State to invest more than €20m to change way public travels

Thu, Feb 2, 2012, 00:00

MORE THAN €20 million is to be invested by the Government to develop an environmentally sustainable transport programme for the Republic.

Limerick city, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and Westport, Co Mayo, are to take the lead in showing other cities and towns how to reduce the State’s carbon footprint and help Ireland meet targets under the EU climate change programme.

The project, which aims to deliver Ireland’s first smarter travel areas, was announced yesterday in Limerick by Minister for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly.

Limerick, which won €9 million in funding from a total €23 million investment, beat other major cities including Dublin, Cork and Galway to become the first city to lead the way in changing the way the public travels.

The investment will be spent on improved cycle ways, including safe routes to school and to business and workplace zones; secure cycle parking in town centres or at public transport nodes; and better walking facilities, including pedestrianisation.

Limerick city manager Tom Mackey said the project would tie in with the city’s own multimillion euro pedestrianisation plan.

“We have pedestrianised parts of the city centre and we now hope to pedestrianise, in stages, O’Connell Street, which we feel will be a major boost for business and the continued development of the city centre.”

Other parts of the transport programme investment will be spent on lowering speed limits in residential and town centres; school and workplace travel planning; e-working and car pooling.

Dungarvan and Westport were also earmarked for funding from the transport plan, beating other locations in their respective categories of medium-sized town and small town.

The three areas will see a combined investment of €23 million over the next five years that will encourage a behavioural switch to more sustainable forms of transport.

Mr Kelly said: “The Government’s investment in smarter travel areas will reshape and transform these areas, reducing congestion and pollution, improving road safety, creating local employment opportunities, and improving people’s health and fitness, as well as enhancing town and streetscapes locally.”

A competition for the investment was initiated in 2009, with local authorities invited to submit bids to become Ireland’s first smarter travel demonstration areas.

Limerick will see €9 million invested, with €7.2million for Dungarvan and €5 million going to Westport.

“These were high-quality bids with very strong community, business and public support in these areas,” said the Minister.

“The evidence we collect from the three areas will inform our policy development of initiatives to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions and switch to healthier and more sustainable transport.

“Building on learning from other international investment programmes, we will see Limerick, Dungarvan and Westport take the lead in terms of sustainable travel in Ireland, and will hopefully be able to show to other areas how to encourage people out of cars and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Under the national competition for smarter travel areas, 39 initial applications were received from local authorities.

Eleven of these proposals were shortlisted, including Cork city, Drimnagh (Dublin), Dundalk, Galway, Kilkenny, Loughrea, Navan and Sandyford.