Far from being a e4.5bn plan “to get people out of the car and onto public transport”, it is a e12m advertising scheme designed to divert attention away from the fact that e1.5bn spending on roads in 2009 was approved in recent weeks — this will perpetuate our car dependency.
It is not too unlike the e3m Minister Dempsey wasted advertising the e4.5bn Transport 21 plan last year.
The ‘smart’ plan is also designed to mask the slash-and-burn policy now at work on the national bus system. At the very same time that Minister Dempsey and Energy Minister Eamon Ryan, were launching the ‘smart’ scheme, the Oireachtas Committee on Transport was being told of Mr Dempsy’s plan to take hundreds of buses off the roads and sack 600 workers. Dublin Bus has been savagely criticised because its public service costs e30m a year, but it’s still happy days over at the National Roads Authority which has already gone more than e20bn over budget with the roads programme.
The National Development Plan (NDP) was based on 5% annual growth and zero borrowing. Now we are at minus 5% and will be borrowing 100% of the money to pay for it. Then the roads themselves will be tolled for 40 years, adding hugely to commuter costs.
Now the transport minister is proposing a congestion charge to penalise the driver when it was he himself and the NRA who handed over an extra e20bn to construction companies because the NRA does not require fixed-price contracts. Another cornerstone of the NDP was social partnership, but the partners were precluded from discussing the e1.5 billion in spending on roads for 2009, while their pensions were being poached behind their back. No wonder the social partnership talks broke down.
A bumper portion of the e1.5bn went to Mr Dempsey’s Meath constituency to fund the M2, which will run alongside the M3 only five miles away.
The ‘smart’ scheme takes the country on the wrong road entirely. We cannot afford to maintain the largest road-building programme in Europe and pretend the recession is not happening. It is time the country woke up to the fact that Mr Dempsey’s outdated policies and loose practices have in fact been a major cause of the recession in Ireland.
If only we had that €20bn now.
The Capel Building