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Dublin metro plan rumoured to be scrapped (again)

Cash Saved To Be Apparently Used To Build Motorways

Future generations are going to look back and wonder a lot of things about post-boom Ireland. They’re going to wonder about the billions wasted on consultants and reports, reports on consultant reports and inquiries into why a tribunal was set up into the cost of consultant reports. They’re going to wonder why we built housing estates in the middle of nowhere, expressed shock at the extra cars on the road and then promptly privatised, and ultimately destroyed, the only feasible public transport (our humble buses) serving those areas.

They’re going to wonder why we let the traffic grind our very economy to a halt, they’re going to wonder why we stood for it for so long. They’re going to unearth early 21st Century newspapers and see headlines like “Metro given green light” and “Metro to be scrapped” appearing all over the place, sometimes even on the same day, in different parts of the same newspaper.

And now it seems that reality is dawning. If reports from Charlie McCreevy’s office are true, the metro is finally being taken off it’s life-support machine. We’ve been told that Padre Brennan is on his way to deliver the last rights and the RPA getting the boys in to dig it’s grave. That’ll take several weeks though, they only dig for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, and won’t work on match days. With all this in mind we thought we’d reflect and the whats and whys of the whole mess.

new consultants report urges inquiry into there being too many consultants

Even back in the beef tribunal days, it was clear that if you wanted to make money, serious money, law was the career for you. Just wait for yet another scandal, for there is always one around the corner, and it’s down to Dublin Castle with the wig in one hand and the cape in another, easy pickings. These days though the legal profession is a bit crowded, so if you’re filling out your CAO form this Christmas, allow us to suggest another career for you: consultancy.

For example, in September the government commissioned a consultant report into the impact of the Luas system on Dublin, while the tendering process closed this week for another consultant report, this time commissioned by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), as a pre-luas and post-luas compare and contrast effort. We at BUSRAGE feel that things have really hit rock bottom when we hear about tendering processes for reports instead of actual, physical, improvements to public transport infrastructure. Odder still is this comes so soon after an oireachtas committee agreed that too much has been spent on reports already.

We have no idea how much these new reports will cost, and no doubt the new restrictions added by the government to the Freedom of Information Act will preclude us from finding out due to “commercial sensitivity”, however we can tell you that similar reports have cost up to, and in excess of, €1m of your money. Upset yet? You should be, because these are just the latest in a long line of reports since light rail was mooted for Dublin in the early 1990s.

That said, the consultants aren’t above occasionally giving their thoughts for free. Michael Webb, managing director of Davis Langdon PKS (DLPKS), was at the National Construction Conference in Dublin recently, and decided to offer his opinion of our Spanish brethren, the European single market, cross border labour, and the metro project as a whole. He said that the idea that Ireland should bring in a “bunch of Spaniards” to advise and construct the Metro was absurd.

We think it’s slightly more absurd for Mr. Webb to get away with making those comments and not have the country’s press make the obvious point: the “Spaniards” are not popular with the Irish consultancy industry because they took some money to spend on a metro, and built one. There was no messing about with report after report, and no money made by a bunch of pen pushing middlemen.

People like DLPKS would rather see your money spent on NDP plans like expanding our road network, after all, every road needs a report, and every report has to be written by a reputable consultancy firm. If the money spent on all the Luas and metro related reports was used on actual building work, there would probably be underground trains all over (or all under) our fair city, and they would probably use a regular Irish rail guage too, making them, shock horror, integrated into our current heavy rail system. An “absurd” idea like that would never have gotten past a consultants desk.

The Infrastructure Bill

One problem with any Dublin metro project is that our laws are not as flexible as the Spanish ones, and that a project like the Madrid metro would not work here because of issues with property rights and planning enquiries. Seamus Brennan announced back in June that to solve this problem a bill was to be brought before the Dáil, the Infrastructure Bill, that would clear the way for the metro, and possibly some other projects.

Well the metro is no more, so you’d think the bill was dead. This is not the case, however, because with a bit of tip-ex, a quick tweak here and there, and some smooth talking the government is expunging any reference to the metro in relation to the bill. This is why the metro was important for the government, not because it would actually get built, but because it could be used as a springboard for other things. It is now, and in reality always was, a way to accelerate the governments road building program.

It will probably pass into law with very little opposition. The government seem to have successfully planted the seed intopeople’s minds that the bill is for infrastructure projects like the metro. Well folks, it’s not, it’s for building a motorway through your farm, your garden, perhaps even your home. It’s for bulldozing places like Carrickmines, it’s for all these motorways the government plan to use to win the next election, out in the commuter belts and remote parts of the country.

They want these projects done fast, they’d really like them done by 2007, as soon as your SSIAs mature and you’re driving down the new M60 to vote at our “local” polling booth. And if you wanted your TD to raise any of this in the Dáil this week, fat chance of that, the lads are simply knackered after their few weeks back in the house and have put it back into recess.

What’s Next

A leak of a “confidential” consultant’s report on Brennan’s €10bn metro plan suggests that it will not get cabinet backing. Instead it looks like there is to be a reorganisation of the DART line. The plan is to reduce the service between Howth Junction and Howth and replace it with a shuttle service. Darts from town would instead head to Howth Junction and then travel up the Northern Line, before joining a new 4km spur to the airport.

This has been costed at €450m, and it is said to have an estimated completion date of 2006. It is unclear how the current capacity problems are to be dealt with, since the Northen Line is currently operating to 100% capacity already. There is no word, either, from the Department of Transport as to how this will effect the current DASH plans to improve the line.

All of this reminds us of a comment we once read, attributed to a member rail lobby group, Platform 11, “Dublin already has a metro, it’s called the DART”. Hammer, Nail, Head.

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