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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 263-286
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Irish Aviation Authority
 Header Item Cycling Facilities
 Header Item Rail Network
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Road Projects
 Header Item Rural Transport Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Cycling Policy
 Header Item Local Improvement Scheme
 Header Item Driver Licences
 Header Item Rural Transport Services
 Header Item Rural Transport Services

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 263-286

National Broadband Plan

 263. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan when persons in Ballygowan, Claremorris, County Mayo can expect to be connected to the broadband network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44590/20]

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Question refers to a premises which is located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led intervention, the contract for which was signed in November 2019 with National Broadband Ireland (NBI).  I appreciate people's frustration when they are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is underway. It will offer users a high speed broadband service with a minimum download speed of 500 Mbps from the outset. This represents an increase from the 150 Mbps committed to under the Contract. The deployment plan forecasts premises passed in all counties within the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State having access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

Further details are available on specific areas within County Mayo through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding the level of information available on the deployment of the NBI network and I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans.

I am advised by NBI that, as of 11 December 2020, over 149,000 premises across all counties have been surveyed which is ahead of the full year survey target of 120,000 that had been projected by the company. Surveys have been completed in County Mayo in the areas of Aghagower, Ballyhean, Breaghwy, Burren, Castlebar, Clogher, Cloonkeen, Croaghmoyle, Islandeady, Killavally, Manulla, Pontoon, Strade, Tawnynagry, Turlough, Drumsheen, Bunnyconnellan. Ballina Town, Carrowntreila, Ardagh, Campbells Crossroads, Rosserk, Shanvoley, Derryhick, Kilhale, Tawnylaheen, Turlough, Ballyvary, Keeloges, Castlebar Town, Rinnaseer, Bellaburke, Killawullaun Mountain, Carn, Carnacon, Ballyglass, Belcarra, Balla and Ringarraun.  The next step is for NBI to develop network designs to deliver the new fibre to the home network to these premises, followed by pre build and build works.    Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 14 December, 221 sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Affairs for publicly available sites and by the Department of Education for schools. 59 publicly accessible BCPs across the country are now live. BCPs locations installed in Mayo include Clare Island Community Centre, Belderrig Community and Research Centre, Keel Community Centre and Cushlough Community Centre. Taugheen Community Centre (which is within 8 km of the location of the premises), Killaser Community Centre, Bofeenaun Community Centre and Islandeady Community Centre are installed and connected . Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/. 

  Scoil Néifinnin, Co Mayo has been connected for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise other schools with no high speed broadband, within the intervention area for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan has just  been announced which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026.

Irish Aviation Authority

 264. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan further to Parliamentary Question No. 46 of 25 November 2020, if, in accordance with section 41(7) of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, the dispute involved has been referred to him for determination by him; if so, the date of any such referral; when he will be in a position to make a determination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44190/20]

 270. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the scheme or schemes, in accordance with section 41(1) of the Irish Aviation Act 1993, for the granting of superannuation benefits to, or in respect of, such members of the staff of the company that have been prepared by the company and submitted to the Minister and approved by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44194/20]

 272. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the reason the terms of the Irish Aviation Authority 1996 superannuation scheme were amended in 2012 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44317/20]

 273. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the reason Irish Aviation Authority members were not informed of changes to the Irish Aviation Authority 1996 superannuation scheme in 2012 and were not given mandatory notice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44318/20]

 274. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if consideration will be given to rescinding the 2012 amendment of the Irish Aviation Authority 1996 superannuation scheme given that his Department has now been notified that the rationale for its introduction was based on misinformation provided by the IAA and a subsequent admission by the IAA that the measures should only be temporary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44319/20]

 275. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if pension in payment increases will be awarded as guaranteed under section 41(5) of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44320/20]

 276. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the authority under which the board of the Irish Aviation Authority decided not to award pension increases given that such authority is vested in the Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44322/20]

 277. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the authority under which the board of the Irish Aviation Authority instructed the trustees and actuary to make no provision for future pension increases when determining the fund liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44323/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I propose to take Questions Nos. 264, 270 and 272 to 277, inclusive, together.

In the first instance, matters relating to pension provisions are between the employer and its employees, who can be represented in negotiations by staff unions. The design and funding of pension schemes are governed by rules and a regulatory framework set out in the Pensions Acts, and all such schemes in the State must conform accordingly and Employers and Pension Scheme Trustees must engage as required with the Pensions Board.   

