Varadkar publishes 2013 progress report for Transport, Tourism & Sport

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has published a progress report on the 2013 priorities for his Department.

“This has been a broadly positive year overall for transport, tourism and sport. We retained the 9% VAT rate for tourism and leisure, 24 new flights into Ireland were announced after the suspension of the Air Travel Tax, The Gathering was a real success, two major projects were completed at the National Sports Campus, construction on the first road PPP for four years got underway, and work has started on joining up the LUAS lines. There were, of course, lots of challenges including two bus strikes, efforts to put CIE back on a sound financial footing and the struggle to maintain our road and public transport infrastructure within very tight budget constraints,” Minister Varadkar said.

“The Gathering proved to be the overwhelming highlight of the year, for the simple reason that so many people seem to have gained so much from it. It gave the tourism sector a boost, and brought people together from across Ireland and the world in a way that we haven’t seen for years. I am very grateful to all of the people who made The Gathering happen and in particular, the volunteers.

“A further top priority was ensuring that the Department came in on budget and its funding was well spent.”

Priorities

• Implement planned budget savings bringing the Department in on budget at the end of 2013 to help reduce the Government’s budget deficit;

Status: Done

• Commence preliminary works on the Cross City Luas;

Status: Done. The in-filling of cellars was completed ahead of target, utility diversion works are on schedule, and the main construction contracts will be announced later in the year.

• Realise ‘The Gathering Ireland 2013’, meeting the target of 325,000 additional visitors and €170 million in additional revenue;

Status: Done. Visitor numbers have risen by more than 7.1% in the first ten months of the year, with visits from North America up by 13.8%. The Gathering has played a significant part.

• Restart the PPP roads programme by commencing work on the N7 (Newlands Cross), N11 (Rathnew) and N17/18 (Gort-Tuam) projects;

Status: Partially complete. Work is underway on the N7 and N11 projects, the first road PPP to get underway in four years. The Gort to Tuam project is being progressed and is expected to start in the first half of 2014.

• Develop new facilities at the National Sports Campus including the access roads and multi-use pitches and pavilion;

Status: Done. Completed projects this year include multi-sport pitches, a sport pavilion, the new equestrian arena and pentathlon facilities, and the access road. Further announcements are due in the New Year.

• Resolve the CIE financial situation without recourse to additional subvention;

Status: Done. CIE has arranged new banking facilities and did not require additional subvention at the end of the year. The company has been achieving passenger and revenue targets as set out in the business plan.

• Upgrade the Leap Card with additional products with a 2013 target of over 300,000 card users by year-end;

Status: Exceeded. The Leap card now has 378,000 users and a range of new products have been produced.

• Restructure the Rural Transport Programme giving it a permanent and sustainable role within the Irish public transport system and further its integration with State-sponsored transport;

Status: Done

• Develop and launch a smartphone app to allow consumers verify that their taxi driver is licenced, make the taxi consumer complaints procedure available online and ensure that those convicted of certain serious crimes cannot work as taxi drivers;

Status: Done

• Establish Shannon NewCo – the independent Shannon Airport – and restore the airport to passenger growth;

Status: Done. Shannon was given full independence on January 1st 2013 and has halted the decline in passenger numbers. New routes have been announced to the US, Britain and Europe.

• Launch a new Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020;

Status: Done and implementation is underway.

• Meet the objectives set down for the Irish Presidency of the Council of Transport Ministers and Council of Sports Ministers;

Status: Done.

• Determine the structure of the public service (PSO) bus market, secure funding of the CIE companies post-2014, and re-organise Irish Rail by year’s end;

Status: The National Transport Authority has announced its plans for the future operation of the PSO market including the tendering of 10% of the PSO market. Work on Irish Rail’s re-organisation continues and is expected to be completed next year.

• Launch the new plastic card licence and implement the nationwide review of speed limits;

Status: The speed limit review has been completed and published. There are some teething problems with the launch of the new driving licence service but the move to a centralised service is the right one in the long term. It will provide better service, value for money and greater security.

• Promote Sport (Physical Education) as an examination subject;

Status: Done. Physical Education will become a formal part of the new junior certificate cycle and will be an examination subject.

• Pass the Road Traffic, Vessels Registration, Taxi, Sport Ireland, Vehicle Clamping and Shannon NewCo Bills;

Status: Behind. The Taxi Bill has been enacted. The Road Traffic Bill is before the House. The Vessels Registration will be published shortly. Sport Ireland, Vehicle Clamping, and Shannon NewCo Bills will be before the House next year.

• Publish the new Ports Policy;

Status: Done. The policy to radically overhaul Ireland’s commercial ports and give Government a more hands-on role in the maritime ports was published.

• Complete the consultation phase for the new Aviation Policy and begin work on a Tourism policy review;

Status: Done. Both final policies will be published next year.

• Implement a Maritime ‘Safety at Sea’ initiative;

Status: Launched, including an Action Plan to improve Maritime Safety and Marine Emergency Response Services.

• Launch and pilot a new scheme for community involvement in the maintenance of minor local roads;

Status: Done.

• Progress schemes to encourage cycling and walking and bring the Mullingar to Dublin section of the proposed coast-to-coast greenway to shovel-ready status, and launch a new Active Travel Towns competition;

Status: Partially complete.

• Establish bike-sharing schemes similar to Dublin Bikes in other regional cities;

Status: Done. Bike-sharing schemes have been agreed for Cork, Limerick and Galway.

• Report on the feasibility of an Irish Museum of Sport;

Status: Report completed.

• Complete the merger of NRA and RPA.

Status: Significant progress has been made. The Heads of the Bill have been approved by Cabinet and legislation is being prepared.

• Special sports capital programme for boxing and local authorities

Status: Done. Allocations made.