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Radical decisions needed about the future of our transport network

8 April, 2009

Public transport needs to become people's first choice, not last resort, said Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy at a Transport Conference in Dublin today.

Delivering a speech at the Transport Ireland Conference in Dublin, the Minister said:

"Radical decisions on the future of our transport network need to be taken in order to address the serious issues of climate change, sustainability, congestion and connectivity in rural and urban areas across this island. The decisions will not be easy. It will require us all to make tough choices about our transport future now and for the future.

"We need new ideas to help see us through the economic downturn and into new, sustained growth. We need to secure a sustainable transport future in the face of climate change.

“Economies depend on their transport system. And in this economic downturn, public transport has never been more important – offering commuters and customers a good value alternative to get to work, or to the shops.”

The Minister said transport is responsible for around a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions. "So we have a very real need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the transport sector to meet the challenge of climate change, which is not just about the environment. The Stern Report left no doubt about the economic price we would pay if we failed to address the challenge."

Sharing a platform with Irish Minister for Transport, Minister Noel Dempsey, Mr Murphy outlined planned investment in transport here. The Minister said: “We have already invested in newer, cleaner, and, crucially, more accessible buses. We have invested in better stops. Many of those stops have real-time information so passengers know when the next bus is actually coming. We are investing in new trains and improving the track between Ballymena and Derry. At the same time, the more passengers on public transport, the fewer people in their cars. Good for the economy, good for the environment.”

The Minister said: “We need public transport that is modern, clean, comfortable and affordable. We need services that will take people where they want to go, when they want to go there. Services that provide vital links between local communities and places like colleges, hospitals and business centres. That help people to access education, healthcare and jobs, as well as tackling congestion.

“We need to manage congestion and give the bus the priority it needs to be an attractive alternative to the car. In short, we need even more services that put passengers first. If we put passengers first, passengers will put public transport first.”

Mr Murphy also outlined the review of the Regional Transportation Strategy. “My Department is now developing a new, revised Regional Transportation Strategy. The revised Strategy will set the outcomes and key areas for action for transport in the North of Ireland. It which will ensure a proper balance between the needs of people and the needs of business, between supporting the continued growth of our industrialised East and ensuring the sustainable development of our rural West and between developing our economy and protecting our environment and tackling climate change.

"It will not be easy. It will require us all to make tough choices about our transport future. But I am determined to ensure that our revised Regional Transportation Strategy delivers a modern, sustainable and safe transportation system. One which benefits society, the economy and the environment. One which tackles the problems of social exclusion and which improves everyone’s quality of life," said the Minister.

"I am committed to providing the public with a platform to have their say through a full consultation and equality impact assessments (EQIA) this Autumn. I am committed to taking forward the reform of our public transport system which will result in a better system for everyone."

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