  I can confirm that two submissions have been made on behalf of some staff of the Irish Aviation Authority in accordance with Section 41 (7) of the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993 which provides that a dispute on superannuation benefit may be submitted to the Minister for Transport for determination by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I am not able to comment further on the details of the submissions at this point but can advise the Deputies that it will be considered in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

  The IAA provides pensions to its employees under four superannuation schemes.

(1) The Irish Aviation Authority Staff Superannuation Scheme 1996 is applicable to staff whose employment commenced prior to 1 April, 2008; and (2)   The Irish Aviation Authority Staff Superannuation Scheme 2008 is applicable to staff whose employment commenced from 1 April 2008 to 31 December 2011. Both of these schemes have been approved as required under the Act.

(3) The Irish Aviation Authority Hybrid Pension 2012 is applicable to staff whose employment commenced from 1 January 2012. The Hybrid Pension is counted as two connected schemes - (3) (i) a Defined Contribution scheme and (3) (ii)   a Defined Benefit scheme. For now, the 2012 Hybrid Pension is operating on an administrative basis pending the receipt of final formal documentation from the Company in accordance with Section 41 of the Act.

Cycling Facilities

 265. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the amount of funding for cycleways that was available to Wexford County Council in 2020; the amount of this funding that was drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44326/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Deputy will be aware that active travel (walking and cycling) infrastructure is supported through a number of different programmes across Government and local authorities can access funding to support both walking and cycling through my own Department’s programmes as well as programmes such as the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme etc.

This year as part of Government’s July Jobs Stimulus an allocation of €1.3m was provided under the Regional and Local Road Grant Programme for active travel measures, which included cycling infrastructure. Almost €1m of the allocation has been drawn down to date with some of the allocation expected to be now paid in 2021.

Separately under my Department’s greenways programme funding is being provided to support the New Ross Greenway with additional funding announced as part of Budget 2021. My Department has now committed €15.7m to support the development of this 24 km long greenway and I understand approximately €649,544 has been drawn down to date. My Department has also announced an allocation under the Carbon Tax Fund for pre-construction Statutory Process work on part of the proposed 58 km Rosslare-Waterford greenway; however, draw down has not commenced.

Finally the Deputy will be aware that I recently announced a new €50m active travel fund to support active travel interventions in towns and villages across the country and I would certainly encourage Wexford County Council to apply to the National Transport Authority in that regard.

Rail Network

 266. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the amount spent on improvement and upgrade works on the Ballybrophy to Limerick rail line over the past ten years. [44376/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As Minister of Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport. The operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network, including the Ballybrophy to Limerick rail line, is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility in this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

 267. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the new protocols in place to guide best practice in the Covid-19 context for public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44443/20]

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 securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. Continued operation of the public transport sector is important, and public transport was designated amongst the essential services that have continued to operate during the Covid crisis. I would like to thank all operators and their staff for their continued dedication to providing this vital service in such challenging times. A number of measures have been introduced across the system, guided by public health advice, to ensure the safe operation of services during the pandemic, including enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing measures across the network.

The Government's "Living with Covid" Plan sets out capacity guidance for public transport at each of the 5 risk levels identified in the Plan and provides guidance for the public about using public transport at the different risk levels: including that wearing face coverings is mandatory, and encouraging the use of off-peak services and sustainable active travel alternative options, where feasible.

The country moved from Level 5 of the Plan to Level 3 on December 1st, meaning that public transport moved from using 25% to 50% of vehicle capacity. With the resumption of retail, some hospitality and other activities, demand for public transport has increased and social distancing measures continue to restrict capacity. The NTA has advised customers to continue to only use public transport for necessary journeys and to avoid peak-time travel. The advice is aimed at ensuring public transport is safeguarded for those who need it most, including front-line workers and students.

Both my Department and the NTA are closely monitoring public transport demand and will continue to be guided by public health advice.

Road Projects

 268. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will ensure a substantial financial allocation under the road works programme to Cavan County Council in 2021 for the further planning and design of a route (details supplied) in view of its strategic importance for the Border region and the need to upgrade this road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44461/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works is a matter for decision by the local authority.

As previously outlined to the Deputy, grant support has been provided to Cavan County Council to enable the Council to undertake work to update its appraisal of the scheme to assess the extent to which the scheme or elements of it can be justified in terms of the Public Spending Code and the Common Appraisal Framework. The Department is currently liaising with the Council in relation to carrying out a risk based analysis for the route between Dundalk and Cavan.

