TRANSPORT Minister Shane Ross has said extra funding will be provided to public transport companies to ensure their services can continue despite the drop in fares due to the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Ross made the commitment in the Dáil as he assured the public that the transport network and services "continue to operate safely and effectively, providing vital connectivity for essential workers and essential trade".
He was making a return to the Dáil after losing his seat in the general election.
Mr Ross has been cocooning at home in recent weeks as he falls into the over-70s age group.
He said that public transport is a "critical part of the plan for reopening of the economy."
"It is inconceivable that public transport should not function properly in the present crisis.
"Therefore, I can confirm to the house that the government will provide the necessary additional funding to continue those services, despite the drop in fare income."
He said his officials are working with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Department of Public Expenditure "to assess and quantify this additional funding requirement."
Public transport has been deemed an essential service and enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing have been introduced on the network.
He said that at present "capacity is significantly ahead of demand which also ensures that social distancing can be easily maintained."
Mr Ross said his Department is "engaging with public transport operators to determine the practical implications for public transport provision as COVID19 restrictions are eased".
The NTA has "advised that current levels of service will facilitate the expected increase in passenger numbers, principally in the construction sector, from the start of Phase 1," Mr Ross said.
"The operators are in a position to provide extra capacity, including a return to the normal Monday to Friday schedule and mobilisation of additional vehicles at any particular pinch points in the network, should more capacity be required in Phase 2," he added.
Mr Ross said that although domestic road traffic has fallen, road road deaths remain slightly above numbers for the same period last year and his highlighted a worrying increase in pedestrian deaths.
Figures for drink driving are as high as last year, and drug driving is "significantly up", he said.
"At this time, when we are all concerned about the impact of COVID-19, I appeal to all road users to act responsibly and with car," Mr Ross said.
Fears were raised about the chances of the Metrolink and BusConnects transport projects going ahead due to the massive impact of the coronavirus crisis on the State's finances.
Mr Ross sought to allay such concerns saying: "I don't think there will be any go slow in any of these projects."
Separately, Mr Ross said that Transport Infrastructure Ireland is estimated to lose between €52m and €90m in toll road income due to the drop in traffic level because of the coronavirus restrictions.
He said this will have to be taken into account when the semi-state organisation's funding is considered.
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