Government proposal to encourage working from home


THOUSANDS OF office workers are to be encouraged to begin working from home under the Government's Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan, which will be completed early in 2009.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey is to make "e-working" one of the cornerstones of his plan, the aim of which is to dramatically reduce what he says are the unsustainably high volume of commute journeys by car each day. Greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector are now 165 per cent higher than the 1990 levels.

According to background material prepared for the Minister, if 10 per cent of the working population worked from home for one day each week, it would result in a reduction of about 10 million car journeys each year.

Another key element of the plan will be new measures designed to prevent urban sprawl.

The Government initiative will set out the necessary changes in legislation and new planning guidelines which will oblige local authorities to make sustainable travel a key part of any planning decision.

It will also state minimum targets for the percentage of new development which must use existing sites. This will consolidate urban growth in the centre of towns and cities rather than at the edges.

Larger developments will also be obliged to provide travel schemes that show how residents or employees travel to and from work by public transport. If no such scheme is in place, the State transport plan will require that permission should not be granted.

Mr Dempsey told The Irish Times that the initiative would set the transport agenda for the next 20 years. He said that for the first time there would be a real link between spatial planning, development and transport.

Ireland's transport trends are unsustainable, he said, and unless action is taken soon, the country's projected carbon dioxide emission could rise to 18 million tonnes.

He said he was encouraged to have received some 460 submissions during the public consultation phase. Mr Dempsey added that the most important challenge he faced would be persuading people of the benefits of shifting away from travel by car .

"You can have what you like on paper; it is really down to a change of mindset for everybody. If we are going to have sustainable travel patterns, there will be nearly three to four years of changing mindsets," he said.

The transport initiative will suggest that the public sector should set an example in the area of e-working. It will require all organisations in the sector to set targets to encourage e-working where appropriate.

The plan is also expected to recommend that research be undertaken to determine if special e-working centres can be established on a regional basis. This will allow people in rural areas and satellite towns to work from locations closer to home. The research will also examine whether these locations can be made available to the private sector.

In general, the plan will establish a range of actions to be undertaken between now and 2020 to encourage commuters to shift from cars to public transport, cycling and walking. By extension, it also sets out a strategy for easing congestion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

Mr Dempsey has said that he would like to see the percentage of workers who commute by bicycle increase from 1 per cent to 10 per cent over the next decade.

The plan also deals with the more contentious issue of congestion charges for bigger cities, especially Dublin. However, it is not known if, or when, a charge will be introduced.