Check against Delivery
“A Sustainable Transport Future”
Ladies and Gentlemen
I want to share with you today a new vision for travel and transport in Ireland. In doing so I will probably overuse the word “smarter” in my address, not just in the context of the new “Smarter Travel” policy which provides a backdrop to this conference, but also to emphasise smarter ways of doing things in the future in response to the unprecedented economic situation we are in today.
That situation required the delivery of a supplementary Budget last month– one of the most critical Budgets in the history of the State. Painful though it proved to be, it was a budget structured to guide this country onto a five-year road to economic recovery. Central to achieving this goal will be the provision of excellent, sustainable travel and transport systems.
It is vital at all times, but especially so in times of economic difficulty, to not only deal effectively with current challenges but to also plan imaginatively for the future. It really is the smart thing to do.
This conference is important for two reasons. It is an opportunity to hear about the Government’s new transport policies. It is also a rare chance to get a valuable, first-hand, insight into international best practice and likely trends emerging at EU level.
In this respect, among the many excellent speakers today, we are fortunate to have two people with us who will give the European perspective on the development of sustainable transport. I wish, on everyone’s behalf, to welcome Ms. Ann Houtman, Director in the Energy and Transport Directorate of the EU and Mr Richard Dujardin, CEO, Veolia to this conference.
Investment in Transport
Before I focus on the new Smarter Travel policy, I want to remind you of the Government’s deep commitment to and priority given to the development of our transport systems in Ireland. Over a long period of time we have been bringing our transport infrastructure to a world-class system. Even before Transport21 was announced we had delivered Luas lines in Dublin. Now you can see that the interurban motorway system will be completed by 2010.
And Transport21 hasn’t gone away you know. In the various estimate processes since last October there has been much focus on cutbacks. Naturally I would rather accentuate the positive. The Government’s commitment to radically improve the transport system in Ireland remains unchanged. This is reflected in the substantial provision of €3.1 billion for transport, which is being retained in such difficult circumstances.
As you can see, the focus in recent years under Transport 21 has moved from road provision towards public transportation initiatives. Pat Mangan from my Department will expand on the achievements of Transport 21 when he speaks later today.
The New Smarter Travel Policy
Earlier this year I set out a new Smarter Travel sustainable transport action plan. 49 actions are contained in this plan. These actions will be implemented over the period to 2020 and will collectively result in an improved environment, improved competitiveness and improved health for our citizens.
In achieving its vision for sustainability in transport the Government has 5 key goals . These goals are:
- to reduce overall travel demand,
- to maximize the efficiency of the transport network,
- to reduce reliance on fossil fuels,
- to reduce transport emissions, and
- to improve accessibility to transport.
The action plan contains a target of getting 500,000 more people out of cars between now and 2020. To make this happen commuters must be provided with real alternatives to the car. By continued investment in Transport 21 and by adopting approaches that empower people to make personal choices that are both economically and environmentally appropriate this can be achieved.
Our ability to make personal choices in relation to our travel patterns is easy to underestimate.
Yet, there is significant potential for people in urban areas to save both money and time, and to improve their lifestyles and health, by adopting more active lifestyles. Walking and cycling are obvious, but often forgotten, travel modes.
In the Dublin region, over 45,000 people drive 2km or less to work. Even more striking is the fact that 100,000 people drive 4km or less to work in Dublin. There is clearly significant potential for change.
In very recent times, there have been signs of a resurgence in cycling in Dublin city. I’m keen to build on these signs and Ireland’s First Cycle Policy Framework, that I announced recently will not only do that but will foster a new culture of cycling in Ireland. Stretching to 2020, the ambitious target is to grow cycling’s modal share from 2% in 2006 to 10% by 2020.
The EU Dimension
In developing sustainable travel and transport policies, Ireland looks forward to exchanging knowledge and experiences with a wide variety of stakeholders both here and in Europe.
Ecodriving is just one example of an initiative we can look to our European counterparts for guidance on. Ecodriving reduces fuel consumption – 10% on average, greenhouse gasses, local air pollutants, vehicle maintenance costs, stress and noise pollution. It improves traffic safety and comfort.
Measures to improve car driving behaviour have the potential for considerable fuel savings and consequently for reduced CO2 emissions from traffic. Sustainable Energy Ireland, through the “Power of One” campaign, and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government through its “Change” campaign are already promoting eco-driving through “soft” measures.
They sharpen the focus on the real benefits of eco-driving from the economic, environmental and the safety perspectives, the Road Safety Authority are currently developing an ecodriving programme, which will form part of the national driving test. This programme will also aim to re-educate licensed drivers. In formulating this programme the RSA will avail of the experiences of countries such as Austria, Spain and the Netherlands where ecodriving programmes substantially contribute to meeting Kyoto and air quality targets.
Fuel efficiency is also high on the EU agenda not just from the perspective of energy security but also in response to global warming.
Last year saw the launch of the Ireland’s first demonstrator Hybrid Electric bus, funded by my Department.
It was a clear sign of my desire and that of Dublin Bus, for a more sustainable public transport fleet. It was a significant achievement for the island of Ireland to be towards the vanguard of developing and implementing this new technology and to be among the first EU member states to have a double-deck hybrid bus in operation. It was particularly satisfying that this was an all-island project – with Wrights of Ballymena supplying the demonstrator.
