilience of Ireland’s lifeline supply chain transporting goods, including foods and medical supplies, in and out of the country. These routes also provide alternatives and maintain contingency options to the main route into and out of Dublin during COVID-19, thereby circumventing a single point of failure within Ireland’s maritime connectivity

The PSO Agreements provided that a review of the operation of the services be carried out after the first month of operation and every month thereafter. The reviews concluded that the PSAs delivered the desired effects, including the alleviation of uncertainty and supported strategically important elements of the national supply chain. Also, the stability they provided gave stakeholders in the maritime industry - shipping companies, ports, international hauliers, and various providers of ancillary services - sufficient breathing space to adjust their operations and finances to deal with Covid-19 threats.

With the gradual recovery of freight volumes and the commencement of a number of new services, evidence suggested that a market failure no longer existed to the extent experienced in March 2020. This being the case, in line with the Government Decision and following a review of their operation, the designation of these five maritime routes Dublin/Cherbourg, Rosslare/Fishguard. Pembroke, Cherbourg and Bilbao as Public Service Obligation Routes expired on 12 July 2020. The final drawn down from the PSO support scheme will be approximately €3.5m.

While freight volumes have recovered and the shipping sector has shown itself to be resilient during Covid-19, there is no doubt but that risks remain as the pandemic is continuing longer than originally anticipated. Passenger travel remains severely depressed and may not recover until well into 2021. In addition, the Brexit transition period is nearing an end with, as yet, no clear sight on a final trading arrangement with the UK. Mindful of these risks, my Department, together with the IMDO, is continuing to closely monitor and keep under review the evolving situation regarding maritime connectivity to continental ports, and will remain in close consultation with the maritime sector and other relevant stakeholders on this issue.

Greenways Provision

 197. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the status of a dedicated greenway from Blackrock to Greenore, Carlingford, County Louth (details supplied). [28213/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Support for Greenways in County Louth has been forthcoming from my Department in recent years. The first completed section of Greenway in County Louth was from Omeath to Carlingford Marina and this is now being extended to both Newry and Carlingford Village with significant funding from the EU's INTERREG programme, along with my Department and the Department for Infrastructure Northern Ireland.

My Department recently allocated a further €200,000 for planning and design work to extend this Greenway towards Templetown Beach under the Carbon Tax Fund. That was the only application made by Louth County Council under that funding call.

The section linking Newry City in to Carlingford is at design phase and there are consultations being undertaken with landowners and other local stakeholders.

An application for a Greenway from Blackrock to Dundalk was made in 2018 by Louth County Council. However, this application was premature as no planning permission was in place and there were some land ownership issues arising so it did not meet the criteria at the time and was not funded.

As part of the Government’s Programme for Government commitments my Department will be looking at ways of increasing Greenways around the country over the coming years, and connectivity and networks will be a key part of this. It is important that Louth County Council continue engaging with landowners and stakeholders in the area to ensure progress is being made towards a planning application for this project.

Driver Test

 198. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan when driver tests will be facilitated for persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28753/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The scheduling of candidates’ driving tests is the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and as Minister, I have no power to intervene in individual cases.

In general terms, my Department is remaining in close contact with the RSA as they deal with the increased demand for their driver testing service since operations resumed following its temporary closure due to the COVID emergency. In addition to this, due to the social distancing requirements, normal daily capacity is considerably reduced. This means that customers will experience longer waiting times than was the case before the service was suspended. The public’s patience and understanding in this regard is requested.

It is my understanding that those who had appointments cancelled due to Covid 19 are being prioritised in the first instance. Priority then will be given in order of application date. While there is some capacity for urgent test slots, the RSA's capacity to make these available in all cases will be limited. Therefore, initially those who are frontline healthcare workers will be deemed eligible for an urgent test slot. This approach for prioritising customers will be kept under review as the RSA moves through the service resumption.

Driver Test

 199. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the reason a person (details supplied) that has to complete their driver test in Donegal town is not allowed to wear their own mask which they wear for medical reasons during the test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28100/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As this is an operational matter for the Road Safety Authority (RSA), I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Public Transport

 200. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the status of the 7 a.m. train from Dublin to Cork which goes through Thurles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28106/20]

 201. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan his plans to increase trains from Thurles to Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28107/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

  As the 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 operations of public transport.

  The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA), in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann, and I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the NTA for direct reply.

  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

National Development Plan

 202. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the amount of the €8.6 billion allocated for transport as part of the National Development Plan that has been drawn down; and the commitment in each year to date in tabular form. [28131/20]

 203. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the amount of the €8.6 billion allocated for transport as part of the National Development Plan that has been pre-committed for 2021. [28132/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.

  The National Development Plan (NDP) provides the following indicative allocations to support transport over the period 2018 to 2027:

  - National Roads €6.6 billion

  - Regional and Local Roads €4.5 billion

  - Sustainable Mobility €8.6 billion

  The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) Project Tracker available at the link below provides a high level of detail in terms of individual NDP projects and is updated periodically.

  The NDP is due to be reviewed in 2021. Any changes to the NDP will, of course, be published and the Tracker will reflect those changes.

  It should be noted that the final amount that will be available for transport projects in 2021 is being reviewed at present as part of the budgetary process and will be confirmed later this year.

  https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6db7c4-investment-projects-and-programmes-tracker/

Taxi Licences

 204. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the estimated full-year cost of waiving all public service vehicle renewal fees for licences issued in respect of taxis. [28135/20]

 205. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the estimated full-year cost of waiving all renewal fees for taxi licences issued in respect of taxi drivers. [28136/20]

 206. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the estimated full-year cost of waiving all suitability test fees for vehicles operating as taxi. [28137/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.

  The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including licence and renewal fees, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

  Therefore, I have forwarded the Deputy's queries to the NTA for direct response. Please contact my Office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51

Taxi Data

 207. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the estimated full-year cost of providing electric and disability accessible vehicles for the entire taxi public services vehicle fleet, including charging stations.  [28138/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Programme for Government set out commitments to support the greening of the taxi fleet and to review supports for wheelchair accessible vehicles to enhance accessbility for people with disabilities. The Department of Transport has a number of specific initiatives in place to support these objectives.

The Electric Small Public Service Vehicle (eSPSV) Grant Scheme offers up to €10,000 towards the purchase of an electric SPSV, and a further €2,500 towards its conversion to a wheelchair accessiblevehicle. Up to €12,500 is offered towards the purchase of a new wheelchair accessible electic SPSV.

Under the Retro-fit Programme to upgrade older public transport infrastructure to make it accessible for people with disabilities, funding is provided for the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) Grant Scheme. The WAV Grant Scheme has been operating annually since 2014 and provides grants for the acquisition or conversion of suitable vehicles to operate as WAVs in the SPSV fleet. This scheme offers up to €7,500 for the purchase of a new wheelchair accessible vehicle.

These schemes can be used together. This means that up to €20,000 can be offered towards the purchase of a new wheelchair accessible electric SPSV.

Both of these schemes are administered by the National Transport Authority (NTA), the statutory regulator under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. In light of the NTA's role in adminstering the scheme, I have forwarded the aspect of your question which relates to the cost of these schemes to the NTA for direct reply.

In relation to charging stations, the eSPSV Charger Project which will see the installation of SPSV-dedicated EV chargers at Dublin and Cork Airports as well as in train stations in Dublin (Heuston), Limerick (Colbert) and Cork (Kent). This project is funded from ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in carbon tax following Budget 2020, and it is expected that the chargers will be installed by the end of the year and operational from early 2021.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 51


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