New drive planned to make public transport more attractive

Policy will help get people out of cars says Department of Transport secretary general

Ken Spratt told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport the new policy will differ  by focussing on making ‘active travel’ or public transport the most attractive option for travel. Photograph: iStock

Ken Spratt told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport the new policy will differ by focussing on making ‘active travel’ or public transport the most attractive option for travel. Photograph: iStock

 

The “core purpose” of the State’s forthcoming sustainable mobility policy will be to get people out of private cars and to use public transport, bicycles or walk, the secretary general of the Department of Transport has said.

Ken Spratt told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport the new policy will differ from the current policy Smarter Travel which has similar aims, by focussing on making “active travel” or public transport the most attractive option for travel.

Mr Spratt said the “primary focus of the new policy” will be to cater for daily travel needs by making sustainable modes “the smartest and most attractive choice”.

He said while the department was setting up an Office of Low Emission Vehicles – probably within the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – the switch to electric vehicles was part of the Government’s strategy on climate change, not part of the sustainable mobility policy.

He said active travel and public transport options were not only the most environmentally friendly options, but also the most socially inclusive and economically accessible.

Guiding principles

Mr Spratt told the committee the draft sustainable mobility policy was centred around three guiding principles:

The first of these was Safe and Green Mobility which will set out “an ambitious and comprehensive set of actions for the decarbonisation of public transport”.

The second was People Focused Mobility which looks at how to make sustainable mobility options accessible to everyone, particularly people with reduced mobility.

The third principle was Better Integrated Mobility which looks at better integrated sustainable transport and land-use planning, as well as examining smart transport solutions.

Mr Spratt said the Department has published a full report of the consultation process for the new policy and “we are now finalising the revised policy”.

Asked by Committee Chairman Kieran O’Malley where regional connectivity, roads and provision for those who wanted to retain a car came into Government plans, Mr Spratt said a further policy was being formulated by Government.

He said this policy, the National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland (Nifti) had four priorities; regional access; protection and renewal of transport assets; mobility of people and goods in urban areas and decarbonisation.

Mr O’Donnell responded that provision for roads did not seem to be mentioned. Mr O’Donnell told Mr Spratt that many people were considering opting for electric vehicles but had concerns that when driving “across the country” they would not be able to recharge quickly and get home.

‘Very nervous’

In relation to the switch to electric vehicles Mr Spratt said the answer to the question “is enough being done” was “no”. He said charging infrastructure was important and he referred to the installation of chargers in apartment blocks, workplaces and tourism venues and attractions.

Senator Timmy Dooly said the committee had heard a lot about buses and replacing private cars, there was no amount of buses that could cater for all of the demand for transport from rural areas.

He said in his own base in Kerry people travelled to Tipperary; Galway; Shannon and Ennis among other places for work and “I don’t think you can put enough buses on the roads, quite frankly”. He said “people in rural Ireland get very nervous” when faced with the language around sustainable travel.