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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, International Transport Forum, Gala Dinner, Farmleigh House, Thursday 7 November 2019.

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Minister, Secretaries General, ladies and gentlemen, good evening and welcome to Farmleigh.

This used to be the home of the Guinness family and today it is where we hold high level Government meetings and welcome foreign dignitaries, and it has hosted Emperors and Empresses, Presidents and Prime Ministers, in recent years.

So it is the perfect place to welcome Secretary General Kim and you all.

First of all, thank you for your work developing international transport policy and for your continued leadership in the global transport community.

When I was Minister for Transport I took part in your 2012 Summit and it generated many news ideas which influenced my thinking – and which still do as Taoiseach.

I remember in particular one panel session and we brainstormed about how we could develop ambitious transport strategies to grow communities and grow our countries.

The Summit provided a valuable space for new ideas to be challenged and tested and it helped shape transport policy in countries around the world.   I know that the 2020 Summit held under the Irish Presidency will be similarly ambitious and just as successful.  Minister Ross is looking forward to the opportunity to showcase Ireland as a global leader in innovation and a strong supporter of sustainable development goals.

We live in an era when everything we think we knew about transport and mobility is changing rapidly.  So we need to apply new thinking to these new issues of:

  *   shared mobility,

  *   data driven transport policy,

  *   blockchain, and

  *   A.I.

Ireland is a hub for innovation and that’s reflected in the number of your Corporate Partnership Board companies that have operations and bases all across Ireland.  We are helping you deliver innovative products and solutions for the transport sector globally.

In Ireland, we have an ambitious vision to transform our transport and infrastructure.  With Project Ireland 2040 we are linking spatial planning and capital investment together for the first time in our history in a meaningful way.

We are investing in new roads, public transport and in improving our ports and airports, all part of a €116 billion plan to ensure the future development and prosperity of all parts of our country.

We are spending twice as much on new public and sustainable transport as on roads.  While there are major new roads projects – much needed for our long-term prosperity - the vast majority of spend is in public transport.  In a country like ours, with a dispersed settlement pattern, public transport has been too long the weaker sibling, but that has changed since I became Taoiseach.

We are investing in MetroLink, a high-capacity and high-frequency rail line, which will connect all major transport options in Dublin including the airport. Our ambition is to create fully integrated public transport in the Greater Dublin Area.

And while MetroLink is the flagship project, it is another project BusConnects which is the most important.  This will deliver city specific, transformative plans, to improve and expand bus services in route design, and also dedicated corridors in all our major cities.

Bus Connects will also help ensure our cities genuinely embrace cycling as a viable, safe transport option and 200km of dedicated cycling infrastructure will be delivered.  Looking back, it was a mistake to brand Bus Connects purely in terms of buses, when the contribution to cycling will be just as significant.

Much has changed since Ireland last held the ITF presidency in 2006.  We are now more aware of the global challenge of climate change, and so our plans for future growth and development reflects this.

The Government recently launched an ambitious Climate Action Plan that reaffirms our commitment to building a climate-resilient society, one in which the transport sector will have a significant role to play.

We are working to achieve a greener, more prosperous, more sustainable and safer future.

€8.6 billion is being invested on sustainable transport to help us reduce substantially our greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030.

As you know, the theme of our presidency is ‘Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development’ and it highlights the importance that innovation will play in responding to these challenges.

The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats believed that ‘the past is dead, not only for us but for this country’ as he laid down a challenge for us to build for the future.  Your Summit inspires us to think big and to think smart as we work to transform transport in our countries.

So enjoy your dinner this evening, and the rest of your stay in Ireland.

Thank you.