Go-Ahead Ireland – Climate Action Plan Perspective

2 weeks ago Sat 20th Nov 2021

The Irish Government recently presented its Climate Action Plan, the objective of which is to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The plan contains 475 actions across the economy and society which the government claim will put Ireland on a more sustainable path; cut emissions; create a cleaner, greener economy and society. Encompassing all aspects of community and economic life, transport is an important aspect of the plan.

Broadly, the plan envisages a cut in transport emissions of between 42% and 50% - 500,000 extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030 will be required to achieve this. It will aim to increase the proportion of kilometres driven by passenger electric cars to between 40 and 45% by 2030, in addition to a reduction of 10% in kilometres driven by the remaining internal combustion engine cars. The plan states its intent to run only electric buses nationally by 2035, and a as a general point there will be increased rollout of rural public transport through Connecting Ireland.

A reduction in transport emissions across private and public users, as well as supporting the decarbonisation of public transport is ambitious but most certainly necessary. We operate a fleet of over 200 buses and are responsible for millions of annual journeys across our Dublin commuter and metropolitan routes, so we understand the scale of the challenge and opportunity. We also have the benefit of being part of the Go-Ahead Group who operates the largest fleet of electric buses (300) in the UK and is working toward having all 6000 buses at zero emission by 2035.

The Climate Action Plan is to be welcomed and will hopefully serve as a tangible and effective roadmap. Regarding the role of public transport, overall, there is a need for a modal shift in Ireland. To achieve this, we need to ensure any residential development has access to appropriate services such as education, retail etc. to minimise peoples need for travel. Prioritisation of public transport development and connectivity should be made a pre-requisite for any new development, in an urban and rural location. For example, the provision of Park & Ride facilities in outer city limit locations with greater charging facilities, which then allows people to park, charge and use public transport to go into the centre. Planners should look to reduce parking provision in urban areas to reduce the capacity for car private car journeys and prioritise the implementation of a congestion change in urban centres such as Dublin and Galway to discourage unnecessary private car journeys. These are but a few possible measures that can make a significant contribution toward the country’s climate action objectives.

Innovation and new technologies will be key to the success of the public transport sector, and its importance has been recently exemplified by the Go-Ahead Group internationally. The company last week signed its first hydrogen bus deal, one that could become the largest in Europe. The deal will see Brighton & Hove and Metrobus purchase 20 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from Wrightbus, with further potential in the future. Our group wide focus on new technology is evident here in Ireland also, where we have trialled solar technology as well as back-end technologies to streamline our operations, and we are actively aligned to the broader NTA and Government focus on clean technologies.

The Climate Action Plan announced by the Irish Government is a very important milestone for transport in Ireland, and its role in the countries urban and rural future. As such, we believe that collaboration is vital across industry, government, and society. If we are to achieve our objectives, cars must not be given a natural advantage in planning terms and the Government message should be to walk and cycle where possible, and use public transport as required