There’s a traffic jam up ahead
We must invest in roads and public transport to avoid the unwelcome return of gridlock
Road to nowhere: As the economy recovers and people get back to work, the day that gridlock returns to our roads draws ever nearer. Photograph: David Sleator
We are sitting on a traffic congestion time-bomb, according to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). While traffic flow across the country, and especially in the major metropolitan areas, seems better now than it was, it’s a false positive, created by traffic levels which have fallen along with Ireland’s economy.
In spite of the vast number of calls on the depleted public purse at the moment, the CILT is calling on the Government to rapidly increase the levels of investment in public transport and road infrastructure in order to avoid nationwide gridlock as and when the economy improves.
“We accept that there’s a very difficult position at the moment in terms of public finances, but we have to start thinking about the future when the economy starts to grow again and generate income,” Pat Mangan, chairman of the policy committee at the CILT, told The Irish Times. “Our concern is that during the financial crisis, the level of investment in transport has declined very, very sharply. It’s only about a quarter now of what it was at the peak in 2008, and that’s just too steep a drop, and we need to start planning now before the economy improves. For instance, we’re spending about €800 million a year on capital investment at the moment, and we need to be spending that on just maintaining and renewing the existing network alone.
“The message we want to send out is that you need to start planning now, to get ahead of the next level of congestion, because it’s too late to start planning once the next level of congestion arrives, and it will arrive very, very quickly once the economy grows, and people start getting back to work again.”
We spoke to Mr Mangan at a conference the CILT had organised in Dublin to celebrate the role of women in transport and logistics worldwide. One of the guests and key speakers was Dr Pauline Chan, who is credited with almost single-handedly reviving and revising Hong Kong’s torturous public transport system.
“Every city should be looking to the future, and that means greening – how we should develop sustainable transport, and I think Dublin has the same challenge – and that is how we can make the best use of our space and our environment, and how we can put those two together so that mobility is maintained without too many cars on the road, so that the public transport system is strengthened and enhanced, and so that more space is given to pedestrians. That was the challenge that we faced in Hong Kong and I think that also applies here.