Reallocating road space rather than penalising motorists is best fix for congestion, says Eamon Ryan

Sinn Féin accuses Coalition of adopting London-style congestion charges in the absence of adequate public transport

Reallocating road space by favouring public transport, cycling and walking should be the priority in addressing congestion, rather than charges penalising motorists, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

Responding to criticism of the Government’s draft traffic demand strategy, which he published on Wednesday, he said it was about making the transport system work for everyone.

Trying to “price people off the road” would not work, he said.

“It wouldn’t be socially just. It would be very expensive on the motorist. I don’t think that’s the best way to go.”


The strategy contains more than 35 options to address congestion and the sector’s worsening emissions problem.

Most measures are directed at local authorities, with an indication they must be in place before 2030.

The strategy puts a lot of the responsibility for change on local authorities, Mr Ryan said. “It’s not forcing things. It’s not putting an immediate charge on anything but it does recognise ... we do need to change direction but also address climate change.”

On the potential penalties for failing to implement the strategy, the Minister said the greatest of those would be that local authorities would miss out on funding to improve local transport services if they failed to act to cut emissions.

Sinn Féin transport spokesman Martin Kenny said the strategy was being introduced without having sufficient low-carbon public transport options in place and is “heavily based” on the ULEZ system in operation in London.

“What he is failing to grasp is that the London public transport system and the Irish one are worlds apart,” he said. “The public transport system in London has been in place for decades, is well run, and offers commuters an exceptionally reliable option to get to their destination. There is little need for a private car there because of this.

“This draft strategy is yet another way for this out-of-touch Government to punish motorists, hauliers and transport operators for using the only form of transport they feel able to rely on.”

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the Government wants to “acclimatise” the public to congestion charges and will try to introduce them in coming years. “Congestion charges create class barriers to entry to cities. Wealthy people will be able to drive into less congested city centres while the poor will have to rely on infrequent public transport.”

A better way to minimise traffic congestion would be to introduce free and frequent public transport into city centres, she added.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times