What's wrong with Transport 21

Transport 21 was launched by the Fianna Fail-PD government in November 2005, but without any breakdown of costs for the policy's constituent parts. Here Village outlines 21 problems with Ireland's present Transport strategy.

Transport 21 was launched in November 2005 by Minister for Transport Martin Cullen. Under the €34.4bn plan, the government intends to extend the existing Luas lines, connect the two Luas lines in the city centre, build two Metro lines and upgrade the road, rail and bus networks.

Here are 21 things wrong with Transport 21

1. Martin Cullen
No credibility, after Farmleigh, e-voting and Monica Leech.

2. No Costings

Transport 21 contains no breakdown of costs for the individual projects. They announced that there will be €34 billion allocated, with €8 billion of this coming from Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and €2 billion of this from toll based investment.

3. Optimistic Estimates

Doubt has been cast on Transport 21's estimation that €2 billion will come from toll road based investment. The NRA was quoted as saying that it posed "a not insurmountable challenge". But it is estimated that tolls could only raise only €1.34 billion, giving doubt that €2 billion could be met.

4. Not enough buses
At the Transport 21 announcement, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen promised 20 extra buses for Dublin bus immediately. But Dublin needs at least 180 – primarily to provide a frequent service on Quality Bus Corridors (QBCs), such as those installed recently on Merrion Road and Fonthill Road. Although 180 additional buses were promised under the current National Development Plan, this investment has been put on hold by the Government since 2002 until it secures agreement from Dublin Bus and its trade unions on the privatisation of new services.

5. Not enough QBCs
The Midterm Evaluation of the National Development Plan by INDECON highlighted that "buses using segregated lanes appear to be a very effective mode at a low cost". They also said there had been an impressive increase in the number of passengers using the QBCs. They said they are "the most cost effective way of improving public transport in the short-run." In relation to rail they said: "Overall, we believe that there may be justification for pursuing future large-scale rail projects but they must be based on careful consideration of the likely costs and benefits and in particular the extent to which higher densities are being delivered on the proposed routes." Transport 21 announced that the Government will double the Quality Bus Corridors in Dublin (QBCs). At the moment there are 12 QBCs in the Dublin region. So that means 12 more corridors over 10 years.

6. Repetition of previous promises unconvincing
The extension to the Luas line and the establishment of a metro have been announced in the past by Government. But before, these projects were on a grander scale. In 1999 Mary O'Rourke, then Minister for Transport, said a public consultation on a Luas line from Broadstone to Ballymun and the airport had begun. In November of that year she announced a £500 million contingency provision for an underground element of Luas.

In 2002 the Dublin Transportation Office announced in its 'Platform for Change' the Luas would be extended to the Docklands. It also announced that there would be a new LUAS line from Ballymun to Dundrum; and from Lucan to the city centre.

It announced a Metro from Swords to Bray; a line from Tallaght to the city centre; and an orbital line around Tallaght, Clondalkin and Finglas.

What we are getting in Transport 21 is an extension on the Luas line from Connolly to the Docklands; an extension from Tallaght to Citywest; an extension from Sandyford to Bray; the joining of the two LUAS lines in the city centre; and a new line from Lucan to the city. In terms of metro lines there are two – one from Swords to St Stephen's Green and an orbital line serving Tallaght, Clondalkin, Liffey, Blanchardstown.

7. Luas overcrowding
The RPA (Rail Procurement Agency) has said that an additional eight million passengers a year would be accommodated on the Luas with the new lines and extensions. But there is already overcrowding on the existing lines, with customers regularly complaining that they cannot board the trams during rush hour. In particular customers at Windy Arbour say they cannot board. So the additional passengers that would be travelling on to Cherrywood and Bray with the proposed extension will put further pressure on Luas. The RPA said that increasing the frequency of the trams may be an option. The capacity of Luas trams are limited because of the current length of the platforms.

8. Public Private Partnerships unproven
Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are touted in Transport 21 as the source of €8 billion in funding, including €2 billion from toll-roads. But can the private sector be relied upon to invest in transport on this scale, and is the PPP model a viable one? As Edgar Morgenroth of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) puts it, "there isn't a lot of evidence at this point, and the little evidence we have is not good". The only research into PPPs undertaken in Ireland was a study of school-building projects by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which found that the building of five schools using public-private partnerships would cost eight to 13 per cent more than building them conventionally.

