Car traffic has nearly caught up to levels before the pandemic, with petrol use showing a significant rise compared to the same period last year, latest figures have shown.
In the week of a stark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that showed human consumption of fossil fuels was a main driver of global temperature rises, the scale of the challenge facing Ireland to reduce its dependence on cars was laid bare by data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
It shows that car traffic volumes are now at 87% of July 2019 levels in the Dublin area, and 90% of July 2019 levels in regional locations.
Car traffic volumes were 119% higher in selected regional sites on the week starting July 26, compared with the first week of this year, while the number of new cars licensed in July 2021 rose by 4,903 vehicles compared with July 2020, and by 1,491 vehicles compared with July 2019.
Statistician Nele van der Wielen said: “[The] figures from the CSO show that car traffic volumes increased over the first seven months of 2021 in line with the gradual lifting of travel restrictions. Latest available data for the week beginning 26 July show that the volume of private cars in regional locations are 8% higher than in the same week of 2020."
However, car traffic volumes are still 10% lower than in the same week of 2019, Dr van der Wielen said.
When it comes to petrol and diesel clearance, there has been a huge rise. Clearances reflect the excise duties paid on oil removed from tax warehouses.
There was an increase of 36% for clearances of petrol in June 2021 compared with the levels in June 2020, the CSO said. June 2021 petrol clearance volumes were 9% below June 2019.
In relation to diesel, clearances in June 2021 were 2% higher than in June 2019. The June 2021 auto-diesel figure is the highest June figure in the 2000 to 2021 time series and was 23% higher than the level in June 2020, the CSO said.
In July 2021, 20,232 new private cars were licensed in Ireland, compared with 15,329 in July 2020, an increase of 32%. This compares with 18,741 new private cars licensed in July 2019.
Brexit has taken its toll on the previously booming UK car import market, which had thousands of Irish motorists flocking in recent years to bring in high-end cars at more competitive prices.
The new Revenue rules after January have made it considerably more difficult to make savings on used cars. The number of used imported private cars licensed fell from 8,275 in July 2020 to 5,590 in July 2021, the CSO said.
Public transport usage is still affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions it has brought, according to the data. For the week starting July 25, the total number of rail and bus journeys is 51.2% of those taken in early March 2020.