Government ‘too slow’ shifting new capital spending to public transport – Ryan

The Transport Minister was speaking at the launch of an OECD report setting out how Ireland could halve its transport sector carbon emissions by 2030.
Government ‘too slow’ shifting new capital spending to public transport – Ryan

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said that replacing cars that run on petrol and diesel with electric cars will “not be the strategy” to reduce Ireland’s emissions.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Ryan said “if we just replace all the existing cars with electric cars, we will still see the gridlock and the huge social negative consequences that come with relying on such a car-based system”.

He said there were some benefits to switching to electric and biofuels, but that the OECD report on Ireland’s transport system published on Wednesday had indicated more drastic change was needed.

Eamon Ryan speaking at an event in Dublin announcing an OECD report on how Ireland can halve its transport sector emissions by 2030
Eamon Ryan attended the launch of the report in Dublin (Grainne Ni Aodha/PA)

“As this report says, just switching one fuel type to another is not good enough. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to be the strategy,” he said.

Mr Ryan also admitted that the coalition government had been “too slow” to shift new capital spending on public transport.

Speaking at the launch of a major report from the OECD that recommends how Ireland can halve its transport sector’s carbon emissions by 2030, Mr Ryan said “we have to act now, in the next two to three years”.

“Our systems are too slow. Our system takes 10 years to deliver a bus lane. Our system takes 20 years, 25 years to deliver a metro line. You have to act fast if we’re going to meet these emissions reductions targets,” he said.

Speaking about shifting new capital spending on public transport instead of roads to a ratio of 2:1, Mr Ryan said: “I’ll be honest, we’ve been very slow in delivering that.

“It’s not good enough that we’re still almost 1:1, because our system is so slow at delivering good public transport projects and we’ve such a conveyor belt to road projects and such an industry around rolling out all these car-based developed transport systems that it’s very hard to shift, but shift it we must.”

He said that next week, the Government would announce “real, hard, fast timelines” for local authorities and agencies to deliver drastic changes to how Ireland’s transport system worked.

The OECD report found that Ireland could unleash “enormous opportunities” by prioritising policies that could transform its “car-dependent” system, including an improvement to well-being.

Its recommendations included road space reallocation, making on-demand shared services more mainstream and increasing communication efforts to change people’s “car-centric mindsets”.

“Currently, these policies are marginal and implemented on a small scale,” the OECD report said.

It also found that a lot of advertising by the private sector – in particular the automobile industry – “reinforces car-centric mindsets, and may undermine the effectiveness of the Irish Government’s communication strategy in favour of sustainable transport systems”.

It cited evidence that showed “car-centric” advertising received seven to eight times more funding than communication about sustainable transport options.

The report, Redesigning Ireland’s Transport For Net Zero: Towards Systems That Work For People And The Planet, was commissioned by the Climate Change Advisory Council.

As part of the project, the OECD carried out interviews with stakeholders in Dublin city and Cork city, as well as counties Kildare and Sligo.

It recommended the use of “mobility hubs” – these are locations where a range of transport options are offered, such as a train station, a bus stop and a location for bike rental.

“In rural and suburban areas, a mobility hub would probably offer park and ride, as a complement to bus and/or train services and rental bikes or scooters,” it said.

 

The report also said that the electrification strategy should prioritise walking, cycling, “micro mobility and high occupancy and shared travel where larger vehicles are the only option”.

It concluded that it would be “relevant” to reflect its recommendations in the approaching update of the Climate Action Plan.

Mr Ryan, environment director of the OECD Jo Tyndall and chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council Marie Donnelly attended the launch of the report in Dublin.

Mr Ryan said the recommendations were “absolutely correct” and “timely”.

“This report will help us because this report is not running counter to where we want to go in the Department of Transport and in Government. This report actually complements and confirms that the changes we’re making are the right changes,” he said.

“Next week we will publish ‘pathfinder studies’, which see us taking the traffic out of Dublin city centre, and goes to towns and cities around the country and the likes of Galway, that we will in three years’ time, deliver the cross-city BusConnects service.

“In Limerick, in three years’ time, put a station into Moyross, connect the three universities in Limerick with a high-quality bus corridor, cycling and other systems.

“In Waterford, in three years’ time, to build a new sustainable bridge across the Suir and move the train station so we developed the North Quays in Waterford.

 

“That’s why I emphasise: hold us to account to what we do in the next three years. And I could go through the list of the 35 or so projects that we’re going to announce. That’s what we have to do.

“It no longer can be about talk, or about plans, or about policies, it has to be about actually changing things on the ground – reallocation road space, making the link we need to make.

“And that’s where we have to be judged: on what we deliver in the next three years.”

Ms Tyndall said at the launch that policymakers could play a huge role in shifting mindsets.

She said that efforts should be made to move from thinking about increasing mobility as the main goal to “instead placing the emphasis on creating easy access for people to get to their jobs, the services they need, and the people they want to see”.

“International experience does show that shifting away from car dependency and implementing the transformative policies identified and triggering behavioural change towards walking, cycling, public transport and other shared modes and services is possible in different contexts,” she said.

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