9. The metro to the airport
According to Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's experience at other airports, particularly in the UK, has been that less than 25 per cent of passengers travelling to or from an airport use direct rail links. The majority of passengers using an airport travel to that airport either to or from their homes rather than from the centre of the city and therefore use cars or more flexible bus services. With competition between airports and low-cost carriers opening up more routes across Europe, air travel is increasingly to and from smaller airports which are not served by rail links.

10. Sewage pipe on parts of Western rail corridor may have to be moved
According to the Platform 11 Group (representing the Irish National Rail Users Organisation) part of the Dunshaughlin sewage pipe runs parallel and underneath the old Navan rail line that will be the reestablished Western Rail Corridor. This will create added cost and delay to a line that is scheduled to open in ten years. The sewage pipe runs adjacent or underneath 1.5 kilometres of the track.

Meath County Council says that the pipe has been constructed mainly on the side of the railway alignment, but when asked for specific distances they did not provide them. They said that around the Dunsany Bridge the pipe is in the middle of the alignment. Depending on what depth the pipe is at, this would have to be moved to allow for the rail line. Meath County Council did not answer a question from Village as to its depth under the track.

Platform 11 says Meath County Council plans show nine manhole covers in the rail alignment, four directly in the middle. These will have to be moved in accordance with Iarnród Éireann guidelines, which state: "Where sewers are buried at a substantial distance below the trackbed they will not be relocated, however manhole access will need to be relocated away from the trackbed." The track will be electrified as well which would mean lowering the track under the Dunsany Bridge.

Meath County Council did not answer questions on the amount of manholes in the track's vicinity.

They did say: "The present construction of the sewer does not preclude the railway from possible reopening in the future." The cost of the 16km pipeline was €2.5 million.

11. Indirect journeys
The Metro West is being built to link areas orbitally around the city, but also to link up these areas with the Tallaght Luas. However, the plan to link these areas to the city centre via the Tallaght Luas does not seem to make sense. Liffey Valley is 3.7 miles from the city centre by road, and without heavy traffic the journey time by car would be 15-20 minutes. If a passenger was going to travel by rail under the Transport 21 plan the passenger would have to travel to Tallaght by metro first ( a road distance of 8.5 miles) and then take the Luas to the city centre (approx journey time 48 mins). To get from Blanchardstown and Clondalkin to the city centre a passenger would have to travel to the Tallaght Luas by metro first, and then journey for 48 minutes to the city centre.

In his announcement on 1 November Martin Cullen in particular highlighted that under Transport 21 a passenger will be able to travel from Loughlinstown (Cherrywood) to Dun Laoghaire by rail. In this scenario the passenger would take the Luas to Bray and then the Dart to Dun Laoghaire. However at the moment there is a bus route than can take the passenger directly from Louglinstown/Cherrywood to Dun Laoghaire in 20 minutes. It seems it would make more sense to invest in the bus network in both these areas.

12. Underground rail twice the cost of surface, and attracts less passengers
In 2000, the Dublin LRT (light rail) study looked into the comparative analysis of surface and underground options for a rail link. The report said that in peak hour in 2006 the surface option would be expected to attract 1,000 more users than the underground option. In off peak periods the surface option would attract nearly 50 per cent more. It also found that both options would increase the number of passengers travelling by rail by four per cent and reduce those using cars by one per cent. It also said that the capital cost of an underground option would be roughly twice that of the surface one – £500 million compared with £263 million.

13. Not as many Intercity trains as you thought
In Transport 21 they announced additional trains on existing routes. But in some cases this does not amount to much of an increase. For instance on the Dublin-Galway line it promised a train every hour at peak, and a train every two hours off peak. This means three more trains a day, based on the existing timetable. It announced trains every two hours on the Dublin-Tralee line. This means an additional one to two trains, based on the current timetable. (Some of the existing trains on the Tralee line are not direct, but Transport 21 doesn't clarify if it is proposing direct trains every two hours.) On the Dublin-Limerick line it promised trains every hour – this will mean five additional trains. On the Dublin-Waterford line it committed to trains every two hours from Dublin.

