THE government is to examine plans to allow electric cars and hybrids vehicles to use bus lanes, Environment Minister Richard Bruton has confirmed.
Mr Bruton said the proposal would have to be considered but cautioned that it could be constrained by the government’s stated ambition to have one million EVs on the road by 2030.
Mr Bruton also confirmed that local authorities are being given powers to ban or restrict diesel cars from accessing certain areas under a new climate charter that city and county managers have signed up to.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in a radio interview last week that the government was looking at the idea of EVs being allowed to use bus lanes. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Bruton said: “Every year we will look at proposals that come forward and certainly we could look at that.
“I think there are obviously constraints in that the ambition of Bus Connects [the plan to overhaul the Dublin Bus route network] is to dramatically shorten the journey time for people and to use very strong pivotal routes or these very dedicated spines where motorists will be kept right out. So it’s hard to see that you could be consistent with delivering the high-quality public transport service with having vehicles [there].”
Mr Bruton said that given the small penetration of EVs currently - at present they represent only around 4pc of new car registrations - it might not make much difference to allow drivers of them to use bus lanes. But he said that the government’s ambition is to see “a very big ramp up” of the purchase and use of EVs and environmentally-friendly cars in the coming years and get to a point where a third of all vehicles on the road are electric.
He added: “It will have to be considered but there are constraints on a proposal like that. You can see the obvious attractions in the short-term but there would be constraints for public transport.”
Speaking to Today FM last Friday, Mr Varadkar was asked about EVs using bus lanes as they do in other countries.
He said: “In Norway, for example, where a lot of people buy electrics now, they allow them to use bus lanes and free parking, so they’re definitely the kind of things we’re looking at.”
He added: “The bus lane one is tricky in a city like Dublin, because as anyone who drives around Dublin will know, the bus lanes stop and start.”
Mr Bruton was speaking following a meeting with county and city council chief executives who signed up to a new climate charter.
This will oblige local authorities to carbon-proof future transport plans and introduce other climate-friendly measures such as improving their energy efficiency through measures like replacing street lights with LED bulbs that are more environmentally-friendly.
The Minister ruled out sanctioning local authorities who do not comply with the charter but said there would have to be transparent and report on what climate-friendly measures they have taken.
“The way we see this is I don’t think any local authority wants to be bottom of the league. They’re accountable to their own people. There’s huge pressure coming from young people in particular to deliver ambitious action in this area and I think local authorities will not want to find themselves bottom of any league,” he said.