Park-and-ride Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly am 2:00 pm ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Honeyford David Honeyford Alliance 2:00, 14 Mai 2024

1. Mr Honeyford asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether his Department has a park-and-ride strategy to ensure optimal access to the rail and rapid transit networks. (AQO 424/22-27)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Park-and-ride schemes are a key enabler for improving connections, increasing public transport use, promoting sustainability and encouraging a modal shift to active travel. My Department has identified a list of priority bus- and rail-based park-and-ride sites. Further potential sites will be considered in the new transport strategy and transport plans that are being developed.

I am supportive of expanding our park-and-ride schemes, where needed. However, as the capital budget for my Department is less than that required, I am considering investment plans for 2024-25. As the Member will be aware, public services such as infrastructure are under severe pressure as a result of over a decade of Tory cuts and austerity. Infrastructure is key to connecting our communities, and it is the bedrock upon which we should build our ambitions for the delivery of radical changes to improve lives. Doing that properly will require investment.

Photo of David Honeyford David Honeyford Alliance

Thank you to the Minister for his answer and for his prioritisation of the issue. I recently met his Department and Translink: they lobbied for an extension to the park-and-ride at Moira and told me that it was a priority and that they wanted to deliver it quickly. The extension has since received full planning permission, only for DFI to give notice that it may want to review its own application and decision. Will the Minister give a ministerial direction to stop the internal nonsense and allow Translink to get on with providing a much-needed extension to the park-and-ride at Moira as soon as possible?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his question. I will certainly look into that in more detail, David, and decide whether or not it is "nonsense". There may be a number of issues at play in ensuring that, moving forward, any investment fits in with the transport plans that are being developed and that we have the budget to deliver that investment.

It is quite clear, as I said in my original answer, that park-and-rides are fantastic facilities: they take private cars off the road and allow people easy access to public transport. However, for me to continue to roll out the programme of park-and-rides, I will require capital budget. In the next number of weeks, I will announce my budget. Unfortunately, I am in the same position as all the Ministers around the Executive table: we simply do not have enough budget to deliver all the plans that we wish to deliver. I will certainly look into the matter in greater detail for the Member.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Minister, when do we expect to see the regional transport strategy and the transport plans?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

The transport plans are being developed to support the councils as they develop their local development plans. The timing of the various transport plans across council areas reflects that. For instance, the Fermanagh and Omagh transport plan, the north-west transport plan and the eastern transport plan have all been commenced, with evidence-gathering preparatory work under way for all remaining transport areas.

Photo of Cara Hunter Cara Hunter Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answers so far. Minister, my question pertains to the City of Derry Airport. Has park-and-ride provision been considered for there? Are there any further updates on rail connectivity to Derry airport?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I have no information in front of me about a park-and-ride for the City of Derry Airport. As for connectivity through the rail network, that will form part of the all-island rail review. I hope to be able to publish that review in June. I have to do that in conjunction with my ministerial colleague in the South. We are both working our way through the processes. I have to present it to the Executive, and Minister Ryan has to present it to the Cabinet. I hope to be able to do that in June.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

I thank the Minister for his update on this important infrastructural asset. Minister, I have been contacted by a number of people who have asked whether there is an opportunity to see electric vehicle charging points put in at our park-and-ride facilities. Will you look at that to see whether it can be done by Translink? If it is not willing to do so, can the space be opened up to private firms to put in charging points at park-and-ride facilities?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I understand that that proposal was looked at before. A study was done on whether park-and-rides are the best places for charging points, and it suggested that they were not, because of the nature of those areas and the length of time that vehicles stay there. Only a minimal number of vehicles would be able to be charged, and, during that time, the charger should be available for other vehicles. However, I am always happy to look at aspects or proposals for how we can increase the use of electric vehicles and make them more accessible to the public.