Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted that the Coalition is not spending future governments’ money to win over voters now after launching a multibillion-euro Dublin Airport rail link to the city centre — which will not be completed until 2027.
The Fine Gael TD insisted the measure is about ensuring the public’s long-term interests are prioritised above short-term political success.
Under a high-profile project which forms the centre-piece of the Government’s 2016-21 capital plan announced yesterday, the Coalition will spend €2.432bn on a light rail link between Dublin Airport and Dublin city centre.
The initiative, which will not be completed until 2027, will include 17km of rail, a tram every two minutes in each direction, trips between the city centre and airport that last 19 minutes, and carriages twice the length of the current Luas trams to ensure space for luggage.
The project was chosen ahead of five other options ultimately ruled out because they did not offer as much value for money. The route is expected to carry 30m passengers a year and create 3,500 construction jobs .
Asked whether the plan is an example of the Coalition promising populist measures a decade away that future governments will have responsibility for introducing and paying for, Mr Donohoe insisted nothing could be further from the truth.
“You have to make decisions in a time-scale that stretches beyond where the next election,” he said. “We have seen in our country again and again the cost to families and communities when we don’t make the right choices.
“Last week they [the opposition] were criticising us saying we were not going to announce the Metro North, that I was going to go for the short-term populist choice. Then when I stand up here today and make the very decision they said I wasn’t going to make, they’re now criticising me for making it.”
The comment came after Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said that, “unless the Coalition changes the constitution so there won’t be any more elections”, it will be up to future politicians to find the funds in a decade.
The Metro North rail link is similar to a previous project promised by Fianna Fáil before being postponed due to a lack of funds by the current Government in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Government’s capital plan also includes a series of road improvement measures across the country — but has decided against further developments on the Galway-Limerick-Cork route as “choices” had to be made.
The plan will see new road developments along the N7 Naas to Newbridge in Kildare; the Dunkettle interchange in Cork; the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom in Cork; the N25 Westport to Turlough in Mayo; and the Adare bypass in Limerick.
Responding to criticism over what Mr Dooley said was a lack of “balanced regional development”, Mr Donohoe said he is “very conscious there will be people who will be critical of me”, but added that “we’re not in a position where the country can afford all of the projects” on offer.
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