Between the hours of 7.30am to 19.30 this would mean seven trains. At the moment there are seven trains.

14. Fails to tackle problem of rail access to Midlands
The plan fails to tackle the problem of rail access to the proposed midlands gateway, as defined in the National Spatial Strategy. This gateway is made up of Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar, all located on railway lines, but to get from Athlone to Mullingar by train the passenger must go via Dublin. The plan also fails to address the problem of rail access to Shannon airport which lies less than ten miles off the Ennis to Limerick line.

Also there are complaints that the Atlantic highway is only going to be a dual carriageway and in part of it, it will be just a 2+1 system.

15. Confusion over transport agency
Martin Cullen seems to envisage the Dublin Transport Authority (DTA) as something quite radical, that would have power over the other transport authorities like the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) and Dublin Bus. But its role has not been clearly defined.
The DTA has still not been established

16. Ten years to build the Western Rail Corridor
It took less than three years to build the 26-mile Navan line using picks and shovels in the 19th Century. Work began in October 1859 and was completed by August 1862. But Transport 21 says that that it will take ten years to reopen the whole Western rail line. Locals in Meath are questioning why the Navan section cannot be opened sooner.

17. Upgrade of the M50 will still result in traffic jams
As part of Transport 21 they will complete the upgrade of the M50 route. This means widening 32 kilometre of the motorway from four to six lanes and upgrading ten interchanges. The National Roads Authority (NRA) say that the upgrade will bring a 19 per cent improvement in traffic flow by 2008, but the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the upgrade says that the M50 will remain congested even after the upgrade. This said that the level of traffic will need to be controlled. The EIS predicts that traffic levels on the M50 will soar following its upgrade from around 80,000 vehicles a day at present to between 194,100 and 203,700 a day on different sections of the route – in both cases above the congestion threshold.

18. No school transport
As anybody commuting by road during school holidays knows, a large portion of rush-hour traffic consists of school runs. With the school transport fleet already straining following the removal of the "3 for 2" concession allowing three students to sit across two seats, and the main obstacle to the fitting of seat belts on school buses being cost, school transport is already in need of serious investment. Yet there is nothing about this in Transport 21. Alongside an enhanced school transport system, Green TD Eamon Ryan suggests that a priority should be to make sure that every school in the country is safe to walk and cycle to.

19. Rail projects haven't got the go ahead yet
There will have to be public inquiries into the metro lines and the Luas extensions, as well as the national rail projects before they get the go ahead. This is required under part three of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) 2001 Act. Environmental Impact Assessments will also be mandatory. There are no timescales for these inquiries as this is decided by the individual inspectors who oversee the inquires. This will mean delay for the projects and the possibility that they won't go ahead as planned.

20. Problems building underground

There were reservations in the past in building underground in Dublin. Some of the arguments were that the ground was too wet to build in, and would not be able to support itself. The government now argue that the Port Tunnel has shown that we can build underground in Dublin. But there were many residents who claimed of cracks and disturbance in their houses and the Government is going to have to pay out millions in compensation to them.

Another problem is that building underground can be very disruptive to the local residents. In other cities, like Madrid, they brought in 24/7 drilling for a few days in each area so the disruption was minimal. In order for 24/7 drilling to be brought in there would have to be statutory changes. In the past the infrastructure bill offered this, but it was withdrawn in December 2004 for a complete overhaul.

21. Problems with Metro cost and capacity

Platform 21 conducted a study of the metro plan as proposed by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) in their "Platform for Change". There were three metro lines – a Metro from Swords to Bray; a line from Tallaght to city centre; and an orbital line around Tallaght, Clondalkin and Finglas. Transport 21 has offered less metro than this in the current plans.

The Platform 11 report was critical of the RPA's construction cost of €1.72 billion. They set the real cost at €5 billion. They recommended Iarnród Éireann's rail plan for Dublin (an electrified system), which would give ten times the capacity of the proposed metro. They said that a 40 metre Luas can carry 292 people; where as an eight coach Dart can carry 1,400 passengers.

The concluded: "Despite they hype surrounding the Dublin Metro project upon a more in depth investigation it is rather disappointing. Capacity and integration all fall well short of what are needed."