Energy - Policy Advisory - Towards Low-Carbon Transport in Ireland - July 18, 2014

The Irish Academy of Engineering has taken a fresh look at national Transport Policy. The challenge is to work towards Ireland’s “20-20-20” Climate Change commitments in the context of economic recovery and the need to maintain and enhance personal convenience, mobility and safety, while simultaneously reducing the costs of goods transport for business. The results of this review were pleasantly surprising. Firstly, transport motive technology is developing at an unprecedented pace. The fuel efficiency of new cars sold in Ireland has improved substantially in recent years, driven by EU regulation of car manufacturers and incentivised by the Irish motor taxation regime. By 2020, 60% of the national car fleet will consist of low-emission vehicles, reducing the fleet emissions footprint by 20%. The same trend is evident for Light Commercial Vehicles, reducing its footprint by 10% by 2020. Heavy Goods Vehicle already feature high efficiency drive-trains, hence the best option for future emissions reduction lies in use of lower-carbon alternative fuels, and in higher levels of fleet operator and driver training, aided by on-board computer technology. Secondly, Information Technology (IT) has revolutionary disruptive potential. IT can facilitate ride-sharing, empowered by smart-phone Apps embraced by a tech-savvy highly-mobile younger generation. No longer is car ownership a necessity when Apps can readily find others travelling a similar route in either the urban or rural context. IT can also potentially revolutionise the efficiency of goods transport through finding new opportunities for load-sharing, consolidation of deliveries and promotion of back-hauling. Thirdly, Transport Policy deserves a complete re-think, relating sustainability to occupancy levels. Cars at high occupancy levels are now more emissions-efficient than buses or trains at low occupancy. Public transport is therefore not necessarily more sustainable than private, and is so only at high occupancy levels, which arise mostly at peak times in the congested urban context. IT can potentially enable more sustainable ad-hoc off-peak transport service than scheduled low-occupancy public transport. Anonymous “Big Data” on commuting and travel patterns can help optimise complementary public and private transport as never before. Fourthly, there is significant potential too for greater utilisation of existing rail assets. Commuting from the Midlands into Dublin can be optimised by utilising the Phoenix Park tunnel to provide access to the IFSC area. Commuter and intercity rail passenger numbers could be expanded by completing and opening Kishoge Station as a major Park-and-Ride facility. There are also new rail freight opportunities in the context of reducing road traffic into the City. All these initiatives can help mitigate growing congestion on the M50. This Advisory gives 15 recommendations as to how these four areas together can pave the way Towards Low-Carbon Transport in Ireland. The Academy estimates that these can reduce both 2020 Transport Energy Usage and Green-House Gas Emissions by over 15% below current predictions, while enhancing personal convenience, mobility and safety, simultaneously leading to more competitive goods transport. There is also the very significant advantage that these combined successes can all be achieved at relatively modest overall cost to the Exchequer, while in parallel stimulating private enterprise and driving national economic growth.