Electric cars is another burgeoning area where significant developments are taking place and in which we are setting a level of ambition and leadership at international level. The Government has committed to having 10% of vehicles electric by 2020 and the ESB are providing a lead role in this regard.
An interdepartmental electric vehicle group has been in place since the end of last year.
This group is looking at options to meet the Government’s target. The group are currently examining issues around the areas of enterprise and research linkages; transport and planning infrastructure requirements and market development. I look forward to the outcome of these investigations.
Sustainability and Business
Some may think that introducing greater sustainability into the transport sector is an additional cost overhead and is somehow unnecessary at this time. I disagree. It’s a huge opportunity, with clear potential in the field of developing innovative technology, with significant employment possibilities.
Planning for the future is vital. In the past when the country was in recession we stopped planning and delivering and this cost us dearly. By continued investment in infrastructure we will maintain the ultimate competitiveness possible now and be ready for the economic upturn when it arrives.
On the “employment proofing” front it is estimated that our investment in transport infrastructure alone this year will create or save well over 25,000 jobs right around the country.
First class transport infrastructure also attracts external investment. Knowing that it is possible to traverse a country, both in terms of people and goods, is an important consideration for any foreign investor looking to set up shop. This is all the more crucial for an island nation.
We are now seeing industries, which traditionally provided employment for a large number of our citizens, moving to other destinations where baseline costs are lower. To counter this we need to continue to invest wisely in new technologies that can ensure that the whole island of Ireland is well placed to benefit from the economic recovery – which will inevitably occur.
This country currently ranks 2nd in Europe in terms of Entrepreneurship and we must encourage that now more than ever. It is this Government’s aim to position Ireland as the leading location for business innovation in the world – all the better if these innovations tie in with the sustainability agenda.
I look forward to working with IBEC to promote and lead in the development by the business community of these new and exciting technologies.
These technologies are not only crucial for job creation and sustainability but also for environmental reasons. The development of green technologies will help us move towards meeting our international obligation to tackle climate change.
Delivering the New Agenda at Local Level
Its good to see familiar faces here today from local and regional authorities.
To deliver on the policy contained in the Smarter Travel policy will involve engagement at local level. To facilitate this engagement I intend establishing a network at local government level to liaise with my Department and push the agenda forward. As City and County Managers are aware, I have been in contact with the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government requesting that consideration be given to the assignment of Sustainable Travel Officers in each local authority from existing staffing resources.
I hope that these officers will be in place in the near future and will play a vital role in advancing the sustainability agenda.
The future alignment of spatial planning and transport is also crucial. Through the National Spatial Strategy, Regional Planning Guidelines and the National Development Plan Ireland has been making good progress in this regard.
The aim must be to promote and create sustainable patterns and forms of development through the creation of more compact, walkable cities and towns serviced by good quality public transport.
The challenge will be to structure the major elements of population growth into the future around the spatial policy framework outlined in the National Spatial Strategy. Furthermore, the encouragement of small scale retail, industrial, residential and other developments in small towns and villages, which have experienced population decline, can contribute to the reduction in emissions by eliminating long commutes for some rural dwellers.
For me all this translates into a smarter way of living and a better quality of life for citizens.
I am passionately committed to this new approach to transport and travel. The launch of these new policies generated a more positive response than I anticipated, particularly given the economic downturn. Government is now taking a holistic approach to transport and we are taking the necessary steps to deliver this new agenda over an extended period up to 2012.
Already we have delivered on key actions of Smarter Travel, such as the establishment of the National Sustainable Travel Office, the publication of the National Cycle Policy Framework and the funding of the Green Schools Travel initiative which will reach 265,000 schoolchildren by 2012. Today I am announcing further initiatives to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the new agenda.
I intend to pursue and support the development of demonstration sustainable travel towns, which will create self sufficient centres of population. As this initiative takes shape, there may be scope for a North/South twinning element.
Active discussions have already taken place with some of our colleagues in Northern Ireland to see how some sustainable travel initiatives can be delivered throughout the island of Ireland. I aim to launch this initiative in the Summer.
I have also approved a national Workplace Travel Plan programme, which will reach 250,000 employees by 2012 and which will succeed in reducing car-use in these places of employment by 10%
I will be funding Ireland’s first national bike week between 14 and 21 June and my staff are working closely with business, voluntary organizations and the public sector to make this a memorable event.
I intend establishing, in the near future, the national freight forum referred to in the Smarter Travel policy with the aim of agreeing a comprehensive plan for the movement of goods in Ireland in a sustainable and efficient manner.
I can also announce that I have asked the NRA to commence the planning of a national off-road cycle network which will link our main urban areas and which will connect to a network of urban cycle routes.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I want to acknowledge that these are times of considerable challenge. The challenge applies to all.
Government must take hard decisions to adjust to the current economic realities, protect employment and to prepare the landscape for recovery.
Business must consolidate and plan realistically for the future.
Times of challenge, however, are also times of opportunity. We must ensure we remain of a mindset that will allow us to not only identify the opportunities that will inevitably present, but also to avail of them.
Above all I want us all to work smarter. There is less Exchequer funding available at the moment.
That doesn’t mean that we cannot work collaboratively and get better value for money and deliver the new initiatives, which will make Ireland a better place to live in.