Cars should be banned from cities and urban areas, according to the National Bus and Rail Union.
It comes after the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee said public transport should be made free of charge to encourage people to use it.
In a new report aimed at halving emission in the transport sector by 2030, the cross-party committee made a range of recommendations – including an expanded bus and rail network, a new ‘green network' of cycling and pedestrian routes and the introduction of congestion charges in the city.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said free public transport will only work if cars are banned from urban areas.
“One of the things we disliked in the NBRU about Bus Connects was this business of putting super-highways in the city,” he said.
“You have to ban the cars from the city, that is the practical reality here.
“You can’t have a situation where you have free transport, with the encouragement to use transport en-masse and then allow cars to travel alongside of buses in and out of our large cities and urban areas. You just can’t have that.”
Mr O'Leary said he understood that drivers would be upset at the idea of banning cars from cities but insisted, “there is no other way of doing this.”
He said a 2017 report estimated that “aggravated congestion” on our roads would be costing the State around €2.8bn a year by 2033 and noted that free public transport would “pay for itself” in terms of reducing those costs alongside emissions.
He warned however that there is no point in talking about free transport until you have a fit-for-purpose fleet, you put the proper infrastructure in place and make it “completely expensive or prohibitive” to drive your car into the city – unless you have a disability or a special exemption to do so.
Asked how long it might take to roll out a free system, he said the pandemic had shown that the State was capable of getting things done “in jig-time” when it had to.
Also on the show, AA Ireland spokesperson Paddy Comyn said the free system must be in place before you start talking about banning cars from cities.
“When you look at cities like London where they did bring in a congestion charge, you have to look at the point before that was introduced – when 87% of all commuters were using public transport already,” he said.
“There is no point making it more difficult for people to drive if there isn’t an alternative already in the first place.
“I don’t think anyone sensible would say they love sitting in traffic for hours and hours on end but they do so out of compulsion because they don’t have a better way to go.
“So, I think there is no reason why we couldn’t bring in alternatives like that but the public transport has to be in place before we look at any sort of bans or congestion charges.”
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