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Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here today at this networking seminar organised by Business in the Community Ireland and supported by the National Transport Authority and my Department.
Suppose someone came to you and said – “I’ve a way to make your business more competitive and your workforce healthier, happier and more productive. I’ve a way to boost your environmental credentials and assist you in your quest for better corporate social responsibility. It’s low cost and highly effective.”
Would you be interested? I’ve no doubt that you would. This is what this seminar aims to offer to business.
Early last year I launched, and took pole position in leading delivery of, the Government’s Smarter Travel policy. Smarter Travel – which aims to deliver a sustainable travel and transport system to Ireland by 2020 – is one of the most innovative and important transport initiatives that has ever been undertaken in Ireland.
Smarter Travel turned traditional transport thinking on its head. Rather than asking the question – “What infrastructure or services do we need to build or provide to match our transport demand”, it asked – “What actions can we take in the transport area to reduce congestion, maximise efficiency, improve competitiveness, reduce emissions, improve public health, deliver better urban spaces, enhance quality of life while, at the same time, meeting everyone’s travel and transport needs?”
Smarter Travel set out a radical response – contained in 49 inter-dependent measures.
I’m not going to go through the policy in detail – however, it’s important to understand the breadth of actions that will be needed to deliver sustainability in transport.
We need to reduce distance travelled by private car by clustering population and employment growth.
We need to ensure that viable alternatives to the private car are more widely available, such as public transport, shared transport or, for shorter distances, active transport modes, such as walking and cycling.
We also need to improve the fuel efficiency and environmental performance of all motorised transport through improved fleet structures, energy efficient driving, and alternative technologies.
The focus of today’s seminar is on getting workforces to and from the workplace in a more sustainable manner – or, indeed, maybe even going a step further by availing of e-working centres or increased reliance on working from home.
Action 8 in Smarter Travel undertakes to work towards a requirement on organisations with over 100 staff to develop and implement workplace travel plans. It also promises support and guidelines for the development and implementation of such plans. Actions 5 and 6 focus on e-working.
As you will hear later on from all the speakers, there is much to report on delivery under Action 8. All the indicators are positive. But before getting into the detail, and I appreciate I might, to some degree at least, be preaching to the converted, we deserve to spend just a moment reflecting on the potential benefits of adopting smarter travel practices for our workplace commutes.
The 2006 census told us that an astonishing 205,000 people commuted 4 kilometres or less to work by car every day. These distances are well achievable by cycling or walking. Of course, not all of these people will find it possible to switch to active travel modes.
However, for those who can, the benefits are manifold – improved cardiovascular fitness; reduced tendency towards weight gain, obesity and diabetes; better mental health and improved levels of personal wellbeing. And there are clearly spin-off benefits to the State in terms of reduced need for medical interventions in response to such illnesses as well as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
But there are also benefits for employers. These include reduced levels of illness-related absences; improved morale among workforces, and, of course, with a consequent reduction of traffic volumes, less congestion and easier, more efficient, movement of goods.
And if we extend our consideration to e-working, we find a reduced need for investment in office space, heat, light, power and other overheads.
I’ve been putting my weight behind workplace travel planning since late 2007 by funding the Dublin Transportation Office – now the National Transport Authority – to deliver a pilot scheme to promote workplace travel planning in the Greater Dublin Area. By early 2009, 25 public and private sector organisations, covering almost 45,000 staff, had adopted workplace travel plans and a number of other organisations had expressed interest in joining. The initial results were very encouraging, showing an average reduction of 16% in car use.
This compared well with the UK experience where, over a more sustained period, workplace travel plans have delivered reductions of between 10% and 30% in car use.
It stood to reason that the implementation of Smarter Travel should provide for a ramping up of efforts in relation to workplace travel planning. The NTA establishing legislation requires the authority to pursue “demand management measures” alongside infrastructure provision in the Greater Dublin Area. Measures are those which reduce the need to travel, increase travel by public transport, bicycle or on foot as an alternative to the private car, encourage travel at less congested periods, and reduce the use of private cars and Smarter Travel Workplaces is a key practical initiative.
I’m delighted to announce that my Department has a service level agreement in place with the National Transportation Authority to deliver workplace travel plans in Ireland’s top one hundred employers by the end of 2012.
There are now 53 organisations participating in the programme involving a total of 68,000 staff members. It’s ambitious undertaking which aims to reach 250,000 employees (about 13% of the national workforce). Achieving at least a 20% reduction in staff car use would equate to a reduction of almost 28,500 commuting car trips to and from work per day.
You are going to hear a number of inspiring presentations today of best practice in workplace travel planning from the National Transport Authority, Vodafone and our hosts, the ESB. I think you’ll find there are a few of key points that will emerge. First, there’s plenty of help available. Second, best results are achieved by using imaginative and engaging approaches. Third, enthusiasm is always the best antidote to apathy. And most importantly, getting results from workplace travel planning does not require a degree in rocket science.
Finally, I want to thank all of our speakers. I want to thank the ESB for hosting the event and Business in the Community Ireland for making all the arrangements.
Finally, and most importantly, I thank you all for coming here today and hope you leave with a vision for Smarter Travel in your workplaces.