To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the public transport sector continues to remain competitive with the emphasis on the provision of a readily available customer friendly transport system in line with best practice throughout Europe; if he envisages any improvement in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Bernard J. Durkan.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 1st October, 2013.
41133/13 Proof: 738
Answered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
The Government’s programme for the funding of capital projects to 2016 is set out in the Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16: Medium Term Exchequer Framework. Due to the overall reduction in funding for transport infrastructure the priority to 2016 is to protect investments made to date and to maintain safety standards. The limited funding available over and above this priority will only be provided for projects which are affordable, meet overall transport objectives and deliver the best return in terms of economic recovery and job creation. Moreover the ability to operate profitably and without the need for any subsidy would also be a key consideration for any new projects.
In the past 2 years exchequer funds in excess €440m has been provided to all three companies and continued investment in the region of €170m has been allocated for 2013. The priority for our public transport network must aim for a better return from the existing public transport system, through targeted investment, better use of existing resources and by using smart technology to make public transport more responsive and user friendly.
The Irish Rail allocation includes a significant level of funding for railway safety and maintenance (€90m for RSP in 2013). In addition to safety related works Iarnród Éireann is undertaking infrastructural works to improve journey times such as removing or upgrading level-crossings, providing automated ticketing machines, improving station facilities – all of which contribute to making the railway more competitive and attractive to passengers.
The funding for the NTA includes provision for a rolling renewal programme for the PSO bus fleet. Bus is still the key public transport mode and it is important we have a reliable and efficient fleet with a reasonable average age. My Department has also provided funds in both Dublin and the regional cities to promote sustainable travel including further developing QBCs, improving rail and bus stations, bus stops and shelters and also to improve the accessibly of public transport.
Through the NTA, my Department is also funding the use of smart technology to make public transport easier to access and more reliable for the user. Significant progress has been made with the Leap card, Real Time Passenger Information, the National Journey Planner which maps all public transport services across the country. The NTA will continue to progress these consumer friendly initiatives which make using public transport attractive.
I would also refer the Deputy to my response to priority question no. 60 answered today which sets out the future approach to direct award contracts of Public Service Obligation services and tendering of certain services.