Transport Minister Eamon Ryan TD: ‘Transforming how we get around’

In our Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP23), we have set a target to halve our emissions from transport by 2030. Of all the high impact sectors within CAP23, I often say that transport is going to be one of the most challenging to address, writes Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan TD.

There is not a person in this country that does not rely on some aspect of our transport ecosystem to get around their own locality and then further afield. We want to support mobility around Ireland, and access to our island nation, in a way that is sustainable and in line with our carbon reduction goals.

That is why the Government has prioritised transport like no other for decades. We have committed to providing €35 billion in capital investment up to 2030 to support the systemic change we need to ensure that we can deliver an accessible, efficient, safe, and sustainable transport system that works for everyone; not just in cities in towns, but in rural villages and townlands.

Too often, our starting point with transport in Ireland is negative. We rush to talk about all the things we do not have. A recent Greenpeace report focused narrowly on the availability of long-term (yearly) travel passes. Ireland does not have one and so based on this extremely narrow interpretation of our public transport system, we were automatically decried as “the worst in Europe”.

“One of the most significant things we did to encourage people to use public transport was reduce fares for the first time in 75 years.”

The truth is we are not. The truth is we are making enormous and meaningful changes in our transport system every week. The truth is that Ireland is bucking the European trend because we are one of the only countries to see a significant rebound in public transport passenger numbers since Covid. In fact, in Ireland, ours is not just a rebound, but an encouraging increase in the numbers now choosing to take the bus, the train, or active travel. The truth is that our 90-minute TFI fare makes us as competitive as cities like Berlin, Budapest, or Amsterdam.

Fare reductions

One of the most significant things we did to encourage people to use public transport was reduce fares for the first time in 75 years. In 2022, we reduced fares on publicly funded services by an average of 20 per cent as part of a suite of measures to help combat the cost of living. We also introduced the Young Adult Card (YAC) which entitles all young adults aged from 19 to 23 years and full-time third level students between the ages of 16 and 23 to a massive 50 per cent reduction – with the additional 20 per cent off. This actually means that fares for young people are now 60 per cent cheaper for our younger travellers.

And people are availing of these fares in spades. Since the introduction of the YAC in 2022, nearly 300,000 cards have been issued. The seven-day rolling average for public transport passenger journeys across bus, Luas, DART, and rail was nearly 800,000 journeys a day, representing a 27 per cent increase when compared to 2022.

Rural transport

It is also happening on rural transport. In 2023, the weekly patronage for Local Link is nearly 52,000 – a staggering 82 per cent increase when compared to the same period in 2022. Connecting Ireland services – that is local bus services between towns – is also continuing to see an increase in the numbers travelling – up 112 per cent at the end of 2022 compared to 2019.

“We are meeting our emissions targets, and putting in place a public and active travel system that we can be proud of.”

Improving rural transport is a particular priority for the Department of Transport. In 2022, Connecting Ireland delivered 38 new and enhanced bus services. But in 2023, our budget and our ambition has doubled. In 2023, we will spend €8.5 million to deliver 67 new or enhanced services. This means that over two years, we will be delivering one new or enhanced bus service every single week.


In our towns and cities, under the National Development Plan 2021-2030, our Bus Connects programmes will be substantially delivered in each of the State’s five cities by the end of the decade. In Dublin, the NTA expects that the Network Redesign, which is being rolled out over 11 phases, will be completed by early 2025. In Cork, the new network will provide an increase of over 50 per cent in bus services. The same will happen in Galway, linking the city buses to Bearna and Oranmore.

But transforming our transport system goes beyond public transport infrastructure. We are also investing heavily in active travel and in our greenways. In 2023, for example, we have invested an unprecedented €290 million in active travel and €63 million in greenways.

Pathfinder Programme

In October 2022, we launched our Pathfinder Programme – 35 exemplar public transport, walking, cycling and wheeling projects across the country which will be completed by 2025. The aim of the programme is to bring increased momentum to the delivery of projects at a local level with a strong emphasis on experimental and innovative approaches. The 35 projects encompass significant road-space reallocation projects favouring walking and cycling in our cities, large scale investments in public transport, or exemplar 15-minute towns in towns like Letterkenny or Killarney. Many of the most innovative projects are in rural areas like Leitrim where a project called ‘The First and Last Green Mile’ connects the Local Link services with local hackneys to make sure that people can be picked up and dropped ‘the last mile’ direct to their doors.

Electric vehicles

We are also seeing significant changes in electric vehicles. Over the past year, we have seen a major increase in the number of EVs on our roads with nearly 90,000 EVs or plug-in hybrid EVs registered. Over the next two and a half years, we will be investing €100 million in developing and then rolling out our EV charging infrastructure across Ireland, which commits to installing fast chargers every 60km on the motorway network, as well as installing home chargers, on-street and apartment chargers, and destination chargers in places like sports centres, shopping centres, or tourism locations.

Demand Management Strategy

There are so many other things going on to decarbonise and improve how we get around. A key piece of work is our Demand Management Strategy which aims to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and provide more safe and accessible spaces for public transport, walking and cycling. This will take a year to complete. In the meantime, we will be launching a public information campaign to tell people what is happening in their area and to raise awareness about the lower emission choices people can take to make their journey count for themselves and for the environment.

We have a lot of work to do to completely transform how we get around. But we are delivering. Steadily, strategically, every week, ensuring that we are meeting our emissions targets, and putting in place a public and active travel system that we can be proud of.

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