By Paul Melia
MOTORISTS could face a ban on driving through major towns and having to pay congestion charges as part of plans to encourage the use of public transport.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) is planning to introduce a ban on cars travelling through towns in Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath under a wide-ranging transport strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) published yesterday.
A 30kmh across-the-board speed limit in city centres and in residential areas is also proposed to encourage walking and cycling in urban centres. Restrictions on the use of certain streets for drivers who choose to use their car instead of public transport are also mooted.
The NTA’s Transport Strategy 2011-2030, which went for public consultation yesterday, also sets out a range of different congestion charges that could be introduced.
The authority said investment in bus and rail infrastructure would improve the accessibilty of the capital and other town centres in the GDA, and that “people movement” should take priority over vehicles.
Ways to achieve this include banning traffic from certain streets or zones, restricting access to public transport only or pedestrianising streets.
“The NTA will seek restrictions on general motorised traffic travelling through the heart of Dublin city centre and other town centres by diverting through traffic on to alternative routes,” it said. “The authority will seek reductions in traffic speeds in town centres and the application of a 30kmh speed limit in the commercial and retail core of Dublin and other town and village centres.”
The NTA has also proposed that congestion charges be introduced before 2020, warning that unless the measures are implemented traffic will grind to a halt in the GDA by 2020.
Certain key roads could be closed to private cars at peak times, restricting on-street car parking, and the introduction of a congestion charge — like London — should be considered, it says.
The Government’s Smarter Travel plan aims to reduce car commuting by half by 2020, and the only way to achieve this is to reduce demand “over a large geographical area”.
“Road-use charging is the most appropriate means of achieving this,” the NTA said. “Charging provides the most effective mechanism for targeting specific users and seeking to alter travel behaviour.”
The NTA admits that introducing a congestion charge would be “challenging” on a number of levels, not least politically.
The outgoing government said charges would not be introduced until public transport services improved, but the NTA said one way to overcome public resistance could be to reduce public transport fares to make bus and rail more attractive than the car.
The strategy also suggests banning daytime delivery of goods to shops, with all deliveries to be made between 7pm and 7am, and the HGV ban should be extended to four-axle vehicles.