Dublin transport sold short in National Plan

19th November 1999

If you are expecting the National Plan to take Dublin out of the misery of tailbacks and gridlock then prepare yourself for serious disappointment.

It is difficult to believe that a problem that commands so much public discourse and concern could be treated so lightly. A quick scan through the five pages (out of 304) devoted to the subject indicates that what we are facing is crisis management. Don’t expect any improvement.

First to the facts. £1,585 million is to be spent on public transport in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) in the years 2000-2006. The GDA comprises counties Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. This works out at £226 million per year.

It sounds a lot but if you take a closer look at the figures, the scale of underfunding becomes clear. Over a quarter of the cash, £430 million, is earmarked for the Luas. So there’s nothing new there. And that’s only for the surface Luas. A ‘contingency’ of £500 million is included for the underground section and ‘other’ rail projects such as a link to Navan and new signalling.

So there’s half the spend gone and it is estimated that light rail will shift just 1% of car traffic off the road. That leaves us with £655 million over seven years.

Suburban rail is to get £185 million. This includes 46 additional Dart cars and 58 diesel rail cars. The DART’s capacity will be expanded by just 40% despite the fact that the trains are already jammed at peak hours and the Greystones and Malahide extensions haven’t yet to come on line.

Only four new rail stations will be built in the GDA up to 2006. Howth to Barrow Street will be resignalled to allow three additional train slots per hour. Wow!!

The bus network will have £185 million invested to add 275 new buses to increase the bus fleet by 28% over the seven years.

I hope you a getting the message here. For example, the plan has provision for Park and Ride. Over the next seven years just 3,700 spaces will be provided – 528 new spaces per year.

It is obvious that the people in charge of transport in Dublin simply haven’t a clue. We are facing a massive dive in our quality of life if this plan is not changed radically.

In total, the plan will create 53,000 new seats into town during peak hour. Yet the Dublin Transportation Office estimates that 104,000 new peak hour seats will be needed. And we know that the present situation is little short of disastrous.

No new road space is to be built within the M50. Rightly so. But new national motorways are to be built from Limerick, Cork, Galway, Belfast and possibly Waterford. What will all these people do when they get to the M50? They won’t be using any Park and Ride spaces, that’s for sure.

You don’t need all the figures to hand to observe the deterioration in the traffic situation in Dublin over the past 15-20 years. What we need is a city-wide underground system. We need to start planning it now. We need to make the planning process a short, sharp consultation period and get building it.

We need a spend of at least £1,000 million per year on public transport in Dublin. We can have new fuel or income taxes to pay for it, if necessary. We need some sense of urgency.

Last year it was decided to put a second rail track between Clonsilla and Maynooth, a distance of about five miles. It won’t be finished until next year. At that rate the Americans wouldn’t have built their railroads at far as the Mississippi yet.

That about says it all.