The big flaw in the motorway plan

IRELAND badly needs a national motorway system and it looks as if we’re going to get one. In the next five years every major road into Dublin will have been upgraded to motorway standard, many of them the whole way to cities like Belfast, Cork and Galway.

As I say, this is good for the country. But is it good for Dublin?

At the same time as these motorways are completed, we will have a major overhaul of the M50 to replace the dreaded roundabout interchanges with overpasses and underpasses.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that all this will greatly increase the amount of cars which will want to get in or near the city centre.

And there’s the great flaw.

Because by 2008 or so you won’t be able to get a credit card in or near the city centre, it will be that congested. It’s pretty much a disaster as it is.

In fact, there’s no way that this city can cope with any more cars heading for the city centre. So we need an alternative and there’s no plan to provide it.

There are two basic alternative approaches – the carrot and the stick. The stick consists of a congestion charge to keep people out. The carrot involves providing public transport at the city perimeter.

Personally, I don’t like the stick. I think that road charging is a form of latter-day feudalism where the city roads are preserved for the rich. Traffic will eventually disappear from the city centre anyway as more road space is given over to pedestrians and public transport, and as work-related parking is phased out.

The carrot is to build major park-and-ride facilities next to the new motorways in order to encourage visitors to make the last leg of their journeys by train.

Two examples on the Northside will demonstrate what’s required.

On the M1, our new Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen should make an immediate decision to extend a rail link from the Dublin-Belfast line to the airport. The route is just 6km of mainly open fields and could be built in a couple of years. It would provide a natural terminus for the Dart and airport access from the north.

Secondly, it would allow a park-and-ride site to be built along the motorway to discourage commuters and visitors from bringing their cars into town.

Regardless of any other plan for access the airport such as Luas or metro, this link should be built anyway. There will be plenty of passengers for everybody. Just do it, Martin.

Over on the M3, there is a golden opportunity to build a new park-and-ride site between Dunboyne and the new motorway. There is already a old railway route to Dunboyne just 4km from the present Maynooth line (which also forms the first leg of the proposed line to Navan).

These park-and-ride concepts are neither a pipe-dream or a luxury. They are an essential part of dealing with the new motorway system and the present congestion.

In future, nobody should be allowed to build a motorway without building transport facilities for all those cars when they get to Dublin.