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Government transport ‘plan’ unveiled

The much hyped release of the Transport 21, referred to by the Government as a ’21st century transport plan for 21st century Ireland’ has taken the media by storm, bringing on board many people who would love to see transport policy in Ireland handled properly. Honest people who, just this once, want to believe the hype. Unfortunately it seems that is what it is – hype. Most of the plan is actually announcements of spending on road building aimed at private motorists, with a small amount set aside for public transport.

The say the devil is in the details, but in this case details are very thin on the ground. From what we can tell this is just the re-announcement of a list of previously announced plans, coupled with the confirmation of funding for projects the government previously indicated they would probably back. A lot of newspapers, along with various television and radio outlets, have been full of pronouncements of a Luas line here or a Metro line there, which at first glance suggests that they are distilling some finely detailed blueprint of Ireland’s transport future into easy to swallow chunks.

Unfortunately there is no blueprint, and the “facts” reported in the papers seem to be just cut and paste exercises from the Department Of Transports bullet-pointed press release. Oddly enough, these are all pronouncements made by the very same media types some time ago – we’ve been seeing headlines like “Metro to the Airport by 20XX” and “Luas to be extended to Cherrywood, Shankill, Bray, Kerry” for some time.

The announcement of Transport 21 came in the form of a press release, three speeches (vague “it’s the 21st Century” type fluff pieces), a bizarre document of Transport 21 statistics (that bullet-pointed list that hacks have been lifting data from for the last few weeks), and some entertaining fantasy maps ready made for printing in a newspaper. In total, very little substance.

It would be unfair of us to suggest nothing at all has been announced though, so leaving aside the background for a moment, lets look at what the government says it will deliver over the next ten years.

Lucan area to get trams and DARTs

Previously announced Luas extensions to the docklands and Cherrywood will go ahead, with the Green Line eventually being extended to Bray. This prompted the bizarre advice from Transport Minister Martin Cullen that “somebody travelling from Cherrywood to, say, Dun Laoghaire will be able to take the Luas to Bray and then transfer onto the DART for Dun Laoghaire.” Erm, not quite, Martin.

It has also been announced that there will be a Luas line to Lucan. that sounds grand, until you see that this new line will run generally parallel to the newly extended DART line, via the interconnector. Why the doubling up of light and heavy rail? Why not send a LUAS line to some part of the city already without a rail connection of any kind? These are the kind of questions which Transport 21 fails to address.

Luas to the airport, or is it metro, or is it DART?

Much is being made of the plans to exend the DART, which is basically setting some completion dates for work that has been proposed since the 1970s. The electrification of the Dublin rail network, along with the adoption of a more metro-style timetable can only be a good thing, but one thing is absent from the plan – what has happened to the DART extension to
Dublin Airport?

This was the option publically stated as Bertie’s preference, yet it seems to have dropped off the radar. It seems the airport connection will be a “metro”, but what a metro actually is has yet to be defined, is it a Luas style arrangment, a London Underground length train? A DART? Yet again, lots of spin but no hard facts.

A light rail option not properly integrated into the rest of the rail and bus network sounds like a recipe for disaster. Along with the confirmation of Luas Line D as a metro (again), it now appears that plans to convert the Luas Green line to metro capacity has been scrapped. So, with the Luas being extended, where are all these new passengers meant to go, on the already jam packed Luas trams? Certainly not onto buses if the government continue theu habit of cutting back bus services in areas served by Luas.

The list of problems with this area of the plan could go on and on, and has been covered in greater detail elsewhere, so lets take a look at the biggest gap in the plan of all.

Dublin Bus funding, lack of

The capacity of the bus network will have increased by an estimated 80,000 extra bus passengers each day.

So says Martin Cullen in his speech launching Transport 21. what he fails to mention is how he intends to do this. The reason for this is that, as he says himself, he does not know.

…I have asked Dublin Bus to review their network in light of the planned investment and to examine the most effective means of expanding bus services in the short, medium and long-term and they are to report to me early in the New Year. However, I am conscious that Dublin has short-term immediate needs for 20 additional buses in the coming weeks and I will immediately sanction these.

So, it took 11 months to come up with this report, and Dublin Bus get 20 buses and the request for more information! Where are the 150 vehicles promised in the National Development Plan?

It looks like the government still don’t know what to do with the capitals bus service. As laudable as investment in rail infrastructure is, the bus is the largest people mover in the capital and will continue to be so in ten years time. With the continued sprawl of Dublin, Dublin Bus is the only way to cover the entire city. Solid plans for priority bus lanes, integrated ticketing and a better fare structure need to be put in place now. It’s a fact that buses are the cheapest and quickest solution to the congestion in Dublin.

Improvements in the bus service can be made quickly, without the need for and tunnels or tracks, all it needs is a bit of clever thinking. Any chance of this, minister?

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