The Herald has reported that fuel tax hikes are on the table – and not just a return to levels before the cost of living crisis-induced cuts last year.
A briefing released to reporter Thomas Coughlan under the Official Information Act has revealed sweeping plans to place climate change at the top of the government’s transport agenda.
The document, which details priorities for a forthcoming government policy statement on land transport, reveals that further taxes could be added on top of the regular 25% petrol excise.
And, in a potentially controversial decision, more street space currently allocated for carparks could be transformed into bus or cycle lanes. That would be funded through using road maintenance cash typically set aside for, as one example, fixing pot holes.
Transport minister Michael Wood told the Herald that emissions reduction was the number one priority, followed by safety, integrated freight, sustainable urban development, maintenance, and resilience.
“What comes out of the events of the past month has been that we have to bring forward even more strongly the focus on climate change and that is both sides of it,” he said. “Firstly, the need to be building a resilient system that is better placed to manage more extreme weather events of the kind that we’ve experienced recently. And the second is the need to increase our efforts to reduce our emissions so that we’re not contributing to that problem and making it worse.”
On the possibility of seeing car parks swapped out in favour of bus lanes, Wood provided the example of a stretch of road that required maintenance in a fast-growing region. “Well, instead of just going in and doing the maintenance and replacing the road as it is, the approach that we’re outlining is we talk to the council and would say, doesn’t it make sense at the same time as we’re doing that maintenance to put in place capacity for a bus lane?” he said.
The new transport plan will go out for consultation later in the year.