Jessie J famously sang, “It’s not about the money, money, money. We don’t need your money, money, money,” I am not one to argue with such an icon, but when it comes to getting better sustainable transport in Ireland, we need all the money we can get.
In the budget for 2023, the Department of Transport welcomed an allocation of €3.51 billion. Just over half of this, €1.9 billion, has been allocated to “greener, cleaner transport”. Minister for Transport and Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamonn Ryan spoke about his joy at the budget allocation, “Transport is key to Ireland’s future development and sustainability, both to ensure that we can get around easily, cost-effectively and safely, but also to ensure that we meet our emissions targets by 2030 and beyond.”
Looking at this budget, it is clear how much of an emphasis is being placed on developing a transport system that will benefit both the public and the environment. Casting our minds back to five years ago in the 2018 budget, €2.1 Billion was allocated for transport, tourism and sport – this is almost the same amount as has been allocated to purely sustainable transport this year.
This sum of money will be stretched between upgrading eco facilities for buses, rail, cars, cyclists, and pedestrians around the country. These changes play a part in the goal to achieve Ireland’s Climate Action plan which intends for Ireland to half its carbon emissions by 2030. Improving the amenities and systems in place is the only way that more people will be enticed to ditch their cars and catch the bus. As well as helping the environment, more transport systems in Ireland and upgrades such as cycle lanes and new transport routes will allow people to travel to places that may not have been easily accessible before.
The yearly budget can be a minefield to try and understand, and it can be frustrating when you don’t see any visible change. So, what will actually be done with this money, and how will it affect the public?
Here is a breakdown of the proposed government sustainable transport plan for 2023:
Walking and Cycling
€300 million has been allocated to walking and cycling projects this year. The money will go into creating footpaths and greenways around Ireland for people to get out and enjoy the scenery. A greenway is a stretch of land that is traffic-free and can be used by pedestrians or cyclists for travel or exercise. Construction on eight different greenways around the country is continuing this year with others in development. According to Minister Ryan, 2023 will be the year that many projects from previous years will come to fruition. Speaking to The Irish Times, Minister Ryan stated, “What’s going to be different this year is we’re going to see a lot of the money that was spent on design work going to go into building work this year.” Hopefully before long these greenways, as well as new footpaths and cycle lanes around the country will be open for us to enjoy.
In 2023 there will be 101 fully electric busses added to urban public service obligation bus fleets and 20 electric single decker busses added to region and commuter fleets. These new engines will join the 800 electric buses that were added to the fleet in 2022. The benefit of these swanky motors is that they have zero tailpipe emissions which leads to improved air quality for humans and the environment. It is not all about the money that is spent on vehicles, but also the money that we, the public, can save. Leap card lovers fear not – the reduced fare on the Young Adult leap card remains in place for 2023! Anybody aged between 19 and 23 years old are eligible for this card which offers a 50% reduced fare.
When it comes to rail transport, the changes will take a little bit longer to be seen. Much of the funding for the rail service is going into procurement and construction for the DART+ scheme. When finished, the DART+ network will expand the DART network to 3 times its current length and stretch as far as Maynooth, Greystones and Drogheda. In bad news, it will be a few years before you can hop on the dart from Paul Mescal’s hometown to a night out in Dublin town. In good news, 41 new intercity railcars will be entering service this year across the country which will increase capacity on certain routes.
As well as these developments money has also been allocated to renewing roads (regional and local), aviation, improving access to public transport and grants towards electric vehicles.
Overall, it appears that there will be positive changes happening around the country. As always, more change is needed, for instance increasing public transport in rural areas. As with all projects, these things take time, but the money has been allocated and these developments should start popping up around your hometown over the coming months. Once the amenities are in place, it is important to use them as the more people who use these services, the higher the pressure will be on the government to provide them. So do your bit – hop on a bike, catch a bus, and know that you are helping the environment.