Allocations for 2021 will not be decided on, or issued until early 2021.

Rural Transport Services

 269. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the status of a LocalLink route (details supplied) in County Sligo; if he plans to discontinue the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44154/20]

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.

It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) which has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) which operates under the Local Link brand.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

  Question No. 270 answered with Question No. 264.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 271. 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 if he will meet representatives of the car rental industry to find solutions for Covid-19-related issues in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44287/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton My Department does not have any regulatory role in relation to the car rental sector, nor does it operate or administer any grant or support schemes for car rental firms. Like other retail service industries, it falls within the purview of my colleague the Tánaiste and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I understand that the tourism aspects are also considered by my colleague the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media in the context of tourism recovery.

The Government, as part of their general response to the Covid-19 crisis, has introduced a range of measures for all companies whose business is directly affected by the pandemic.

I understand that these measures can be applied for through Enterprise Ireland, which is under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as noted.

  Questions Nos. 272 to 277, inclusive, answered with Question No. 264.

Pension Provisions

 278. Deputy Kieran O'Donnell Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if matters relating to a pension for a person (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44327/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Deputy has asked if matters in relation to a pension for a person (details supplied) will be addressed and in this regard I wish to advise that the case concerned has been considered and addressed in the past. Indeed I understand that it has been the subject of a number of reviews by my predecessors and senior civil servants in my Department over the years in which legal advice was sought on the matter.

The position is that the person concerned and some other former employees of the Department of Transport and Power voluntarily resigned from the civil service upon accepting posts with Aer Rianta.

On transfer to Aer Rianta, with their agreement, those employees also transferred from the Civil Service Pension Scheme to the IASS. Their pension entitlements were transferred at the same time and the IASS received a contribution from the Department in full recognition of the benefit accrued.

It is the Department’s view that daa (formerly Aer Rianta) has complied with its obligations to the individual concerned and other former civil servants with regard to their pension entitlement in accordance with the terms agreed at the time they accepted a contract of employment with Aer Rianta. This position has previously been conveyed to the individual concerned.

Bus Services

 279. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on providing assistance to the bus and coach industry particularly companies that provide tourist coach services; the results of these discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44353/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Firstly I would like to reassure the Deputy that both the National Transport Authority (NTA) and my Department have been engaging directly with commercial bus operators throughout the crisis to help inform policy decisions in relation to the public transport sector as we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19. In this context, both the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media; and my Department have been liaising with the Coach Tourism & Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) since early May - 11 meetings have taken place, the most recent being the 27th November 2020.

I am aware of the very difficult business environment that the commercial operators have been facing. Indeed, across Government we are acutely aware that the Covid-19 situation presents huge challenges for many business sectors.

Public transport is a key facilitator of interaction in the economy and society. It is an efficient and sustainable way of getting people to work, education, shopping and other social engagements. The essential nature of these services has been acknowledged a number of times by the Government in recent months, most notably in the decision to provide additional funding for public service obligation, PSO, services and the introduction of temporary funding measures for the licensed bus sector.

These temporary funding supports have been introduced to help ease the financial pressure on operators arising from the fall in passenger numbers and associated drop in fare revenue as a result of Covid-19. They are aimed at ensuring the continued operation of essential licensed bus services for a period of up to six months and are targeted at covering the gap between specified costs and the revenues generated on the services. The supports are targeted at those classes of bus services where a clear public interest justification supports such intervention, in line with relevant state aid considerations. The NTA, as the public transport licensing agency, is responsible for administering the funding support through contracts with the relevant operators.

These supports are in addition to the suite of other financial support measures that the Government has introduced to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19, including the pandemic unemployment payment which operators can avail of and which remains open to new applicants until the end of the year and a Covid-19 enterprise support grant which can be put towards the costs associated with reopening a business, including the purchase of cleaning materials and personal protective equipment.

Other measures introduced includes rates waivers, lending facilities, equity injection and business advisory supports, all of which will help to improve cash flow. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has also set up on online tool to help support Irish start-ups and SMEs to navigate the range of Government supports and identify which support may be most relevant to their business.

Concerning coach tourism - a fund of €10m was made available under the July Stimulus package to assist the Coach Tourism sector. The Coach Tourism Business Continuity Scheme is administered by Fáilte Ireland and was open for applications up to 5th November 2020. This scheme is under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 280. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the support that has been made available since the foreign tourism industry virtually closed down in March 2020 to support the chauffeur drive and limousine industry; if further supports are planned in view of the large overheads in terms of borrowing many in the industry face; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44354/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I recognise that the transport sector has been acutely affected by COVID-19 as public health restrictions have discouraged people from travelling generally. Small public service vehicle (SPSV) operators and small coach operators have been badly affected due to their dependence on the hospitality and tourism sectors. Limousine and small coach operators, who are particularly dependent on overseas tourism and major events, have suffered a near total drop in demand for their services and many have been simply unable to work since the pandemic started in March.

The Government has introduced a wide-ranging programme of supports for affected businesses, such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, available for business whose turnover has fallen 30% and liquidity and investment measures such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. Other measures include rates waivers and business advisory supports.

Many self-employed SPSV operators, including self-employed limousine drivers, have been able to avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment which will remain open to new applicants for the remainder of the year and continue to be paid until April 2021. This is an important lifeline for SPSV operators. Many may have gone back to work as the economy began to reopen only to find that subsequent necessary public health measures have once again suppressed passenger demand for their services. The continued accessibility of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will provide an important safety net to operators, recognising their dependency on other sectors of the economy, notably the hospitality industry.

The 2021 Budget has now put in place a number of substantial, sector-specific measures to support and strengthen the tourism sector. The total funding for the tourism sector will increase in 2021 by over €59 million or 36% over the initial 2020 allocation in Budget 2020 to €220.9 million. Fáilte Ireland has also been tasked with developing a Business Continuity Scheme to help coach tourism businesses through this very difficult period. Further details on these measures and this scheme are available from my colleague, the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin T.D.

The National Transport Authority (NTA), the SPSV industry regulator, also took a number of actions to aid SPSV operators, such as licence extensions and late renewal fee waivers. It has also engaged with the insurance industry to facilitate a suspension of SPSV insurance for those operators who decide to temporarily stop working and suspend their licences. I remain committed to helping reduce the costs to SPSV operators, including limousine operators, and that is why my Department is providing the necessary funding to the NTA to enable it to waive annual vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021.

Driver Licences

 281. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if persons who had a code 78 applied to a D, D1 licence prior to 30 November 2013, and who also hold a manual category B licence may have the code 78 removed from their D, D1 licence without having to undertake a driver test, under the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) (Amendment) (No. 8) Regulations 2020 signed on 30 October 2020 transposing Directive (EU) 2020/612. [44399/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) (Amendment) (No. 8) Regulations 2020 signed on 30 October 2020 transposing Directive (EU) 2020/612 provides that where a person holds a manual driving licence in the category B, and obtained at any time from 30 November 2013, a certificate of competency in an automatic vehicle in any of the following categories BE, C, CE, C1, C1E, D, DE, D1 or D1E, then that certificate can be regarded as a certificate of competency in a manual vehicle.

Cycling Policy

 282. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan when the strategy statements from the cycling officer in each local authority will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44426/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Deputy will be aware that each of our five cities has already developed cycle network strategies and these strategies form part of their overall metropolitan area transport strategies, and/or are revised as those metropolitan area transport strategies are developed.

I was particularly pleased to be able to announce recently a new €50m active travel allocation for 2021 for those local authorities outside of the five cities in order to support their work in the area of active travel infrastructure development and improvement. A key aspect of this activity in 2021 should be the development of active travel network strategies (in those areas where none currently exist) in order to guide the future investment planned in active travel over the coming years and I look forward to local authorities availing of that opportunity in the coming months.

Of course I also wish to see local authorities, in co-operation with the National Transport Authority, continuing to progress projects on the ground as well and I look forward to 2021 marking seeing progress in making a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland.

Local Improvement Scheme

 283. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if he will give further consideration to the provision of funding to local authorities in 2021 for the local improvement scheme due to the long waiting lists in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan and the unacceptable delays for households in rural areas having laneways accessing their homes brought up to an acceptable standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44554/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As previously outlined to the Deputy, the maintenance of roads not taken in charge by local authorities is the responsibility of the relevant landowners.

The Local Government Act 2001 provides the statutory basis for the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS). Under that Scheme, funding can be provided to local authorities for the construction and improvement of non-public roads (that is roads not taken in charge by local authorities) which meet the criteria set out in the Act. A contribution from the beneficiaries is required in all cases.

Up to 2012 my Department did provide ring-fenced funding for this scheme. However, due to the major cutbacks in roads funding arising from the post 2008 financial crisis, it was necessary for the Department to stop providing dedicated funding for LIS in 2012 and there was no funding for LIS in that year.

After that from 2013 to 2017, while there was no separate allocation for the Local Improvement Scheme, local authorities could use a proportion of their Discretionary grant for the Local Improvement Scheme if they chose to do so. The reason this approach was taken was that it was considered that Councils were best placed to decide whether to concentrate the limited grant funding available on public roads or to operate a local improvement scheme for non-public roads.

In September 2017, my colleague the Minister for Rural and Community Development reintroduced dedicated funding for the LIS and is continuing to fund the scheme. In light of the significant funding being put into LIS by the Department of Rural & Community Development and the need to direct resources into maintaining and renewing public roads, it was decided that the option of allocating a proportion of my Department's Discretionary grant to LIS would no longer apply from 2018. This remains the position.

I understand that funding for the LIS will continue to be available from the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2021.

Driver Licences

 284. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan if persons resident in direct provision centres can apply for a driver licence or have driver licences from relevant jurisdictions converted to an Irish driver licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44564/20]

Minister for Transport (Deputy Eamon Ryan): Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Currently, Ireland does not issue driving licences to applicants for international protection (asylum seekers) as their residence status in the State is not yet determined.

Having said that, as set out in the Programme for Government, the current policy not to allow applicants for international protection access to a driving licence will be changed. To provide for this, there are a number of complex legal, administrative and technical issues to consider and resolve.

Officials in my Department and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) are working on these measures at present, but it is not possible to give a definitive date yet for when these changes will be in place. However, I can assure you that my officials are working hard, in close cooperation with all the stakeholders, to make this happen.

Rural Transport Services

 285. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the efforts his Department is making to highlight and prioritise rural transport needs; if a funding allocation specifically for rural transport has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44583/20]

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.

From a policy perspective, there is a need for a fundamental change in the nature of transport in Ireland and the Programme for Government, 'Our Shared Future', commits to making public transport and active travel better and more accessible.

The Deputy will probably be aware that my Department has already been undertaking a review of sustainable mobility policy, which incorporates a review of public transport in rural areas. In this context the Department held a public consultation process between November 2019 and February 2020, and included a stakeholder event in the course of that consultation. Over 250 submissions were received as part of this public consultation process and I published a report of the public consultation.

I intend to develop a new policy framework for the next 10 years that can provide a strategic backdrop to the increased investment planned by this Government across the sustainable mobility programme. The new policy statement will be informed by the review of the previous policy framework (known as Smarter Travel), submissions received during my Department's consultation process and the views and recommendations of other relevant stakeholders. It will provide a platform to advance the ambitions of the Programme for Government in the area of sustainable mobility, including active travel, and will replace the previous Smarter Travel policy, dating from 2009.

Our Programme for Government commitments in relation to public transport in rural areas will be progressed in the context of that new policy statement. Among the measures we will prioritise is a Sustainable Rural Mobility Plan to ensure settlements over a certain size can connect to the national public transport system, expanding the Local Link rural transport service and prioritising public transport projects that enhance regional and rural connectivity.

Total funding for Local Link services this year amounts to €23.4m, comprising Rural Transport Programme funding of €14.9m and €8.5m PSO funding for Local Link Regular Services. Additional funding will be provided in 2021, including for Covid-19 related costs and new/enhanced services under the July Stimulus.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has responsibility for local and rural transport, including the management of Local Link services.

The NTA has undertaken a nationwide study to inform its approach to rolling out improved public transport across the country (excluding the GDA, Regional Cities and Large Towns) by providing better connections between villages and towns by linking them with an enhanced regional network connecting cities and regional centres nationwide.

Arising from this study, I am advised that the NTA is starting on a two-phase consultation on its proposals, titled 'Connecting Ireland'; this will begin with local authority officials and other key stakeholders on the main concepts of Connecting Ireland, and then will be followed by a wider public consultation in Q2 2021 on the proposals.

Rural Transport Services

 286. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Transport Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the efforts his Department is making to further integrate LocalLink services with other existing public transport services, for example the National Transport Authority, to build on exemplar models of integrated rural transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44584/20]

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.

  It is the National Transport Authority (NTA) which has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. The NTA also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport, including management of the Rural Transport Programme which operates under the Local Link brand.

  In light of the NTA's responsibilities in this matter, I have referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

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


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